Taggot Goldfarb regrets his decision to enlist in the US Army, until he discovers he has an unusual supernatural power; by Phil Temples.
The private suppressed a sudden urge to cry. He bent down to pick up his weapon as ordered by his drill sergeant, John Crumpit (rhymes with "trumpet", godammit!). Crumpit had knocked it out of Taggot (rhymes with "faggot") Goldfarb's hands only seconds ago to demonstrate the dire consequences of an improper grip on a soldier's most important asset.
"YOUR WEAPON IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE, INCLUDING YOUR DICK!" bellowed the sergeant to the assembled platoon.
Crumpit demonstrated his limitless cruelty by placing a foot squarely on Taggot's rifle and giving Taggot a heavy push backwards, knocking Taggot on his ass. Crumpit smiled an evil smile then he glared at the others as if to say, "I dare you to even think about laughing!"
But then - an amazing thing happened. It was so amazing, in fact, that it defied the laws of nature. Crumpit was looking right at it and still he couldn't believe what he saw. The other men in the platoon, who only seconds ago were on the verge of snickering, were also dumbfounded. For better or worse, Taggot figured that his days in the military would never be the same. In fact, the entire military establishment would never be the same. All that had been was inextricably changed in that one fateful moment as Taggot Golbfarb lay on the ground thinking.
The son of an accountant father and stereotype Jewish mother, Taggot grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Tall and lanky, he was not entirely unhandsome. Nevertheless Taggot certainly did not command the eyes of the young ladies of his school. Taggot tended to prefer the quiet tranquility of the library in lieu of socializing with his classmates. Indeed, Taggot's social conditioning might have been greatly hampered had it not been for his love of the school's marching band.
Taggot reveled in the precision and teamwork that the band demanded. Although he would never excel as a musician, Taggot was an excellent precision marcher. He was so good, in fact, that the band director placed Taggot in the key position reserved for the first chair trumpeter. Taggot found it easy to keep the formations tight during the more intricate marches. And he always lent a helping hand to the other band members with the steps. His classmates accepted Taggot's assistance willingly, for Taggot was always cheerful and polite. He never made fun of his less-skilled band colleagues.
Taggot's taste for teamwork and precision led him after graduation to sign up at the local Army recruiting office. Taggot hoped that an Army career would mean the continuation of all that was good in the regimented life of the marching band. Certainly, the recruiter agreed with Taggot's line of thinking. "Son, the Army is the perfect place for someone like you who wants to be a part of a team," crowed the Captain.
His old man was thrilled. "The Army will make a man of him, Ethel," chimed Mr. Goldfarb. "The Army will toughen him up. You'll see. You've turned him into a mama's boy." His mother, Ethel, was unconvinced, however. She continued to worry about her son, if he was getting three balanced meals, and whether or not he was wearing clean underwear.
Three weeks of basic training, however, had convinced Taggot he had made a terrible mistake by enlisting. The other men were frequently cruel to Taggot. They played tricks on him. The men sabotaged Taggot's bed making, shoe shining, and toilet cleaning in order to get him in trouble with the drill sergeant. And to make matters worse, Crumpit's cruel nickname for Taggot had been picked up and used in the common vernacular by all the others. It got to the point where Taggot yearned for anyone who might simply call him by his correct name. Friendship and teamwork seemed totally out of the question.
As he sat there on the ground, barely containing his sadness and tears, a thought flashed through Taggot's mind: it was of an old poster he had once seen in the neighborhood synagogue. The poster contained an image and some words about beating swords into plowshares.
Just then, Taggot noticed that the sergeant was no longer screaming at him. In fact, there was a very unnatural silence. Taggot looked at Crumpit, expecting a glare that would peel the paint off a wall, but instead, Crumpit was standing open-mouthed looking at the fallen rifle. Taggot looked to his side; he couldn't find his rifle. All he saw was a stick sitting there in its place.
As Taggot quickly found out, the rifle had simply disappeared before everyone's eyes. Materializing in its place was a stick of the same length. Crumpit absentmindedly dismissed the platoon. He eyed Taggot warily, as he extended a hand to the puzzled private and helped him to his feet.
