The Armed Farces: An excerpt from The Harmon Chroniclesb

This morning I woke up feeling like a lean-mean-motherfucking-fighting-machine! Try burning my American flag, asshole! Yes, my friends, I decided to defend the honor of my country -- the United States of America. I found it time to join the military. Maybe I was reeled in by their catchy jingles, fancy slogans and MTV-style commercials. Or perhaps, as we all know, babes love a man in uniform.

Back to Main Article


Excerpted Here:
The Harmon Chronicles
by Harmon Leon

Editor's Note: Not only do we here at FrictionMagazine love to bring you great stories and commentary, but we love to highlight our contributors when they do something other than contribute to our projects. Please welcome Harmon Leon. You may recognize the name as a frequent contributor of fiction to both FrictionMagazine's website and print endeavors. You may find the name synonymous with biting wit and outlandish humor. You may remember the lively descriptions he gives his characters. You may come to love Harmon Leon as much as we do.

Here you will find an excerpt of his debut novel, The Harmon Chronicles. The Harmon Chronicles are a collection of real stories which trek a course from birth to death, exploring the absurdities of modern American urban life. This book follows the true-life pranks of cutting-edge, infiltrative writer Harmon Leon, who throws himself head first -- usually in an adopted persona -- into the arena of such sacred institutions as the workplace, religion, and home. The Harmon Chronicles can be considered a thinking-man's Tom Green mixed with the gonzo stylings of a modern Hunter S. Thompson, making a poignant statement about the lifestyles and conventions contemporary Americans are expected to take for granted. But enough from us. Read for yourselves the laugh-out-loud humor of Harmon Leon ... and buy his book dammit!

This morning I woke up feeling like a lean-mean-motherfucking-fighting-machine! Try burning my American flag, asshole! Yes, my friends, I decided to defend the honor of my country -- the United States of America. I found it time to join the military. Maybe I was reeled in by their catchy jingles, fancy slogans and MTV-style TV commercials. Or perhaps, as we all know, babes love a man in uniform.

But it's not that simple. One problem to decide: Would I rather die by land or by sea? Also, another obstacle to consider, they don't take just anyone. The military is very selective. Not any loser can walk in off the street and sign up. That's why I'll go to the major branches of the American Armed Forces, act like a boil on the bum of society, and prove they won't accept me. No sir-ee. They're not going to let a long-haired freak like me operate dangerous weapons at my leisure.

SLOGAN: The Few, The Proud, the Marines.
GARB: Dark blues and cool hats.
ADVANTAGES: I'd be able to kick some serious ass.
DISADVANTAGES: I'd have to do pushups in the mud while Sarge calls me "small" and "weak".

Getting into the military ranking system, I start off by taking a major bong hit, then journeying to the Armed Forces Recruiting Center, located right next to a pawn shop. My T-shirt says, "Kill 'Em All. Let God Sort 'Em Out." My knuckles are adorned with fake tattoos that say "H-A-T-E" and "H-A-T-E" and I'm shaking from the six cups of coffee I drank for intense effect. As I head to the marine office, I'm stopped by the army: one Sergeant Albertson.

"Can I help you with anything?"

"Oh ... I'm going to see the marines." I puff out my chest. I don't think I've ever said that phrase before.

"Well, when you get done, come check us out."

He actually winks at me. I feel like saluting. When I enter the marines office, I notice that it's full of marines, and they all look very similar. One marine asks: "Did the army guy try to stop you?"


They all roll their eyes.

"He does that to everybody," says the Marine at the farthest desk.

I'm assigned to a Sergeant Grant. I learn that to be good Marine recruiter, you must be very nice. This creates a dichotomy with your actual, "real" boot camp Sergeant who'll kick your ass from here to Cleveland while calling you "A Little Girl!" I say my name is Abe Vigoda.
"Why do you want to be in the marines, Abe?"

I slouch in my chair. It's a pop quiz, and I'm caught off guard.

"Cuz ... I want to serve my country?"

His eye contact is still on me. I put on the look of a person who can't figure out one plus one equals two.

"Oh, and I want to see me some Ac-tion!" I snap my fingers on "Ac-tion," showing off the H-A-T-E side of my faux tattoos.

"Then I think the Marines would be the place for you."

I think it over then add, "I was also looking at the Navy."

