Young (i of ii)

It was two months after the liberation. We had been on the ground for four.

First we were in the desert, living off of packed rations, drawing water from a farmer’s well and paying him in gold for the privilege. Then we were in the mountains eating goat-meat and drinking snowmelt. In the days before the invasion we walked through the capital with GPS receivers, noting the location of every potential military target. In the first day of the war, before a uniformed soldier had set foot in the country, everything we had marked was turned to rubble.

There were thirteen of us, twelve soldiers and an officer. At home he was a bird colonel. Out here we called him The Lieutenant. For two months we had worn rags or riches or whatever the situation required. Now we put on our uniforms, and joined the fray.

We spent the next six weeks in the countryside, watching luxury sedans speed off towards the border. Some of them got past us. Most of them did not. We brought down two airplanes and captured a man on horseback. A helicopter we couldn’t get; we called in its position, and it was still in sight when two fighters screamed overhead and blew it out of the sky.

Everybody we stopped had something. We found dollars, dinars, treasury bonds, bags of white powder, plates of silver and gold. We found them strapped to legs, to the bellies of children, in the glove compartment, in suitcases in the trunk. Everything they had saved, knowing one day they would have to run away.

Each of us took our share. Almahdi took the rials. Kim took the yuan, and the yen. Paluski and MacPherson took the drugs. The Lieutenant took the bonds. We all took dollars.

By then the war was over. Not the fighting, but certainly the war. There were insurgents to fight. Factions to coerce or to crush. Streets to secure. It was police-work. Not for soldiers.

In Vietnam, a war was called a police action; out here, a police action was called a war. All we could do was shake our heads, and do as we were told.

They gave us our own barracks, a cabana within the City. It was on the far side of a swimming pool from the hotel where the brass was staying. We each had our own room, and six rooms were empty. Civilians were sleeping three to an office but they let us take the space.

Four of our twelve immediately transferred back home, including Paluski and MacPherson. A military aircraft is the best way to get things into the country. The Lieutenant – Lieutenant Colonel once again – was busy helping the Intelligence boys track the bonds he’d collected. He’d lose the right to cash them in but the prestige he’d earn would win him plenty of favors. Enough, he hoped, for him to be a full colonel by the end of the year. Until then he was busy enough that we rarely saw him, and he never saw us.

Those of us who were left had twentyfour hours of free time per day.

We had been busy. Some others had. Some had not. There were regular army out on patrol, pilots on 24-hour call, soldiers going house to house looking for people to turn over to the contractors. At the same time there were soldiers assigned to guard gas stations, empty markets, collapsed bridges; there were dozens of soldiers in the City who didn’t seem to have assignments at all.

They’d had the liberty of the city for more than a month. An open city, frightened, hungry, freed from thirty years of repression to walk dazed through lawless anarchy. The kind which can only come when you know there’s someone standing by who could impose laws, but doesn’t; not a vacuum, but lawlessness de jure.

We went around the City and talked to them. They had the vaguest idea of who we were. They didn’t need any more. They wanted to impress us. To help us. To show that they knew things, that they hadn’t been idle either.

We didn’t care. They were kids and they could fuck themselves; we had our spurs.

We came, we saw, we conquered. We stayed, we mopped up, we took. Now we were ready to cash in, three times over.

None of us had been laid in two months. Not even the ones who liked guys. We had backpay and everything we’d taken.

So we went out.

We’d heard about a couple of brothels. We decided to stick together. The first house had taken over a three-story building. There were a hundred people inside. Three quarters of them were civilians and brass from inside the City.

The girls were professionals. They smiled and they wore pretty shiny things and most of them were around thirty. The liquor was BYO. Fortunately there was no shortage of that in the City.

There was a line three hours long. Peters and Twombly stayed. We sure as hell weren’t going to wait for three hours. Not if we had to beg drinks from brass and civilians.

Miglaccio’s great grandfather had been in Germany at the end of II. He always talked about the frauleins lining the street, ready to do anything you wanted for a box of cereal. He was the only guy in his unit who didn’t ask to be quartermaster. So they made him quartermaster. He had five girls, he said, two at any given time. Because of him they were fed and clothed and taken care of. All in the line of duty. Clearly it was the happiest year of his life.

