Out there; they will come over the far horizon.
The great hordes will come.
And we need to watch for them, here in the watchtower.
Do I want to die? says Lawrence–No, of course I don’t want to die, but I figure if I’m smart I won’t. Now, I’m not saying only the dumb die. I would never say anything like that. Some of my best friends are dumb. Don’t laugh.
Leave me alone, I’ve got a rifle to clean, says Jones– I’ll spray the damned b******s. If you were smart you’d be cleaning your rifle too. Leave me alone, I got no time for your questions, I got to get ready.
I mean, I figure if you’re smart and quick, you won’t die, says Lawrence–it’s a fact of life. And you know what else– it’s the very smart and the very dumb who will survive. The very smart protect themselves and God protects the very dumb. Only those in between die, are maimed, or whatever. Those in between are kind of half asleep, with fear. Me, I’m wide awake, I’m ready to fight. Fight with my brain not my stomach. Say listen–what’s the pad and pencil for?
Leave me alone–now I’ve got a knife to sharpen, says Jones–if I get in close enough, I can use the knife. Oh I’ll spray ’em before they get that close–but I better be ready. You never know. Blood and guts damnit. Jab, jab, Jab.
Now, says Lawrence, just between you and me–I personally don’t see the sense in this war. But I’m here, so I got to fight to stay alive, when they come. I don’t fight for my country. I fight to stay alive. Right now, sitting here waiting, I can say I’m here for my country. Sure, I care about my country. Might even love it. I came here didn’t I? I didn’t have to come here. There’s no draft. But when things get hot, I don’t think about my country–I fight to stay alive. Simple.
Why are you writing down everything I say?
Leave me alone, says Jones–I’ve got bullets to put in these magazines. Twenty, thirty magazines is what I figure I’ll need. Twenty some bullets per magazine–it takes a while to load ’em by hand. So I’m too busy for your questions. So leave me be.
And when the fighting starts, says Lawrence, I’ll fight hard. They won’t get me–I’ll be tough. Smart and tough. Or dumb and tough–I wonder sometimes. Sometimes I can’t think right about this damned fighting–but I don’t let it bother me. Thinking right isn’t important when they’re pouring through and you’re killing them. You just have to have a good spot to shoot from. That’s where the brainwork comes in. You can see them, but they can’t see you. That’s what you need. A spot like that. God damned war.
Write. Yeah, write. If it relaxes you before the shooting starts–be my guest.
What are you asking me all these questions for? says Jones–leave me alone I’ve got canteens to fill. Need to have plenty of water. Mouth gets dry in a fight. You don’t p*** it out in a war–you sweat it out. I got no time to talk to you. Go take a p*** or something.
You, now, though, says Lawrence–don’t worry like you are- -I’ll be watching your back. You watch mine, I’ll watch yours. We’ll protect each other. That’s how you stay alive. Goes for dumb and smart both. It’s the only way to stay alive. You keep them off my back, I’ll keep them off of yours. We’ve all got deals like that between us.
Leave me alone, says Jones–I’ve got ammunition boxes to get ready. Got to stack the magazines right. Got to keep the ammo straight. It’s got to be easy to grab–easy to use. Leave me be already for Christ’s sake. Go spit.
Now’s the time to pray–not in the thick of it, says Lawrence. In the thick of it you’re too busy to pray. So we really ought to be on our knees right now. Before they come over the horizon. Over that way. Out there, where the blue meets the ground, far our there. Come on we got to get down on our knees while there’s still time.
The great hordes roll their eyes and open their mouths and scream.
Leave me alone, says Jones–I’ve got to adjust this helmet. This strap has to be right or it’ll fly right off when you’re in the thick of it. See? See? It’s got to be buckled right. I got all these helmets to adjust. I’m damned busy. So go away.
All right now, listen, says Lawrence. Stop asking so many questions, put away the pad and pencil, and just listen. We’re going to pray now–and you’re going to pray with us. A little prayer couldn’t hurt you. Never hurts, You never know, you know. Especially when you’re facing death–but we’re all facing death really, aren’t we? Come on, get on your knees with me, everybody–hey you guys over there–stop gabbing away like that–you ought to pay attention–and you there, you–stop rocking back and forth like that. Come on, on our knees everybody. We’re going to pray now.
