Category Archives: War

The Corpsman by Kenneth Weene

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They called him Doc. It wasn’t his title or even his nickname, but it was what they called him. He knew if he were ever hit, killed, air-vacced out, they’d call the next guy Doc, too. Doc was better than the other name, “Medic, Medic.” That was what they called when somebody was hit, hit bad, bad enough to need him. Some nights it still woke him—in his dreams, them yelling, “Medic, Medic.” Him paralyzed, unable to help.

He is a bright guy. Career Navy, he’d worked his way up from corpsman to officer, gone to school—college. For all that education, he still didn’t have any insight, no self-awareness. Self-awareness isn’t something that comes easy with PTSD. Too busy reliving, too busy trying to keep his shit together .

Retired, going a bit to gray and pot, he and his wife were on a trip; they were staying at the same Bed and Breakfast as my wife and I.  The ladies had gone to bed; so there we were: just two guys sitting in a comfortable living room in small town Arizona.

He starts out telling me that he doesn’t much like being with people, being part of a group, doesn’t really join in, stays to himself. Then he spends the evening talking. Talking and sharing and talking some more. Guess what he really doesn’t like is listening. If the other guy is talking, how can he be back there, back then, reliving?

He starts by telling me about PTSD. I don’t interrupt—to tell him that I’m a shrink—not until he finishes telling me about what a Navy psychiatrist had explained to him—how if you take a cat, nice little cat, and put him in a back yard and start shooting at him and blowing shit up around him and then you take him back into the house, why that cat will be changed and that was how post traumatic stress worked.

Then I told him about my background; I mentioned there was usually something else about Post Traumatic Stress—something that cats couldn’t figure—not just the being scared but the guilt that somehow you should have changed things.

That’s when he talked about the ambush. He was supposed to go out with this patrol. They were going to do a sweep and set up an ambush, a standard night operation in Vietnam.

Bunch of kids; oldest, the corporal leading it, wasn’t any older than nineteen—kids, just kids. So this corporal tells me, “Doc, you ain’t coming with us.”

“Of course I am.  You got to have a corpsman.”

“You ain’t coming,” he says again.

“Yeah, I am.”

They go back and forth a bit before the corporal tells him that the patrol isn’t going anywhere, that they’re just too damned tired so they’re going to get a little way out of camp, and hunker down for the night. Just call in like they’re really out on patrol. Get a night’s sleep before they fall apart.

Well, he isn’t happy about not doing his job; so he decides that the least he can do is take a radio shift back at HQ, do something instead of taking the night off. At two, he takes over the C.P. radio. Everything’s quiet. The corporal calls in, his scheduled contact. Everything’s fine. A few seconds later, he hears hell breaking loose over that radio. First there’s a single shot. Then that patrol, the one he was supposed to be on, is screaming for help. Over the radio he hears the firing. Deep shit!

He’s one of the team that goes out for the rescue. Four medics, couple of officers, a bunch of riflemen. By the time they get to where this platoon is hunkered, every last one of those Marines has been hit. But everything is quiet, quiet as death.

“Where the hell are they?”

“Sneaky bastards”

Then they figure it out. The corporal had called in at two, just like he was supposed to. Then he decided to check his men, make sure nothing was wrong. Damn kid forgot to put on his helmet. In Marine world after dark and no helmet, you’re the enemy. Shoot to kill. That first shot he’d heard over the radio.

Well, that shot and the other Marines had jumped up – still no helmets. More fucking shooting.

All those guys hit; all by their own friendly fire.

Friendly fire. Jesus, who could have thought. Too damned tired to know what they were…

His eyes clouded. He was someplace else.

I should have been there. Never could figure out why I wasn’t. I should have been out there with those guys, but … but I wasn’t. Why? … Why?

The thing was, he was serious. He didn’t understand why the corporal had told him to stay in camp.

“You were too valuable to waste,” I offered.

What do you mean?

“They knew they weren’t going to be fighting so why waste a corpsman’s time? Just like if they needed to dig a hole or some other grunt work, you’re not the guy to hand the shovel. Medics were too valuable to squander that way. Why have you waste your energy when you might need it to save one of them some time?”

Shit, I must have asked a dozen doctors why; and nobody ever… He sat—quiet, nodding his head from time to time.

Thing is I came back. I was never even wounded.

“That was damn lucky. Corpsmen, you guys—only ones more likely to get it were Second Lieutenants.” I hadn’t served, but I wanted him to know that I understood.

Yeah, butter-bars. You see a Lieutenant with a map and you knew you were in shit. Fresh from training and not knowing a thing about what they was doing.

I laughed. He smiled wanly.

When I was fresh in the field, you know maybe six weeks in, I noticed something strange. There was this snapping noise. I’d be working on a guy and suddenly I’d hear this snapping. I’d look around, but there wasn’t anything breaking—no sticks or anything – just that sound. I asked this Gunnery Sergeant, “Gunny,” I asked, “There’s something I want to ask you.”

“So ask, Doc.”

“When I’m out there and I’m working on a guy, I hear this noise, this snapping, any idea what it is?”

“Sure, Doc, that’s bullets. Those sons-of-bitches are shooting at you. When a bullet gets close enough it snaps. Most of the time you hear a whine, but when it gets close enough.”

“After that, when I was working on a guy, I’d kind of dart around.”

He acted it out, reaching for something quickly, changing direction, moving suddenly in another direction.

He stopped moving, sat still and looked at me.

“It sounds awful,” I said to break the silence.

Nothing.

Some, a lot didn’t make it. Some I didn’t think would, but they did. Worst one, one I saved but I didn’t think he’d make it—there was this kid. We were on patrol and all hell breaks out. I’m working on some other guy, nothing too bad, when one of the Marines comes up, says, ‘Doc, you got to come.’

“I’m working on this guy,” I say.

He grabs me; pulls me right away, right down to his buddy.

This grunt is leaning against a tree. His arm is broken in two; he’s holding it up, and it’s just hanging down from here.

He gestures to show that the bottom two thirds of the guy’s left forearm is hanging down like everything inside it is broken, like it’s held on by skin.

And his right leg is gone right to here.” He indicates the hip. “I could see his hip joint. The leg is a couple of yards away, lying on the ground like it’s waiting for him. And blood. Shit, you ain’t seen a femoral until you’ve seen a femoral A femoral and a radial and both going at once.

He jerked his hands in different directions like they were supposed to be the spurting blood.

First thing I need is a tourniquet. I dump my pack right there on the ground, but I don’t have another one. None of the guys have one either; we’ve just used them all. So I think about it, and we’re wearing these new uniforms, not the cammies, those hadn’t come in yet, but these green nylon uniforms. At least we were out of the cottons—sweat to death in nylon, but they dried faster. These new uni-s, they got pockets on the legs, and there are these cords sewn in to tie those pockets tight so your shit doesn’t jiggle around in there. I never put anything in those pockets, but I grab the cord from my left leg and pull until it rips free.

