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  • There is a rythym to Parris Island. A reason to its madness.
    The way to survive it is simple, the boy has discovered. Think only as far ahead as you have to. If you have just awoke, think only to breakfast. If you are in the middle of the day, when your sweat pours down your shirt to attract sand fleas, think to lunch. If you have made it to dinner, think of bed. All these things are going to happen. They are events that are non-negotiable, and everything in between can be survived.
    He was never on the football team, or any sports group. The boy has never had anyone, a man, scream at him. Tell him what to do. The drill instructors live up to their reputation. He is worthless, less than nothing. Shit. Fucking Shit. A motherfucking cock-sucker of a piece of fucking dogshit. The profanity is endless and endlessly creative. For the first week, at night, he cries in his bunk out of sheer panic.
    His name is now Recruit.
    All his life the boy has gone by James. Only his grandfather called him something different, before the cancer took him. Now he is recruit. He thinks of himself in the third person, not as A Recruit, but This Recruit. Which is the special and non-obvious way you ask to go to the bathroom. The procedure is a complex one. It starts by you standing at the position of attention and screaming, at the top of you lungs,
    "SIR! RECRUIT MICHAEL REQUESTS PERMISSION TO SPEAK TO DRILL INSTRUCTOR STAFF SERGEANT MARTINEZ SIR!"
    The two responses possible are,
    "Shut your fucking dicksucker."
    or
    "Speak, freak."
    Once given permission to speak,
    "SIR! RECRUIT MICHAEL REQUESTS PERMISSION TO MAKE A HEAD CALL SIR!"
    if permission is given
    "Fly."
    the response is
    "AYE SIR!"
    A naval terminology.
    Next to the bathroom, in front of it, are pictures of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States. In order to empty you bladder, you must first turn your head in the direction of the smiling frozen face of George W. Bush, and scream,
    "GOOD MORNING, GENTLEMEN!"
    Or afternoon, or night.
    If the Drill Instructor is feeling malevolent, he will count backwards from ten in order to ensure a properly fast-paced piss.
    All of this is enough to crush the spirit of most any teenage boy, except one who has learned to only think of his next meal, or his next nights sleep. The next meal, process, in and of itself, is unique.
    The platoon is organized into formation. Without going into too much detail about military drills and marching, this is four lines of men. Up front are the four squad leaders, sort of higher-ranking recruits, but not really. More like the scapegoats that are given more hell for the platoons imagined slights and deficits. At the very front is the guide holding the standard. A standard is a small flag, of a gold eagle globe and anchor on a red background, also bearing the platoons number, in this case 3070. The recruits are taught fanatical loyalty to this number. It will come to represent their very soul.
    For lunch time, or "noon chow" as its properly known, the recruits march in formation over to the chow hall. Once at the facility the recruits peel off, while still standing in formation, to enter the chow hall. The recruits are arranged in order of height in the platoon. Michael is 5'11', and somehow he manages to make it to the very middle, no matter which squad is allowed to go first.
    The recruits hold their trays in front of them, while still maintaining the position of attention. Drill Instructors are omnipresent. Like a rabid bear, eye contact must be avoided. If eye contact is made, this is known as "eyeballin", and chow may be in jeapourdy. Sometimes a drill instructor will pull a recruit out of line and thrash him for not giving the proper greeting of the day. These events are random and meaningless.
    The chow hall is staffed with recruits. When in front of a recruit, clothed in white and armed with tongs or a serving ladel, you must sound off,
    "MEAT RECRUIT!"
    or
    "STARCH RECRUIT!"
    or
    "VEGETABLES RECRUIT!"
    but never
    "PASTRY RECRUIT!"
    and we will arrive at this later.
    Once your tray is laden with its meager fare, you must go to the table next to your fellow bald headed space monkeys, and eat as rapidly as possible. You are only authorized to use your right hand, and one utensil, the fork. The reason for this speed is simple. There is nothing a drill instructor hates as much as chow. At the fact that you are ENTITLED to chow. In the Old Corps, that possibly only exists in the Drill Instructors snuff-and-whiskey soaked mind, recruits barely ate. They were often beaten and sometimes killed. All of this made things the way they should be, but when the Mothers Of America interfered, with their bleeding hearts and liberal ways, changes were made to this Holy and Valued institution. All of this is gross oversimplification of decades of change to basic training policy, yet it has been passed on from Drill Instructor to Drill Instructor until it takes the value of Holy Writ. Thus, every recruit is given the opprutinity to eat. The last recruit, that is, the guide, is followed closely by the Drill Instructor. And if the Drill Instructor wishes to exercise malevolence, he will simply wait until the guide places the tray on the table, clamps both ass-cheeks to the seat, and the Drill Instructor will say,
    "Your finished, guide."
    To which the guide will respond
    "Aye sir. Get out, seventy!"
    And platoon 3070 will all rise as one body, and throw out their trays together. The slow will go hungry. But what of the pastry?
