Eat The Apple
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Copyright © 2018 Matt YoungISBN: 978-1-63286-950-0
All rights reserved.
Choose Your Own Adventure
IN FEBRUARY 2005 at an armed forces recruitment center situated between a Pier 1 Imports and a Walmart, in the middle of a strip mall of miscellanea, a Marine Corps recruiter goes over your Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and says you scored high and to take your pick of jobs.
To decide that maybe this was all a mistake, turn around and walk out of the recruiter's office with no hard feelings, and instead continue your menial-labor job and join the union and marry the girl you're dating and have kids and buy a house in the Midwest and get divorced and hate your job and your ex-wife and never speak to your kids and develop a drinking problem no one wants to talk about because you insist you don't have a problem and burn bridges with anyone who insinuates said drinking problem exists and start voting against your best interests and think maybe it really is the immigrants' fault and the liberals' fault and buy a bumper sticker that reads AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT and believe it, stop reading and go about your day.
To join the United States Marine Corps infantry, proceed to the next page.
You've chosen the United States Marine Corps infantry based on one thing: You got drunk last night and crashed your car into a fire hydrant sometime in the early morning and think — because your idea of masculinity is severely twisted and damaged by the male figures in your life and the media with which you surround yourself — that the only way to change is the self- flagellation achieved by signing up for war.
You will ship out for recruit training to San Diego, California in April 2005. Your family — broken and distant — will remain silent as to your decision. Only an ex-girlfriend, with whom you're still in contact, will beg you not to go with words of oil and death and futility. You'll wish you'd listened.
Your experience will not be what you think. You wear glasses. Heroes don't wear glasses. Clark Kent wears glasses — he's an alter ego, an alien's perception of the weakness, ineffectuality, and cowardice of the human race. All the men who wear glasses in movies are expendable: They don't get the girl; they don't redeem themselves. They are the loners or villains.
You will become the villain.
When a drill instructor steps on your glasses you will be able to do nothing except look through broken portholes for weeks. When the brainstrap holding the glasses to your face rubs the skin behind your ears raw, you will not be able to remove them — without them you would be blind. Because you didn't think about the need to wear glasses they will come to stand for everything you do not know, and for that you will hate them. You will replace them with contacts, hiding the problem, faking your way through it. No one will see them, but they will be there.
You will be exploded and shot at and made a fool of and hated and feared and loved and fellated and fucked and lonely and tired and suicidal.
Because you will feel abandoned by your father you will look for a father figure in a sea of similarly uniformed men and you will find many. These men will berate you and beat you and break you, but they won't leave you. Years from meeting them you will not be able to sleep at night as you replay the ways in which you let them down, or might have let them down, in your head. You will lie in bed and your face will grow hot and your heart will thud in your chest and your skin will crawl and you will feel ashamed. Because you are a son to those men and shame is what sons feel in the presence of their fathers, and those fathers will be with you always. You will be a father to other men like you. They will suffer the same fate.
You will estrange yourself from your mother. You will blame her for your choices. Your knees will ache and nerves in your neck will misfire. You will break knuckles in drunken brawls and suffer crippling bouts of depression. You will deploy to Iraq and redeploy to Iraq and then volunteer to deploy to Iraq a third time to keep from facing your family, your fiancée, and reality. You will end your three-year engagement in a call center at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. You will sit in a chair at a cubby where a pay phone hangs on the back wall that reminds you of middle school, and when the line goes dead you will feel as though your entire body is at a loss for feeling.
It will be a long time before sensation returns.CHAPTER 2
Living in the Third Person
THIS RECRUIT IS NOT SPECIAL. He is like all other recruits. He addresses all recruits as Recruit [insert last name]. He addresses all drill instructors as Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name]. If a drill instructor is not available and this recruit has needs to speak with one, he stands at arm's length from the hatch to the senior drill instructor's office; he slaps the two-inch- thick piece of raw pine nailed next to the door as hard as the nerve endings in his palm will allow, and he announces, in a loud, boisterous manner, Recruit [insert last name] requests permission to speak with Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name]. He then waits at the position of attention until the drill instructor presents himself. This recruit eats at the same time the other recruits eat, pisses when they piss, shits when they shit, runs when they run, sweats when they sweat, showers when they shower.
