May 1, 2011
0400 Hours, Local Time
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
The sirens wail outside. Mortars are incoming. It’s happened every night this week. I can’t be bothered to run for the bunker. Why? Cause fuck it, that’s why. Leave that shit to the cherry fucks that still fear death. Instead, I’m going to light this cigarette and stay in my cot. We have a mission at zero-four-hundred, and I have no time to worry about this bullshit right now; nor do I have the patience to fuckaround with desk jockeys asking for a situation report at this time of night. So, fuck it. I’ll keep my ass in bed.
It’s not mayhem like you’d think when the sirens go off. Most people toe the line, put on their protective gear and walk in a straight line to the bunker. Others panic, and gather their gear in a hurry and sprint to the bunker like the bitches they are. Then there are the hardened, don’t give a fuck anymore types like myself. We stay in bed.
I pull an old Zippo lighter from my pocket and light my cigarette. I flick the lid open and closed, open and closed. It’s almost hypnotizing, and helps my mind to escape my current situation for a few seconds. A few seconds like that are precious, when you’re constantly under enemy fire.
My Dad gave me this Zippo when I enlisted in the Army. He bought it from a bazaar in Iraq, back in ‘91. He had the Army crest engraved on the side, along with the year he bought it. My old man wasn’t exactly thrilled when I told him that I planned on enlisting. He knew the pain and hardships I’d face, but he also knew that I wasn’t your typical “go to college and find myself” kind of guy either, so at a minimum, he accepted it. He’d retired just a few years before I joined in 2001; fresh outta high school with barely ten hairs on my nuts…but I was ready. At least I thought I was. It didn’t take long for me to find my footing.
After deploying to Iraq in 2003 and being a crucial part of the mission that would result in the capture of Saddam Hussein, I deployed three more times. Once more in Iraq, and two other times in Afghanistan. This is my last one; I’ve made sure of that. I’ve only got 30 days to get my shit together when we get back stateside, and once again I’ll be a civilian. I’ve missed that feeling of freedom, especially after fighting for it for all these years. Watching these miserable fucks on television piss and moan about how tough they have it is finally starting to get to me. These ungrateful fucks have no idea how tough life really is; few do.
I’m tired of the idolatry of these punk ass celebrities. The false idols believe that they can tell us – middle fucking America – how fucked up we are, and just us from the marble mansions made of glass. Fuck all that noise, I’m tired of fighting for those pussies. When I’m done with this final deployment – and don’t get me wrong, it’s been an absolute honor to serve our fine country for as long as I have – I’m getting back to defending what’s mine and mine alone. I’m ready to get away from protecting everyone, and only protecting what matters to me. My family.
It wasn’t too terribly difficult to deploy when I was single; shit, it was easy. But now, I’ve got Karen and she’s been through three of these fuckin’ things. It never gets easier to watch her cry, but it’s a job that we have to do. We’ve sworn an oath of the highest order, and it’s an oath I plan to fulfill until the day that I die; civilian or not. The last year, it’s become increasingly more difficult to deal with these deployments. We had our first child right before I left. Little Jebidiah; it’s a family name…go fuck yourself. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was shaking his little hand before I threw my duffle bag over my shoulder and boarded that C17. But here I am, and there they are; praying and hoping that Dad will be home soon. It’s a prayer that I plan on making come true. And I’m not going to just be Dad, I’m going to be the best damn Dad there’s ever been.
“Sergeant Solex!” The grumbling shout of an old man echoes through the tent. It’s the fuckin’ Sergeant Major. His Brooklyn accent is as thick as molasses and it gives him away every time. That prick is here to give me shit. I just know it.
“Where the fuck are you? You answer me, or I’ll rip out your fuckin’ heart and feed it to you. You muscle bound fuck!”
He’s a big fat fuck. Stands around six-feet-five, and I don’t give a rats ass what his evaluations say, the fucker is definitely over three-hundred-fifty pounds. I can hear him approaching my cot, so I hop to my feet quickly, stomping my cigarette out on the concrete floor. I snap to parade-rest and look him in the eye; he’s a couple of inches taller than me. He stands chest to chest with me. He breathes heavily from his nose, that short walk over to my cot must have gassed the old fat man.
“Yes, Sergeant Major?”
He doesn’t answer, he just eye-ball fucks the shit out of me. He looks me up and down, and scoffs.
“They say you’re a pretty good shot. But I think they are full of shit.”
I don’t know who he’s referring to, but they are right. I can shoot the wings off a mosquito at a hundred yards, and that’s on a stormy day. Give me the perfect elements, and I could do it at a quarter-mile.
