A Storyby Tobias Wolff
On Friday Hooper was named driver of the guard for the third night that week. He had recently been broken in rank again, this time from corporal to PFC, and the first sergeant had decided to keep Hooper’s evenings busy so that he would not have leisure to brood. That was what the first sergeant told Hooper when Hooper came to the orderly room to complain.
“It’s for your own good,” the first sergeant said. “Not that I expect you to thank me.” He moved the book he’d been reading to one side of his desk and leaned back. “Hooper, I have a theory about you,” he said. “Want to hear it?”
“I’m all ears, Top,” Hooper said.
The first sergeant put his boots up on the desk and stared out the window to his left. It was getting on toward five o’clock. Work details had begun to return from the rifle range and the post laundry and the brigade commander’s house, where Hooper and several other men were excavating a swimming pool without aid of machinery. As the trucks let them out they gathered on the barracks steps and under the dead elm beside the mess hall, their voices a steady murmur in the orderly room where Hooper stood waiting for the first sergeant to speak.