Finding Out About My Grandmother’s Death While in Basic Training

March 11, 2010


At ease, Private.

(assuming parade rest) Yes, Drill Sergeant.

Private, I’m afraid I’ve got some very sad news for you.

Drill Sergeant, you aren’t sending me home because I’m patently unfit for military service, and it’s stunningly obvious to everyone here that I’ve made a life-destroying mistake, Drill Sergeant?

(Blinking, a crease forming between brows) You a college boy or something, Private?

Yes, Drill Sergeant! Although the Private failed out his sophomore year and…

You cracking wise with me, Private?

No Drill Sergeant! The Private is prepared to receive the very sad news Drill Sergeant.

We received word, Private, that your grandmother died last night at approximately twenty-two hundred hours. All of us here in Training Battalion 432 are very sorry for your loss. The chaplain will be by later to issue you formal bereavements. I just wanted to tell you first, so you could prepare yourself.

Thank you, Drill Sergeant. The Private appreciates you telling him… me… Drill Sergeant.

You don’t seem terribly upset there, Private.

Drill Sergeant?

I mean, I tell you your goddamned Nana died, and you’re standing there like a rock. You got deep-seated emotional issues there, Private? Are you a goddamned sociopath?

Does the Drill Sergeant know whether it was mom’s side or dad’s side, Drill Sergeant?

(Standing up quickly, squinting like Clint Eastwood in… well, every single one of his movies) What the fuck did you just ask me, Private?

Mom’s… or Dad’s… side? Drill Sergeant?

(Getting up in face such that campaign hat is poking just where the bridge of the nose meets the eyebrows) You filthy, worthless puke. You better not be telling me you played favorites with your goddamned Nanas.

Drill Sergeant… the Private’s… that is… my grand… or, well, the Private’s nana… one of them lived out of state, Drill Sergeant. The Private didn’t get to see her all that often.

(Now pecking at the bridge of the nose with the brim of the campaign hat, which hurts) You don’t think a Nana’s love can cross state lines? Is that what you’re telling me, maggot?

No, Drill Sergeant!

Are you calling me a liar, Private?

No, Drill Sergeant!

Anybody who’d play favorites with their Nanas would cheat at solitaire, Private. And that’s the lowest goddamned individual there is.

(Trying desperately not to think about how Jeffrey Blumgardner back in high school used to refer to masturbation as “playing solitaire,” trying desperately not to think about how one might cheat at masturbation (trying especially hard now not to imagine the near-apoplectic Drill Sergeant cheating at solitaire)) Yes… Drill… Sergeant.

What’s so goddamned funny, Private? You want me to send you up to the psych ward? I just told you your Nana died, and here you act like you’re at a goddamn Henny Youngman concert.

The private is maybe overcome with grief, Drill Sergeant.

Bullshit. You couldn’t give two shits about your Nana. They probably could’ve both died in a terrorist attack and it wouldn’t bother you a bit.

No, Drill Sergeant!

You calling me a liar again, Private?

I’m… that is, the Private isn’t… attempting to… that is, the Private doesn’t want to suggest

You a goddamned lawyer or something, Private? Spit it out. Yes or no, do you love your Nana?

Yes, Drill Sergeant!

Then process your grief in a healthy goddamned fashion. Sound off!

Drill Sergeant?

Cry, goddamnit!

Drill Sergeant?

Have you lost your ability to understand American English? Am I speaking goony goo-goo? You understand what crying is, don’t you?

Yes, Drill Sergeant!

Then what’s your malfunction, numb nuts? I’m ordering you to weep cathartically and unabashedly until I feel better. Until I feel cleansed of my grief.

The Private’s confused, Drill Sergeant.

No shit you are.

The Private thought the military eschewed all non-rage-type emotions, Drill Sergeant. The Private is fairly shocked that the Drill Sergeant didn’t maybe say something like I lost my Nana in Vietnam, but you don’t see me crying, do you? That’s ‘cause I had my tear ducts surgically removed, or something like that, Drill Sergeant. Also, the Private hasn’t ever had to cry on cue, Drill Sergeant, and the Private is starting to get performance anxiety.

I’m going to start counting, Private. When I get to three, you better be emoting like you’ve never emoted before.

Drill Sergeant?


The Private… that is…


The Private would like to request an extension…

Two and a half.

Such that he can maybe drum up some old fond memories of his dear sweet departed Nana…

Two and three quarters…

Did you say whether it was mom’s mom or dad’s mom, Drill Sergeant?



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cajun Pauley July 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Outstanding. Loved it. Almost too close to reality!


2 Elmore Kingshit July 10, 2011 at 9:12 am

Anybody know how to get in touch with the author of this?


3 The Murky Fringe July 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Yes. But if you’re an ex-wife or private detective, you’re out of luck.


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