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Virtuous

by

Patrick Berlinquette

 

 
     
   

 

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SITTING IN M' BUNKER, FLIPPIN' THE OLDE GOLDE LIGHTER. Distant bombs above solitaire with Boomer under fire lickin sky. Shell shock schlock cocked locked and loaded, bloated corpse, all sorts of colours running from the nostrils.
____ There’s always a bible in some hotel drawer to keep ourselves in our pants so don’t justify your insecurities, I tell m'self. You feel what you feel. You want what you want. Don’t say:
____ I’m scared because…
____ I’m nervous to die because…
____ Don’t explain yourself because Vicks shot his toes off so he could go home.
____ I wish not to kill anyone, but I dare not confide, I dare not delve. Don’t wanna kill anyone’s face but we’re puffin’ his drugs, jerkin’ to the crumpled photo of his wife. The orange bombs light up Boomer's spotless helmet and he sighs.
Run my fingers through the olde gold flame till Boomer says, “A woman ruined my life and she’s getting it as we speak. She keeps a photo of me in m’ black fatigues in the car visor but hides it before she watches the sun come up through the windshield. She’s got her panties ‘round her knees while I’m tossing hand grenades. I want a raunchy porno, a McDonald's double cheeseburger, pancakes, a shower.”
____ The war’s a dusty orange, at times a blackened red. A sylvan green, a urea yellow, a blasphemous grey.
____ Secretly pious, I wish to tell Boomer much. I cry in my poncho and pretend I’m sleeping when the colonel’s boots approach in the moonlight. I wish to bring all my baggage to the foxhole though I’m supposed to be a brutal masochist - good misogynist!
I tell him while the bombs drop miles away, I says to Boomer “I do really hate women you’re so right but that’s cause they’re there to remove the knife from my back not put it there.” AK’s crack. He says he hates God. I say, me too. I say I hate life, he nods. Mm-hm. I hate anyone who isn’t nihilist - he agrees then we smoke for awhile.
Egos and guns loaded, bloated cocked and spillin’ a million colours from the corps core. He hands me a razor blade in the ol’ bunker and says – cut into your arm the one thing you hate about life besides the people. Well, what about the people. Be honest, one word.
____ Weeds, they’re growin’ where a sun once shone, a son has grown without being shown. I tells him, I says, I’m gonna lose it, flip out man. Boomer says, don’t buy into my fancies, my fantasies. Always be an atheist in the foxhole, he tells me or you’re to the worms to the worms.
____ Later while I drop pee on big leafs he cuts jesus. You have trench foot courtesy of your local deity.
I think about things - the lack of libido (not counting a supreme image of Mary Magdalene on a bed of roses) and the truth that I’m a romantic in a war for a promised land, a lover in a war against God.
____ Hug me brown faithful, come close and let me bow down and unleash all of your pent up horrors, ram me with your pentagon fist bludgeon me. Tens of miles away – buildings cave in on themselves. Flags go lifeless atop their poles.
____ We rig up the buzzing electric – we straighten our hair, apply cover-up, iron our fatigues. Get the cadet hats just right. Wedge scrubs his rifle with holy water, and Hunk blasts his death metal and I just think of April when I was in the plush quack’s office, the beige round humming white noise, hummers like landmines, where prior to our appointment I snuck a flask sip in the bathroom and I fidgeted much in the crunching leather seat.
____ O, outside, the waves would peak white and fall back down. Your future wife outside alone, just your type, sipping pink umbrella’d drinks but you miss it because your inside telling your reflection with everything that you have that you will NOT be a victim of your mind. This isn’t how life is meant to be lived, you say this is it, no more, I mean it this time, seriously.
____ You have dysentery. Congratulations.
____ It takes me so long to sleep under my poncho because tunes loop over and over in m’ head, utterly clear, note for note. Tonight, with cracking AKs I’m worrying that I left the safety off and maybe Hunk or Hollywood will come by and mess with my gun and kill their own faces. The trick, though, is to cancel out one worry with another, plus and minus. Like jamming a rod into gears I think about the peaches, the peaches! I left the peaches ajar and Hunk will eat them. They will turn bad, turn green and prickly and maybe Hunk will eat them and get sick.
____ Now the loudest and most obnoxious tune is playing, the same tuned down dropped D chuga chug, death metal blast-beats and staccato double bass glaze. I try to breathe in and out loud, and concentrate on the hum, but the beat lives on with the backdrop of UXO explosions under cloudy brown feet.
____ On the trail it’s raining and we continue the anthem – O if you believe in God, you can die with a bullet in the head and the bible in your hands. And I laugh with everyone. Marching in formation, we sing that we have a bullet for Christ in hell and praise for Manson and Hitler in heaven amen, again.
____ We harass screaming women in their homes. We rifle-butt babies. Carve upside-down crosses into the foreheads of every faithful brown man. Kick off our dusty boots on the shrines. Place smokes on who will crack first under the pressure of a rifle barrel in the maw. Then we smoke and laugh all the way to the next town, smilin’ like clowns with cups of gasoline.