Again his hands are flying around.

I use the strap to tie up that stump of his. Use some stump pads and there’s all this jungle shit right in the wound, but I got it tied off … and the arm, and I say, “Call a dust off; we got to get him out of here.”

That’s when this guy—his leg gone, his arm gone—he says, “Hey, Doc, you looked down there.”

I nod yeah.

“So is it all there. Do I still got what I need?”

“Yeah,” I tell him and that son-of-a-bitch smiles back at me like there’s not a damn thing wrong in the world.

Course we’ve got that chopper all ready coming in; and he starts coming down, but then he pulls away.

“What the fuck?” I ask.

“Taking fire, can’t land,” the sergeant explains.

So we load this guy on a poncho and his leg and we carry him down to an LZ not too far off. But the chopper still can’t land. Sarge says, “They’ll lower the basket. We put him in fast, and they get the hell out of here.”

So they get about a hundred feet above us and they lower this drogue, and it starts rotating like a crazy-ass pendulum, but then that pilot—damn he’s good—he gets it under control and sets it down gentle. Somebody yells, “Get him in.”

b

We get that guy and his leg into the bucket and the copter takes off.

“Shit,” I yell, “We didn’t get him tied in.”

That basket is swinging around again, and we watch it gyrating as the copter pulls up and meanwhile I guess they’re pulling him in, too; but for a minute I expected to see that guy flying out of that bucket and…

Couple of months later, we get back from patrol and the shirt whose in charge of our platoon calls a meeting. “We got a letter,” he says, “from Clere. You guys remember him?”

Well, most of us—except the new guys—say yeah, and he reads the letter. How this guy’s back in the states and learning to use a prosthetic arm, one of those things that go across the back and you can move them around with your other shoulder and you can open and close these hooks.

He illustrated hunching his shoulders and clawing with two fingers of his own hand.

“They can’t do anything about a leg, too much of that was gone. But I’ll be going home and that’s what counts. So, I just wanted to let you guys know I made it out okay.”

The shirt gives us a piece of paper and a pen and tells us we should all write something back to this guy. Being I’m Navy, you know a corpsman and not a Marine, I get that piece of paper last and there isn’t much room; so I just write how most of us would give an arm and a leg to get out of Nam.

He nodded in appreciation of his own little joke. I tried to smile in response.

Didn’t hear from that guy for years. Then the VFW puts together a list of all of us members all over the country. Computers you know; they’re great. And each of us has written down his information. Forty bucks and you got a great big book to tell you where all your buddies are. It was brand new; my copy hadn’t come yet, but I was looking forward to it, maybe looking up a few of the guys.

Meanwhile, it was first day of deer hunting season and I’d spent it out in the swamps, wandering around and not seeing a single animal. I get home tired, hungry, out of sorts. Last thing I want is to talk to anyone. Just as my ass is finding my favorite chair, the phone rings.

I don’t answer; but it keeps ringing, and my wife can’t stand it so she answers: You know a woman, can’t leave a crying baby or a ringing phone.

“Tell them we don’t want any.”  He says it while making a cutting sign across his neck.

Don’t you hate those telemarketers? I figured nobody else would be bothering with us.

Anyway, my wife gets to talking, and I tell her again, “We don’t want any.”

Then she hands me the phone. “It’s for you.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know. Ask him.

So I kind of shout into the phone, “Who is this?”

And this deep, rough voice says, “Did you use to be in the Navy?”

“Yeah. And I still am. Who…?”

“A corpsman?”

“Yeah. But…”

“And you served in Vietnam?”

Now he was getting into some painful water, “Look, I don’t know what you’re selling, but who the hell are you?”

“Shit, Doc, now that ain’t any way to talk to a guy who gave an arm and leg to get out of Nam.”

“Clere, is that you? You know I never could find you, find out … How the hell are you? Wondered a lot of time, but couldn’t find you in any reports.”

He laughs. “That’s ‘cause my name’s not Clere, it’s Lehr.”

“So where are you? What are you doing?”

“We still live in Missouri. I work for the I.R.S.”

“Shit, I saved your life so you could go to work for the I.R.S.? What the fuck?”

He looked at me and shook his head like something worried at him but that nothing mattered.

We sat quiet for a while. We both knew there were no answers, no reasons, just the randomness of war. But on that night, that one night: yeah, there had been a reason.

OF TRAINS AND FIREWORKS by Monica Brinkman

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Mason clutched mother’s hand, his steps quickened to keep up. There were so many people. The young boy felt fear mix with the excitement of a new adventure.

Firecracker pops filled the air. He heard cries of surprise and yelps of alarm. Mason loved fireworks but could not see over the heads of the people as mother pulled him up the hard steel stairs and into the trains’ interior.

“Mommy, stop. I want to go see the fireworks.”

“Shush Mason. Not now.”

Tears filled his eyes. How could she be so mean? He heard more pops and cracks and pouted in defiance of her words. The fireworks were still going on and he wanted to see them. He yanked from her hands’ grasp and turned to exit the train. So many people. They roughly jammed into his small body. Mason pressed against his mother’s wool coat. A raven-haired girl fell at his feet. The crowd stepped upon her tiny arms, torso and face until she was no longer visible.

Mason looked up at his mother, “Mommy, they’re hurting her.”

“That is not your concern, Mason.” She pulled her son close. “You stay near me or you’ll be next.”

It was getting warm; he wanted to take off the heavy coat and hat. It was futile even to attempt to raise his arm or move his hand more than a couple inches from his body. The pressure of the other people’s bodies hurt. Each second brought them closer, squeezing and squishing his small frame.

“It’s hard to breathe, Mommy.” Tears ran down his cheeks. The excitement of a train ride replaced by pain and grief.

The shrill scraping of the trains‘ steel doors as they closed caused his ears to pound and his head to throb. This wasn’t fun anymore. Mason wanted to go home. He embraced mother‘s leg. His sobs grew louder. Mother raised his head, fingers under his chin, and wiped the tears from his face.

“Don’t fear, Mason, We are going for a visit to a camp in the Ukraine. There will be yummy food and a nice place to live. Won’t it be fun spending each day with Mommy?”

Mason’s face brightened at the thought of food and of spending days with his mother. He just knew this would be the most exciting adventure of his life. He smiled in anticipation;  his eyes twinkled with delight.

He was fast asleep when the train pulled into Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

Author and radio show personality Monica Brinkman mixes suspense, horror, and spirituality in her writing which can be found at Amazon. You can get to know her more personally on It Matters Radio, the Internet based program that she hosts.

MY FIRST PUBLISHED SHORT STORY by John B. Rosenman

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Have you ever looked at a photograph of yourself when you were young and thought, “Whoa, is that me?” Did you gaze at the smooth, unlined face and search your now crumbled, ravaged features for some vestige of it? Where, you perhaps wondered, did that young boy or girl go?

