The basement was what Mom would call a “frightful mess.” Tools were all over the floor, both kinds of screwdrivers and hammers and saws, and one of those loud sharp saws that you plug in. Sergeant Defenbargh looked about the same. He had shaved that morning. Except that his shirt was half-untucked, and he had blood on his hands and on his shirt. He was sweating an awful lot. In the corner, with a chain around her neck, was a real-life donkey. She was brown with white spots and a white belly. And a red mouth, because she was bleeding and spitting out little bubbles of blood. There was a shiny metal bracelet that went in one hole of her nose and came out the other.     


“Her name is Jenny,” he said, as though I’d only been gone for a day. He wiped his bloody hands on a towel. “How would you like to be Private First Class?”


I nodded.


“Then you're promoted.” In the corner was his war cart. It had two wheels about the size of the round tables we set lamps on upstairs. Or the tires on an adult bicycle, except these tires were made of wood. I couldn't see how you would sit in it.


“You don't sit,” Sergeant Defenbargh explained. “You stand on the platform and drive it standing up. Your job is to bring it up the stairs. Can you do that?”


I looked around for my gardening gloves, but he shook his head. “PFCs use their hands,” he told me.


I waited in the corner behind the cart while Sergeant Defenbargh untied the other end of the chain and dragged Jenny upstairs. She was still making that awful noise. It filled the whole basement and you couldn’t get away from it.