HARD TO KILL today!
August 1, 2018
“Captain, you’re an interesting woman.”
Kellen Adams glanced at Corporal Harlow Hackett, lounging in the seat beside her, his seatbelt loose across his hips. Kuwaiti dust and sand rolled in sweaty drops down his sunburned face and off his chin.
Kellen’s mind organized the personal details of her friends (and enemies) into data snapshots. Kellen flipped through the Rolodex of her mind:
Harlow Hackett: Male, Caucasian, 22 years old, 6’ 3″. Blond hair, blue eyes. Avid runner. Joined Army at 18. From rural North Dakota.
She didn’t know how Hackett did it; she was sweating, too, but in the desert heat, it evaporated right off her body with the dry wind coming in her open driver’s side window.
Kellen said, “Corporal, you’re supposed to be watching the road.”
“Don’t have to. I won the toss.”
“I get to be in a Humvee with you. No one ever gets hurt when they’re with you.”
Kellen had been in the Army for six years, deployed mostly in war zones around the world, and she’d never heard that before. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re lucky, or you’re smart, or you see stuff no one else sees. That’s what makes you such an interesting woman. Don’t nobody get killed when you set the route and drive the Humvee.”
Sharply, she said, “Don’t nobody get killed as long as people watch for an ambush.”
“I’m watching.” He glanced around. “See?”
“Hackett, do you know the number of unexploded land mines loose in the world? Have you seen pictures of the civilians, children, who accidentally stumble onto one and die, or lose limbs? Now — watch!”
“Yes, ma’am.” He glanced around the sandy road. “But unless you’re the lead dog, the view is pretty much always the same.”
She grinned. She knew what he meant. The bumper of the armored personnel carrier in front of them never changed. She eased back a little. “How much time do you have left before your stint is done?”
“Three weeks, four days, seven hours and” — he glanced at his watch — “forty-nine minutes. But who’s counting?”
“What are you going to do when you get out?”
“Go to college,” he said promptly. “Like I should have done in the first place, if my folks hadn’t been so dead-set on me doing just that.”
“You joined up to spite your parents?”
“Yes, ma’am. The finest case of cutting off my nose to spite my face ever. I imagine you never did anything that stupid, not even when you were eighteen.”
She thought back on her high school graduation, on getting into her car and waving goodbye to her aunt and uncle and cousin, driving away from Nevada, across the country, seeing the sights, reveling in her freedom, getting to Maine and… She took a long breath. “No, I never did anything stupid.”
He sat up straight. “You did! What was it?”
She shook her head.
“Was it as stupid as mine?”
“So much worse. You’re too tough on yourself, Corporal.” The APC in front of them lurched along the sandy, rocky road. “The Army’s not all bad. You’ve got the GI Bill, you know enough now to appreciate that good time in college, and you’re going back in one piece.”
Hackett turned white. “Shush, ma’am. You’ll jinx it. Quick, spit out of the truck.”
“Will that undo the jinx?”
“Unless you spit on a landmine.” — HARD TO KILL
If your attack is going too well, you’re walking into an ambush.” —Infantry Journal