Against The Grain

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Chapter 13

That evening I was so tired and ready to wash the sticky sweat off my body that I rushed through the task of cleaning my weapon. I tried putting it back together quietly and Drill Sergeant Andrews stepped over to where I sat with my legs folded on the tile floor. He kneeled down and dismantled my weapon. He stuck his pinky finger in the bolt carrier of my M-16 rifle and pulled it out again. His pinky finger revealed the oily black residue that had built up on my weapon while I used it on the range. Drill Sergeant Andrews threw down the bolt carrier and left my weapon just how he dismantled it.

“Keep cleanin’!” he shouted.

Of course, I was irritated with him for yelling at me and not accepting the cleanliness of my weapon. I picked up the bolt carrier and I began cleaning it. I wasn’t the only one who was cleaning their weapon when he threw down my bolt carrier. When the wannabes heard him yell at me they almost immediately started bad mouthing me again. They began talking trash about me for the millionth time as we all sat cleaning our weapons. I was certain that Drill Sergeant Andrews was enjoying every last minute of this while he sat up in his chair hovering over us on the floor.

I pondered for a brief second about why the wannabes might have something to say about me. I thought that the reason might be mainly because I was trying to go to bed without having cleaned my weapon. I didn’t even look up to see who was talking about me. Who cares, it’s played out, I thought. I tuned them out like always and I just kept cleaning. I slipped away into the zone and I couldn’t hear them anymore.

Drill Sergeant Andrews couldn’t keep me on the floor cleaning the weapon all night. However, he could put me on fireguard. So then, I accepted that two hours was all the time the military could get out of me before they had to let me go to sleep for at least six hours. So, I continued to clean slowly and daydream my way out of the situation.

In return, I was the last one to be excused from the floor after I finished cleaning my weapon. Drill Sergeant Andrews didn’t even check it again. I supposed he figured it would still be dirty. He only told me to go shine my boots. I got up from the barracks floor after putting my weapon back together and I headed to the formation area outside to shine my boots. The good thing about shining my boots was that the drill sergeants wouldn’t inspectthem,unless I accidentally marked the floor with shoeshine oil.

After I shined my boots I surged up the stairs and headed to the shower. As I passed by Private Chapman she reminded me that I was scheduled to pull first fireguard shift. I was so tired and disappointed that I could’ve cried. After a soothing hot shower, I dressed in my PT uniform. The particular pair of PTs I put on my body were the only pair I had at the time that didn’t reek of stale sweat.

I had a seat in the chair at the front near the entrance of the barracks in order to pull guard while my partner on duty started our chores. Like usual, we would switch positions. I would monitor the door for thirty minutes while she did our chores and then we would trade tasks.

In a few minutes, once the wannabes settled in their beds, I would need to count all the females who were present in the barracks for the sake of accountability. I just needed the energy to get back up out of the chair again.

Swiftly, I patrolled along each bunk, keeping a mental count of every wannabe in the bay. I used the long green flashlight in my hand as a pointer. As I stepped by Clinton’s bunk, she glared up at me.

“Ugh!” she hissed.

I stared back at her, slowing my pace and wondering what I did wrong. She gaped at me as if I had hot garbage on my face. Her nose was turned up, as if she’d smelled something foul. I didn’t know what I’d done to her, but I didn’t care at that point. I was tired.

“Shut up and go to bed!” I snapped.

I blew her off and continued marching down the red line.

“What she just say to me?” Clinton asked her other wannabe friends.

Clinton she began to taunt me aloud, so everyone in our bay could hear. Her followers, of course, encouraged every insult that came from her mouth.

“You so damn stupid! Why don’t you just quit! Such a f@&$in’ ditz!”

She began speaking louder and louder, ensuring that everyone heard her.

“Drill Ser-geant,” Private Clinton sang, mocking my accent.

I could feel my heart beating harder. The beating of my heart provided a rhythmic sound in my ear against her taunting rants. I felt my adrenaline course through my veins and I began to clench my fist unintentionally. I could feel my nostrils flaring up on their own. I wanted to punch Clinton in her face right then and there. The echo of the wannabe’s laughter played in my ear as I paced.

I counted the last person on fourth platoon’s side and then I headed back to my desk on fireguard without even looking their way. I had to muster up enough guts to march past them, but so far I’d done it without saying anything else to them. My buddy on duty was away doing chores.

Private Clinton was still bad mouthing me. I tried to sit there and be quiet, but I was too angry. So, I began pacing while breathing heavily near the fireguard desk by the double doors.

