sterlingmeeuwen

The Wounded Soldier

The company had nearly been over run when the alarm was sounded. Carl, was what most people would consider a big, dumb, hick, from south of the Mason-Dixon line. He did fit that description like a glove. He was a simpleton and had only been two places in his short life, the little town he was born in and this god forsaken land.

 

When he heard the order to retreat he picked himself up out of the mud and headed towards the rear. As he lumbered through the muck, being pushed around by the other soldiers frantically trying to make an escape, he came across a soldier, wounded, lying in a crater. The soldier explained that his foot had been blown off by a grenade and the rest of his squad had left him behind. He pleaded with Carl to carry him back to the aid station. Carl, not wanting to leave a live man behind for the enemy to find, picked him up and pressed on to the rear.

 

As the pair headed through mud, mortar fire began to reign down on them and a shell exploded very near to Carl, knocking him to the ground.  The bells were still ringing in his ears when Carl raised up and continued on, the wounded soldier still on his back. Carl assured the other the whole time that they were going to make it but, the other soldier gave no reply.

 

When Carl had finally made it to the rear he was stopped by an officer.

“Private! Where are you going with that body!?”

“Huh? To the aid station sir, this man’s wounded.”

“Private, this man has no head!”

Carl dropped the carcass and stared at it blankly for a moment.

“Well Sir, he told me it was his foot.”

 

I Knew Your Husband

Ten years ago I came home from work to find that I had an E-mail. This was strange because at the time I did not have an E-mail address. A friend, that I had served with in the Army, had tracked me down and had contacted my wife. I was excited, nearly five years had passed since I had seen him, and asked her what he had said. She gave me a look I had never seen before and replied, “You should read it.”
It took me three tries to get through the letter. It explained how our friend and brother had been killed by an IED, while serving in Iraq. It gave information on the funeral and where to send flowers. When I could finally keep it together enough to make it to the end, it asked If I would like to give any words to his widow. I knew he was married, he talked about his wife often but, I had no idea what I could possibly say to her. I replied, “He was a great guy.”
Today, is the anniversary of his death. I was really just a boy, when I knew him and barely a man when he died. That short span was hard to put into words and him being, “a great guy” does not begin to express how this person has affected me. Today, I wrote the words I was not able to put together ten years ago.
Dear Madam,
I knew your husband. We served together in Korea. What your husband meant to me is something that I am just now beginning to comprehend. When we served together he was not only my Sergeant but, my friend. He taught me what it is to be fair and just person. How to handle getting chewed out. How to be the one doing the chewing. He taught me how to toe the line and when it was acceptable to bend the rules, if not outright break them. Most of all he showed me that not only was it alright to retain some individuality in the military, it was necessary to keep ones sanity. He seemed never to be unhappy and his enthusiasm for life has been something I try to emulate every day. Even now, he was one of the driving forces in our old unit getting back together. I think about him often and when I do it brings me incredible joy and I laugh a little, remembering an inside joke we used to have. I knew your husband and am a better man for it.
In Remembrance,
A.L.S. Meeuwen

Arlo’s Morning

Arlo had never spent the night with a girl before. He just laid there listening to her soft breathing. It was pleasant. Her body was warm next to his. Her presence while enjoyable was prevent him from nodding off. He just laid there thinking about the things she had said to him that night. He admitted that he had never been in love before. He didn’t know what it was. She was dead set that it did not exist. This hurt him bad when she said it because it meant that she could never fall in love with him. He on the other hand did believe in the concept and was well on his way over the cliff. He laid there trying to force himself back onto the ledge, as if he could some how will himself out of the jump he had already made.

He could hear the birds start their morning song and the light began to creep into the room. It was no use trying to sleep now. He laid there for a few more minutes enjoy the warmth of her. She was dead asleep and he feared that if he laid there much longer he would wake her. The day had been planned loosely. This was hard for Arlo, he planned everything down to the minute. She would have none of it. For her planning led to expectation and expectation led to let down.

The room was now full of light and Arlo felt the need to stir. He slowly slid out of the bed and put on his bottoms. The dog was already up and had given him a whimper. He hushed the dog as he opened the door to the bedroom. The dog slipped passed him and headed to the back door. Outside the yard was in full sun, He stood there and just felt it’s warmth. It reminded him of the warm body that was still asleep in his bed. He wondered how long she would sleep. She was still when he returned to the room. He snuck back into the bed and laid next her, staring at the ceiling. I don’t know what love is, he admitted to himself but, I know what I like and I know who I am. I am not a guy that gives up.

