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Ordinary World

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After much prodding by Dot, I have finally broken down and posted this. It is pretty graphic, and not meant for younger folks. Also, I am not taking political sides with this, just writing about people.

Dave waved his helmet around, trying to get the sniper to fire. It bobbed frantically on a length of stick. Kevin could see him becoming increasingly impatient.

“I don’t think that’s going to work.” Kevin said. Dave gave up with a huff and hunkered down beside Kevin in relative safety behind the burned out truck hulk they’d been using for cover. Kevin wanted to hit him, the only thing the helmet stunt had accomplished was to give away their position to the insurgents in the apartment building ahead.

They were in Najaf, tracking down a band of fighters reportedly holed up in the area. The fighters had been tracked to the remains of an apartment complex in the southwest section of the city. The building was pockmarked with bullet and mortar holes. Several windows had been blown out. Everything, including Kevin and Dave, was covered in a fine dust. The siege had lasted for days, and there was no way of knowing if the men in the building were even still there or not.

Kevin glanced around at the bombed out buildings and scattered debris that littered the landscape. This was far from Bartlesville. He missed the relative peace and quiet of his home in Oklahoma. He’d lately been counting the days until he got out of the god forsaken pit that was Iraq, and was able to take a drive down Adams Boulevard with his friends.

Dave leaned back against the hulk, still holding his helmet. His red hair, even cut short, contrasted sharply with his dusty tan uniform.

“They’re not there anymore, man.” he said.

“They don’t buy the-helmet-on-a-stick gag.” Kevin pointed out. The insurgents weren’t stupid, after all. A helmet on a stick is not going to draw sniper fire, not outside of movies, anyway. The day just kept getting longer, and they were still clueless as to exactly where the sniper nest was.

Kevin glanced behind them. He saw his squad leader, Mark, wave at him quietly from his position a few yards away, behind what used to be the apartment offices.

“I’m getting tired of this.” Dave said. He stood up. Kevin hopped up, as well, attempting to pull him back down. What was he thinking? Dave tried to shove him off, “They’re not there anymore,” he tried to explain. Suddenly Kevin heard a crack, and something hot hit him in the eye.

The next thing he knew he was lying on his back, with something heavy on top of him. He couldn’t see anything but red. Gunfire erupted all around him. He struggled to lift the weight off his chest. Something warm and sticky was dripping onto his face. He heard a mortar round go off somewhere. The pain in his eyes became unbearable. He began to scream, trying desperately to get the weight off him. It suddenly got very hard to breathe. Everything went white.

 Kevin lay in his bed,listening to the blood rush into his ears.  His eyes were open but all he could see were indistinct gray and green shapes.  Every once in a while a shape would move across his field of vision.  Occasionally he would hear low voices somewhere far away.  He knew he was in a field hospital, and that he was at least temporarily, god he hoped it was temporary, blind.


He'd been having nightmares too.  He dreamt that he was talking to Dave and suddenly Dave's head would vanish and he would be surrounded by maniacal laughter.  So he quit sleeping so much. 


An army doctor woke him up from one of those nightmares.  His vision hadn't yet returned. All he saw were blurry forms grinning down at him.  He jerked away.  He felt a hand touch his wrist comfortingly.  A soothing voice came from the moon above him.  "Your sight should be back in a few days.  You were hit by pieces of bone and bullet fragments.  Not pleasant, but your eyes are a lot tougher than most people think."  Kevin muttered something under his breath.  He felt uncomfortable laying there with his vision swimming in and out of focus.  The moon patted him on the arm again and said, "You've also got quite a case of battle fatigue, you will more than likely be put on administrative duty for the rest of your tour.”


What?  The rest of his time in Iraq was going to be behind a desk?  Not a chance.  He had to get back to his unit.  They needed him out there. He would talk to his C.O. and clear things up.  He plead with the moon to let him back in the field.  It was all in vain. He'd had a panic attack, the doctor said. He would be a liability in combat.  The doctor couldn't in good conscience put him back on active duty.


He moped around the ward while he waited for his sight to return.  The bunk next to him got a new tenant, a soldier named Roy.  Roy was there because he took some shrapnel to his leg.  They spent a lot of time together playing cards.  Slowly but surely Kevin's sight came back to him. 