“There’s a mission tonight, and the SEALs need a sniper for overwatch. You game?”
As if that’s a fuckin’ question and not a hint to pack my three-day bag and get moving.
“Yes, Sergeant Major. I’m game.”
“Well, you better fuckin’ be!” He roars jamming his finger into my chest. “You better not fuck this up Solex, this is a big deal.”
“Roger that,” I respond as I start packing up my gear.
“Be on the airfield at zero-five. They’ll be picking you up in a Blackhawk.”
“Yes, Sergeant Major. I’ll be there.”
He storms off but mutters “You better fuckin’ be,” making sure that he gets the last word in. I take a look down at my watch, and immediately my heart sinks.
“ZERO FOUR FIFTY ONE! What a prick!” Shit, I hope he’s out of earshot…but there’s no time. I’ve got nine minutes to get to the airfield, or I’m definitely in the shit. I pack my bag as quick as I can, and grab my sniper rifle for the top bunk as I bolt out of the tent. The sirens have finally stopped and incoming has suspended for now, but that was never of any real concern to me. The only concern I have now is getting to that airfield.
I run past hundreds of people as I barely hang on to my gear. I hear two inbound Blackhawks, and I know I better be on the landing zone before they are.
“In a hurry, Sarge!?” Some fuckin’ idiot asks as I ignore him and continue my dead sprint.
I made it.
Just in fucking time.
I drop my shit and double over resting my hands on my knees. I try to catch my breath before anyone notices, but it’s too late.
“What the fuck happened to you, Sergeant?!” The casual tone of Special Forces is music to my ears. I take one last gasp of fresh oxygen and look up. Seven grizzled men hop off the Blackhawk and walk over to me.
“SEALs?” I ask in my best Ron Burgundy impression.
“SEAL Team Six, asshole,” a bearded sailor grunts, his name tags and unit patches all stripped from his uniform.
Shit just got real.
An older, silver haired SEAL walks over and places his hand on my shoulder.
“Welcome to Operation Neptune Spear, Sergeant. We’re going after Osama Bin Laden – code name Geronimo – tonight.”
My jaw hits the floor. Shit just got very real.
December 17, 2020
1747 Hours, Central Standard Time
Chicago, Illinois USA
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done any kind of radio, so this feels a bit foreign. The 19 year old assistant smacking her gum has been driving me nuts for the last five minutes, but I know I have to do this interview and screaming at the little skank will only get me ejected from the building, so I grit my teeth and stay quiet.
“Steve!?” A radio-toned voice shouts from behind a closed door opposite the assistant desk. The door flies open and out walks the smallest of men with the biggest of voices. It’s a little odd, to be honest but the old adage of video killed the radio star makes me feel bad for the runt.
“Jack, how are you sir?” I ask as I push myself out of my chair and toward the greasy little fuck, holding my hand out for a handshake. His wet-dishrag of a carny hand falls into the grasp of my hand.
“I’m doing well. Much better than you, I’d presume!” He exclaims behind a smile, clearing trying to make a joke, but that shit fell flat with me. I watch him squirm as I squeeze his hand a little tighter than I’d first intended, but fuck this guy.
He motions to the room from where he just came, and together we walk back there. It’s your typical radio station, a few swinging mics and a couple of news and sports guys fill the seats in the glass cased booths in the room. Jack points to a chair, and I take a seat, throw on the headphones in front of me and catch the tail end of the commercials that are playing.
“Annnnnnd, we’re back!” Jack says in his best impression of a man taller than five-foot-six.
“We’re here with HOW star and member of the infamous Best Alliance, Steve mother-burpin’ Solex!” Jack introduces me and the jack-hole plays some fake audience applause before I introduce myself.
“Thanks, Jack. But I have to tell ya’, I have no fuckin’ idea what mother burpin’ is…” I say, stern as I can.
“Woah, Steve-oh! No cussing on the air, this isn’t High Octane Television!” He shouts through a nervous laugh.
“What the fuck ever, put me on delay you little prick.” I try to sound sarcastic, but the crew in the room has already gone silent and their nervousness is definitely growing.
“Our sponsors…” He tries to reason with me, but I don’t really give two shits about any of this.
“Moving along!” I shout over him, trying to get this interview over with.
“Right, moving along,” he says, clearing his throat. “This Sunday you’ll be going one on one with your old tag team partner, Joe Bergman. But before we get to that, I wanted to ask you about this….Barbie Q person?” He asks in his best Ron Burgundy impression, as he stares down at some typed notes.