He lies awake in his rack at night in the position of attention, as he's been trained. He stares out the squad bay window with the other recruits and watches the lights from San Diego International Airport. He sees planes take off and land and thinks, like all the other recruits, that it would be easy to leave the squad bay late at night, sneak across the Recruit Depot and somehow make it to the airport, where some valiant citizen might pay for a plane ticket to Canada. He thinks these thoughts until Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name] enters the squad bay and insults the recruit on duty's mother, tells the recruit on duty that Jodie — a fictional bull stud — back home is having his way with the duty recruit's girl, who Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name] refers to as Susie Rottencrotch, and then tells him to shut off the lights.
One hundred eyelids close in unison.
When he wakes at night, his bladder straining against his receding waistline, this recruit must remember to do a set of no less than five pull-ups at the bars next to the entry of the head both before and after his business. This recruit's actions are monitored by the recruit on duty that hour and recorded in a logbook.
This recruit can still make decisions of his own. For instance, he might decide to multitask and use the shitters instead of just the urinal. The shitters do not have doors, but they have partitions, unlike most other places on the Depot. The squad bay shitters are only to be utilized at night; if this recruit or any other recruit is caught defecating in the shitters during daylight hours, the punishment is the quarterdeck.
No recruits know what happens if a recruit is caught masturbating in the shitters. Neither this recruit, nor any other recruit, has been able to get a hard-on since coming to the Depot. The imagined quarterdeck punishment makes these recruits ill and is enough to keep them limp-dicked for thirteen weeks.
This recruit tries to avoid the quarterdeck; he refuses to stare at the ten-by-twenty square of dark green linoleum. The linoleum covering the remainder of the squad bay is black. This recruit believes that the discoloration of the linoleum is not intentional. He believes the discoloration to be caused by the countless gallons of sweat, blood, vomit, tears, snot, and bile absorbed from the bodies of past recruits. This recruit wonders if dark green is the color of a soul.
On the quarterdeck Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name] commands, Push-ups, right now; side straddle hops, right now; faster, right now; mountain climbers, right now; no, push-ups, right goddamned now; steam engines, right now; faster, right now; flutter kicks, right now; side straddle hops, right goddamned now.
These recruits hear rumors. Drill instructors are not to utilize the quarterdeck for more than five minutes at a time. The drill instructors ignore this mandate. That, or quarterdeck time is slower than real time.
Later, in a desert, digging a fighting hole into the side of a hill overlooking a main supply route in one-hundred-twenty-degree heat, this recruit will come to dream of those times on the quarterdeck. He will long for them. He'll think back, and he'll wish he were there as Drill Instructor [insert rank and last name] spits wintergreen-flavored chewing tobacco into this recruit's face screaming, Faster. Faster, right now. Faster, right goddamned now.CHAPTER 3
Word of Mouth
Int. Shower Room
Recruit MATTHEW MARKS and Recruit MATTHEW YOUNG are cleaning Platoon 2082's shower room during Sunday field day. Marks and Young are average height and build. Marks is sinewy, with red hair (mere stubble) and milk white skin covered in freckles. Young's own stubble is brown, and he's still working off some of the fat accrued in the year after high school, before he joined the Marines. Both are clothed in green-on-green PT gear, black athletic shoes, and white crew socks. Their faces are sunburned; their legs and arms are blocked by tan lines at mid thigh and mid bicep. They're hunched over, polishing aluminum shower trees with Brasso metal polish and sock rags. We find them in the middle of a conversation.
Marks: You're getting ahead of yourself.
Young: How do you mean?
Marks: Well — do you think we just go to the fleet after this?
Young: I don't, now that you said it like that.
Marks: How do you think you get a specialty?
Young: I figured they'd sort it out in the fleet.
Marks: You got to go to the School of Infantry before you hit the fleet — you get a job there. Until then you're just 03XX.
Young: How long is that?
Marks: Two months.
Young: Fuck me. You're fucking with me, right?
Marks: Not fucking with you. Two months. I got a buddy from back home there right now, and he got stuck on a camp guard rotation. He's been there three.
Young: Three months?
Marks: That's pretty standard information.
Enter DRILL INSTRUCTOR SERGEANT ANDERSON, medium build Caucasian, runner's physique, nose like a California condor. He wears a Charlie dress uniform — green wool pants, khaki short sleeve shirt — and a Smokey Bear cover. His face is cloaked in an angry sheen of sweat.
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: You Marys better be Brassoing my doggone shower trees in here and not running your fucking sucks.
Marks and Young pop to attention.
Marks and Young: Yes, sir!
