FORT MCCOY, WISCONSIN
If there was anything Sergeant Tillson hated, it was being awakened in the middle of the night for no damn good reason. It made him feel cranky and out of sorts for the whole next day, but there were a few smart-mouth assholes who had told him they could hardly see the difference between that and his regular mood.
When the phone rang at zero one hundred, Sergeant Tillson was on the verge of blowing a whole mess of ragheads to hell and back, but instead, the irritating jangle interrupted the most fun he’d had in months. Reluctantly, the Sergeant pulled himself out of his satisfying fantasies and the comforting warmth of his bed and stumbled over to his desk.
“This had better be good,” he warned whatever idiot had the balls to call him at this hour, then picked up the phone.
“Sergeant Tillson here.”
It was Captain Hubbard.
Tillson listened for thirty seconds. “Yes, sir, Captain, right away.”
He made his way yawning and scratching, thinking how great it was going to be a few months from now when he retired. After forty years, he would get full benefits and he could sleep as long as he wanted with no interruptions. He made his way into the barracks room and down the row of bunks until he got to Sibley’s.
He looked down at the poor schmuck sleeping like a baby and thought that it was too bad that a guy who tried as hard as him, had such a weird, pain-in-the-ass mother. This was her second mysterious “life or death” phone call in less than two weeks.
“Hey, Sibley.” he shook Josh’s shoulder. “Wake up. You gotta call your old lady.”
Sibley woke up instantly and hauled ass into the office. By the time the Sergeant got there, he had already dialed and was shifting nervously from one foot to the other, waiting for an answer. The Sergeant leaned against the doorframe and shook his head. What in the hell could be important enough to interfere with training to serve God and country as a soldier? Life and death, my achin’ butt, he thought. This time, Sibley looked shook up as all get out, though, and he could already tell, the man was no coward.
“Ma, what’s going on? You okay?” Sibley’s voice was shaking with worry.
He sank down heavily in the chair by the desk as he listened to whatever the old lady was telling him. Josh raked his fingers through his hair and spewed curses into the phone. “Oh, shit! Goddamn it. Oh, shit!” He leaped to his feet again. “Don’t do anything, you hear me? I’ll come. I’ll talk to the Sergeant and see what I have to do. But don’t you go. I’ll come take care of it.” The kid looked like he was about to have a fuckin’ shit fit. “Don’t cry, Ma, okay? Don’t cry.”
He hung up and the Sergeant seriously considered that he was losing his own mind. “Be back by morning or you’re AWOL.”
“Thank you, sir. You can count on it.” And Sibley was out the door.
The Sergeant was getting soft in his old age. He figured he better go back to sleep and fight war in his dreams. It was probably the only place he was fit to fight it these days.
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