KICKING AND SCREAMING

A soldier is haunted by post combat problems.
What happened on that patrol? What happened when he went to the woman's flat with a comrade? What was he shown in the bar?
And what impact did it have when he got back to his wife?

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1. KICKING AND SCREAMING

 

WARNING: THIS SHORT STORY CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND THEMES THAT MAY OFFEND SOME READERS.

 

KICKING AND SCREAMING

 

We are joined in this operation by our staunch friend, Great Britain. 

George Walker Bush – 43rd President of the United States (1946- )

*

 

BAD THINGS

 

Jake had seen some bad things during his tour of duty.  But now he was doing his best to forget them. All that was behind them now.

The plane banked abruptly and Pete, who was dozing in the seat next to him, woke up. He looked at Jake and gave a faint smile.

Jake looked out of the window. Nothing to see but cloud.

‘Well, it’s over now,’ Jake thought. ‘At last. The day we’ve been waiting for.’

Pete yawned and stretched. His shirt lifted up showing a soldier’s stomach. The result of six months of active service. Rigorous stuff.

‘Right on. We’ll be safe as houses soon. Back home. If the pilot gets us down OK.’

Jake nodded. They’d spent a lot of time together during the last six months, but now he realized that he was hoping not to see Pete again after they landed.  Not ever.  

 

‘I’m sure you all know that advertising’s misleading.’

Pause.

‘But I’m here today to tell you that our army recruitment stuff’s an outright fucking lie.’

Another pause, to let that sink in.

‘We don’t have any pretty young boys from central casting playing at being men on this training course. Or at this base. This is the real thing, not an advertisement.’

Quite a statement barked out by a senior officer on his first day, Jake thought, but he soon found out the truth of the statement.

The reality of army life was nothing like that shown in press ads or on the recruiting office posters or in the colour supplements or on TV. No, nothing at all like that. Not in reality.

Not a jot of glamour.

No young men racing around smiling and doing boys own things.

No black faces that were really white faces painted black to emphasize the whites of their eyes.

No. The blacks were black and the whites pasty faced.

Learn new skills?

Crap. Nothing useful. Nothing you could use afterwards in civilian life. Nothing worth remembering.

Adventure?

Lies. Cold as a witch’s tit at night. Long marches with heavy packs all day. Crawling about in mud with constant loud explosions to simulate battle conditions. What a load of bollocks.

Overseas postings?

Yea, with the added bonus that you get shot at.

But it was only when he got to his posting abroad that reality really set in.

It wasn’t long before Jake realized that ‘Christ they’re shooting at us,’ and it came through loud and clear that ‘the bastards are trying to kill me.’

     

While they were waiting to embark on the trip home, Pete had said, ‘My dad was in the army too, you know. He told me this joke once. He said when he came back from a tour of duty, you know, same as us, all that killing and stuff, well, the first thing he did was fuck my mum. Then he took his boots off.

‘Not that funny really, I suppose, and I didn’t like him talking about my mother like that. But it stuck in my mind and, although at the time I never really knew whether it was supposed to be funny or not, it’s probably true, don’t you think?’

Jake didn’t answer then, because he didn’t have an answer.

But he soon found out that it didn’t apply to him. 

Well, yes and no, perhaps.

It was true in a way because he and Molly had gone straight to bed. And they didn’t take all their clothes off first. His boots, yes, but not everything. Molly was still a bit shy, that’s why.

But not true because it didn’t happen the way he’d been dreaming about for so long. Fantasizing about her touching him, instead of him touching himself. Every morning. Early, before their first patrol.

She’d seemed pleased enough to see him. Everyone seemed pleased to see him. Even her mother.

And they’d put on quite a spread.

But Jake could hardly wait. And making that last cup of tea when everyone else had left had been excruciating. ‘I can’t remember, Jake, do you take one sugar or two?’

He’d thought, ‘Who gives a fuck, just let’s get it over with.’

But Molly had replied for him.

‘He doesn’t take anything with it these days. Just black tea for him, thanks Mum.’

 

At last they went upstairs to Molly’s room. Her mother was still clattering around in the kitchen.

Then came the surprising frenzy of groping and wrestling with the light off. She’d wanted the light off. She’d insisted.