Kevin and Roy began taking walks through the ward together.  The doctors told Roy it would be good for him and help speed up the healing process.  Roy kept going on about his wife back home.  She was pregnant, and he was paranoid about Jody.  Jody was Army slang for the guy who comes to screw your wife while you’re away.  It was eating at him like crazy.  If Kevin could have seen straight he'd hit him. 

All the time, Roy would say “If there’s someone else in our bed when I get back, I swear to God I’ll kill him.” Kevin tried to remind him there wore more immediate things to worry about.

He kept showing pictures of a pretty red head, going on about how she wanted to be an oceanographer and how he was going to put her through college when he got out of the Army.  He felt guilty about knocking her up and swore to make it up to her.  So long as Jody wasn't there when he got back.

Roy was also from Tulsa, what were the odds of finding someone from just down the road on the other side of the world?  Kevin felt good about things for the first time in weeks.  He was actually in a good mood when he finally left the hospital for his new post.

  Kevin's new job was as an assistant to General Tom Pritchard in Baghdad.  He was stationed in the International Zone, the area of the city where the security was the tightest.  He followed the General when he went around town.  He was mostly a secretary since the International Zone was relatively free of fighting.  Kevin took to taking long walks around the vacinity of his barracks after his shift.  He'd taken it all in, joking around in shops and watching the Iraqi's going about their day.


There has been a construction crew repairing a section of street he’d pass on his way back to the barracks.  They had been kicking up a pretty large amount of dust so Kevin started bringing his goggles to keep the dust out.  He was lost in thought. The thump and clatter of heavy machinery providing background noise to his aimless shuffle. He hummed a song by the Roots that had been running through his head. 


A red rubber ball bounced into the periphery of Kevin's vision.  A bit of color in the otherwise tan drabs that he'd come to know so well.  He squatted down to pick it up, turning it over in his hands.  It wasn't any different that any other red rubber ball anywhere else in the world.  As he regarded the ball a tiny pair of sandled feet also came into view.  He followed the feet up the legs to see a small Iraqi girl of about five in a dusty blue dress looking up at him expectantly.


He held the ball out to her.  "Is this yours?" he said.  He really didn't expect her to understand him but English just came naturally. 

The girl looked at the ball and nodded.  She was squinting and rubbing her eyes.  The dust in the air was getting in them, irritating her.  Kevin took off his goggles and slid them onto the girls head.  She stood there gazing up at him while he adjusted the straps. She reached up and pulled at them when he was done.

"Better?"  Kevin wished that all the Iraqis were this trusting.  The girl looked up at him with a grateful smile.  Kevin smiled back and handed the ball back to her as she ran off in the direction she came. 


He continued on his stroll, nearly forgetting his encounter entirely.  He bought a rug to send home to his mother.  The man at the counter eyed him the whole time he was in the store.  He stayed friendly, even on the other side of the world people expected black folks to cause trouble.  Kevin left the store, laughing to himself.

There was a tantrum occurring when Kevin got into the office the next day. He came in from the cafeteria to find Pritchard storming towards him, screaming “For the love of God, Private, why do I have to deal with this no-account Third-World bull****?” The General was complaining about the difficulty of finding decent cigarettes in Iraq. He’d been smoking an off color Indian brand. He held up a dark brown Indian cigarette. “Who the hell smokes these, anyway?” He stormed around the room. “What does a man have to do to get some Marlboro Lights around here?”

"Mikes mother sends cartons in care packages all the time." Kevin suggested.  "Maybe you should ask him to have her pick some up for you, too?" Mike was one of the troopers in General Pritchard's security detail.  He was an absolutely nice guy.  He'd be more than happy to have his mother send an extra carton of cigarettes in her packages. 

General Pritchard shook his dark-grey haired head.  "It takes six weeks for those things to get here from the States.  Who has that kind of patience?"  Kevin shrugged and went back to his desk to eat.  There was a good possibility that the General just liked to complain.

Later Kevin took his customary walk around the streets.  The machines were quiet today.  He didn't know what was going on.  It reminded him of the way road work went back home in Oklahoma.  He was picking he way around, absently checking out a bulldozer, when he noticed a slightly portly Iraqi man watching him from a few feet down the street.  He had the girl from the day before with him.  He bent down to say something to her, pointing at Kevin. The girl nodded. The man patted her on the head and led her towards Kevin.  Kevin was a little taken aback by this.  The man stopped in front of him and goaded his daughter forward.  He assumed it was his daughter. She came forward holding out Kevin's goggles. 

