Happy new year! We are so thrilled to begin publishing in 2021, and we can’t wait to share all the excellent stories we have lined up for the beginning of this year already. Today, we’re proud to share Kyle Seibel’s magnificent “Master Guns,” the story of a lonely sailor on his first naval deployment, our very first New Voices entry in 2021. Sink into “Master Guns” below.
That was the deployment where Lieutenant Donnelly implemented his Eight-On-Eight-Off protocol for the aircrewman. Usually, everyone on the ship worked in twelve-hour shifts. There is a night crew and a day crew. Lieutenant Donnelly wanted to try rotating eight-hour shifts. You’d be on for eight hours, then off for eight hours, then back on again. The idea was that it would prevent burnout and keep everyone sharp, fit, and rested.
What happened is that people went crazy. I don’t mean that people became overworked and cranky. I mean that the aircrew started to see impossible things.
I didn’t like Master Guns. Not one bit. For one thing, his appointment with Chaps was at 10am, but he always came a few minutes early to bother me.
“Here he is,” he’d say, leaning against my desk. “The world’s biggest Nancy Pelosi fan.”
“I don’t know who that is,” I’d tell him for the thousandth time, but eventually I learned that she was the Speaker of the House of Representatives until the 2010 midterm elections when she was replaced by John Boehner. Master Guns did not love John Boehner, but he hated Nancy Pelosi.
“I hate Nancy Pelosi,” he’d say. Then, upon glancing at the Oswald Chambers daily meditation calendar Chaps had put next to the coffee machine, “Nancy Pelosi,” he’d grumble. “She’s the least of my problems.”
I didn’t like Master Guns, but he was right about that.
* * *
In truth, Master Guns had many problems and that’s why he had a standing appointment with Chaps. From my desk outside his office I could hear Master Guns’ side of the conversation because he shouted almost everything. They usually began each of their sessions with some kind of debate about Obama or the Tea Party which quickly fell away to reveal the problems Master Guns was really there to talk about.
“She’s leaving me, Chaps!” He meant his wife. I learned the saga of Master Guns and his wife that winter, during my first deployment sailing across the Pacific ocean in a slate gray floating city that carried 5,000 souls from Norfolk harbor to the Northern Arabian Sea. The USS Enterprise fought in Vietnam fifty years ago and now it was fighting another war. This time, I was on it. So was Master Guns.
“Oh she’s a bitch, all right, Chaps!” He meant his wife again. And this was another thing I didn’t like about Master Guns. From what I could piece together, his wife was indeed leaving him, but that wasn’t what made her a bitch. What made her a bitch was that when he left for deployment, she discovered some emails which indicated that an Xbox that went missing from the wardroom a year ago had actually been stolen by Master Guns and sold on Craigslist. Among the Xbox emails were other messages Master Guns had sent to a woman in Reno, with whom he was having an affair. She was a bitch because she sent all of this evidence to the squadron commander, who opened an investigation.
“She’s just trying to get back at me! She’s destroying my career!”
And then Master Guns would sob because at the age of 42, he had ascended to the highest rank an enlisted man could attain in the Marine Corps and he had married a woman who was now sitting alone in his gaudy Florida mansion and whose sole mission was to dissemble her husband’s sanity, one email to his commander at a time.
And there was nothing he could do about it.