And then the tearing.

No, not her hymen. That was long gone.

Her underwear. And the look on her face when he’d wrenched off her pants. He’d waited so long for this. And now they were together at last.

Then it had all changed. It wasn’t to be. Something happened between them. Something invisible and hard to comprehend.

And it turned everything on its head. Energy ebbed. Interest lapsed. And desire flagged.

His mind had gone back to the camp.

And the heat. And the dust. And the fear. Vivid images. Of being shot at. And people killed. Or, worse perhaps, wounded. Badly wounded. An arm. Or a leg. An eye or both. Or a bad wound in the groin and all the implications that had.

He remembered the patrols through the shit hole villages. And the flies. And the terror when a mine went off. As it did one day. And when the body parts fell all around him. And the time it took to collect them. Under fire. And to stuff them into the body bag. Bits of human meat and bone and gore strewn across the road. And spurts of blood on the mud plastered walls of the mud brick buildings.  Marking the spot where it happened. A soldier crying. The noise. The confusion. And the screaming.

Everyone seemed to be fucking screaming.

Then the dawning realization that the soldier who had stood on that device just ahead of him had simply disappeared. Forever.

 

BAD THOUGHTS

 

So that’s where his mind went when they were in bed together. That first time. The day he got back. And so nothing happened.

Even though he’d taken his boots off first.

His doctor said not to worry. It happens to everyone he said. It’s a well-documented condition. But you’ll get over it. It may take a while, but you will. Eventually.

The problem, Jake thought was how long’s eventually?

Unfortunately, eventually meant a long time apparently. Because not much happened later either.

They went to the seaside one day. They bought fish and chips on the pier. Everyone was feeding the gulls despite the signs saying, ‘Please don’t feed the gulls.’ Jake threw down a few chips. A mass of grey and white feathers dived and rose and fell screaming raucously as they squabbled amongst each other for the scraps. Molly frowned at him. ‘That’s what gulls are for,’ he said to her.

She said she wanted to go home. She meant back to her mother’s place. They were still staying there. In Molly’s bedroom. Until they sorted themselves out. Financially. Until Jake found a good job. Which wasn’t turning out to be that easy.

He remembered that weekend pass. To the safe, away-from-it-all base on the island. A few hours on the plane and a lifetime away from the searing heat and burning fear of their daily routine.

Two patrols each day. Out of the safe area, so called, in an armored vehicle.

To make the twice daily, rectangular reconnaissance tour around the village. That shit hole conglomeration of dusty streets and crumbling houses. Up one rutted road for two miles. Low mud brick buildings on either side. Ominous entrances. Shuttered windows. Trash everywhere. Turn right. Two more miles past more low buildings, and turn right again. Crawling along at a snail’s pace. Stopping for someone to check the rubbish. Then right for the last time, the homeward stretch. Endless mud structures. Housing to some. Death traps to others. Hoping, praying that they were not in anyone’s sights. And that they didn’t trigger anything untoward. Like an IED. Which means a fucking bomb.

All this just to show the flag.

Or some equally silly rationale thought up by officers.

He remembered the prostitute.

And how embarrassing it had been. For him. But not for Pete, apparently.

How excited he’d been when, sitting in that back alley bar, a tall, olive skinned, but youngish girl spoke to them.

‘You soldiers looking for something? One at a time or both together if you like. Cheaper that way. More fun maybe? Me good, clean woman. Here, look at this. Look. Look. Really healthy person, me. Good price for two together.’

She unfolded a document and offered it to them. It was in a language they didn’t understand but it looked like a medical certificate.

‘Probably a forgery, but it’s a novel approach,’ said Pete. ‘She deserves our custom just for her creativity. Feel like giving it a go?’

Jake felt his head nodding. Yes, he felt like giving it a go, apparently.

They negotiated for a while and then followed her further into the old quarter and up some narrow stairs. She showed them into a small room that was flooded in daylight.

The mattress on the floor had the not-quite-romantic ambience of being centre stage under a spotlight.

Jake saw that Pete had an erection even before they’d taken their clothes off.

‘I’ll go first,’ Pete said, moving towards the bedding under the light.

