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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hairball - A Story of Viet Nam {#BlogBattle & FMF}

(To my Five Minute Friday friends...there's no way I can write a post today. Barb and I have had the flu, and while she's getting better I am not. As I type this - about 2 pm - fever's going up and I'm going down.

So I'll ask your indulgence, and hope you might enjoy a bit of flash fiction (written a couple of days ago under the influence of a temperature above 104).

And so...welcome to a story called Hairball.

And it does fit in with the FMF prompt of SHARE...as in 'sharing a poncho'. Kate, you saved me.)

Time for #BlogBattle, the keyword-driven weekly flash-fiction contest hosted by Rachael Ritchey.

The keyword this week is HAIR.

The story,s going to be short, because I have the flu...but I didn't want to miss what is a really perfect keyword.


"Hairball's coming," said The Dude, drawing the poncho closer over us.

"Uhhh?" My teeth were chattering, and I was shaking so hard the words didn't register.

"Hairball," said Biff from my other side. "The reporter. With the ponytail."

"Uhhh," I said. "Wha-a-a rep-p-p..."

"The one we're supposed to be nice to," said Biff.

A shadow fell on us. It made things seem cooler, which made the chills worse.

"Hi," said a voice.

The Dude answered for us. "Hello."

"Mind if I talk with you guys for a few minutes?"

The voices came from a long, long distance.

"I guess," said Biff.

I could sense the reporter sitting down. "First...uh, what are you guys doing?"

It was a reasonable enough question; not every day in the tropics did you see three marines huddled together under a poncho on a cloudless day.

"TC here's got malaria. His fever's spiking, so we're trying to keep him warm." The Dude's tone was quiet and reasonable, as if it'was something that happened every day.Which it did, somewhere in Viet Nam. Every day.

"Why don't you just take him to the BAS?" The acronym sounded still in his mouth, a newly-learned word of which he was proud.

"Oh, we couldn't do that," said Biff. "He's ours. They might misplace him."


The Dude picked up the conversational ball. "Yep. I heard that a guy went in with tonsillitis, and they ended up shipping him back to The Word. Can't have that. I mean, he might go to college...become a hippie...wear a ponytail."

"That's right," said Biff. "We don't want to have top break in a new TC."

"Wait...I thought TC was his name? I mean, his initials?"

"It is his name."

"So you'd have to break in a new one? What, do you guys give each other new names here?"

The Dude laughed. "No...TC is Tank Commander. I don't even know what this guy's real name is."

"Uh, huh...well." I heard the reporter ruffling his notebook, and said, "Uhhh." I wanted to be part of the conversation.

"So, OK...how do you guys feel about being drafted, and sent over here?"

The temperature dropped about twenty degrees, and I felt new chills coming on.

"We weren't drafted," said The Dude. The ice in his voice was palpable, but I could have done without it.

"Nope." I could feel Biff nodding, huddled next to me.

"OK...look, I'm sorry. It's a question I'm supposed to ask...my editor..."

"Is a jerk," said The Dude.

"Yeah. He is. But look...why are you here?"

Biff moved his arm around my shoulders, and squeezed. "For him."

"Why? No, wait...I mean, you didn't know when you volunteered that you'd be together...so how can you say, for him?"

" 'Cause he's here for us."

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

Below are my recent releases on Kindle -please excuse their presence in the body of the blog. I haven't the energy to get them up as 'buttons' in the sidebar. You can click on the covers to go to the Amazon links (they're 99 cents each). And if you'd like a free PDF, please email me at tempusfugit02 (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll gladly send them


  1. The message sings. Well done and thought provoking. It's helpful to have an insider view. Thanks.

  2. Here for each other. I'm so sorry you've had the flu ... that's just wrong. And Barb has it, too? Ugh. I know you are helping each other. Prayers for the both of you.

  3. Here for each other. I'm so sorry you've had the flu ... that's just wrong. And Barb has it, too? Ugh. I know you are helping each other. Prayers for the both of you.

  4. It seems strange to say I enjoyed this, Andrew, because I felt the distress of your flu symptoms loud and clear. My favorite line: The temperature dropped about twenty degrees....
    I hope you and your wife feel better soon!

  5. Awesome Andrew!! Praying you get over this flu... It has knocked a lot of us out of the running :( ((hugs)) and thanks for "sharing"

  6. Andrew, and isn't that truth in real life as well? We are interconnected with each other. We help each other, we're here because God placed us here, but we're here for each other as well. Maybe we're God's Marines in a lost world. :)

    Such a well-written post. Praying for you, my friend.

  7. Nice. Just a few words makes the camaraderie very real. Thanks. :)

  8. Great story. Praying you and Barbara are feeling better from the flu.

  9. Andrew, you write movingly here. It takes us to places we wouldn't know about otherwise. I like the sparse prose and sharp dialogue. Pretty impressive from a guy who is ill and flu-ridden! My brain would be mush under those circumstances. Having said that, I am sorry to hear you're sicker still (and Barbara too, poor thing), and awed by the way you're putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard with inspirational words as fired as your temperature must be. We welcome this insight into your world and its emphasis on belonging and being here for one another. Rather like FMF, yes? Grateful for your company, comrade. :)

  10. Hair rhymes with Share.
    And the way you wrote this, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up in defense of these three heroes huddled under a poncho.
    It's incredible how such a short story can evoke great emotion in a reader. And it's a sign of gifted writing. Yours, my friend.
    Thank you for choosing to share your gifts in spite of all the pain you continue to endure.

    Flu. No bueno. Fevers, chills, a "refining" of sorts, but overall an exhaustion. Praying quick recovery for your family. We've been clear for four weeks of the first illness, though two of my three each had a random fever spike that caused high heart rate in the weeks following that first sickness.

    2016 is God's year, but wow is the enemy working hard to steal (our joy), kill (our hope) and destroy (everything). How excited I am to speak James 4:7 aloud then.

    Submit to God, resist the devil and He will flee!
    (and verse 8 is such a sweet follow-up.)
    Blessings, Andrew and Barbara!!

  11. Great story, Andrew! I love your storytelling and tight dialogue. You have a gift.

  12. Powerful and shows us who aren't or haven't served in the military how close the bonds become. In civilian life, we may live our whole lives not understanding the sacrifice for another. Thank you for sharing. Keeping you in prayer.

  13. There truly is a brotherhood that develops--has to develop, I'd say--to keep on fighting each battle (even if the battle is Malaria or the like). Again, you give us such a raw and insider look into the life that was yours and your brothers in arms, Andrew. I know that toughness you had to have back then is what keeps you going today, so I am grateful for it. And grateful that there are so many others who can read your war stories and relate in healing ways. Thanks so much, dear friend, and praying that you are doing better this week!

  14. yes. just yes. There is such a powerful message in this simple story. I truly hope you are recovering, Andrew. Peace be with you.

  15. I love this post, maybe especially because it's not a real FMF! And thanks for visiting my blog and *sharing* how officers east last, even when vittles are low in supply. Peace and hope!