They’d been living in West Pittston, taking care of one of the country’s more tenacious poltergeists. It had taken several months, and they’d actually been living in a house, for once.
One night, Dean’d been told to go to bed early. A few of his Dad’s old buddies, former Marines who lived in the area, were coming over to play poker around the kitchen table and reminisce.
Sammy was already in bed, but Dean didn’t want to sleep; he was ten years old, he was old enough to be up late. He’d crept out, tried not to be seen, but they caught him peeking around the kitchen door. They hauled him out, praising John on such a good-looking young kid. He’d called them all ‘sir’, and when he asked what kind of guns they had and they laughed at him, he'd tried not to be offended.
“Do you want to be a soldier like your Daddy?” one of them asked gruffly – his name was Bert. Bert was big, like a bear, and had red hair poking out the back of his Steelers cap.
“Yes sir,” Dean replied, with a look to his Dad. Instead of looking mad, John had a small smile on his face.
“Good boy,” crowed the one in the green business jacket, Karl. Karl sold cars now, but Dad had said he’d been his second-in-command. He was big, too, with a shiny bald head.
His Dad took hold of his arm, easing him out from Bert’s grip. “You run along, now, kiddo. Go watch some TV if you can’t sleep.”
He headed out of the kitchen, relieved his Dad hadn’t been pissed off. The fourth guy hadn’t said anything, but had refilled his shotglass twice in the time Dean had been in there. That meant he was probably drunk.
Dean watched TV for a while, then got up and turned the sound down. The men had started talking, tongues loosened by booze, and Dean was hoping to hear some Marines stories.
“Dammit, I swear…” The rest faded into a mumble. It was the fourth guy, the drunk one. Dean couldn’t remember his name – Bobo? Jocko? Something that wasn’t really a name.
“Yeah, I mean, what’s America coming to? This gay rights bullshit don’t belong in the country I fought for, that’s for sure,” Bert answered.
“All this crap about AIDS, and discrimination – did you know they can get married in Europe now?” It sounded like it wasn’t really a question, but Karl making a point.
“Fucking fags,” Bobo said venomously.
“It just ain’t Christian, is it? I mean, it says in the bible and everything,” Bert protested. Nobody disagreed with him, so he continued. “You know, I always wondered about Jenkins. Remember him?”
“That cocksucker,” Bobo muttered.
“Should’ve been kicked out of the corps. That sort don’t make a good soldier,” Karl concluded.
Dean listened carefully, but John never said a word. It must be true then – that sort mustn’t make a good soldier.