We crest a long steep incline—I’m in the middle of the
platoon laden with insane steel boxes—thousands of
machine gun rounds. I have fallen too far back.
When I top the trail, the Marine ahead has disappeared:
Left or right, I have no clue. The jungle’s close and silent
And I am not Cherokee enough to read broken vine.
Dumbstruck, I stand there and wordlessly curse my
Incompetence, my physical weakness—more than half the platoon
Is behind me and my next decision is going to get them killed
or delivered into tomorrow. I stand there, swinging my head
to the left, to the right—gagging claustrophobia spikes my gut,
bile stings my throat, my mind snaps
To laser focus as straight shots of adrenaline hit my brain
like the blows of a ball-peen hammer. I stop breathing to help me hear better.
I will myself to hear. Hear! Damn it, hear!
Another Marine crests behind me.
Suddenly, to my left, a faint jingle of metal on American metal.
I leap toward the sound.