Battle dress, p.1
Battle Dress, page 1
Table of Contents
GLOSSARY OF CADET SLANG AND MILITARY TERMS
“You have the raw materials—brains, talent, drive. But that’s not enough to make it through this place. A thousand kids walked through Thayer Gate four weeks ago, with the same stuff that you have. But guess what? Not all of them are here today! And you know why? Because this place is hard, Davis. It takes more than a high SAT score and a varsity letter. It takes self-discipline. Not the rules that West Point puts on you, but the rules you put on yourself. That’s what character is all about. Slamming doors when you’re mad isn’t self-discipline. Making excuses for poor performance, even when they’re true, isn’t self-discipline. Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t self-discipline.”
“Yes, sir.” I started to feel a little better. This place, I realized, wasn’t anything like home. Here, all the name calling and yelling had a purpose, a purpose aimed to give us character, not to hurt us.
“I can’t imagine you being a quitter, Davis. But if that’s what you want, I can’t make you stay. But I can make you think about it.”
OTHER BOOKS YOU MAY ENJOY
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First published in the United States of America by HarperCollins Publishers, 2000
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2010
Copyright © Amy Efaw, 2000
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Battle dress / Amy Efaw
Summary: As a newly arrived freshman at West Point, seventeen-year-old Andi
finds herself gaining both confidence and self-esteem as she struggles to get through
the grueling six weeks of training for new cadets known as the Beast.
[1. United States Military Academy—Fiction.
2. Military education—New York (State)—West Point—Fiction.
3. Self-confidence—Fiction. 4. Interpersonal relations—Fiction.] 1. Title.
PZ7.E273Bat 2000 99-34516
[Fic]—dc21 CIP AC
eISBN : 978-1-101-47800-4
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
TO ALL MY A’S:
THE FIRST FOR BELIEVING,
THE MIDDLE THREE FOR ENDURING,
AND THE LAST FOR WAITING
Battle Dress is fiction. This is not to say, however, that the story does not contain elements of truth. As my good friend the writer Doris Orgel has said, fiction often draws from an author’s memories, imaginings, and aspects of actual people and events. Indeed, one cannot experience a place like West Point and later write about it without reflecting upon that experience in some way. But no character I’ve portrayed in my story was based exclusively upon any one person I have ever known.
In writing this book, I have simplified West Point’s organizational structure. Most notably, nowhere are officers or noncommissioned officers mentioned. Though West Point is largely run by cadets, an entire hierarchy of active-duty officers and noncommissioned officers oversees everything. I have also attempted to minimize confusion about the cadet chain of command by ignoring the many staff positions. Additionally, I’ve combined the two leadership positions of Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant into one; I felt the subtle differences between the two would be lost on readers unfamiliar with the Army structure. Finally, though the cadet leadership normally changes halfway through Cadet Basic Training, I’ve stuck with Cadet Daily and the rest of H Company’s upperclassmen so as not to disrupt the story’s trajectory or cause the reader unnecessary confusion.
The writing of this book was not a solitary endeavor but a combined one. I’d like to offer thank-yous to the following people for their contributions, which made my book the best that it could be. To my parents, Elizabeth Moudry and David L. Blanchard, for instilling in me the drive to excel, which led me to West Point in the first place. To my editor, Alix Reid, who, with skilled strokes of her pen, made me dig deeper. To Kristin Gilson, my paperback editor at Penguin/Speak, for so graciously allowing me to make subtle changes to the text, and to Eileen Kreit and all the great designers for giving Battle Dress an awesome new look—thank you, thank you, thank you! To my faithful New Jersey critique group: Christine Hill, Dorothy Stanaitis, Barbara Stavetski, and Martha Fenoglio, for all those long-distance critiques. To Jan Cheripko for planting the seed that became this story. To Doris Orgel for her enthusiastic response to my work and for pushing me in the right direction. To Ed Ruggero for his advice and encouragement. To Lieutenant Colonel Julian Olejniczak at the Association of Graduates and to Cadets Kristen Bowles, Scott Akerley, Barbara Antis, Will Canda, Bryan Duncan, B. J. Moore, John Hohng, and Brien Tsien for their help. To God through Whom all inspiration is given. And, of course, to Andy—’nuff said.
Because “Beast” at its core has changed very little over the years, I have slightly modified the text of the 2010 paperback edition of the book to reflect a more mid-2000s time period rather than the mid-1990s of the 2000 and 2003 versions. But the characters and the story have remained exactly the same. Readers probably won’t even notice the changes!
