The soldier lived it up, knowing he was about to deploy to Iraq. He dropped $235 on liquor and mixed drinks at a bar on a $20-all-you-can-drink-draft-beer night when he could have drank himself to blissful oblivion and beyond on a double sawbuck. He bought trick bills he’d never use at a magic and curiosity shop at the touristy Pike’s Place Market. He tore into an overpriced and overcooked steak in the observatory at the Space Needle. He bought the baddest speakers for his ride, with the lowest base. He splurged on Courvoisier, and passed the Courvoisier, even though no one had asked for it. He sipped venti Frappuccinos. He even shopped at Whole Foods.
Hey, he could die soon.
The soldier was still shocked when he went to an ATM right before deploying so he’d have some cash to exchange for Iraqi dinar and it turned him down.
“Insufficient funds,” the screen read.
Frantically, he tried it again. “Insufficient funds,” the screen read.
Convinced it must be some mistake, he attempted a third time.
The direness of the situation suddenly sunk in.
Nothing, he had nothing. The U.S. government was sending him off overseas to an early grave and he was bankrupt. He was morally bankrupt, spiritually bankrupt, emotionally bankrupt and bankrupt bankrupt. If he wasn’t mowed down by gunfire or ripped apart by shrapnel, he’d return to a barracks room full of spiders and a car with flat tires. He’d return to nothing, the vast empty nothingness of a life wasted.
But, it occurred to him in a eureka moment, at least he wouldn’t be broke any more, since his Iraq deployment would afford him the opportunity to save basically his whole salary, seeing as how he’d have no opportunity to spend it and the government would provide free lodging and MREs, which were filled with the kind of space-age, preservative-saturated food many wouldn’t even feed to stray cats.
Still it felt like a verdict on his life, a great indignity, his fate.
He was overdrawn, empty-pocketed, probably doomed to die in a hostile, foreign land for no reason.
His platoon sat around waiting in the airplane hangar talking about how hot it was Iraq, how they’d sweat out eight glasses of water a day and needed to ingest way, way more, and the deadly IEDs were.
He could only think about how he had nothing in the bank, how--if he had kids--he’d have nothing to leave them if AK-47 fire cut him down. He felt like he had nothing, was nothing, would never amount to anything.
“Go, go, go! Get on that plane, you maggots,” the sergeant screamed. “Hajji’s waiting for you.”
The soldier felt like a maggot, with no savings, literally nothing to show for the twenty-two years he’d spent on the earth.
Lo and behold, when they arrived in Kuwait there was a Burger King. The soldier's platoonmate Clayton, a Missouri native, was adamant they should avail themselves of their last opportunity to savor flame-grilled whoppers.
Though his checking balance was nil, probably less than that, the soldier was suddenly reminded he had a credit card. He didn’t know when he’d next be able to make a payment since the lines at the internet cafes in Iraq stretched all the way to Iran, but he realized while eating a burger he really should have run out his full line of credit back in the states too.
He could have taken ballroom dancing classes, stockpiled gold and ordered the seabass if he realized he could max out his credit card too. He could have skied, jet-skied, and bought a round of shots for the whole bar. He could have drank top-shelf. He could have rented a party bus, no, rented a yacht and partied with inflatable dinosaurs, and even parked at any garage in the Chicago Loop, for any length of time.
Even Visa wouldn’t go after a dead man or at least a dead soldier at a time when anything even vaguely unpatriotic was politically toxic. He should have scarfed down surf and turf or veal at some white tablecloth bistro the night before they went on lockdown before deployment because he probably would have been shot dead anyway.
He should have been epic, should have just lived it up in what could have been his final days. A dead man owes no payments. A dead man owes nobody. A dead man owes nothing.