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hvysmker
September 21st, 2014, 10:04 PM
"Thompson. Get over here," the lieutenant called after me. "I want you to take these boxes over to the 256th. Snap to it. It's requisition forms. They need them soonest."

"All right, sir. What's the alert status for that area?" I asked. "And who goes with me?" This was in Afghanistan soon after winning -- or at least when we thought we'd won. Except for a few IEDs and snipers, things were quiet. The Taliban hadn't regrouped yet, but there were some strays that hadn't given up.

"It's supposed to be secure, at least no trouble in the last couple of weeks. Take Jefferson and Adams with you. Be careful, you hear? Afghanistan is still dangerous."

I rounded up Jefferson and Adams.

"Why the hell I gotta go?" Jefferson tried to argue. "I had perimeter guard last night. Supposed to be off today."

"Hey, man," I offered as we loaded boxes into the back of a Hummer. "Take it up with Lieutenant Peters. It's his idea."

"We got us room for some .50 ammo?" Adams asked. "Might come in handy, ya' know?"

"Na," I returned, "easy trip. I went there twice yesterday. Roads were clear."

Despite a bit of bitching, we loaded the cartons and set out on a ten-mile trip. Our particular vehicle fairly bristled with weapons. We even had a fifty-caliber on a ring-mount over the backseat. No ammo for it, though. That particular vehicle was normally used on post and didn't, as a general rule, carry much ammunition. Actually, we didn't want to take the time or trouble to sign out for any.

We still felt safe, since each of us had our M16 rifles with full ammo pouches. After all, the area was considered secure so we saw no cause for undue worry. As a battalion driver I normally made several such trips daily and had never had any trouble except for one lone sniper. That time, I'd simply sped up out of his range.

Part of the journey was slow going over bumpy dirt roads, sometimes crowded with civilians and animal carts. A small orange teddy-bear wearing a yellow "G" string hung from the rearview mirror, gyrating at every bump in the road.

Although shaken, we had no problems getting to our destination. Unloading the crates at the supply hut at the 256th, we stayed to eat at their mess hall and look up friends.

A civilian photographer wanted a ride back to our base. The woman, lugging a heavy satellite camera, was middle-aged and sociable. Her long reddish hair reminded me of my wife. Her male companion wanted to spend another night, returning the next day. Since we were riding empty, we had plenty of room for her and her equipment. There's no way, authorized or not, three young males could turn down the request.

"What's with the orange teddy-bear? And is it really wearing a 'G' string?" the pretty reporter asked, taking a picture with a small camera.

"A present from my wife," I told her, grinning shyly, "an exotic dancer."

It was on the way back that we had trouble. The sun was low on the horizon, and we didn't want to be driving alone in the dark, so I sped up quite a bit.

That was probably why we missed the warning signs -- mostly the fact that the road was clear of civilians just before we went around a curve. Since we would normally be dodging around walking Afghans at that familiar bottleneck, we should have noticed the absence -- a sign of possible trouble. If mines had been planted or an ambush arranged, the civilians would be the first to know, and stay away.

I saw a flash of intense light as the road ahead of us exploded, sending clods of dirt, rocks, and debris into the windshield. For a moment, the front of the vehicle rose up a couple of feet, then slammed down heavily.

Our thin armor stopped the crap that peppered us, but I lost control of the vehicle. Losing control did -- most likely -- save us from a second RPG rocket. It missed us by a few feet and exploded among trees on the other side of the road. The Hummer's engine stopped abruptly, with its nose jammed between two small trees.

Getting it started again, I was trying to work us free by jerking the steering wheel back and forth, when I heard a series of metallic "thwacks" against the back of the vehicle. We all dove out of the truck and sought cover.

After scurrying behind a partial mud-brick wall, I looked around. I saw Jefferson slumped, half out of the front seat. With the top of his head missing, he was out of it. The reporter had found cover behind trees and was apparently filming the action. That was quick, I thought. Also, Adams signaled me from a dip on the other side of the road that he had left his rifle in the vehicle.

All we had to defend us was my rifle, with four magazines of ball ammunition -- counting the one in the rifle -- and Adam's 9mm pistol with probably only one magazine.

"Can you call for help?" I shouted at the reporter. She snapped her fingers and, making some adjustments on her equipment, spoke into the microphone. She gave me a "thumb's up," and a weak smile before going back to her task. Idiots.

Another rocket hit the Hummer's fuel tank, blowing it to shreds in a hot ball of fire. Seeing the flames, I thought of the trouble I'd have telling my wife about "teddy." I hoped the fireball would alert our forces, such as an attack helicopter.

