The sky was so blue. Blue like the beach water you see in the penthouse menthol ads. Staring at the blue sky made my eyes hurt and made me feel like I had to sneeze. I shook the canteen in an attempt to gauge how much water was left. There were only a couple of swallows left and plenty of daylight to burn. Recapping the canteen I rolled onto my side and took a quick peek around the side of Hankins’ rucksack, and returned to my back. Christ it was hot, the kind of hot that surpasses description. Everything I touched burned my fingers. I cursed the fool who sent us out here with black rifles. I cursed the fool who sent us out here. Blue sky. Blue sky and big yellow sun. Hot yellow sun, and another drink of water. The water wasn’t going to last much longer at this rate. Not like it mattered, if I didn’t drink it I would probably pass out. My voice raw with dust and sand I called out, “Hey Pic, how much water you got left?” Pic coughed for a long time before he answered. “I gots, maybe a fourth of the canteen left, but there’s a hole in it. So I figure it won’t last too long.” He spent some more time coughing. He didn’t sound like he was going to last much longer. I pounded the back of my Kevlar into Hankins’ side, trying to get more comfortable, before I called out to Freeman. “Yo! Freeman! You got any water left?” Freeman’s voice came back strong, but distant, he must have been almost twenty yards away. “I ain’t got shit man! What the fuck are we gonna do?” Freeman had a good question, and I didn’t really have any answers. Hankins was starting to stink real bad, and the ants seemed to be attracted to his blood. I hate ants, but I don’t hate them as much as dying. My leg was starting to tingle again, so I rolled up my glove and bit down on it so I wouldn’t bite my tongue off while I tightened the tourniquet. I don’t think I screamed much that time. I spit the glove out. Pic was trying to say something, but I hadn’t heard him. “What!” My patience was running thin. “I said, could be some water in Walker’s ruck, he had a bladder I think.” Not like it would do us any good, even if Sgt.Walker had brought a bladder canteen. “So, what you gonna do Pic? You figurin on just waltzin over there and having a look through his rucksack?” To accentuate my point the sniper popped off a couple more rounds. One of them slapped into Hankins with a sound like wet meat under a hammer. Hankins had been pretty useless when he was alive, at least he made for good cover. Pic was getting a little frisky himself. “Dammit Spoon, we gotta do something. I’m popped in the gut, you got it in the leg, Freeman ain’t got no water, the radio’s full of holes, we still don’t know how many are out there and this dead motherfucker I’m using for cover is starting to stink and draw flies! What the fuck are we gonna do!” Pic had some good questions too, and I gave him the same silent answer. He was right about the flies, I hadn’t noticed them before. It figures. We’re so far from anything out here you can see the curve of the earth. Nothing but sand for a hundred miles or more, but you spill a little blood and the bugs just start appearing outta nowhere. I hate ants. I must have passed out for a little bit because all the sudden I could hear Pic screaming at me. “Spoon! Spoon, wake up motherfucker! Spoon! What are we gonna do?” What the hell did he want from me? I had only been in charge for an hour or so, ever since Sgt. Beam stopped talking. I was only the platoon sergeant by virtue of a weeks worth of rank over Freeman. We didn’t even know if Sgt.Beam was dead. I couldn’t see him from where I was laying. He just stopped talking back. It really did seem pretty hopeless. As far as I could tell the three of us were the only ones left. Everyone else was dead. At least I think they’re dead. It’s hard to tell when you can’t get up to look. I took my last drink of water. “Pic, I’m out, waters all gone.” It wasn’t looking good. Big blue sky. I thought I could almost see out into space, see the stars. I had passed out again. When I came to someone was leaning over me, and I freaked out. I grabbed for my rifle, but I couldn’t move my arms. I was strapped down. I kicked my legs and tried to sit up, and then I remembered about the hole in my leg and got all whoozy. The medic was talking, “Take it easy buddy, everything’ll be alright now.” He was right too, everything was mostly all right. Turns out Sgt.Beam was alive, he had succumbed to heat exhaustion. Ayala died in the hospital. Freeman had two, full, five quart canteens when the choppers showed up. I never liked that guy. Sgt.Beam said he would pull up charges against him, but I didn’t care that much. Pic pulled through and the two of us were shipped to a base in Germany for recuperation. Sometimes, on a real clear day, I stop and stare at the sky. The blue sky. I think about Hankins. He was a whiner, and a baby. I had never liked him a whole lot , but he saved my life. I owe him.

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