In a way, this is what happened to me when I recently ran across my first published story. While I’d been scribbling since I was a tyke, “The Patriot,” which appeared in a small college magazine was the first work I actually shared with the world. I’d just turned twenty and was starting my junior year at Hiram College. I won’t tell you the year, but folks, it was looonnng ago.

I offer “The Patriot” here, warts and all, to encourage older writers to revisit their early writing and to reflect on the passing of time and what it means. To me, my story seems the product of a callow fellow, crude and immature. It’s as if I wrote it as a baby in another lifetime. Yet at the same time, I recognize distinctive traits of my style and thinking. The child IS the father of the man. For readers who are young, THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU. One day you will be sorting through the bric-a-brac of your youth, the archaeological remains of your childhood, and discover something that jars you, perhaps even rocks you to your core. Just as Adolph Schmidt is rocked in my story…

THE PATRIOT

Adolph Schmidt pounded a last nail into the sole of the shoe and tossed it into the pile by his side. From outside came a shout, a barked order, and then the tramp of boots, the sound of soldiers. Within the shop Adolph sat undisturbed, for here the sounds entered faint and curiously detached. Adolph reached for another shoe and in a moment the pounding continued. Presently he sighed and rose from his work, his frame tall and his shoulders stooped as he walked over to the shop’s lone window and peered out. The soldiers were almost at the end of the street now. In a minute would come the bark of authority and then the unthinking robot would return. Disinterestedly, Adolph turned back to his work.

The door opened and a short and very corpulent man entered. Adolph looked up briefly and then turned back to his work. The visitor shut the door and walked in.

“Hello, Adolph,” he said, wheezing heavily and shuffling into the shop.

“Hello, Otto,” returned Adolph, his voice dead, and this time he did not look up.

Otto stared down at him for a moment and then spoke.

“Well?”

There was a long pause, one broken only by Otto’s heavy breathing. Adolph raised his head and for a moment the eyes of the two men locked.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but it’s out of the question.”

The matter thus dismissed, Adolph picked up another shoe and examined it critically. But Otto was not satisfied. He stalked about the narrow confines of the shop, one fat finger explosively punctuating the air, his arms gesturing violently in his impotence. Through it all Adolph worked undisturbed. At last Otto pulled up short before him and snorted disdainfully. “It’s out of the question,” he mimicked, slapping his fat thighs for emphasis. “It’s out of the question, he says.”

There was a pause and Adolph looked up.

“Look, Adolph,” said Otto, “we’ve been friends for a long time. We grew up together. This country, Austria, is our home. We have families, women and children to protect.”

Adolph said nothing. Otto, seeing that his words bore no effect upon his friend paused and then furiously roared, “In the name of God, Adolph, does our suffering mean nothing to you?”

Adolph sighed and tiredly raised his head. “It’s not my fight, Otto,” he said. “I work, I sleep, I bother no one, no one bothers me. I am not disturbed. For me there is peace.”

“Peace?” echoed Otto, his face incredulous. “Peace? Adolph,” he said, resting his elbows on the bench before him and speaking softly as if to a child, “there is no peace. No peace when your home is not our own but belongs to the enemy, no peace when your wives and daughters can be wantonly defiled and as wantonly discarded, no peace when your mind is not your own and your highly prized liberty paid for with the grains of your integrity.”

The shoe done, Adolph tossed it into the pile by his side and reached for another.

“All right,” said Otto resignedly, “all right. But will you at least come to the meeting tonight? Will you at least come and hear what we have to say?”

Adolph was a long time in answering, and when he did, he did not raise his eyes from his work.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but I’ll have too much work to do.”

Otto heavily shook his head, as if the answer had been one long expected.

“I’m sorry, too, Adolph,” he said, and he bent his head and dejectedly shook it. “But it is so hard to fight when even those of your side are against you.” Tiredly he crossed to the door and stood poised with his hand on the knob. “If you should change your mind,” he said, his eyes on the hunched, silent shoulders of his friend, “the meeting will be at nine prompt, at the home of Ludwig Wagner. You know the way.”

“Yes, Otto, I know the way.”

Otto nodded and turned to open the door but halted at the scrape of boots on the outside platform. There was a knock, sharp and challenging, and Otto turned in the dead silence of the shop and looked at Adolph with eyes that pleaded the unspoken word.

It was at once a dilemma for Adolph, for Adolph was not one accustomed to the need for decision. Another man, perhaps one who would have acted, would have assessed the problem with the eye of his mind and, the thing resolved, acted positively one way or the other. But Adolph was not such a man. Such a man was Adolph in fact, that the dealing with problems of any kind was distasteful and to be avoided whenever possible. As it was, he did nothing, and so it was that Otto’s plea went unanswered.

The knock was repeated, louder and more insistent this time, reverberating as thunder about the dingy walls. Standing as he was, with his shoulders stooped and his brow wet, Adolph trembled and released his shaking breath as softly as he could. The pounding ceased, abruptly and with a note of finality. There was a brief silence, a sudden barked order, and then the crash of shoulders against the wood panel. On the third assault the door gave way, its rusty hinges torn from the wall as it thundered to the floor. German soldiers armed with death burst into the shop. Otto was quickly seized, his arms pinned behind him as he struggled in vain to escape.

Adolph recognized instantly the tall form of Colonel Silvanyuk, the commandant of the village, as he swaggered into the shop and disdainfully extricated his fingers from one delicate white glove. “Ah, Otto Goering,” he said, his voice suave and cultured, “how good of you to let yourself be caught.”

Otto stopped his struggles and glared back balefully.

“You must excuse my delight at having found you,” continued the colonel, “but we have reports that you have conspired against the occupation. You understand, of course, that we cannot permit such actions to go unpunished.”

“No,” repeated Otto dully, “you cannot.”

“That is,” said the colonel, steepling his fingers as he turned about the shop and stopped once more before Otto, “unless you give to us the names of those who conspired with you.”

The effect of the words was immediate. Otto lunged forward in the arms of his captors and spat in the commandant’s face.

The insult brought him stiffly erect. “Very well,” he said, “if that’s the way you want it. Take him outside.”

The soldiers forced the struggling Otto through the open doorway into the street. The colonel turned to watch them and then turned back to Adolph. “It will be most unfortunate for you, sir,” he said, his voice stripped of its previous politeness, “if we should discover that you are among the conspirators.”

Adolph stared back at him and moved his lips as if in a nightmare. “My friend, Otto,” he said, “you’re going to kill him, aren’t you?”

The commandant smiled half-amusedly. “Yes,” he said, “we’re going to kill him,” and with that he laughed and mockingly saluted.