After picking myself up, I fired off a full magazine in the direction the rocket had come from. I saw a half-dozen streaks of flame as the enemy fired back. All we could do was wait for help, probably a chopper. To conserve ammunition, my return fire was slow and far between, trying to keep the ambushers in place, to keep them from surrounding us in the mostly flat terrain.

I heard an engine sound, coming closer. I expected help, but was amazed to see a small civilian auto, a French Citron sedan, coming directly at me. It was firing a light machine-gun from where the windshield should have been -- at my position. I had to get out of there, so I shoved off and tried to run to the cluster of trees where the reporter lay. I had been lying behind a foot-high mud wall, partially sheltered by the still burning Hummer. The machine-gun would pulverize it.

For a few seconds, I happened to be standing spread-legged in the middle of the narrow dirt road, firing from the hip at the small sedan, tracer rounds zipping and slamming by me. It veered over to its right to try to run me down. I kept firing at the driver. At the last moment, I jumped out of the way and the little car ran into the wreck of my vehicle.

When it, somewhat abruptly, stopped, I ran over and emptied my rifle into the interior. I then ran for the trees. About a minute later, two helicopter gunships arrived. The enemy made a mistake in shooting at the choppers rather than hiding, thereby giving away their positions and being wiped out. The battle over and protected by the gunships, we waited for a ride back to base, only a few minutes away.

After a few days and many pats on the back, I forgot all about the incident. That is, until I was called in to see my company commander.

"You lucky bastard," he was smiling as he said it, a very rare event. I was standing at attention in front of his desk. "You get to go back to the States. The President himself is going to give you an award."

I was stunned. What had I done but defend myself? I was told that the reporter had been sending a report back, live and with video, while I was shooting. All of America had seen me standing, spread-legged and dueling the small auto. Unknown to us, the film had made me a celebrity -- and the reporters a lot of money. I would rather have had the money.

***

I had a new wife named Janie waiting for me. We'd only been married a few months before I was assigned to Afghanistan. I'd been tired of selling insurance, and joined the army. As is my custom, I was intent on going all the way, with the Special Forces. Despite her bitching, I had to leave her to go to that god-forsaken country.

Janie had been working as an exotic dancer when I met her. For us both, it had been love at first sight. For those first few months, we were inseparable. She's a shapely redhead with an, unfortunately, heavy drinking habit. I often worried about her while I was over there. Wow, would she be shocked, I thought.

The President wanted the award to be a surprise, for some obscure political reason. No one, not even the press, was told I was coming back. Also unfortunately, I couldn't tell my wife in advance.

***

I stepped off the plane in San Francisco and caught a taxi for my home. I had another four days before reporting to Washington D.C., and figured I might as well make it a total surprise and not call ahead.

It was both a very big surprise and a shock. I entered the apartment and found it empty. Not completely -- my clothing was still there. Everything else was gone. The furniture, Janie's possessions and, of course, Janie herself.

I went over to the neighbor's apartment. Mary, Fred's wife, answered the door. Her eyes bugged out as she stepped backward a few steps. Recovering, she invited me inside.

"Your wife asked me to tell you when you got back. She's left you. Believe me, I didn't want the job. But she said if I didn't do it, nobody would. Janie met another man, at a bar I think, and left with him."

I was still stunned from seeing the apartment. Her words came to me as though reverberating through a tunnel.

"What did the man look like? Did you see him?"

She described my best friend, Jim Madison, to a "T."

"Listen, I shouldn't do this. I don't want to cause any more trouble, and I promised I wouldn't, but I have their address in Denver. Janie wanted me to forward her mail."

She wrote for a minute and shoved a note into my shirt pocket. I thanked her and left, still in a daze. It was a lot to digest, and so sudden. I had still been receiving mail from Janie, with no indication she had already left me. It had even been mailed from San Francisco. To make certain, I opened my duffel bag and checked. She must have another friend remailing it for her, I thought.

Going back to the apartment, I found a partial bottle of gin left by Janie and drank myself to sleep, lying on the bare floor.

In the morning, I finished the bottle and decided what I had to do.

"Screw the President," I muttered to myself, having made my decision. "I'm going to kill her -- and Jim."

Although Janie had cleaned out the joint bank account, I had quite a bit of money with me. I bought a used car and a new pistol -- an army type 9mm semi-auto. Loading up what I needed of my possessions, I left the rest, told the landlord I was giving up the apartment, and left for Denver. Sort of burning my bridges behind me.

I drove in a fit of rage, becoming angrier as the miles drifted by. A sign read "200 miles to Denver," as I reminisced....

***

I didn't get drunk very often. When I did I was a binge drinker. I had just finished Army Special Forces training and had a thirty-day leave before being due at a new duty station. In the course of my bar-hopping I ended up in one called the "Jiggly Room." I staggered in and ordered a double-whiskey, straight.

