From There is a Generation – Chapter 1


West Texas 1950’s

“War Games”

“Snatch up that rifle, goldbricker.”

I lifted my head out of my hands. “I’m half-dead, you know?”

“Yeah, yeah, half-dead, I know, I know.” Hect lay atop the fender of the truck’s crushed headlight, positioned his rifle on the hood, and fired repeatedly. The shack he aimed at absorbed the shots to no greater effect than if they’d all missed, except for a tinkle of glass now and then when a bullet nicked a shard left in the window frame. Out of ammunition, he sat on the running board beside me. I could feel his disgust.

“It’s a mighty sorry soldier what leaves a weapon in the dirt like that. It’d serve you right if they come yelling for blood out’a that bunker with guns blazing and your barrel’s clogged up.”

“I don’t feel good, I told you.”

“Humpteen jillion times, ‘s’all. That’s humpteen jillion and one.” He reloaded his rifle.

Damaged cars lay all around—some turned on one side, others upside down, still others demolished beyond recognition. Many had bullet holes that spider-webbed the glass of several windows.

The West Texas sun hammered our heads like nails. Heat off the metal truck body felt hot as off a stovetop. Worse than that, gasoline fumes hung in the air, making me dizzy. A fuel tank on the truck dripped gas, leaving a dark, crusted stain on the dirt.

Hect squeegeed his brow with one finger and popped a line of drops in the dirt. He sweat a lot anyway, and the droplets ran down his face as if beads on a string. His buzzed haircut and almost perfectly round face, along with his being chunky, made him a target for kids at school. They taunted him with names like “Full Moon” or “Charlie Brown,” after the cartoon strip. He’d dropped out of the seventh grade after failing it the year before, and I wished he hadn’t, as his south-side accent needed improving badly. Because of it, I’d come under my own share of teasing, especially from my country-club pals. Instead of Hect or his real name, Hector, they called him “Hick.”

“You hear me, Private? Snatch up that gun. What if them killers was to come squalling out of that hut? What’re you to do about it—chunk dirt clods?”

“I’m not in the mood.” Miserable, I dropped my head into my hands again. “No one’s inside there anyway.”

“Says you, no one’s in there. If you don’t think so, sashay out in the open and see if them murderers don’t fill that ain’t-in-the-mood noggin so full of pellets you’ll be a walking maraca. At least then, you’d be useful as a decoy. Now get that weapon out of the dirt, soldier.”

I picked up the end of the rifle, but only because the gun didn’t belong to me, and I felt guilty treating his uncle’s rifle like that. I brushed the barrel off.

“We’re in a skirmish here, soldier. This ain’t no child’s play. Them cutthroats would die happy as eating pie if they could kill us, so you get serious.”

“I’m not well, I told you. You wouldn’t be either if you went through what I did last night. It was the worst of my li—”

“’Not well’? Is that what you said?” He shook his head as if he’d heard all he could stand and returned to loading his rifle clip. “You ain’t half thought ‘not well,’ if them maniacs in that bunker get their blood-crusted hands on you. Now get up here and help out. I ain’t able to finish them off alone.”

“Gunfire hurts my headache.”

“How’d I wind up with such a sissy partner? That’s what I’d like to know. And don’t tell me them skunks ain’t in there again on account of they are so. I don’t care what you say. Now, my plan is a frontal attack while you flank attack. We’ll duck best we can, you left, me right.”

“If I move, I’ll throw up.”

“You ain’t got no say in this, Private. Which one of us is the officer here? Me, not you. These are my uncle’s rifles, and we’ll do as I say so.” He snorted. “Shoot, your momma won’t even let you own a cap pistol, so don’t tell me I ain’t in command. Now, we’ll rush the enemy head-on. They won’t be expecting that.”

“Here goes!” I bent over and made a gagging noise. “Ugh, almost.”

“I ought to shoot you for insubordination, is what. I’d be within my rights too. It’s legal for a commanding officer to kill a coward who disobeys on the battlefield. If I didn’t need you to help fight these scoundrels, I would too.”

“Ack! For real, this time!” I bent over, my shoulders on my knees, my head between my thighs, and burped. Nothing else.

“My blamed luck,” Hect muttered. “Here I am in desperate straits, facing fanatic killers, and I got a pansy for a sidekick. Come on now, won’t you help?” His tone reduced to pleading. “Buck up and cover me, at least. I’ll do the rest.” He stood up and leaned around the fender and emptied his clip into the shanty. Pieces of glass shattered. “Wahoo! That’ll show them killers. If only I had me a flamethrower,” he said while peeking over the truck’s hood. “I’d set that place ablaze with a flamethrower and cook them rascals.” Keep Reading..

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