Adolph stood for a long time after the colonel’s departure, his head bent in the darkness. At last he aroused himself and squared his shoulders. “I’ve been wrong,” he thought. “It is my concern. It is my fight. Otto. I have wronged him. All along I have wronged him. He was my friend, my countryman, but I have wronged him. _I_ was not _his_ friend.”

He turned to the clothes rack and lifted his coat from it. “I must hurry. I have an engagement, and I must not be late.” He stepped out through the shop’s open doorway into the snow. For a moment he stood, and then he started walking, his broad shoulders squared against the winter wind.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

In the Trenches By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

WW I

WWI

The night is quiet from the day’s deafening bombardment of bombs and screeching sounds of dying men, some not more than a foot away. I sit in this piss-laden trench wondering when my time will come. Will it be tomorrow or the next? Numb from all this death and suffering, I don’t care anymore. If I’m meant to end on a French battlefield, then it’s better than being shipped home with a missing limb.

Charlie was sent home last week due to trench foot. Most of his toes were gone from gangrene. He’ll be glad to see his family, even if it means hobbling for the rest of his life. John was looking forward to going home next week. A sniper’s bullet pierced his helmet while we were talking about those lively cancan girls we wanted to see on leave.

Why are we here? Because an arrogant bastard, the Keiser, wanted to rule all of Europe and maybe the world, too. Sinking the Lusitania was the turning point. I was full of patriotic fervor when I signed up. I joined to protect the United States from tyranny and a malicious underbelly. The cause was right and just—freedom for all. My starry eyes blinded the realization of what war really meant. War is killing—killing the sons, brothers, and fathers of others who just believe in taking the enemies’ lives. Here we are. Two sides praying to the same God for a victory.

Armentières was a hell storm, or so I’ve been told by a British soldier when he came to our camp searching for his fellow platoon mates. I have no idea why a song was composed about that city in France. You know the one I’m talking about—“Mademoiselle From Armentières, Parlez-Vous.” Funny how silly things come to mind, like a song, when I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow, or much of it.

We went by foot to this place. Ruin and devastation nearly everywhere we looked, and then a pretty wildflower took me back to home. My mind saw Mama at the stove making the best beef stew anyone ever tasted, my young sister helping her by gathering the ingredients and placing them on the counter. I went to take a taste from the worn wooden spoon. “Stop that! It’s not ready yet.” Her words rang in my ears. She’d then kiss my cheek and I’d feel her loving hand stroke the hair on my head, just as she did when I stood no higher than her apron sash.

Poppa is a mechanic and owns his own business. He’s got plans for me to join him when I return from this war. Even has a sign at the back of the shop with “and Son” on the end of the name. He told me he had that sign made when I was born. I learned a lot from him—what’s right and wrong, fear of God, respect women, and a man is only as good as his word. Seems to me there are too many in this world who haven’t learned those lessons, or else don’t care about them.

This is supposed to be the Great War, and the War to End All Wars. Somehow, I don’t believe it. There’s just too much hate in men’s hearts and the thrill of power and rule make them seek ways to strike down those who disagree with them. I fear this is only the beginning of what’s to come for a hundred or more years from now. I’m just a common foot soldier and know nothing about war plans and strategies, but I know this—as long as men refuse to accept differences in others, this war is the reflection of intolerance, and conflict will be the normal way of things to come for generations.

WW I.2
WWII

 

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2217
and
http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8
also
http://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com/

 

Bio

Life’s circumstances put Cynthia’s dream to be a write on hold for most of her life. In 2006 she ventured to write her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and known Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. She has vast interests in art and history. Cynthia shares, with other authors, the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, which she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. She garnered the Excellence in Writing Award from It Matters Radio for her short story It Ain’t Fittin.

How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation By T. R. Heinan

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How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation

By T. R. Heinan

This year marks the bicentennial of one of the most decisive battles in American military history, the Battle of New Orleans. The War of 1812 is sometimes called “the forgotten war” and it is not uncommon to hear that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war was actually over. In fact, while the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 and the final British assault did not occur until January 8, 1815, the treaty specifically provided that fighting would continue until the treaty had been ratified and exchanged, something that did not occur until February.

The British hope was for the war to end with the British in possession of the City of New Orleans. This would allow them to control traffic on the Mississippi. The fledgling American nation had been humiliated by one military defeat after another throughout the war. Except for some ports in New England, the entire coastline was now successfully blockaded, and the Americans were defeated on the Great Lakes. The British plan to turn the States into a helpless island surrounded by His Majesty’s naval might only lacked control of the Mississippi River.

The White House had been burned, American ports of entry were targeted for destruction, and there was confidence in London that the commercial sector in the former colonies would soon demand an end to their experiment with independence. To accomplish this end, the Crown sent Sir Edmund Pakenham with an armada of fifty ships and a force of 11,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines to capture New Orleans.

President James Madison ordered General Andrew Jackson to the Crescent City.   Jackson did not arrived until December 1, 1814. He required an interpreter to help him communicate with the largely French speaking population as he hastily assembled a small opposition force consisting of French and Spanish Creoles, free men of color, slaves, German famers, frontiersmen, militia, regular soldiers and a significant company of pirates.

Witness to these events was thirty-nine year old Delphine Macarty Blanque, pregnant with her fourth child and married to her second husband, Jean Pierre Blanque. The Blanques lived near Conti on Royal Street, two doors down from where Brennan’s Restaurant now stands. Their townhouse was next to the Bank of Louisiana, of which Jean Blanque was a director. Their summers where spent at the Blanque Plantation located on the Mississippi near the Macarty Plantation owned by Delphine’s family. Jean did quite well as a merchant, banker and member of the Louisiana Legislature, but his best source of income was as a silent partner of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, Jean and Pierre Lafitte.

Since January 1, 1808 it had been illegal to import new slaves into the United States. The new law played right into the hands of Jean Blanque and the Lafitte brothers.   There was big money to be made in the smuggling of ‘black ivory.” By 1814, the United States government was after Jean Lafitte; his brother Pierre was already in jail, and Jean Blanque had been found guilty and fined for smuggling coffee. Louisiana Governor William Claiborne offered a $500 award for the capture of Jean Lafitte. The pirate responded by offering $1,500 for the capture of the governor.

The British, knowing that Lafitte had ships, canons and hundreds of trained men, approached the pirate, offering funds and the rank of captain if he would join them in their attack on the Americans. Lafitte asked for some time to think it over. After weighing his options, Lafitte dispatched letters to Jean Blanque, including one addressed to Governor Claiborne, revealing the British plans and offering to join the American forces. The letters were rushed to Delphine Macarty Blanque’s husband, arriving in less than 24 hours after a trip through the swamps that would normally take three days. Blanque, while insisting that he barely knew Lafitte, beseeched the Louisiana authorities to take advantage of the offer.

