Friday. 2243 HRS. Winchester Tavern.
You scrape at the thin layer of icy-slush clinging to the side of your mug with your index finger as you work to free a piece of spicy peanut stuck to the back of your tooth with your tongue. On the TV overhead Baez grounds into an inning-ending double play sending the table of over-dressed brokers behind you into a chorus of boos sprinkled with a few ‘slightly’ racist remarks. Luckily ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is blasting from the jukebox for the third time this hour and Steve Perry is doing a knockout job drowning out the most malicious of names before they can reach anyone who might take offense.
‘Oh man, that grenade rolled across the floor and literally came to rest up against my boot’ you overhear the guy a few seats down from you say to the pasty dude sitting next to you.
‘Holy sh--, what did you do??’ asks the off duty computer repair tech.
‘I put a couple of rounds through the door where that POS tossed it from, Man. Way I figured, I had two choices: dive and take cover, or accept that I was about to get tore up, return fire, and send him to his virgins.’
‘Dang man, that’s crazy’
‘Yeah, turned out it was a dud though, never went off, I just counted it as another one of my nine-lives getting used up. Shoot, by that deployment I think I had been through at least seven’.
With that, the Dude and Geek Squad both let out a huge laugh as you roll your eyes and take another swig from your frosty mug.
‘So, were you in Iraq or Afghanistan?’ Geek Squad asks, leaning in with the intrigue of a four year-old at a puppet show.
‘Both, I spent like seven years total over there, in the sh--, getting’ shot at every dang day’ Captain America replies, taking care to keep staring ahead for dramatic effect. ‘Combat became a way of life for me, you know?’
‘I can imagine… what were you? Special Forces or something?’
‘Nah, not technically. I was support, but over there everybody is basically infantry, kicking in doors and sh—‘.
Trying not to spit your drink back into your mug, you hold it to your mouth to conceal the huge grin that has spread across your face. Realizing that you can’t take anymore and are about to call ‘B.S.’ to this dude’s face, you push your stool back and make a run for the bathroom.
As you stand there in the bathroom downloading your first few rounds and reading about some girl named Carey who is apparently really fun, you remember back to all those guys in your different units who were just like this jabrone, and there were a lot of them.
Shaking it off, you hit the sink, check your teeth for any more rogue hunks of peanut in the mirror and make your way back out to your seat. As you walk past Captain America you notice he is wearing a schmedium tee that reads something to the effect of ‘Dysfunctional Veteran: Don’t Feed after Midnight’ on the back. ‘Of course he is’ you think as you sit back down, just as Baez redeems himself by driving one into the gap in center.
The brokers bro-scream their approval behind you as you ask the bartender to bring you a side-car of something harder to pass the time until your buddies decide to show up. As soon as she turns to walk away Geek Squad, harnessing his liquid courage, slaps you on the shoulder and asks you in a slurry-voice ‘are you hearing this sh--?? This guy was in a helicopter that got shot down! ….twice!’
‘Amazing’ you deadpan, not even breaking stride as you toss another handful of nuts in your mouth, conducting a quick recon for an alternative stool.
Turning back to Captain America, Geek Squad tells him to tell you the story about how he was ambushed in the mountains in Afghanistan and his squad was pinned down, but he was able to call in a Spectre gunship to wipe out the Taliban just as he and his boys were starting to run low on ammo.
‘I dunno, I don’t like talking about that stuff’ Captain America tells Geek after noticing the buddy bracelet on your wrist. ‘Hey buddy, you serve?’ America asks you instead.
‘Yeah’ you reply.
‘No sh--?’ he says as Geek Squad leans back, quickly realizing he is out of his element.
‘Where at? Iraq? Afghanistan? How many deployments?’
‘I was around’ you reply, taking a sip of the Kentucky’s finest the bartender just set in front of you.
‘OIF? OEF? Army? Marines?’ America asks you again, growing a little concerned you might have heard more than one of his stories.
‘I fought in stuff’ you tell him as you polish off your shot, grab one last handful of nuts, heading over to meet your buddies that just walked in the door.