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The Best Technique
Private First Class Robert Caprica Laid his head back on his pillow and rested his tired arms on his chest. He crossed his legs, one beat-up combat boot over another, and arced his back slightly, stretching the sore muscles. He looked up at the white ceiling and got lost in it's emptiness, completely enthralled in the idea of absolute nothingness, and felt at peace.
He took in a big breath of the smelly and BO laced air around him, and basked in the filth. His normally sharp, white face was covered in a thick layer of Iraqi dirt. His fingernails were blackened with mud, attached to hands red with friction sores and sunburn. The camouflage pattern on his uniform was worn down and faded, with large patches of dried mud making natural camouflage all over the shirt and pants. He switched feet, this time putting his right underneath his left, as he did so, he could feel the sand moving around like his boots were big hourglasses.
His lice-filled helmet fell off his head and crashed onto the floor from the top bunk, five feet up. The clang noise brought him out of his peaceful trance. His eyes moved around, and his ears picked the subtle sounds of page-turn in a magazine and the light hiss of someone sharpening a knife, somewhere off in the distance was the sound of muffled gunshots from someone practicing at the firing range.
“I should have gone to college.” He said quietly to himself.
He sighed. The words where more of comfort than anything else, he didn't even know what they meant anymore, they were just a call-back to a more innocent, care-free time. He said it again.
“I should have gone to college.”
He smiled at the ignorant child that had said those words for the first time less than two years ago at that first day in boot camp. He didn't know where that child had got to in the past eight months, he hadn't seen him in a long time.
“I should have gone to college.” he repeated one last time under his breath.
He sat up in his bunk. As his swung his legs around and hung them off the side of this elevated bed, his boots just fell right off, lubricated by sweat. The boots clanged on the metal floor, piercing the deathly silence. Nobody took notice; they were to involved their magazine reading, thinking, and ceiling staring to be interrupted by anything short of a motor shell blast.
He looked down between his legs and saw the dark skin off his bunk mate protruding off the side of the cot. He appeared to be reaching underneath the bed to grab a magazine of his own.
“Hey, Johnny!” Robert half-whispered to his bunk-mate. The arm was pulled back up onto the cot and then a second later the bald head of the African-American man stuck out from underneath Robert's legs.
“What is it Rob?” he whispered back.
“Look, I was just wondering what the best way to... you know...” Robert made a pistol with his right hand and placed the finger-barrel against his head before making an almost comical jerking head movement.
“Oh... Off yourself?” Johnny said rather loudly.
Robert winced at the words being said out loud, there was a reason he had substituted with the hand-movements. Then exactly what Robert had been trying to avoid happened; All of the heads in the room turned toward Johnny and Robert, and then the inevitable happened.
“What's the matter Caprica, the bad guys out there today where to much for ya?” Corpral Williams said in his aneurism inducing high voice.
“Na...” Robert said. “... They was mediocre bad guys. I... I was just wondering.”
Johnny scratched his bald head and stared off into space, deep in thought. His eyes got a little wider as a light bulb went off in his head, and then he got up from his bed and jumped up next to Robert.
“Well, you see...” Johnny started. “... you got the general idea down, with the pistol to the head and everything, but if you do it like you were doing it, from the side of the head, that is” Johnny imitated Robert's example “you will be more likely to give yourself a lobotomy than anything else.” Johnny and the rest of the men looked on with interest like a school child watching there favorite teacher. “Now, the pro way to do it is like this: you take your pistol and put it in your mouth, but you have got to angle it upward so the bullet goes all the way through.” Johnny used his hands in a motion similar to Roberts to give the men a visual aid to his lesson.
“Thanks for the tip!” Robert said.
“Oh, and one more thing; it's always better with hallow points. Those SOB's will take your whole brain with them when they leave your skull.”
“Ha! That's the best you can come up with?” Williams said.
Johnny folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. “What? It's not like you could do any better!”
“I would bet you a ten that I could!” Williams said defensively.
“Show me the ante.” Johnny said.
