We march heads down, no longer engaged with the world, mindless drones. The rain that falls in sheets does nothing to fight back the heat; It piles on more oppression, like the horrors of the past few months that have become burned-in memories. We slog through mud and dense forest floors with rifles limp at our sides, our minds as gray as the drowning landscape. At intervals the rains stop and the sun blasts through the clouds and moisture rises from the ground and suffocates.
Thoughts of my Filipino honey buoy my sinking morale.
We are Homeless Brigade, Johnson’s Secret Army, Tormentors of the Gimp, as some of the men say. We still fight, despite being stripped of our rank and commission, despite the Kill On Sight orders issued by our own government. We move because movement is life. We are ghosts because the situation and the land demand it and because we have no recourse or alternative.
We attack secretly and in small numbers. Timed explosives whose shockwaves reverberate through the air long after we are gone. As agitators in the war with the communists we are unseen. Word from Bale is that we’re funded by Johnson and some of his cronies, but that’s just hearsay and supposition.
No one speaks openly of treason, only the righteous would do that. But we didn’t choose Homeless Brigade; We were trapped into it. Secretive orders countermanded the official line to stand-down and prepare for evac. Someone with pull shunted us from the region’s top brass and created their own army. We enlisted without knowing. Word is there are others in the same position as we are.
“They claim it’s us when it’s convenient, but they don’t know,” says Ricci, a short but wide man with many opinions. “Kennedy doesn’t have a clue, man.”
I flash a wry smile.
“Can he get it up anymore?” asks Stone. “I mean, he’s in a wheelchair, right?”
“Who cares, Stoner!”
“Hey, man, the wife’s kinda hot, you know? Just saying, is all.”
“Jesus, Stoner!” Ricci never looks up from plodding through the forest. “That man put a kill order out on us and your only thought is boning his wife.”
“That’s some fine dining, is all.”
Several minutes later Stone smirks, “I’m just a kid. What’s he expect?”
We march in silence for another hour before stopping. Bale says it’s not far, just over a ridge we can barely make out through the downpour.
“Someone needs to hunt,” says Ricci.
“No hunting,” answers Bale, “no fire.”
“Come on, Cap,” pleads Stone, “ain’t no Gooks around.”
“Less than ten clicks to target. Can’t risk it.”
We settle in for a brief rest and whatever cold rations we find in our packs.
Ricci and I huddle out of the rain under a large outcropping of rock. The light bleeds from the sky, darkness soon.
“Wonder why Kennedy tossed Johnson aside?”
“Scandal, remember?” Ricci pointed his knife at me, some rations stuck on the end. “Johnson’s still being investigated. Sanford is clean. Besides, Johnson wanted to kick the commies out of here. Kennedy wants to dance with ‘em, make friends.”
“Is Johnson still calling for more troops?”
“What I hear, yes.”
“What does Red say?”
Ricci smiles. “Ruskies get more pissed off each day. Gook paper two days ago said they were bringing more troops back. Pissed at Kennedy. Kennedy blames them for our incursions. They blame him. It’s a tangled mess. Whoever’s work we’re doing is winning.”
Filipino honey, dances in my head. “Money, man. That’s all it is.”
“All it ever is.”
“Red don’t know about Homeless Brigade. The marionette—Johnson or whoever—pulls our strings. And we’re traitors. Someone wants war. Three ways out for us, three doors, I figure: disappear, get the war going again, or die.”
“Got a preference?”
“Patriotism don’t exactly work here,” says Ricci. “Might as well go with the flow.”
Bale times the night march to get us in position at midnight. The rain hasn’t let up but we are now one with it.
The perimeter is weak—only two guards on duty.
Stone says, “That’s CIA.”
Bale nods slowly, purses his lips. Everyone swallows hard. “These are the men tasked with killing us. Still, target munitions only.”
My stomach turns. “Things have changed. We’re playing both sides now.”
“Both sides, man. Got no choice.” Ricci asks as we cut through the fence, “Choose a door yet?”
“Filipino honey,” he smiles. “Groovy choice.”
in category Fiction