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Dear John

0ne more beer! It was Friday, Thank God Day, the night of This Bud's for Me, and soon the hootin' hollerin' boys at this beer hall, pool hall, girlie-girl hall in Kansas would whirl off to Saudi Arabia, to life or sudden death in Iraq, well, bartender, fill 'em up! On the froth in their glasses, the red, orange, yellow lights from the mirror-moon in the ceiling glittered like fairy dust, ice-cream sprinkles, miniature mortar rounds, the loudest sound was of Little Sheba, by .38 Special, and the off-duty soldiers yelled, "Whoo!" as one of the girlies, blond, twentysomething, wearing a red little mini-string, stripping it off, disclosing a white spaghetti strap, no, vermicelli strap, did somersaults, cartwheels, shoulder stands, her legs in the air ped-pedaling, her legs in a Y, open, closed, sending semaphore: here's where it is! She leapt up, pulled a boy's nose to her breastbone, let the boy sniff at her sweat, her secretions, her dime-store perfume, then did a 20-hertz shimmy, her breasts slapping to and fro, slapping the boy's smooth cheeks as though bringing him to. The music kept time, and the .38 Specials sang,

Girls on the dance floor! Wrestlin' in Jell-O!

until the boy laid a one-dollar bill on his leg and the girl, climbing on and whoopie! and rodeo-riding, sucked up the "one"s and the portrait of Washington, and the boy, now unmuzzled, yelled, "Whoo!" turned on by that vacuum vagina.

The drummer went boom! went boom! and the girl extricated the bill. She then threw herself at a table of Bud-downing soldiers from C, from Company C, ten minutes away at Fort Riley, Kansas, and as the .38s sang,

And the crowd was reelin'!
Was chompin' and chantin'!

she got two matches from C and did her fiery finale: she put the two matches into her nipples and set them afire. Her arms above her, she looked like a Statue of Liberty, but before the two fires could reach her, she did some muscular moves and lo! her breasts went in circles, the matches did too, the fires were a couple of orange o's, were open mouths saying whoo, and the great balls of fire went out. The girl pulled the matches out and, for her final finale, fell to her knees by a soldier in C, and as the .38s sang of Little Sheba,

Our fabled femme fatale!
Spoilin' for another fight!

she looked up at the boy and asked him, "Will you marry me?"

The boy was stunned. In his wildest dreams he hadn't foreseen this. His name, rank, to hell with his serial number was Specialist Young, he too was twenty-something, was cowboy-booted, denim-attired, slim-legged: so slim that his Levi's seemed painted on, Pittsburgh Paint Levi's. He hadn't been to this joint before, and his first sight of Mouse (the girl had a mouse tattoo and her stage name was Mouse) was what? ten minutes ago? Like some child at Barnum & Bailey's, he'd stared at her backbend, a pure parabola, her hands and feet on the floor, her hair on a boy's trembling knees, her breasts on the boy's pants pockets, her lips on a one-dollar bill in the boy's moist crotch. My God! What visual impact! Young had thought, but in his Texas drawl, his Rio turned dry, his voice like a basset flat on the floor, weary of all ups and downs, he'd said to his buddies in C, "That's interestin'." His flat-as-the-floorboards voice was the utter despair of his Uncle Gigi in Texas, who'd once tried to teach him Chinese but couldn't even get him to cao or cao, the hills and dales of Chinese were out of his one-note range, the singsong as inaccessible as the D above C in Lucia di Lammermoor. "No, put some life in," his uncle had said.

"I don't know how."

"Just live," his uncle had said, but Young was still whoo-less tonight as Mouse, her breasts like a cat on his knees, her sequins of sweat reflecting the red, orange, yellow lights, more or less asked him to love, honor, screw her till death should take him. "Will you marry me?"

"Well, I'll have to think about it," Young said in his steam-pressed syllables.

Then boom! came the music of Steel Heart, and Mouse scooted off as Young sat dazed and C watched the Blond Bombshell from Hell. At midnight the boys rolled out to a Lincoln, and Young, in the cold back seat, said, "Wait," hoping that Mouse would follow him out. She did—but as she walked, well, wove, down the street, in jeans and a black leather jacket, she had one roaring civilian on either arm, she didn't even wink at her inamorato, and Young thought, Well, I was bullshitted, bogused. "Well, fuck her," he told the rest of C, and the Lincoln drove back to Fort Riley.

Ah youth! as Conrad once said. It still had its own imperatives. Ten minutes later, the car pulled up at C's barracks, the boys then went through a door whose lettering, company c, shone like a flare in the starlight, and Young was fixated on Mouse, on Mouse. The boys went up to their rooms—their rooms, the halls full of parallel beds were the long-gone things of Crimea, Korea and Nam, and C lived in one-man and two-man rooms amid an electric mess of CDs, tape players, turntables, telephones, telephone-answering machines, stereophonic speakers, radios and TV sets. On these very sets, C had heard yesterday that with its whole division, the Big Red One, it would go to Saudi and, when the President ordered, into Iraq—the pits, ditches, fire-filled trenches, the waves of spiked concertina wire, the guns, cannons, rocket launchers, the man-killing mines, the six-foot, man-high, sand-pile walls, and the cauldrons of boiling oil of Castle Iraq. On hearing this, Young (like much of C) had longed for a home to come to after the slaughter stopped: a welcome mat, a dog or a cat, the smell of hot buttered potatoes, and a good woman such as he'd met tonight at the Klub Kamille. He got undressed, and he got into his drab brown-blanketed bed. He wasn't a rocker-and-roller (his best-loved tape was Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor) but tonight he was just obsessed with the .38 Specials. In his head went a never-ending drum and

Doncha know Little Sheba?
She's the favorite one!

and he fell asleep thinking of Mouse, Mouse, Mouse, of her somersaults, cartwheels and shoulder stands in their pretty bedroom, when he came marching home from Iraq.

 

A few days later, C was awakened at half past six, and it went to a warehouse for combat clothes…

Read about Company  C
on Associated Press

Read about Company C
in Dictionary of Literary Biography 

 

Buy an autographed hardcover 
from the Authors Guild

Buy an autographed paperback
from amazon.com

 

Read the first scene-and-a-half of M.
An infantry company goes to Vietnam.
"Great reportage," The New York Times.

 

Read a scene from Lieutenant Calley.
The story of America's most infamous soldier.
"A haunting revelation," Time.


Other books by John Sack