Episode 35 - It is more shameful to distrust one's friends than to be deceived by them

Monday came fast. After Ben and Roy spent the weekend digging up soil samples for Professor Evgeny, a bath was much needed for the two men. While Brian and Dr. Johnson took care of the afternoon patrols at the pond, I was designated to escort the dirty Privates to the Abrams River. Although the river is about a mile and a half away from the pond, it is still a body of water and the chances of encountering a giant turtle can not be discarded. We went on foot. Ben was worried that Roy would see the scabs on his back. - Just try to keep eye contact with Roy and your back turned away from him - I suggested. Seven days without a bath can be too much, specially when we have to wear our thick uniforms. Roy didn't even wait for me to secure the place. Upon arrival he started to undress with no ceremony.- You guys better get moving, the water is not gonna get any warmer - I said sarcastically. The two of them stood by the shallow water, contemplating the cold river water. Ben still had his towel around his back. Poor guy. Roy finally decided to get in the river. - This can't be any worse than Basic Training upstate New York - said Roy as he sat down on the water. - Passed me the soap would you? - he asked Ben, who was still hiding his back from Roy. After Ben cursed the world, the water and everything else on the planet, he finally went in. It looked like a scene from a third world country. Two grown men, all soaped up, at the shore of a river. I was worried about Ben's back. As I watched them bathe from the river bank, I noticed the scabs had gotten bigger. But he seemed fine, still performing his duties as everyone else. I just don't know how much longer I can keep this a secret if his back doesn't get better. Roy had finished cleaning himself up and started to get comfortable with the water. He swam around the shore a couple of times and then decided to do some jumps. - Yeah, check this one out! I call it the "backflip cannon" - he explained while getting in position to jump in the water. Unfortunately, he stepped on a loose rock and felt in the water on the most awkward position. We couldn't help but to laugh. - Oh, man! That's the funniest thing I ever seen, Haha! - said Ben laughing. Roy's jump was so hilarious that Ben forgot all about hiding his back from Roy. After swimming around Ben, Roy was about to get out of the water when he noticed the dark red marks on Ben's back. - What in the hell is that, man? - asked Roy while pointing his finger to the scabs. He looked at me in shock. - Did you know about this? - Roy asked me. I looked at Ben and he just shook his head. - Roy, the less people knowing about my back, the better. Nothing personal - said Ben while putting his uniform back on. - Ben, that does not look right, man! And what? Like I'm gonna tell the others about it? You're saying I can't keep a secret? - Roy replied. He was furious. He kept walking around trying to put his uniform shirt on and shaking his head. - Look Roy, if the sarge or the professor find out about it, I'm history. I'll be sent back to Twentynine Palms and I'll probably never get back here again. It's getting better. It doesn't itch that much anymore... - said Ben. The argument got worse. I tried to intervene a couple of times with no success. We were so busy arguing, that we didn't even notice the Jeep approaching. - What's going on over there? What are you ladies fighting about? - said the sarge from up the hill. We froze. Without hesitating, Roy said: - Private Kaplan pushed me in the water, Sir! - And out of nowhere Roy grabbed Ben by the shirt and swung him towards the river. Loosing his balance, Ben went for a dive back in the cold water with shirt and all. Roy winked at me. Ben just sat in the water in disbelief, although he had a grin on his face. Roy had saved our butts. While I was getting my ass chewed by sarge, I looked down to the river bank and saw Roy helping Ben out of the water. They were laughing out loud. Because we were taking to long out in the river, the sarge got worried and came to check on us. After the scare, we got in the Jeep and got a ride back to camp. That night, Roy took care of Ben's back.

by Corporal John Harris, May 18, 2006