WARNING: THIS SHORT STORY CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND THEMES THAT MAY OFFEND SOME READERS.
KICKING AND SCREAMING
War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes
think they are going to profit from it.
George Orwell 1903 - 1950
Jake had seen some bad things during his tour of duty. But now he was doing his best to forget them.
The plane banked abruptly and Pete woke up.
Jake looked out of the window. Nothing to see but cloud.
‘Well, it’s over now. At last. The day we’ve been waiting for. All our lives. Or so it seems.’
Pete yawned and stretched. His shirt lifted up showing a soldier’s stomach. The result of six months of active service. Rigorous stuff.
‘Right on. We’ll be safe as houses soon. If the pilot gets us down OK.’
Jake nodded. They’d spent a lot of time together during the last six months, but now he realised that he was hoping not to see Pete again after they landed. Not ever.
‘I’m sure you all know that advertising’s misleading.’
‘But I’m here today to tell you that our army recruitment stuff’s an outright fucking lie.’
Another pause, to let that sink in.
‘We don’t have any pretty young boys from central casting playing at being men on this training course or at this base.’
Quite a statement barked out by a senior officer on his first day, but Jake soon found out the truth of the statement.
The reality of army life was nothing like that shown in press ads or on the recruiting office posters or in the colour supplements or on TV. No, nothing at all like that. Not in reality.
No young men doing boys own things.
No black faces that were really white faces painted black so that it emphasised the whites of their eyes.
No. The blacks were black and the whites pasty faced.
Learn new skills?
Krap. Nothing you could use afterwards in civilian life.
Lies. Cold as a witch’s tit at night. Long marches with heavy packs all day. Constant crawling about in mud to simulate battle conditions. What a load of bollocks.
Yea, with the added bonus that you get shot at.
But it was only when he got to his posting abroad that the true reality really set in.
When Jake realised that Christ they’re shooting at me and it came through loud and clear that the bastards are trying to kill me.
While they were waiting to embark on the trip home, Pete had said, ‘My dad was in the army too, you know. He told me this joke once. He said when he came back from a tour of duty, the first thing he did was fuck my mum. Then he took his boots off.
Not that funny really, and I didn’t like him talking about my mother like that. But it’s probably true, don’t you think?’
Jake didn’t answer then, because he didn’t have an answer.
But he soon found out that it didn’t apply to him.
Well, yes and no, perhaps.
It was true in a way because he and Molly had gone straight to bed. And they didn’t take all their clothes off first. His boots, yes, but not everything. Molly was still a bit shy, that’s why.
But not true because it didn’t happen the way he’d been dreaming about for so long.
She seemed pleased enough to see him. Then came the surprising frenzy of groping and wrestling and even tearing.
No, not her hymen. That was long gone.
Her underwear. And the look on her face when he’d wrenched off her pants.
Then it had all changed. Something happened between them. Something invisible and hard to comprehend.
And it turned everything on its head. Energy ebbed. Interest lapsed. And desire flagged.
His mind had gone back to the camp.
And the heat. And the dust. And the fear. Of being shot at. And killed. Or, worse perhaps, wounded. Badly wounded. An arm. Or a leg. An eye or both. Or a bad wound in the groin and all the implications that had.
He remembered the patrols through the shit hole villages. And the flies. And the terror when a mine went off. As it did one day. And when the body parts fell all around him. And the time it took to collect them. Under fire. And to stuff them into the body bag. Bits of human meat and bone and gore strewn across the road. And spurts of blood marking the mud plastered walls of the mud brick buildings. A soldier crying. And the screaming.
Everyone seemed to be fucking screaming.
Then the dawning realisation that the soldier who had stood on that device had simply disappeared. Forever.
So that’s where his mind was when they were in bed. That first time. And so nothing happened.
Even though he’d taken his boots off first.
Unfortunately not much happened later either.
The base doctor said not to worry. It happens to everyone he said. But you’ll get over it. Eventually.
The problem, Jake thought was, how long’s eventually?
