“Nielson” by Timothy Tarkelly

I was a bad soldier and I got myself kicked out before it mattered, but obviously I met a lot of people in the Army who experienced some things I never did, saw things I never saw. I’ve talked with some of them since those days and I’ve heard some real horror stories, but I keep coming back to Nielson, that squirrely kid from Delta company. He was all glasses and loose-fitting uniforms. I saw him at Davis’s going away party; one of those parties where thirty soldiers cram into two hotel rooms with a keg and a shitty stereo. He was by the keg at first, being a real red-cup-champion. Then, he started drifting toward the beds, then the floor, and finally the balcony, where (for reasons I still don’t understand) he threw all of his pocket change into the parking lot, one coin at a time. When someone suggested he quit, he didn’t curse at them. He didn’t buck up, or challenge their authority over hotel balconies. Instead, he looked them in the eye and cursed at his recruiter: “That motherfucker, that motherfucker. He told me if I joined the Army I’d finally get girls.” 

Timothy Tarkelly‘s work has been featured by Peculiars Magazine, Cauldron Anthology, Fourth & Sycamore, GNU, Vamp Cat Magazine, Work to a Calm, and others. His book, Gently in Manner, Strongly in Deed: Poems on Eisenhower was published by Spartan Press in April 2019. When he is not writing, he teaches in Southeast Kansas.

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