The Stockade

Army jail… I’ve been there…. Why I was driving up the I 95, headed to the stockade in, Ft Knox, is a long story and even longer when I tell. For this particular, story the terms of my incarceration are not relevant…; but there I was, in a van with two Sgt. From my unit. Earlier that day, after my court-martial the commander looked me in the eye and explained how proud of me he was because I “took it like a man”. What a fucking shitbird. This sorry excuse for an officer sent me up the river then wants to shake my hand? Fuck that for laugh, which incidentally is what I did. I was then put in shackles and taken to general triage, for my physical, before being sent off to the stockade. Making things worse I did not really like the two NCOS that were escorting me to my sentence. One of them was a Jamaican that did not smoke pot. The other was some sort of Latino; and it seemed to me these two were afraid they would both loose their citizenship if they went against command.

Forty five days was the jist of it all… My coconspirators, pulled a cake detention center; a navy brig in Fla., not me; my lucky ass got a maximum security center in Ft. Knox KY, an old school kind of place. . I was always a good kid. I had never been arrested for any thing. The worst I ever got was dention in high school for getting too into a political argument with one of my teachers. This Seemed so unreal to me; any minute now I am going to wake up in the field and this would all be one very weird dream… To tell the truth when those Steele bras rolled shut; I thought, fuck mate, did John Dillinja look through these bars…no it’s not that old… but it was… and I was there.

They put me in an isolation cell at first. These first twenty four hours are critical. You can apparently tell a persons complete mental health profile in twenty four hours. Humans being animals, this may be true. When my pets get sick I tend to give them twenty four hours to sort themselves out. We are of course animals. So why not watch a tiger before you put him in with the rest of the jungle. That’s not the reason they gave us though. To prevent suicide this is done. I was, not at all suicidal. Fucking hungry is what I was! It had been whole day since I had put any good army chow down my gullet. Soldiers, like German Sheppards, need to eat. My little convoy left Ft Benning almost twenty four hours prior. Do my trial I missed chow. This means you do not eat. If you are not there when chow is served, the army figures you’re not really that hungry. On top of that, you do really good drugs you do not eat… I had just returned from a rave in ATL; so I had not had any form of sustenance in Oh… I don’t know thirty six hours.
Around my cell there wasn’t much, I suppose that’s the point… A rack, a toilet with no seat, and fucking bars… Now that I think about it, I never saw a toilet seat the whole time I was in the stockade. I wonder if the guards had them. In my general population cell we had two toilets. No toilets seats. One toilet was for number two and the other one was for the golden one… seriously no seats. Now mind you, these are the style of shitter you had in school; old institutional commodes. No seats mate! I almost fell in any time my skinny ass tried to shit.

Not only was I hungry, but my bowels had not moved in the same amount of time, so, me being the super sapper I am; I braved said seat less toilet and pulled down,. There your hero was… pants around his ankles; letting twenty four hours go, lost in thought; fishing with Brennner, There is nothing better than being on the water with Bob when something grabbed me.; The squeak of un oiled wheels pierced through my reverie, could this really be dinner…., Sure enough; as soon as I am just about to pinch off a loaf, for the division’s record books, this hot mixed girl walks up to my cage with chow. Does size matter… do I matter …. FUCK!!!

So there I am with my pants down, sitting in my cage… staring at this hot cop… not knowing what to do… Now, those of you that know me; know there have been times in my life when I can be really smooth, but no… I finished my deal… pulled my pants up and turned to the sink… my hands washed, I exepted my my food. She smiled… but, it was defiantly not at all right. my life would never again be what I thought it was.

A women in a command position, has always given me a raging fucking hard on. This fucking girl had a badge and a gun! I will tell you; lessons often come when your not tying to learn. Most people do not see what, our chief, says is a” teachable moment”… NOT ME! That very second I learned that we all pooh… And chicks with guns are hot! Most important, if you go to jail… wait till you get to general population to shit!

Hale’s Tribe

Hale Gordon had originally cursed his luck, when he was reassigned to a remote Midwest missile silo, but the Air Force knew best.  He sat day after day alone watching the news.  The smiling faces on the LCD screen where his only connection to the outside world.  Better for it, Hail thought, as the world slowly crumbled under the weight of the new flu epidemic.  Day by day the world crumbled on his TV screen, inching ever closer to man’s natural state of nature.  John Locke wrote of this “State of Nature” saying it would be “… a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions, as they see fit…” This is not what happened.  One day the broadcasts stopped and man turned on himself.  The world had turned in to exactly what Hobbes had predicted.  The world had become a pit of despair.