He remembered that weekend pass. To the safe, away from it all base on the island. A few hours on a plane and a lifetime away from the heat and fear of their daily routine.
Two patrols each day. Out, of the safe area, so called, in an armoured vehicle.
And then a rectangle around the shit hole village. Up one rutted road. Turn right. Two miles and turn right again. Then right for the last time, hoping, praying that they’re not in anyone’s sights. And that they don’t trigger anything untoward. Just to show the flag.
Or some equally silly rationale thought up by officers.
He remembered the prostitute.
And how embarrassing it had been. For him. But not for Pete, apparently.
How excited he’d been when, sitting in a back ally bar, a tall but youngish girl spoke to them.
‘You soldiers looking for something. One at a time or both together if you like. Me good, clean woman. Here, look at this. Look. Look. Healthy person, me. Good price for two together.’
It was in a language they didn’t understand but it looked like a medical certificate.
‘Probably a forgery, but it’s a novel approach,’ said Pete. ‘She deserves our custom just for her creativity.’
They negotiated for a while and then followed her further into the old quarter and up some narrow stairs. She showed them into a small that was flooded in daylight.
It had the not quite romantic ambiance of being center stage under a spotlight.
Jake saw that Pete had an erection even before they’d taken their clothes off.
‘I’ll go first,’ Pete said, moving towards the bed.
‘You’ll have to bat on a sticky wicket. Could be a bonus. Nice and wet. I’ll bet even cunts dry up in this fucking climate.’
Pete’s penis stuck out in front of him as he went over to the woman who was lying on a bed. He was rubbing it with his hand. He moved his foreskin back slightly revealing a glistening glans.
‘Come on get your gear off,’ he said to her. ‘Give us a look. We want to see what we’re paying for.’
Reluctantly, Jake thought, she removed her underwear.
‘Fucking hell, she’d never get a job as an army barber,’ he said pointing to her shaved pubic area.
Pete leaned towards her, ‘Here, have a suck before we fuck.’
He looked back at Jake and laughed. Presumably, Jake thought, at what he’d said.
‘Just wait until she feels this inside her. They’re not used to cocks like this out here. Their men are all cut. I bet she’ll love me forever once I’ve given it to her.’
Jake kept his underpants on as he watched Pete’s antics over the next few minutes.
Thrusting, groping and groaning. And then a hoarse shout as he climaxed.
‘Come on your turn now. Get that army underwear stuff off and get on with it.’
But Jake found it difficult. He’d never had an audience before.
He felt embarrassed with Pete sitting on the end of the bed delivering a commentary and offering what he presumably thought were helpful comments.
But they weren’t helpful. Because nothing worked.
Even though the woman did her best. But no amount of stroking or pushing or pulling or even sucking had any effect.
‘Too much beer,’ Jake said lamely.
‘Yea, probably. But don’t worry. You’ll be OK next time. Come on, let’s get out of here.’
But the next time it wasn’t OK. Even though it was months later.
And Molly always seemed to be in an unreceptive mood. No matter when he made advances.
He tried kissing her. She turned her head away.
He tied to put his arms around her. She twisted onto the other side of the bed.
He got the message.
She didn’t want intercourse so he came in his hand and wiped it on the sheets.
In the morning he felt hot, hard and vigorous again.
Another rejection, so he came in the shower and watched the semen make delta patterns as it ran down the glass door.
Pete phoned. ‘Got summink to show you. See you down the pub.’
They had a few drinks. Then a few more.
‘Remember how you kicked the fucker?’
‘Wot? Er… well, actually I don’t really.’
‘Sure you did. Complained that you’d hurt your foot. Limped for a couple of days as I remember.’
Jake looked surprised. Then confused.
He was vaguely aware that he’d been present and that bad things had happened.
But now was not the time to dig up those kinds of memories.
He remembered hoping not to see Pete again when they got back.
‘He sure as hell felt that kick. Right in his guts it was.’ Jake looked away.
A well built teenager came over to them. ‘Got a fag for me mate?’