"I believe my daughter has something that belongs to you, my friend." He said through a Middle Eastern accent.  Kevin smiled at him and hunkered down. 

"Its alright, I gave them to her.  She was getting dirt in her eyes."  He grinned down at the little girl.  "Ismak eh?" he asked.  It meant what's your name, some of the little Arabic he knew.  The girl fidgeted, "Fahima." she said, before hurrying back to her father. 

Kevin held out his hand to the father.  "Private Kevin Gibson, United States Army." 


The man hesitated for a moment, finally taking Kevin's hand. 


"Khalifa Abdul-Rahman.  You are very kind, to give my young one some eye-cover in this dusty place." 


"It's no thing." Kevin shrugged it off.  "I don't want her going blind out here, is all."  They walked together for a while.  Khalifa had a shoe store, he'd inherited it from his father.  Kevin was invited to dinner later.  He accepted.  The food at the cafeteria was getting old.

The Abdul-Rahmans lived in a modest house, not too far from Kevin's barracks in the International Zone.  There was still that ever present dust, but it was a bit tidier here.  Children’s toys were scattered here and there on the way to Khalifa's front door.  Even in the International Zone, it wasn't a good idea to travel alone if you were an American.  Kevin wondered if he wasn't being set up to be kidnapped, or something worse.  He looked around, standing on the front stoop of the house, feeling exposed.  The urge to experience something more ordinary than life at the barracks overcame any fear, and he knocked on the door.


A woman answered, she only opened the door so far, and looked Kevin up and down warily.  She called behind her.  Kevin heard voices, then Khalifa peered outside, and seeing that it was Kevin smiled and opened the door. 


"Ah, it's you, my friend!"  he said, ushering Kevin inside.  "Look, look it's my American friend." Khalifa bustled around, introducing him to everyone. 


The woman who answered the door’s name was Somina, she was Khalifa's wife, he knew Fahima.  Khalifa also has a pair of sons, Khalil and Jabril, who were about fourteen and ten.  Everyone shook hands and chatted, Kevin only understanding a little of what they were saying. 


Something smelled good.  Khalil and Somina each kept going in and out of the kitchen.  Kevin took a deep breath and looked around.  He had no idea whether he should sit down or not.  Fahima kept looking at him, shuffling her feet.  The younger son, Jabril would glance at him, then look quickly away when Kevin met his eyes.  Khalil kept mostly to himself, he only seemed to speak when he was spoken to.  Khalifa came huffing out of the kitchen all jolly and full of energy and waving arms.  "Come, come my friend." he went on, all but picking Kevin up and carrying him into the dining room.  The rest of the family came shortly after.

Somina passed out plates of meat and rice.  Kevin took one and sat watching as the family sat and jabbered away at each other.  His knowledge of Arabic slight as it was, he just looked from person to person, smiled and nodded when someone looked at him in a questioning manner.  Khalifa would say something, laugh his big, booming laugh, and clap Kevin on the back.  Kevin

would smile and nod politely.  They could be saying anything about him at all, and he was just grinning and agreeing with them. 

"Jabril says you are Terminator." Khalifa said heartily. 

Kevin just stared at him.  He wasn't even the right color to be the Terminator.  Khalifa looked at him seriously, then burst into laughter again.  "We are talking the jive, you and I, my friend." He explained, once again slapping Kevin on the back.  Kevin laughed with them.  Khalil smiled, but said nothing.  Kevin didn't know what to think of that.  He put it down to the fact that Americans didn't have the best reputations at that place and time. 


General Pritchard had a mammoth amount of files to sort the next day. Kevin felt like he was about to be crushed underneath the mountain of paperwork.  Pritchard had bummed a pack of Marlboros from Mike, and didn't have his tobacco situation to complain about.  Instead, he was going on about the planned protests going on that day.  A well known cleric had organized a

march through the Zone, to protest the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He had a bad feeling about it.


He passed back and forth, puffing on a cigarette and bellowing, nearly non-stop the entire day.  Kevin was roped into security detail, while General Pritchard went on his rounds to make sure protests didn't get out of hand. 


