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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reaching For God - #BlogBattle

Time for this week's #BlogBattle entry, the weekly keyword-inspired flash fiction contest hosted by Rachael Ritchey.

We're also linked with Still Saturday, and Wedded Wednesday.

The word this week is REACH.

Reaching For God

"Uh, oh," said Biff to The Dude. "What have you done now?"

Sonny was standing radio watch, and the rest of us were trying to stay cool under a tarp stretched from the fenders to a couple of poles stuck in the ground. The air was heavy with the dust dislodged by the army firebase's 155s, banging away in the monotonous monotonous rhythm. of H&I. Providing harassment and interdiction on map coordinates had to be the most boring job on the planet. They wanted a couple of tanks around as a security blanket, and as the only ones were Marine, they settled for that. Us.

"Whad'you mean?" The Dude had been dozing, and sat up."Oh."

A tall, lean officer was walking purposefully toward the tank, followed by a private carrying a 16. It looked like a hanging party, faces set in grim creases. 

Biff had sharp eyes. "Hey, that's a chaplain..." He'd seen the small cross stenciled on the front of the officer's helmet. "Dude, did you piss off God?"

"Not lately." We crabwalked out from under the tarp into the suffocating heat, and stood. 

The chaplain smiled, and his face immediately lit up, the face of a man you'd like to know as a friend. "Hi!"

The private, clearly his jeep-driver-bodyguard, lifted the corners of his mouth wearily, and nodded.

"Hi, uh..." If he was a priest, I should call him Father; if a protestant minister, Reverend. And if he was a rabbi, I'd let Biff do the talking.

He put out a large, slim hand. "Phil Bonhoeffer," he said. "Saw you boys over here, just wanted to say hello."

"Bonhoeffer?" The Dude was interested. The name rang a bell for me, vaguely, but Biff spoke right up.

"Are you related?"

The chaplain turned to our Jewish gunner. "Sure am, son. He was a second cousin."

The Dude said, "TC, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a...what, Lutheran..?"


"Yeah, a Lutheran pastor in Germany, WW2. Really brave...wouldn't back down opposing the Nazis, and he got hung just before the war ended. I've got a copy of The Cost of Discipleship."

"So do I," said Biff. "Sir...uh, would you sign it for me?"

I felt like a heathen. All I had was a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking.

Reverend Bonhoeffer smiled; it looked like he'd had that request before. "Glad to."

The guys climbed up the glacis to get their books, like eager kids meeting Mickey Mantle. If Sonny had a copy as well, I was going to have to rethink my education.

While they were gone, I asked the Reverend, "How's it feel, being asked to autograph your cousin's book?"

He laughed. "First time, it was really weird. But they want a connection with the name, with the spirit. I don't know if I can give them that, but they think I can."

"That sounds like quite a challenge."

"That's what praying's for, son."

I was trying to think of something intelligent to say when The Dude and Biff came back, carrying, yes, three copies of The Cost Of Discipleship.

I really had to get to know my guys better.

This story was originally much longer (it describes an actual event), but after writing the long version, something told me to go back, pare it down, and end it here. It's something of an experiment in intuition, if that makes sense.

The long version was saved, and it'll appear later. If you could let me know what you think - if this minimalist approach 'worked' in presenting both message and character development - I'd be grateful.


  1. The Power Of Positive Thinking. I remember reading that back grade school. Really worth checking out.

    1. I went through about five copies, wore them all out!

  2. I think that was lovely, Andrew. :) I could have easily kept reading it, too. Can't wait to get a look at the full version as well. This shorter one was very good at conveying all that needed saying. Plenty to absorb.

  3. Thanks again for another laugh-out-loud line ('All I had was 'the power of positive thinking''). I've felt that what-am-i-reading feeling too!

    Re the edit: It's tricky to know what you've got left when editing a longer piece down like this - I think this version works well, but it'd be good to compare the two. I often have to do this at work, and we usually send it to a second pair of eyes to find out if we lost any essential meaning, or blurred the impact at all.

    Anyway, always love to read your #blogbattle! I'm coming to really appreciate Dude, Biff, Sonny and TC!

  4. I enjoyed this, as I have all the others.

    FWIW, my opinion is that if you can tell the story in fewer words, do so. Less is usually more, within reason, when it comes to tales.

  5. "Dude, did you piss off God?"

    "Not lately."

    Love it!

    Personally I'm all about the long version, but that's just me.

  6. Wonderful piece as it stands! I would love to read the longer version and compare the two though.

    PS Bonhoeffer is amazing! So intrigued that this describes an actual event!