The The Löbl and Burg Bastions 11 September 1683
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Murad had always thought that it was a tradition that only people in the Aegean had, but it seemed like people knew it even in central Anatolian shitholes; like where Can was from, where they had no steps and had never seen the sea. It was always particularly annoying for those that were involved – namely Osman son of Osman and Osman son of Mehmed – who were both in the next tent and had marched with them all the way from the garrison in Hungary.
That they were assigned to the same tent surely meant that it was a real thing and may have even proved that there was a God, Murad thought.
Once or even two or three times a day, in the middle of digging usually, when they were there cross-legged next to each other, sure enough, some random guy would come up and make a wish, standing between the two guys with the same name. They would have to get up from their digging – which they never liked doing as they never liked being disturbed in the middle of something, especially not for this superstitious bullshit – and have to shake hands with the then smiling and now luck-endowed asshole.
So when Can asked just before a barrage started, they obliged. And a stray cannon ball, one that was luckier than the Can in the middle or the two lucky Osmans on either side, bounced into the trench and cut through all three at once. The ball carried all three of them a good two metres ending with a pile of gore and bodies laying fused into one another.
Nobody knew what to say after that.
They were all dead, and really-badly-bouncing-eight-pound-cannon-ball-ripping-through-three-people dead.
There wasn’t a saying or tradition for that one at all.
Murad exhaled loudly. He had never liked Can, anyway.
The dirt was still dry; the air drier: thick and choking, with smoke sucking out anything that might have sustained life in it. The trench, as it had for countless weeks and months, holed them up wrapped in their own stink and dirt. He wanted to be clean. He wanted cool water, a grape. Just one fucking grape. He had killed for less, and was willing to for one solitary chance at moisture and meaning.
There was some firing from the top of the walls, some swearing in various languages at people who didn’t understand it, and then people got back to eating nuts and waiting. Then they were back in the camp like nothing ever happened. Again.
Murad stepped over the top half of Osman son of Osman’s body on the way out of the trench, through the redoubts and twists and turns to their tent in the massive city of cloth and earth that was their home. He ran into his tent-mate Muammar and was then thrown into an even worse mood.
He spotted a camp follower with an oud. “You! Syrian, or whatever the hell you are, play us something,” he demanded, staring at the Arab camp attendant, who was casually and mindlessly plucking the strings of his musical instrument. He was a shade darker than the rest, and Murad didn’t like it one bit. “Too many damn foreigners in the army now,” he thought.
“Whatever the hell you are – Syrian pussy-mouthed, horse-dick, Egyptian corn eater – I don’t give a shit. Play a song,” Murat continued, glancing around, making sure to look casual, resting on the butt of his up-pointing musket. He couldn’t decide if he was either bored or angry. Probably both, he imagined.
“I don’t feel like it.”
“You’re playing something now.”
“I’m not playing anything. I’m just plucking the strings.”
“You’re playing something, asshole! You’re sitting there, right in front of me, playing your oud. You think I’m blind?” Murad shouted.
“You mean deaf. I’m not playing anything, brother – I’m just plucking strings.”
“Listen, friend, did you carry that three thousand miles, on foot, over ten months, just to pick at it like a cunt?”
“Looks like I’m just picking it at it like a cunt then, doesn’t it?”
The Austrians were taking their late afternoon shots at the trenches as usual, with everyone was going back to the camp for dinner. Murad pulled up his wide belt, shifted up the dagger a bit and sucked in his gut as best he could. He took a step forward and glared at the Syrian.
“Fuck your liver,” the Egyptian said. Boom. Boom. A couple were getting close.
“Oh, look at that,” Murad growled. “The pussy mouth is sick of sucking on his leaves because he hasn’t sucked enough other Syrians off in the market, and now can swear in Turkish.”
“I said I’m Egyptian, asshole.”
Another cannon ball bounced into the trench, ripping the Egyptian’s head off with his left shoulder, and taking out a couple more legs and arms right in front of Murad.
“Again? How the fuck did this happen again? How the hell are they doing this? And no goddamn song, on top of everything!” He relaxed his shoulders, somewhat relieved.
“Shit, man, what now?” asked a soldier in broken Turkish. He was leaning nonchalantly against the trench wall to Murad’s right. "Do we clean it up or what?”
“Not sure,” Murad answered. He had no idea. He looked at Muammar who answered with a shrug.
The shooting stopped.
"Oof, let’s get the fuck out of here. I’m hungry.”
Just then they heard yelling from the top of the wall.
“Look, Murad! They’re calling us pussy heads!” said Muammar, his head shaking and eyes bulging, pointing to the top of the bastion. “I mean, that’s what it sounds like at least.”
“What?” Murad wasn’t sure he was supposed to be annoyed any more. They did this sort of thing all the time – but this time it was in their language. “Pussy heads?”
“Yes, pussy heads. Look, they’re making fun of our hats.” Muammar was pointing excitedly at the battlements.
The Austrians had fashioned tall, paper versions of the Janissary white, flapped hat, but replaced the feathers, decorative spoons and other sigils they wore on the front of them with crude, paper and rag vaginas.
“These fuckers!! Fuck them all to their Jesus hell or wherever! They…goddamn…fuck!” Murad stammered, actually stomping his feet like a child. “I don’t even like these fucking hats. You think we like these?” he screamed at the wall, his face contorted in such a way that it looked as if it was trying to rip itself off his head. Then: “Wait a second. How the hell did they learn that in Turkish?"