There were two or three stragglers who couldn’t keep up

with the rest. I said to the captain, “What should we do about

the stragglers?” He said, “Shoot them. Stragglers are often

captured by the enemy and tortured until they reveal our where-

abouts. It is best to not leave them behind.” I went back to

the stragglers and told them that my orders were to shoot them.

They started running to catch up with the rest. Then a sniper

was shot out of a tree. “Good work,” said the captain. Then

we climbed a mountain. Once we were on top, the captain said,

“I’ll give a hundred dollars to anyone who can spot the enemy.”

Nobody could. “We’ll spend the night here,” the captain said.

I was appointed first lookout. I smoked a cigarette and looked

into the forest below through my night-vision glasses. Something

moved, but it was hard to tell what it was. There was a lot of

movement, but it didn’t seem like men, more like animals. I soon

fell asleep. When Juarez tapped me on the shoulder to tell me he

would take over, he said, “You were asleep, weren’t you?” I

stared at him with pleading eyes. “The captain would have you

shot, you know?” I didn’t say anything. The next morning Juarez

was missing. “Captain, do you want me to send out a search party?”

I said. “No, I always suspected he was with the enemy,” he said.

“Today, we will descend the mountain.” “Yes, sir, captain,” I

said. The men tumbled and rolled, bounced up against trees and

boulders. Some of them broke their arms and noses. I was standing

next to the captain at the bottom of the mountain. “Shoot them

all!” he ordered. “But, captain, they’re our men,” I said. “No

they’re not. My men were well-trained and disciplined. Look at

this mess here. They are not my men. Shoot them!” he again

ordered. I raised my rifle, then turned and smacked him in the head

with the butt of it. Then I knelt and handcuffed him. The soldiers

gathered about me and we headed for home. Of course, none of us

knew where that was, but we had our dreams and our memories.

Or I think we did.

JAMES TATE