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Michael Cocchiarale
The Gingerbread Men of Guantánamo Bay

Yielding was an integral part of a team building an addition to a detention facility.  Okay, so he was building a restroom.  Okay, so he was digging a hole.  Just this morning, he'd dashed off an email full of exclamation points to patriotic parents.  He wished he could have typed them upside down, like the Cubans did.

"Yield-ing!"  Sergeant Hardly strode out of the hot white oven of sun.  "Got a special mission for you."


"Hump your sissy sunscreen up to Special Agent Fox at North Gate."

Yielding had been at Guantanamo Bay for only a week, yet already he was known around the base as "Sissy Skin."  He disliked the name, but years of Catholic school had steeled him against insult.

Out by the gate, a small important man paced like an action figure in front of an idling white van.  

"Sir?" Yielding approached, offering the sunscreen deferentially.

Fox snatched it and smeared the milky substance on his arms.  It looked like water mixed with powdered sugar.

"Ah, SPF 100!"

"From my parents, sir."  It had arrived with jellybeans, and admonitions against alcohol and sex (natural and, especially, otherwise) – an Easter care package for their unusually delicate third son, the one of whom they asked no questions, since he had spared them the burden of yet another four years of college tuition.  

Yielding's eyes were drawn to the windows of the van, behind which lay thin brown forms, packaged with military compression, one against the other.  

"Latest batch," Fox laughed.

They were gingerbread men.  

The special agent turned and punched the window of the van.  The men clattered fearfully against each other.  

"Have you even seen ginger?  The root?  It's the gnarled claw of Satan."  

Two guards opened the back door of the van, and the gingerbread men, petrified from their journey, began to slide out.  

"Just look at those eyes."

The eyes were something, all right – licorice dots swimming in pools of immaculate white.  But the mouths, or lack of them, transfixed Yielding.  Mouthless, voiceless, they seemed hopelessly inhuman – simply another contingent of the great "not us."  

Suddenly, one of them bolted.  Horrified, Yielding dropped his sunscreen on the asphalt.    

"Run! run! as fast as you can!" Fox mocked, staying the guards with one hand and drawing his gun with the other.  

Yielding looked at the other detainees – rigid one against the other.  They looked like something fresh off an assembly line.  Something Americans might buy.  Had consumed without knowing.

Fox fired – one cool crisp shot through the tropical air.  

The man crumbled before a barbed wire fence.  

With a collective military sigh, an "investigation" was ordered, and Yielding was sent back to deepen his ever-growing hole.  The palm trees made him think of his parents proud at home, celebrating the resurrection of their country's favorite man.  Under the baking sun, Yielding dug with desperate vigor.  Sergeant Hardly was impressed and called him "Pussy Skin" just to let him know.


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