Soon, Hale noticed them.  One or two at first but, then they arrived in droves.  They just camped themselves at the front of the compound.  Hale did nothing at first, in hopes that they would go away.  They did not and Hale realized he had to go out and deal with this problem.  They looked fairly harmless, dressed in rags and carrying with them what looked to be all their belongings, but Hale grabbed his pistol and headed to the gate.

When Hale reached the front gate the crowd, which now numbered in the hundreds, all started shouting at once.  They were cries for help, food, water and Hale was over whelmed.  He pulled out his pistol and raised it high.  He let one round fly and the crowd was silent.  He picked one man, who looked half way intelligible and asked him why they where here.  The man told them that they saw they saw the flag and knew they would find help.  Hale cursed himself for forgetting to take that thing down.

Hale knew that this problem was not going to go away, he had to do something.  All of these people needed him.  He agreed to let them stay, but he had three laws.

Everyone works.

If you leave you cannot return.

I have final say on all matters.

Karl Marx wrote “…bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything, do not work.”  Hale was going to make sure this did not happen.  All of these people need to be busy; Hale knew from the military that idle hands can be dangerous.  He set to dividing up the labor.  He surveyed all of them and separated them into four groups: farmers, engineers, educators, and useless.  The first three groups where essential for Hale’s world to work but, the last group he had known idea what to do with.  Bankers, CEOs, and politicians were all useless to him.  They had no monetary system; he was the politician and CEO of this land.  So he gave them a choice.  Start over with out favor or leave.   Most of them choose the later.

Hale feared money, it had never done him much good.  He made sure that the results of all the labor where shared freely.  In Utopia Moore writes, “…that as long as there is any property, and while money is the standard of all other things, I can not think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily.”  Hale thought the same way and made borrowing, lending, and selling a crime.

Even though Hale hated money he valued work.  Those that refused to work or poorly went about their duties were ejected from the compound.  Those that worked well were praised at weekly dinners.  The system worked well, all the people worked and they all enjoyed the fruit of their labors.  Hale never took more than any one else and lived with the people as one of them.

Every one was free to do as the pleased so long as what they pleased would be ok if every one did it.  Politeness was the norm.  If one wanted to do something all he would have to do is ask the people around him if it was ok.  If they agreed they brought it to Hale weighed the issue, personal good vs. over all good and made a ruling.  He hoped by doing this the interest of the individual, the group, and the people would be protected.    The system was not perfect and sometimes crimes would happen.  No man was allowed to punish another man with out Hale ruling on it.  When Hale ruled the offended was the one to punish the offender.  The punishments ranged from public humiliation or banishment.  There was no death penalty, that is to say certain death.  A person could make it alone in the Bad Lands, but it wasn’t likely.

Even though Hale was formerly in a military he feared a standing army.  He had seen in the past how standing armies could be raised under the guise of protection and used for aggression.  This was not the attitude he wanted his colony to have.  A standing army needs war to exist.  With out a conflict leaders create one often for no other reason than, they have the means to do so.  Hale did not want this temptation.  He favored a volunteer force that rotated ever year.  Well enough trained to defend themselves, but ignorant of how to advance.  They trained once a month.  Fighting was important, but not the reason for existence.  Hale headed the words of Thomas Moore, “For most princess apply themselves more to the affairs of war…they are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms, right or wrong.”, and could not see any point in acquiring new land.  I don’t even own the land I have now, Hale thought.

Hale’s little community flourished year after year.  The citizens took pride and responsibility in the actions.  They had children only when the elders passed.  This kept the society at the right size and discouraged surplus and want.  People lived together and shared each others life as a large extended family, with Hale as the patriarch.  Man unfortunately fades and Hale knew that eventually he would no longer be there for his people.  The problem that plagued him was how to choose the next leader.  He had known that long before him rulers left land to their children but, this was not his land to give.  If he where to choose some one, they may not be respected as he was and perhaps had done a favor for his position.  He could also let the people decide who would lead but, he had dealt with these people and he saw how they arrived, a mob of separate opinions and ideas, they could never agree on a leader.  If this mob was able to agree on a leader would he look out for every one or just the people that elected him?  John Locke wrote “Persons who have the Power of making Laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them, whereby they may exempt themselves from Obedience to the Laws they make, and suit the Law, both in its making and execution, to their own private advantage, and thereby come to have a distinct interest from the rest of the Community”, this was a real threat to the Utopia that Hale had created.

