“2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?” I rattled off.
“Hello?” I asked. Cobb was staring at me.
It was low, gravelly, and liquid.
“It’s for you,” I said, holding the phone out to Cobb.
Cobb looked at the phone, took it, and put it to his ear. I could hear the sibilant hiss, the liquid exhale of air, even though Cobb was the one who held the phone.
Cobb dropped the phone, and lept up, grabbing me by my throat and slamming me against the wall. He was squeezing hard, and his face was red.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!” he screamed.
I slammed my arms up between his, breaking his grip, and slammed my forehead into his face. His nose crunched, and I kneed him in the balls, he stepped back, and I stepped forward and slammed my right forearm into his face, knocking him down. Before he got up, I slammed a boot into his stomach. He was curled up in a ball on the floor, and I could hear a busy signal coming from the swinging phone receiver.
“Don’t ever fucking touch me again, asswipe,” I snarled, rubbing my throat. The day room door burst open, and SFC Vickers stood there, the .45 in his hand. I’d seen that pistol in his hands more lately than I saw it the first few days I was here.
“What’s going on?” He asked, walking toward us. Cobb was still sitting up, holding his nose.
“Nothing,” he said.
“We were just having a discussion,” I lied. I’d learned the way the military worked. If nobody talked, nothing happened, and fights between men were rarely reported. If you laid your hands on another man, and he kicked your ass, well, you were just shit out of luck.
I reached over and hung up the phone.
“Cobb’s nose is bleeding,” SFC Vickers stated, the master of the obvious. I was starting to realize that maybe there was more to him getting sent here than just fucking someone’s wife. He’d left me alone in that goddamn hole, and he always made sure all of us were first into a room.
“I hit myself in the face with the phone,” Cobb replied, putting two fingers on each side of his nose. With a crunch, he set it. I picked up the phone and hung it up. SFC Vickers looked at both of us curiously, then went back to the day room.
“Jesus Christ, Monkey, where did you learn to fight like that?” Cobb asked, wiping his nose off with the hem of his shirt.
“We moved a lot,” I told him.
“It’s the truth.” I was being serious. I hadn’t learned much in juvie, just got better at what I was doing.
“Goddamn, son, remind me not to tangle with you again,” Cobb told me.
“Sorry about that.” I was honestly embarrassed.
The phone rang again, and both of us stared at it.
“Don’t,” Cobb said, when I started to reach for it. “Just. Don’t.”
The phone kept ringing. My mouth was dry, and my imagination was running wild. I knew it was Tandy on the other line. That hiss was him trying to speak, to call to us for help, while some dead Nazi wrapped boney fingers around his throat and squeezed like Cobb had done to me.
“Answer that goddamn phone!” SFC Vickers yelled, stomping into the room. He had that fucking pistol in his hand again, and was looking a little too wild-eyed for my taste.
“No,” Cobb replied. I just shrugged.
“Answer the phone, Private,” SFC VIckers was a bit ominous. I’d begun to notice things about him.
“Fuck it,” I snarled, and grabbed the phone. “2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?”
Nothing, just whispering silence.
“Hello?” I knew it was coming.
Low, sibilant, bubbly. The hair that didn’t exist on my head stood straight up.
“It’s for you, Sergeant,” I said, in my best dead-pan voice. He snatched the phone out of my hand.
“Sergeant First Class Vickers speaking,” he said. I noticed it was nearly a fawning tone. He stood there, and his eyes widened. He threw the phone at me, bouncing it off my chest. My bruised ribs twinged.
“You think this is goddamn funny, Private?” he yelled.
“Not particularly, no,” I told him.
“No, what?” he asked. There was a pretty large vein writhing on his forehead.
“No, Sergeant,” I answered.
“THEN WHO WAS THAT?” he screamed at me. Behind him, I could see the door to the dayroom open, with Captain Bishop coming out.
“Maybe it was Tandy,” I said. I wanted to feed him that goddamn pistol. It wasn’t pointed at me, but it wasn’t pointed away from me either. I hung up the phone, and didn’t care that my hand was shaking.
“Think this shit is funny, Private? All these bullshit spooky sounds, just happening to find a bunch of old Nazi bullshit, all the lights switching off. Think this is a good game of ‘Scare the Sergeant’ or some shit?” He was pointing the pistol at me, jabbing with each word.
“What’s the problem, Sergeant?” Captain Bishop asked. Vickers whirled around, pistol still in his hand, and Captain Bishop grabbed the barrel. “Relinquish the weapon, soldier,” he ordered. Sergeant Vickers let it go.
“Privates Cobb and Monkey think they’re comedians,” Vickers said, whirling around. I was starting to wonder what he heard.
* ring ring*
Cobb and I turned to stare at the phone. So did Vickers and Bishop. Stokes and Mann were coming out of the dayroom. Even sleepily disheveled, Stokes looked good. The cold perked her nipples through her T-shirt, hard buttons of top of those huge titties.
* o ring ring**
“Gentlemen?” Captain Bishop asked. The phone rang again. We all were looking at him. “Aren’t you going to answer it?”
* o ring ring**
“2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?” I repeated into the receiver.
“2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?” I said again, slowly and distinctly.
This is new.
“2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?” I asked a little more forcefully.
“It’s for you,” I said, handing the phone to Captain Bishop.
“Captain Bishop speaking, how may I hel....” His face turned a greyish color.
“WHO IS THIS?” he shouted. He held the phone out at arms length, and we could all hear it.
I grabbed it out of his hand, and slammed it down.
“What the fuck was that?” He asked.
“Tandy,” I told him.
“Where’s Tandy?” Stokes asked, holding onto her arms and shivering.
The lights in the hallway clicked off, and a low moan echoed down the hallway and stairwell in tandem. I could see one flickering bulb at the far end of the hall. Nobody answered her.
“What happened to your face, Cobb?” Bishop asked.
“I fell,” Cobb said. Bishop looked at me, looked at my hands, then shrugged.
“What’s going on?” Mann was looking fairly confused. Cobb lit two cigarettes and passed me one. I didn’t smoke, but I took it anyway.
“We don’t know, something is...”
* ring ring*
“Fuck you!” I yelled, the anger, the rage, at all this bullshit boiled to the surface. I grabbed the phone and slung it against the wall, shattering the black plastic casing.
“RING NOW, BITCH!”
Behind me, the whole phone bank, with the exception of our dedicated Fifth Corps line, started ringing. I stood there, facing the wall, and the broken plastic, while the other black phones, identical twins of their freshly murdered brother, began sounding out.
“Don’t,” Captain Bishop breathed. “Don’t. Answer. The. Phones.”
The lights went off in the CQ area, and up above, the boots thundered on the floor while the phones screamed.
I squeezed shut my eyes and wished I’d wake up in my cell.