Claiborne assumed it was a trick, an attempt to free Jean’s brother Pierre from prison. He ordered an attack on the pirate’s headquarters. Jackson didn’t think he could accept the aid off an outlaw, but was furious that Claiborne had attacked the pirates, fearing that this would push them to accept the British offer. Blanque continued to plead with the legislature and New Orleans safety officials. In a matter of days Jackson realized how unprepared New Orleans still remained.   He had only two actual fighting ships on the river, both seriously undermanned. The pirates could help there. More importantly they had cannons, big powerful cannons, and men experienced at using them. After a meeting with Lafitte on Royal Street, Andrew Jackson decided to accept Lafitte’s offer.

During his reconnaissance, Jackson found the place he would make his stand. His headquarters, and the final battleground was to be the childhood home of Jean Blanque’s wife, Delphine Macarty Blanque. The Macarty Plantation, just a short distance downriver from New Orleans, still remained in the family and was still being operated by her cousin. Jackson dug in there and had Lafitte’s heavy ship guns brought onshore. When the British attack came it was fast and furious. Jackson’s headquarters at the Macarty plantation house was struck by cannon fire nearly 100 times in just ten minutes. Most of the British fire was aimed too high however, and the superiority of the American gunners, assisted by Lafitte’s pirates, surprised both sides.

The British suffered 2,459 casualties. American losses were remarkably few. Sir Edmund Pakenham was dead and his forces were forced to retreat.

The sudden and complete defeat of the invaders not only prevented British control of the Mississippi, it became a defining and unifying moment in American history, proving that the new nation had both the will and the ability to bring its people together in defense of their constitutional government and independence. The history, legends, and fame of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte have become part of the American story.

The wife of Jean Blanque whose family plantation became Jackson’s battleground and whose husband brought Lafitte’s offer of assistance to the Americans is also remembered today, but not because of the events that took place while she was married to Blanque. She is remembered for what she did with her third husband, Dr. Louis Lalaurie.

Each year thousands of tourists go to visit her final home in New Orleans at 1140 Royal Street. A new generation has learned her name from Kathy Bates’ excellent, though historically inaccurate, portrayal of her on American Horror Story. She is remembered today for the torture and brutal murder of her slaves in the attic of New Orleans most “haunted house”. She is Madame Delphine Macarty Blanque Lalaurie.

 

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a popular 19th century New Orleans legend. http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

Can Even The Dead See This and Forget to Weep? by James L. Secor

noh grief

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was too ordinary. Everything in its place. Clean, tidy, a room to be proud of. Pristine clean.

Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. Atop the buffet were overlapped doilies, on each a gold-framed picture. She stood at the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open top already high-glossed, high-lighting the wood grain of blacks and browns, ground for the gold frame. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight from the window until they disappeared into the wood so the buffet top sparkled.

Out of a drawer she withdrew a feather whisk.

Reverenced, she raised the frame, dusting the memento. Then she set it down. Raising some trinkets before the first photograph, she fingered them daintily. Army regalia. With each piece, great care was taken shining them to reflect the day light their wearers no longer appreciated.

And she said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you, they said. I should be proud and I should have something great to live for. Your honor,” they said. “Your honor to look upon forever, they said.”

She put them back before the picture.

She dusted off the next picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this frame. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and again.

She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with these remains. My memory.”

And she put the memorabilia down before the picture, gently.

She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.

She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. Remember when you would go down to the road and throw yourself against the cars? You bounced off. You bounded away, running and laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home stretchered. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him. My heart.”

She put the keepsakes down.

She squatted down and began polishing Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting wearers. She made each shiny black, two by two by one.

She picked up her rag and her spray can, moving to the end table. It did not receive any sunlight at all. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doilie wet. There was a picture on it. With care she dusted it with the feathers. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it, set it back down.

She moved to the drop-leaf table against the west wall. There was a large doilie on the table with two pictures on it. She polished the table. She dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. She hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. She put them back in their places.

She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the centre table. She took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, between her knees she placed the bucket. She held the Army-green object before her. And the bayonet unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open, blood coursing down her arm, collecting in her hand at the bottom of the pail between her spread legs.

She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” Like a dog with no master she whined.

She howled, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this.” And she spat, “May you choke on it! May you be accursed till I die–and I will never die. Cannot die. Always to suffer. My loss, my blood, all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms, cut out my heart! Tell me the reason!” she cried out. “Tell me why! I would know why you snuffed out the joy of my life thoughtless. I want the spear out of my side!” Like a dog she yelped. “Ah-ooo-wawoo!”

She rent herself again to watch the blood well up and spill over the eviscerated flesh, unsalved.

She snarled, “I tell you the wound will not heal. It suppurates while you give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only carried burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.

killed mother mask

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room…

 

BIO

Jimsecor thought he would advance his career by giving up 11 years of live theatre production to get a PhD. Little did he know! He worked with the Lifers at KS State Penn and did summer vaudeville and somehow got the doctorate, publication in a volume devoted to Japanese ghosts and demons and wrote a ground-breaking, though not academically enchanting, dissertation on women and morals in theatre. Then he studied at the National Puppet Theatre of Japan while writing award winning tanka. Illness forced a return to the States where he worked in disability. Seven years in China followed with multiple productions, including an all-female Lysistrata, TV commercials, a documentary and the publication of poems in Chinese in a major journal. He was also commissioned for a film and a play: the play was not liked and the film was deemed unable to pass the censors, so they never saw the light of day. Via Liverpool, he returned to the US and publication in The Speed of Dark and his own book of mysteries, Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz, while his essays are sprinkled all over the internet. Jimsecor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu. Lord, lord, lord–what does Helleccino mean?

THE PRISONER by John Rosenman

Ahab

They put me in this cell eight months ago and locked the door.  I gaze out through the window at a world ravaged and barren.  There Famine rules, and her sisters Death and Despair.

Three times a day they bring me sumptuous feasts.  Steaks.  Chops.  Lobsters swimming in butter.  Pancakes and bacon and every kind of omelet you can imagine.  I eat and grow ever fatter.

The guards who roll these banquets in look like skeletons.  Their ribs strain against their skin.  Their lips drool as they lift off silver lids and fragrant clouds fill the air.  But they don’t take a bite.  Not one.

They keep me well supplied with women too.  Lord, you should see them.  They are tall and short, lush and lovely.  And they all exist for one purpose.

To please me.

Why, you ask?

That is the question I’ve asked myself ever since they brought me here.  Why do they go to such extremes to keep me happy when the Great War made the entire world barren?  The wine, women, and song they provide must drain what little wealth remains.  They treat me like the king of the world, and my slightest wish for pleasure, no matter how frivolous, is always granted.  There are only two problems.

(1) I can’t remember a damned thing before the day they brought me here.

(2) I can never go anywhere or contact anyone outside.

One day I’m listening to a Bach concerto, when an idea strikes me.  They are fattening me up for the kill, so they can eat me!

