Fiction | April 28, 2014

After the day’s twenty-sixth mortar round fell on Camp War Eagle, some staff officer up at division headquarters finally saw fit to task a drone to search for whoever was lobbing the shells at us. A few hours passed, and another barrage of 60-millimeter death hummed in to shred an unlucky mechanic’s leg as he took a smoke break outside our barracks, before division staff passed down an eight-digit grid, coordinates taken from the drone, which put the origin of the mortar fire about two klicks to our east, in the middle of a dense marsh.

We mounted our tanks and rumbled out the camp’s front gate. Slumped in the gunner’s station, I rubbed eyes sore and dry from dust, lack of sleep and too much sun. Private Rodney Sleed drove, having folded his tall, lanky frame down below in the hull; above me, Sergeant First Class Blornsbaum rode in the tank commander’s seat. Sleed’s dog, Frago, traveled in the stuffy turret, splayed near my boots, panting and looking confused in the absurdly happy way that dogs do. Months earlier, Sleed had found Frago running feral in the open desert, and over the intervening time, the dog, which looked sort of like a large fox, had grown into his current role as our platoon’s unofficial mascot. Blornsbaum hated that dog; he hated all dogs but feared disturbing the luck Frago had brought. We hadn’t had a KIA since Frago had started riding out on missions with us, and Blornsbaum, like many long-time soldiers a superstitious pragmatist, had not yet brought himself to force Sleed to get rid of his canine war trophy.

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