GOODBYE, SOUL BROTHER or The Cavalry of Ten Thousand Horses - I: The Green Hell / 10: Ask Me No Secrets*
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That’s what Zev had always ordered. “Did you shave this morning, trooper?” “Yes, sir.” “With what, trooper?” “Issue, sir.” “Carry on, trooper” and “Did you field strip ‘Judy?’” “Yes, sir.” “Carry on, trooper” and the day he’d motored away “Have you breezed the equine troopers?” “Yessuh.” “Carry on, John.”
* * * * *
John Henry Bowers, the stable sergeant, carried on alone. The son of ole Bob Bowers, he was, like Major Treat, his father’s son and as such he had a gleaming smile which, being so dark, was like the flash of piano keys, but not always cheerful. A counterfeit smile when flashed at people, a cheerful smile when flashed at the equine troopers of which there were eight: two bays, two dark bays, two roans and two chestnuts. And there were eight belles, one hung at the stall of each horse, engraved with that horse’s serial number (this number also being branded on the left side of the horse’s neck; the US Army’s brand being branded on its left shoulder), his official identity. Of John’s official identity next to nothing was known. Known fact: John was black. Unknown fact: everything else. His personal history was a secret story, though it was hardly a secret that he was the best with the horses, the kindest to the FuPegs and softest speaker, when he spoke, just like the major was a stiff, rusted walker, when he walked.
Not much to say, to talk about. The weather? The stink? The free-shitting FuPegs? All old news. John couldn’t talk about a base stolen to win the game because he’d never stolen one. Couldn’t reminiscently talk about a catching a pass or rushing a passer because he’d never been a pass catcher or rusher. Never hit one out of the park or sacked a quarterback or caught a forward pass though he believed baseball and football were each a great sport. No athlete, John Henry Bowers, but he was expert at taking care of them: thoroughbreds, thoroughly bred and trained to behave at the gate, to burst from it, to switch leads. John’s secret asset was that he’d worked and lived on the backstretch: hot walker, excerise rider, if a horse needed it done John had done it and for many stables at many tracks and his father had done it for the colonel. When he died Will Harbut took over, called the colonel “da mostest” and narrated his life for visitors. If they came while the colonel was resting or simply not in the mood to receive visitors, Will simply told them that they would “meet da col’nel when da col’nel ready to meet em” and sometimes he never was. Happened during John’s father’s time too. You could rush a passer, couldn’t rush the colonel. You could hit a homerun, couldn’t hit the colonel. And you couldn’t get John to say one more word than was necessary. Yessuh. Nahsuh. Mornin’, suh. No inquiries about mood or intentions. Unnecessary. He didn’t need to speak. He observed:
The cap’n had a secret hello for his secret lover that signaled the site of their secret meeting. The major had a secret practice of coming to the stables just for the company of the horses. Papa Clem had secret psalm that he recited before Sunday service31. The doc had a secret doubt about his skills as a surgeon. Not once in Fusaichi had he said, “Scalpel, please.” The el tee had made a secret promise of adoration to Sarah Lynx. The bean king had a secret plot to sabotage Zev at dinner time, but Zev had left. “Big Mike” Bodgit made a secret oath to become more than the “town mayor,” by becoming the John Frum of Fusaichi32. Kilroy made a secret proposal to a female FuPeg at the pine bluff: KILROY PROPOSED HERE. John had a secret verdict about the squadron’s trial in Fusaichi: guilty. Maybe not a fair trial. Maybe their presence was on a trial basis. But there is no way to skip trial by God. Can’t skip away from His judgement.
All secrets. But there was a bigger secret to keep from the squadron and Capt. Shuvee arrived to report it.
31The war is won, Your will be done in Fusaichi as it is in the world. You are our shephard, we shall not weep, our faith in You we will keep in Fusaichi as in the world. Damn us now or save us soon, dispatch Your deliverance to the radiotelegraph room. We breathe Your flatulence, we endure Your judgement. Endure us. Forgive us. As you endure and forgive the world.
32The god of cargo cults who brings wealth and prosperity to those who worship him.
*Ask Me No Secrets - couldn't figure out how to make the chapter title bold.
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