‘You’ll have to bat on a sticky wicket. Could be a bonus. Nice and wet. I’ll bet even cunts dry up in this fucking climate.’

The woman was fiddling with an enamel contraption fitted to a bracket on the wall with a plastic hose that led to her groin. She was obviously making a show of disinfecting herself.

‘Perhaps it’s what her certificate promised,’ thought Jake. She turned around and he looked away.

Pete’s penis stuck out in front of him. He was rubbing it with his hand. He went over to the woman who had moved onto the bed on the floor. He moved his foreskin back slightly revealing a glistening glans.

‘Come on, get your gear off,’ he said to her. ‘Give us a look. We want to see what we’re paying for.’

Reluctantly, Jake thought, she removed her underwear.

‘Fucking hell, she’d never get a job as an army barber,’ he said pointing to her raggedly shaved pubic area.

Pete kneeled and pushed his groin towards her, ‘Here, have a suck before we fuck.’

He looked back at Jake and laughed. Presumably, Jake thought, at what he’d said.

‘Just wait until she feels this inside her. They’re not used to this kind of cock out here. Their men are all cut. I bet she’ll love me forever once I’ve given it to her. After I’ve shown her my staying power.’

Jake kept his underpants on as he watched Pete’s antics over the next few minutes.

Thrusting, groping and groaning. And then a hoarse shout as he climaxed.

‘Come on, your turn now. Get that army underwear stuff off and get on with it.’

But Jake found it difficult. He’d never had an audience before.

He felt embarrassed with Pete sitting on the end of the bed delivering a commentary and offering what he presumably thought were helpful comments.

But they weren’t helpful. Because nothing worked.

Even though the woman did her best. But no amount of stroking or pushing or pulling or even sucking had any effect.

‘Too much beer,’ Jake said lamely.

‘Yea, probably. But don’t worry. You’ll be OK next time. Come on, let’s get out of here.’

But the next time it wasn’t OK either. Even though it was months later with Molly.

And, after their first failure, Molly always seemed to be in an unreceptive mood. No matter when he made advances.

He tried kissing her. She turned her head away.

He tried to put his arms around her. She twisted onto the other side of the bed.

He got the message.

She didn’t want intercourse so he came in his hand and wiped it on the sheets.

In the morning he felt hot, hard and vigorous again.

Another rejection, so he came in the shower and watched the semen make delta patterns as it ran down the glass door. 

Pete phoned. ‘Got summink to show you. See you down the pub.’

They had a few drinks. Then a few more.

Then suddenly, ‘Remember how you kicked the fucker?’

‘Wot? Er… well, actually I don’t really.’

‘Sure you did. Complained that you’d hurt your foot. Limped about a bit for a couple of days as I remember.’

Jake looked surprised. Then confused.

He was vaguely aware that he’d been present and that bad things had happened. But now was not the time to dig up those kinds of memories.

He remembered hoping not to see Pete again when they got back.

‘He sure as hell felt that kick. Right in his guts it was.’

Jake looked away.

A well built teenager came over to them. ‘Got a fag for me mate?’

Pete said, ‘Fuck off, you’re not old enough to smoke.’

‘Come on soldier boy. Just one cigarette.’

‘Get the fuck out of here before I kick your arse from here to Christmas.’

The kid went back to his friends.

‘D’you remember what Sergeant Krik did with that other bastard?’

‘Well, no. Well, I mean yes, I suppose so.’

‘Yea, with that wet blanket. Soon got him singing, didn’t it?’

‘Well… look Pete, cant we talk about something else now? That was all a long time ago. Lots of water’s gone down the gurgler since then. I don’t want to think about it. I’m trying to forget all that stuff.’

Silence. Then Jake tried to make amends.

‘What about that one with the big boobs you were interested in? The one you met when we got back. What’s happened to her? Got her hidden away somewhere, have you?’

But Pete wasn’t quite ready to change the subject. Not just yet.

Pete took out a small plastic box. It had a semi-transparent lid. He put it on the bar counter.

They had a few more drinks. Then a couple more.

Inside the container Jake could see something he knew he didn’t want to see.

