DUFFEL BLOG PRESENTS: Ernest Hemingway gives your weekend safety brief

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Nick stood in the rain with the others to wait for the sergeant. His face was wet. It was Friday afternoon.

“Of course it starts raining just as soon as we form up,” Buckley said.

Nick nodded. He looked at the brown building in front of them. His uniform was getting damp.

“Isn’t he going to just tell us the same damn stuff he does every week?” Martinez said.

“Yeah, and I’m going to bang your wife anyway, like I do every week,” said Boyle. Some of the men laughed. The rain continued to fall.

They stood there a long time. People were coming out of the building in ones and twos and several times they thought someone walking out was their sergeant but it never was. An officer came out of the building and frowned at the sky and walked out into the rain. As he passed their formation he didn’t even look at them when they came to attention. It was a lieutenant Nick knew, a good man from S4. He looked like he just wanted to get to his car and as he walked away the formation relaxed again.

“Got weekend plans?” Buckley asked.

Nick shrugged. “Not really. Maybe tonight I’ll go downtown.”

“I got a hot date tonight. With my Xbox that is. Mass Effect, all night long.”

“Sounds like a fine time,” Nick said.

“What happened to you and that girl? That hot one you met on Tinder.”

He looked at the sky. The rain had slowed and the clouds were beginning to lighten. Beyond the clouds he could tell the sun was coming out.

“It ended.”

“Have a scene?”

“No,” Nick said. “It just wasn’t fun any more, that’s all. Look, there comes the sun.”

They stood in formation without talking and watched the sun come out. Nick looked up and down the sidewalk in front of the building. There were no other soldiers there, only puddles. The brief was supposed to be at four o’clock but it was now four-thirty and it seemed like everyone had left but them. His boots were wet and his clothes were very wet and he was looking forward to being drunk and then sleeping a long time.

The door opened and the sergeant came out. He looked surprised that they were all standing there in wet uniforms but if he was sorry for making them wait in the rain he didn’t say so. When he spoke his voice sounded bored. He told them not to drive drunk and not to sleep with anyone’s wife and not to shoot anyone and not to do drugs and not to do anything stupid. He pointed at them with his whole hand while he talked, the way sergeants do. Some of the things he said sounded silly but the men had heard it all before and no one laughed.

“Any questions?”

There were no questions.

“Zero-six Monday. Enjoy your weekend.”

The formation broke. Buckley and Nick walked quickly in the direction of the parking lot.

“Was starting to wonder if he’d ever come out,” said Buckley. “Did you see how he looked at us? Like he didn’t even know we were getting drenched out there.”

“Yeah. I’m sure he was nice and dry in his office,” said Nick.

“Well. So long,” Buckley said.

“So long. Enjoy your game.”

“I will. Don’t drink and drive, you hear?” Buckley pointed at him with his hand, the way the sergeant had done.

“I guess I’d better not.”

He waved goodbye and walked to his truck. The road home was going to be wet, but that was all right.

Everything was all right.