They loaded up a convoy of Humbees and out they went.  There was a throng of people outside, all chanting and holding up signs and banners with pictures of this cleric, pumping their fists in the air.  American and Iraqi security people surrounded the crowd, occasionally having to shove people back into the seething mass of humanity that had taken over the street.  Every so often Kevin would see someone getting carried away. 

 "So far so good," said General Pritchard.  He was bearly audible under the din of the marchers.  Kevin watched the hordes pass, thinking that perhaps this would pass relatively peacefully. 

He heard shouts, then something bright whizzed past his head.  He and the General ducked as a moltov cocktail shattered against the wall of the building behind them.  Shots rang out.  Kevin count's tell where anything was coming from.  He saw the crowd scatter, he saw American solders with their weapons pending trying to weave their way through the surging masses.  Kevin clicked the safety off his rifle, pointing it at the throng of people.  He couldn't tell who was who.  He heard more gunfire. 

Someone was running towards him, grimacing. He saw what looked like a molotov cocktail in the man’s hand, he was waving it around. It seemed like the guy was about to throw the thing right at Kevin’s head. He fired, hitting the man dead center in the chest. It dimpled and expanded, the man cartwheeled over and landed face down in the street. He shuddered once, and was still.

The commotion had thrown up a cloud of dust,  it got into Kevin's mouth and nose making them itch.  He sneezed violently. 

When he looked up again, the last of the marchers were fleeing back into the city.  He kept his gun at the ready.  As the smoke cleared, he saw bodies lying scattered in the street.  Maybe 5 in all.  He couldn't tell if they were protesters, or terrorists, or both.  That was part of the problem in Iraq.  Sometimes it was hard to tell who the bad guys were.


The next days were chaotic.  General Pritchard shouted almost non-stop the entire week.  There was a rumor floating around that the Americans had fired into the crowd intentionally.  Kevin was incensed. People were shooting at them first.  Why couldn't anyone see that?  It seemed that anytime something happened here, it was always the American’s fault.

On top of everything else, Kevin had started having the nightmares again.  Dave's mangled face grinning at him, holding out his helmet.  He'd started sleeping less and less.  The latest incident, on top of the Abu Ghraib madness, had really mauled popular opinion about the American presence in Baghdad.  Kevin couldn't take his walks alone anymore.  Angry mobs had been hanging around outside, pelting any passing Americans with empty bottles and other refuse.  Kevin started staying inside, playing solitaire and reading most of the time.  The boredom drove him nearly insane.

Khalifa was worried.  The nice American boy hadn't been around in weeks.  He wasn't at all the way American soldiers had been portrayed on the news.  This young man was courteous, very soft spoken.  Not at all the type of person you'd imagine torturing prisoners. 

He was also worried about the crowd Khalil was hanging  around with.  He'd hung up a poster of Al Sadr in his bedroom.  Khalifa was afraid he'd been going to some of his meetings.  The man was bad news.  Khalifa didn't like the occupation of his country either, but this man, this man was nearly as bad as Saddam had been.  The kids loved him though.  More and more people were rallying behind this cleric.  These were definitely dangerous times. 

The General was in a horrible mood.  Two of their truck drivers had been kidnapped.  The militants who'd seized them were saying it was in retaliation for the American troops firing into the crowd of marchers weeks before.  Kevin heard him repeat the phrase "Those damn crazies" at least sixty times in three hours.  It seemed the entire situation was coming apart.


Kevin couldn't take the tension any longer.  One day, after work, he decided to brave the madness and take a walk.  Without thinking, he headed straight for Khalifa's house.  Khalifa opened the door warily,  He seemed afraid to be seen with Kevin.  He wasted no time in speaking his mind.  "Please tell me you did not shoot those people."  Kevin Slumped.  "Someone shot at us first. There was no way of knowing," he trailed off. 

"Did you yourself?" Khalifa looked off into the distance. 


"No.  It happened too fast.  It was over by the time I even looked up." 

This seemed to satisfy Khalifa.  “Come, then, eat with us later."  he said, clapping Kevin on the back as he did.  "We must understand each other, you and I."  They sat and talked as they waited for dinner to be prepared.  They talked about the situation, how Khalifa saw things, and how Kevin saw things.  In general the conversation stayed civil.  Kevin was beginning to have hope that if he and Khalifa could sit down and talk like this, maybe anything was possible. 

