17. [Plate 11]
Say you're out in the field. Hurry up and wait. That's the eternal motto of the Army. You hurried up.
Now you wait.
Somebody reaches down and scoops up a pinch of loam. He does it slow and easy. Without haste. The dirt is dark
Everybody notices, looks, waits.
The soldier places the dirt atop his thumbnail. He brings it to his nose. He snorts.
His eyelids flutter. He sighs.
"Yo, dick-wad!" one of the dog-brothers laughs. "Smell like you mamma, do it?"
Surprised, the soldier says, "Eh? Oh! No, I was just getting off on the natural endorphins."
"Drug precursors, my man. The soil is just swarming with them! Psychotropic drugs are the most natural thing in
the world! Why do you think all them drug companies send reasearchers into the Amazon? They gonna cure your Aunt Sophie's
bunion? Fuck no. They in it for the high."
He takes another sniff of earth. "Try it yourself."
At which you and all the other grunts begin scraping up dirt and shoving it up your honkers. And even though it does
nothing for you at all, you don't want to feel left out, so you join in when the other guys begin laughing and saying
things like "Oh, yeah!" and "Great stuff!" and "Oh wow, man, you right!"
The soldier watches you all out of the corner of his eye, with a kind of amused expression. Then he gets out his
combat knife and scrapes something up from the ground.
"Try this," he says.
"What is it?" you ask.
"It's shit," he answers. "Really great shit."
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This is the 17th of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany
Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available
stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.