This is an excerpt from one of the short stories in the Fog Banks collection.
Donald Little sat with his back against the shady side of a stone wall, the remnants of what had been a small Iraqi business in Fallujah before being reduced to a pile of rubble.
The heat from the sun beating down on the other side of the wall leaked through the stone, making him feel like he was sitting in front of a blast furnace. He had no way of knowing what kind of business it might have been or what had happened to the owner, and frankly, he didn’t give a shit. He was hot, miserable, and after six months in Iraq, he wanted to go home to the Reservation in the Pacific Northwest.
He graduated from the Lummi Nation High School, if you could call it graduation, but far from the honor roll. He had played basketball for the Black Hawks, but mostly he kept to himself and was an average student.
He worked a couple of crappy jobs flipping burgers in nearby Bellingham after getting out of high school, but that sucked. There were no other job prospects besides working at the Silver Reef Hotel & Casino. He couldn’t imagine the idea of waiting on all these rich white people. The white people probably didn’t think they were rich, but they sure as hell were by Indian standards. He decided maybe the military would be an option. If nothing else, he might get in some schooling that would help him when he got out. So he had joined the Marines two years after leaving high school.
The military was, and probably would still be, an option after Iraq, but he didn’t know what a hellhole Iraq could be. He was on a couple of lists to get in a school to learn a trade, but that was all he knew. When they told him he was being sent to Iraq after basic training, he thought it was fantastic; he’d get to put all those war skills to use.
Well, he was right about the training part, but cool didn’t happen. Not only was it not cool climatically, it also was not cool in terms of an assignment; gathering up body parts in a plastic bag is not very cool and probably not a skill that would serve him in civilian life.
His full name was Donald Little Squirrel. His people were from the Lummi Nation in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, near the Canadian border where, for centuries, they had fished salmon, harvested shellfish, and gathered berries and other edibles in the forests.
Two Humvees rolled past on the street in front of him, covering him with even more of the fucking dust in this shit-hole that seemed to envelop and penetrate everything, finding every crevice in your body. God, he hated this place. Back home, it rained a lot, but at least it was cool and green. He used to curse the rain and dampness, but he would never do that again.
His platoon sergeant popped around the end of the wall as Little watched a scorpion creep across the dirt a short distance away like a Marine doing the belly-crawl. He hated those little bastards, too, but his instincts were to respect all that nature put in his path. You had to put your socks over your boot tops when you went to bed at night to keep the little fuckers from crawling inside and then stinging you the next morning when you put your foot in your boot; there were no scorpions in good old rainy Washington.
“Hey, Little, any news from your secret Indian shaman or whatever? Will we be okay if we go in and clear that building?”
Donald looked at Sergeant Daft as he pointed to a two-story structure about fifty yards away. It was hard not to laugh at his name, but Daft seemed to take that in stride. He was a huge, muscular man who could break most men in half but took the ribbing about his name in stride. Everyone assumed that after spending some part of his childhood fighting every kid that teased him about his name, he just accepted the chuckles and bullshit when people first heard it spoken. Little knew how he felt about being bullied over his name.
“My sources tell me it’s okay, Sarge.”
“Good. I’ll take Parnell’s squad in and verify it’s clear of any Muj. You stay here with your squad and watch for snipers.”
“Okay, Sarge.” As hot and miserable as it was, staying outside was better than wandering into buildings with little or no light and with a hundred hiding places for people who wanted to kill you and drag your sorry ass through the streets of Iraq.
His source that the Sarge didn’t know he was joking about was an Iraqi Pied Crow, or Mesopotamia Crow, or a Raven as Little thought of him. Of course, he had told no one he was listening to an Iraqi Pied Crow. They would Section-eight his ass out on the next chopper, with him flying higher on anti-psychotic drugs than the air-jockey lifting him out of there.