Khalifa had gotten out some of his records, big band music from India, and was playing them for Kevin, When they heard a shout from the kitchen.  They rushed into the room to see Somina and Janbril Huddled in the far corner, staring in horror at a huge Camel Spider in the middle of the floor.  It took a step towards Somina, who let out a shriek and retreated farther into her corner.  Fahima stood behind the two men, all wide eyed and curious.  Somina yelled something at Khalifa, he grinned and grabbed a bowl and a pot lid from the cabinet, and scooped the spider up. 

Khalil held the door open as he went out into the yard to release the big arachnid.  the rest of the family looked on intently.  Khalifa broke into a big grin as he walked back into the house.  He clapped Kevin on the shoulder.  "We had a big deal there, eh my friend?"  Laughing, they all went back into the house. 

The militants were threatening to behead the truck drivers.  General Pritchard was very quiet about the subject, Kevin didn't know if there were any leads or not.  He knew better than to ask.  Whenever he did Pritchard's jaw clenched an a blood vessel popped out in his forehead.  Something was happening soon.  The situation had quieted enough in the International zone for Kevin to visit Khalifa and his family more, at least during the day. 


They started taking walks through the market place together.  Sometimes Kevin would carry Fahima with him as they walked.  The two men rarely talked about the war, instead they talked about music and cooking, things they both enjoyed.

One day, Kevin was carrying Jahima around the markets, talking to Khalifa about cars.  He'd seen a Mercedes SL500 in a magazine, and couldn't quit talking about it.  Kevin listened, nodding, "They were nice cars," he said, watching the people pass by.  They stopped at a stall selling multicolored rugs, when Kevin noticed a youth walking purposefully through the crowd.  The boy looked nervous, he had to be about Khalil's age.  He was taking long, deep breaths.  Something clicked in Kevin's head, he handed Fahima to Khalifa and began fighting his way through the crowd towards the boy.  Out of the corner of his eye, he actually noticed Khalil making his way towards to young man as well.  He beat Kevin there, the two argued, the boy shoving Khalil away.  Kevin shouted. 

He heard a voice behind him, he turned to see Khalifa rushing up behind him. looking worried.  He’d seen Khalil, and was trying to get to his son. Kevin opened his mouth to speak.  He felt his face hit the ground and heard a booming noise. 


Everything went silent except for the ringing in his ears.  He tried to pick himself up with his right arm, but he noticed it wasn't there anymore.  Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, he tried to roll over onto his back.  He wondered where Khalifa and Fahima were. He shoved himself onto his back with his good arm.

Staring up at the sky, with the ground beneath him, Kevin suddenly felt very calm.  The outside edges of his vision were going dim.  All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears.  He watched a cloud pass overhead.  His sight got even blurrier.  He began hearing shouts, other voices, they seem to come from Another planet.  A siren went off somewhere.  The sound of his blood in his ears grew fainter.  He felt his heart beating.  A whiteness began to fill this vision. 

He could sense footsteps, very far away.  he felt his heartbeat get slower as the whiteness got stronger.  A helmeted head poked up above him.  he heard it speak.  His heartbeat slowed even more.  The face got closer as the white overtook everything.

©2004 Michael Brandon Carroll

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Daughter of the Nine Moons

I said it before Snuffs, this story is totally awesome. You are so incredibly talented!

Dot wub.gifgrin2.gif

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If I have said it once, I will say it a million times…


You have an unbelievable talent Snuffy, do something with it. Finish a manuscript and get it to the publishers, they will fall over themselves to sign you. Or even if a complete book seems daunting, just make a collection of all your short stories. Shorts are making a come back.

Get it done, get it out there and start raking the money in that your talents merit. thumbsup.gif

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Daughter of the Nine Moons

Kryso, I agree with you 110 %

......plus I get a signed copy Snuffs wub.giftongue.gif

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You sure do, Dotty grin2.gif

I'm still not completely happy with what I have written as of yet. I'm still typing and editing, hopefully I have a good bit of work together pretty soon.

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I like to read Suffy and I must say I like what you did. More please?


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add more.. I LOVE IT!!!

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