What was the name of that kid at
Anzio, the one who got his face burned
Yeah, Vecchio, I couldn’t remember
his name, he was a good kid, remember
how he used to walk on his hands and
sing that song about the man on flying
You know why I’m such a good officer?
Because of my mother. Have I ever
told you about her?
Bits and pieces.
She’s the best poker player you ever
saw. My father used to go to these
Saturday night games and lose his
shirt. Finally, my mother gave him
an ultimatum, either she gets a
regular seat at the table or she
locks him in every Saturday night.
He squawked and so did his buddies
but after a while they gave in and
from the first night she sat down,
she never lost. She could read those
cocky bastards like they were playing
open hands. And he bluffs? He had
sixteen levels of bullshit. Her
eyes, the tone of her voice, her
bets, her jokes, the way she sipped
her coffee, she was a master. She
won more money on shit hands than
anyone in the history of the game.
Every Saturday night, my father would
lose two, three hundred bucks and
she’d win it all back and then some.
And I’d stand there, glued to her
shoulder, from the time I was five
years old, watching every hand, every
move, studying how she did it.
That’s why I’m such a good officer,
I can look at a man’s face and tell
you exactly what he’s holding, and
if it’s a shit hand, I know just
what cards to deal him.
And what about your own hand?
No problem. A pair of deuces? Less?
So what? I bluff. It used to tear
me apart when I’d get one of my men
killed, but what was I supposed to
do? Break down in front of the ones
who were standing there waiting for
me to tell them what to do? Of course
not, so I bluffed, and after a while,
I started to fall for my own bluff.
It was great, it made everything so
much easier. Sarge Is that why your
hand’s been shaking?
It could be worse. You know the
first thing they teach you at O.C.S.?
Lie to your men.
Not in so many words, but they tell
you you can have all the firepower
in the world and if your men don’t
have good morale, it’s not worth a
damn. So if you’re scared or empty
or half-a-step from a Section Eight,
do you tell your men? Of course
not. You bluff, you lie.
And how do you bluff yourself?
Simple, numbers. Every time you
kill one of your men, you tell
yourself you just saved the lives of
two, three, ten, a hundred others.
We lost, what, thirty-one on the
cliffs? I’ll bet we saved ten times
that number by putting out those
guns. That’s over three hundred
men. Maybe five hundred. A thousand.
Then thousand. Any number you want.
See? It’s simple. It lets you always
choose mission over men.
Except this time, the mission IS a
That’s the rub. I liked Wade. Who’s
Ryan? If they’re both standing in
front of me and I have to shoot one
or the other, how do I choose? Look
at my hand, there it goes again.
John, I’ve got to tell you, I think
you’re about used up.
I think you’re right, Keith.
You want me to take over?
The question helps Miller pull himself back together. He
looks at his hand and forces it to stop shaking again.
No, but if I get any worse, you’ll
have to relieve me.
Just what I want to do.
They share a smile.
You know Wade was the eleventh of
the twelve, you’re the last one still
Don’t let yourself get killed, if
you do, they might make me give back
the medal and then I won’t be able
to lip off to colonels anymore.
I’ll do my best.
They shake their heads at the madness of it all.
Hell of a…
Ah, forget it.
Miller picks up his Thompson and looks around, re-orienting
himself. He’s about ninety-five percent there.
Thanks for drawing that machine gun
You’re welcome, John.
But, that’s my personal brand of
stupidity, I feel kind of proprietary
about it, if you do it again, you’re
Sarge allows himself a slight smile.
Miller jerks his head for Sarge to follow. They head back
to the men.