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CAN’T SEE SHIT

4 May, 2013

“Can’t see shit,” ‘Igor’ said, staring intently out of the bunker’s slit as if he might suddenly develop infrared eyes. I had let him, and Ron, stick me with third watch — a guarantee of nearly zero sleep. It’s too early to sleep for at least the first watch and probably the second — and you don’t fall asleep on no watch, Junior, when third watch comes around. (Cheap allusion to Platoon inserted here.)

“I know,” I said. “Helps me overlook your ugly mug.”

Charlie could crawl up and roll a grenade right through our glassless window. Seeing him coming and raising the alarm (or loudly ending his career) wasn’t the idea. We all knew that.

The whole idea was that Charlie would roll that grenade in, try his luck with an RPG, or just plain manage to slip up to the slit and spray everything inside with his AK47. The real idea was that such a ruckus would raise an alarm. We were the canaries in the mine. It was The Nam, and it would be easy enough to draft three more cherries.

Troops in the towers could see — a bit. They got Starlight scopes that at least showed blurry, ghostly green images, but they were elevated and silhouetted against the thousands of hydrogen fusion machines drifting ever so slowly and safely overhead. Daytime was better if you had to sit up there.

I ducked down in a corner, back to the slit, cupped my hands as much as possible and lit a cigarette, hoping it wouldn’t light up that slit like a pumpkin’s mouth. I had gotten good at flicking my lighter, catching the flame just as it arose, and killing it in an instant. The dull yellow flames of Zippos were best. Matches flare too much and far more brightly — white hot white light. The smoking itself wasn’t a big deal if it was done out of the line of sight. It was dim and it was red. Red wavelength photons are low in energy and don’t register well on Charlie’s eyes at a distance; the quantum physics of bunker smoking.

I clicked the safeties off on the Claymore triggers. Neither Igor nor Ron said a thing. After all, it wasn’t like you could pick one up and squeeze it by accident, and the near-pitch black inside after dark could slow down finding that safety, if only for an instant.

Ron stretched out on the wood-only bunk and the ridiculous juxtaposition of sheer boredom and constant, suspicious awareness set it. One couldn’t read in the dark, of course. Some idiots had radios or tape players but who in his right mind would want the black silence to be shattered into a giveaway?

There was nothing to do but talk softly or sit quietly and think of home. Ron and I did the latter. Igor, however was a talker, if given to cryptic economy. He put his right hand on the loaded, but as yet un-cocked, M-60 machine gun poking through the slit and told it softly once again “Can’t see shit.”

The M-60 was too gung ho to worry about it, and remained silent. On the other hand, I swear that my aging-but-capable M-14 answered “That’s affirm, G.I.”.

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From → Stories & Poetry

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