BEAST CHAIN OF COMMAND
You cannot choose your battlefield,
The gods do that for you,
But you can plant a standard
Where a standard never flew.
—NATHALIA CRANE, “THE COLORS”
FRIDAY, JUNE 25 7:15 A.M.
Your momma was home and you left.
Your daddy was home and you left.
That’s the reason you left.
—U.S. ARMY MARCHING CADENCE
THE MORNING I LEFT for West Point, nobody showed up at my house to say good-bye. I thought that at least someone from the track team—maybe even my coach—might drop by to wish me luck. But nobody did.
My mother stuck her frizzy, uncombed head outside and shrieked, “Do you want to eat today, Ted? I’m throwing some food together. Just sit there and wait.”
“I’ve been waiting,” he yelled back. “Now it’s time to leave. Didn’t we agree we’d leave at seven? Well, now it’s almost eight!”
“I’ll leave when I’m good and ready. So just shut up! You—” Then her eyes locked on me. “Andi’s not even in the car! So what’s the big deal? Isn’t she why we’re going in the first place?” Her head disappeared as the door slammed.
My dad glared at me and barked, “You heard your mother. Get in the car!”
I sighed, then got up off the curb and headed for the backseat. One thousand miles. Can’t wait for this trip to be over.
“Move over!” my sister yelled at my brother as I climbed in. “What’s your problem, Randy? You always sit in the middle.”
My brother sulked and slid over. Ten years ago, strapped into his car seat, he’d spat into my hair and smeared partially eaten graham crackers on anything within his reach. Now, at least, his annoying car behavior was limited to blowing out his eardrums with heavy metal on his iPod. “Just keep your pile of books on your side—” He smirked. “Mandie.”
She shoved him away. “Fine. If you keep your reeking breath on your side. Do you ever brush your teeth? And don’t call me Mandie. I told you, from now on it’s Amanda. That’s what’s on my birth certificate. Don’t you think it’s tacky that all our names rhyme?”
“No, I think it’s cool, Mandie.”
My mother yanked open the door to the passenger’s side. “You left the window open in our bedroom,” she said to my dad as they both got into the car. “The one over your precious computer. Ever hear of rain?” She crammed a grocery bag on the seat between them and dropped her purse to the floor. Then she turned around and frowned at my brother. “You have that thing on already?”
He shrugged. “Blocks out your voice.” He turned up the volume and closed his eyes.
My mother snorted, my dad started the car, and my sister opened her book.
West Point, here we come!
Before we even made it out of the driveway, my mother started complaining to my dad that the radio was too loud, and why did he always have to listen to the sports station? My dad said that she could pick the station when she started doing the driving.
As we whizzed down I-90 past the Sears Tower, my mother turned off the air-conditioning, opened her window, and commanded, “Open your windows, kids. Let’s get a nice breeze going.” Immediately, hot, sticky air wafted in.
My dad punched the air back on and said in his I’m-trying-to-remain-in-control voice, “Roll up your windows, kids. We need to cool this car off.”
My mother shut it off. My dad turned it on. My mother shut it off. He master-locked the windows.
Meanwhile, Mandie, Randy, and I were sweating, our legs sticking to the leather seats.
Finally, Mandie slammed down her paperback and yelled, “Would you stop acting like a couple of babies? Just leave the air on. Stop being so cheap, Mom.”
“I’m not being cheap.” She stuck her hand out the window. “It’s nice outside, and I just want to enjoy it a little. Is that so bad?”
“You call ninety-three degrees with ninety-five percent humidity ‘nice’?” Randy asked.
I guess he can’t block out her voice after all.
“Just leave it on,” Mandie said. “Andi will be gone in a few days. Can’t you attempt to limit the amount of misery she is forced to endure?”
I smiled. For as long as I could remember, Mandie had always stuck up for me, like a big sister should. Except she wasn’t my big sister. She was two years younger than I. Maybe she felt guilty because I caught so much grief and she rarely did.
“Well,” my mother snapped, “you can at least turn it down, Ted. It doesn’t have to be on so hard.” For some reason, my mother always listened to Mandie.
I could tell right away that this bad day was only going to get worse when we stopped to fill up at a Texaco station outside of Hammond, Indiana.
“I think it’s crazy that we have to stop so soon,” my mother whined. “Why didn’t you fill up before we left? You know gas costs more on the expressway.”
