Marine Corps Stories: Middle Finger
Two officers oversee the flight of a drone.
“Yes, so it was an IED. A flying piece of shrapnel sliced right through my trigger finger, my forefinger. It was barely hanging on and I kind of just propped it into an upright position.”
“Right, so the Doc is taping it up and I’m just trying to get back to my guys to see if they’re alright. I’d never thought that it would get infected. Once we got back to base after a few days the thing started turning colors. The flight surgeon had to snip the rest of it off to save my hand. And my life.”
“Yes, I’m shooting with my right hand. I was born a lefty. It’s not the same. I haven’t been on target. But I tried firing with my left middle finger and have been in the black with a tight group ever since.”
“Yes, I’ve been ‘plucking the yew.’”
“Plucking the what?”
“The yew. It’s an old reference to the English who used the yew tree to craft longbows. Well, they used their middle fingers in order to pluck the yew. Once they defeated the French in battle they trolled the remaining combatants by saying ‘Pluck You!’ while holding up their middle fingers.”
“I hope I don’t have to worry about that. What happened to your guys?”
“They all made it out alive. Some had TBI and PTSD but I was the only one to lose a limb. I was the most fortunate out of all of them. Go figure.”
“That’s why you went from an infantry officer to this?”
“I can still control a joystick, can’t I?”
The two Marines tracked the flight of the drone over the Saudi Arabian airspace. The one missing the first finger, Captain Johnson “Flight” Charles and his captive audience Second Lieutenant Sawyer Cheng honed in on the exact location of the flying apparatus. Charles possessed high cheekbones and steady, charcoal eyes. His skin resembled a manila folder. Cheng’s haircut seemed more like a strict pompadour, just barely making regulation. His yellow skin almost matched Charles’. They watched as the aircraft became a bird of prey ready to make waste of the targets that would soon experience hate and discontent.
Charles piloted the drone with precision and accuracy, just like in the chemistry books. His eyes darted from left to right, tracking the movement of the air vessel.
“I’m glad that the Marines finally bought these half a billion dollar babies,” Cheng said.
“I’m glad, too. The Air Force was ruling the day, man. You should’ve seen my eyes when I learned that we would be using these things. It was like Christmas.”
Without warning, the wing of the drone dipped. It then caught a surface-to-air missile. Charles didn’t sweat. Cheng became nervous but didn’t show it. His voice only heightened a bit.
“Should we abort, sir?”
“No. We’re this close. We can take out this madrassa.” Charles positioned the burning piece of flying machinery over the target and let loose the payload. A direct hit. He then tried to salvage the drone by making it turn upright again. This failed. He attempted to flip it sideways. Again, no luck.
“If we can just bring the tail up some, we might have it,” Cheng said.
Charles raised his eyebrows at the suggestion and brought the drone into a position where it might be able to turn back around and head to base. Charles allowed the tail to become in flux. The wing had been almost completely demolished but it flew.
Charles and Cheng cheered but only for a moment.
“She’s flying home with a busted wing but she’ll be alright. Good work, Cheng.”
“Thank you, sir. But you did it. Missing a digit and everything.”
Charles grinned and held up his left and waved.