Guard Mount

Korea, January 12, 1962, 3:00 a.m.

The six-foot-one, black, SFC Sergeant-of-the-Guard kicks a foot-rail on a steel cot. “Drop your cocks and grab your sox! Third Relief out!”

Beneath the corrugated-steel arch of a Quonset, the foot-ends of cots define an aisle.  Since midnight, ten, rumpled, olive-drab forms have lain—as if lifeless—on bare mattresses.  On the concrete floor, insulated rubber, white “Bunny Boots” constitute Privates’, PFCs’ and Spec- 4s’ only concession to sleep. ‘

Kicking a second bunk, “Garcia move yur ass!”  The seventeen-year-old Mexican’s feet find the floor. 

Hair matching the burnt umber of tobacco-stained teeth, a six-foot, Mississippi bayou draftee gropes beneath a bunk. 

Sarge, “Move it, Clark!“   

The redhead looks up.  “I can’t find my boot.” 

“If it wasn’t hooked on, you’d lose your fuckin’ ass.”

Sarge walking back up the aisle.  Turning a key in a padlock, he releases the steel bar securing M-1 rifles in a wooden rack.  A clatter of metal against wood as Third Relief retrieves its weapons.  A dimple-faced New Yorker studies serial numbers on steel breeches.  “Twenty-twenty.  It ain’t here.  Two, zero, two, zero. Who’s got two, zero, two, zero?”

The bayou draftee is on his knees,  “It was here, under my bunk.  Some asshole kicked it?”

At the rifle rack, Garcia points, “In the corner, behind Sarge’s desk.”

From the far end of the room, “Where?”

“Not your fuckin’ boot.  Fat-ass’s fuckin’ gun.”

“Where?”  The New Yorker looks to the Mexican.

Garcia points, “In the corner, behind the desk.”

From the far end of Quonset, “Did anybody see a god-damn boot?”

Sarge opens the front door.  “Third Relief!  Mount up!”

Recalling the ten-degrees outside, like sheep who know the guard dog can bite, soldiers clog the doorway.

“Red!  Drag your raged ass up here!”

The tall PFC steps into the aisle, minus one boot.  “I can’t find my fuckin’ boot!”  Looking right and left, he ambles up the aisle.

Sarge meets him halfway.  “How do you lose a boot?”

“On purpose!”  Red’s mad, “I threw the son-of-a-bitch away ‘cause my foot got too hot!” 

Walking back toward the doorway, Sarge drops a boot on the foot of a bunk. “Should make ya walk without it.”

“Where was it?”

Sergeant-of-the-Guard walks out.