Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Process

The Process


“What the FUCK do YALL want??!”

The room falls silent. The clock on the walls slows to millionths of seconds, and the winter sun alertly hastened its retreat over the western horizon, lengthening the already elongated winter shade. Youthful eyes, once full of cautious optimism are now flash-frozen in terror and fixated on the piercing glare of a man in winter working blues; a stranger yet to introduce himself -- and yet a stranger who I assume that no one should ever intentionally piss-off -- was somehow pissed-off by our very existence.

I gather myself, compartmentalize my emotions, and fortify them with the steel rebar and emotional calluses born from a lifetime of being bullied, humiliated, and disappointed. The immersion was jarring, as it was supposed to be jarring, but it was expected. With the others, I remain silent. And wait.

“Oh, don’t tell me,” the pissed-off man continued in an annoyed tone as the streetlights outside crackled and hummed into service, “You guys wanna be in the Muthaphuckin Navy!” That’s all I heard; the buzzing streetlights, the thunderclap of his voice, and the echo of those thunderclaps at the far-end of the hall and the back of my skull. Those were the first words a United States sailor ever spat at me in what I assumed to be earnest. These were not the words of a silver-tongued recruiter telling me whatever he thought I wanted to hear so that I would sign my life away and swear-in. These were the words of a realist who had shit to take care of in a short amount of time, and collectively, I guess we were that shit.

After this inauspicious welcome into the brotherhood of surface warriors, rolling his eyes, the pissed-off man walked smartly away, because as I would come to learn, everything in Recruit Training Command was done smartly, loudly, or it was redone to smarter, louder specifications, with sharp muscle-pain thrown in for those who settled for much dumber, quieter methods. Before we could process the initial encounter, he was back, flanked by other pissed-off guys in winter working blues (and one rather grumpy woman, from who I later learned that watching men quit made her pussy wet, which stood in sharp contrast to her dour demeanor. I didn’t learn this information from experience, nor did I intend on proving the accuracy of her confession. She flat-out told us that having a guy humiliate himself by giving up actually made her moist. You know. Down there. And as I had nowhere else to go if I washed-out of the Navy boot-camp, I quietly hoped she could find an over-the-counter lubricant.)

At this point, they began to “process” us, and nothing was ever the same.


Night casts long shadows

I’ve burned my ships behind me

The day must be earned



Today’s dVerse writing prompt is a form called the haibun. Head over there to learn more about it, and check out other dVerse poets’ exceptional work.


  1. What a story.. To have those people loving see people fail, but I guess it worked, that extra effort done.. Ha when I was young we all did service, so nobody was very motivated doing their best.. Still they found a place for everyone... And a year somewhere lost.. Glad you liked it, you write wonderful prose Barry..

  2. oh my goodness... how terrible when people enjoy others humiliation... makes me sick just thinking about it... glad i never had to go to the army or such...i think you find a lot of crooked and strange characters there...ugh

  3. great haiku...and nice prose...ha...authentic...i wonder if you did not find it different after you earned your way in...i wonder too if it is not a bit of insulation...not wanting to give your heart to a guy that might be killed tomorrow...

  4. An excellent story and haiku. Odd that (in the forces) humiliation is considered character building...
    Anna :o]

  5. it is still brutal like the ' Mutiny On The Bounty' movie except you don't get the lash or keel hauled. Well Bizza I do not know if there were any advantages to be gained from your navy experiences from sadists or sexually disordered women but I do know you retained a sensitivity and an ability to write from the heart and express yourself in verse...I wonder what those freaks are doing now.Torturing animals I suppose or worse.

  6. Wow! Horrible experience; powerful writing. The prose is vivid, the haiku wonderful.

  7. Powerful prose about those initial terrifying moments ~ Nothing will ever be the same ~ Really enjoyed this perspective as I haven't been in such a situation ~

  8. Well, that was quite a story! I like the insider view. I never would have guessed this is the way it sometimes was.

  9. Thanks, all of you for your comments. I wrote this only to chronicle my initial experience on day one of Naval bootcamp back in 1992. I’m actually considering expanding on it, like a mini-autobiography. As I rarely write about this period in my life, it seemed worth exploring for a moment.

    On the institution of military bootcamp in general and my naval experience in particular, it is my intention neither to praise nor criticize them. Navy bootcamp doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everyone knows it isn’t perfect and never will be. It is constantly being evaluated and reevaluated in real-time. My experience was different from the class a month ahead of me as well as from the class a month behind me. Fifty years ago, physical discipline (slapping, punching recruits) was common. Ten years ago, recruits had “time-out” cards they could hand instructors, and the instructors actually had to back-off and let the recruit compose himself (I heard that the “time-out” card quickly went away.)

    I understand the theory behind the harsh practices of “grinding” new recruits – the theory being that, if you quit on yourself right here on day one, surrounded by strangers yelling at you to pee in a cup and get measured for uniforms, you’ll quit on your shipmates while in combat, and you will fall to your knees weeping instead of relying on your training to try shooting down the inbound Exocet cruise missile loaded with enough explosives to rip your ship in half.

    As we all know, the military is not for everyone, Therefore, if you’re going to quit, then quitting on day one makes the lives of your military instructors and company commanders a hell-of-a-lot easier. So before they teach you anything, they grind you a bit to see who really wants to be there.

    My thing was, though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be there or not, I knew what the alternative was if I gave up on myself. I also knew that after growing up as a nerd on the south side of Chicago, there was nothing the Navy could possibly say to me or about me that I hadn’t already heard. Not only was failure not an option, It was something I couldn’t even entertain conceiving. The lady with a dry vag was just gonna have a dry vag for two whole months if she was looking at me to quit.

  10. My father-in-law was in the Navy--at Omaha Beach on D-Day and later in the Pacific. I'm sure he had many similar stories but he didn't talk about it much; he had a rather traumatic war as you can see from where he was. He did say that to teach them to swim, they were just thrown into the pool.

    As you say, the service wants those who want to make it and I think they start out as hard and nasty as possible to test that desire. Thank you for your service, for your story and your haiku.