"The Navy!'

The tone of Sarge's voice suggests that the navy is a bunch of wussies. "Either the Navy or the Marines. In court, the judge gave me the choice of any Armed Forces."

"Do you have a police record Abe?"

"Um, yeah." I answer, like it's obvious that I do.

"And what for?"


In a roundabout way, Sarge explains it's okay to assault someone, but not with a deadly weapon. This will enable you to join the Marines, where you can assault people with deadly weapons.

"Can you explain your assault charges?"

"Let's just say, that guy shouldn't have been dating my sister!"

Sarge writes this down. Then he hands me a Marine Corp. entrance exam. It involves math and vocabulary, with such biting questions as "What is the definition of 'Little'?" I'm going to have to concentrate and put a lot of effort in to failing this. I decide to answer one section entirely correct so they'll think I'm an idiot savant.

When finished, I hand the exam back to Sarge. I get into the spirit. He is amazed that I finished a 35-minute exam in six minutes. I stand straight.

"All done sir!"

"With part one?" asks the Sarge.

"No! The whole thing, Sir!"

Sarge takes me into another room, giving my exam to a different Sarge; Sarge #2 I'll call him, who corrects it. It occurs to me that this man knows several ways to kill me with his pinky.

There's a deck of colored cards on the coffee table. One says, Leadership Skills, another Challenge, another Courage. A test of some sort is about to take place.

"I want you to pick your top three and place them in order of importance."

I look toward the bottom of the deck. This is what I came up with:
1) Travel and Adventure
2) Physical Fitness
3) Leadership Skills

I look content. Sarge asks me to explain.

"I want to get in good shape, then travel to Europe ... or maybe Hawaii!'

I make a dreamy face.

My test is brought in by Sarge #2. I got 5 percent correct.

"You didn't do so well, buddy," says Sarge #2.

I got a whopping zero correct on the math part. Two more Sarges come in. They look at my test and leave. A third Sarge comes in. He's eating from a container of Kentucky Fried Chicken coleslaw. He looks at the exam and puts his foot on the coffee table. I'm getting the feeling I've become some sort of joke amongst the Sarges.

"I'm going to give you a study guide so you can come back and retake the test on Monday," says Sarge #3.

"I've never been good at math," I whimper. I look like a dejected puppy dog of a Marine recruit.

"I never been good at math," I state again, shaking my head, not knowing what went wrong. I walk out of the office still mumbling about math. The Sarges say they'll see me first thing on Monday.

SLOGAN: Be All That You Can Be!
GARB: Olive drab and cool boots.
ADVANTAGES: Get to learn how to work a gun.
DISADVANTAGES: Have my head shaved and sleep in a room with 20 other guys.

I make my way down the hall and almost out the front door, when I hear a voice coming from the Army office.

"Hey! How's it going?"

I stop. It's Sergeant Albertson! He's gung-ho and eager to recruit for the army. Let's dance the tango!

"So you checked out the Marines."

He lowers his voice.

"Just between you and me, you got much better options with the Army."

I'm thinking in another case scenario, Sergeant Albertson would be a good used-car salesman.

"Why do you want to join the Marines?"

"Cuz I want to see a lot of AC-TION!"

I snap my fingers again, showing off my other H-A-T-E tattoo. He moves his chair closer to mine.

"Well, in the army, we can set you up to be a Ranger. You're the first guys down on the line to face the opposition. How does that sound?"

I make an excited face.

"You wear an infrared visor. It looks like you're some Cyber Warrior from Star Wars. How does that sound?

I make an excited face.

"What do you say you call me up tomorrow, 9:30 sharp and say "Sergeant A" -- that's what you can call me, Sergeant A -- I'd like to come take the admissions test. We'd meet somewhere, have a hamburger, and I'll drive you to the enlistment center, and you'll be in the Army by Saturday!"

I pick my ear.

"But I was also thinking of joining the Navy."

Sergeant A gives a look that says, "Oh, please. You can't be serious."

"Do you really want to be stuck on a boat for weeks on end?"

We both smile at each other.

"In the Army, you'll get to travel all around the world. Europe, Asia, Africa ..."

I think I know how to play ball with Sergeant A.

"Do you get to meet a lot of women?"

Sergeant A moves his chair closer to mine.

