It was the worst possible time to enlist. But for him, in a time of national torment, daily killed-in-action notices in the newspapers, students rioting, it was long, long overdue. He had conned his mother to sign a form allowing him to join at the age of seventeen. This had taken an investment in bourbon and telling her that it was a financial aid form from high school.

War had no particular attraction for him, he’d no desire to be shipped overseas along with other very young men to a bitter, hungering land and take the losing side. But at some level he sought to be fathered, to be taught skills of living rough, taught how to shoot, survive in a hostile environment. Military service was going to be a crash course in masculinity and all he had to do was put his life at risk and fill a village or two with corpses.

That’s why on his first day in boot camp, as drill instructors systematically screamed and pummeled the recruits, as he was punched and shoved along with the terrified herd, all he could feel was a sheer happiness that, at last, he had escaped his mother.