Leave me alone I’ve got binoculars to clean, says Jones. We all need to see far and clear. Need to see them coming. When they come. And they’re going to come soon. Just watch.
Lawrence says I know lots of good prayers. Might as well start saying them. But we all pray in our own way, don’t we? Yes, yes. Let’s each just pray silently, each in our own way, now that we’re on our knees. Oh, I could lead us–but I choose not to lead us. Let’s just all close down our eyes and clasp our hands and mouth our prayers silently–what you say you don’t know any prayers? That’s nonsense, everybody knows prayers. Hey I thought I told you to put that pad and pencil away. Yeah you.
Are they coming yet–I don’t think they’re coming yet–
No, says Jones–they’re not coming yet–leave me be. I’ve got to hone these bayonet blades. They’ve got to be sharp. This will boil down to an arms-length fight. Close in. Ugly. Go away. Go on over there, where they’re praying. Bother them with your pad and pencil.
Ah it feels good to pray, doesn’t it, says Lawrence–I mean the words just spin up toward God and he listens to them, and he gives us what he knows is best for us. And what will be best for some of us is to die. Sure. It’s going to happen. You. You there. It might just happen to you. Sooner rather than later. Oh what am I saying? It’s sure to happen to you. Say what are you writing down–no matter what I say, you write it down. What’s with you. Put away the pad and pencil and go over there where the rifles are stacked and get your damned rifle.
They start on the march; they’re on the march.
Got to unpack these rations; meals, ready to eat, they’re called, says Jones. You need to eat to be able to keep on fighting. You need to fight to be able to keep on eating. You need to fight and eat to stay alive. These need to be neatly stacked over here. Easy to grab.
Lawrence half yells I’ll tell you what–you want to write things down, write this down; God wants you, he takes you. Now it doesn’t really matter; and this is why I didn’t mind going into this war; there’s a time you’re supposed to die, and it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. When your time comes, it comes. So if I die tomorrow in the fight, its not that I died because of the war; if I’d been at home in bed, I’d have passed away just the same. Your time is set. Just like your time to be born was set.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pound the ground, raising great clouds of dust.
Everybody’s rifles all cleaned and oiled? said Jones to the group. Everybody plunge a rag down their barrel? If you didn’t, its time to do it now. Oily, clean rifles. That’s what we want. And what’s good is that all our rifles are brand-new, never used–but we’re going to use them, aren’t we? We sure are.
We sure are, Jones, said Harry.
What do you mean you don’t believe your time to be born was set? insists Lawrence. God has everything figured out. All the days when everything’s going to happen, are set. When you die is set. So you might as well relax about this war. What’s going to happen to you is already set, no matter what you do you can’t change it. If you fight like a demon and come out alive, it happens to be true that if you hadn’t done a bit of fighting, you’d be alive too. It’s all set. How you’re going to fight, when you’re going to die, the whole thing. Now like I said–put away the pad and pencil and go get your rifle. It’s almost time to fight.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pounding the ground, raising great clouds of dust.
Jones whispers Now I go to check out each loose bullet, oh you might not think its necessary but it is, I got to roll each of these thousands of bullets in my hands to get the life-force into them, to get then ready to be used, because I’m getting scared to death with this waiting and I need something to do to keep me calm. It’s too dead out there on the horizon. Too quiet, like they always said in those old jungle movies.
Lawrence says Now you got to get hyped up pretty crazy to be ready for a fight; how you do that, is up to you. You got to forget about dying and just do what you have to do. Now I do breathing; like this; hmmmmm, just like this. Hmmmmmmm. I get all lightheaded and crazy. Like the air is some kind of drug. Or you might want to take some kind of tranquilizers. If you have them, that is. But pep pills would be better; some kind of speed, some meth–that’s what you need to fight a war. You can’t fight a war on marijuana or LSD that just make flowers sprout all over and send curlicues up your spine. Listen, stop writing. Get your damned rifle already. Its my job to see to it that you’re ready.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pounding the ground, raising great clouds of dust. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill.
Now, its time to watch and wait, says Jones. Get those binoculars up–I didn’t clean them for nothing you know. Get those binoculars up and focused. There’s not a soul out there–and how far’s that horizon? A couple of miles? Hey, how far away is the horizon, when you’re up in a tower like this? Lawrence! You know?
Do I know what?
Oh never mind.
