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Posts from the ‘Fiction’ Category

Acting at War

by Travis Klempan

Red Merrill chewed the gum not on account of its breath-freshening capabilities, nor because he had food stuck in his teeth. (Protein shakes left behind a filmy grit but he washed this away with overchlorinated Iraqi water.) He chewed with no intention of blowing bubbles—it weren’t that kind of gum either—but just because it gave him something to do, and he’d grown sick of dipping tobacco.

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The New Ship

by Garland Davis

He could see the cruiser in the mists at the end of the pier as he walked toward it, his seabag rocking lightly on his shoulder. Funny he always thought it was heavier than this. Although the pier was in golden sunlight, the ship was blurred, the gray almost silvery in the cloudy mist.

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Twenty-two a Day

by Kama O’Connor

1. He’s been lying on top of his cheap, cotton comforter, staring at the walls that still have nothing on them—what would he hang that won’t remind him of the life he’d given up?—for three hours now. The clock reads 12:01 a.m. He had to stay late at the office to make up for the mistake he’d made on the quarterlies. What a joke, he thinks. None of this matters—the reports that told companies where their fractions of a cent were going, and when those fractions were dropped because of a loss in an arbitrary market half a world away. His fucking twenty-two year-old supervisor, just out of college, who kept coming by his small-assed cubicle, whining about shit he’d messed up…. Sometimes three times a day he had to listen to this desk jockey spout off about the importance of these reports and not shove his fist down the kid’s throat and tell him what really mattered in this world. It wasn’t a fucking report, that was for goddamn sure. So he gets up, walks to his closet, takes down the box he doesn’t let himself open often. His old life, the life he was proud of. Would always be proud of. He brushes the dust off the box with the heel of his palm, unlocks it, opens the lid, and stares. Each piece pokes at the pale, soft man he’s become since he took this job a year ago. His retirement certificate. Twenty years of drills and deployments and killing and not dying and broken relationships and training training training with only half a pension and a piece of paper to show for it. Still, he takes it out gingerly, places it beside him, and uncovers more relics. His service medals. A NAM with a combat “V.” A good cookie—ha! He should show this to his supervisor. Afghan service, Iraq service, OIF, OEF, Desert Storm. All conflicts, wars that showed him what the world really looked like. Ugly. Painful. Unfair. Underneath the medals is his grandfather’s old service revolver. He decides to play a game. Roulette, with only one player. The thrill it gives him sends shocks of an old—almost forgotten—feeling through his veins, charges him in a way he hasn’t felt in almost two years. He smiles, digs for the case of ammunition. Retrieves one bullet. A .22 caliber slug that he places in the chamber. Spins it, locks it in place. Holds the gun to his forehead and closes his eyes, excited that this is a game he can play and win, even if he loses. Because it reminds him what matters. This feeling. This. He starts the game.

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Fer-de-Lance

by Elizabeth Hawes Unangst

“Forget it,” the big man said, chuckling. “Out of the question. Far too dangerous for my clumsy little wife. You’re not exactly athletically inclined, you know, babe.” He gestured beyond the villa’s veranda to the lush green terraces sweeping down to the ocean below. “Besides, silly girl, why would you want to leave this gorgeous view?” Without waiting for an answer, he laughed, kissed her on the nose, slapped her on the bottom, shouldered his clubs, and left, calling, “Wish me luck on the links, babe!” as he went.

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In the Shadow of Two Mountains

by Martin Nelson

Somewhere in the shadow of two mountains, every Hunter lives. It is a strange place where the inhabitants are bold but most are weak. They want to be strong like us, smart like us, but mostly accepted and bound together, like us. They are more educated and sophisticated but seem to want the experience of everything except sacrifice; which is the difference between us.

The smartest hold their families close and quietly craft rich lives by gathering together the fruit of the land; indifferent to the malicious, who incessantly shout battle cries from their roof tops. The continuous call to arms startle those who have already fought countless battles on their behalf. Together, we three have created a safe, trendy, and bustling little society where the gatherers and protesters know nothing of the evil outside the city walls while the Hunters know nothing of the peace and freedom within.

As time passes, the gatherers have slowly gleaned the fields, leaving nothing behind. In the middle of the night, the sharp eyes of the malicious slowly open and from their perch they abruptly unleash a barrage of pointed words; protesting the inequity of society. The Hunters stir in their beds. Alone they are fighting sleep, fighting in their sleep, until finally they are fighting to sleep. There is no peace. Not even at midnight in their own land.

