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New author untold story, Unbreakable Bonds, sisters in uniform

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M.J. (KTBradshaw) | 3 comments New story covering the military experience of four women of color:



Coming Monday: UNBREAKABLE BONDS:SISTERS IN UNIFORM



For a while it seemed as if they were driving into the dark depths of an abyss.   The road appeared to have no signs of life nor light, as they continued into pitch blackness while Torian stared blankly out of the window of the bus she’d boarded from the airport.  The day had been extremely long having left MEPS in Atlanta and flying to San Antonio by way of a layover in Chicago.  When they handed her the tickets back in Atlanta, Torian’s face perfectly illustrated the frustration she felt having to take an extra flight, seeing as how she was already nervous about flying for the first time anyway.  Of course with no other choice she’d sucked it up, because there she was in San Antonio, Texas, despite her grievance with what she’d considered geographic illogic.  She figured it to be at least post midnight as the exhausted brakes of the bus hollered and screeched as it slowed to a complete stop in front of a three story building.  Despite being afflicted with sleepiness, she opened her tired eyes as wide as she could, attempting to take in as much as she could of her new surroundings as the bus’s remaining occupants were prompted to exit.
 
“Here goes”, she rose up and said, trying to push down the anxiety that’d been building up since first leaving the airport.  A lump of it seemed to rest in between her chest and stomach, so she took a deep breath in and exhaled in an attempt to suppress it, but that did nothing to the knot of tension that had a hold on her.  As she was rushed off of the bus, she found herself at the end of a line of about seven other girls, different races, ethnicities, all teenagers themselves.  They were lined up under the awning of an aged tan building where the raptors were home to a mass of pigeons that made the ground below their personal latrine.  With slow and heavy feet, a man small in stature, at about five foot five, paced back and forth down the line of girls watching them all with a hungry set of eyes.  His look, Torian thought, was reminiscent of a lion or wolf circling its prey.   He, himself was completely silent, save for the taps on the bottom of his black boots that made an incredulous click-clack sound with each and every one of his strides.   
 
Torian studied him back.  Her recruiter had prepared her for this.  He will yell, he will curse, no biggie, she thought snug in the shelter of her own mind.  How bad could it be, she told herself determined to remain calm.  This will be like home, same stuff, different voice.  Finally the pint sized uniformed man broke his silence with a voice that sounded as if he’d had a megaphone glued to his lips.  
 
Addressing them all he shouted, “YOU MAGGOTS WILL NOT MAKE IT IN MY AIR FORCE!”
 
Then he got up close and personal, and one by one, went thru the line, harassing and badgering them with questions and insults.  His tone and words along with the harsh San Antonio summer heat were fiery, making them all perspire a little harder that late night/early morning.  He started from the right side of the line and made his way to the left, finding a way to make a spectacle out of each girl.  For example, one girl had two huge suitcases that she’d brought with her. 
 
He got in her face and yelled “You freakin’ dummy did you pack your whole life up to come to basic training.”  And the price for her mistake was a game of pick up and put down.  She picked up the suitcases; she put down the suitcases…over and over again. 
 
He moved on down the line of teens, but instructed her to keep picking them up and putting them down.  Torian maintained indifference throughout it all.  Though out of her peripheral vision, she could see that the two girls to her right were nowhere near the serene Zen space she’d mentally placed herself in.  She could see one of them shaking with freight, while the close contact she had to the other one had her feeling her nervous energy as it resonated and vibrated through her shaky arm that rested beside Torian’s.  Yet Torian’s attitude remained smug.  She was so sure that her cool would be maintained when her time to roast finally came.  I did not come here thinking it was going to be Disneyland, so bring it on, she continued thinking. 
 
As the TI moved down the line, three girls away from Torian, he found his next victim chewing bubble gum.  She was about five foot three so he yelled over the top of her head, “Make me a gigantic bubble right now!”  And after she’d followed his instruction, he moved on to the next girl, but then popped back in front of the girl with the bubble in front of her lips and said, “And if it pops, I’m sending you home!”
 
The girl standing just to the right of Torian had a purse on her arm, that she was clutching very tightly, it felt as if all of the nervousness in her body was resting in that one arm, so of course it stood out like a sore thumb to the T.I.  He jumped into her face and screamed, “Why in the hell do you have that purse on your arm?”
 
The girl struggled to answer, nervously saying, “I—I- don’t know sir.” And her voice wavered with fear and intimidation.
 
