18 December 2009


By Curtis C. Chen

"Asshole," Ivan muttered as the door closed.

"Geez, say it a little louder, why don't you?" Conrad said. "Those doors are bullet-proof, not sound-proof."

The small, circular room was empty except for the display pedestal, two consoles with chairs, and a trash bin between them. Ivan and Conrad were seated facing a holographic map of the base.

Ivan swiveled his chair around, lifted his forearm onto his console, and flipped up his middle finger.

"That's good. Real mature," Conrad said.

Ivan brought his other arm up and deployed his other middle finger as well.

"I'm going back to work now," Conrad said, ignoring the dance that Ivan's middle fingers were doing.

"Don't you ever get sick of it?" Ivan asked, withdrawing his hands. "Following orders all the time? I sure do."

"Probably shouldn't have joined the Army then."

"Didn't have much of a choice." Ivan slumped in his chair.

"Is this where you tell me a sob story and I pretend to care?" Conrad said.

Ivan slapped his console. A red light started blinking, and a shrill alarm bell sounded. "How about that? You care about that?"

Conrad worked his own controls and silenced the alarm. "What is wrong with you? Now we have to write up an incident report. After the duty officer chews us out for another false alarm. Are you trying to get thrown into stockade?"

Ivan pulled a candy bar out of his shirt pocket. He unwrapped it and had the bar halfway to his mouth when Conrad leaned over and snatched it away.

"Hey!" Ivan said.

"No food or drink," Conrad said, throwing the candy bar into the trash. "Regulations."

"That was the last nutty bar at the exchange," Ivan said. "You owe me."

Conrad grabbed his crotch. "I got your nutty bar right here."

Ivan leapt out of his chair and tackled Conrad. They fell to the ground in a tangle of fists and shouts.

The door slid open. The duty officer entered and shouted, "Attention!"

Conrad and Ivan separated, stood, and lined up against the wall.

"What is going on here?" the duty officer asked.

"He started it," Ivan said, pointing at Conrad.

"What are you, twelve years old?"

"Twelve and a half," Ivan muttered.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" the duty officer screamed into Ivan's face.

"Twelve and a half, SIR!" Ivan replied.

The duty officer turned to Conrad. "And what's YOUR excuse?"

"He had a candy bar, sir!" Conrad said.

"A candy bar," the duty officer repeated.

"A nutty bar," Conrad said. Then, after a moment: "They're the best."

The duty officer shook his head. "Okay. I'm going to write up both you idiots, and your C.O. can decide what to do with you later. Now sit down!"

Conrad and Ivan went back to their consoles. The duty officer walked toward the exit and stopped in the open doorway to give them one final dirty look.

"Kids these days," the duty officer muttered as he left. The door slid shut behind him.

"Asshole," Conrad and Ivan said in unison.


Photo taken at Buckingham Palace, June, 2009.