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Shock and Awe (2004)

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Dear Stasha,
“I hope you’re not hiding anything about Artyom – infants can’t be as easy as Dimitri says he is!! I’m looking forward to getting home and hugging him really, and looking into his real eyes, not the Skyped eyes!  My ‘residency’  here in Mazar is ending is just about up, but I am ***SO***  frustrated that some of the best soldiers I’ve trained here are set to be transferred, along with lots of men and some women who have been vital to our establishing good relations with the Afghans, to Iraq. They asked my chief civilian resident to go and set up field MASH units in Iraq, because, as your brother would say, Bozhe fucking Moi are they STUPID!!! My mail doesn’t get censored as strictly as the grunts – and it’s a good thing, because I’m pretty pissed off right now. We have influence over about half this country at most. There’s a friendly pol named Hamid Karzai in Kabul right now; you probably knew that. From what I can tell, he’s there because he’s the only Pashtun we can find that any Turkmen or Hazara will talk to, let alone vote for. I’m not sure that they trust him. I know that his brother is some kind of thug – I actually had to face the man down, through an interpreter, in order to get a shipment of artificial organ walls and the clean surgical equipment I needed to do anything but amputate limbs and euthanize thoracic patients!
“This guy paraded around in a white shroud like the humblest peasant, hat the vest part of a three piece suit over it, wore a head covering that looked like it came from Leningrad and not the desert,  and brought thirty armed Pashtuns with him everywhere he went. This is how he displayed that he was a Big Man in Kandahar, and that he could deliver the men who still prefer the assholes that attacked us on 9/11 and got me to go here. He can’t do that. There are fifty Big Men just waiting to knock him off. You just won’t believe what I had to do to get this guy to open up the road from Kabul.
“Remember the story I told Dimitri about Jonah and the Whale? The haftarahthat we sit through when we’re starving at the end of Yom Kippur? Well, I thought of a different scripture. Look it up, Chapter 4 of Megillat Esther. We read it on Purim. Bigthan and Theresh were two thugs who wanted to take out a king from near here. Mordechai the Jew called them out, and they were hanged. Nobody did a thing about it, but the King woke up one night thinking about it, and re-read the events. He discovered that the hero, Mordechai, had received nothing for saving the Kingly ass.
“So, innocently, he asked his viceroy Haman what he should do to honor and show favor to him. Haman, it says, thought that the King could only mean him – Haman – so, sparing no detail, he comes up with a parade with horses decked out in purple velvet, musicians, the whole shee-bang. So the king orders Haman to put such an event together for Mordechai. Well, I decided that this is what I was going to do. We got fifty humvees from all over the North, draped them in the flag of the Karzai family, and trekked in all the supplies we could fly in at one time in from Bagram in a convoy with Karzai’s brother picking the music. You can imagine that he had the road cleared of these mines they can set off with garage door openers, and nobody who wasn’t part of the parade could hang out within half a mile of the road.
“The GI’s had to help out with logistics way befuckingyond, as Dim might say, the call of duty. Hell. They were giving up their own supplies to make sure Waliball’s retinue was happy. I heard someone wanted HANDKERCHIEFS en route, and that the jerk was high enough up that he’s better get his handkerchief, or he would send orders to “his Jurga.” Who knows what he meant, but he got his damn handkerchief. So we got to Bagram, and we got back to Mazar, just in time, too, because a helicopter was waiting for us with a dying kid inside. I couldn’t tell, boy, girl. There was too much blood. Exsanguinaaaaaaation is makin’ me quake, is keepin’ me blee-ee-ee-ee-ee-idin’. Carole King, I think. You were a little girl. You would have loved Carole King. Sometimes I turn her on Sirius over here and cry, when I’m alone.
“Well, I bubbled the bronchiole, tied up the thorax, stitched up the skin, and passed it off to the hospital. Yes, our men and women made that.  As of this email, the girl (it was a girl) lived, and I am trying to keep the family from giving me all their goats.
“Prekrasnichka, I love you very much. I miss you. Give yourself a big hug for me, and don’t bother too much if Dimitri brings those women over. I just don’t want you to be alone, OK?”

About Ronald FIschman

I am a public school teacher who had a prior career as a cantor, opera singer, and composer. My greatest notoriety comes from my settings of Dylan Thomas's "Vision and Prayer" and Percy Byssshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" for singers and large instrumental ensemble. My first poetry collection, "Generations," honors the roles of son, husband, and father, and is available at

One response »

  1. Thanks for popping over to our weekly book blog hop xx


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