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: Now you're lying to me, too? Fuck no. Get on my quarterdeck right doggone now, recruits.
Marks And Young: Aye, aye, sir!
Recruits exit shower room running toward quarterdeck with Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson on their heels. The thrashing commences OFF CAMERA. We can hear Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson's commands echo around the porcelain-tiled shower room. The slaying ends. Young and Marks reenter the shower room at a run. They retrieve their rags, move to the next shower tree, and begin polishing once again. It's as if nothing has interrupted them.
Young: So, two months?
Marks: At least.
Young: My recruiter. What a cocksucker. How come you know all this shit? You're not even going infantry.
Marks: We all got to do something like it. While you're at SOI I go to Marine Combat Training at the same place — only mine's a month. Then I go to A-school.
Young: What's the A stand for?
Marks: I don't know.
Young: And your buddy's really been there three months?
Marks: Far as I know.
Young: Where is it?
Marks: Up north.
Marks: The base up north. You know, Pendleton?
Young ceases polishing, and stares blankly at Marks.
Marks: Fuck me, Young. You're hopeless. Camp Pendleton is where we go for second phase. We run the Crucible there. You heard of the fucking Crucible?
Young: Yeah, asshole, I know what the fucking —
Enter Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson. Marks sees him first and pops to attention. Young follows suit.
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: All right, dick stains, you want the Crucible?
Marks and Young: No, sir!
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: Too fucking bad. Quarterdeck. Now.
Marks and Young: Aye, aye, sir!
Recruits exit the shower room running toward the quarterdeck, Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson strolls after them this time. Moments later we hear the slaying commence. Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson's voice is too fast to discern the different exercises he directs to the two recruits. And then the slaying ends and we hear footsteps slapping down the tiled hall. Young and Marks reenter the shower room, this time out of breath. They pick up their rags and move once more to the next shower tree.
Young: Maybe we should just clean?
Marks: Think it really matters?
Crouched in the shower room, they stare at each other for a moment. The distant shouting and yelling from the cleaning happening in the squad bay and other portions of the head and the sounds of anguish from the quarterdeck are their background. They resume cleaning.
Young: So. Camp Pendleton?
Marks: Yeah we go up there for rifle qual and the Crucible.
Marks: Like I said, second phase. So, like, a week?
Young: I wish I would've known all this shit. You're saying it's going to be five months before I even get to the fleet? Do we go right to SOI after basic?
Marks: We get ten days of leave after all this. And you could even get recruiter's assistance if you wanted.
Young: What the fuck is that?
Marks: You're fucking hopeless.
The camera PANS UP TO Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson standing with his arms crossed. The brim of his Smokey Bear hides his eyes and a smile graces his lips. We don't know how long he's been standing there, but we can assume quite a while.
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: Fuck me, right?
Marks and Young immediately pop to attention.
Marks and Young: No, sir.
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: Bullshit. Well, fuck you both. Get on my quarterdeck. Right. Fucking. Now.
Marks and Young: Aye, aye, sir!
The recruits exit at a run, slipping on the slick floor. The camera recedes into the far corner of the shower room, panning the chipped white tile studded by six immaculate shower trees. Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson, silhouetted in the opening, pivots on his heel and follows the recruits. We hear him whistling "The Marines' Hymn" down the hall. The chaos echoes off the mildewed walls and we can discern the counting of cadence and repetition from recruits on the quarter deck over all things. A recruit runs in and turns off the light. The caterwaul dies down, and is replaced with the preparation to sleep.
All Recruits: Good night, Chesty Puller, wherever you are!
Drill Instuctor Sergeant Anderson: Prepare to sleep!
All Recruits: (Collective intake of breath.)
Drill Instructor Sergeant Anderson: Sleep!
All Recruits: (Mass exhalation.)
Fade Out.CHAPTER 4
Seeking a Higher Power
THIS RECRUIT IS LOST. This recruit is lonely. This recruit has made a mistake. This recruit is not supposed to be here. This recruit misses his dog, and Steak 'n Shake patty melts, and sleeping in on Saturdays, and family, and choices, and love, and cigarettes, and his warm girlfriend, and falling asleep with his face buried in her hair, and his own hair — now mere stubble — and friends, and television, and his mother, who he's decided he's not really mad at.
Because this recruit is missing so many things, he is given replacements. This recruit has been given physical training, and screaming from his diaphragm, and motivation through hate and fear and collective punishment, and field day, and Brasso, and hygiene, and brotherhood.