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WechtleinUns
June 23rd, 2014, 08:15 PM
I wrote this story several months ago, and just found it recently on my desktop. I thought I'd post it here, because it'd just end up in the trash otherwise. Thanks for reading.

/* Barb */

Franz Harubata and Chui Corleone meandered along the patrol route, with a kind of lazy, halfhearted commitment to security. Tufts of sagebrush crunched softly in the evening twilight, underneath their standard issue boots. A cold and brittle wind kissed the bottoms of their earlobes, and tugged violently at their coats.

At a decent enough check-point, the two of them hunkered down beneath a small mound of unwashed mud and clay. Corleone rubbed his hands together, and cupped them over his mouth, blowing hot air rapidly in and out. Then, pulling out a pack of Black Diadem from his vest pocket, struggled to light a cigarette.

His superior, Franz, didn't smoke. Instead, he watched Chui hold the lighter to the cig. The necessary spark was sluggish, slow to come out, and Chui had to spin the flint rapidly and in quick succession to get one. The flame jumped up at last. Corleone pressed the cigarette quickly to the flame.

It caught. A blaze of heat quickly turned to a soft glow. Within seconds of the first deep inhalation, it turned to embers and blue black ash. Every sip of nicotine cost a dozen lights.

Franz watched the fellow soldier with steel grey eyes. Then, leaning over to the side, pulled out a salt flavoring packet. He sprinkled a bit onto the other's cigarette, and said, "try it now."

Within the first spark, the cigarette stayed lit, burning happy and bright as a distant beacon in the night. Corleone sucked in the draft greedily, like a drunk and a bottle of Spanish bourbon. A few minutes later, he erupted into a fit of coughing. Bent over, he pressed a cotton handkerchief to his mouth, and spat the rest of the blood out onto the soil.

"Thanks." Chui said, his eyes grateful. The two of them sat like this for twenty minutes, alone and in the dark, before Corleone gathered his strength and peeped up over their little mud mound. The desert stretched on in shades of black and blue, and patchwork areas of dry cake-beds and small islands of shrub land and trees. Much further away, the horizon line wobbled ever so slightly. In reality, the tiny warbles were the waves on the Sonora Gulf.

"You think he made it?" Chui said, to no one in particular, except maybe the lieutenant beside him.

"The captain? Where would he go? The Federales would shoot him on sight, and north is filled with god knows what. The asshole's only making it worse for himself." Franz said. As he did so, he opened a small mechanical pocket watch, a family heirloom first crafted in Austria by a famous family of watchmakers. The totem dated back to the 18th century, which was a rare find in the 23rd.

A picture of a young lady adorned the inside of the watch cover. Written in faded sharpie on the edge of it were the words, "Happy Birthday! Till we meet again! xoxo" Franz snorted and clapped the watch shut.

"You never know," Chui said, a note of hope and worry in his voice. "He could have gone up north, and taken a ship to Vladivostok. It's possible." Franz let out a throaty chuckle.

"You cling to hope too much, friend. Cutting across the Midwest would bring him way too close to syndicate territory. He'd have to go up along the eastern coastlands, across two thousand miles of irradiated hellscape, mind you, and into Canada. From there? Another eight thousand miles to catch a ship." Franz turned around and laid next to his comrade, Corleone.

The two of them lay underneath a spate of barbed wire, repurposed from 21st century warehouses and prison yards, and strung along in a colossal perimeter around the southwest. Chui scanned outwards, although there were no enemies to find. Taking out his ARM-32, he shifted the locking bolt back, and started cleaning the inside of the barrel.

Franz watched Chui carry out this task with a particular amusement. His eyes watched the greenhorn's hands struggle with the cold. It was practically impossible to avoid getting sand inside the chamber out here. The wind and the dust and moisture were too heavy. Chui's hands were as good as knobby oak-knots, so crippled were they by the cold. Nevertheless, the boy had been trained well, and he managed to clean the rifle, and load it with fresh rounds.

"What's it to you, anyway?" Franz said, grinning at Corleone, "The captain defects after the colonel slaps him around a little bit too much. Maybe had a thing with his little hussy mestizo girl, she's quite nice, hits him hard in the jaw. Shit goes down." Franz pressed his face into a kind of cutesy smile and kicked his legs back and forth, as though he were a catholic school girl.

Behind his mockery, however, a deep cynicism marched inside his eyes. Chui didn't respond to the superior, but aimed and steadied the sight. The rifle was well maintained, and had a good zoom lens. Corleone could have shot a rabbit at 1700 yards. The two of them grew silent. Corleone looked out to the sea, and imagined that he was fighting for some great cause. Franz looked out to the sea, and thought of castles and moats in Austria.

The wind howled over their heads, and into their ears, singing softly a seaside lullaby.

InkPawPrints
July 7th, 2014, 12:23 AM
Hi, glad you posted this instead of letting it collect dust in a computer file with no eyes to read through it!

There were a few things I found that could do with some tweaking:


A cold and brittle wind kissed the bottoms of their earlobes, and tugged violently at their coats.

I could be being a bit nit-picky but this seems a little awkward to me. A cold, brittle wind that kisses their earlobes but is violently assaulting their clothes? The description is alright I suppose, I just feel that a different word could be used to better smooth over the imagery. Perhaps 'nipped' or something similar. Just a thought.


At a decent enough check-point, the two of them hunkered down beneath a small mound of unwashed mud and clay.

I think the phrasing is a bit off. Aren't all mounds of mud and clay unwashed? Or at least I would think that washing mud would be a bit of a step backwards since you produce more mud.


The desert stretched on in shades of black and blue, and patchwork areas of dry cake-beds and small islands of shrub land and trees. Much further away, the horizon line wobbled ever so slightly. In reality, the tiny warbles were the waves on the Sonora Gulf.


I get what you're trying to portray but the word warble(s) is really a sound, not something you can visually see in normal circumstances, and I don't believe heat would give off a warble like a bird. That is unless you were going for the other definition of the word, which would be referring to a bump or swell under the skin caused by the maggot of the Warble fly or Bot fly. Still doesn't make sense either way.

Other than that there were a few points where the wording got a little bit choppy but overall I really enjoyed the descriptions and phrasing.

qwertyportne
July 13th, 2014, 11:50 PM
Reminds me of the advice to kill your darlings if they don't carry their weight. I've tossed plenty of them in the trash myself. I frequently consider the Writing Forums to be the only audience I will ever have for my writing. So I'm glad you gave this one to us. Fine mix of narrative and dialog.

Yes, I have a few nits here and there myself but despite problems with the "wobble/warble" phrase, I think that's a very original description of the horizon on a body of water. Well, that's silly. Very original? That's like saying very unique. But it was... :)

Another good line is cynicism marching, which ties up nicely with them both being soldiers. Good story.