____ Under my poncho I secretly clutch rosary and by the light of the olde gold I read my new testament. I wrap the hardcover with the jacket of some brutal author; I whisper hymns to the sound of bombs and it helps me forget about the peaches and the safety and everything blasphemous and grey.
____ In the mirrors of our enemies we crowd to fix our hair, shave our arms, pluck eyebrows, cover-up blemishes, cologne, after-shave. Kiss, lick those boots!
____ At an idle area, Boomer grabs me by the back of the neck, he’s stumbled upon m’ writing in my little white book. “What is this?? You rotting queer, trader, low-life, faithful man! I should tell the colonel, you bishop! Writing!”
____ The morrow soon… sit on a log and smoke to AK cracks on another plane of existence. He will read my work! He is interested! The morrow, we insert into the most dangerous turf. We insert and will face harsh resistance. The skirmish will be red, the city walls will breathe in the ordnance smoke.
____ Inside the rocking Humvee everyone talks about their dream girl. We wear makeup and black fatigues, black suit coat, black cadet hat, teeth and pinkies.
____ Wedge tells us, he says, “Now I only fancy women with disorders. Call me shallow, but if a woman dresses in brand names or colour then I’m gonna have to pass. In other words, I don’t appreciate the accepted model of female beauty - model bones and malnutrition. I want a woman with scars on her arms and a drug habit. I want to be her everything. I want her to call me in the night in shambles, call me from the railing of a gas tower. I want to be the one to have to tell her to relax all the time - to put down the darn gun.”
____ Tofu says, “If you have better hair than me I’m gonna have to blow you off. If you have no sense for the inhumane then I’m gonna have to walk away. If you shove your jesus shmesus ideals down m’ throat, then I’m gonna have to ask for my jewels back. If you can’t keep up with my drinking or if you refuse to drink on your meds then, look, we’re gonna have to talk. If your gonna go and be romantic then just pack your shit and leave. If we can’t critique doom over beers then please just make like a tree. If you smoke filters, well then, why don’t you chug gin through a bar rag! If our ashtrays don’t fill up during our conversations well, then, goodbye.”
____ Then everyone turns and looks me in the cold face.
Hollywood twists in his seatbelt and says, “C’mon Toolbox! Spill the darn beans! You Jesus freak, you queer fuck.” 
____ My dream woman is Mary Magdalene but dare not say it. I dare not delve. 
____ I blank, I cold sweat, stutter, pee a little in m’ fatigues. Think of my favourite verses, the most grand revelations. Tofu takes the safety off of his firearm and looks at me impatiently. So I tells them, with hand motions, I say, “A b-bible burning, cross smashing, blasphemous beaut’. J-Jet black eyes, hair, clothing. I want her to…cut her wrists during sex, have some bloodplay with foreplay. Come home from work to her worshipping sculptures of m’ wax phallus in our black and red bedroom. Burning incense, not sorry ‘bout showing off her charcoal works o’ concentration camps, pentagrams, horned beasts and the like. Her name would be – Deicide. A morbid angel who craved flesh and sinew and blood and waste. Yeah! – O Deicide would be m’ dream girl.
____ Cheers and back-pats and high fives all inside the Humvee and I am a real man.
____ Distant bombs a booming.
____ Release all of your pent up fears, belly aches, night sweats inside the Virgin Mary. You have been aborted O! Your holy seed has been shot with a pistol, mashed under steel tips, mixed into a stew ration. You fight a war for a holy land, you march until the promised land, you sing and hum ‘bout despair with your nose in the air. You gut the brown men, you bash in baby heads, you fight a war for Satan while to colonel; God is worse than any trenchfoot or ‘tary, worse than friendly fire, switching sides, fags with guns soiling your country’s flag. Deadly sin into the ranks. Rape and burn and climb the hierarchy of doom. Break the madman on the wheel, beat the fucker. 
____ I clutch this filthy paraphernalia under m’ rained in poncho and I weep while they snore.
Under m’ poncho I hear the boots pass my head – Boomers. He says hey – let’s talk. While they snore he critiques m’ prose.
With hand motions, he crosses his legs on a broken home stoop and smokes – he unveils his closet love for fiction. Don’t tell a soul but he reads by the golde light under his poncho! While stomping down on heads he tackles with metaphors! Alludes to Shakespeare, truly, weeps to Keats, smiles to Poe and wraps an anarchist jacket ‘round the bindings during the morning glow.
____ During a brutal scorching march Boomer winks at me, screams – we scream miles to go before I sleep miles to go before I sleep miles to go before I sleep.
____ We hardly do sleep anymore at all, idle nights we sneak out into the greatest alcoves of nature, we smoke and ponder great works, we attempt to interpret the most ambiguous art, we compare the beauties of being home until minutes before roll call.
He highlights, scribbles little marginalia over m’ prose. Pokes round in my head to figure it, wants to know where my damn head is. He adores the metafictional protagonist, the wartime romance, the gritty business. When colonel comes a stompin’ we hide the itty pages and talk ‘bout pillage.