Williams scowled, but reached under the bed for one of his erotic magazines. He paged through it before coming upon his favorite model: a beautiful blond women, except with old' Hamilton taped over to cover up her grotesque face. Williams ripped the ten bones from the paper and waved it in the air.
Johnny nodded, and pulled a five, a two, and three ones from his shirt pocket before brandishing them in full in front of his face, making sure that Williams had time to count them, before placing them back in his shirt pocket.
“Well come on, Williams! How would you do it?” said Private Campbell, egging on the little competition.
Williams put his hand under his chin and thought for a minute before answering.
“I would use a shotgun!” He said in delight at his brilliant idea. “Go in through the mouth and pull the trigger with your toe. People will remember you for a long time if can paint a whole ten-by-ten wall with your gray-matter!”
Williams nodded, mentally complimenting himself on his idea. Johnny thought for minute but eventually gave in and passed his bills over to Williams, who immediately stuffed them in the fold of his magazine before greedily hiding it underneath his bed again.
“You people are so bland!” Campbell spoke up. “Me? I would do it like the Jap's did it, with knife through my own heart, real honorable' like.”
“I can't believe you people and your violence!” Now the head's turned once more toward another voice, this time belonging to Corporal Winston. “I would just drink my self to death, I would be so wasted I wouldn't even know I was dying. Hell, I would probably be happy, right-as-rain!”
Now more people got into it, each of the squad members chiming off about there ideal set-up. Robert nodded at each suggestion, keeping a mental note of the ones he liked. Finally it came to a halt when the everybody had given out there two cents, except the squad leader. All eyes gazed upon their all-knowing dictator, waiting for his golden advice. He was laid back on his bunk, one arm behind his head and the other holding a copy of Of Mice And Men. He was calm and collected, and appeared to have not been listening to the conversation at all, until he looked up from his book to see all of his men staring at him. He gave a deep sigh.
“Well...” As he began, the entire group let out a breath they had been holding. “If I was going to do it...” He paused again, lost in thought. “... I wouldn't be particular about how I went, but I would want it to be in the name of saving another life. Taking a bullet for a fellow man.” The man continued looking off into space, going over his answer in his head, before returning to his reading. There was general nods and words of consensus around the room.
“When did you start thinking about all that anyway, Rob?” Johnny said.
It took a minute for Robert to answer, as he was still taking in the squad leader's suggestion.
“...Um... probably about eight months ago.” Robert said.
“Hmm, and what was it that made you start thinking about it?”
“Oh, everything I suppose. I guess I just started believing I couldn't handle it anymore.”
“Well, you ain't dead yet, so I guess that means your still handling it, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Robert sat back and decided that, that was the general lie among stubborn soldiers; that they're “handling it.” He heard it every day from lips that hadn't spoken a single truthful word since that first time they saw another man die before their eyes. For Robert, it was eight months ago. He was on a routine patrol when he saw a suicide bomber for the first time. The man came running around the corner with his detonators held high in the air as he screamed to god and ran toward the jeep. Robert looked out the window, to paralyzed to move as the man came closer and closer in slow-motion toward the little metal box that now seemed like a cage. Then, out of nowhere, another soldier came from the side and intercepted the man about halfway to the truck. As the two interlocked men hit the ground, the bombs detonated. There wasn't anything left for the body bag, no dog-tags to put on the fingers and toes, and no toes and fingers for the dog tags.
Robert returned to the base that day like so many other man had done before; no emotion, no personality, no identity, just another hallow shell with a chest plate and gun. He hadn't cried, he hadn't written home about it, he didn't talk to anybody. Death was the only thing that was relevant to the fragile mind of Robert Caprica.
Robert reflected on that moment as he sat in his bed next to Johnny. Then the siren blew, and in an instant they were all up and out the door. As Robert dragged his rifle and helmet behind him on the rush to the jeeps, something else became relevant to him, and in an instant, he stopped thinking about dying, and started thinking about the lives he could save while doing it.