But it doesn’t make sense.  Why waste all that sumptuous food for a few pounds of overfed flesh?  It would be foolishly wasteful and my meat wouldn’t go very far.  Besides, my captors are not cannibals.  At least, I don’t think they are.

I pat my swollen stomach and sit back on velvet pillows.  Soon another explanation comes, and I sit up in fear.

They plan to sacrifice me as an offering to . . .

But that’s the rub.  To whom?  To what possible God?

I settle back, realizing that theory makes no sense either.  Seeking an answer to my imprisonment is as foolish as asking the guards, who never say anything.

The door to my cell rattles and opens.  Mr. Black, my warden, enters, followed by several guards.

“Please come with us,” he says.

I rise from the soft, scented couch and take a (last?) look around, feeling the beginning of fear.  I call this a “cell,” but it’s a large square room with a thick carpet and lavish furnishings.  Still, it comes with a lock, and I’ve never been allowed out even for exercise.

I search the warden’s eyes for a sign, something that tells me why he’s here, what this is all about.  His black eyes lead to eternity.  I retreat in panic.

“Mr. Mann,” he says, his voice deep as death, “please come with us.”

I get a grip and head for the door.  Outside my room (for the first time ever), I move down a corridor surrounded by guards.  The Warden marches at my side.

After an elevator ride, we enter a new corridor.  We walk, we walk.  We turn left, then right, then left again.  How big is this place anyway?

Eventually we stop before a black door.  The warden knocks and the door opens.  He turns to me and smiles.

“Mr. Mann, we’ll leave you here.”  Gently, he pushes me inside.

The door closes behind me.  I see two men in rumpled suits.  One is smoking.

I stare at them.  They stare at me.  The man on the right, the one who’s smoking, ambles forward and looks me over.  He shrugs.

“I don’t get it.  What is he doing here?”

The other shrugs too.  “You might as well ask, what are we doing here?”

“What do you mean?”

“Look around, for God’s sake.”

As the man scans the place, I do too.  There’s almost no detail.  This room goes beyond nondescript.  Except for a table and a few chairs, it’s almost featureless.

“I see what you mean,” the smoker says.  “This room looks unfinished.  Why’s that?”

“It’s obvious,” his friend says.  “The writer has absolutely no idea where he’s going with this story.  The opening is over the top but it ain’t bad – a prisoner treated like an emperor for some mysterious reason in a post-nuclear-war world ravaged by famine.  Problem is, the writer has no clue where to take it.  So you and I are basically twiddling our thumbs while he keeps scribbling, hoping that the situation generates a viable plot thread.  View it as a lame exercise in metafiction.”

I’m as lost as the smoker.  “Meta – what?” we ask simultaneously.

He lifts an eyebrow.  “It’s an artsy-fartsy term.  Basically it’s fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction and whose characters may be aware they’re in a fictional work.  It –  look, I don’t have time for a crash course in literary criticism.”  He points at the man’s cigarette.  “What’s your brand?”

The guy studies it and frowns.  “Damned if I know.”  He pats his pockets.  “And I don’t have a pack.”

“Uh-huh.”  The other comes forward.  I notice he’s black, though I’m sure he wasn’t when I entered.  “And if you search your memory, you’ll find you don’t know if you drink coffee or what your name is.”

“That’s not true.”  He scratches his head.  “It’s Fred . . . something.”

“Hooray, the writer’s got a few facts, but not much.  And when he wrote me in, he knew even less.  I don’t know what my handle is.  Nor, I’m sad to say, do I know what the hell to do with our guest.  I know he’s a prisoner, but that’s about it.”

Listening to them talk, I’m getting more and more lost.  Their words make no sense at all.  I thought they were going to kill me.  Surely they can’t be right about us being victims of some schmuck’s writer’s block.

The smoker drops the cigarette and grinds it out with his heel.  “You’re right.  There’s almost no details here.  I don’t even know if I like women.  The jerk who hatched this turkey must be heading toward a dead end.”  He snaps his fingers.  “Hey, could this be a minimalist story?”

The other shakes his head.  “Naw, a minimalist tale has a purpose, delicacy of handling.  The joker who still-birthed this aimless narrative is stymied and has no idea where to go.  For all I know –”

Suddenly the door bursts open and two masked men leap inside.  Unlike the others, they are finely drawn and wear brilliant red uniforms of elaborate detail.  They both hold lethal-looking weapons.

“Oh, shit.”  The smoker reaches inside his coat.  “Where the fuck did I put that thing?”  Finding nothing, he rummages through his pockets.  His friend is more successful, but his gun barely clears leather before bullets kill them both.

One of the killers seizes my arm.  “Come with us.  Only you can save the world!”

They hustle me into the corridor, which is filled with dead guards.  As we race toward an exit, I wonder why I didn’t hear any shots.

We crash through a door and run up stairs.  Around and around, higher and higher.  Once I fall but my escorts grab me and haul me up.  Exhausted, I stagger through another door onto a roof.  A helicopter sits unattended, its blades whirling.

In seconds we’re airborne, the city wheeling beneath us as we rise.  Everything’s moving so fast, I barely have time to think.  But one thing stands out.  The pilot had said that I – only I – could save the world.

When I ask him about it, he doesn’t reply.  The copter ascends.

“I did hear you say that,” the other man says.  “What’s it about?”

The pilot turns the wheel slightly.  “It’s classified.  On a-need-to-know basis.”

The other man adjusts his mask.  “At least tell me why we’re wearing these things.”

“So no one can identify us.”

“So no one can identify us?  Who cares about that?  We’re freeing a goddamn prisoner and just want to get him away.  And if we’re going to wear masks, why these tiny, silly, pansy ones?  They make us look like Zorro.  Another thing: in our line of work, stealth and secrecy are essential.  These faggy red uniforms practically shout that a mission is in progress.”

The pilot stiffens.  “Uh-oh,” he says, pointing out the windshield.  “Enemy at three o’clock.”

“And more at nine,” his colleague observes.  He flashes me a look.  “This man must be important.”

Important?  This is madness.  Surely, they have me confused with someone else.  I have no special skills and can’t remember my past.  My whole life has been that room where I received everything I wanted.  It’s hard to imagine I ever wanted to leave it.  As the copter rises, I find myself wishing I were back dining on lobster and watching strippers.

Soon the sky is filled with attacking aircraft.  Laser and mortar fire strafes the air.

The man with the questions grabs a machine gun on his side of the copter.  He fires in a continuous burst.  BANG!  BANG!  BANG!  BANG!  BANG!  He swings the gun on a tripod, blasting the enemy as an ammunition belt rattles like a snake.

Above, to the left, a plane erupts in flames.  Gotcha!

The copter wheels, turns.  For an instant, I see a deep giant crater far below in the heart of the city.  A memory stirs.  Nuclear attack, but when?

“Hey,” the gunner shouts to me, “use the Browning beside you!”

