There was an ocean of mud and the whole squad were up to their necks in it, moving slowly, holding their M16s above their heads. It was slow going. It had been funny at first but now they were hours into it with no end in sight. Mike had a nagging hope that he would be taken out by the enemy so he wouldn’t have to bear the weight of his gun anymore. Whenever he heard the distant beating of a helicopter he would scrunch up his face and concentrate really hard, trying to beckon them over mentally. He had never had any luck making things happen with his mind but it didn’t stop him from trying. He’d tried it back in Florida with girls. Worked about as well on girls as it did with enemy choppers.

“Startin’ to get deeper,” Danny said. It was, in fact, getting deeper and the ground they were walking on was getting rockier. Now as they walked they had to tilt their heads back to keep their chins out of the mud. Apparently there was a cave several miles ahead that would give them some cover. As much as he resented slogging through the mud, he knew going back would also involve hours of slogging and, who knows, maybe they’d passed the midway point. Then it started to rain. Mike and Danny looked at each other. Then they looked at their fearless leader Jerry who acted like he didn’t feel the raindrops coming down. Billy started cursing up and down, yelling at the top of his lungs. “MOTHERFUCKERMOTHERFUCKERMOTHERFUCKERMOTHERFUCKER!!” Without missing a beat Jerry shot him, blowing his head clean off. What was left of Billy floated in the mud and the rain pelted down. Nobody said anything or even looked at each other, they just slogged onward, tense.

When he finally saw the cave ahead Mike was surprised to see someone had beat them there. He saw some activity through the rain. When they got closer Mike was shocked to see girls in bikinis. It looked like some sort of club. “Where’d they get the girls?” Mike asked. Nobody responded, just kept moving forward through the mud. Mike kept staring in amazement. “What the fuck, Danny? Why are there girls in bikinis up there in the cave?” Danny didn’t answer or even look over at Mike. In fact he looked at Jerry, which Mike took to be a bad sign.

It occurred to Mike then that maybe there were no girls in the cave. Maybe no cave even. He made himself stop looking up there and just stared at the mud going by. They he saw Danny look at Jerry again out of the corner of his eye. Jerry stopped and without wasting a second Mike shot him in the back of the head. And before anyone did anything he shot Danny and Myron, spraying bullets at everyone until he was out. The mud turned red.

Mike just stood there. He looked back to where the cave and the girls had been and saw nothing, just low-hanging clouds. He let his empty M16 drop into the mud. He looked up and let the rain wash his face clean. There was one last piece of beef jerky and he reached through the mud to fish it out of his shirt pocket. He let the rain wash it off a little and then started chewing it, wondering about the first girlfriend he ever had and what had become of her. He concentrated really hard and tried to contact her, thinking in his head, Sally, are you out there? It’s me, Mike.


Don’t leave me hanging, Sally!

That’s when tears came. He began a mental list of resolutions on how to better live his life from that point on. Then he went back to slogging through the mud.

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