Belly of the Beast

As the choppers descend over the arid field, an immense black deer bolts from the wood line, galloping hard to out run the Huey’s landing third platoon. Whittled to half strength, our ranks are filled with FNGs.

The door gunners request permission to fire. Seconds later their machine guns nip at dashing hooves, snap at fleeting hind quarters, dig and bite the heaving flanks. The pilots maneuver to prolong the spectacle.

The wounded beast slows to a trot, staggers, topples to its side, forelegs twitching. The new men rush from the choppers, at close range empty full clips into the dead thing. Red rills from a hundred small holes leak down the curved hide, disappear into the brittle earth.

A gleeful door gunner flips up his helmet visor, wildly waves his hands. “Cease fire! Cease fire!” he shouts. “Gonna haul this back to the rear!”

He drags a heavy rope from the chopper, tightens a noose around the animal’s neck, knots the end to a sturdy hook beneath the craft.

Settling into his gunners seat, he flips his helmet visor down, signals thumbs up to the pilots, who prepare to lift off.

“Y’all take care,” he yells.

The trembling chopper rises slowly. The dead beast must weigh a thousand pounds. Two hundred feet up, its long pink tongue sways like a lewd ribbon against the tropic sky. As the Huey gains attitude the FNGs point and cheer.

“Nice shooting,”says one.

“Kill or be killed,”says another.

A soldier with eight diamonds inked on his helmet, one for each month in combat, checks his ammo.“Fucking new guys,” he mutters. “Ain’t even bullshitting.”

Timmy Day, who walks first in line, taps his helmet for luck. “Time to kick ass and take names,” he says,walking past a new lieutenant.

“Hey soldier, you forget to salute an officer?”

But Timmy Day does not look back.

“Hey..” the lieutenant shouts, “Yeah, you…”

When several old timer’s surround him, tell him the deal, the new officer shuts up. He shuts the fuck up.

Then we move out.