Hale decided that the best way to choose a new ruler was to let the people select the applicants.  He let each of the guilds he had created choose one from among them.  Each one of them would hold an equal part of leading the tribe.  Hale thought that this was the best way to ensure that no one man could change his vision.  If all three leaders decided it was to change then the people on a whole would be represented.  The positions were for life.  This was to ensure that if change was to come it would be slow and methodical.

Hale was satisfied with the way things had turned out.  He felt this way would work.  The last night of his life there was a huge party.  Hale was honored and gave a brilliant speech.  At the end of his speech he gave an insight to how he felt his legacy should be remembered.  He quoted Thoreau “The government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”  He closed by telling them they were prepared for such a government.

It was a sad affair when Hale died.  His people mourned him deeply.  They buried him at the front gate, wrapped in the flag he had forgotten to take down.

A Good Day On the Water

A week before I had told him that I had joined the Army. He shook my hand firmly and said, “Congratulations! When do you leave? We got time to get on the lake?” I told him that I left in seven days.  Six days had gone by since then and today was the perfect day for it.  We had started early; the sun comes up at around seven in the morning this time of year.  The mist that hung in there air made my shirt cling to my body and allow the mosquitos access to a quick meal.

“Come on Bob! The bugs are killing me!”

“You’re leaving for Boot in twenty four hours and your Crying to me about bugs!?”

“Well A, it’s not “Boot”, you Navy bum and B, I won’t get to complain about it there, now will I?”

I opened the door of his pickup and slid into the seat, and let Bobby finish with the trailer.  It’s quiet in the country.  I had been staying with Bob for the past week and had gotten used to how quiet it was. When he started the truck I hardly noticed.  The sun had just started to crest the horizon, blinding us as we pulled out of the drive.  The sound of the wheels on the dirt road reminded me of being a teenager.  I had long since moved to the city but my teen driving was on country dirt roads.  As punk teenagers, we would drive at speeds way beyond our abilities, racing side by side down West Road. We would kick dust in the air with the radio blazing, raising all sorts of hell.

Bobby of course was driving much slower and hanging out the window, like a twelve year old, I took in the cornfields and lush August woods  When I was a kid my dad had a Ford Fairlane 500 and we used to go for Sunday drives, nice and slow just like this.  The deer know they have this last bit of time and the almost flaunt it.  They watch us without fear, as we pass a field.  The ride is bumpy and it seems that Bobby is trying to hit every rut he can find.

This inland lake was our favorite.  When we had backed up the trailer, I got out and looked at the water. It seemed almost a shame that we had to disturb the perfect surface by launching the boat.  Even though Bobby was in the Navy, you couldn’t tell by his boat.  It was a small little row boat barely big enough for the two of us.  I bout this small always affords opportunity for casting mishaps and I have caught a couple of Bob fish.  Bobby is bigger than me and has trouble sitting at the bow so that’s usual my spot.  This time he climbed right up to the front of the boat.

“Well? Shove off, sailor.”

“The Army Bob, I joined the Army.”

“Well whatever they are all the same, you get to do all the work. Now get rowing.”

I shoved away from the dock and dropped the oars in the water and pulled us away.  “Fine! Just to let you know, you start singing Anchors Away, I swimming back to shore.”

We headed toward a spot at the other end of the lake where Bobby had pointed out a few cranes had gathered.  There wasn’t any one on the lake today and the swish that my oars made was the only proof our existence. Even that could be argued because the cranes paid us no mind and share the fishing spot with us.

“When will you be able to take some leave? Cause I got tickets to the Michigan vs. Ohio State game.” Bob had set up his rig while we rowed out and gave me a cocky smile, knowing that he got his line in the water first.

“I don’t know Bob, they didn’t really say.  Besides I’m not really sure about this Brady guy.”

“We’re gonna tailgate before the game.  It will certainly be a party.

I finally got my line in the water, I like to fish for the smallies.  You tie a Small Mouth Bass, tail to tail with a Trout and that smallie will pull that trout all over this lake.  Bobby he likes to go for the Pike.  Nasty looking fish kind of like a fresh water Barracuda.  The get really big and that’s why Bob likes them.

“Bob, did you get that ice fishing shanty you were talking about?”

“Yeah, I figure I’ll bring the kids out, let them ice skate and I’ll fish.”

