Herbert Sobel was a petty, vindictive, cruel, spiteful, mean-hearted SOB, that much was certain, but there were a few NCOs in Easy Company who thought he was fucking nuts.
Or possessed by the Devil.
No mortal soul could cook up the Spaghetti Incident, Malarkey insisted. Toye and Perconte agreed, and after a week of semi-hysterical incubation, the rumors were flying at Camp Toccoa that Captain Sobel was, in fact, under the influence of The Beast of the Bottomless Pit.
“It’s incredible, really,” Nixon told Winters at breakfast one morning. “I’ve never seen the Irish and Italians getting along so well.”
Somehow or another, the noncoms succeeded in convincing Father Maloney that Sobel was infested with evil and a prompt exorcism was the only way to ease his (and their) suffering.
It was a rather unique situation; no Catholic priest had ever performed an exorcism on a Jew before, and Maloney certainly wasn’t qualified to perform one. Nevertheless, with enough pushing from the good Catholic boys of Easy, Maloney and his petrified congregation stayed up into the wee hours of the night planning the liberation of the Wicked One from Sobel’s body.
And one moonless Friday night, Operation Salvation was launched.
Even some of the non-Catholics got in on it, if anything, to say they’d been present when the Infernal Deceiver crawled out of Sobel’s ample nostrils and went shrieking back to the bowels of Hell.
Roe had swiped a bottle of ether from the medical supply closet (“They’ll nevah miss it.”) and then they all snuck out of their barracks after lights-out and jumped Sobel en route to his bunk. Evans happened to be with him; they fumigated him with ether also and deposited him behind the latrines. Neither had seen anything—all of Easy’s stealth exercises were paying off.
At half past midnight, in the shoddy little chapel at the edge of camp, Father Maloney cracked open his bible and started praying over Sobel’s unconscious body while the NCOs sat clutching their rosaries and staring with wide eyes. Malarkey was the backup priest, and Guarnere was on standby in case things got violent.
Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe not. But right when Maloney got to the part where he sprinkles holy water on the victim to usher the demon out, a sudden wind blew through the open doors and all the candles were extinguished, plunging the room into darkness.
Sobel, who must have been sleeping off an insufficient dose of ether, was awoken by water splashing on his face and leapt upright with an inhuman roar.
Everything. Went. To hell.
The noncoms, believing that the Devil in Sobel had been unleashed, screamed in mortal terror and exploded all over the chapel. Toye went barreling out the doors at twice the speed of light.
Malarkey screamed, “LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE BEAST IS ALIVE!” and crashed into Luz, who was wailing out a Hail Mary at the top of his lungs. They fell to the floor, tripping Guarnere, who cursed irreverently.
The company ran Currahee three times that day. They knew it wasn’t punishment—Sobel may have had the devil in his heart, but he hated everyone equally.
Being a bit groggy and uncoordinated from the ether, Sobel stumbled about, blind and angry, braying what sounded like modern Hellish (or whatever they spoke Down Below). His garbled, drunken words made no sense to those whom sense had left, therefore, this did nothing to alleviate the escalating hysteria.
By this time the boys’ eyes had adjusted to the darkness and they were finally able to see the exit. Roe and Maloney shot out like they’d been fired from a cannon; Perconte hurdled over Sobel, clearing him by about two feet, and was gone faster than you could say “hallelujah”.
The chapel had cleared save for Sobel and three horrified NCOs. Malarkey and Luz cowered on the floor, thinking their lives were over, when they were suddenly dragged up by Guarnere and each tucked under an arm. Sobel’s silhouette staggered in front of the doors, blocking the only exit, but he was no match for Wild Bill. Guarnere howled out a mighty “CURRAHEEEE!”, lowered his head, and charged.
It was like a train hitting a cow. A football tackle gone horribly wrong. Regardless, Sobel went airborne when roughly 400 pounds of America’s finest plowed into him like a speeding bus.
Nobody spoke of the failed exorcism of Herbert Sobel. Nobody asked about the bruises and bloody noses some of the noncoms sported Saturday morning. Nobody investigated the discovery of Evans’ sleeping body behind the latrines, or the partial destruction of the camp chapel.
Sobel, walking with a slight limp and meaner than usual thanks to an ether-migraine, pointed no fingers. He must have known who was behind it, but he remained surprisingly discreet.