Around early February of ’05 we started seeing the first private military patrols. Outfits like Triple Canopy and Blackwater had guys driving around Downtown Fallujah in up-armored Benzes and Cadillacs with tinted windows and air conditioning, and the guys had long hair and beards and fancy hi-speed gear and always ate ice cream for some reason. They looked like a swanky Las Vegas version of the Marine Corps.

Our first interaction with them was at the entrance to the Forward, while me and Billy Flack were on duty at that post. We saw them pull up in a candy apple red Escalade with black tints. We swung the gate open and as they pulled up along side us they opened the passenger door and the dude had two puppies! They were pitbull mutts, which are the sturdiest dogs in Ntoto. Billy and I knew this very well because before the Marine Corps when we were completely lost in the world we wandered to and fro with a group of wooks who always kept pitbull mutts on the road. They protected us and they never got sick or cold and they were small and compact but also dense with muscle.

The mercenary was a handsome black dude with a beard trimmed like someone in a 90s R&B band. He had an elegant gold grill across his bottom teeth which only showed when he smiled. He had the two puppies on his lap. They were red-nosed. The boy had a white coat and the girl’s was yellow.

The mercenary handed them down to us and said, “Here you go, y’all.”

We had an immediate childlike Christmas reaction to them and decided right away to keep them even tho the brass had ordered all dogs that wandered into the compound to be shot because rabies was a problem in the city.

“Where’d y’all find them?”

The driver, a white dude with a ZZ Top beard, said, “At the goddamn ice cream shop. They and they momma always hung ‘round there licking the sugar off the floor. A week ago a goddamn sniper got their momma. We rescued ‘em.”

Billy looked up at them from the puppies, all starry eyed. “Who is y’all?”

“We work for Blackwater.”

“And how come you get to ride in a Escalade?”

“Nah, mane,” said the handsome black guy, “we got Beamers and Benzes, too.”

ZZ Top said, “Shit, you should see what I done just bought me back home, mane. I’m gon’ have to run over bitches with my new Harley just to keep ’em off me.” He stroked his long beard to show off his combat timepiece, a gold Rolex.

“And y’all was in the Marine Corps too?”

“Eight muthafucking years, boy. I met Charley Harley here in the Island. Shit, we both country boys from North and South Kakalaki respective. Last year we made more bread than our whole Marine Corps career. We ain’t never figured 9/11'd make us rich men.”

Charlie Harley said, “We fixinna be set in a couple more years, ‘less we die first. But if that happens we ain’t gonna know about it anyway — “

Then both said in unison, “So what the fuck!”

They laughed and looked at us to see if we got the reference. They seemed almost offended we didn’t get it and the handsome black guy said, “Bruh, Bunny from Platoon??”

Charlie Harley said, “They young’ns, the little jits.”

“They’ll learn.”

And with that they closed the door and peeled into the compound to parley with the officers, leaving us literally in the dust, our bright eyes shining through the dust and peering into the far future.

“We need to fuck wit that shit right there, mane,” said Flaco.

“Yessir. Yes, indeedy.”

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