Jimenez checked off his name on the filthy clipboard. Who ever thought to pass a clipboard down the line? With a silent chuckle Jimenez rolled his eyes and said to himself “the new Lt. that’s who” he reached out with his right hand and tapped Simpson on what he hoped was his shoulder; the board disappeared into the ink black of the night.
Jimenez went back to scanning the front with his night vision goggles “I wonder if the Lt. thought about whether we’d be able to see the fucking board in the pitch black out here without night eyes?” Again shaking his head and a silent snicker he went back to watching for any movement towards the front of their position.
The night was as dark as an ink well; so dark little round flashes of light, light up in your eyes as heavy charged protons rocket through eye fluid and passes into the earth leaving a flash as it goes through. No moon, heavy cloud cover without a breath of wind; no crickets, owls, nothing but silence; it was so quite you could hear your joints creak.
Simpson found where Clark was because Clark’s stomach was rolling and growling so loud you could hear it three meters down the line. Simpson jammed the board into Clark’s left arm hard enough it made a thud sound. An almost silent squeak from the front was heard immediately; everyone in hearing distance knew what that was. No one moved or even drew a breath for what seemed like minutes. Twenty yards to the right and at least fifteen to the front a cricket sounded; again the nearly silent squeak. Jimenez, Simpson, Clark, Stark and Franks all had the target acquired.
The 15th light armor division had been deployed for over fifteen months. Casualty rates stood at 82%; 47% wounded; 29% dead, and 7% missing and presumed dead or captured; which meant dead. The recently promoted third Commander in two weeks was screaming over the secured phone; Johnson the Company Staff Sergeant knew he was trying in vain to explain that he no longer had a command and the reason they didn’t know who the hell he was, was because the other two Commanders had been killed so fast the paperwork hadn’t gotten to the rear yet. He needed men; and needed them fast.
Everyone knew what the score was; they were going to be overrun just a few minutes before first light of morning. Not enough light that you could see in, but the faint light of early morning that you start the battle in and finish after it’s a bright sunny day with everyone dead.
Something touched Jimenez’s right arm; so softly that he barely felt it but Jimenez was as tense as a coiled spring. He slowly, barely moving looked to his right and pulled his night eyes off his face. Sergeant Williams was three inches from his face with a great big grin. Jimenez rolled his eyes and took a breath. Williams moved forward with lips to Jimenez’s ear said “H-ham when they come” a softball sized weapon was pushed against his side. Jimenez’s eyes rolled up in his sockets. He started to whisper to Sergeant Williams “OH no fuc……..” Sergeant Williams was gone. Jimenez could hear him moving down the line. He thought he could hear other’s gasps, but he knew better.
Around 3am a slight breeze kicked up from the rear of the 15th’s position and gave a slight reprieve to the astounding silence of the night.
Stark slow crawled toward where he knew Jimenez was dug in; so slowly it took over fifteen minutes to cover the four meters. He was greeted by the flash suppressor of Jimenez’s rifle pointed at his forehead as it appeared out of the blackness. Moving to Jimenez’s side and placing his lips directly on Jimenez’s ear, he whispered “H-ham’s?” Stark pulled back from Jimenez’s ear and looked directly in his eyes. He saw the same look, the same blood shot watery stare. Jimenez only slowly shook his head. Without a word Stark started the long crawl back to his position. Tears leaked out of both eyes, small dabs of mud caked on both sides of Stark’s cheeks as he made his way back.
Juan Dean Jimenez was a born athlete; lettering in every sport but picking up girls, he was a school favorite and home coming king. Entering the Marine Corps one week after graduation he wanted to be a lifer. Basic was a breeze; his only set back being when the DI’s found out his middle name “Dean” and tore into him for having a gringo middle name. “Didn’t your momma mean “Bean” not “Dean” and you’re father just fucked it up!” From that point on his nick name was “Bean”. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was full blooded Mexican and was the first generation to call America their home. It was the weird middle name. A few of the other boot’s asked him why he had such a fucked up middle name; Jimenez would just shrug it off and never an answer was given. The truth was his mothers, father was a gringo from Texas and they wanted a part of him passed down the line. After boot camp and secondary school Jimenez was assigned to the 15th as a grunt. It never entered his mind to be anything but a pack carrying grunt headed to the front line of whatever action the United States might be in. The Corps tried twice to promote “Bean” finding that he flat turned them down each time; he was where he wanted to be.
The night breeze slowed, then turned 90 degrees and picked up its pace. Coming out of the South it carried heavy smoke and ash from yesterdays fighting down south. The air was smoky but had a strange nasty taste to it; like burnt barbeque sauce and a fallen cremated hamburger patty. It made you want to cover your nose and mouth; you knew in your heart you didn’t want that in your mouth.
Jimenez moved the canister up from his side and lifted it with his right hand. He tested its weight and guessed at a half pound. How far could he throw 8 ounces? He knew a baseball weighed 5 ounces and he could throw an advancing runner out from the outfield fence with ease. So about 275 feet if he guessed right and more than likely shorter with a cold arm; say two twenty five max; subtract wearing BDU’s and a chest rig, 150 feet on a good day. If what they said in special training was right, this was going to be close, very close.
Hearing movement in the distance they all knew that enemy troops were moving closer to the front line. Number of reinforcements was a guess but by the sound it was a lot.
The stars where still out bright in the night sky, but looking to the horizon to the east you could tell the stars were beginning to fade.
Over the last weeks both sides had run their supply lines to the point of exhaustion. Not being able to keep up with anything but the simplest of supplies; small arms ammunition and short food allocations was the best both could hope for. This was going to be a battle straight out of the WWI manual; straight up the middle as fast as you could run; shooting anything that looked alive.
Two hours they’ve been moving men forward; it was clear to Jimenez and the rest of the squad why they’d been issued H-ham’s and ordered to use them before they could be overran; without them it was going to be a short day and a turkey shoot.
With the sky glowing in the east they came. The American’s fired their weapons to empty and then threw their H-ham’s (Hand Held Atomic Munitions) as far as their arms were able. With a payload of 500 pounds of TNT; estimated detonation kill zone of 150 feet; leaving a 40 foot wide, 8 foot deep crater; first blinding white light; hammer strike, and then churning blackness.
Jimenez threw his H-ham with everything he had; jumped into his hole and waited for the bang. It was an eight second wait; flash of light; floating, twisting in the air Jimenez knew he’d been too close to the blast zone and waited for the hard landing.
Waking minutes; hours later eyes caked with wet ash, lungs choking on dust; white ash three quarters of an inch thick on his blouse; the ash looked like white grey corn flakes, with the slightest movement, touch of breath they’d crumble to a fine powder. The slightest movement would free them back into the air. Jimenez rolled over causing a cloud of choking thick dust; rising on one elbow he looked towards the front. Where once was flat land there was now a shallow depression; with high edges and smoke filled bottom.
The figure with heavy white robes rode with ease as the stallion pranced and danced; hooves kicking up clouds of powder fine grey dust dimming the blinding white light from the sky. Raising a hand to block the light Jimenez grin grew wide as he watched his squad march behind the prancing stallion. He fought hard to join them; straps cinched tight kept him pinned to the hospital bed; nurses ran from gurney to gurney in feeble attempts to stem the flow of blood and dying. An over head speaker scratched out a dreary speech “a great victory, I’m proud to be part of the forces….”
From the Ramblings