"Just between you and me, you'll have some stories to tell." He gives me a knowing look, waiting for me to smile.

"Let me get some basic information. What's your name again?"

"Tony Randall."

"Tony, do you have any dependents? Any Children?"


"Or at least none that you know of!"

We both laugh. I'm sure that joke never gets old.

"Now, Tony, have you done any drugs in the last 45 days?"


"If you have, all you have to do is day to me, 'Sergeant A can I wait 45 days before taking the drug test?' No questions asked."

I get the feeling Sergeant A gets a real fucking hoot out of calling himself Sergeant A.

I ask him if I definitely need to get a haircut to join the Army. He says "that's mandatory!" I stand up.

"Well if I have to get a haircut, I don't think I want to join the Army!" I gather my papers snap my head and leave. I'm such a bitch.

It's Not Just A Job, It's An Adventure
GARB: Bellbottoms
ADVANTAGES: A good job if you like boats.
DISADVANTAGES: You're stuck on a boat with a bunch of guys in sailor suits.

I'm now wearing a large floral shirt. This compliments my yachting cap. I enter the Navy office. Everyone is dressed like a sailor. No one sees the irony. Sure, the other branches of the military make fun of the Navy, but maybe they're just a misunderstood bunch.

I wait for my recruiting officer who turns out to be ... A WOMAN. A very tiny woman at that. Her name is something like Linda. I don't catch her rank. Maybe the Marines and Army were right. I get the image of a ship filled with long conga lines and limbo contestants led by Skipper from Gilligan's Island.

I go by the name Newman Shuman. We sit at Linda's desk. There's a picture of Linda singing in a Navy talent show.

"Newman, what're your goals?"

"I want to go to college!"

"And Newman what do you want to study?"

I lean back in my chair, ponder this, and speak slowly.

"Modern Interpretive Dance." I'm still nodding, picturing this in my head. The tiny recruiter presses on.

"Newman, what are your goals after completing your Interpretive Dance degree?"

My head's still nodding. Again, I speak slowly. "I want a new car."

"Newman have you ever used drugs?"

"Oh Yes!" I say enthusiastically.

"What kind of drugs?"

"Oh ... everything!" I pause. "But never Amyl Nitrate!" I make this point clear by waving my finger.

"Did you use speed, marijuana, mushrooms ..."

I sit up in my chair. My eyes widen. "Oh yes, everything!"

Linda requests some elaboration.

"But I quit doing drugs a long time ago."

"Oh, that's good."

"Yeah, it's been at least three months."

I'm now shown a Navy recruiting video. I watch it with grave seriousness. I even rest my hands on my chin and squint my eyes. It shows a bunch of Navy guys running around a boat playing with cool stuff like radar.

When it finishes, Linda questions me further. I wouldn't be surprised if she asked me to sit cross-legged on the floor.

"So how does the Navy sound to you?"

"I was actually thinking of joining the Army." I'm hoping she'll badmouth the Army.

"Well, the navy will give you money for school. And besides, in the Navy, you don't get shot at," Linda says smugly, with a hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth.

Now I can see the Marines' and Army's point. Remembering the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, I slowly rub my chest.

"I think I'd like to join so I can work with all those MEN ... I mean sailors. On that big boat!" My eyes widen.

"Yes, it's a team effort. And once you're in port, you'll have to work one day out of four. "

No wonder there's so much animosity; while the Army and Marines are out ducking grenades, these bell-bottom-wearing clowns are boozing up and chasing hookers.

"Can you be stationed on a submarine?" I ask.

"Yes. Is that something you're thinking about?"

"I think it would be really great to be in a submarine, below the ocean, with all those MEN ... I mean sailors."

I leave the Navy office with a dreamy look on my face.

OK, I failed. I didn't realize that in reality, I'm the perfect candidate for the United States military. They're looking for my type -- I'm misdirected, lack discipline, and in bad need of a haircut. Judging by the recruitment process, the US military must be manned by soldiers as highly qualified as I am. A haven for speed freaks looking for a new start and guys from the high school football team who'd get real drunk and break things.

So rest assured, next time there's trouble in Bosnia, Iraq or wherever, remember there will be guys like me fighting on your side!

© Copyright 2003 and/or respective authors and artists. All rights reserved.