Essay by patboxHigh School, 11th gradeA, March 2007

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Thin drips of paint ebbed and flowed from the brush's tip; magnificent magentas; vehement violets; spectacular cerulean. My hand moved like some master puppeteer's, furiously dictating colourful marionettes on a stage of canvas. When all was done, I looked upon the marvellous piece of work, a subtle smile smoothing my features. A bubble of giggles came from behind, and my hand reached for the hand of this beautiful woman. But she just smiled, and her image slowly faded away as my hands tried to reach further forward.

I woke in a sweat-stained bed - it was but a dream. I had suffered similar vicarious encounters with my wife since coming from the jungle. Out there, there was too much going on to think about beauty.

Water dripped into a rusty basin, each resounding drop like the distant clubbing of gunfire. I suck in the stale air, wondering whether it is coagulating blood staining these walls rather than the damp moisture of this tropical hell.

There is a sound outside - tick, tick, tick. Is that the choppers cutting the air? Or merely a fan cooling that guards face? That infernal ticking goes on, and somehow the fabric of time stretches back to that routinely sweltering day.

"It's hell out there boys! You've never been to hell, but Charlie's been living there for years." Captain Marcel barked. "He's been sweating it out in that green abyss, waiting, for you." The choppers engines kicked and the blades spun in hypnotic spirals. "But you know what we're gonna do? Give em' a taste of real American brawn, and kick some ass!" We all lunged onto the helicopters, yelling, hooting, screaming. We stroked our guns, keeping them closer than a woman on a cold morn. Naturally, it was our first day.

The choppers sped...