“That b!$@% . . .” we all heard her say.

“Shut up, Clinton!” I finally shouted.

“Who she think she talkin’ to! .. . I’makick .. .” she continued.

“Clinton, shut the f@&$ up! It’s lights out!” I hollered at the top of my lungs for the third time.

Some of the wannabes began laughing even harder as she mocked me saying that. A wave of frustration broke out over me like a heat rash. In a matter of seconds, I heard the sudden rummaging of sheets and I stood up as straight as a flagpole. A fire must have burned deep inside Clinton because she took off, charging toward me. In a quick instance, Private Brown appeared in my left. She raced toward Clinton, grabbing her by one arm. She’d seen it coming, but her attempt to fully stop her failed.

In the heat of the moment, I swiftly raised my right arm with the long army green flashlight in hand and whacked it over her head with all my might. Clinton still threw a swift blow to my head. She punched me directly in my left temple, without the slightest response to the lashing I’d just given her with the flashlight. It seemed as though she didn’t even feel it.

She snatched at my black hair that was neatly pulled into a bun, but her hands couldn’t stay raveled around it. I tried hitting her hands away from my head, but that didn’t work. Clinton began using her fist like a judge’s gavel against my head, like a base. She began pounding away at me with one hand while Brown pulled her back. I quickly bashed her over the head with the flashlight again. It was the only thing I could think to do, in a matter of seconds. I lifted up the flashlight for the third time and attempted to thrust it over her head again, but Parker intervened.

Private Parker came from behind me and pulled my swinging arm away from Clinton’s head and I dropped the flashlight. Clinton tried to lock her hands into my hair again as the next female wannabes stepped in to try and separate us.

By hasty snatches at our limbs, I watched Clinton become lifted off her feet and my own body took on a forced 360 degree movement. Private Parker and two other wannabes seized my arms and hustled me down the barracks stairs to the downstairs platoon office. Private Parker knocked on the door while we stood outside in the breezeway in front of our formation area. We waited in a tight huddle for a drill sergeant to say enter.

Once we were given permission to enter, Private Parker, Private Brown, Private Clinton and Private Stevenson moved into the office with me. Drill Sergeant Mayor took in a deep breath as Stevenson and Parker held me before him. Drill Sergeant Mayor would have the final call.

We stood in the downstairs office at parade rest for nearly an hour with our perpetrating allies, waiting to tell their side of the story. Drill Sergeant Mayor held a tired expression upon his face. He glared at me as if I were nothing.

“What happened, Private Parker?” Drill Sergeant Mayor asked.

“McCoy was yelling at Clinton to shut up--”

“Why were you talking, Clinton? You know it’s lights out time!” he snapped.

“I was telling everybody else to be quiet.” she lied.

“No she wasn’t, she was taunting her, like they always do.” Private Parker protested.

Drill Sergeant Mayor looked surprised. He shifted his eyes back to Clinton then back to Parker.

“Continue,” Drill Sergeant Mayor replied to Parker.

“Clinton got up off her bunk. She ran up on her and they started fighting.”

Next, he asked Stevenson what happened.

“Clinton attacked McCoy, Drill Sergeant.” Private Stevenson reported.

“Parker, Stevenson, Brown, go to bed,” he directed them.

“Clinton, McCoy, y’allgot some PT to do.”

All the others went upstairs to our barracks as they were told. Drill Sergeant Mayor had us standing outside underneath the concrete waiting on him.

“I should whoop yo’ f@#%in’ a$$!” she replied to me.

We stood there alone and I was worried that she might attack me. I ignored her and remained at parade rest.

I was delirious. Tired and overworked grew into an understatement as the concept of time left my mind. We stretched out on the concrete under the barracks in the exact same spot where we formed up every morning. I had no choice but to do this in my sleep. My mind was leaving me fast.

After we stretched we marched up to the PT field and ran a fourth of a mile. We completed nearly thirty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, overhead arm claps, jumping jacks, and flooder kicks. Drill Sergeant Mayor also informed us that all the females would have extra duty tomorrow and we would all be smoked until he got tired. With that being said, he ordered me to finish pulling the remaining thirty minutes of my shit.

He ordered Clinton to go back to bed and he ordered me to get down and low crawl on the grassy knoll. He held me there for what felt like forever, but it was maybe only ten minutes. I just close my eyes and slept a little will minimal movement. It didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would be. He then dismissed me to finish pulling my shift.

