Friday Fictioneers – Children

(Author’s Note: None. Just enjoy today’s fictioneers! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms.)

auto-aftermath

© Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Children

The park was full of them. Each and every one of them a precious life.

It was always this way after the first warm-up of the season. Kids in their sweatshirts and jeans were playing. It was great for us adults to see.

I just turned onto 45th when the sun blazed between the two large buildings ahead. I squinted and got my visor down as quickly as possible.

That’s when I heard the thump.

Then the screams.

I stopped my car immediately, got out, and looked behind me.

She wore orange that day. I didn’t see her.

She was 12.

R.I.P. Roberto Concina (aka Robert Miles)

wpimg

Advertisements

Reflections (aka How I Survived…)

Reflections
(How I Survived…)
by Miles H. Rost

(Author’s note: This is a fictional account based on stories relayed to the author by a third party.)

PFC Rocky Andersen was not a happy camper.

He was laying on the ground, grumbling in pain as he waited for help to arrive. The stocky marine had problems with his legs in recent days, and having to climb telephone poles at his base was not a good thing for him to do. Camp Pendleton was the Marines’ West Coast base, and it was also known for being remote in some parts. This meant that help may not arrive for a half an hour or so.

At the medical truck approached his position, his gunny, Gunnery Sergeant Charles “Brick” Brigman, leaped out.

“Andersen! What in the blue hell happened to you?”

“I was climbing the telephone poles, Gunny Brick, and I got blindsided by a bird,” he said, crisp yet with a strip of pain.

“Well, what are you laying there for?! Get up and walk!”

“Gunny, I can’t move.”

Hospital Corpsman Roger Baltrick had run over from the main truck and took a look at the PFC’s splayed legs. After a cursory exam, he looked up at Gunny Brick

“I can tell already that his right leg is broken in two places. We’ll have to look at his left leg back at the infirmary, but I have a feeling we may have a double break.”

Gunny Brick furrowed his brow.

“Well, this is just fan-freaking-tastic, isn’t it?! Andersen, you may have just lucked out. Your platoon is being called to Vietnam! They’re outta here in 2 weeks, and I hope to see you on that flight out.”

Rocky just grimaced, as the threat from the imposing Gunny reverberated through his head.

Two weeks after he arrived back at the base hospital, Rocky looked out the window of the room, his leg still elevated and bound in casts and slings. He looked down at the field, where he saw his fellow platoon mates lining up to head to the airfield at El Toro to fly out.

Over the previous two weeks, various platoon mates with the nicknames of “Grunt”, “Pickle”, “Big Zeb”, and “Sticky” all came by to say their goodbyes and swap stories of what’s been going on. Even on that last day, Gunny Brick even came in to say goodbye, though no one would call it a “goodbye”, formally.

“Andersen! You better get out of those casts and get on the next flight once you do!” he said, looking down with a slight smile on his face.

“Gunny, where are you guys heading for?”

“Our next orders are apparently going to be Khe Sanh. Seems like more of our boys are there right now.”

“Thank you, sir. Drop me a postcard once you arrive.”

Gunny Brick smiled at Andersen, shaking his head as he left.

“Don’t get thrown in the brig while I’m gone, Donut. I don’t want to have to come back to bail you out again.”

Andersen laughed, being reminded of the many times he was thrown in the brig for being UA or being stuck on “weird duty” at Treasure Island.

—-

The middle of February was unusually cool for California. It wasn’t normal for the temperatures to be any lower than the 60s, but it got into the high 40s at night during this period.

Rocky was finally out of his casts, but he was on restricted duty until his legs healed permanently. That means five more weeks of therapy and processing papers, along with such fun jobs as helping in the mess tent or assisting in other tasks. His gunny sergeant for this end, GySgt. Mike Layton, was less abrasive but more of a rules-man. He appreciated Rocky’s work, though wouldn’t always say so.

Rocky was finishing the stamping of important base requisition forms, when Gunny Layton walked in. Rocky saluted.

“Andersen, as you were.”

‘Yes, Gunny.”

“Andersen, I received some news this morning from Cam Ranh. It’s about your platoon.”

