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The Short Form

“The B.A.R. Man”

Richard Yates

Excerpt

And this was the first time Fallon realized how much the crowd in the office had changed over the years. In the old days, back around ’forty-nine or ’fifty, with the old crowd, anyone who didn't know what a B.A.R. was would almost certainly have kept his mouth shut.

“The B.A.R.,” Fallon said, laying down his fork, “is the Browning Automatic Rifle. It's a thirty-caliber, magazine-fed, fully-automatic piece that provides the major firepower of a twelve-man rifle squad. That answer your question?”

“How d'ya mean?” Boyle inquired. “Like a tommy gun?”

And Fallon had to explain, as if he were talking to children or girls, that it was nothing at all like a tommy gun and that its tactical function was entirely different; finally he had to take out his mechanical pencil and draw, from memory and love, a silhouette of the weapon on the back of his weekly pay envelope.

“So okay,” Kopeck said, “tell me one thing, John. Whaddya have to know to shoot this gun? You gotta have special training, or what?”

Fallon's eyes were angry slits as he crammed the pencil and envelope back into his coat. “Try it sometime,” he said. “Try walkin’ twenty miles on an empty stomach with that B.A.R. and a full ammo belt on your back, and then lay down in some swamp with the water up over your ass, and you're pinned down by machine-gun and mortar fire and your squad leader starts yellin’, ‘Get that B.A.R. up!’ and you gotta cover the withdrawal of the whole platoon or the whole damn company. Try it sometime, Mac–you'll find out whatcha gotta have.” And he took too deep a drink of his beer, which made him cough and sputter into his big freckled fist.