Short Afghanistan story

05Aug13


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,

Chris

********************************

“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.”

**********************************************************

Any thoughts?

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14 Responses to “Short Afghanistan story”

  1. 1 BCFD36

    Nice story. Any relation to anything that happened over there?

    • BC,

      It’s related-ish. I never had an RPG detonate that close to me, although I did have one memorable near-miss from an 82mm antitank rocket. The runs thing is definitely related though. Two nights before a major operation I got hit with a near-fatal case of the runs. We were sleeping in the dirt beside our vehicles on a firebase perimeter, and I had to get up and go to the bathroom about 15 times. The nearest bathroom was about 500 meters away; after the first ten or so visits, I tried and failed to find somewhere to sleep right beside the bathroom. I got no more than about 15 minutes between bathroom visits, and usually not even that much. I figure I got about 90 minutes sleep total that night. The next morning I still had it, so I asked the medic to hook me up with Imodium. The next morning the operation started, the lead elements were ambushed and we rolled in to support them. I was pretty worried about getting hit with the runs again, until we were actually in the fight and I forgot all about it. For the next several days my stomach felt horrible; the medicine worked, but I hope I never have to take it again.

      For another story about being on a mission while fighting off a stomach attack, read my post “The Frappucino of Mass Destruction”.

      And on a side note, a couple of years ago another soldier and I put some actors through a quick course to show them how to look and move like soldiers. We took them out on a simulated patrol and put them through a simulated ambush. During the ambush, I talked the head actor/squad leader through the actions he should take. “Squad leader, what are you going to do about that casualty? No, you don’t get him. Lay down suppressive fire, then order one or two of your troops to do it. While they’re doing that you’re communicating with higher.” The actors, except for one who probably joined the military afterward, got pretty freaked out during the simulation. Afterward, we told them, “Now imagine doing all that while you desperately have to take a dump.”

  2. 3 Nathalie Leclercq

    I like the sense of humour – for instance “When you went down I wanted to run over and stick a dollar in your g-string”…It’s always nice when a character has a bit of an ego or is (slightly) vain; “he was alive and unhurt, and now he had a cool story to tell”, because nothing is more boring than a flawless character. What I like a lot about war literature is that it’s usually an exclusively male environment where everything they talk about gets sexualized (“I’ll keep my hands off you tonight, I swear.”) Funny!

    • Nathalie,

      You’re right, in the all-male units everything does get sexualized in a joking way. Gay jokes fly like crazy in those circumstances, although that’s changing a bit.

      I like to think my characters are honest, which often means flawed. My next book, “Line in the Valley”, highlights their flaws even more.

  3. I can relate, oh, yes, I can relate…..

    Once, myself and about 4 of my soldiers were up on an overwatch position. We had been watching some dudes watch us from a ridgeline about 1000m away for about 10 minutes. One of my dudes tells me “Hey, I gotta poop. Think I got time before the war starts?” There was supposed to be a drone arriving at any time, so I told him to go ahead, the dudes back in the rear would probably watch on their drone and get a laugh. He decided to wait, and about two minutes later the war started in earnest, and thing were pretty warm until our mortars came into play. I have one moment, frozen in my memory, of him huddled behind a too-small rock while PKM rounds chipped away at it. Afterwards, I asked him if he still needed to go. He said no, and swore it was several days before he did.

    We started saying he had a “crystal butthole.” Every time he needed to shit while were were outside the wire, we would take contact.

    Good times. Gooooood times….

    • You have GOT to let me use “crystal butthole” in my next book!

      • 7 mac11b2003

        Sure, be my guest!!!

        • Mac,

          I did the same thing in Proof of Our Resolve. A soldier in my battalion told me a cool story, so I asked for permission to use it in my book. This story was cited as one of the most memorable parts of the book by one reviewer. Of course I changed it around a bit, but the main point of the story is still there. It’s about a water bottle.

          I’ll have to alter your story a little and plug it into one of my future stories. Thanks Mac.

  4. 11 BobF

    Well, damn. Just damn. First time since ’68 I’ve let myself think about it. Did I shit in my drawers? Think so, but please tell me, somebody. Damn, Chris, you unlocked a door that’s been jammed closed for a very long time now. Did I? I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and laughing my ass off…at me. Differences were rocket (I think), sandbag bunker pretty dark inside that time of night. None of the rest relates, just the “did I” question. But it’s a BIG piece of a very old puzzle. Thanks, Chris. You just never know.

    • Bob,

      One of the greatest honors I can receive as a writer, is being told by a veteran that my writing resonated with them. Whenever I capture some detail or moment that reminds them of what they experiences, I know my writing is really worth something. Thanks for letting me know my story unlocked a door, thanks for sharing your story, and most of all thanks for your service.

  5. 13 Bryan Garrison

    I just stumbled onto your website, Brother. I’m very impressed! Semper, Bro!


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