“Gunny, sir?”

“Your platoon landed at Khe Sahn. As they were deplaning, they were hit by mortar fire and  snipers. Gunny Brick and about half of your platoon didn’t make it to the terminal.”

Andersen’s blood ran cold.

“What’s left of your platoon is being merged with another in Khe Sanh. You and 5 others who are still here will be assigned to a new platoon.”

“I…understand, sir.”

“Andersen, you can be real with this. You don’t have to hold it in. Ya lost some of your friends, and so have I.”

Andersen used his crutches to move himself a few feet back to his desk, and sighed.

“I was supposed to go, Gunny.”

“Yeah, I know. But, Andersen, you have to realize that things happen for a reason. Gunnery Sergeant Brigman and the others had to go over there. Apparently, someone else had plans for you.”

Rocky blinked, as he sat looking straight at his superior.

“When are they arriving?”

“Within a couple weeks. They will be brought to Oakland from Da Nang, then either families will pick them up there, or we’ll bring them back here for the families to identify and receive. I would like you, if you can, to accompany the ones who will be brought back to Pendleton.”

Rocky sat for just a moment before giving a salute and a “yes, sir.”

“You’re relieved of duty for today. Head on back to the barracks, and you can do what you usually do. Consider this time to grieve.  Be back at this post tomorrow at 0800.”

After a salute, Gunny Layton turned his heels and departed.

Rocky lifted himself on his crutches, and hobbled out the door. The 15 minutes it took him to cover the length from the main base office to his barracks, he though about all of his buddies who were over there…and those who were gone.

He barely made it back to the barracks. Seeing no one around, he collapsed on his bunk. His tears, for part of that evening, were his only companions. And while he felt like he should have gone over with his boys, he yet realized that for him, he was given a gift that many in his platoon did not receive: The gift of being able to live to an older age.

This gift would be borne out in 3 children, who he was able to see grow up and become their own people. He would never forget the contributions of his platoon, as it was his children who were the result of that sacrifice.

(This is your birthday gift, Dad. Semper Fi, and I love you.)

 

 

 

Kyrie (Eleison)

Kyrie Eleison
by Miles H. Rost

A few weeks before it happened, I packed up my belongings. I was to leave my wife, my family, and everyone. The journey from the desert to the sea, to travel to the west, was beginning. It was a 2 week walk and ride to Tyre, where I would pick up a ship that would take me as far as I could go. Thus was the life of a traveling educator.

Educated by the best, a head of a prosperous temple at the time, I felt I was being moved to leave and do more with what I had learned. It wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to leave, but it was because there was nothing left for me to do there. It was going to be very hard to leave behind my wife and my children, but I made sure that my brother, Elam, took care of her in my absence. Elam’s a good man, older than me but still devoted to family.

I was making my way towards Damascus, when I met up with a block in the road. There were men who had said that the way to Damascus was blocked for travelers, and that I needed to go around the city. The caravan I joined up with were reluctant to do so, but after making an inquiry, we realized that there were big things afoot. And, so, we headed south and west. We passed from the lands of Assyria and ended up in deep Roman lands. While I had no quarrel with the Romans themselves, I heard about some of the different things that had happened in the interim.

I heard about this Jewish man, this Jesus whose name as a teacher had even spread to my community. I didn’t pay him much mind, though. The ravings of a lunatic, I once said to my temple brethren. They all laughed with me about it.

We were nearing the end of two weeks, and we stopped short of Tyre. We ended up in a small village about a day’s journey from Tyre. We were close. I had decided, for some reason, to walk outside after dinner in order to clear my head and prepare myself for the next day. The sun was low in the sky, but it had not set when I encountered this man. He was a very powerful person, someone who did command authority. Rugged and everything. He was standing next to the well, looking like he was taking a rest.

“Good eve, sir. Is this well being used?” I asked him.

“I’m just taking a rest right now. You should be able to use it,” he said, with a smile.

While I worked to operate the well, the man continued to look at me. I was starting to get unnerved when he finally spoke.

“Tell me. What have you heard about this Jesus fellow?”

