Identity Check – Excerpt

New exciting mystery-thriller now available on amazon.com on Kindle or paperback. Here’s a scene with Scott and Jessie trying to find his true father…

Jessie parked the BMW in front of 4417 Westbrook Road. Scott stared up at the two-story, shotgun-style home that shared a covered porch with its paint-peeling twin next door. A few feet of calf-high grass separated the duplex from the other deteriorating homes on the block. A single FHA tree provided shade for the uneven broken sidewalk, and a brightly painted ceramic gnome family occupied a corner of the tiny front lawn.

“Are you going to sit there all day, or go knock on the door?” Jessie asked.

“Look at the time. We should come back tomorrow.”

“My watch says five o’clock.”

“They might be eating supper.”

“Or be in the living room half-naked, playing strip dominoes,” she said.

He shrugged. “Possible.”

Jessie got out of the car, grabbed Scott by the hand, and dragged him up the three steps leading to the porch. “Close your fingers into a fist, and bang it against the screen door frame–exactly three times.”

“What am I going to say–hi, I’m the bastard grandson you never met?”

“For an ice breaker I’d suggest, hello, I’m Scott Harold, Jr.”

“No wonder mom always liked you best.” He took a deep breath and rapped loudly on the door. No response. “Nobody’s home, let’s go.”

Scott turned to leave, but Jessie rotated him back. “Knock louder. I hear a TV.”

A few seconds later, the inside door swung open. A pleasant-looking elderly man, wearing leather slippers, smiled at them from behind a torn screen door. He wore a white t-shirt tucked into dress slacks held up by suspenders. The Cincinnati Enquirer sports section rested in his right hand. “May I help you?” he said, looking over his reading glasses.

Scott stood there with his mouth open, but no words came out. Jessie came to his rescue.

“We are looking for a Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Harold. Is this where they live?”

The man said. “You got the right address, but they don’t live here anymore. Are you family?”

“Could be,” said Scott.

The man said, “Either you are or you’re not.”

“If we could speak to them, I could give you a better answer.”

The man frowned. “That makes no sense.”

“Can you tell us where they moved?” Jessie interrupted.

“Sure.”

A couple minutes of silence went by. Scott finally asked, “Well?”

“Sorry, it won’t help.”

Scott said, “Why not?”

“Are you two selling insurance?”

“No,” said Jessie, “we need to ask them something very important.”

“I’d like to help, but you still can’t speak to them.”

“Please?” Jessie said.

“They’re dead.”

“Jesus, is everybody dead?” Scott said, throwing his hands up in desperation.

“I’m feeling okay,” the man offered.

“You don’t understand,” said Jessie, “We’re trying to find out if their son is Scott’s father.”

The man said, “Why don’t you ask him?”

“Who?” Jessie asked.

“Arthur’s son.”

“We can’t,” said Scott, “He died in Vietnam.”

The man shook his head. “Not him, the other one, Billy. He’s the one who sold us this house.”

Jessie said, “Scott Sr. had a brother?”

“The Harold family have been friends for years. Billy took it bad when he lost his kid brother.”

Scott said, “Any chance you have Billy’s address?”

The man nodded. “Sure, he lives in the other half of this duplex.”

*********************************************

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Menehune Twins – “Day at the Beach”

 

I’ve never done this before, my friends (no, not that), but I need your help/opinion. I have drafted a children’s story to be read by parents to kids age 6 and under as a fun, exotic adventure to amuse the little ankle bitters and maybe share interesting facts and stories about a mix between an ancient Hawaiian legend and a Road Runner cartoon. I would compare this story to the popular children’s book, “But, No Elephants” (although I have been delusional before). I have no one to illustrate the story yet, so fill in with your imagination.

What I need from you is an honest opinion (You are my writers’ feedback group):

  1. Is it an interesting story kids would enjoy hearing?
  2. Does it in any way insult, denigrate, or appear offensive to the Hawaiian people or their culture?

Okay, enough setup here’s the story…

The Menehune Twins

“Day at the Beach”

by Rich Allan

Jake Menehune woke early, leaned over from his top bunk, and yelled at his six-year-old twin sister, Jessie. “Wake up sleepy head. It’s Saturday morning.”

“I’m already awake, goofball,” she said, standing on her bed, pushing up with both hands, launching her brother’s tiny body in a high arc where he bounced off the ceiling, landed on the overhead fan, swung around until he got dizzy, laughing like crazy, shouting “Whee-e-e!” before falling to the floor.

He stood up, shook his head and checked over his body. “Head okay, arms okay, fingers okay, chest okay, legs okay, feet okay, toes okay…” He looked over his shoulder and said, “Uh-Oh, no-o-o-o butt.”

