Saturday, October 29, 2005


Crackwater U.S.A. Security Center, Fort Braggart, East Carolina. 0900 hrs.
They finally responded. Over the past three years, I had sent the infamous private-contracting firm over 200 resumes, 600 letters, twelve videos of me putting my mom in various compliance holds, and ten mix tapes of my fave country songs. I was beginning to consider giving up when they called me for an interview.
"Interview's tomorrow at 0900," the man who called had said. "We won't give you directions."
"But...I get lost easy," I'd replied.
"Good. We don't need know-it-alls. I'll fax you a Mapquest printout. One more thing..."
"Bring your balls. You'll need 'em." And that was that.
It sounded like my kind of interview--the kind where you show your testicles to another man. I would be dealing with fellow hardcases, badasses, and thus I would be right in my element. The job was mine to lose. I don't lose.
The Crackwater offices were in a strip mall, sandwiched between a TCBY and a Christian bookstore. I parked where they could see me from the office window, hoping they would notice the 45-m.p.h. J-turn I executed. I doubt they heard the thump--I had slid a bit more than I intended to and nudged a black S.U.V. sporting the Crackwater logo. No damage done. That quarter panel would pop right back into place, and their side-view mirror looked loose anyway. I smoothed out a few wrinkles in my custom-made mauve BDUs and patted down my crotch to double-check. Yep. They were still there. If Crackwater wanted to see cajones, I was gonna show 'em a bucketful. I exited the car and secured it, hoping again that they were watching as I pivoted and in one swift move slashed the front left tire, thwarting any would-be car thieves. I stood as erect as possible--or rather, I stood as well as I possibly could considering how erect I was--and walked into the office.
The first thing I noticed was the smell. Sweat, cordite, and counterfeit Hugo Boss cologne. It was a man's world, all right. Just in front of the walnut-and-carpet reception desk was a life-sized cardboard cutout of famed ex-commando Andy McNab, unshaved and staring off into space with a rifle in his hand and military gear spread around his feet. You must be this macho to ride, the sign warned. I was.
"May I help you?" She appeared from behind the desk like an angel appearing from behind a desk, a hot little number with blonde hair and a rack you could balance a beer on.
"McFab," I said. "Randall Nathaniel. Reporting." She checked her papers.
"Oh, Randy McFab," she grinned. "Yes, glad you could make it. Mr. Bryan will be with you shortly." She motioned towards a chair and a coffee table spread with magazines. "You can have a seat and enjoy the latest Soldier of Fortune."
I paused. I'm a ladies man, after all, and couldn't resist. "You're hot, baby," I said, "and I haven't had sex in years."
"Oh, thank you," she said, chuckling. "I'm a total whore. A military whore. Spec-ops only. Well...Sometimes I gain weight during the holidays," she admitted, "then airborne's okay, too."
"So...Maybe..." I tried.
She glanced at her paperwork. "But you're not military," she said. "Have a seat, please."
I sat. I realized I was important to them when after only three hours she called me.
"Mr. Bryan will see you now," she said. "Third door on your right. Tell him he's hot," she added in a whisper.
Chad Bryan, the plaque on his door read, and then it hit me. Chad Bryan! He was the ex-British Special Forces guy who had escaped certain capture in Iraq by Rollerblading 1200 miles across the desert until finally finding safety in a Syrian fusion restaurant. He was a hero to every soldier who shopped at The Gap, and here I was about to meet him. I took a deep breath, hoping I was ready, and knocked.
"Come," a voice called from inside. It took a few minutes.
"Almost...Almost there..." I panted.
"I meant come in!" he shouted. I entered the office.
"Sorry," I said, wiping my hands on my shirt. "Randy McFab."
"Chad Bryan." He ignored the handshake I offered. "Have a seat, McFab."
I took one of the chairs across from his desk and studied the man. He was huge, by British standards, which meant he went about 5'6" and 130 pounds. Due to inadequacies in the English diet, it's been proven that the more they lift weights, the smaller they get. Sort of like how, the more the limeys brush their teeth, the quicker their mouths end up looking like a piano keyboard painted by Dali. Poor bastards.
"I just want to say before we start," I said, "I respect you poncing limeys."
He suddenly looked angry. "Are you calling me a poncer?" he demanded.
"You're hot," I said, remembering the advice. "I love what you've done with your hair."
"Oh, thanks, mate," he said, smiling. "Can't have too much gel, now can you?" He opened a folder on his desk, studied it a few seconds, mussed his hair with both hands, and then fixed his gaze to mine. "I see your experience entails reading books and magazines, and watching movies about war," he said.
"Hell yes," I said. "I've read every book on Special Forces out there. I particularly liked your book, " I added, "The One Who Ended Up Being, Well, Rather Irrelevant."
"Ah, good, mate," he beamed. "So you have taste. The question is...Have you seen combat?"
"Combat?" I choked back the bitterness. "In fourth grade, a guy kicked my ass every day for a month, until finally my mom had to come to the school and demand they let me leave early, so he couldn't catch me."
"Interesting..." He cleared his throat. "Look, McFab, I'll be honest with you. We don't need you in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria...OOPS. Scratch Syria. We need men with actual combat experience in those areas, and we sorta-kinda," he winked, "try to keep those guys alive."
"I see," I said, tears forming in my eyes.
"But..." He pointed to a map of the U.S. behind his desk. "We DO need armed men with no sense of social obligation to operate here in the States. New Orleans, for instance." He smiled, and played with a calculator for a few seconds. "200 kills in New Orleans, is what we achieved," he said.
"Looters? Criminals?"
"We prefer to call them 'kills.' Pays the same." He produced a chart. "This," he said, indicating a line on the graph, "is the likelihood of a natural disaster, say, a snowstorm in Buffalo, occuring..."
"Right..." I tried to follow him.
"And this," he said, indicating yet another line, "is the number of blacks in the area where it might occur."
"Er...I see..."
"And this," he said, grinning triumphantly, "is how much money we'll make by taking over their neighborhoods."
I was a little confused. "I'm not sure I follow," I said. "Do you mean--"
"We'll issue you two pairs of Oakleys," he said. "And a mustache."
"But, I already--"
"An even bigger one."
"But, you're saying...It sounds kind of..."
"Racist?" he asked. "Yes, you are, if you hate white people, which I am beginning to suspect."
I was confused. "Mr. Bryan," I said, "I'm a patriot...I want to fight America's enemies, not Americans."
"Most poor people aren't American," he said, "in fact--"
I had had enough. "Your hair looks shit and you'll NEVER be a male model!" I screamed. "I grew up with poor black people, you racist, pale, veins-showing-through-your-skin fucking limey." I stood up.
"Are you questioning my tan?" Bryan demanded.
"Yes, and FUCK you and your inbred Queen!"

The McFab compound. 1400 hrs.
"It still hurts," I said.
"That mean ol' Englishman," my mom said, applying more ice to my black eye. "You did the right thing, honey."
I wondered. I could have been an independent contractor--that's new-fangled for "mercenary," and I could have wandered the poor neighborhoods of America with an Uzi, making up laws as I went along...
You know what, though? Even I have standards.