In the early morning formation at 0430 hours us females were informed that we would have extra duty after we returned from our routine physical training in the field. Luckily, I wasn’t sleepy at all. The anger inside of me prepared me to take on whatever the drill sergeants were going to dish out.

It seemed as though Drill Sergeant Mayor couldn’t wait to tell us that we were in trouble. He quickly announced the consequences of our actions with a devilish smile on his face, as we stood in the dark and cold morning.

I didn’t understand why the males didn’t have extra duty whenever they fought each other. Then I considered that they would potentially have extra duty every single day. Yet, it was almost as if they were commended for their bruises. My hands became freezing and my fingers felt like they’d already turned into popsicles as I ignored Drill Sergeant Mayor carrying on with his lecture.

I was at my wit’s end with everyone in our platoon and I was certain that they were at their wit’s end with me too. The very thought of every last one of them falling to their deaths provided me with great pleasure.

Right then, I stood in formation with a candid smile on my face for all of them to see. I wasn’t interested in Drill Sergeant Mayor seeing my smile because I didn’t want him to stop and crucially single me out while he was in the middle of listing out all of our tedious chores. He enthusiastically elaborated on all that we’d have to do. I stood there and watched as a good chunk of the wannabes took the time to turn around and offer me a cold stare. I didn’t care if the males looked at me coldly. They couldn’t even talk to me. Besides, they didn’t have a reason to give me a dirty look. They didn’t even have any extra duty.

The females, however, could potentially cause me to get into another fight. Therefore, I had to watch my back. Private Clinton chose to stand infirstsquad on purpose. She wanted to be able to turn her head in my direction and stare at me. She stood with her eyes intentionally fixed on me. The evil gape she‘d projected at me welcomed me to another brawl anytime.

We were commanded to march out onto the PT field. As we were marching, I noticed that Clinton stomped around with her chest poked out a little further than it already had been. She charged forward with an unmoving grimace held upon her face. Private Clinton was native to Detroit, Michigan and I swear she thought she was as tough as the crime there.

I took the time to remember back when Drill Sergeant Andrews had mentioned a term that I didn’t even bother listening to him explain. However, I pondered over how the term might be used. He used the term ‘blue falcon’ and I believed it was equivalent to the term trader. I knew that I would be considered a blue falcon if I were to ever be deployed to war because I hated the wannabes. I didn’t like any of them enough to risk my life for them and I realized it had everything to do with their stupid mentalities. I hated their arrogance, their prejudice and their racism. Most importantly, I hated their ability to believe that they were better than another person, group of people or another country. I wanted to remain separate. Yet, I wasn’t going to quit basic training.

I knew it would upset them greatly if I graduate from here too. I wasn’t going to allow myself to go hungry during the recession. I was going to complete this training, physically abused or not. Gossip roamed around freely while we exercised in the field. Some of the females might’ve even been plotting on me. They weren’t even supposed to be talking, but I could tell that the drill sergeants were making an exception on account of the fight. In return, I kept my mouth quiet. Instead of becoming even more upset, I looked deep down inside myself and found my inner strength.

We first had breakfast and then we began scrubbing every square inch of the barracks on our hands and knees. Every last one of us females participated in sweeping, mopping, waxing and buffing the bay. We dried our bathroom floor with cloth towels on our hands and knees as well. We just about crawled over each other while we scraped up gum off the hard concrete ground outside near the stairwell. I hadn’t scraped up anything. I just went through the motions of scraping by tapping my hand scraper on the concrete ground in the same manner that they did. I stored up my energy in case I had to fight again. I only dragged myself along with the others.

After we completed all of our extra duty, we were smoked outside in our platoon area. The males were gathered into formation and given a right face command so that they could stand and watch us being smoked. Stretches, push-ups, sit-ups, flooder kicks and iron mikes were onlythe halfof it. The males were given the command to fall out of formation and they headed upstairs for personal time. They were able to cheer loudly as they marched all the way up the stairwell. We swept the concrete ground outside in our platoon area.

The sound of the bugle horn meant it was time for lunch chow. Meal times were always a break in between labor and I did my best to eat my misery away. I figured I would eat for all the wrong I’d experienced. The money to pay for the meals wasn’t coming from my pocket. Yet, I was paying for it.

We all sat down in the chow hall and ate lunch chow together. None of the females would have sat with me, yet they had no choice. Under these circumstances, I decided I wouldn’t speak anymore unless it was worth it. Therefore, I spent the remainder of my days in solitude. I placed the Lord in my mind and read my bible. The military only had me physically.

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