I looked over at him. I didn’t pay him much mind with his scraggly beard which appeared to be unkempt in the darkening light of the evening.

“Jesus? Are you talking about that Jewish guy? The things he’s saying seem to make me think he’s a bit out of his mind.”

I saw a little glint in his eyes, and that is when I knew that I was in deep trouble. He started into a debate with me about this Jesus, whom he called “The Christ”. About how he died so that others may live, and how we were to live by faith and not by sight. I just sighed, because I felt like I was being sold a pitch.

That’s when he threw the curve ball at me.

“He’s still alive. His body was dead. I saw it die. But He’s alive! I saw that, too! By the Sea of Galilee we saw him, and many upon many saw him, too.”

I responded to him that it could not have happened, but in my educated head, I felt like the logic that was in there was failing. I couldn’t explain why, but the idea of bodily resurrection actually seemed to make sense in the way this man was speaking.

“But let me ask you this, my good man. Why would such a man decide to do this for someone like me? Why would he knowingly give up his own life, to save a person like me who doesn’t even believe in his words?” I asked the man.

“Because it’s simple: If he sacrificed himself for all, that means we’re all on His level. We’re all equal.”

I sat for a little bit, to chew on this. One thing went through my mind: “The lunatic isn’t a lunatic at all. He’s the Lord. It makes sense.”

That night, my entire life was changed. I acknowledged all of it, and with the help of the scraggly-bearded man, I later went out to other lands to tell people, to share the Gospel, and to show people how Christ died for them. The scraggly bearded man, the one who called himself Petros, was a good friend to me during that time.

As I gave him a hug before boarding the boat, I looked at the boat and him, and said something I never would have thought of saying in my time back in the small educated area from which I came.

“Kyrie Eleison down this road that I must travel.”

Petros gave me the blessing, and I went on my way. Christ’s death gave me life, and it was certain, I would share it with whoever I met on my new life to a new land.

(A joyous Easter Sunday, and Resurrection weekend to all who read. – M.)

Fool’s Gold

(For Kristi, in the tough time she’s going through)

Fool’s Gold
by Miles Rost


Teresa Farmer’s hand let the phone slip from her fingers.

She was in shock, she didn’t know what she could do.

“Hello? Hello? Teresa? You still there?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked, shaken with fear and peppered with worry.
Teresa picked up the phone and breathed again.
“Yeah….yeah…I’m here. I just…I…I’m not sure if I can say anything…”
“I understand. I guess, all I can say is that I am so sorry for what’s happened, and I wish I could be there to help.”
“Yeah, I know,” Teresa told her friend, who was stationed in Germany at one of the Air Force bases.
“When I get leave, I’ll come back and we can have a gripe session about this.”
“Get here when you can.”
They talked for a couple more minutes, said their pleasantries, and Teresa hung up her phone.

She walked to the living room, the place in her house that became her conversation parlor. She leaned back in her rocking chair and just pondered her situation. She lived alone in her house, her husband moving out many years ago after a rocky fight. 6 years of marriage, suddenly gone. No kids in the house to yell at, or to pick up after.

One more lonely piece of news filled the room, a room that was slowly becoming a room of memories. The news from her friend of her mother’s passing was intensely tough. While Helena Farmer was not a rough and tough rancher’s wife, she still held her own after many years of battle. Whether a battle against a railroad company to reclaim the mineral rights under her farm, or the battle against a major crop company that tried to force her to use seeds she didn’t want, Teresa’s mother was steadfast. She may not have been physically strong, but she made up for it plenty with sheer will, guts, spit, and vinegar.

Now, she was gone. It was less than a year after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she was now gone. Teresa did not know what she was going to do. As she rocked in her chair, a warm afghan wrapped around her, the tears started to fall. As the cracks in her “armor” started to grow bigger, she wept louder, until it was unstoppable.

For the rest of that day, she grieved. She remembered, she cried, she wailed, she sobbed. She would go through the five stages of grief a few times before she could finally release. For this day, however, she needed to grieve.

Cloudland

Cloudland
by Miles Rost

(Dedicated to the memory of all the students and passengers lost in the Sewol ferry disaster last week. Please make sure to play the music while you read.)

