58. Taliban Bait

Taliban Bait

So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.

Genesis 26:30

Jaggers sat beside me on my cot, elbows propped on his knees tilting back and forth in his usual manner, a continuous restlessness not restricted to his legs. His name fit him well. Though he looked nothing like the young Mick Jagger, he carried both his name and his lean, shredded body as if he had as many female followers as the lead singer of the Rolling Stones. His cockiness and vanity mixed with his subtle humor always kept me questioning to what extent he truly was a douchebag or simply portraying a comical caricature of one. Douchebag or not, I loved the guy for reasons I can’t explain. Like Dust,1 I was surprised to find myself so oddly transfixed by and drawn to a Marine whose personality contrasted so starkly with mine. I guess his ability to charm women extended to straight, virgin men as well. 

We had just finished working out in our dusty, makeshift gym consisting of rings strung to engineer’s stakes stabbed into HESCOs, TRX straps and mud-filled ammo cans. Rations sprawled to our feet as we prepped our post-workout meal.

Leg day at Panda Ridge

“You lookin soft Decoup,” he said, tilting his bony jaw in my direction and reaching over to pinch what little body fat accumulated at my waist when seated and slouched.

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” I said, looking down, lifting my shirt and erecting my posture.

“Nah man, you see this?” He sat up, lifting his skivvy shirt, tensing his torso, bending his elbow and slowly hovering his flattened hand across his rippled abdomen like a gameshow model unveiling the car behind door number 3, “This takes dedication, discipline.”

“All that takes is starvation. You’re what, six foot, 165?”

“170.”

“You gotta eat bro.”

“Well what the fuck do you think I’m doin’?” He turned his sour look to his feet, shuffled through his care package, grabbed a can of tuna, cracked it open and handed it to me. “Don’t worry, I’ll share with your fat ass.”

True to his word, without me saying a word, Jaggers fed us well. After a can of tuna, half a beef stick and his uneaten MRE crackers, I had my fill. Then he pulled them out. Girl Scout cookies.

“You’ve been waitin’ for these, haven’t ya?”

“Oh no thanks, I’m good.”

“Bullshit. I seen you eyeballin’ ‘em for the past five minutes.” 

My face flushed red. “I wasn’t staring at them.”

“I thought Christians weren’t supposed to lie.”

“Uh, I – ”

“Don’t worry Decoup, I’m a generous guy. I got you,” he said, slapping two Thin Mints into my hand. He leaned forward, foraging through his First Strike Ration and then sat up with a packet of peanut butter “I got a little extra motivation too.”

Three Thin Mint peanut butter sandwiches later, I finally worked up the gumption to refuse a fourth. “Thanks, but no thanks,” holding two more cookies pinched between his fingers he tipped them up again. “Seriously, I’m hurting.”

“You sure?” He said, retracting his hand. “We ‘aint comin back here for like a week and I’m not bringin’ this shit with us.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Without breaking eye contact or his doubtful expression, he slowly returned his offer to what little remained of the stack. “Fuckin’ pussy.” I laughed. Jaggers broke contact and returned the cookies to his box. “So what do you think of Opening Gambit, you ready for this shit?” 

“Yeah. I think it’s cool that the battalion commander chose our platoon to be part of the main effort.”

“You’re goddamn right it’s cool.”

“What about you?” I said.  After what happened to you guys up north, you ready for more?”

With his elbows returned to his knees continuing his habitual bobbing and staring at the ground he said, “Hell yeah.” Several sways later he turned to look at me with a smirk, “I’ve always wanted to be Taliban bait.”

  1. My best friend from the Marine Corps whom I wrote about in several posts. The first post where I meet him is called Patrol.

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