Jessie Menehune giggled as she watched Jake hold his nose, stick his thumb in his mouth, and blow hard enough until his flattened butt popped out to its normal bubble shape.

The twins, shoulder to shoulder, rushed the three-foot round opening to their room, barely squeezing through at the same time. They then raced out to the water-filled Kikiaola ditch in front of their home and in perfect sync, leaped into the air and splashed down in matching cannonballs. Dunking their head and body in the cool water, they rinsed off, climbed out and shook off the excess water like a dog who has just finished a bath.

Mother Kiana called from the kitchen, “Breakfast!”

Arriving at the table, Father Kane sat in front of a stalk of apple bananas. “Dig in, kids!” he said. Jake and Jessie climbed up into their chairs and started stuffing the bananas into their mouths…skin and all! Mother Kiana smiled, sat down and joined in the feast.

Some important information about the Menehune…who are a bit different than you and me. They are little people, only three feet tall when fully grown, living in the Hawaiian Islands, mainly on the island of Kauai. They are busy, happy people, building dams, ditches, fish ponds and stone temples.

Not only are Menehune small and magical, they are good at hiding, living in out of the way places and rarely seen by full-sized folks. They love to dance, sing, cliff-dive and shoot their little bows and arrows. Some say one arrow can change an angry man’s heart to love.

Oh, they are full of mischief, especially with the other islanders, like moving things around when people aren’t looking and trading lava rocks for necessities.

The Menehune wear only a loin cloth, although some of the older folks have flip-flops. On special occasions, the women put on colorful feathered Hawaiian headbands and the men may grow mustaches or beards. They cover up when they sleep with their thick, black, waist-long, curly hair or when the trade winds turn chilly.

Nobody knows how long the Menehune live, but the twins’ grandfather, Kamaka, recently celebrated his 200th birthday. As the Menehune grow older they tend to grow a pot belly, their hair turns gray and is reduced to a strip on the crown of their heads and fringe over each ear.

Now back to our story…

After they finished off all the bananas, Mother Kiana said, “Today, we are going to the beach.”

“Right,” said Father Kane, “…and we are stopping by the fish pond on the way back to gather more food before the winter monsoons.”

“Can we go cliff diving, father?” asked Jake Menehune.

“And swim in the ocean?” said Jessie Menehune.

“Yes,” said Mother Kiana, “but only if the waves aren’t too big or the cliff too high.”

“YAY!!” The twins shouted.

(Remember,  Jake and Jessie are only 18 inches tall, so what seems like a small ocean ripple is a giant wave to them and jumping off a five-foot pile of rocks would be so scary!)

The Kane and Kiana Menehune family live on Kauai with twelve other extended Menehune families deep in the forest near Nawiliwili Harbor and the Alekoko fish pond. Because they are so small, today’s trip to the beach will take them a long time, even though it isn’t that far.

When they reached the shore, Jake and Jessie were tired but excited. The waves appeared mild, so with Mother’s approval, Jessie threw off her loin cloth, ran across the sand, and plunged into the ocean, with brother Jake close behind.

Mother and Father watched as the twins body surfed and paddled about in the blue water inside the protected reef.

When Jake first spotted ‘Opelu Mama or what most Hawaiians call The Great Barracuda, he shouted “Kaku” to his sister. They immediately started swimming as fast as they could toward the shore with the silver submarine-shaped fish with two rows of razor sharp teeth close behind.

“Swim, kids, swim!” yelled Father.

“Snap,” the barracuda bit down. “Snap” the barracuda stuck a second time.

The twins flew out of the surf, big grins on their faces, landing with a thud on the sand. They looked at each other, shook off the sea water, and in unison said, “Let’s do it again!” followed by “Head okay, arms okay, fingers okay, chest okay, legs okay, feet okay, toes okay…” Looking behind, they smiled…”Uh-Oh, no-o-o-o butt.”

Jake and Jessie giggled as they held their nose, put their thumb in their mouth, and blew hard enough until magically their bit off butt resumed its normal shape.

Kane and Kiana Menehune chuckled and Mother said, “Well that’s enough fun at the beach for one day, let’s go to the fish pond.”

Arriving, Father Kane said with some pride, “Legend has it our ancestors overnight built the Alekoko fish pond over 1000 years ago by passing stones hand-by-hand from the village of Makaweli, 25 miles away, and damming up the Hulei’a Stream with a 900-foot long by five-feet high lava rock wall, so the Menehune people would never go hungry.”

Father then pulled a lasso from his pocket and looking deep into the clear water spied a thirty-inch Ono just below the surface. Carefully dropping the loop down, he slipped it over the fish’s head until the strong fiber caught on the top dorsal fin, and then Kane jumped on the back of the Ono and pulled the loop tight.

