Consequence

Read Consequence for Free Online

Book: Read Consequence for Free Online
Authors: Eric Fair
from me. When I pass the test a week later, they seem disappointed. One of them laughs and says, “Everyone flunks out of Arabic eventually.” None of them wish me luck. I board a plane in Harrisburg and fly to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I spend the flight thinking I should have listened to Mr. Gentry and become an officer. I wonder what else the recruiters haven’t told me.

 
    2
    Three miles into a six-mile run and my legs begin to burn. It’s Francis. He’s pushing us harder than normal this morning. We began the run in formation, four columns of twelve men each, but as the pace increases, the formation begins to fall apart. Faster runners move to the front as the slower runners fall to the back.
    Sergeant First Class Francis unleashes a tirade of profanity as the slowest runners fade from view. The formation turns back to pick up stragglers, forcing faster runners to cover twice the distance. Francis makes one last push. He sings a cadence to keep us in step.
    I went to the church
    Where all the people pray
    I took out my Claymore
    And I blew them all away
    Singing left right, left right, left right kill
    Left right, left right, you know I will.
    The formation fails again. We circle back but do not continue the run. Francis orders us into a ditch on the side of the road. We rest our feet on the edge and put our hands down into the sludge. We hold the position as long as we can. Before long, we are fighting to keep our faces out of the mud. There is more profanity from Francis.
    We return to the barracks, where Francis punishes us for our performance in the morning run. He starts with the electric chair. We put our backs against the wall and bend our legs. He locks us into a crouched position that results in muscle failure of the quads, hamstrings, and calves. It hurts. We raise ten-pound rubber rifles and hold them parallel to the ground. Our legs are on fire, then our arms, too. He orders us to the ground. We lie on our stomachs and stretch our hands above our heads. We roll left, we roll right, we roll left, we roll right. We do jumping jacks. We do push-ups. We do sit-ups. When muscles fail, we lock ourselves into the front leaning rest. When we can’t do that, we run in place with the rifles above our heads. Then it’s back to the electric chair.
    At night, we serve hour-long shifts as fireguards. The barracks are quiet. There are no drill sergeants. We wax the floors and clean the toilets. I write to Don Hackett and tell him I may have made a mistake. I wake up thinking about the electric chair.
    It is late October and the leaves are changing. In the mornings, there is frost on the ground. Francis marches us out into the woods to a small cinder-block building with a smokestack in the center. We are issued gas masks and chemical suits. The masks have the stale stench of fresh rubber. We suction them onto our faces and pull the straps over the backs of our heads. The eyepieces fog up. The air inside the mask is thick and difficult to breathe. When we fail to don the masks in the appropriate manner, Francis orders us to sit in the electric chair. Sweat pours down our faces inside the masks. The masks starve us of oxygen. Pools of sweat slosh around in the bottom of the mask.
    Francis approaches each of us and tests the seal on our masks before marching us into the cinder-block building. Inside, there is a smoky haze that stings the back of my neck. We turn and face a large Plexiglas window, where Francis stands with a microphone and a large smile. We hear muffled orders through our masks. When we remove the masks, we vomit, we choke, we wheeze. Long strands of mucus drain out our noses and onto the grass.
    On the bayonet course we sing, “Blood, blood, blood makes the green grass grow.” On the rifle range we sing, “One shot, one kill, right between the eyes!” On the heavy-weapons range we sing, “Your buddy’s in your foxhole, a bullet in his head, / The medic

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