Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Assault on Something or Other - Part 2

06:00 arrived right on time: at six o'clock in the morning. Cheddar Company awoke to an enthusiastic bugle call, which was followed almost immediately by some enthusiastic swearing, enthusiastic punching, and the enthusiastic eating of a bugle.

"I don't think Major General likes bugles much," said Randy Sourhill, rubbing the sleep and some frost from his eyes.

"Either that, or he likes them a lot. That's the fourth one he's eaten. Ol' Chester just keeps making more, though. Think maybe there's something wrong with that guy?" said Jake Toboggan.

"Definitely. Normal people don't eat that much brass."

"No, I mean Chester."

Randy buckled on his fanny pack of .30 caliber shells. "Oh? Well, yeah. That guy's a moron. He's the one who keeps trying to talk to the Germans while they're shooting at us. Stupid hippie."

"You know, we could probably shorten this war if we just understood each other better," said a voice from outside the tent. Chester's silhouette, distorted by the angle of the early morning sun, painted a streak of disapproval up the wall of green canvas.

"You don't even know German," said Jake.

The silhouette put its hands on its hips. "I don't need to. Love is a universal language."

"Judging by all the bullet holes in your natural fibers, I'd say Jerry's been speakin' to you in the language of lead."

Chester did not have a chance to respond to this witty rejoinder, however. A larger, angrier silhouette appeared on the tent wall and booted him offscreen.

"You two ass sandwiches better quit watchin' tent movies and get your balls in gear, dammit!" Major General Whack Buffalo thundered. "Fuck!" he added.


Cheddar Company stood in the snow in a semicircle around the Major General. He had a map in one hand and a bazooka in the other, and was furiously slamming them together.

"This is what we'll do to that place until we find every fucking ammo drop and Nazi sympathizer in the town of Somethinggrad! We'll stomp the damn out of it! We'll chew it up and," he stuffed the map into his mouth, chewed and swallowed, "we'll wait two to four hours and crap it into a fucking bush!"

"Hell yeah!" cheered Cheddar Company, with the exception of Chester. He was too busy drawing a picture of a swastika and a peace sign shaking hands.

"Sir? How are we going to find the town? That was our only map," said an unnamed private who was just begging to be punched. The Major General punched him. Then he angrily tore off his hat and twisted it into a baguette of felt and brass and held it up to the side of his head.

"Major General Whack Buffalo here. What the fuck, over?" He stood in silence, turning red. A little circle of bare ground appeared around him, steaming, as the snow melted. "Roger! Wilco! Goddammit! Over!" he shouted into his hat, before unrolling it and mashing it back onto his head.

"Control says the town of Somethinggrad is that way!" he bellowed, pointing to a town on the horizon. "Form up, you bunch of worthless hippo-lickers!"

The company packed up their gear and formed up. Single file, they stood with their packs on and their rifles hoisted smartly over their shoulders. Major General Buffalo strolled along the line, punching the soldiers he didn't like, which was all of them. When he came to Pvt. Jake Toboggan, he stopped and glared. The intensity of the General's hatred set fire to a small package of cashews in the private's breast pocket.

"Where the crunchy fuck is your rifle, soldier?" the General spat.

"I broke it, sir!" Jake shouted back, eyes front, back straight, cashew fire crackling merrily.

"And just how in the name of Hitler's damned elbows did you manage to do that?" the General said, in a dangerously quiet tone.

"I was melee attacking a tree, sir!"

"It'd be a waste of time for me to kill you now, since Jerry will do it for me soon enough," the Major General said. "March, fuckers!"

Cheddar Company marched. Overhead, the featureless gray sky was bruised here and there with clouds that portended snow. The tundra under their boots gave way to slushy roads as the boys entered the bombed-out rubble on the outskirts of Somethinggrad.

"Man, this looks bad," said Randy Sourhill. "Jerry could be anywhere in this mess." He looked over his shoulder at his best friend Jake. "So, you don't have a gun? None at all?"

"Nope!" Jake grinned. A blackened patch on his chest was still smoldering. "It's no big deal. I'll just kill a Nazi and take his."

"And how do you plan on doing that without a gun?"

Jake's grin melted. "Oh. Damn." He patted his pants pockets and searched through the pouches on his pack. He opened his mess kit. "I've got a spork," he said weakly. "Hey, did you hear that?"

"I dunno," said Randy. "What'd it sound like?"

"Sort of a 'thoomp' noise. Kinda like someone shaking a wet potato out the end of a pipe. And now something's whistling. You don't hear that?"

A two-story house on the other side of the road suddenly exploded in a maelstrom of fire and splintered wood. The gut-wrenching boom it made was followed by two more thoomp noises.

"Mortars! Cover your dicks boys, we're under fire!" shouted the Major General. He threw himself over a short stone wall and into what was once the basement of a house. Most of Cheddar Company followed him before the two mortar shells exploded behind them. One of them cratered the lawn in front of a barn, sending up a tsunami of soil and pebbles. The other hit the barn dead center, punching through the roof before exploding. The whole building looked briefly like a Fourth of July firecracker as flames burst from the top in a concentrated blast before the walls levered outward, still mostly intact, like a roofless house of cards.

For the men huddled in the basement, day quickly turned to a dusty twilight as one of the barn walls toppled over on top of them. It landed with a crash, sealing off the top of the square space, trapping them inside. Debris pattered down all around, pinging off the hulks of burned cars and the flak helmets of the only two soldiers who hadn't made it to basement safety.

Jake and Randy squinted through the haze. "This went downhill fast. Think we can make it to that church without getting bombed?" Jake shouted.

...to be continued!

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