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Taking the Hill (Stream of consciousness)

SARGE SAYS GO like hell and keep your head down…think I’m nuts...crawl on my belly like a snake and like it…oh, yeah…me so cocky back at mess…they won’t hit me…I’m too lucky, I told Joe…wonder how he’s making out…I seen him last about fifteen yards to the right…not much cover…shell holes, blasted grape vines…Mom and Dad see me now they’d have a heart attack…bullets screaming over my head and I’m scared shitless…can’t see ‘em but I can hear ‘em…one could have my name on it…the Kaisers horde hopes so…Sarge says I try coming back I’m dead…he’ll shoot me himself…think he means it…Dad didn’t teach me to run…that whine past my ear...bullet spinning…FOOF…I hear it, I’m okay, right…dirt don’t taste good here in French wine country…taste like wine it’d be better…Laurie likes wine, that chardonnay kind…gonna marry that girl I get out in one piece….hold up, John, rifle caught a root…slow and easy, John….that’s right, blink away the sweat and bring your arm back slow…okay, John, you got it…now lay still a sec…breathe…remember what Sarge said, movers are targets…hope the Hun didn’t see me…GI body ten, twelve feet ahead…It’s cover…OUCH…something skinned my butt…I just got shot…ignore it, John, so it burns like hell, don’t go back and feel it…you nuts…want to lose an arm…why not stand up…don’t be an idiot…voice in my head…“Be one with the earth, my son.”…Dad…you there…where’d you come from…don’t distract me, Dad…got this job I got to do…Hun machine gun’s got the high ground, Dad…focus, John…maybe he’ll get interested in somebody else that’s moving…that son of a bitch tried to kill me…bring down the fear, John…fear will kill you quick as a bullet…what am I doing here…is this my war…stupid volunteer, that’s me…my chance to get killed…real brainy…recruiting office, snappy sergeant in clean dress browns, name of…what…Cleaver, yeah, clean shave, piercing eyes, ramrod straight, real poster material, glowing story about patriotic duty; the Hun is coming for America and with my help we’ll stop him…America needs its brave boys to fight for freedom, he says…okay, Sarge, you convinced me; pumped me up…I bought it then; now it looks like I might buy it…don’t think that way, John…don’t be two kinds of an idiot…Laurie, your face…no…stop…please, not here…I’ll fill in behind the dead guy’s butt…I’m gonna look around his upturned boot…gotta do it quick…Ahhg...bullet spatter…dirt in my eyes, too close…blink, John, and leave Laurie home, you want to ever see her again…okay, I’m safe and I’m closer…now breathe and listen hard…wait…shooting stopped…what gives…gun jammed or he’s reloading…I think reloading. I’m gonna bet my life on it…yeah, foxhole up ahead…two dead guys lying out the front…GO…go now, John…move your ass…made it…how far is that gun emplacement…can I use that heft I got pitching for the Red Sox farm team here…no, too far and I get one chance…maybe…Sarge knows about my arm, the bastard…he says…“You toss a grenade, Brayton?”…I say “Yeah, Sarge,”…I tell him before I think…he says “Here’s your chance!” I get stupid for a second…focus…okay, by the numbers…take a quick look and duck…butt burns…damn lucky shot…blood running down my left butt cheek but I’m alive…makes me madder than hell…I want that Hun…where’d that angel on my shoulder come from…“John, you’re about to take a chance, ain’t you?”…goddamn right I am…two more dead soldiers, one piled on top of the other up ahead…they’ll make a good barricade…sorry fellas…another twenty feet there’s a gully…I’ll slide in there…can I make it…yup…that machine gun’s sweeping…time the sweeps, John…okay, company’s crawling up…lots of targets…head down…more spatters…random, not concentrated…okay John, go for it…Dad again, urgent…“Son, wait until the next sweep!”…what’s with the voices in my head…okay, I’m listening…machine fire, not from ahead…what the hell…thanks, Dad…another nest of vipers off right, huh…and a lot closer…I’ll edge up behind the two dead guys and flatten out alongside…they’re target practice for the Hun, but they can’t get any more dead…thank you, guys…I owe you…maybe you’re still helping win this rotten war…that burst from the closer nest just went right over my head…this ain’t in the text books but I’ll pull out two grenades…I got an idea…judging from the position of the crossfire, I’ll time the next swing…okay, I’ve pulled both pins, two iron fistfuls of death…wait for it…wait for it…Dad, what’re you doing back looking over my shoulder…and Laurie’s looking too…you’re both smiling…you wanna watch…okay…first the nest on the right…here you go, you Hun bastards…now the second one, my farm team peg…now eat dirt, John…good, two sharp blasts…message delivered…ah…beautiful silence…think you did it, John…thanks you guys, thanks again for taking the heat for me…now to reconnoiter and dive…yup, got ‘em…okay, fix bayonet, time to clean up, make sure…yell and run like the wind, John, low and fast into the second nest…hey, Yanks, don’t shoot me now…I’m not looking for punctuation from behind…two dead gunners… I’ll use my momentum to check the other one…oh shit...German lieutenant, face covered in blood still alive, raising his sidearm…get him before he gets you, John…YAAA!!!...take twelve inches of cold steel, Hun…wonder if I get a purple heart for getting shot in the ass…that’ll be tough to live down…lookit that…there’s Dad, Laurie, and Mom standing at the lip of the machine gun nest, beaming…they’re proud of me…what’ll I tell the guys…not that…they’ll think I’ve gone stark staring…Chet’ll laugh and say, “C’mon John, you been smoking rope? Gimme some.”…and Sarge, he’ll be thinking of more ways to use me…now ain’t I the cat’s meow…better wave my buddies up the hill…ain’t suppertime yet.

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