‘It’s that rag head’s finger,’ said Pete. ‘You gave me a hand, remember. And he gave me his finger. Well, his thumb anyway. So I kept it. Didn’t tell anyone. Brought it back home as a souvenir of what we went through.’ 

He took a gulp of beer. ‘Smelled for a while. But it was OK once it dried out.’

Then suddenly, ‘Want it? It’s yours if you do. I’m sick of it, if you must know. And you were there too. You helped. So you can have it now if you want it.’

‘Fuck off Pete. Why the hell would I want to hang on to something like that?’

Pete put the small Tupperware container back in his pocket.

 

BAD RESULT

 

On the way home Jake went down to a public toilet.

Several young thugs were there doing drugs.

The ones dealing took no notice of him, but the effete looking kid who came out of one of the cubicles licked his lips and smiled at him.

Jake marked him as gay. He was right.

As Jake went back up the stairs, the kid shouted after him, ‘Hey, come back. Feel like a blow job? I’m just in the mood. I’ll do you for nothing. Because you’re so pretty. Come on. You’ll never get a better offer.’

Jake went out onto the road. He walked towards the river and turned to cross the bridge.

He stopped halfway to look down into the murky water.

He could remember giving the man a few slaps. Perhaps he did kick him. It was coming back to him. He could hear the man screaming.

And he screamed even louder when Seargent Krik pulled his clothes off. And applied the pincers. And Pete turned the handle. And the charge went through the wires. Into the man’s genitals.

 

Molly sat in the coroner’s court with her arms folded, staring straight ahead. Her mother had refused to come with her.

It was a long, complicated and convoluted procedure.

It included some very technical reports. 

The deceased had been drinking. Blood alcohol levels were at a high level.

It had been verified that he was in The Rose and Crown, a nearby public house.

Video camera images indicated that he left the public house and went into a municipal toilet facility for males on the Cannon’s Road. It is not known why he did not use the toilet in the public house.

It is probable, but not certain, that he was involved in some kind of illicit activity. The downstairs public toilet facility is frequented by addicts and gay men.

The images of the victim on the bridge were of poor quality, being out of the optimum range of the nearest video camera. However, it seems that there was either a provoked or an unprovoked attack on the victim.

The suspects were a group of unknown male youths walking in the opposite direction to the deceased on the bridge.

The heavy blow to the victim’s neck was probably carried out by one of these persons. The video footage does not show whether the victim provoked them in any way.

The autopsy report revealed that the victim was probably alive but unconscious when he was thrown off the bridge.

It is therefore likely that water entered the deceased’s lungs when he was in the river.

The report found that the likely cause of death was asphyxia due to suffocation caused by water entering the deceased’s lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia. In other words, drowning.

The verdict concluded that the killing was done without lawful excuse and in breach of criminal law.

And that was it.

Molly stared straight ahead. She thought about Jake. She put her hands in her lap. She wiped her nose.   

The courtroom was all but empty. An orderly told her she’d have to leave.

He said he was sorry. But for security reasons he’d have to lock up. One never knows these days, he said.

She went outside. It had been raining.

She sat on the wet steps of the court. People looked at her.

What a shame they thought. A young girl like that. Quite pretty too. How do they get into this kind of state?

She was thinking about Jake. How he’d made her laugh when they were first together. What fun they’d had. How interesting life had been. And how he’d changed.

She started to cry.

Suddenly the words were coming out of her mouth, ‘Fucking army,’ she screamed.

People stared.

What a shame. Drugs probably.  Or alcohol, perhaps. Or both. These young people, these days. Whatever is happening to society?

She saw a man in uniform looking at her. Some people had pointed her out to him. He started coming towards her.  

Just then she felt a kick. Deep down inside her abdomen.

By the time the policeman got to her she had felt several kicks.

She smiled at the policeman. ‘I think I’m pregnant,’ she said to him.

He ignored her comment. ‘Move along please Miss.’ Polite words, but an officious tone. ‘You can’t sit here all day.’

*

Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully.

Barack Hussein Obama – 44th President of the United States (1961 - )

***

Ray Johnstone, Mézin, France

April 2012

If you would like to read chapters from my novel about the Nazi Occupation of France during World War 2, please go to: www.rays-books.com

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