E.N. Heim | Michael Ilkiw
SP-4 Tooker gazed at the body while eating his gooey black cheese. Knowing the large man well, SGT Moore and he got along famously. He chuckled over the way the situation was going. SGT Moore had a cynical streak; he liked playing practical jokes. SP-4 Tooker often went along with him. Working in the adjoining offices with nothing to do, they broke up their boredom by spinning yarns hour after hour laughing their heads off.
The day was like any other, nothing to do, so SGT Moore strolled into SP-4 Tooker’s office and struck up a conversation.
“You know that dude SP-4 Poke?” SGT Moore asked SP-4 Tooker. Tooker nodded. “Well, that guy just gets to me.”
“What’s your problem with Poke?”
“The guy speaks so fast I can hardly understand him. He sounds like he’s ripping sheets … zzzzzching … nonstop.”
“The guy doesn’t speak normal like. He comes from Mississippi you know.”
“All them dudes down there are slow, but he’s the opposite for some strange reason.”
“He speaks as though every sentence is one word.”
“It’s the Miss’ippian in him. I know them types…cuz I comes from Miss’ippi too.”
Tooker shrugged. “What can I say, Sarge? It’s the way he was raised.”
“I’d like to break that habit of his…talkin’ so fast…speedy like.”
“If it’s in his blood, there’s nothing that can be done.”
“I don’t know. I’d like to try somethin’, anything.”
SP-4 Poke lived on the Mississippi River all his life. What made him join the army was anybody’s guess, he often said on the subject: “D’know,” as though it was one word, and spoken so fast no one understood him. A tall lanky fellow with big bug eyes that resembled black pupils swimming in a pool of milk. When he opened his mouth, it was a gold mine. And right in the upper left middle tooth, he had a diamond stud. He was forever smiling, and proud of his rich assets.
He often talked about ghosts and expressing his fear of them. Whenever the subject mentioned, he squirmed. One night one followed him home. His granny told him: “Carry a bottle of whiskey witcha. Theys likes whiskey, and pour a little on the ground and they’d suck-down into it.” That was the only cure for ghosts he said.
The plan was in place, SP-4 Poke, and SGT Moore and SP-4 Tooker got everything ready for the big shakeup. That morning was the annual Physical Training test. Everyone had to take part and qualify for physical fitness, or placed on profile. Those who didn’t would be barred from re-enlistment. SGT Moore was a mammoth man.
During push-ups, SGT Moore faked a heart attack. He was immediately sent to the stockade until the hearse came to take his carcass. Since no infirmary was on the post, which avoided instant burial. Moore lay on the slab all day. And to watch over him, Tooker and Poke had the honors.
Tooker was the first to enter the room, and took the opposite side of SGT Moore, he sat down, and withdrew from his lunch bag a large hunk of black soft cheese. The creamy gooey cheese was his favorite. Figuring he would be here for a long period, and didn’t want to miss chow. As he pulled off one sliver of cheese, the creamy center dripped from its black rind. He often said about the cheese: “The smellier and gooier the cheese, denotes the quality, and delicious taste. It’s better than sweets.”
Poke ambled in and took the seat in front of SGT Moore. Glancing at SGT Moore, Poke sniffed the air. “He’s kinda ripe ain’t he?”
Tooker nodded. “The way of the dead.”
Poke’s eyes rolled. He didn’t like being around the deceased. Any moment he expected the sergeant’s ghost. Suspicious of the body, he kept eyeing the inert man for any signs.
Then, Poke noticed Moore’s body expand and retract. His eyes got big, and said, “Here come ‘is ghost.”
Tooker glanced up at Poke. “Such is the ways of the dead.”
A finger twitched. Again Poke said, “He’s movin’ ‘is finger.”
“The ways of the dead,” repeated Tooker.
Poke’s eyes grew larger with every motion of the faking dead sergeant.
Tooker took another piece of the cheese. The black gooey finger like substance made Poke stare and take notice. Tooker stuffed it into his mouth, licking his lips, and savored the delicious creamy cheese. SP-4 Poke took it as though it was part of the sergeant. “Whatcha doin’ dhere Took?” Poke asked.
“Eating a piece of the stuff, why?”
“Is dat the custom widtcha?”
Tooker smiled. “Tiz the ways of the dead.”
“Holly geezers.” He rubbed his head; his eyes rolled around and stopping at the faking deceased sergeant.
Suddenly, the sergeant started to shake and shimmer. Poke’s eyes grew larger with every shake. “Wha’ wha’ w’as happenin’ here?” he stutters.
Tooker glanced at Poke. “It’s normal. It’s the way of the dead.” He smiled.
Poke sprang up; his eyes were as big as saucers. “Geese, ‘is ghost is, is a comin’.”
The body shook so violently, Poke froze. Suddenly, SGT Moore sat up and then grabbed Poke, and shouted, “GOTCHA!”
It was as though lightning struck Poke. He turned white; his curly hair stuck straight out and turned ghostly white. In a flash, Poke jumped up and dashed out the door.
To this day, nobody knows where he is. Although, some say they’ve seen a strange person coming down the halls in the stockade, white as a ghost, with hair sticking straight up, with big saucer eyes, and flashing his gold teeth.
It’s the way of the dead.