“Because,” my dad said, watching the numbers roll on the pump, “if we would’ve stopped in town, we never would’ve gotten out of there! You would’ve said, ‘I need to run into Jewel real quick to get something.’ Then it would’ve been Walmart, then ...”
“Oh, just shut up, you dumb—”
“Watch your mouth!” my dad spat.
She finished her sentence anyway.
Shortly after we crossed the Indiana-Ohio border, my mother pointed to a rest stop. “Pull over here, Ted. I have to pee.”
“You just went,” my dad said as he sped past the stop. “And do you have to be so crass? Say ‘urinate.’”
“I told you to pull over! I really have to go!”
“No! We’re making terrible time. In a couple of hours we’ll need to fill up with gas. We’ll stop then.”
“A couple of hours?” she howled. “Who do you think you are, God? You can’t dictate when I can and cannot pee.” She emphasized the word “pee.”
“Oh, yes I can! I’m driving. I decide when we stop.”
“Then I’ll drive!” she screamed, grabbing the steering wheel. The car swerved into the left lane, nearly hitting a red pickup truck. Car horns blared all around us. I grabbed the door handle to brace myself.
My brother’s eyes snapped open and he yanked his headphones off his ears. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“What do you think you’re doing?” my dad yelled. He tried to pry my mother’s fingers off the steering wheel. “Do you want to get us all killed?”
“No! I want to drive. I’m sick of you making all the decisions.”
“Let go!” He swerved back into the right lane.
Great. Now we’ll end up in a ditch.
“Stop at the next exit!”
Why does this stuff always happen in our family? I glanced at my sister. She was just sitting there, reading her book. “Come on, Dad,” I said, leaning forward. “Just stop at the next exit. Okay?”
He scowled at me over his shoulder. “Over my dead body!” Then he shoved my mother with his right hand, and she lost her grip on the steering wheel.
My mother screamed in his face. “You animal! You hit me! Did you see that, kids? He hit me!”
“I did not hit you,” my dad said, emphasizing every word. “I—”
“Let me out!” she screeched. “Let me out right now! I’m not going to sit in this car with you a second longer!” She flung her door open, and it waved to the Ohio pastures flying by at sixty-five miles per hour.
“For crying out loud!” my dad yelled. As he leaned across her to pull the door shut, my mother snatched off his glasses and threw them out the door.
“Ha!” she snorted triumphantly. “What are you going to do now, Mr. Big Shot?”
Without his glasses, my dad can’t see past the tip of his nose. So he really had no choice but to pull off the road. I heard gravel ricocheting off the car as we slowly bumped to a stop. My dad stared at my mother, stunned. She refused to look back. Instead, she wiped her tears and snot from her face with the back of her hand and began rummaging through the food bag to find a napkin.
“You should be put away,” he finally said. “You know, in the nineteen years we’ve been married, I’ve seen you do a lot of crazy things. But this ...” He shook his head and stared out the window.
He had seen a lot of crazy things. We all had. Like her
My dad took his keys from the ignition and fumbled around until he found my mother’s purse. He dug out her keys and shook them in her face. “I’m not going to take any chances with you,” he said. Then he got out and started walking back along the highway to look for his glasses.
“Hey, wait, Dad! I’ll help you!” my sister yelled after him. Then she smirked at my mother. “Great move, Mom. I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
The car quickly filled with heavy, sun-steamed air. I flung open my door, hoping to get some relief, but the breeze barely stirred the grass in the field beside us. Eight or nine cows ambled in the sun, snacking now and then on the grass and swatting flies with their tails. I got out of the car and stretched each leg, wishing I could go on a long run—pounding the pavement far away from our blue Volvo station wagon.
I heard my mother sniff. “Do you see how your daddy treats me? Taking my keys away like I’m a child or something.”
“Well ...” I picked at my thumbnail. You act like one.
“You see how violent he is?” She rubbed her shoulder. “He thinks he can hit me whenever he wants.”
“He didn’t really hit you, Mom. He pushed you.”
“What’s the difference? It hurt.” She stared at me, looking for sympathy. When she didn’t find any, she started to cry again. “That man disgusts me. He’s nothing but a ...” She started stringing curse words together. “He thinks he’s so perfect. Well, he’s not. He’s a lousy hypocrite, that’s what he is.”
by Amy Efaw / Young Adult / Realistic Fiction / Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes