(titled)

ben ohmart

"Ssshh..!" He could control his people, but the jungle still struggled with the wind. Flakes of pollen and the scent off drug plants told their direction but did little else to help.

The sound of water running, hitting into something. 44 feet ago they couldn't hear it at all, now, passing just a single colossal tree, it was ear ready.

Major Bel didn't have to do anything. But he pointed. They scattered, each taking up a pre-arranged post. The guns were security. No bullets anymore since after the last skirmish, but it made them feel good. Something to grip. Hide behind, even if they were sub-things.

No one crouched. They knew it was going to be too long for that.

Then on the fifth day, a little boy chanced into the spring. Looking back after every 3rd or so footstep, he was no fool. But only going on 10, the black-haired child was already starting to bald badly. The tar his mother had stolen from a wandering (always hiding, moving, or else, be shut down) schoolroom's back wall did little to conceal his embarrassment from the many dead bodies of the village. And on hot days - nearly every day - his head steamed.

Hands to brook, he cleansed choice bits of himself.

The silent radios crackled loudly into plugged ear holes. Checkpoints checked in. Jokes left one soldier and joined others. The signal..!

All jumping up at once, the guns blazed without a call to unity. The boy was quick, but not quick enough not to be not killed. Running all the way home to the sound of the mad men clicking their machines, he didn't stop for a single loose goat. Which could've meant money to his family.

Squat. The men could see each other's shinning faces in the brush. Green and black on their cheeks, black on their teeth, they still knew where each brother was hiding. Somehow they could Feel it.

It was worth the time. Their mission.

Cans of beefy beans and crinkly packages of shit they called Astronaut's Ice Cream, the feast was generally completed by 1800. Incremental watches of three hours, alternating by shifts of 4 man teams, a different group combination every day, helped to pass the 24 hours until the next day, which officially started at 0600. Each man's night or day was wasted on an army blanket 3 inches thick and 2 feet wide. Army Off was good for attracting mosquitoes, however, each man found that by going just a little hungry every night, the paste of beans scraped from their cans provided good camouflage against the diminutive buggers.

It went on for 6 months, and the cards they used to pass the off hours soon had the numbers and clubs and diamonds wearing off. Fit. Tough. Sacred. They scared off a lot of children, and were grateful for the fact that there was no enemy army stationed nearby.

Next