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The Graveyard

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Louis thought his graveyard was coming along nicely. Lots of the dead soldiers were redshirts, nothing but fodder for the war machine. The war was pieced together from the bits he knew about from M*A*S*H reruns, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and his own imagination. Most of the time the war involved explosions and the occasional plastic dinosaur attack. What they were fighting for was the American way; who they were fighting didn’t much matter. Sometimes, the enemy were sort of like Nazis, sort of like Cobra, but most of the time they were ambiguous baddies, only known to the gruff-voiced good guys as “the enemy.” Louis had fun devising schemes during school about the best battles to stage, always thinking critically about the death toll. He couldn’t kill too many soldiers at once—he had a sizable collection, but it wasn’t infinite. And the G.I.s who died never got unburied. They didn’t get to come back.

That was the important part.

Louis was on his knees in the grass, pawing at the ground with his hands. His fingernails were permanently dirty due to this practice, a fact that his mom lamented, but he didn’t mind. You couldn’t worry about dirty fingernails in a war.

He was burying Grunt and Cover Girl, who’d died in an enemy ambush. They'd died quickly. Cover Girl had gotten caught in the middle of an explosion, while Grunt had gotten shot in the heart. All the other G.I.s had wept profusely after the battle ended in their winning, because winning meant less than losing two teammates.

Louis saluted their stiff, plastic bodies as they lay in their freshly dug graves. “May your memories be a blessing,” he said solemnly, taking off his cap. “You were good and loyal soldiers. The best of the best.”

He began to pile on the dirt onto them until the graves were covered. Then, he tamped down the earth with his hands until Milly called him in to set the table for dinner.