I stared at Jurgens, waiting for an apology I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear, and damned well knew I didn’t want to accept. The man was the epitome of a phrase I’d never used in my lifetime and had only heard about in occasional passing while I was in college. White trash. The phrase fit, even if only in the A Shau Valley the color part of the insult really mattered. And it mattered because Jurgens made it matter, not me. My own father was a racist, born and raised down in Texas, but the word trash didn’t fit at all with respect to him. The only exhibition of his prejudice I’d ever witnessed had been to ask my fourth-grade black best friend to get off our property in Michigan, which was terrible for me, but not a violent or killing move on his part. Trash, however, was a choice of lifestyle, and I’d never been forced to think about the applicability of the phrase until I was dropped into Jurgen’s life.

“For better or for worse,” the Gunny said, “we are all we have.”

“It don’t mean nuthin.’” Jurgens said, quietly, his eyes meeting my own with a mirrored distaste.