Short Afghanistan story
A regular Army infantry officer and I on a mission in the Tagab Valley, Kapisa Province. What does this picture have to do with the story below? Nothing at all!
I have a major writing project I’m working on, so I’m not going to be writing much original stuff for a while. I’m going to post some older stuff I hadn’t published, plus I’ll put a few more sample chapters from future books up.
I write this a ways back, just for the hell of it. It’s a standalone story, not part of Proof of Our Resolve. Just thought someone might enjoy it. Thanks,
“Oh, my fucking god,” Nunez groaned. Dust settled around him. He thought about getting up from the dirt path, then decided to lay still for a moment. “Fuck my life,” he muttered.
A few feet away Sergeant Alex Wilson wiped his eyes, spit dirt and asked, “Sarge, you okay?”
Sergeant First Class Jerry Nunez rolled left, struggling to force enough weight past the tipping point so he could drop onto his back. His eyes burned, his brain was trying to beat its way out of his forehead, he couldn’t focus and his mouth felt full of soil and copper. His arm shook as he forced his torso up until he finally flopped over, spit and squinted at the sky. He went over the mental checklist; nothing burning, no warm spots on his skin, no sharp pains. He flexed his fingers and toes. Everything moved.
“Sarge?” Wilson asked. “You there?”
“I’m good, Alex. I think.”
“Cool. You need help to get back up?”
Nunez’s eyes popped open in alarm as a frightening thought occurred to him, something he had missed during his self-test. He inhaled deeply, but could only smell smoke.
“Alex,” he whispered. “Come here.”
Wilson looked at him with obvious concern, then crawled the few feet to his platoon sergeant’s side.
“What’s wrong, Sarge? You look okay.”
“Alex,” Nunez groaned. “Take a smell. And please tell me I did not shit my pants.”
Wilson gave a blank stare in response.
“Sarge, are you for real?”
“Fuck yes I’m for real, Alex. I’ve had the screaming shits for two days now. This morning Doc gave me Imodium, but I don’t know if it’s kicked in yet. When that RPG hit it rang my bell pretty bad and I kind of blacked out for a minute, so it might have scared the shit out of me. Smell me. Seriously.”
Wilson rolled his eyes. Several feet away, Corporal Eli Gore stood up again and poked the muzzle of his M240 machine gun over the wall. His and Wilson’s eyes met and he said, “Sergeant Wilson, is he okay? Do I need to get Doc over here?”
“Nah Eli, he’s okay. He just got the wind knocked out of him. He’ll be fine in a minute.”
Wilson turned back to Nunez, who was still looking up at him expectantly. “Sarge, I can’t tell if you shit your pants either. All I can smell is all this dust that got kicked up. I’m sure you’re fine.”
“If you can’t smell, get closer,” Nunez said. “When I get back up I have to go check on everyone. If I shit my pants, I’ll have to explain it before they start making smartass remarks. So I need to know.”
“Everyone’s fine,” Wilson said. “Everyone but you sounded off after the RPG hit.”
“I know that, Alex. God damn, quit being such a douche and just check for me. Get closer and breathe in.”
“Sarge,” Wilson said, with an intense look coming over his face. “You cannot ask me to move my face closer to your crotch to see what it smells like.”
“Dude,” Nunez said, “just get a couple inches closer. Act like you’re checking my legs or something.”
“Oh, brother,” Wilson said. He turned his face toward Nunez’s feet, moved his head quarter inch toward them and took a hesitant breath.
“You’re good, Jerry. No shit.”
Nunez mumbled, “Good. Thanks,” and sat up. Wilson rose to take a knee and hooked an arm under Nunez’s armpit, helping him to his feet. As Nunez got his boots under him he realized what Wilson had just said.
“’No shit.’ Funny, Alex. Asshole.”
Wilson smiled and said, “I thought you’d appreciate that.”
Both soldiers got to their feet, staying bent at the waist so they wouldn’t stick up above the wall again. Nunez took an extra couple of deep breaths, trying to clear his head. It had been no more than two minutes since the RPG exploded against the compound a few feet over his shoulder and turned his world into a throbbing, painful blur, but his senses were already getting back to normal. He saw that his carbine was covered in fine dust, and he took a second to blow the dust from around the ejection port.
Hunched over, he and Wilson gorilla-walked to the other soldiers spread along the wall. Nunez called out, “Did anyone see where that came from? Anyone ID a target?”
“Fuck no Sarge, I didn’t see shit.”
“Me neither. They must have fired from way behind the treeline.”
“Shit, I can’t even tell what direction it came from.”
“Hey Sarge, we’ve already been on the radio about it,” Wilson said. “Nobody saw where it came from, not the other half of our platoon or the French. It was fired by a fucking ghost.”
How do they always do that? Nunez wondered. How do they manage to maneuver and fire on us without us being able to see them?
Nunez and his platoon were supporting the French Mountain Regiment on an infantry sweep through Loy Shenkay village, Kapisa province, Afghanistan. Their part of the mission was to hold a blocking position and prevent the Taliban from escaping north while the French pushed through from the south. Nunez’s section had set themselves up in a nice, safe corridor between a large compound and a chest high rock wall. They occupied the position before dawn and held it for three hours, before anything exciting happened.
The spent the first hour hoping the French would scare a hundred Taliban their direction so they could leisurely mow them down. After the second hour that possibility seemed unlikely and the soldiers loosened up a little, shifting every so often from their positions to stretch or take a leak. By the third hour they were bored and standing upright behind the chest-high rock wall, not believing any Taliban inside the village were feeling frisky enough to take them on that day.
Nunez had gotten sick of walking back and forth behind his troops, so he wandered a short distance away to get a look into the village from a different angle. He had been looking in the wrong direction when the boom! of the Rocket Propelled Grenade reached his ears. By the time he snapped his head to the side the round was almost at the wall. At least he thought it was almost at the wall; he remembered a blur just before the round impacted the compound over his shoulder, less than ten feet away.
The sensation was like being bodyslammed while his head was dunked under a cloud of brown water. He felt as if he had been punched in the nose, and his teeth ached. But that didn’t matter; he was alive and unhurt, and now he had a cool story to tell. He knew the other soldiers in the platoon envied him a little. The closer the call, the greater the glory.
Nunez and Wilson walked down the line again, Wilson because he was being a good sergeant, Nunez because he knew the soldiers needed to see that he was okay. As they passed each soldier Nunez slapped them on the shoulders and reminded them to stay low. Corporal Gore smiled at Nunez and made an observation.
“Damn, Sarge, for a second I thought you were toast. When that thing blew up I saw you do this awesome little twist in the smoke and flames. You looked like one of those hot chicks on Dancing With the Stars. When you went down I wanted to run over and stick a dollar in your g-string.”
“The joke’s on you, Gore,” Nunez said. “I’m not wearing any underwear.”
“Good thing,” Gore said. “If you were, you’d have to change them now.”
Nunez tensed a second, until he realized Gore’s smile didn’t mean he smelled something extra in Nunez’s pants. “Yeah, true enough,” Nunez said. “Good thing Doc plugged my colon with Imodium this morning, or else I would have sprayed a few gallons of crap down my legs.”
Gore recoiled in mock horror. “Ewww, the runs! Alright, I’ll keep my hands off you tonight, I swear.”
Filed under: Afghanistan, Writing | 14 Comments
Tags: Afghanistan, veteran writers, war fiction