“WHAT?” I shout back over the sound of incoming mortar.

He sights on the enemy.  “The M2!  Help me blast ’em!  Just sight and pull the trigger!”

ME?  He wants ME to shoot the enemy?

A burst of fire narrowly misses us, shaking the interior.  No time to argue.  Turning, I find a machine gun beside me.  How did I miss it before?  I grab the handle and draw a bead on an attacker.  Hold my breath and pull.

It erupts in a flower of flame.

Touché!

In seconds I’m completely into it.  I blast plane after plane.  They go poof, they go kaplooey, erupting in pretty patterns.  Fiery debris rains down toward the city.  I swing the gun and pop another plane, then another and another.  I’ve never felt better in my life.

Finally, except for us, the sky is empty.  We’re kings of the clouds!

“Status report,” the pilot says.

The gunner inspects the cabin.  “Everything looks AOK.  Just a little superficial damage.”

“Good.”  The pilot taps the instrument panel.  “Everything checks out here too.  Nothing to worry about.”

“I’m not sure,” his partner says.  “There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense.”

A pause.  “Yeah, like what?”

“Well, just for openers, why are we using the M2?  The darn thing’s antiquated.  We haven’t used them in twenty years.  But even more important, where did all the bad guys come from so suddenly?”

“What are you talking about?”  The pilot adjusts his course.  “They saw we were freeing Mr. Mann here and tried to stop us.  He’s important to them.”

“And to us.  But no one seems to know why.”  He frowns.  “If the devil’s in the details, then Satan’s laughing like a madman.”  He points out at some burning debris.  “To me, this huge attack is a plot convenience with cheap special effects.  It’s a Deus ex machina to rescue a stalled narrative.”

The pilot snorts.  “You should never have majored in English lit.”

“C’mon, think.  There are more holes in this plot than you can shake a cliché at.  The critics will ask how we destroyed a hundred planes and barely got our hair mussed.”  He looks at me.  “And our brain-damaged passenger turns out to be an ace sharpshooter, a regular Hawkeye.  The end result is that the reader will find it impossible to suspend his disbelief.”

The pilot swings the copter around.  “Hold on, we’re going back.”  He glances over his shoulder at me.  “You Okay?”

I nod.  In fact, I’m better than ever before.  I feel exhilarated and complete, liberated from my misery.  But I do wonder about something.  Why are we returning?

I glance at the gunner.  He spreads his hands and shrugs.

Heading back, I see terrible destruction below.  Outside the monstrous crater, the city and surrounding landscape are ravaged by the horrors of nuclear warfare.  Something about the desolate scene stirs my memory.  An expansive laboratory, the whir of centrifuges.  And I . . .

I straighten in my seat.  I am Dr. Joshua Mann, neurobiologist.  I remember an assault on my lab, people trying to kill me.  Something struck my head and the world went black.

“My God,” I gasp.  “I’m Joshua Mann, a scientist.  Men attacked my lab.  I saw people die.”

“Yes!” the pilot said.  “That’s good, tell us more.”

I close my eyes, feeling it come back.  “I was injured.  Something knocked me out.  Later, our people tried to jar my memory.  Drugs, shock therapy, everything.  Then . . .”

I stop, drawing a blank.

The pilot continues for me.  “Finally, on the advice of psychiatrists, we put you in an ultra-pampered environment.  The latest theory is that for a work-driven, goal-oriented person like you, the boredom of easy living would be intolerable.  You would rebel and your amnesia would lift.”

“But it didn’t work,” he goes on.  “You chafed at the forced inactivity, but didn’t remember your work.  Maybe, in time, that would have changed.  But after eight months, we couldn’t wait any longer.”

He doesn’t have to continue.  “So the government decided a little excitement was in order, that it might stir up my memories when nothing else could.”  I frown.  “Only you didn’t expect to be attacked, and by such a large force.”

“A contrived force,” the gunner says.  “I still don’t think that scene’s plausible.”

The pilot glares at him.  “What else is coming back to you, Dr. Mann?”

In my mind, more pieces fall into place.  “My secret formula.  I memorized it so spies wouldn’t steal it.  The formula would lift the contagion, make the earth grow again.  But there were people who didn’t want that.”

“Yes, the Enemy,” the pilot says.  “They profit from a world filled with death.  They’re like scavengers, living off carrion.”

The other man laughs.  “Hallelujah,” he says.  “It’s not only another plot contrivance, but a bloody cliché to boot.  A secret formula.  You’re going to convince me that a few scribbles on paper will save humanity?”

“Fasten your seatbelts,” the pilot says.  “We’re about to land.”

We touch down on the roof where we started from and get out.  Before we enter the building, though, the pilot stops me.

“Take off your clothes,” he says.

“Why?”

He starts to strip.  “Because we’re going to change outfits.”

I hesitate in confusion, realizing for the first time that we’re about the same height and weight.  Then I obey.

Soon, we’ve swapped everything but the mask.  He removes it, then peels off his hair, making himself bald.

I gasp.  I’m staring at myself!  He looks just like me!

“Put the mask on,” he says, holding it out.

“How . . .”

“Surgical alteration to make me look like you.  The enemy must think you’re in prison and beyond their reach.  But it will be me taking your place while we fly you to a fully equipped lab.”

I take the mask, put it on.  “That’s brilliant.”

The skeptical one snorts in disgust.  “Bullshit, it’s just another cheap plot contrivance.  How would they even know he’s a prisoner?”

“They’ve got a spy on our staff,” the man with my face says.  “We know who it is and keep him away from Dr. Mann.  At the same time, we control the information he receives, so he won’t know about this switch.”  He pats my bright red uniform.  “Thank God, our trick worked and jarred your memory.  Our hopes for man’s future depend on you, Dr. Mann.”

His colleague steps forward.  “You know, for the first time, this narrative makes some sense.”  He stops, his eyes widening.  “Man.  Dr. Mann.  I . . . I can’t believe I didn’t see it!  Let me deconstruct this narrative, determine its deeper meaning.”

“Stop,” his superior orders.  “I’ve had enough.”

“Just a minute,” the other says.  “I thought this was a botched story by an inept writer.  But I see it’s not!  It’s deceptively nuanced, an amusette to catch the unwary.  It –”

“I’m warning you,” the pilot says.  “Shut your trap.”

“It’s actually a deeply symbolic allegory about the nature of man.  You see, Dr. Mann

represents all men, just as Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress represents all Christians.  And like men everywhere, Dr. Mann is a prisoner, confined by the existential limits of society.”

The pilot pulls a gun.  “I’m warning you!”

“Yes, yes, I see it!” the other cries.  “Ultimately, we are all prisoners in separate rooms, isolated from each other and exposed to life’s chaos and inexplicable events.  Viewed from that perspective, the sudden, seemingly unwarranted appearance of enemy planes is ingenious, a profound statement of the human condition.  It represents the unpredictable nature of life, the –”

BANG!  The man stops talking and peers down at a smoldering wound in his chest.

