May 1, 1986

Man. I’m so excited to graduate this month. It’s been a fun few weeks, signing yearbooks and going to beer parties and such, but at the same time I keep feeling worried about what I’m going to do afterwards. I don’t have the grades for college. Heck, when I talked to the Army recruiter about becoming a G.I., he said I don’t even have the grades to serve my country. I sure don’t want to work at the gas station like my brother.

May 2, 1986

Today this guy in a blue uniform came up and gave me a pamphlet. Said he was a recruiter for COBRA, an outfit a lot like the army but without all those government regulations to slow down the fun. We talked a little and he said he liked the cut of my jib, thought I’d be great COBRA material.

May 15, 1986

Signed up with COBRA today. I got real excited when they said I earned a signing bonus… figured it would be a couple hundred bucks that I could put toward a new bumper for my truck. Nope. Just a t-shirt with a funny-looking snake on the front. And I’m not supposed to wear it in public. Pretty weird stuff, but they seem like nice guys.

I report to COBRA boot camp out in Utah in the middle of June. The recruiter guy said that everyone around there thinks it’s where some crazy old Mormon lives with all his wives. I’m not supposed to say anything about it to anyone. I’m supposed to tell Mom and Dad that I’m going off to work for the phone company.

June 16, 1986

First day of boot camp was a bear. All of the other boots seem like nice guys. Don’t know what any of them look like because the first thing they did when we got here was give us blue helmets with black hankies to cover up our faces. I’m getting pretty good at recognizing people’s eyebrows though.

Figured we’d do a lot of exercise today, but we didn’t do as much as I thought. Mostly just running out of a door and yelling “COBRA!” at the top of our lungs. I got pretty good at it. Now I can sound awful scary when I yell “COBRA!” You wouldn’t think it would wear you down, but boy, am I pooped.

June 18, 1986

Boot camp’s still a lot of fun. And I’m learning a lot. Today we did more mental learning stuff than exercise. We received a lecture about our main enemy, the G.I. Joe team. Seems that Uncle Sam is so nervous about COBRA that he set up an elite team of soldiers just to try to fight us. I couldn’t be more proud. I had no idea I was signing on with a bunch that was this important. I guess the Joes have stopped us at pretty much everything we’ve ever tried to do. But believe me, is that going to change now that Steve Loring is a member of COBRA!

Sarge said all kinds of funny things about how dumb the G.I. Joe team is. Like, they just have one person who’s good at each thing they do. So they just have one guy who can fly a plane, and one guy who knows how to drive a tank, one guy who can fly a helicopter, one guy who can fight in the desert, and so on. They even have a whole aircraft carrier (for their one plane and one helicopter) with just a captain and one sailor to run it! Sarge was like, “What the heck kind of outfit is that?” and we were all just in stitches. Then this one recruit (I think it was Renfro, but I didn’t get a good look at his eyebrows) says, “But if they’re so dumb, how come they always beat us?”

Sarge made Renfro go out and run around the track and yell “COBRA!” for an hour.

June 20, 1986

Real boring day. I was all ready for some more physical training, but instead Sarge led us into a room full of phones and made us cold-call people and ask them if they wanted to switch their long distance to COBRA. During the break, Renfro asked Sarge when we became a long-distance provider. Sarge explained that we had to do something to make money if we were going to afford a private army with hundreds of tanks and planes and a Terrordome, not to mention all the expenses from the Serpentor genetic engineering project. Working the phones was demoralizing, and people were usually pretty mad when we called them, but it felt good to be doing my duty for COBRA. In between calls, I amused myself by thinking of cool one-liners I could say if I ever got the drop on one of those G.I. Joe bums.

June 21, 1986

Awful exciting day today. First we got to do our airborne training. They loaded us up into a plane, and we flew up and then jumped out. Our chutes had the big, scary COBRA symbol on them. It was awesome. But it was hard, because we were supposed to keep yelling “COBRA!” all the way down. It was tough to get enough breath to yell right at first. Sarge says it just takes practice.

After that we finally got to do weapons training. About time! They gave me a rifle and pointed at the target. I held the rifle up to my cheek and sighted down the barrel, just like I did when I went deer hunting with Grampa. Boy, did Sarge go apeshit over that! Got in my face and started yelling at me, asking how I expected to scare someone if I just stood there all quiet-like and shot so carefully. Sarge is a great teacher because he doesn’t just criticize. He showed the right way to shoot. What you do is you start shooting your gun wildly and run towards the target as fast as you can and, in your scariest voice, you yell “COBRA!” We worked on that all afternoon, and just before we broke for dinner, I actually hit the target! Sarge and everyone else were so happy for me that they were about to cry. Told me I’d just set the record for marksmanship in COBRA boot camp. I wanted to call Mom and tell her the good news, but she thinks I work for the phone company.

June 22, 1986

First Payday. No check, just a couple more of those t-shirts. Doughty and me planned to drive into town and sell the shirts for spending money, but Sarge caught wind of our plan, reminding us that we weren’t supposed to let anyone see the t-shirts because then they’d know we were in COBRA.

June 25, 1986

Tank training today! Wow, it was great! They didn’t let us drive the HISS tanks ourselves, but we got to practice riding in the back turret and working the guns. By now we all knew what we were supposed to do without being told, and Sarge said he was so proud at the way we all just yelled “COBRA!” and shot wildly before he even showed us how.

Renfro tried to ruin the day with a whole bunch of his questions. First he asked Sarge why our combat fatigues were sky blue saying we’re visible from a mile away at least. Then, when we were practicing with the HISS tanks, Renfro started in on why the HISS driver wasn’t protected by anything more than a piece of glass. And for that matter, he continued, why do we run the guns from an open turret with no protection at all? Sarge just about blew up.

I think Renfro’s going to be running around the track and yelling “COBRA!” for a long, long time tonight.