“Ride ’em, Daddy,” said Jake, as the startled fish took off at full speed. The Kane Menehune family cheered him on as he tightened the loop to keep the Ono from doing a deep dive. The fight between Father and fish went on for so long, the twins got bored and asked if they could do at least one jump while they waited and Mother agreed.

Jake and Jessie climbed the nearby giant pile of rocks and stared down at the pond far below. Father was still racing back and forth across the five-acre pond, but the Ono appeared to be tiring.

“Ready?” Jake asked his sister.

“Ready,” said Jessie.

The twins joined hands and leaped off the rocks aiming for the pond. Unfortunately, they lost their grip with Jake reaching the water, but Jessie falling short, bouncing across the stone rocks until she finally skidded to a halt.

Jake watched as Jessie got up, shook herself off and announced, “Head okay, arms okay, fingers okay, chest okay, legs okay, feet okay, toes okay…but, Uh-Oh, no-o-o-o butt.” She grinned, held her nose, blew hard on her thumb and returned to her normal self.

Meanwhile, Kane Menehune was making one final run across the fish pond aiming for the stone wall, waiting until the very last moment to pull up hard on the lasso, causing the fish to clear the edge and flop onto the bank.

The family joined together to lift the large fish onto a skateboard, a useful tool the Menehune village had acquired for this very purpose from nearby Lihue by trading lava rocks for it (at night and unseen, of course).

Once loaded, the family rolled their Father’s catch all the way back home, safely arriving as the sun set with enough food to last them through the winter.

The twins, Jake and Jessie, exhausted, fell asleep in their daddy’s arms, as Father Kane Menehune carried them to their room and tucked them into bed, the day’s adventure complete.

–The End–

Looking forward to your slings and arrows….Rich Allan

Identity Check – Excerpt

New exciting mystery-thriller now available on amazon.com on Kindle or paperback. Here’s a scene with Scott and Jessie meeting Scott’s mother for the first time…

They pulled up in front of a three-story Victorian mansion that would have cost a fortune located anywhere else in the world. Scott told Jessie how the house had been constructed in the late 1800’s by a railroad tycoon, and that his mother had been able to keep most of the antique furnishings and decorations originally imported from Europe.

Jessie stared at the impressive structure. “You didn’t tell me you lived with the Adams Family. Who do you keep locked up in the tower?”

“Mother reserved that room for you.”

She gave him an indignant look. “Well, don’t expect me to weave any straw into gold.”

Scott tried to find a place to park, but cars lined the street on both sides for three blocks in each direction. All the lights in the house blazed away, illuminating the neighborhood like a Cincinnati Reds night game.

 

“What the heck’s going on?” Jessie asked.

Scott shook his head. “Mother must be entertaining again.”

He squeezed the MGB into a spot half on the driveway, half on the lawn, and turned off the engine.

Jessie snorted. “Look at the size of this place. You guys must be dripping with dough.”

“We do all right.”

“Just you and the Royal Family.”

They climbed the steps to the wrap-around front porch. Scott pushed down on the latch at the top of the s-curved handle and the elaborately-carved, seven-foot high, oak door swung open. A cacophony of conversations, music, and light spilled out into the night.

Jessie grinned. “Sounds like a party.”

Scott led the way through his home. Guests, dressed in their finest, drank champagne and held monogrammed plates loaded with bite-sized cucumber sandwiches, scallops wrapped in bacon, and goose liver on crackers that they had purloined off silver trays carried by an endless number of penguin-like waiters. Other invitees, clustered about in groups of three and four, were busily exchanging liberal opinions or spouting political half-truths.

They arrived at the ballroom–a huge space, with a soaring ceiling, illuminated by a pale blue crystal chandelier. An antique Steinway grand piano sat in the corner, its majestic notes supported an accomplished jazz octet attempting one of Dave Brubeck’s more accessible compositions. A few couples were trying to dance to the tune on the highly polished Carrera marble floor.

“Are you sure we got the right house?” Jessie asked.

Scott’s mother, Christina Harold, swept into the room, wearing the latest designer frock, with a “Kendall for President” button that nearly covered her entire left breast. She immediately descended upon Scott and smothered him in hugs and kisses.

Jessie answered her own question. “Yep, must be the right place, or else people are really friendly in Middletown.”

Several of the nearby guests turned to acknowledge the newcomers for the first time–frowning at their casual attire. Jessie announced with a queenly wave of her hand, “My Paris original didn’t arrive as planned, but they’re flying it over on the Concorde as we speak.” She whispered to Scott, “Should I flash ’em?”

“And you must be Jessica Sterling,” said Christina, extending her hand. “Scott has told me so much about you.”

Jessie did a once over of the attractive, shapely lady in front of her. She stood about five-foot-five, with dark brown hair, and appeared way too young to be the mother of a college junior. But something about her style commanded attention and Jessie found it hard to believe she had remained single all these years.

