MICHAEL BOTUR hails from the South Island. He has been published in Takahe, JAAM, Bravado, Blindswimmer, Deep South, Catalyst, A3, Critic, Debate, NiL, Her and F*nk, and the literary phenomenon Prima Storia. He lives in Auckland and works for the literacy mafia.

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IT WAS the televised recruitment ads which got to him. The Army was distancing itself from humanity and promoting a kind of sexy robot mentality. Some ideal of cold efficiency. The viewing public felt clever by measuring themselves against televised standards. The Army had to have an enemy. He could see that the enemy was anyone who didn’t subscribe. He panicked, believed that the First XV at his high school were taking over. He hated rugby, and all conflicts for that matter. And GE. And the pigs. He hated meat.
He grew his hair long, learned to tilt his head back when he marched, to make it easier for the SIS to identify him. The SIS were intimidated that the seditionist had nothing to hide. He himself was disappointed that he had nothing to hide, except for dirty teeth. He dared them to charge him with treason, high treason, terrorism. He thought destructive thoughts, labelled them Constructive. He got worked up, swore at a Maori Warden, begged forgiveness.

He retreated from conventional short-cuts in consumer culture, stopped brushing his teeth, bought only domestic produce, befriended argumentative people. They put the germ into his head that nuclear power would kill us all, that GE crops had to be torn from the ground and the earth scorched so nothing could grow back. Nothing except organics.
He went AWOL from his lectures. The credit on his phone ran out. He misplaced his charger. He believed he was off the radar. He found himself in the Ureweras in the back of a ute, cuddling a pigdog against the lightest of rains. He wore fatigues and a construction site hard hat. In his pocket was a trumpet for reveille. He would fight conscription with militant training. No blood for oil!

It wasn’t that he found others like himself, he stopped believing in all that. What happened was others like himself found him. Somehow, there were even more bitter, even lonelier soldiers than himself. He tootled the trumpet for them at dawn. A battery hen cadoodled with him. His metabolism was pushing outwards, like his weatherboard teeth. He got them doing jumping jacks with him, toe-touches, lifting buckets of water. They would tear down the Zionist war machine and plant flowers in the caterpillar tracks, replace ANZAC Day with May Day II. They were post-pubescent students and a huddle of beneficiaries in their thirties, but they were collected, and that was what mattered.
Dog tags for every man, woman and child. We are all children, he told his followers, standing on half a tree trunk, But we are all men. We will bomb the Waiouru museum, scatter the medals, smelt the statues of Charles Upham from our plazas, decapitate the Crown.
But first, let’s raid that battery farm across the river, he ordered, I’m starving.

If they couldn’t find the right charges for him, they would borrow some off of another prisoner. The Pigs made it clear that no one in his little group would be forgotten about.
His cell had a TV because he was the Ringleader, the greatest threat, and they didn’t want him plotting with a roommate. The TV was too high up the wall to switch off or change the channel. The Army recruitment ads came on every fourteen minutes. It was like waterboarding, rendition, all those unspeakable things the Nats probably support.
It was the salary that got him in the end. That included free dental care. He was in pretty good shape, his metabolism up and his appetite was expanding like his cavities. The guard said, in the Army, they could eat all the grub they wanted in the mess hall, especially vegetables. He was a vegetarian and he thought that was just great.