MILLER’S FACE

This story first appeared in Halloween Party 2017.

If my shirt buttons were thinner, I’d have been closer to the ground. Bullets burst around us. For most of fifteen minutes I could do nothing but memorize Miller’s face. I can still see it.

We were eating lunch when the VC opened fire. A can of boned chicken lay splattered beside Miller. Its whitish gray color, its terrifying motionlessness mocked his cheeks.

So Miller was alive. Not that it showed. Even his sweat stood still until the sun dried it.

His nostrils were flared. Miller risked making them bigger so the acrid air might wander into his lungs without any telltale breathing. His pale blue eyeballs were fastened on the three inches between Miller’s locked fist and his rifle.

I saw no change in his face the whole time, except in the little creases between his eyebrows each time a Marine cried out. A steel helmet with a torn cover hid the top of his head, giving his scalp no more real protection than his jungle boots offered his drawn-up feet. His straight jaw was clenched, as if to steel him against the inevitable impact.

The bullet did most of its damage unseen, disappearing through a dime-sized dab of red at the base of his throat and tearing downward. Miller barely flinched. Then his eyes met mine just before they went dim, and every muscle relaxed.

I guess I was luckier. The battle didn’t leave any marks on me that show.

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