With a blanket tightly wrapped over sweaty shoulders, a Hunter ventures deeper into the valley. Under a star lit night, the two mountains loom. To the left, the mountains base is inviting and gradually goes vertical. In the Hunters youth, the rocky face was climbed for fun with other young Hunters. Now, the path is more difficult and the trail more treacherous. On these cold nights, the Hunter makes the journey alone, stumbling in the dark. The path has become over grown as the trips become fewer. Thickets that were trodden and beat back in the hunter’s youth, now get revenge by tearing at clothes and flesh as the Hunter passes. With each cut, a memory and each trickle of blood, a face remembered. Some of the thorns stick in the blanket and will provide torment for tomorrow. It’s bittersweet remembering lost hunters, but better to own the pain then to forget a friend. At the trails end, the hunter reaches out to touch the cliff. All the hunters started here, touched these rocks, committed to each other -here. Some went to the top, some climbed for a while and went home and a few fell. Some found trails over the mountains to adventures we will never know, but we all started here. We remain committed here.

Across the valley, the hunter can see the forbidden fires and palaces on the other mountain. It is a decadent land where the tribes thrive with much to eat and abundant comforts. The tribe is said to have left the Hunters own land generations ago, but the Hunter cannot be accepted as a Hunter there. Hunters are disarmed and only welcomed as slaves. As the moon rises, another fire is revealed at the far side of the valley. The Hunter makes his way down the mountain base, through the thickets and rocky paths until the sight of the fire is lost. Guided only by the beat of a drum the hunter creeps through the softening brush. Dew drops roll from tender leaves, slowly soaking the blanket and cloths, but soothing the many cuts and scars. The Hunter presses forward as the music gets louder and familiar voices can be heard.

As the Hunter boldly steps in to the fires warm glow, several of the figures rise. They begin dancing closer, each with a different erratic rhythm. Their faces and scars become visible and they all have blankets riddled with thorns wrapped around their shoulders. Their unique dance steps are products of their unique injuries. They look into each other’s eyes momentarily and know they are all the same. Silently, they return to the fire; the only comfort in the shadow of the two mountains.

Martin Nelson is a retired Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician and their 251st helicopter rescue swimmer, with over 23 years of open water rescue, federal law enforcement and executive security missions.  He writes fiction and non-fiction pertaining to his military experience, as well as technical and grant-seeking documents. A recent cancer survivor and Texas A&M graduate, Martin now resides peacefully in Corpus Christi, Texas, with his wife Veronica and four children: David, Ian, Thomas and Sydney.

Miss Dial

by Ginger Roberts

The first time I became conscious of the entity named Aunt Nicole was on a cross-country trip that involved my mother, my son, Thomas and my dog, Waffle. We had all the time in the world to sample all the nuances of our trip but the destination was always on my mind. I did not want to go back to work after having a month of leave. I did not want to come back to the United States. I did not want to put the boots on and trudge through the muck or answer to anyone for anything. I wanted to enjoy the freedom a little while longer.

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Scars

by Timothy L. Jones

His muscles stretched tight, the bow arced, the knuckle of his thumb resting against his cheek. He blew the call again, a quiet grunt, and let it fall from his lips, dangle by the string around his neck. Burning crept from his spine toward his shoulders, up his neck. Jake’s arms began to tremble, but he held fast, concentrated on the beaten path that cut through the trees.

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Painting the Room Red

By Lea Baker

Louie was standing on the slick trunk of the fallen tree, gripping Doreen’s screen door for balance, when Brena opened the front door.

“No strangers.”

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The Orange Key

by Terry Brunt

“I think I’m going to shit myself,” Clinton sputtered as he tried to escape.

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The Ghost and the Steel Wheel Roller

by Luke Vermeulen

February, 2005

Mosul, Iraq

We have a steel wheel roller in our motor pool that’s haunted.

Usually it’s houses and stuff that you hear about getting haunted on TV but that dumb roller definitely has a ghost hanging around it. I’m looking at the thing right now and the ghost’s right there, standing in front of the big steel wheel staring at me. Probably standing right in the exact spot where it got crushed when the roller was being unloaded at the port. We have four identical rollers all parked in a row in the motor pool and I can totally tell which one is the haunted one from a mile away.

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