In the days that followed, more weapons began to mysteriously disappear off the base. An old Sherman tank behind the supply depot was reported missing. In its place a large hay wagon was found - complete with bales of hay. And the weapons cache now contained all sorts of garden tools, lawn mowers and rakes - but not a single semi-automatic rifle, pistol, bullet or hand grenade. Apparently, every time Private Taggot Goldfarb thought of that old poster and its sentiment of turning swords into plowshares, a mysterious transformation occurred somewhere.
Soon, other bases started reporting thefts and disappearances of weapons and equipment. An air force base nearly 120 miles distant was missing an entire squadron of jet fighters. In place of the fighters stood a neat, tidy row of John Deer tractors, spit-polish shiny and new.
In the weeks that followed, Taggot's platoon - in fact, all of the platoons - drilled incessantly with their shiny wooden sticks, and they practiced lobbing polished rocks at the grenade range while the command staff tried to make sense of it all.
It wasn't Taggot's idea to desert. At first, he relished the idea of soldiering with fake guns, lobbing fake grenades and driving around in horse-drawn carriages. It seemed like great fun. But one of the quiet, unassuming soldiers in another platoon pulled Taggot aside and convinced him that it might not be a good idea for Taggot to hang around much longer. Indeed, the very next day after Taggot went AWOL the commandant of the camp gave orders to confine Taggot in the brig. It seemed that the brass in Washington were getting very concerned, even scared. They wanted to have a long talk with a certain private before any more of their shiny weapons were replaced with bicycles or garden hoses.
As Taggot made his way to friendlier surroundings - a commune in eastern Oregon - he continued to think about the synagogue and its brightly colored poster with the slogan of beating swords into plowshares. In fact, Taggot thought long and hard about it. And with each thought his "mental reach" extended further and further. Taggot didn't know it but he was beginning to reach out and "touch" the armed might of other countries on other continents. The leaders of those countries' armies were just as scared as America's military leaders. In top-secret meetings they speculated as to the nature of the sorcery the U.S. had unleashed upon them. After all, wasn't it a known fact that the British military had sanctioned Pagans in England to unleash magical spells against Adolf Hitler during the Second World War?
It didn't take the world's armed forces very long to realize that if they didn't act soon there would be no weapons left with which to counter this magical attack. A few days later, the other side decided to launch a preemptive strike using the last remnants of its nuclear arsenal consisting of two-dozen ICBMs. All of their aboveground launchers were now large oak trees, and most of their subterranean missile silos had been transformed into wishing wells. The United States would no doubt retaliate, firing its few remaining non-wishing-well weapons from secret silos in North Dakota and Idaho.
The next day, The Last War started. The military controllers of several nations stared unbelievingly into their electronic screens. As they saw Armageddon approach, they wept openly. The multiple missile trajectories traced certain doom for many of the peoples of the earth. Mere minutes were left before death and destruction rained down upon soldiers who now carried sticks, farmers who were familiar with plowshares and tens of millions of innocent civilians from all walks of life.
However, fate was smiling on the world that day in the form of ex-Private Taggot Goldfarb, who was happily adapting to life on the farm in rural Oregon and to his newfound friends who treated him with dignity and respect and who pronounced his name properly. Taggot was in a deep, meditative trance thinking of plowshares that morning. And as he meditated, the earthbound missile payloads suddenly transformed themselves into large, harmless (unless you happened to get hit by them) snowballs that returned to earth not as fiery death and destruction, but rather, as big piles of slush.
In the years that followed, the original disciples of Goldfarb were dispatched from the farm in Oregon to all corners of the earth, teaching Goldfarb's meditative technique, a technique that quite simply and effectively harnessed an inner power to turn any weapon into a proverbial plowshare on a global scale.
In fact, now that extraterrestrial contact has been established we now know that the Goldfarb Principle extends outward into deep space - on an interplanetary scale. And we owe it all to a lowly former private in the United States Army who simply wanted to march and to be treated with dignity and respect.