The pilot smiles.  “How’s that for a fucking plot hole?”  He watches the other fall, then holsters his weapon in disgust.  “Silly ass, I got tired of his jargon.”

I shudder, gazing down at the man’s body.  “I rather liked him.”

The pilot leads me inside.  There, I find Warden Black waiting for us.

“Welcome back, Mr. Mann,” he says to the pilot.  He gives me a meaningful look, then nods at several guards.  “These gentleman will accompany you to your destination.”

To the secret lab, he means, where I shall heroically endeavor to save humanity.  Funny, though I’ve learned a lot, I still can’t say this story makes much sense.  The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be glad to get out of it.

My replacement seems to read my mind.  “This isn’t just a story, you know.”

Not just a story?  I start to ask what he means, but remember something.  “It’s a novel, isn’t it?  And this – is just the first chapter.”

He grins.  “Worse than that.  This is the first chapter of a whole action-thriller series.  If it’s any consolation, it’s going to be popular.  Over twenty best sellers.”

I groan.  Twenty novels of this dreck!

I gaze at the new Dr. Mann, tempted to ask for my old job back.  The life of a spoiled sybarite isn’t so bad, especially when you get laid often.  It certainly beats getting your ass shot at all the time.  But I guess I have a job to do.

I return to the roof, escorted by several men.  Reaching the copter, I halt in amazement.  The dead man’s sitting behind the wheel, munching a sandwich.

“I thought you were dead.”

He swallows.  “The author screwed up again, forgot he even whacked me.  Anyway, while these guards ride shotgun, I’ll be flying you to the lab.”

I peer at him in suspicion.  “Hey, do I know you?  You look familiar.”

He takes off his mask and winks.  “Like you, I’ve had amnesia and just realized who I am.  I’m Louie, your faithful sidekick in the series.”

Christ, I recognize him.  He looks just like Claude Rains who played Louie Renault in Casablanca.  That makes this chapter’s ending strictly a rip-off.  I climb in the copter and sit beside him, trying to prepare myself for all that lies ahead.  Deep down I know I’m even more of a prisoner than before.

“Louie,” I finally say, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” *

 

* Originally published in Chimeraworld 2008, a book to rejected fiction.  Well, it figures.

 

John has published twenty books and three hundred short stories, most of them science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance.  He’s the former editor of Horror MAGAZINE and Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association.  Recently, he’s focused on his Inspector of the Cross series which features a 4000-year-old hero fighting to save the human race from seemingly invincible aliens. The Merry-Go-Round Man, a coming-of-age novel featuring three boys in the fifties, can be found on Amazon and elsewhere.

Web site: http://www.johnrosenman.com

Blog site: http:// www.johnrosenman.blogspot.com

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnBRosenman?ref=hl

 

Algarve, Portugal, 24/25 April 1974

 

25 de Abril

On the Wednesday night, Ção’s contented snoring kept Harry awake. He got up, picked up a bottle of dark beer and his transistor radio and took them out on to the terrace. His watch told him it was nearly eleven. He listened to the radio for a while, relishing the joy of being wedded to Ção and in charge of his own fine destiny. Then the radio started on Portugal’s  entry for the recent Eurovision song contest, and he quickly switched stations. With the sea air caressing his skin, and the beer calming his racing thoughts, he soon dozed off in his chair.

He was awakened by the sound of men crunching on gravel. Lots of them, rhythmically, as though marching. He jumped up from his chair and looked down at the beach, but there was nobody below him. Then the men started singing and he realised it was the radio, which he had left on. The voices reminded him of a Welsh miners’ choir, and he listened intently until it finished, though he made out few of the words. Then he went back inside, fastened the window, got back into bed and snuggled up beside the now-silent Ção. Within minutes, he was dreaming of mine shafts, excavations and red shirts.

Elsewhere in the country, men had taken the Eurovision song as confirmation of their plans, and the Alentejo miners’ song as a signal to put them into action.

The next morning, clean sea air pervaded the hotel as usual, but the atmosphere was different. The staff stood around in knots, talking animatedly amongst themselves and paying only perfunctory attention to their guests or their needs. Harry and Ção did not mind: they had eyes and ears only for each other, and nothing could sour the mood of their honeymoon. They spent the day on the beach, in the water, and in bed back at the hotel.

It was when they came down for dinner that it became impossible for Harry to ignore the news being broadcast on the television in the hotel dining room, to which all the staff and most guests were transfixed.

“Ção! Look at that. There are tanks in the centre of Lisbon!”

“Probably some military parade. Why haven’t they laid out the fresh fish today?”

“No, look! There are soldiers and civilians next to each other. Something big is going on. I want to know what it is.”

The live broadcast showed a man whom Harry recognised as the Prime Minister, and others he did not recognise, being driven out of a military building in the heart of Lisbon into a square packed tight with ordinary civilians. The crowd reluctantly parted for them. Lines of soldiers kept the people back as the convoy of armoured cars drove away.

“Oh, Harry, it looks like a military coup. We’re probably going to be ruled by some even worse fascists from now on.” She looked on the verge of tears.

It seemed the hotel staff supported the coup, for they broke into an almighty cheer when the television announced that both the Prime Minister and the President of the régime were on their way to the airport to be flown to the Atlantic Island of Madeira. Then someone started singing the song that had woken Harry up during the night. Soon everyone was singing it.

“Ção, I heard this on the radio last night. Who’s the singer?”

“I think it’s Zeca Afonso. His songs are usually banned, because he is too left-wing.”

“Ção, my love, this is not a right-wing coup.”

“Then maybe we’re all going to be free!”

Mural

The mood in the dining room grew increasingly jolly and exuberant. It was as if everyone present had made each other into new friends for life. Then came news that sobered people up like a cold shower: the secret police, holed up in their headquarters, had opened fire on the crowd of civilians massed outside. People had died; scores were injured. For a while, in Lisbon, it seemed as if the situation might get out of hand, but gradually it became clear that those murders had been the last brutal act of fury of the dying régime. A new President was announced: General Spínola, who had been fired from the Army just months before for opposing the colonial wars, and a National Salvation Council that promised peace, freedom and justice.

Harry thought this was all very exciting, but what he really wanted was to get that fish grilled and Ção back into bed. It was past midnight when he fulfilled the second wish. Ção was on fire.

“Harry, this is the first day of the rest of our lives. From now on everything is going to be better. Harry, promise you’ll always love me like tonight.”

Harry did not need to promise anything so obvious, but he said the words, lest there should be even a speck of doubt.

 

BIO:

Bryan Murphy is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. This is an extract from that work in progress. It covers the evening of 24 April and the day of 25 April 1974.

Bryan welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts .