My novel’s first five pages
Soooooo. . . I’ve decided to try a mid-week experiment. I’m posting the first five pages of my upcoming novel, Proof of Our Resolve, in order to see how you guys feel about it. I welcome any feedback, be it good, bad, or soul-crushing. Hope you all enjoy it.
Proof of Our Resolve
By Chris Hernandez
The Tagab valley was not the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan, and Kapisa province was not the most dangerous province. But to the small convoy of American soldiers traveling between the two main firebases in the province, statistics showing how much worse other areas were didn’t make much difference. All the soldiers cared about were the five Improvised Explosive Device attacks that had taken place in the last four months on that stretch of road, plus the dozen or so direct fire ambushes. They remembered the Afghan army truck that was blasted to pieces and the two Afghan soldiers whose bodies were indistinguishable from the charred wreckage, they had seen pictures of the French armored vehicle that was hit dead center by an IED and blown off the road.
Twenty-four American soldiers convoyed south in two poorly armored humvees and four gigantic armored trucks called MRAPs, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected personnel carriers. They kept their eyes open, heads moving and weapons ready. All hoped they wouldn’t get hit by an IED and some hoped they would get into a good firefight. They knew that the opposite was more likely though, that they would meet an IED and miss an ambush. Not because the statistics said that was more likely, but because that would just be their luck.
For this mission, Sergeant First Class Jerry Nunez’s infantry platoon was escorting a small detachment of Civil Affairs soldiers heading to a meeting with village elders at Firebase Walden. Nunez, pronounced “noon-yez”, was thirty-six, small and thin, beginning to develop grey hair and a tiny spare tire. He was nothing special, just a Texas National Guard infantry platoon sergeant whose soldiers had been assigned to work alongside the French army at Firebase Pierce, the northern of Kapisa province’s two firebases. Nunez’s four MRAPs had the simple mission of escorting the two Civil Affairs humvees to the firebase, and then heading back north. The mission should last no more than three hours. If nothing went wrong.
The first half hour on the route had been IED-free, but they were getting close to the ambush hot spots around Landakhel village. Nunez checked his map, gauging the distance to the northern edge of the village, and keyed the radio to speak to the Civil Affairs soldiers in the humvee in front of his MRAP.
“Slasher 4 this is Colt 4.”
The Civil Affairs Lieutenant answered, “This is Slasher 4.”
“About a kilometer and a half from here we hit Landakhel village.” Nunez said. “The compounds are going to be in real close, plus rock walls where there have been a lot of IED attacks. Keep your gunners down from there until we get to Walden.”
“Colt 4 Slasher 4, copy.”
The lead vehicle’s commander called to Nunez on the radio. “Colt 4 this is Colt 3, my gunner is looking ahead through his scope, normal activity in Landakhel.”
Normal activity was a good thing. The people almost always knew the locations of emplaced IEDs, and they stayed away from them. Unlike in Iraq, the insurgents in Afghanistan didn’t want to kill their own civilians. The Taliban even warned civilians to leave areas where they were going to conduct attacks.
“Colt 3 this is Colt 4, tell me when you’re two hundred meters from the village.”
Inside Nunez’s vehicle his driver, Vlacek, blurted out, “My dick hurts.” Prior to this announcement the conversation had been about the advantages and disadvantages of running missions in an MRAP instead of a humvee, so this was an odd turn.
Nunez turned his head toward Vlacek and asked seriously, “Severe masturbation injury? Friction burn?”
Wilson offered his assessment from where he stood in the gunner’s position, his head exposed above the “teacup” of armor mounted on the roof of the MRAP. “Naw sarge, he’s been hanging out with the Afghan army a lot lately. He’s made progress, he’s pitching now instead of catching.”
“Well good for you, Vlacek,” Nunez said. ”I hope you found one that looks nice and feminine. Maybe the colonel’s chai boy, I hear he’s pretty much a girl.”
Vlacek was a twenty year old hick, a good ol’ boy from Flatonia, Texas, and the rampant homosexuality in the Afghan National Army disgusted him to no end. Like the rest of the US troops on the base, Vlacek had seen that every senior ANA officer had a dedicated servant, called a chai boy for their alleged primary duty of serving tea to their boss. Their actual job, however, was to provide sexual favors whenever their boss demanded it. Nunez respected the Afghans as fighters and sometimes was amazed at their bravery, but he did not think he had ever seen a gayer group of men anywhere in the world. He just accepted it as the way the Afghans were and didn’t let it bother him. Vlacek, on the other hand, came unglued whenever someone jokingly accused him of being gay, which was at least several times a day.
“Fuck that shit, man!” Vlacek protested. “My dick hurts because I ain’t been drinkin’ enough water lately. I ain’t doin’ no faggit shit. If it keeps burnin’ when I pee I think I need to get doc to gimme an IV.”
Wilson answered, “Sure thing. Fag.”
“Fuck you, Wilson.”
“Don’t take it out on me, you’re the poojabber,” Wilson said. “Try having sex with a woman someday, it’s not as scary as you think.”
“Man, I been with twice as many women as you have,” Vlacek said. “You talk all funny and shit, the girls where I’m from would say you sound like a queer.”
“Sounds like them’s some quality women down there, Czech. Hook me up with your sister when we get back, I’ll try her out and see if she thinks I’m a fag while I’ve got her bent over the hood of my truck.”
Vlacek turned in the seat and swung at Wilson, hit him on the left thigh and drew a sharp “Ow!”
“Fuck you man, my fuckin’ sister’s twelve years old!”
“No problem, I’ll wait a year. Thirteen’s legal in hick country, right?”
From the back of the MRAP, Corporal Rodger Quincy surprised them by saying, “You two guys are idiots.” Quincy was the quietest man in the platoon, a twenty-three year old black soldier built of muscle carved from solid rock. He was always reading, working out, running with a full pack or emailing his parents in East Texas. He could do anything, never had to be watched while he did it, and never, ever complained. Nunez had complete trust in him, especially in his skill with his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
“Y’all hear that?” Nunez asked. “Quincy called y’all idiots. He never says shit, and when he does, it’s true.”
“Yeah, Vlacek, you hear that?” Wilson said. “Quincy called you a retard.”
“Fuck you, Wilson. He said it to you too.”
“Pause the idiocy a second,” Nunez said as he keyed his radio. “Colt 3 this is Colt 4, how we looking?”
“Colt 4 this is Colt 3, everything still looks normal, nothing weird so far.”
“Roger. Gunners, get down.” He let go of the mike switch. “Alex, that means you too.”
Wilson always wanted to keep his head up, just like he always had in Iraq. He replied, “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” and dropped his head until his eyes were even with the edge of the gun shield.
“Maybe I should ask the guys on the other trucks if their dicks hurt too,” Vlacek said.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea, Vlacek,” Wilson said. “You should probably ask everyone to take pictures of their dicks and email them to you too. Then you can give them all a taste test. God damn, Czech, you’re a hick motherfucker.”
Vlacek pulled his knife off his body armor and announced “Wilson, stand still. I’m fixin’ to stab you.”
In a microsecond the humvee forty meters in front of Nunez’s MRAP disappeared in a black cloud of dirt, smoke and flames. The explosion was so sudden that Nunez didn’t realize what it was until the solid concussion wall hit them, knocked Wilson off his feet and stopped their huge vehicle in its tracks. The first sound was like glass and steel being shattered, covered an instant later by the solid WHUMP of the concussion. Something large and square flew sideways out of the cloud and a tire flipped straight up through the smoke.
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