Weekly Exercise #16 (12/4/13)

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Weekly Exercises, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Time once again for my Weekly Exercises, my flash fiction pieces dedicated to a) practicing my craft, b) getting feedback from readers, and c) trying to get people interested in my published work. Remember that the Weekly Exercises depend on reader feedback, so if you have a thought on what you read, please let me know. Also, if you would like to check out any of the other Weekly Exercises, you can find them here. And if you have an idea for a Weekly Exercise, give me your name and idea. You might just see your idea on this blog someday.

With the upcoming aniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombings, I dedicate this Weekly Exercise to those who died during the bombings and those who afterwards fought for our freedom here and abroad. We owe more to you than can be expressed in a single blog post.



When I was a kid, my brother and I would read all these science fiction stories. Looking back on it now, they were all basically the same: the noble and indestructible warrior, the beautiful princess with barely any clothes, the quest that always ended with the hero victorious and in sexual bliss with his princess. Stupidly optimistic, but that was the 1920s for you. We were all hopeful for the future and thought nothing could cut us down.

Then there was the Depression, and then war broke out in Europe and in the Pacific. I enlisted to get away from home and do honor for my country. Or maybe what I wanted to do was get away from reality and become the hero of my own science fiction adventure. Perhaps they were the same in my mind. Either way, I joined the Marines expecting that I’d leave training an invincible warrior just waiting for the princess of my dreams and the adventure of a lifetime to come my way.

Neither did. When we got to Peleliu in 1944, it was like I was in a jungle on another planet, but I was fighting the Japanese instead of aliens or whatever, and I certainly wasn’t invincible. The heat of the jungle, the sweat of unbathed men, the rotting corpses and the buzzing flies made all of us miserable. At any second we were liable to get killed by bullet or sword or sneak attack, and that only worsened our misery, and sometimes drove us mad. Once in a foxhole my buddy got out to piss. He was shot as soon as his fly was unzipped. I saw his body later. His entire face was a bloody mess and his fly was still down, but whatever had been there had been mangled by gunfire. I could almost hear him asking me to zip his fly. All I could do was puke.

We did see a girl on the island, one of those girls from a pleasure regiment. She was Asian, but she was a real beauty and she wore a simple dress. She was the first girl I’d seen in months, and I was ready to make her feel like a princess right then and there, if only she’d tell me that things would get better. She saw me and my boys though and threw herself over a cliff. We tried to save her, but all we did was see her join some of her comrades down at the bottom of the cliff. We learned later the Japanese had brainwashed the girls to believe that Americans would do horrible things to them if they were caught by them. So much for an epic romance in an unforgiving wasteland.

As I sit thinking about this now, one of my comrades is peeing on the face of a dead Japanese soldier. He’s laughing like it’s a big joke and when he zips up his fly he walks away with a swagger. Does he think he’s done his duty for his country? How would he feel if a Japanese did that to one of our many dead? He wouldn’t act so noble or treat this like a joke. Truth is, there’s no nobility in war, there’s no adventure or romance or humor. There’s just blood and death and destruction and the knowledge that any moment all of it might come raining down on your head.

My brother tells me in his letters he’s planning to enlist once his birthday comes around. I want to tell him to stay away, but then he’ll accuse me of just trying to keep all the fun for myself. Oh well, let him enlist. He’ll see that the fun isn’t to be had here, or anywhere there’s war. It’s just one pile of shit after another, and if you’re unlucky, you die, sometimes by your own hand but usually by the hand of someone else. And if you’re lucky you ride it out, you go home, and you move onto something else. Maybe write science fiction stories that reflect the truth of life, which is that life’s harsh. That’s what I plan to do, anyway. If I don’t bite the bullet first.


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