Pete said, ‘Fuck off, you’re not old enough to smoke.’
The kid went back to his friends.
‘D’you remember what Sargent Krik did with that other bastard?’
‘Well, no. Well, I mean yes, I suppose so.’
‘Yea, with that wet blanket. Soon got him singing, didn’t it?’
‘Well… look Pete, cant we talk about something else now? That was all a long time ago. Lots of water’s gone down the gurgler since then.’
Silence. Then Jake tried to make amends.
‘What about that one with the big boobs you were interested in? What’s happened to her? Got her hidden away somewhere, have you?’
But Pete wasn’t quite ready to change the subject just yet.
They had a few more drinks. Then a couple more.
Pete took out a small plastic box.
Inside Jake saw something he knew he didn’t want to see.
‘It’s that rag head’s finger. You gave me a hand, remember. And he gave me his finger. Well, his thumb anyway. So I kept it. Didn’t tell anyone. Brought it back home as a souvenir of what we went through.’
He took a gulp of beer. ‘Smelled for a while. But it was OK once it dried out.’
Then suddenly, ‘Want it? It’s yours if you do. I’m sick of it, if you must know. And you were there too. You helped. So you can have it if you want it.’
‘Fuck off Pete. Why the hell would I want to hang on to something like that.’
Pete put the small Tupperware container back in his pocket.
On the way home Pete went down to a public toilet.
Several young thugs were there doing drugs.
The ones dealing took no notice of him, but the effete looking kid who came out of one of the cubicles licked his lips and smiled at him.
Jake marked him as gay. He was right.
As Jake went back up the stairs, the kid shouted after him, ‘ Hey, come back. Feel like a blow job? I’m just in the mood. I’ll do you for nothing. Because you’re so pretty. You’ll never get a better offer.’
Jake went out onto the road. He walked towards the river and turned to cross the bridge.
He stopped to look down into the murky water.
He could remember giving the man a few slaps. He could hear him screaming.
And he screamed even louder when Pete turned the handle.
And the charge went through the wires. Into the man’s genitals.
Molly sat in the coroner’s court with her arms folded, staring straight ahead.
It was a long and convoluted procedure.
It included some complicated reports.
The deceased had been drinking. Blood alcohol levels were at a high level.
It has been verified that he was in The Rose and Crown, a nearby public house.
Video camera images indicated that he left the public house and went into a municipal toilet facility for males in Cannon’s Road. It is not known why he did not use the toilet in the public house.
It is probable, but not certain, that he was involved in some kind of illicit activity. The downstairs public toilet facility is frequented by addicts and gay men.
The images of the victim on the bridge were of poor quality, being out of the optimum range of the nearest video camera. However, it seems that there was either a provoked or an unprovoked attack on the victim.
The suspects were a group of unknown male youths walking in the opposite direction.
The heavy blow to the victim’s neck was probably carried out by one of these persons. It is not know whether there was any provocation or not.
The autopsy report has revealed that the victim was probably alive but unconscious when he was thrown off the bridge.
It is therefore likely that water entered the deceased’s lungs when he was in the river.
The report found that the cause of death was drowning.
The verdict concluded that the killing was done without lawful excuse and in breach of criminal law.
And that was it.
She thought about Jake. She put her hands in her lap. She stared straight ahead.
The courtroom was all but empty. An orderly told her she’d have to leave.
He said he was sorry. But for security reasons he’d have to lock up.
She went outside. It had been raining.
She sat on the wet steps of the court. People looked at her.
What a shame they thought. A young girl like that. Quite pretty too.
She was thinking about Jake. How he’d made her laugh when they were first together. What fun they’d had. And how he’d changed.
She started to cry.
Suddenly the words were coming out of her mouth, ‘Fucking army,’ she screamed. People stared.
What a shame. Drugs probably. Or alcohol, perhaps. Or both. These young people, these days.
She saw a man in uniform coming towards her.
Just then she felt a kick. Deep inside her abdomen.
By the time the policeman got up to her she had worked out that she was pregnant.