“That’s how I learned how to skate.”

We spent all winter playing pond hockey behind our house.  My dad would light a fire in this fifty five gallon drum and we would skate all night. Just then I felt a strike. It was only a little Blue Gill and Bobby made a comment about catching bait but, I ignored him.

“Hey, I heard that they are having this big electronic thing in Detroit this spring.”

“Yeah, I think they are calling it DEMF.  It would figure, we finally get an electric music festival and I go and join the army just in time to miss it.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s the way it goes.”

We spent the next few hours out on the water, talking about all the things I was going to miss.  When the sun got midway in the sky the air become too hot to fish.  We hadn’t caught anything but, that small gill, so we called it a day.

Back at Bobby’s house we sat in lawn chairs under the shade of a large tree, cooler between us.  He pointed out all the projects he had worked over the summer.  I had actually helped him put in the garden and fire pit. As the sun went down Bobby looked over at me raised his bottle and said.

“To a good day on the water.”

“To a good day on the water.” I toasted.

I left the next day for Ft. Leonard Wood and a year and a half later I was staring at the stars in the Republic of South Korea.  It was the middle of January and I was on guard duty at 04:15.  The army affords you all sorts of chances to ruminate on how miserable you are.  My particular misery this morning was the cold.  It was the coldest winter they had on the peninsula since the Korean War fifty years before. To try and fight off the cold I thought of times I was warm.  I first thought of visiting my grandmother in Florida but, I was only there for brief time and the memory began to fade.  As the cold Russian wind came down from Vladivostok and crept in to my mind it was forced out by this picture of Bobby and I out on the water.  The sun is beating down on us and the locusts humming. The Russian wind became a gentle cooling breeze on a hot, late summer, Michigan day.  I smiled looked up at the sky and said,  “To a good day on the water.”

Work in progress

Something I’m working on. Any feedback will be welcomed.

Its early morning and the birds are barely awake. Steve poured all of the coffee into his large mug and walked through the screen door, being careful not to let it slam behind him.  His dogs are with him on the front porch. Since he was little, being the first person to see the sun has been his simple pleasure. Growing up in a house with eight other people had led Steve to dislike noise; commotion set him back into corners. He wasn’t a coward, by most accounts, it was more like an un-easiness. The kind a dog gets before a big storm. He was forty now and being the first to see the start of Apollo’s journey, gave him the ability to make it through to the next sunrise.

As the sun broke over the mountain the two dogs looked first, at each other, then at Steve. She would be up soon. His ritualistic, morning peace could be held permanently, no more than the mountain could hold back the sun. He heard her coming down the stairs and his heart beat a little faster. Ever since they had met she had this effect on him. It was the not knowing if she was going to punch him in the gut or, kiss him on the lips, hooked him and kept him hooked for the last ten years.

He would finish his coffee and before she got up he would head out to walk the dogs. He would return while she was in the shower. He would make another pot of coffee before he headed out to work. She, no doubt would leave a note with instructions for the day. He would simply scribble, “I love you” on the paper and leave in place.

Blair flipped on the kitchen light and reached for the coffee pot. It was empty. This really bothered her. He knew she would want coffee, why would he only make enough for himself? She dumped the old grounds and started a fresh pot. She glanced out of the kitchen window and he was there. The sun had, by now, reached up to the dogs lying on the front steps. She knew that when the sun reached to the top of the steps he would walk the dogs.

She didn’t really care for him when she had first seen him. He just started showing up at parties and it bothered her that he would just sit there. None of her other friends thought it odd but, she couldn’t figure out why someone who seemed on edge around   people would sit in the middle of hundreds of them at one time. It bothered her even more that her friends would just tolerate it. Not a one of them ever questioned him about it. They were even inclined to seek out his advice. This sat wrong with her as well; the only time he engaged was in private yet, in the middle of the room.

She didn’t go to him for advice and because of this she felt left out of his world. He would sit alone and could only be approached as a guru. If you approached him any other way he would reject you. She was never looking for guidance, she was looking for companionship.  She needed him to do things not sit there. He would make the initial step by being present she would press what needed to be done.

For all of his selfish, simple minded and inconsiderate acts, she loved him.  His actions were simple his mind predictable. They saw eye to eye on most things without having to discuss them.  This had become they’re life and they had become quite settled in it. When Steve looked at the note she left. There were no daily instructions. It read, “Dinners with the Neighbors. Don’t Forget!” Don’t forget was underlined.