November 3rd, 1987, was a cold slushy day in Washington. I had just returned from a whirlwind of meetings with various generals and admirals over in the Pentagon, the biggest single nuke target in the world. A guy I know at the CIA that says that the Soviets test their new spy satellites by counting cars in the parking lot. I turned my key in the apartments lock, sat down on my couch and cried. I cried like a kid who lost their dog. I just went unhinged and sobbed for hours. Why?

I spent the day planning the deaths of 46 million Germans.

I had chicken salad on rye for lunch. It was deposited sans digestion in the washroom just before 1:00. I pushed back the horror and slogged out the rest of the meeting. I could feel myself getting paler and paler. The blood pooled in my shoes. I had that feeling you get when you’re in grade school and you get the flu. All the social pressures of your life come home to roost when you feel ill among your peers. Help is so far away. Mom won't come to get you for hours. You have to sweat it out. The sweat dried from my face in the cab on the way home, not from relaxation but escape.

I worked for a defense-consulting firm. We were a think tank focused on deciphering what the Kremlin would do if Ronny Ray-gun pushed them too far. It was real Cowboys and Indians back then. The climate of fear chewed up everything. The goddamn china pattern in the White House was discussed at a Joint Chiefs meeting because it had the same shade of red that was slapped on the side of Russian bombers. Complete madness. Mutually assured glow-in-the-dark cockroaches.

Way back, deep in your head, you always watched for the con trails. Passenger jets soaring high above you could be Armageddon. That elegant stripe of clouds could be coming out the back of a SS-24 Scalpel. You had to live on that knife-edge and it ate at everyone. It chewed at society.

I ate some Valium for supper.

I decided early on that I would help save the free world. I chugged through University and voted Republican with religious fervor. It was all gray suits and power ties on the debate circuit. My blood burned with the assertion that the godless commies were wrong. Devilishly wrong. Sub humanly wrong. How could they do this to the world? What was wrong with them? I puzzled and beat my brow trying to answer that question. I just couldn't get it. The recruiters lined up three deep for me before the commencement. Rabid Young American Patriot for sale: Everything must go.

I remember waking up that morning feeling a little lightheaded. As kids we used to do the wrestling moves we saw on TV. The sleeper choked you to the edge of consciousness and you came back up a long fuzzy black tunnel to reality. I had that youthful feeling in reverse. The deep black rings under my eyes made me look beaten, and I actually found a gray hair in my eyebrow. At 30. You have no perspective that far down the rabbit hole. I never saw Alice's shoes bearing down on my head.

The Pentagon was built during the 40s in about 15 minutes. It was flash formed to fight the Nazis and the Japs and it started to melt when they died. The War Department was never meant to stay so big. CCCP refrigeration helped keep it humming right along. Either way, the place was built cheap. Monotone and edged, the halls reminded me of the inside of a casket. It was all a shade of beige that leaked into your eyes. The room was gray, and the folders were blue. Cerulean blue, like the sea. We sat with a map of West Germany on the overhead projector. The three-inch drafters template was a 10-kiloton air burst. You could get about three little place names per warhead. I listened to the wags drone on about such and such tank division, this or that airstrip. I stared at the little dot of Kammerforst.

Kammerforst sat all by itself on the map. Half the table assumed it would be swimming in Red armor if The Buttons got pushed. The other half loathed wasting a whole silo in the Midwest on soft target. Seeing as it was in the lethal fallout plain of Frankfurt, only one B52 would visit Kammerforst, on the way to Moscow. An atomic Santa Claus. My head swam. A small BG-83 freefall present from the heavens circled Kammerforst in red overhead ink.

The day ended around me as I sat fish eyed in the standard issue chair. The map was covered end to end in overlapping circles, bulls-eyes for democracy. The total force expenditure was cut by a full 77 megatons, which was a rousing success. More nukes freed for deployment in a first strike we would never make. More swords to wave while deep in their scabbards. The smiles around the table drove home the true insanity for me. I slowly penciled my epitaph on my folder before I left the room.

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

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