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Wave After Wave

by Eddie Jeffrey

…then around midday we ran headlong into a dust storm or maybe I got that all wrong this whole time and it’s the dust storm ran headlong into us and we buttoned up tighter than a virgin’s asshole goggles strapped to heads so tight it gave you a headache bandanas pulled up over mouths and noses like rustlers in old westerns but short of sealing ourselves up in a plastic bag at the bottom of an oil drum there wasn’t a goddamn thing we could do except sit there and take it and hope it cleared off sooner than later and the goggles bandanas pulled up collars none of it made the slightest bit of difference the sand and silt found its way into every open space caking on our necks plugging up our ears stinging our hands hot gritty sleet washing in wave after wave against our helmets boots BDUs watches lit up our noses dried up our mouths sand silt slid right down stomachs rattled lungs stole breath cried mud darkness hardly see curve of a helmet rifle stock barrel gear protruding everywhere odd angles goggles fucking mutant insects wind’s so loud can’t tell we’re even moving anymore all we hear’s paint being gouged off the side of the truck all of us alone in that storm sitting right on top of one another in the back of that truck camo ragtop fluttering buzzing in sync with the pitch of the gale all the while filling up with the burning swirling stinging earth in the blackness crossing over mummies all going to be buried out here and then the storm passes horizon-wide smudge like a swarm of locusts slithering west droning ears and it’s over like nothing ever happened and the Bradley in line behind us noses forward blooms a ball of fire inside out wall of smoke diesel mirage writhing melting crew flames MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! somebody yelling screaming dismounting fanning out double-quick troopers explosions sand or clumps of dirt or rocks or body parts raining down DISPERSE! DISPERSE! DISPERSE! tumble to the deck the trooper nearest me points back to the road crooked broken nose bleeding thick white spittle corners his mouth eyes that wide I never seen and he’s hollering but I shake my head cup my hands behind my ears I CAN’T HEAR YOU! can’t hear my own voice jaw vibrations skull vibrations his mouth forming MINES! MINES! MINES! over and over and over again turn around and SEE and…

Eddie Jeffrey’s father retired from the Army in 1987 and served two tours in Vietnam with the 18th Engineer Brigade. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Three Quarter Review, Livid Squid Literary Journal, Star 82 Review, Thrice Fiction, JazzTimes, and The Alexandria Times. He is an editor of Baltimore Review and lives near Baltimore with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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