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by Robert Libbey

Rowdy whoops from the backroom echo through to the kitchen, as Dominic — the sous chef (and petty tyrant) — maniacally quarters then mallets the chicken to mince before interrogating the eggplant.

Prisoners in their makeshift compound, the lobsters huddle in one corner.

Like Adam in the bible I’ve named them all (after my buddies from the old squad). It gives me creature comfort spending breaks sending words of encouragement through the glass: (That’s right, Norman — best of buds — burrow under!)

***

Four-star stickers dot the door. Please! Inspect the linen. What’s the use: since the discharge, a job’s a job, but honorable? Guess it beats the VA. And hey, free food (but after watching Dominic, who has the stomach?)

Rent asunder, dispersed to four corners, what’s left of the former unit’s been incommunicado — all calls: unanswered. How I hunger for a few, choice words!

“You can’t blame yourself,” Dr. Kahn had said. Trapped, alone with my thoughts, what’s sleep? And, when (or) if, then: those dreams! (I told you, doc, that day, I can’t escape …)

***

“Snap to it!” Found out by Victor (the maître d; our commandant): he marshals the infantry of waiters: “On to entrée!” A rack of tapas plates to clear, these backroom jackals command more: “Feed us!”

Unstable, I roll out the tank on a makeshift cart … Wild-eyed, the fat fingers pointing … (Have heart, Norman — for god-sake: hide!)

No time to think — something clicks — a plan arises: a second chance. “Hold on there, pals,” I hear my voice say. “Get back here!” Victor’s voice strafes dead air …

Out the door already, no turning back. Into the breach and (hanging on for dear life) … down the ramp. The parking lot, a clear runway … just four clicks to go: “Hang in there, guys, we’re going home!”


Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, New York. He has recent work at Literary Orphans, Ligeia, Anti-Heroin Chic, Spelk, Cabinet of Heed, Drunk Monkeys, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and other places.