(Excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heart, by Tom Andrews.)
A concrete womb, painted battleship grey and humming with the cries of satan-spawn. "Joy," I thought to myself, and shouldered my rifle. This was not going to be over quickly.
Ed's ghost popped up again and looked at me like he wanted to say something. "Don't go in there, you fool," he seemed to say. Or was that my own voice rattling back at me in response to fear over that concrete womb and the satan-spawn? Who the hell knows? Ed's ghost stood right in front of me, though, and I looked real closely at him. I could still see that wacked-out tattoo on the side of his head.
"Yo, ghost of Ed, I got a question."
Ed's ghost just stood there, looking kind of sad.
"Ghost of Ed, before I go and smoke these Threats, or get smoked myself, will you tell me, please, what the hell that tattoo is all about? I remember when you got it. You never told me what it was. Can you tell me now?"
"Shit, man," said Ed's ghost, "it don't really matter. I got something to tell you. Don't worry about my f***ing ink, man."
"Ed, if I get waxed in there I'll never know what the tattoo was. Can't you f***ing humor me? Just this once?"
"Watch your f***ing mouth with me, man...do you eat with that filthy mouth?"
"Sorry," I said to the silvery apparition of my old drinking buddy. I never spoke another foul word to Ed's ghost after that point. "So can you tell me?"
"Don't worry about it. Just don't go in there. Drop a f***ing pulse grenade in there and call it a day. You have gin back in the barracks. Call this a Hanukkah gift to my old friend. OK?"
Ed's ghost vanished like steam rising from a pot of cooked gizzards and I fumbled with getting a 'peege from my load-bearing vest. That old Ed always had some good ideas, and getting back to that bottle of gin in my footlocker was one of the better ones he ever shared with me.
I felt the shock waves ripple out of that concrete womb and the new cracks in the exterior wall told me the 'peege had done its work. I looked around for Ed's ghost, hoping he'd show up again so I could ask about the gift.
"But I ain't Jewish," I called out over the pock-marked landscape.