____ We are idle before the stand at Providence. Boomer and I stomp ground up the hills to catch the views of an arduous overlook. Avoiding jutting roots, I say, hey say Boomer – do you ever read the text? He gets quiet and laughs and says what do you say?
____ The verses.
____ He says he doesn’t follow.
____ You know - The Book.
____ He grows despondent behind his cigarette.
____ I tell him, I say I read the bible by the olde gold and it’s top secret.
____ He goes wide-eyed, dry mouthed.
I have to sneak it like a flask. Do you fancy the holy book? I do ask.
He rears slowly in sickness – grows pale with horror. Jaw trembles, forehead beads sweat, embers fall to the weeds.
____ The holy bible? Do you read it as I?
____ To the soundtrack of cracking AKs he stumbles backward, reeling in nausea. Clutching an angled sapling, he gags and trembles and struggles for air.
____ In time - slowly descends back to the ol’ bunker.
____ I share the view with the birds.
____ Dust settles over Providence – the most important city of this holy fight. The orange air, the brown bodies in piles, the city hollowed out, carved out of black clay. Providence was a tough skirmish, snipers on citadel roofs, turrets in bell towers, but my allies did win the skirmish well.
____ We have time to rest our heads before the next trail. We disperse the belongings of our victims, poke fun at the love letters, pocket the skimpy photographs, pull and pass. Soon we smoke and are quite quiet.
____ SIR. The men then rise in a great straight line - stiff as graves. Stamped out are the smokes and then not a movement, not a muscle, not a sigh or whisper, only the licking flames on driverless cars as the colonel approacheth. We all stand in unison and fix our hairs, pat off orange knees, suck in our cheeks.
____ The colonel looks quite ill, his person is pale and haggard, he coughs into his handkerchief. His air is unusually passive, the usual ardor of his temperament seems now drained and horrid and though we were supremely victorious as men should be, our beloved colonel before us trembles and must stop to rest on a stack of rubble. He struggles with the weight of it, then with one sad motion he presents the onlookers with m’ holy book.
____ The line of black dressed men ‘round me start gagging and swoonin’ and choking. Some fall to their knees. Some spit up and make a mess of their fatigues. 
____ He stammers and screams, “One of you filthy fucks has virtued! Unspeakable crime of humanity - I could not believe it with my own eyes. One of my men is a brutal faithful! O Blood and shit and stone, a faithful.”
____ The colonel weeps and falls to his knee, “Boomer, release this ghoul from the ranks of my men O!”
____ I am dragged into the city square where I am tied securely to an upright plank. After much verbal abuse I am presented with m’ favorite scripture – m’ own holy book. My allies surround me in a great big oval – Panopticon-like. They surround me like madmen while the colonel strips me naked.
____ Break him on the wheel! Dismember him alive! Freeze him in the coldest ocean! Smother him in flames! Feed him to the snakes! Boil him in oil! Into the pit with him!
____ I am bound and atrophied while the book is held under m’ nose, the colonel speaks, his voice rasps through the punched-in plastic blister city. 
____ “Now and for ever place your rotten soul to the deity of doom. Make this demonic pact – you lost, lost soul. Spit into the verses you love so much or be broken and cut apart. Spit in the pages you harbor like a plague, you icy pile of secrets.”
____ My beloved book, the truly fabulous, is read aloud to the crowd of frenzied soldiers. They laugh and pick it apart, use the pulp pages as incendiary.
____ “Men! Cut into this faithful man the one thing you hate about life! Line up, dig hard, one word! Boomer do the damn deed! Cut that inverse cross in his holy scalp. Castrate the fucker! Knock your dusty boots on his person. Nail him by the wrists, hang him high to dry!”
____ The pages litter dusky Providence as the sun drops behind skeletons of buildings. Our colours refuse to fly despite the wind, flags all lifeless atop their poles. Twisted steel stretching upwards into the purple prose sky. While the bell tower sends off seven notes of sinew and soot and the allies gain ground on the next steamy trail I spot my grey leatherbound - m’ prose, my own fiction tale. The pages flip in gusts to my last penned entry of blood on bigotry and narcissism.
____ You art so alone, even with the birds as company. Why was I so alone, even with company?
____ Bombs above these words under fire licking sky. Shell shock schlock, cocked locked and loaded, bloated corpse, all sorts of colours running from the nostrils.
____ Don’t justify your insecurities, I tell myself. You feel what you feel. You want what you want. Don’t say:
____ I’m scared because…
____ I’m nervous to die because…
____ Don’t explain yourself because you were a martyr so you could go home.

 

     

Patrick Berlinquette

Patrick Berlinquette

Patrick Berlinquette is a musician from Long Island, New York. He is singer/songwriter for The Blue Suns, who will be releasing their first record "Devil Man (and Other Strange Tales)" in Spring 2008. His short stories and poetry have been published in Transition, She Said / She Said and elsewhere. His poetry collection, "Elements" can be purchased at his website www.Berlinquette.com or www.myspace.com/pickingupchange

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