A New Direction and A Mostly True Story
I started this blog in November of last year to help build my author platform and to promote my novel. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea stuck in my head that authors should blog about writing. Recently I realized this is stupid and the wrong way to build a readership. So I have decided to change directions and just write. I know. An author writing just to write? Weird.
If you are one of the five people who actually read my writing and publishing tips, feel free to message me and we can work through your questions one on one, though I’m still relatively new to all this. You could probably find better advice with a Google search. From now on, I’m going to write what I want to write.
I’m thinking I could do much better just writing short stories, writing prompts (I enjoy writing these for exercise and I get more action on these posts), and maybe I’ll write about my life if I have something extraordinary happen.
So without further delay, here’s a mostly true story from my deployment to Afghanistan. Enjoy.
“That’s not going anywhere,” Sergeant Belcher said as he plucked the second ratchet strap with a fingertip, testing its tightness.
I stepped back to admire our work: a five-gallon jerrycan strapped to the back of a skid-steer Bobcat with fuel lines running out the lid to inside the engine bay. Someone had left the air cleaner cap on top of the motor and it fell down behind the block. With engine vibration and normal operation, the tin cap rubbed a hole in the plastic fuel tank. A mechanic can’t exactly run to the closest Bobcat dealer to get a new one if he’s in the-middle-of-no-where, Afghanistan. After several failed attempts to patch the hole, this solution was equal parts inspiration and desperation.
All that said, the repair didn’t look half bad. The lines were secured neatly. The jerrycan wouldn’t bounce or rattle. Quality work.
“Just needs an inline pump,” Sergeant Belcher said.
“We have any?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I saw some generators in a salvage yard. We might be able to snag one there.”
So we climbed into the M984 HEMTT Wrecker and drove to the salvage yard. When we pulled up to the gate, there were a bunch of signs posted saying this lot belonged to the Special Forces unit on post. Chainlink fences and barbed wire surrounded the entire salvage yard, but the gate was unlocked.
As we collected some tools, Sergeant Belcher looked around to see if anyone was watching us.
“We’ll have to make this quick,” he said. “In and out.”
We slipped through the gate and began our search for a fuel pump. Most of the equipment in the yard looked as though it hadn't been used in some time and I relaxed a little bit. If no one had come around in weeks, what were the chances they would come by now? And if they did, what were the chances they would care we were “borrowing” a little electric fuel pump.
We finally found a suitable little generator and Sergeant Belcher offered to pull first watch while I unbolted the pump. My ratchet clicking seemed to be the only sound. In Afghanistan, the silence was strange. There almost always was a plane or a helicopter overhead, a generator droning, outgoing artillery, something. Kneeling in the gravel was killing my knees, so Sergeant Belcher took over the rest of the extraction.
I stood up and stretched my back as I nonchalantly scanned the area. Still no movement. The sun was going down. Everyone was probably making their way to the chow hall. Another quick look around and still nothing. I wondered what the SF guys needed all this junk for.
“What’s going on, guys?”
I flinched so hard my back cracked. Out of the thin, dry desert air appeared two bearded Special Forces guys. I really mean they appeared. I could see the gate from where I stood. No one came in or out while we were there. And even if someone slipped in without me noticing, I would have seen them walking to us. So for these two SF guys to sneak up on us that way, they would have had to low crawl through that gate or climb the fence somewhere else over the barbed wire at the top. Then they would have had to crouch or crawl all the way to us in the middle of their salvage yard.
Sergeant Belcher scrambled to his feet and stammered something about having permission to borrow a fuel pump. I had been with him all day. We didn’t get permission, but I didn’t know how to help.
“Who gave you permission?” the SF Staff Sergeant asked crossing his arms.
The other, his silent muscle, stood ominously behind us. Not only did they sneak up on us, but they also flanked us and revealed themselves at the same time. Timed. Coordinated.
Sergeant Belcher made up a name and slapped a Captain in front of it. I can’t remember for sure. Let’s call him Captain Johnson. I knew there was no Captain Johnson. They knew there was no Captain Johnson.
“When did you speak with him?”
They’re toying with us, I thought.
“Earlier today,” Sergeant Belcher said.
Doubling down, I guess.
“Captain Johnson left for KAF last week,” the Staff Sergeant said.
If there really isn’t a Captain Johnson, these guys are enjoying this.
“Maybe I got the name wrong,” Sergeant Belcher said.
“Do you mean Captain Jameson?” the Staff Sergeant asked.
“Yeah, that was it.”
Hope illuminated Sergeant Belcher’s face.
“There is no Captain Jameson.”
Illumination went in an instant.
“Put back whatever you took the way you found it and get out.”
I hoped to dive under the cloud of awkwardness by wrenching that pump back in, but the other leaned over me, watching me in silence. We didn’t get a tongue lashing from the Staff Sergeant. I think he could see we were embarrassed enough. Once the pump was in and wired back up, we scooped up our tools and began the long walk back to the gate. Those SF guys followed us every step of the way, not a step behind. Thankfully, they stopped at the gate and only followed us further with their eyes.
We climbed into the Wrecker, fired it up, and sped out of there. Neither of us spoke but we knew we still needed to find a fuel pump that would work.
Thanks for reading. If this is something you enjoy, please let me know so I can better learn what my audience wants to read. Use the tab above to learn more about my debut novel, Well of Bones. Until next week.