Now, says Lawrence–the time for praying is almost over. Its too quiet. It’s way too quiet. That’s because, in the movies, that the enemy is out there in the bushes being dead quiet and all the birds and animals have run away, so you don’t hear any of the normal chirping and cheeping you would in the woods. But there’s not woods from here to the horizon. Just that long, flat plain. I dunno. Has anybody seen any birds flying over? Anybody seen any squirrels running around? Anybody seen any bunnies hopping? Anybody seen any deer grazing? God wants to keep the animals safe, he waves his hand and poof, they leave the area.
Look, I’m telling you for the last time. Get your rifle.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pounding the ground, raising great clouds of dust. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill. Ready to rend your soul loose from your body and send it screaming into the sky.
Jones grumbles We really could have used a couple of fifty calibers up here in this tower but they weren’t issued to us. I know some of the towers got fifty calibers but none within shouting distance of here. Guess they only got so many. There’s not enough to go around. Plenty of everything else, but no fifty calibers.
Now what? What did you say? You’re not staying for the fight? You don’t even have a rifle in the rack over there? You’re a damned civilian? You’re just here researching a book? Oh, that explains the pad and pencil. And when we see them coming, you say you’re going to leave? Fade away, get lost, just like that? Oh that’s cold, that’s real cold. Hey guys! Guys! Guess who’s going to be leaving us when the shit starts coming toward the fan? Hey listen. Hear the guys? We want you to stay. We want you to see us fight. We want you to write about the fight–not all this waiting. So how about it? Hang around a while? Hang around. Gee I didn’t know you were a writer. I thought you were one of us.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pound the ground, raising great clouds of dust. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill. Ready to rend your soul loose from your body and send it screaming into the sky.
So who sent you out here? asks Lawrence. Why this watchtower? What do you think you’re going to do with what you wrote? Stay for the fighting. We want you to. Listen, if you’re going to die, you’re going to die. We’ve been through all this stuff. Your future’s set, so you might as well stay–what do you mean they don’t want civilians getting hurt–who made that rule. Everybody gets hurt in a war. If that was the rule they shouldn’t have sent you out here to begin with. I’ve spent all this time talking to you like a brother. We’ve prayed together. You got to stay. You need to. It’s only right all the time I’ve invested in talking to you.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pound the ground, raising great clouds of dust. The words kill, shred, destroy, pass their lips. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill. Ready to rend your soul loose from your body and send it screaming into the sky. The bullets and rockets fly on ahead.
Jones says There’s something moving out there. Helmets on, everybody. Lock and load, everybody. Forget the prayers the time for prayer is over–look. I see through these binoculars. There’s movement out there. But how many miles away is the horizon, oh, who can tell me how any miles away is the horizon–
Oh no wait, shouts Lawrence–get away from that ladder– you’re staying, that’s all there is to it. You can’t just write about the preparations. You got to write about the fighting, the dying, the bleeding–there’s nothing to worry about–you’re not going to die–you were going to leave us– that means you were going to live–that means you’re still going to live if you stay. What’s the matter with that logic? Nothing flawed about that–I went over all of this with you. Weren’t you listening?
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pound the ground, raising great clouds of dust. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill. Ready to rend your soul loose from your body and send it screaming into the sky. The bullets and rockets fly on ahead. They blast their way forward, guns thundering.
–yep they’re coming! shouts Jones. The horizon’s black with them. Hear that way off? Hear that? They’re firing already–steady now boys, steady now–its almost time–we move forward to our destinies–
Stay! insists Lawrence. Stay with us–hear that, they’re coming. No, don’t go down the ladder–stay with us–stay with me–your book will be better for it–blood and guts in the book, life and death in the book–the moment’s coming– stay with us–blood and guts and books go together.
They start on the march; they’re on the march. Their jackboots pound the ground, raising great clouds of dust. They shoulder their automatics; they pull their great pistols; they’re ready to kill. Ready to rend your soul loose from your body and send it screaming into the sky. The bullets and rockets fly on ahead. They blast their way forward, guns thundering. Bullets! Bullets. It’s all about bullets now–bullets bullets bullets bullets—
Buck up, men, buck up–
–stay with us–don’t go–stay with us–dont go–stay with us–no no no no no no no no don’t GO–we need your pad and pencil now–we need your pad and pencil NOW–
Bullets. Bullets. Bullets. Bullets.
Out there; they will come over the far horizon.