46. Skimpy Cop Costume

Skimpy Cop Costume

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.

Isaiah 55:9

Now I was in the fleet. No more spiffy gear, weapons, frat house barracks, or anything else cool for that matter. I was now an average, everyday, run-to-the-mill rifleman. Additionally, though I’d been a corporal for over a year by this point, my rank meant little to the other infantrymen. 

Just like any other Marine who enters their ranks, I needed to earn their respect. I’d heard stories of Marines in my position, corporals or even sergeants, coming to the fleet acting like they own the place and know everything. It didn’t go well for them. I was fine playing it cool for a while. Though I’d gained confidence in my skills as a shooter and overall infantryman, I didn’t want to presume anything, so I paid attention to the SOP’s1 during our training. 

Days in 2/4 were spent with day exercises in the nearby dirt pathways, hands on training with weapons, metal detectors, radios and other equipment, and a multiple day field training op about once every month. Though I hated sleeping in the dirt, I loved launching grenades out of my M-203.2Old, destroyed vehicles were scattered in some of the desert ranges that were used as targets for our explosives. I’d shoot out two grenades at the shattered humvees two to three-hundred yards away and adjust based on where the round exploded. By the third or at most fourth shot, I’d be dead on and could continue with ninety percent accuracy. You know you hit the target when the short, two-part sound sequence begins with a distinct cracking noise before the boom.

During that same range, earlier that day, I rested under a low bush a little over two feet high, lounging my legs out in the sun and propping one elbow up with my head and shoulders beneath the shade. One Marine walking by jokingly said,

“Be careful Decoup, a snake might get you!”

Pfft, I doubt it. I’m not worried about a snake.”.

About fifteen minutes later, I heard something that sounded like water behind me on the other side of the bush. It sounded like someone was pouring their canteen out or pissing on the ground. When I turned my head over my left shoulder, an uncertain blur of a body moved under the bush next to my head. A half-second later, I realized the watery noise was actually a snake’s rattle, as if the Marines warning was actually a curse summoning a rattlesnake to teach me a lesson. Without needing to see more, I sprung to my feet before I could blink.

Weekends at Camp Pendleton were great. While Dust was around, we’d hang out or work out together. When he was off at training he let me borrow his truck to drive down to the local beach town a few miles from base called San Clemente, where I would go on runs and set up my Olympic style rings on the pull up bars to do upper body workouts shirtless in the sun. Oftentimes too I’d meet up with some guys like Danson on the beach, since he went to 2/5, so his barracks was right next to mine.

One night Dust and I went on our monthly bro date at the OG, or as most people call it, Olive Garden. After enjoying some prime Italian food, Dust got a phone call as he drove home.

“Sup? I’m with my friend Decoup, we’re heading back to base from dinner. Oh yeah? Sweet I’m down. Yeah, for sure. Later.” Dust hung up the phone and looked over at me. “My buddy is at a bar just a few miles down, mind if we swing by?”

Ughhhh,” I moaned. “Dude, I hate bars. They’re loud, sticky, they stink and all I ever end up doing is sitting and watching people be idiots.”

“Come on, I just want to meet up with my boy and play a few rounds of pool.”

I sighed. “Fine.”

As soon as the door to the bar swung open, I immediately realized this night wasn’t any ordinary night. The place was packed to the brim, louder than ever, and people were all wearing disguises. It was Halloween.

We hung a left to the pool table tucked in a cramped space. Dust walked up to a guy, collided hands with him as if they were to arm wrestle, and then embraced, each slapping the other on the back. He introduced me, though I didn’t care to remember his name. I couldn’t even hear it with all the commotion in the building.

Quickly I found an open seat in the corner where I could sulk and watch Dust and his friend play pool. Propping my elbow up on the small end table, I rested my head into my right hand, already barely able to endure the atmosphere after five minutes. I yawned, glancing at my phone. 10:30? Ugh. If I were on base I’d have been in bed thirty minutes ago. Staying up late was always a drag for me.

About thirty minutes later, a short, petite girl wearing short-shorts, a low cut shirt and plastic handcuffs made her way towards Dust’s friend before they hugged. After chatting and flirting with them for a few minutes, she invaded my corner and sat at the chair next to me on the other side of the end table, my head still propped in my hand.

“You look like you’re having fun,” she said.

“Hah, yeah. My friend Phil dragged me in here. I’m really tired though. Not much of a night person.”

“Get an energy drink or somethin’, it’s Halloween!”

“Nah, I’m okay for now,” I mumbled.

“So where’s your drink?”

Before I could answer, Dust leaned into our conversation holding his pool cue and whispered not so quietly, “He’s a Christian.”

“Oh!” She said, perking up. “What church do you go to?”

“None at the moment. I’ve visited a few with my friend but haven’t landed anywhere.”

“You should come to South Shores!”

I looked up at her from my downturned head in disbelief. This chick goes to church? 

“Where is it?”

“It’s up in Dana Point.”

“Alright,” I said, still unenthusiastic as ever. “I got nothin’ better to do tomorrow morning. I’ll check it out.”

“Awesome! I think you’ll like it. If I see you I’ll say hi!”

The night dragged on longer than just “a few rounds of pool.” Some time around 0100, Dust and I finally made our exit. I took the keys and drove us home.

When I returned to my room, I briefly looked up the church online. The 11:00 service looked good. I had significant doubts though, considering I heard about it on Halloween, in a bar from a girl in a skimpy cop costume.

  1. Standard Operating Procedures.
  2. The M203 is a large tube attachment at the base of some of the M16 rifles that fires grenades. In civilian parlance, it’s a grenade launcher.

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