We stuck our heads into another place, then pulled it out pretty fast. All men. Time to try the next place. Almahdi was going to come with us but we yelled at him and he said, okay, fine, and went back in. We saluted him as he disappeared. Better him than us.

The third place was being raided by the MPs as we showed up. There was broken glass in the streets and the scent of cordite in the air. Ten people were handcuffed facedown in the street. I had been out long enough to tell that at least two of them weren’t alive.

There was a group of girls standing on the corner. They looked tired and cold. It couldn’t have been less than eightyfive degrees. Perhaps the blankets they wore were less for them than for those around them.

Whitehouse must have come to the same conclusion. He went around and started talking to one of them. He slipped her a bill of some sort, which she made disappear somewhere, and he came back to us with a kick in his step.

We followed the girl’s directions deep into the capital. The building was behind an old mosque, and looked older. We knocked three times and a slot opened in the door. A pair of eyes greeted us, pale eyes with long lashes surrounded by tea-tan skin.

The eyes hovered there. Clearly she was waiting for a passphrase.

Formosa pulled out a hundred-euro bill and shoved it through the slot. That seemed an acceptable phrase. The slot closed, the door opened, and we went inside.

The girl was dressed in cloth head to toe, pink cloth with purple trim and nearly see-through. All we could see were her eyes. That was enough.

She bade us take off our shoes. We did as we were told. She took us into a room with couches

There were five or six other men there. Some had long gray beards, one had a perfectly-trimmed goatee. Two others were on couches in the corner, unmoving. There were little lamps on low tables next to them. I’d been there before.

There was a bar that seemed to serve only fruit juices; where bottles of Scotch should be were glass jars full of tobacco. The bartender took one look at us and then came out to stand next to the hidden girl. He looked us up and down.

“What you want?” he asked.

We all stared at him.

“Girls,” Miglaccio finally said.

He said something in his language, a translation I assumed. The other patrons laughed a little.

“What kind?” he asked. His voice was that kind of smooth-rough that only the hookah can bring.

Miglaccio seemed at a loss. Kim stepped forward.

“Skinny,” he said. “Thin.”

“Alright.” The girl in pink came forward and took his arm. Her hands were gloved. She led him through a portal and away.

“You see?” the man said. “Who next.”

We talked among ourselves a bit. Miglaccio was pretty easy; he wanted big tits. Two of them, in fact. The bartender didn’t know the phrase. Instead of playing pin-the-tail-on-the-euphemism he cupped his hands in front of his chest and then moved them two feet in front of him.

The patrons laughed. The girl took him out and away.

We three talked a little about it. I don’t think we really much cared. Formosa was tempted for a blond but wasn’t sure if they’d have it; he didn’t want to be disappointed.

A look of inspiration came over his face. He asked for two girls; what kind, he didn’t care. The patrons laughed at this. So did he, as he was led away.

Whitehouse thought, then asked, maybe, maybe a girl a little older.

“Alright,” the man said. No problem at all.

Then there was just me. “You?”

I didn’t want anything special. Not old, though.

“Young, I guess,” I said.

He nodded. “Alright.” The girl took my arm, gently in her gloved hands, and led me away.

She brought me under an arch. Beyond was a length of corridor, dark but cheerfully decorated. There was gold but not the sort that’s sprayed on kid’s bikes. It felt comfortable.

I heard sounds coming from behind dark doors. Gruntings and gigglings. I blushed and got hard. I hadn’t done both at once in a long time.

She stood before a door that stood slightly ajar. She pushed it open and held it that way. I stepped in. She closed it behind me.

I looked; the room was empty. To satisfy myself of this fact I looked in every corner. Only when I was sure I was alone did I look at the room itself.

There was a bed. That’s as far as I got.

I sat on the bed. I debated as to whether or not to get undressed. I decided to remain dressed. It left more options than the other way.

A second door opened. I hadn’t even seen it there. It opened, and in walked a girl.

She had long eyelashes and beautiful eyes. She had light tan skin and bright black hair. She was dressed in a little vest and baggy cloth pants. She was about four foot nine.

I checked, and checked again.

She couldn’t have been more than twelve years old.

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~ by davekov on 3 August 2010.

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