Everyone knew this guy. Problem was, he was wrong more than right, but hey, you get what you pay for.
Saturday. 1423 HRS. Barracks.
You enter a dark hallway that reeks of discount smokes, burnt shrimp flavored Ramen, and broken dreams. In your hand you grasp a crumpled piece of paper inscribed with ‘Johnny. 187.’ You were told this guy was the absolute best- knowledgeable, gifted, some even referring to him as ‘The Oracle’. Stepping over a rogue crusty green sock on the floor, you begin to make your way into the haze, your future hanging in the wings, desperate for a way out. As you walk down the dingy hall a naked guy on a skateboard clutching a fifth suddenly rounds the corner behind you. Startled, you move up against the wall as he zips past. ‘Watch it, Bergdahl’ he mumbles as he takes a pull off the bottle and disappears into the hazy darkness ahead. This place is shady. You’d been warned as much, but you had to be inside to truly understand what they meant. The light in the candy machine by the leaky drinking fountain flickers, a closer look revealing someone has carved ‘Beware the Weenie’ in the glass. Somebody screams. You walk past 162 and notice the heavy smell of Febreeze and corner of a towel sticking out from beneath the door. 174 is blaring someone’s war-inspired demo tape, and whatever is going on in 178 may, or may not, involve a Parakeet. This place has health and welfare written all over it.
Finally, you arrive at room 187 and raise your hand to knock, but before you can the door seems to open on its own. ‘I’ve been expecting you’ a deep gravelly voice says from the darkness, ‘come in’. Inside, the small room is lit only by a tiny beam of sunlight penetrating from between the drawn fire-retardant curtains. ‘Have a seat’ the mysterious figure says as he motions to the lumpy green duffel bag laying in front of his desk. ‘My name’s Johnny, Johnny Cochran. How can I be of service today?’ Seeing no other option, you take an uncomfortable seat on what feels like a pro mask that has been stuffed inside the bag. ‘Johnny…Cochran?’ you ask, ‘seriously?’. ‘You want to see my enlistment papers?’ he replies. Glancing up at the uniform hanging from the open door of the disheveled wall locker next to you, you notice his nametape reads ‘Cochran’, and further below it you can make out the edge of some mosquito wings protruding from the folds. ‘Nah, that won’t be necessary’ you tell him, suddenly regretting you came.
‘What brings you in today?’ he asks as you struggle to get the filter canister out from beneath your crack.
‘I messed up’ you reply. Smiling, he says ‘Take a look around you, we all ‘messed up’, Son. What exactly did you do?’. ‘I reenlisted’ you tell him as the smile quickly dissolves from his face. ‘Retention got me an hour after my girl called to say she was leaving me for man-bun down at ‘Whole Latte Love’ back home. I was weak. I wasn’t thinking straight! You gotta help me’. Leaning back in his chair, Johnny clasps his hands behind his head, exhales, looks up at the ceiling and asks ‘how many’d he get you for?’. ‘Three’ you reply. Taking a dramatic pause, he lets the situation marinate in his head, finally stating: ‘It’s worse than I thought, but I think I can help you out’. Intrigued, you lean forward on your pro-mask.
‘There’s a little-known stipulation in Army Regulation 601-280 covering retention regarding the validity of signatures made under duress should the signee be able to prove such conditions were present at the time of his or her signing’. ‘I’m listening’ you say. Continuing, he states: ‘you are in a race against the clock here, that paperwork is already on its way up to personnel for processing, so time is of the essence. What you need to do is call your First Sergeant at home as soon as you leave here and tell him that you made a mistake and would like to cancel your contract’. ‘On a Saturday?’ you ask. ‘Heck yeah on a Saturday! Do you want to do 3 more years? You know they’re short personnel down at Polk, right? Have you ever been to Polk? Mosquito is the state bird down there!’.
Sitting back on the bag and ignoring the popping sound you hear from whatever just gave way inside you ponder what The Oracle has just told you. ‘I hate mosquitos.’ you say. Rising to his feet, Johnny reaches out and puts his hand on your shoulder, looks into your eyes with the type of concern reserved for sitcom dads and says gently ‘Call Top, he’ll understand’. ‘You’re right!’ you exclaim as you jump to your feet, reenergized with the power of a thousand Ripits, ‘First Sergeant IS cool! You’re a freakin’ genius Cochran! How do you know all this stuff anyways? You in legal or something??’. ‘Nah, I’m supply’ he replies with a toothy grin as he leads you to the door, ‘but I am also a graduate the Barracks School of Law, and you are going to be alllllright’.