AltoidsAddict | 09.13.2002
All's Fair in Lump and War
The slim form reclined beneath a sheet. From the way the sheet formed ridges around what was left of him, it was obvious why he wasn't getting out of this hospital. General MacArthur said in World War II that old soldiers don't die, they just fade away, and the lump under the sheet was literal proof. The nurse told me he'd been twice that size when they brought him in, insane, ranting about oncology, and they expected he wouldn't last the week before they'd need a microscope to see what was left of him.
Propped up, he was expecting me. "You want to know about the Battle of Texas, do you? Yeah, a lot of you folks are curious. I sent away most of you kids, because I don't give a crap. I have that luxury &endash; I'm the only survivor of that terrible battle, and even I'm not gonna last much longer." From the way he spoke, he appeared to have been educated before the war, but combat tore his diction and carriage to shreds.
"I got shipped out right in the middle. A lot of us fellers enlisted after the Lung Offensive. So many of the troops were killed &endash; all of 'em that were sent, and they only found one, a small kid who'd lied about his age to get in on the action, who could talk about it at all. He spilled his guts to the papers, then took to drinkin', then died the same as me, wasting away in a hospital. It was them bitches in oncology that did him in, same as me.
"I went up in a unit with a damn great buncha kids. Fresh-faced, eager, we all was. There was Frankie, he was a tough kid from Brooklyn, and figured he could lick the Brain Trenches in no time. Larry was from Iowa, real straight-laced, whenever we went to those meningioma bars for a little slap and tickle, he only drank a little &endash; not much into skirt-chasin', even if the best fun was only benign. Said he had a girl back home, cute little osteoma she was too, and when he got out of his enlistment they was gonna get married. Shemp was a real wise guy from California. Always cracking a joke. More than once he got his nose slapped by our troop leader, Moe. Real butterfingers &endash; some guy'd be carrying a plank somewhere, and he'd sure enough get smacked in the face with it. Horace, I'm not sure why he enlisted &endash; some guys in the Tumor United Army Division, even, are a little funny. You know, they pleat their pants on the wrong side, if you get my drift. Horace always went to the meningioma bars with us, but between you and me I think he was more interested in the costumes those little growths wore onstage, and not so much the getting' around to business. Okay kid though.
"When we got out of Basic Training, they sent us to this first line called Medula. Short for Medula Oblongata. At first it was easy pickin's. We could tell the people didn't want us there, little cells running around, there was a lobal opposition, but it wasn't until they got the attention of the enemy's 3WAU (Threeway Unit) that the trouble for us really started. Fighting off white blood cells is nothing compared to allied opposition. Once the enemy is against you philosophically, the only thing you can do is dig in. We settled a bit by the pons, a good tactical position.
"That's when the shelling started. It would have been one thing if it was traditional shells &endash; but they had some kinda crazy radioactive weapon. By day, you'd be puking your guts out. By night, you couldn't sleep because the light from everyone glowing was so bright.
"Larry was the first one to be taken down. We found him in the morning. He was clutching a picture of that pretty little osteoma from back home &endash; the only part of him not covered with those little white cells.
"Frankie charged up to the front of the lobe. We yelled for him to hang back, but it was too late. A wave of radiation hit him and he was done for. Shemp followed him out there, tripped on his shoelaces, and hat was all she wrote.
"Horace transferred. He said he found a good spot in another unit, one without so much local opposition, with decent scenery, even. But everything there was poison &endash; some new gas called celecoxib, eats away at a guy from the inside out. They say he died with his heels on.
"I was the only one they found &endash; those butchers, the enemy calls 'em Oncology Forces, go around and take all that's left of a guy, and poke and prod him until he can't take it anymore. And the radiation stills eats you away until there's nothing left. Lying here in this bed, I know now that we were stupid kids. Wars have to be lost by somebody, and the Battle of Texas is the one we lost."
He turned away, with a finality that told me the story was over. The nurse came to usher me out, and I knew that it was the last time anyone would see the old soldier anymore. She had a scalpel in her hand and a badge that said "Hi! My name is Laurie!" I asked her where the canmode was, and bid her a good day, content that justice was about to be served.