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Army Talk

The captain reached into the folder and handed me a letter I had written to a friend in another outfit.

“It’s mine all right.”

“Quix, your language is unbelievable. I’ve seen tamer stuff on bathroom walls.” Captain Jones eyed me quizzically. “Would you write that way to your mother?”

“No, sir. But I wasn’t writing to my mother,” I protested. “May I speak freely?”

Captain Jones wearily rolled his eyes. “Go ahead, but make it fast.”

This line of questioning had really gotten me thinking. I had been oblivious to the extent to which my speech had coarsened over the past two years. Before entering the service, I rarely cursed, even when I was with my best buddies. My parents didn’t tolerate swear words around the house, and they would have been horrified to learn of the casual way in which I now employed them.

“Well, sir, you’ve gotta realize how it is when a bunch of fellas get together, especially when they’re in a strange place far from home. When you’re eating or going to sleep, it’s always fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything. Sir!”

The captain’s taut facial expression loosened, and his lips curved slightly upward. “You may find this hard to believe, Quix, but, once upon a time, I was your age. I entered the Army as a private, so I’ve been in the mess halls and the bunk houses, and I know the score. By the way, when it comes to foul language, some of the officers are worse than enlisted men. I’ve been known to occasionally use a salty word or two myself.”

“So I’ve heard, sir.”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page, Quix, but there’s something else you need to know. There’s a big difference between talking trash and writing it on official U.S. government stationery. When you’re sending V-mail, you’re not just speaking for yourself. You’re representing the United States of America, and it’s my job to help make sure that her reputation isn’t tarnished. Understood?”

“Loud and clear, sir.”

“Good. Now get the fuck outta here.”

Copyright © 2004-6 Mark Stuart Ellison
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