This is entirely out of context, but I’m going to post it anyway because I’m having a hard time writing nonfiction about something that I’m currently trying to write in fiction. Also, I just want to say that I NEVER publicize my fiction when it’s this fresh and in-process. It’s almost like jinxing it (not to mention the fact that a 1st draft excerpt really can’t do much). But whatever. One time only.
This scene would take place in the middle of a story told from the 1st person perspective of a 17-year-old girl. Her brother shipped to Afghanistan a few months prior to this scene. She has been secretly working out to get in shape for her first Army physical test, but if her parents found out she wanted to enlist they would be heartbroken. Her longstanding obsession with military terminology has been established. She clings to it, as it’s really the only thing she has left to connect with her brother. Here, she makes her fist visit to the recruitment office:
Once I made up my mind about enlisting, I thought time would zip past. Instead, the opposite happened. 1430 hours. 15 APR 10. A date everyone else remembered because of taxes. I remember because it was the first time I set foot in the U.S. Army Recruitment Office.
I wore my hiking boots—the closest thing I owned to combat boots—with a pair of Dustin’s ratty, beige cargo pants, my dark gray hoodie, and my Jansport backpack (still with the twenty-pound weights in it). I kept my hair pulled tight in a ponytail, not a single dark brown strand fallen loose along the back of my neck. I wanted them to look at me and know that I meant business.
My boots squeaked atop the linoleum-tiled hallway. I turned right into the U.S. Army entrance—there were others, one for each branch of the military—and snapped my feet and hands to attention. I didn’t know how to salute and I didn’t dare try, but I’d studied the grades online and knew that the first man I saw wore a patch with three hard stripes.
“Good afternoon, Sergeant,” I said.
“Good afternoon, M’am. What can I do for you today?”
“I’d like to enlist. My brother Dustin is in Afghanistan. I’ve been working out. I want to sign up,” I said. Then I bit the inside of my own cheeks to make myself shut up. It wasn’t supposed to come out like that, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d been training in secret for weeks. Nobody knew about my plans to enlist. Not even Dustin. Finally, I’d found a place where what I wanted to do was exactly the same as what was needed.
I tried to hold the Sergeant’s gaze but grew too curious. Four other desks filled out the tiny office, two more male officers and one woman, each wearing full fatigues and odd-looking berets. The American flag hung above the Oregon flag, and beneath them both I saw a signed photo of President Obama, Commander in Chief.
The Sergeant smiled, almost parental, then looked at the others. “Congratulations,” he said. “That’s a decision you should be proud of. Sergeant Hill?”
“Yes, Sir?” the woman answered.
“Please get Ms.—”
“—Ms. Bowlin,” I said.
“—Ms. Bowlin oriented.”
“Yes, Sir.” She turned to me, then indicated that I take a seat in the empty chair next to her desk. “Welcome aboard, Ms. Bowlin. I can tell already the Army will be pleased to have you…”