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Charming Billy 

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When you talk about the great converters, you know, people that can somehow convince you to do a 180 in your life, you probably think about gurus like Jesus or Muhammad, or maybe even Hitler. But I knew a dude that had them all beat—Billy Fascino.

I met Billy in eighth grade. As usual, I was sitting in the stands reading Harry Potter while the real world buzzed with activity. “Hey, nerd.” Hermione’s spell was broken. “We’re short a player for flag football. I already asked the band girls. They were busy blowing the Varsity’s flutes, so you’re it.” I was about to say no thanks, when he smiled and tossed me a flag belt.

Billy had a gift. It’s kind of hard to explain because it’s so very rare. In a nutshell, Billy could charm your pants off and he knew it. Already a handsome kid, Billy used his super-charm to beguile and bed giggling girls as we slogged through high school. The great converter, I once called him, after he added Lilly “White” Henderson to his harem of honeys.

“Let’s join up.” Billy had elbowed me as we stood in ranks for our high school graduation. The Army recruiter promised us we would be stationed together and that we would see action. The war in Iraq was well underway and Billy didn’t want to miss the fighting.

Captain Jennings sipped cold coffee from his Happiness is a belt-fed weapon mug as he read aloud the Op-order. “Sargeant Fascino, Specialist Schafee. You two will patrol the southeast corner of Fallujah Red.”

It didn’t take long to understand why Captain J. didn’t lock eyes with us while assigning the dirty work. Fallujah was still a hot zone and they knew we were coming.

Billy saw him first, a hajji with an RPG strapped on his back, ducking into an alley. Selector switches on burst, we pursued.

Just a kid, no more than 10, crouched behind a pile of trash ready to introduce us to Allah. Billy didn’t dive for cover or even raise his M4; he slowly reached up and tugged down the bandanna covering his nose and mouth. Then he smiled.

The boy holding the rocket launcher relaxed; the weapon was suddenly too heavy for him. Just as he was laying it down, a shot rang out behind us.

 

Her eyes, the only distinguishable feature behind her burqa, were blazing with hate and fear. Smoke curled from the barrel of the ancient rifle. Before she could chamber another round I emptied half a clip into her. I turned back to Billy, lying in the dust with a ragged hole in his back, his blue eyes beginning to glaze over. The boy, raising his hands in surrender, earned the second half of my magazine. I unstrapped Billy’s kevlar and placed it under his head. His eyes became lucid again and he smiled with blood-red lips. “You are free now,” he whispered, and died.

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Richard Broxson is a retired Army Master Sergeant having served in Desert Storm and Post 9/11 Iraq.  He continued the battle by teaching 9th graders English Lit. Richard loves to compete with his twin brother in everything, including fiction writing. They hope to collaborate on a bestseller one day.

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