Ryan shouted and again they ascended the steps. But this time Ryan noticed the backpack of a freshman, which wasn’t even an army pack, but a Jansport, but worse was how lightly it bounced as he ran. Ryan reached over and grabbed the pack, nearly yanking the kid backwards down the steps and stopping the whole platoon halfway up the bleachers as he did.
“What the fuck is this, Freshman?!”
The pack was light as hell. Ryan unzipped it and pulled out a hoodie and a beach towel. He looked at the kid in disbelief.
“Fifty pounds! Fifty fucking pounds, Freshman!”
The kid looked so scared of him Ryan had to turn his attention to the rest of his cadre.
“Goddammit, you guys, when the hell are you going to get it?! You think this—” he threw out his arms at the idyllic campus before them, the guys leisurely tossing the football “—is how the people planning to kill us are training? You think this is how the poor fucks you’ll be leading into battle one day will train in their boot camps after they’re picked up at some Walmart in Texas and told how great it’s gonna be? What would happen at Fort Bragg if some dickwad stuffed his fifty-pound pack with a hoodie and a beach towel?
“Have you been watching these ISIS fucks? Not to mention what’s left of al-Qaeda’s fucking fan club resurging around the globe?”
“Come on, Ry,” said Bret, a junior and a fuckup, “our pansy-ass leaders ain’t gonna do fuck-all with this war talk. And you kidding us with al-Qaeda still? They’re over there in their caves jerking each other off because they can’t see any tits and ass under all those damn clothes they make their bitches wear. Fucking Osama, when they capped his ass, was mid-stroke, masturbating to old-school porn videos!”
Some in the group laughed as Bret started jerking an impressively large air-dick as he continued with, “Ooooh, I’m Osama. I’m a Muslim fanatic, but damn, these infidel tits looks so gooooood. Ahhhh!” He ended in mock ecstasy as now most of the platoon was laughing.
But not Scotty, who knew that comment hit home on Ryan hard. He looked at Ryan and took a couple steps up the bleachers to position himself incase Ryan attacked.
But Ryan thought about duty, the platoon, the Code of Honor, and controlled his rage again. He turned away from Masturbating Osama to help check his emotions—but then he saw the thing that pushed him over the edge.
The Freshman was laughing too.
“You think this is funny, Freshman?” Ryan asked, charging the kid.
“Ryan, I’m sorry man.”
“You’re ‘sorry man?’ Sorry man! Is that what you’re gonna tell your buddy in some fucking desert when he takes two in the chest because you weren’t willing to do the simplest fucking thing your country asks of you?!”
Scotty yanked him back from the half-inch that remained between Ryan’s face and the kid’s, who looked as if he could almost cry. And now Scotty got in Ryan’s face, but with a whisper.
“Calm the fuck down. The kid made a mistake. We’ll put it in his fucking file, but right now, get your fucking issues in check.”
Ryan looked out and took a deep breath. Scotty was wrong. It wasn’t his anger. It was his duty. But he could see in the faces of his peers and friends this wasn’t a battle he was going to win.
“Platoon dismissed,” he said and started back down the steps toward the gym.
The rest of the crew started down too. Scotty put his hand on Freshman’s back as they walked. “He just wants to help you, little man. And he’s been through some shit you don’t know about, okay?”
The Freshman nodded and they both looked at Ryan walking off ahead of them.
“He’ll never forgive life for not letting him be the one to cap Osama,” Scotty said. “He’s wanted that since he was five.”