I finished the letter home. It wasn’t my best work because I kept nodding off. Nodding off but not sleeping. I nodded through the letter, forgetting about what I was going to tell my wife, instead going into detail about how much Casey reminded me of Kramer, the major at the Basic School who’d hated me. And I him. Upon graduation, that mutual hatred had cost me becoming a Regular Marine, as opposed to the Reserve Marine I was. Certain benefits accrued to regular Marines that did not to reserves. I realized in writing that I still didn’t know what those benefits were. Kramer was Regular so I did not want to be whatever the hell he was. I turned down the regular commission I was entitled to because of winning the Military Skills Award in my class. Casey, like Kramer, didn’t like me from the get go, on sight, and we both knew it. He liked Billings, and probably even Keating, but not me. It came out of him in waves of negative energy washing over me whenever I was in his presence. I knew he saw me as an ‘unconventional officer’ creature. A non-Marine. A Marine who did not obey the rules, and that was no Marine to him at all. And yet, at the Basic School, I’d been deeply disliked for being so strict a Marine. So strict and so reviled for having a ‘stick up my ass’ that my fellow class members had stolen my overcoat. I knew it was not another officer in the class.

It was them. All of them. The expensive piece of gear, required to graduate, along with the Mameluke Sword, was a prized possession. They’d trashed my coat to let me know that I was out in the cold alone, as far as they were concerned. And it had hurt, as they intended it would. I wondered what any of them would think about the wet, muddy, miserable and leech-scarred mess of a lieutenant I’d become in only eleven days. They’d laugh no doubt and, the phrase “I told you so,” would pop out all over. And they’d be right. Except for the ones like me that went into the shit. They’d say nothing. They’d be creatures of the jungle night like me. Silent. Deadly silent.