Although pretty well plastered, I couldn't miss a pretty half-clad girl dancing on the bar in front of me.

Setting my drink too far onto the stage, I was surprised when a female foot appeared and a bare toe entered the glass. As she stirred the whiskey with her toe, I reached up and grasped an ankle. Pure drunken reflex, I suppose. I pulled and had a scantily clad but extremely irate armful of woman in my lap. The stool stayed where it was, being bolted to the floor, but both of us fell backwards onto that same surface.

"You asshole, I could be fired," the angry woman screamed at me, slapping my face and sobering me at least a little, "if the inspectors saw me touching a customer."

I managed to calm her down and we went, eventually, from the floor to a bed. That was only the beginning. By the time I reported to my next duty station, we were married. A few months later, I shipped out to Afghanistan. That was what you would call a whirlwind romance. And now I was back -- and looking to kill the conniving bitch.

***

I needed fuel and stopped at a small gas-station. It was a brand I was unfamiliar with, but what the hell. I used the restroom and asked how far to Denver? The attendant told me, "About 150 Miles." Getting back in, I resumed my journey. That time, I ended up thinking of my former best friend, Jim Madison, as I drove....

***

We have been together since junior high school, were both on the football team together, had mostly the same classes, and hung out with the same girls.

After high school, we had gone to the same trade school, sort of a cheap MBA program. Then, although me being in insurance sales and him getting a job as foreman in a local factory, we still spent a lot of time together. After I joined the army, we wrote and called each other often. I even remember when I told Jim about my affair with Janie.

"What! You want to marry a bar-girl? Are you nuts, Jerry? You've only known her a couple of weeks."

"I know, Jim, but she's lovely and we're really in love. I can't bear to lose her. If I don't do it now I never will. I'm slated to go overseas soon."

"But a bar-girl?" He laughed. "She'll end up hurting you in the end. That kind of marriage never works out."

Later, he seemed to change his mind and spent a lot of time at my place. In retrospect, it looked like too much time. I wondered how long they'd been screwing. Probably while I was still in basic training. I thought about all those months I'd been away for training, with them both in Frisco.

I snapped my fingers. I knew what I'd do. I'd find a hardware store on the way and buy a linoleum knife. One with a curved blade. When I found the bastard, I'd castrate him while she watched. Let him bleed to death in front of her.

"100 miles to Denver," read the sign. After stopping for something to eat I returned to my journey, but not before finding a hardware store and purchasing that knife. A traffic helicopter buzzing overhead reminded me of my last flight on one....

***

Informed of my coming honors with the Pres., I caught a flight on a Chinook, the one that looks like a banana, to the airport where my flight was to leave for the States. The craft was filled with soldiers going on leave. Most were out of their seats and drinking beer. A few were smoking hashish in the rear of the craft, where open windows and air leaks kept the smell down.

There was a sudden blast, and the entire rear seemed to evaporate. One second it was there, the next it was gone. The huge vehicle dropped like a rock, the remaining set of rotors only slowing it down a little. With a loud crunching crash, we hit the ground. I was one of the few both seated and with my seatbelt on. I had been reading a novel at the time, and hadn't bothered to loosen the belt.

I wasn't injured, only shook up a bit, and tried to help the others as much as I could. Many were killed outright. Some had been simply sucked or thrown out of the craft as it fell and others slid onto jagged strips of aluminum that blossomed inward when the craft hit.

In all, we lost three-fourths of our manifest, either dead or injured. In a modern war, you're never really safe. If you can see outside a base, you can also be a target -- since the enemy can also see you.

***

I had to stop to use a restroom, for perhaps the last time. The gas station attendant told me, "Fifty miles to Denver, sir."

Again, I resumed my journey. Seeing a young couple in a sports car overtake me reminded me of my first night with Janie....

***

"You bastard, why the hell you grab my ankle like that? You could have killed me." She continued to slap at my face.

"You tell me why you fucked up my drink with your fucking toe?"

"You don't like my fucking toe, uh?"

"Sure, and it's a beautiful toe. But not in my drink."

"I'll bet you want to suck on it, asshole? That's why you grabbed me. All you perverts do."

"Sure I would, but not here. Come home with me tonight and I'll be glad to."

"Damn right I will. I'm not finished with you yet. You just be here at one a.m., if you have the balls."

Still acting angry, she stormed off. Maybe it was an act in case the inspectors were around -- I'll never know. Needless to say, I was there at one a.m. to pick her up.

I kissed, licked, and sucked on every part of her that night. She tasted so sweet that I formed a habit, an unbreakable desire for sweet-stuff.

I also remembered that she was still collecting my military allotment. The government sent it to her every month, which explained the continuing letters. To keep me from canceling the money. My rage built up at the thought. I was supporting both her and Jim.