“I don’t know why you people ask that same question, everywhere I freakin’ go. Everyone wants to know about Barbie Q. Well, let me tell you about Barbie Q. She was eye-candy, she was our hot ticket…like that assistant you guys have out there. A distraction from how shitty your lobby is, she was a distraction for how little Joe and I meshed. I don’t know how big of a secret that was or not, but our short tenure as a tag team wasn’t very simple. We never really hit it off, and we never really hit our stride either. Bergman was supposed to be this ordinary guy, and I was this ordinary dad and for whatever reason, it just didn’t work. It wasn’t that I disliked Joe, hell…I still don’t dislike Joe. There was just no chemistry there and Barbie Q was there to be the…I guess, the glue that held us together. But she wasn’t glue, not even close. She was more like a fuckin’ Yoko that made things worse for the Dad band,” pretty long winded, I know. But shit, this shows about me anyway.
“Interesting stuff,” Jack says.
“Ask him about Dawn McGill!” One of the idiots from behind glass shouts out.
“Dawn McGill, is there a story there?” Jack asks.
“There’s no story there, none at all. The bitch came out and thought she was gonna answer an open challenge that I put out there during one of HOW’s biggest events, Rumble at the Rock. And she got dealt with,” I explain.
“Yeah, but dude…she locked her in a cell, bro!” The same jerk from behind the glass says.
“You’re fuckin’ right I did….bro. She deserved it. Women shouldn’t get involved in business between two men, and she got dealt with.”
“Dude, be cool.” He says, trying to censor me.
“I am cool. I’m cooler than the water in a swimming pool, you dumb fuck. She asked for it, I don’t get what the big goddamned deal is,” I say as I stand up and point a finger the prick’s way.
“Alright, take it easy,” Jack tries to smooth over the tension. “Let’s talk about this match with Ordinary Joe Bergman,” he continues, redirecting the conversation.
“What do you want to know, Jack? That I’m a jealous prick, and that’s why this match is taking place? Cause that seems to be the word on the street these days. That because Joe Bergman and Andy Murray won the tag team championships, I couldn’t take it and snapped? Or would you like me to talk about how, after a fucked up nightmare triggered by my own PTSD, that I would snap out of the good-ol-fun-time Dad shit, and back into my former self? And how that is somehow relevant to why Joe and I are going to do mortal fuckin’ combat because I don’t know how to control my mother fucking emotions?! Is that what you want Jack? Is that what the fuck you want?!” I shout at the top of the lungs, but I know that this Oscar worthy performance is only acting as a dog whistle to all of those people spreading those rumors. Again, I find myself standing, and point across the desk at Jack. But then I shrug my shoulders, and sit back down.
“But that none of that is true, Jack. I’d be telling some tall tales out of school if I said those were the reasons that this match is happening. There’s only one reason that Joe and I are going to find ourselves face to face on Sunday and that because…I fuckin’ wanted it to happen. I did everything to get Joe to this point. I was like fuckin’ Picasso painting this abstract of fuckin’ Dad BBQ’s and bullshit live studio audiences that drew Bergman in, just like I fuckin’ knew it would. And then I played the part of “best friend,” the best I could, and earned his trust. And just when I did, he bailed…and I knew that the timing was right. He was hospitalized and he called me. He leaned on me like a brother would, but he never knew…that I was laughing on the other end,” I say smiling ear to ear.
“Wait, so the Dad thing was phony?” Jack wonders with a look of deep concern on his face.
“No, the Dad thing was not phony. It’s who I was, it’s who I am. I’m a Dad and I love being a Dad. But every once in a while…I get pissed the fuck off and get tired of playing games. When I was the Dad, everything was fun. But I have a beast in my soul, Jack and every once in a while, that beast comes out. And that beast, right now….that beast wants to rip Joe Bergman’s head clean off his shoulders and shit down his mother fuckin’ neck. That’s not what I want Jack, that’s the beast inside.”
Their jaws are all on the floor. They’ve never heard shit like this before and it’s written all over everyone of their fuckin’ faces.
“So, on Sunday. At ICONIC. In the Best Motherfuckin’ Arena. It will be “Ordinary” Joe Bergman vs. Steve “Drink a Fifth of Jim Beam and Still Stand Still” Solex, and only one of us can walk out victorious, and Jack that’s exactly why I came here today. To tell everyone of you mother fuckers here in the studio and listening live on the air, that I will beat Joe Bergman.”
The commercial auto-plays through the headset just as I finish my sentence. The scene fades as Jack gets up to shake my hand with the biggest of shit-eating grins on his face.