“I know why!  Because you are a freaking idiot”, he shouted!
 
“You!” he said, pointing to Torian, “Look at her and tell her you are a freaking idiot!”
 
His words and actions were finessing and stroking her funny bone making Torian weak.  Swirling inside of her mind was a deadly combination of fear, humor and confusion all mangled up together.  She looked over at the girl as instructed and caught a glimpse of the girl picking up the suitcases and putting down the suitcases, the girl with the huge bubble protruding from her face and she could still feel the tension in the arm of the girl next to her gripping the hell of her purse, as if she’d robbed a bank and it was filled with unmarked funds.  
 
The TI’s merciless humiliation of everyone was way too comical for Torian, and of the cluster of emotions that were simultaneously plaguing her, it was humor that leaped out front and took lead as she watched what seemed to be an ‘In Living Color’ skit unfolding before her eyes.  She was prepared for the yelling, she was even prepared for a little fear, she was not prepared to have her funny bone stroked and tickled so gingerly, but it felt like that’s exactly what was happening to her.  It was absolutely one of the most funniest things she’d ever seen or witnessed.
 
Impatient with Torian’s delay, the TI yelled, “I said look at her and say you are an idiot!”
 
Afraid to insult the girl, but more afraid to not comply, Torian mumbled hesitantly, “You---are an idiot.”   And as the words left her mouth, her face literally ached while she continued her struggle of holding in what was surely a gut busting laugh.   She was fighting against the laughter so hard, she had to try to clench her mouth shut.  Despite her painful attempt, it was not working.   She could literally feel the back of her lips sliding up against her teeth in protest.  She felt as though her stupid facial muscles had decided to turn on her, because they would not listen to the message coming from her brain telling her: stop smiling you idiot.   And of course the dopey grin that refused to stay concealed got the attention of the TI and he went in on her.
 
“Wipe that stupid smirk off of your face, now!  NOW!”, the TI hastily reiterated.
 
And poor Torian wanted to adhere to his commands, but it was too late.  She was suffering from complete hysterics on the inside.  It was as if an invisible feather was tickling her rib cage because the goofy smile on her face just would not leave, despite the dire straights she was placed in because of it.
 
The TI appeared to grow furious at her lack of discipline.  He said, “Okay Chuckles, I tell you what, everyone else inside. Chuckles, you stay right here!” 
 
And the other girls rushed up into a stairwell and out of Torian’s sight.  As everyone else fled into the building, she wondered what she had gotten herself into. Here she was not even a week out of high school, states away from home, on a military base with a man yelling obscenities and hurling insults at her. 
 
“You know what Chuckles, I’m putting you back on that bus.  Go home and laugh with your mama.” 
 
And things got too real for Torian when she heard those words.  Her humor dominated adrenaline was quickly sobered.  Home and to mama was not where she wanted to go or be.   Home was a single wide trailer in a single traffic light town, where the local cemetery boasted plots and headstones for any and everyone’s dreams who remained there.  And as far as her mother was concerned, the last words she’d shared with her weeks before leaving had been about Tori never being anything.  No way did she want to run back to her with her tail between her legs.
 
“You got that stupid smile on your face!  Do you think this is a joke?  Huh?”
 
Torian stood silently, unsure if his question warranted an answer.
 
Then the TI yelled, “Why are you here?!”
 
Quick on the draw, she answered, “Because freedom isn’t free and I want to serve my country!” 
 
“Bullshit”, he yelled only centimeters from her face where his saliva did not have to travel far to reach her skin. “What, did you read that off of a freaking t-shirt?”   And more liquid hit her face as his mouth made the f sound.
 
But the truth was, she actually did.  That statement was what was on her recruiter’s shirt as he dropped her off at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Atlanta; that and three numbers 3 2 1 followed by the three letters T R S, Torian vividly recalled.
 
Again he yelled with phonetic and dramatic pauses in between his words, “WHY…ARE… YOU HERE?”
 
Torian thought for a second.  That answer was simple. She’d signed up for the Air Force weeks before she even graduated high school after a visit from an Army recruiter.  With him, was a boy Torian knew all of her life.   His family like hers didn’t have anything and he was of course expected to walk that same path to nothingness.  But there he stood proudly in his uniform looking like someone’s something.  Torian questioned him about the Army and he recommended that she do the smart thing he should have done and go into the Air Force.  So that was what she set her mind on.
 
Wiping streaming tears away from her once emotionless face, Torian finally answered “For a better life.” 


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