(NOTE: This is a work of fiction, designed to help people think about and work through their feelings regarding the Sewol ferry sinking.)

(Written on sheets of rice paper, and found on the desk of a fisherman on Jindo.)

Clouds. Happy as clouds.

That’s is how I see them now. All of them are in school up there, learning about love and life, learning their new assignments and how they will do new things. Learning, while in the cloudland.

I live in Sinyuk, just off the main coast of South Korea. My family has lived here for many years. That day will be burned into my mind.

I was on the shoreline, finishing the rigging up the nets that I would use for crab fishing during the night. I always do that after the day’s work is done. I was going to go to sleep soon, and wake up again in the afternoon to do the fishing checks all over again.

It was just after 8:30 in the morning when I went to my home and sat down for my supper. I ate, and felt good about the upcoming catch that would come in the night. I went to my room to pray and honor my wife. Long ago, we were a happy fishing couple. She died a few years back, and it was a sad time for me. But, still, I live on with her in my memory.

It was around 9:45 that I heard the phone ring. This was unusual, I didn’t normally get a call when I was just about to go to bed. I picked up the phone and answered like I normally do. It was Byeong-jun, the harbormaster here. He told me that there was an all-call for all fishing vessels, that a ferry was sinking just off Gwanmae.

It was like second nature to me. I was in the Navy during my days in the military, and whenever a call for assistance was made, it was my job to alert the captain and to help direct where we needed to go. I immediately ran out to my boat, and started it up. Or, at least I tried to start it.

I couldn’t start it. The boat that helped me check my pots did not start. And I needed to get out there and help out, as it was my duty. I got on the radio and called around to see if anyone was still in port and could use an extra man. My friend Sin-Gil, a very good man who sold fish for use in hoe called back and told me that all boats had gone. There were none left in the harbor.

At that moment, I stood in shock. And I started to cry. I cried because I felt like there was nothing I could do. As I dried my tears, I hurried over to the harbormaster’s office and volunteered to help coordinate the rescue boats. Since Sinyuk could not hold many people, we decided to send the rescued passengers over to Jindo, the closest big island that would get them to where they needed to go.

It was too late for some of us, and for a lot of those passengers.

As I write this, the count of the people that are dead is 84. There are over 200 more passengers still missing, and in my mind, likely no longer here. 250 of those passengers and dead are kids. Kids. Going on a vacation like they always do, every year. That sticks in my mind. A simple fisherman like me, who didn’t have much education, can see in my mind how a child’s eyes lights up when they are told they will be going to Jeju for a field trip.

Now, I see these kids as students up in the cloudland. Their fellow passengers who aren’t in school, they too are there. They’re assisting, helping out at the big school up in the cloudland. They’re laughing, with no pain or fear, nothing of what they felt down here. The young lady, the worker on the ferry who helped so many students that survived, I see her as a teacher up there. She’s showing them about what it means to be brave. Some of the other men and women who died, saving all those students, they’re up there as well. In the cloudland.

This tragedy is affecting everyone. I hear my friends, fellow fishermen, cry for those who are lost. I can imagine all of the parents, and the classmates in the different grades at that school in Ansan. I can even imagine the foreigners here, the ones who see this and whose hearts break for those who are gone. Every person in this country, whether a Korean or not, is affected by this. The dark cloud of sorrow will be over us for a while. The cloud already took a few people’s lives after this, and more will be taken before the cloud is lifted.

After today, I can no longer be here. I have family on the mainland, a sister and her nephew in a big city, with small kids of their own. I will take what I have earned, and go to them. I will help those small children as much as I can, to show them not to be afraid. To show them that there are people who are heroes, and that there will be a brighter day.

To whoever reads this: Whatever is here, sell and donate to the families of those who have lost everything. It won’t be much, but the house and the land are valuable. The boat can also be sold, all of the deeds are with the harbormaster.

Remember the kids and adults in the cloudland. They are the ones who we must mourn today.

-Han Gong-Cha

(a stamp, an injang (인장) was embossed at the bottom)