Stretch walks up to where we sit, a huge cigar hangs out of his mouth. He looks like a dead fish. Eyes wide with yellow teeth, he reminds me of a gaspergou I caught in the Mississippi River.
“Gentlemen, throw it down your neck and taste it later. We roll out in five mikes. Check your gear, we will go house to house.” As Stretch walks away, someone mutters, “I don’t like that guy.” They sum up my feelings perfectly.
As a young man, I read many books concerning World War II and how some of the most vicious fighting took place when going from house to house. Today is no different. Breach, bang, clear. We repeat this process over and over.
“Hey, Freeman!” I turn and see a friend of mine from my unit. Wearily, I smile and make my way through the rumble of buildings to where he kneels. Andrew Ranken slaps me on the back.
“You good, man?”
“Oh yeah, good to go. How are you, Ranken?”
“Man, it’s crazy out here. These tanks are destroying entire blocks. How goes the house to house business?”
I flash back to those killed in the name of liberation, the wounded forever scarred by the hands of war. Ranken notices my forced smile.
“Ah, you know how it goes, Ranken. It’s messy.”