Just Another Day in the War

This week I submitted a story to a book compilation committee judging thingy. That, plus an eight-day, 80-hour work week means my creativity is tapped out. So please accept this story, originally titled “Chapter Three”, and published May 5, 2008.


Chapter 14


My men were up the rise a little ways, waiting to hear from me.  From my position I could see the opposing force coming up, four of them, moving with arrogance, foregoing move-and-cover in favor of speed.  They were tracking us, they knew we were just ahead, and they intended to catch up.  And kill us.

They had superior weaponry and carried it loosely, at the hip.  When the time came, they would no doubt expend ammunition liberally.  We would lose a head-to-head fight; all they had to do was see us and mow us down.

I pulled back and sprinted up the rise.  Considered our advantages.  One, being pursued, but had not yet been sighted.  Could choose the location if we chose quickly.  Two, I now knew the enemy’s number and weaponry… force composition.  Though outgunned, evenly matched in manpower.  Three, okay, I thought as I caught my breath, there wasn’t really a three to contemplate.  I’d have to make do with advantages one and two.  I grabbed Williams and walked him toward a pile of rocks.

“Flamingo, Reynolds, grab some of this scrub to cover him up with,” I said, assuming a command not technically mine.  “Listen up, Williams, here’s the deal.  You’re going to crouch down here and we’re going to bury you in brush and rocks and leave your ass right here.  When the bad guys chase us past your position, we’ll fire a couple of shots as a signal, and when you hear that, you need to bust out and let ’em have it in the back.  Got it?”

Williams saw the weak link in the plan. “Screw that.  You’re going to get me killed!  We should just find high ground and fight it out!”

“Williams, no one is going to expect you to be here so close.  They will see us up the rise and assume we’re sticking together.  They have heavier gear… if it comes to a straight fight we will lose and die.  This is the only way.”

“If it’s such a great plan, you should be the hero, man.  How ’bout I cover you with rocks and shit?”

“You’re the smallest, and you have better clothes for this.  You’ll blend better.  As long as you don’t move, they’ll never spot you, man.  And they’ll be here in two minutes so let’s do this quick.”

Flamingo tried to be supportive. “I’ll be watching, dude.  If this doesn’t work, Williams, I will shoot everyone.”

Flamingo was an idiot.  He also had only a pistol, a small Colt automatic, to enhance his dramatics.  If my plan didn’t work, he’d probably be the first one sliced up in the ensuing lead ballet.  Reynolds didn’t say much, as usual, but he gently pushed Williams down and put a bush on him.  That sort of sealed it.  In less than a minute we had him more or less covered.  He would need to stay very still to stay alive.

My actual plan had been to sacrifice Williams if necessary.  I expected him to get at least two of the four, maybe three, but if they managed any sort of tactical reaction, Williams was toast.  I selected him not because he was small, but because Flamingo and Reynolds were better long-range shots.  I would need them if this didn’t work.

But now I looked at him squatting down, his gray Members Only jacket dirty and looking not at all like a rock… I couldn’t just leave him there.  If the fight started here, it had to end here.  “Williams, you got two hands, right?” 

He didn’t want to turn his head for fear of jarring his cover.  “What kind of lame ass question is that?” he hissed.

“You’ll need two guns,” I said, and put my own revolver on the ground next to his hand.  He grabbed it.  I was now unarmed.

“Good luck,” I said, and Reynolds, Flamingo, and I scooted up the rise.

I waved Flamingo into some short trees on the left, but he shot me a “you’re not the boss of me” look and kept going, eventually dropping prone with his little pistol, thirty-five meters up from Williams in a ditch.  Dumb ass.  Reynolds stuck with me and we got a good spot on the right, about sixty meters up.  I explained our part of the scheme and we waited, but not for long.

They came into view, moving more carefully now, two on either side.  I had hoped they’d keep their swagger, but they seemed to sense us waiting.  One was walking up the same ditch that Flamingo had hid in.  Another was headed straight for Williams.  Williams was almost certainly dead meat.  They moved pretty well, checking out the dark hollow places and scanning ahead.  They were ten meters from Williams now.  We could see their faces, and the point man was actually about to take cover behind Williams!  The plan was going to fall apart.  It was time to force the issue.

I staggered out into view, for just a second, and then jumped back.  Reynolds kept his eyes open.  “Yep, they bought it,” he said grimly. “We’ve got their full attention now.”  And he slipped under my armpit as if helping me walk, and we stumbled away from the bad guys.

Somebody shouted and we turned.  The OpFor was trotting now, and the heavy rifles were coming up to bear.  Reynolds let one staccato burst fly from his weapon, and we fell flat.

They were sure we were hurt and running.  There was no reason to be cautious now.  They began shouting and yelling and shooting… and closing their ranks.

Williams stood up, behind them at point-blank range and already shooting.  In his left hand, my own revolver, angrily spitting sparks at the two on the left.  In his right, his Star Wars blaster, its AA batteries delivering the vicious, flesh-melting sound effects.

There was complete surprise.

Flamingo stood and started pouring it on, each successive shot popping more death into the kill zone.  Already the OpFor was jerking violently, clutching their chests and heads, expiring in a gory testament to our superior strategy.  There would be no arguing this time, no claims of “missed me!” or “only wounded!”  Williams slaughtered them all, and he jumped for joy when it was over, laughing and pumping a coup de grace into everyone’s head.

Which was arguably over the top.

I delivered my after-action report over dinner: how I’d formed the plan to fit the scenario, how we’d executed the perfect ambush.  I warned that it wouldn’t work twice… next time they’d be more careful of ruses, maybe even pick Williams for their side… and that’s why I needed better weaponry.  A blaster rifle, a tommy gun, a shotgun.  Something with firepower, or at least range.  Maybe a grenade.

My parents looked at each other over the meatloaf.  I got more Legos for my birthday.  Also, a Nerf football.

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About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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11 Responses to Just Another Day in the War

  1. wendystrohm says:

    Brilliant stuff, brilliant.

  2. you are far too good to not be on sale somewhere 🙂

  3. jayne ayres says:

    In my humble opinion, your dance of descriptions, tone and subject are Olympic in composition – very engaging, and after the AA batteries, you had me on edge not knowing what was coming – death or PB&J sandwiches! (I WAS glad you were little kids because it added magic)

    • ernestwhile says:

      Thank you Jayne! This was fun to write.

      • jayne ayres says:

        out of curiosity, when you write a story…Does the story tell you what to write or do you create it from many angles?

      • ernestwhile says:

        A lot of my stories, probably most, begin with an actual experience or artifact. I sketch out the factual parts that I can remember, then work out a structure, tempo, and voice. Combining all of that gives me 60-70% of what I want, then I work it a little more.

      • jayne ayres says:

        Is that how you wrote “Crashing a Car”?

      • ernestwhile says:

        Absolutely. The spinout actually happened, as did the not-so-mysterious discussion that preoccupied my thoughts. Not sure they happened on the same day, though. And one being a metaphor for the other didn’t occur to me until I started writing it, and that was 19 years after the fact.

      • jayne ayres says:

        the process is fascinating because of the unintended results – your unexpected metaphors, the reader’s interpretation and your original intent. ( I swear I actually HEARD the story with wind and rushing air as I first read it) Thank you for the insight. J

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