***

The road sign said simply "Denver." Although anxious, I had to pull over at a convenience store for a street map of the city. Then to take the time to study it before finding the right street. I drove, impatiently, toward the address Mary had given me. On the way, I took the pistol out and checked it over, knowing I was heading toward what would probably be my final destination ... and not giving a rat's ass.

I planned to shoot myself after killing them. The difference being my death would be quick, with a bullet between the eyes, while theirs would be as slow and painful as I could make it.

After being lost twice, I finally found the street address. It was a two-story duplex in a poor part of town. I parked at the far end of the block and pocketed the pistol. The curved knife, still on its protective sales card, went into a back pocket. I shoved a coil of nylon rope into the other back pocket, to complete the ensemble. I only wished I'd thought to buy duct-tape for their mouths -- but it was too late.

Locking my car, from force of habit, I approached the building and looked at the numbers on the mailboxes. Their apartment was on the second floor.

The front door opened onto a landing, two doors on the bottom floor with another two at the top of the stairs. One of four mailboxes on the wall told me the door I wanted was on the top right. Madder than hell but tired from driving, I nervously mounted the stairs.

Taking a deep breath, I kicked the door just below the lock. It was the way I had been taught to assault a building. I went in low and hard, duck-walking to one side with pistol extended in case they had seen my approach.

Once inside, I angled away from the door and stopped. Pistol pointing at waist level, I surveyed a living-room and saw nobody.

I hurried over to the nearest doorway, seeing it was an empty kitchen with a pot simmering on a back burner. Turning quickly, I went to the next door, a bedroom. It was occupied.

I saw Janie lying on the floor. She was in her underwear and clasping her face. Hurrying across the room, I checked a small bathroom. It being empty, I returned to the bitch. She was looking up at me through two blackened eyes.

"Where is he. Where's Jim?" I demanded, pistol pointed at her still-beautiful though battered face.

"Jim? Why would I know that? Harry did this," she mumbled through a split lip and began crying. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. So sorry it had to get to this. He was so nice and you were so far away for so long." Tears flowed down blackened eyes, one of them almost swollen shut. "I should never have left you. Please help me, darling? I know I made a mistake, but I still love you, and only you."

I couldn't help it. My rage evaporated, even as tears filled my own eyes. I knelt and took her into my arms, holding her tightly.

"Where is this Harry?" I could still kill him.

"He left this morning, took all our money and left me like this. Oh, honey, I'm so glad to see you," she pulled my face to her torn countenance.

I put the gun back in my pocket. Shoving the whore away, I turned around and left her sitting on the dirty floor. She would survive -- and so would I.

In the end, I made the Presidential appointment and received my expected reward. At least one of them.

The end.
Charlie

Plasticweld
September 21st, 2014, 11:01 PM
Reads very well as I have come to expect from you. I found no spag errors, not that I am very good at that.


Story line questions though.

Isn't ball ammo all that is allowed by the Geneva Convention? Has that changed?

Inserting the story about the helicopter, threw me. I had to re-read to see if I had missed something. Any reason why you could not insert that info before the character came back to the states, at least then it would be in chronological order.

One other thing that caught my attention.


We have been together since junior high school, were both on the football team together, had mostly the same classes, and hung out with the same girls -- often trading the latter


If you left out what is in bold I would make your rage a little more understandable.

Thanks for a good read....Bob

hvysmker
September 21st, 2014, 11:23 PM
Thanks for commenting, Bob.

I can't say about the ball ammo. Remember, I got out in 74. I've never been to Afghanistan and don't think I'd ever go as a tourist.

As for the helicopter section, I confess to never noticing and will have to check it out. I might well change its position. I don't write by script, only as a thought comes to me. Of course, I'm constantly rewriting. Most of my stories have been edited and reworked at least several times.

I'll take that one clause about sharing girls out as soon as I post this.

Thanks again,
Charlie

CyberWar
September 22nd, 2014, 06:52 PM
It's actually the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 that forbid the use of exotic small-arms munitions (specifically expanding bullets), and St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 that forbids the use of explosive projectiles less than 400 grams in weight against human targets in warfare. Heavy machine guns and anti-material rifles are, however, in the grey zone where use of exotic munitions isn't strictly illegal.

Currently, NATO forces legally use explosive, incendiary and other bullets in heavy weapons like 50. cal MGs because of a technicality in the legal definition of anti-material weapons. While the law forbids their direct use against human targets, vehicles and buildings are fair game, and the law makes no mention of the destruction of the occupants of the said objects, so while gunning down a crowd of charging Hajjis with AKs with a 50. cal would technically constitute a war crime (if not necessarily one that would be strictly prosecuted, given the circumstances), reducing a pickup truck driven by those same Hajjis to Swiss cheese along with everyone inside would not.