Platoon inspection was set for 1300, and I knew that I had to do a thorough and good job at preparing my M-14 for the inspection. First Lieutenant Mark would be doing the inspection, and he is not the type of Marine to demonstrate carelessness to. Sitting on an inverted water bucket on the sidewalk between our Quonset huts, I set about to disassemble and clean the M-14. First comes off the stock, and I shine it to a brilliant sheen with fragrant linseed oil. Then comes the bolt chamber and the recoil mechanism, with spring and operating rod. These are scrupulously bathed and polished in rifle oil, leaving not a bit of dust nor soil on them. Then the trigger assembly and the barrel. The flash suppressor is a concern, as it is prone to rusting. I must be sure to scrape it clean as a new born baby’s bottom. I focus on it as if my life depends on its cleanliness, as indeed it may given Lieutenant Mark’s frequent grouchy moods. I have to make sure my M-14 is without a flaw or even a speck of dust to pass the inspection.
Next comes the barrel. The outside is easily cleaned and oiled. But the inside of the barrel is another matter. I pick up the barrel and gaze upward into its dark interior, struggling to let sunlight glide down its interior. I can see nothing but know I have to completely eradicate the gun powder in it, or otherwise Lieutenant Mark may eradicate me. I take the barrel cleaning rod and fasten a stiff wire cleaning brush to it, dip the brush in rifle oil and ram the whole into the barrel, forcing it fro and pulling it out in rapid strokes, scraping and scraping at the hard metal inside. I finish by using a hair brush to do a final cleaning and reassemble the rifle parts and store my M-14 on the top of my bunk in my Quonset hut.
I shower my body and try to make it is as clean and prepared as my M-14 in time for the inspection. My battle fatigues are starched and pressed immaculately, and I admire my dress in a mirror and grab my M-14 securely in my fists and run to the inspection grounds. I am filled with confidence in my and my M-14’s appearances as Lieutenant Mark advances one by one in front of each Marine in my platoon, inspecting them thoroughly and yelling at some for shortcomings. My gut tightens as Lieutenant Mark approaches me and stands directly to my front. I bring my rifle to give to him and he examines it scrupulously. He peers up the insides of the barrel and lets out a shriek into my face. He berates me for finding a hair from the cleaning brush on the inside of the barrel. My heart sinks and I know that my rifle was clean as humanly possible and that the brush hair was not a real flaw. But I have been scolded in front of the platoon and my pride sinks as the indignantly rises for being berated for a mere hair.
Is there any justice on the base? Am I to lose face for a mere hair? Perhaps there is injustice, but then again it may be a fitting preparation for me for the battlefield where one is berated by deadly bullets and bombs and injustice reigns over all. There the injustice is fatal, but at least when my body finally lies lifeless and limp on the battlefield, there will not be any further inspection to fear, except for that by the Divine, whom I have heard from my priest will be merciful and gracious to all fallen Marines.
Categories: Short Story