I wanted to share a few more of the entries that were submitted to the latest Work Stew writing contest. Even though Sharmyn McGraw’s “Dilly of a Typo” has already been published as this round’s winner, several other entrants have kindly given me permission to share their stories as well. First up is Iris Madelyn’s “Spider Drop.”
–Kate Gace Walton, Work Stew Editor
By Iris Madelyn
That’s all I could manage to say before the ambulance arrived. My right ankle lay limp next to my elbow and I could see the awkward bend of my broken shinbone. The sergeant was looking down at me from the roof of the building. Even from here, I could see the oh, shit in his eyes.
I’ve always had a problem keeping my mouth shut. So when I was told that the only way to succeed in the Marine Corps was to run fast and keep my mouth shut, I knew I only had a 50% chance of making it.
It was 1999, before war changed the way we trained and the way we entertained ourselves. We were going to perform a Spider Drop, a tactical technique used to safely jump from about three meters high. But on this occasion, it was sold to us as an ego-charged maneuver whereby a young and strapped marine attempts to scale down the side of a building – pretending it’s under siege – before plummeting to the ground with a tuck-and-roll…from two-stories up.
In hindsight, I can see the value of such an exercise. And as a career military woman, I understand all the rah-rah of jumping from buildings for training. But this January morning, it was just for fun. When Sergeant Tough Guy showed up looking for volunteers to go to the Urban Terrain Training Center on base, I raised my hand. The other option was to stay at my work station and monitor the colonel’s internet speed for the next ten hours.
“Um, I think we’ll use this building,” the sergeant said pointing at an empty cinderblock shell of walls and doorways at the training center. Then there were private meetings with other sergeants and medics. There was more pointing and looking up and returning to the leadership huddle.
“Do they even know what the hell they’re doing?” I asked the young medic standing next to me. He’d been excluded from the planning huddle because of his low rank.
“Don’t start,” he said.
I waited in line with the medic and everyone else pending further instructions. Further instructions never came. We were all just shepherded up to the roof of the two-story structure. One by one, we were told how to Spider Drop then made to jump.
I voiced my concerns more than once but didn’t get much support. I wasn’t known for my blind obedience to orders.
“Sergeant, this building is too high.”
“Devil-dawg! Do you think you’re smarter than me? Always running your mouth. Get back in line.” The sergeant’s voice dissipated over the top of the building as he shook his head and walked away.
After four other marines had been injured during their attempts, I looked to the young medic again for support.
“Doc. For real, though. Doesn’t this shit seem too high? I mean, is this building made for jumping like this? It doesn’t make sense.”
“You expect things to make sense. That’s your real problem,” he chuckled. “You’ll be fine. Besides, sergeant’s not gonna be happy ’til we’ve all jumped and he’s got his kicks in for the day.”
I looked over at the sergeant and watched his wicked smiled as he yelled at the most recent victim over the building’s ledge. “Awe, c’mon! It’s just a little sprained ankle, devil-dawg. Rub some dirt on it.”
I knew for certain that he was insane. I wanted him to ask me again if I thought I was smarter than him.