    One of the Drill Instructors will watch you get your food. There is a heirarchy to drill instructors, in the recruit training platoon. Deliniated by the color of their belts. There are three, and two wear green web belts with brass buckles. These DI's act as common brutes, for the most part, instruments of torture. But the Senior Drill Instructor wears a wide belt of highly glossed leather, with a gold buckle over his uniform. There is a mental game where this DI will sometimes pretend to be friendly to the recruits, as a sort of father figure. He will gently chide them, for lapses in behavior, such as using the first person "I" to describe themselves, or eating with the left hand or multiple pieces of silverware. The hungry recruit will ask for the offending item, and the Senior Drill Instructor will say,
    "Ah! Thompson. We eat pastries now."
    The recruit will stammer apology, and the Senior Drill Instructor will say, in the gentlest of tones,
    "I know you are sorry. Go ahead and eat. You'll pay later."
    And the murmer will go through the platoon, not said but more felt. Oh fuck. What will happen. Thompson got a pastry. Thompson, weak and needle nosed behind issued glasses. Thompson, who will have lost so much weight by the end of the three-month cycle that a fold of skin which used to be his belly will drape itself to his genitals, Thompson. After the guide has gone hungry and the platoon has marched back to its squadbay, the platoon will experience mass punishment.
    There is a great sand pit like a sandbox outside of the squadbays. Platoon 3070 is racing for it, all forty members. The position of attention is held for a few seconds, while the drill instructor joins them. Then its "intense physical training" also known as "curcuit traning" but more commonly known as "thrashing" by the recruits. Push-Ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers are performed. Within a few seconds of calling out one exercise another will be called out. The recruits will be soaked in an impossible sheen of sweat. Then a race up all three flights of stairs. Into the squadbay, where its more exercise, followed by forced hydration. A full canteen is brought to the lips, and the Drill Instructor counts backwards from ten for the thing to be drained. Followed by another race down the stairs, and a trip to the sand pit. Several recruits vomit at this point, but not Thompson, who is panting and out of breath, so the Senior Drill Instructor puts him in front of the platoon, calling out, "Do it for me!" As the hardier, more athletic recruits continue to suffer. At the very end, in the squadbay, standing at attention, Thompson finally spews chunks, and the Senior steps over and crows "There it is!" and "I told you I was going to get my god damn pastry!" While actually stepping IN the puke, as if this was the goal all along. And perhaps it was. And that is why we dont get pastries in the chow hall, but still look forward to eating as one of the highlights of the day.
    The other highlight, is, of course, bedtime. There is a routine before bed, where the recruits strip down to towels and scream while standing at attention
    "PORT SIDE BUFF EM OUT STARBOARD SIDE WASH EM OUT!"
    The drill instructor snaps "Move!" And the recruits scream
    "DISCIPLINE!"
    Half the recruits on the right side of the squad bay hurry into the showers, and the other half on the left side apply a wire brush to their suede boots. This is a mostly unnecesary action, and a holdover to an older time, just a couple of years ago, when recruits were issued black boots that needed to be highly polished. America's wars have since moved on to the desert. The recruits are issued digital MARPAT camouflage now, that need no ironing, and suede tan boots that need no polishing. Another small death to the beloved Marine Corps of memory. But the recruits are teenagers and scarcely know this unless they are told.
    After he has shaved the nothing on his baby face, washed his ass, and buffed his boots, Michael is standing and the position of attention. When the command is given for bed time, he leaps into bed, in the position of attention. The last command the Drill Instructor gives for the day is
    "Adjust!"
    the lights are turned off, and the recruits are given permission to move about freely in their beds as they sleep. But the day is not over yet. There is something called fire watch.
    Fire watch continues throughout the night. One recruit awake every hour, wearing full uniform, web belt, and cover. Carrying a red lense flash light. Michael's is from 0100-0200. The witching hours, but he has a special treat. Lila sent him a book in the mail, a paperback WEB Griffin that has something to do with World War 2. Ordinarily such a thing would be confiscated, or even thrown away during mail call, but the Senior merely tossed it at him. Hidden inside was a Game Boy, with a copy of Metroid. Lila knows her stuff when it comes to the old retro games, Michael has to admit. And he's grown enthralled with his nights spent up playing Samus Aran in power armor. It seems to put things in a sort of perspective, despite the sleep he is losing. The game progresses, and so does he, little by little, each training day moving along.
    Things happen in the middle of the night. Recruits sit up bolt upright and scream
    "AYE SIR!"
    Recruits get out of bed in PT shorts and green t-shirts, and stand on the line at the position of attention. All of this is part of the brain-washing. Which is more of a brain re-wiring, per se. Marines are molded from the mind, the ideas must be changed first. Salt peter is rumored to be put into the food as an anti-arousal agent, and Michael's dick is quite limp and useless. There are twelve general orders which he has memorized. He checks the clock until fifteen minutes prior to the time when he would be getting off, and wakes the next recruit. There is a specific way to sleep in boot camp, not under the covers so that they are made perfect at all times, but underneath a poncho liner. Until morning comes and the fire watch screams
    "LIGHTS! LIGHTS! LIGHTS!"
    And its bolt upright to the painted line and the position of attention, with another chow to look forward to.
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