Scott complained. “Mom, you didn’t say anything about a fundraiser this weekend. I thought we’d spend some quiet time together for you to meet and get to know Jessie.”

“I’m so sorry, darling, but campaign funds for President Kendall are dangerously low, so I had to do it. The primaries are only weeks away. Don’t worry; by eleven at the latest, these people will consume all the alcohol and food, and then simply drift away. Go amuse yourselves for a few hours. I’m sure Jessie can come up with something for you two to do together for that long.”

She winked at Jessie, and then turned away as quickly as she had appeared; floating off to the next group of partygoers, who judging from Christina’s charm and panache, wouldn’t even blink if she asked them to hand over all their cash and jewelry.

Jessie remained looking in the direction Christina had disappeared. “What was that?”

Scott looked at the floor. “Ahh…my mother can be a bit overwhelming when you first meet her, but she’s really quite nice–almost shy.”

Jessie chuckled. “Yeah right, like Attila the Hun. Where’s the food at this party? I’m starving.”

Scott offered his arm and escorted Jessie to the buffet table, where she filled up two plates with slices of chicken, assorted dim sum, stuffed mushrooms, and jumbo shrimp drizzled with cocktail sauce, while he absconded a chilled bottle of vintage white Burgundy and two wine glasses.

Scott said, “Let’s go upstairs for a little privacy and to escape all the noise.”

“I think she liked me,” Jessie shouted over the band, as they climbed the staircase to the second floor, “But hard to tell from–you must be Jessica.”

“Give her a chance. She only acts like that in front of an audience.”

“What’s the big deal about President Kendall anyway? He’s a creep who’s done a lousy job for the country.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that. Mom loves the guy. He’s the reason she got into politics in the first place.”

“I thought all rich people were Republicans.”

“That’s a dirty word in this house.”

“Rich or Republican?” Jessie asked.

“If you mention Republicans, my mother will wash your mouth out with soap.”

Jessie folded her arms. “I’d like to see her try.”

When they arrived at the study, Scott opened a set of French doors and switched on the lights. Antique furniture filled the room, including a roll-top desk and a stuffed empire sofa. Several leather bound books rested on the polished mahogany bookshelves, along with a matched set of deep-blue Venetian vases, and a scattering of family photographs in ornate gold frames. A boxed out semi-circular window seat with a flowered cushion enhanced the alcove on the south wall.

“How do you like this room?” he asked.

“I love it.” Jessie nodded toward the alcove. “Let’s eat by the window.”

The two sat down, overlooking a sleepy row of houses along a tree-lined street below. In the distance, the faint glow of Cincinnati illuminated the evening clouds.

“As a kid, I would play in here, while mom worked at the desk.”

Jessie said, “I can see why you liked growing up here.”

“Yep, this little berg is crime-free and all the neighbors are friendly. We can even claim a celebrity singing group.”

“Who’s that?”

“Middletown is the birthplace of the McGuire Sisters. Remember Sincerely, or Sugartime, big hits back in the 1950s?”

Jessie shrugged. “Sorry.”

Scott said, “Well, they were pretty famous around here.”

Jessie perked up. “You’d like my town too. Venice is one huge beach, the Pacific Ocean, and babes in bikinis skating up and down the boardwalk, dodging a steady parade of local characters and tourists. I’ll bet you can’t find medical marijuana in your town at midnight.”

Scott smiled. “You can’t do anything in Middletown after ten p.m., they’ve rolled up the sidewalks and gone home.”

“Hey, how about giving me a tour of this place? I need to pee like a banshee after all that wine.”

“I’ll make a bathroom our first stop.”

Several rooms later, they returned to the study. From below, Scott could hear a steady stream of guests making loud inebriated farewells and the front door kept slamming. “Sound like the party is ending. My mother should be up soon.”

Jessie walked over to the bookcase and picked up a frame with a picture of a beautiful young woman holding a baby. “Is this you and your mom?”

Scott looked over her shoulder. “Yep, ever see a cuter baby?”

She picked up another. “And your high school graduation?”

“Right again. I’m the one wearing the cap and gown.”

Jessie moved on to the next photo…a soldier standing in a jungle clearing with his shirt off, wearing a red bandana around his neck, and surrounded by ten other young smiling Marines.

“Scott’s father was a Marine,” Christina announced, as she entered the room. “Sorry, it took me so long to clear out the place.”

“No problem, mother,” said Scott.

Christina turned to Jessica. “Has my son been boring you with our ancient history?”

Jessie placed her arm through Scott’s. “I find his life story utterly fascinating.”

Christina smirked. “Of course you do.”

Jessie handed the picture to Christina. “Mrs. Harold, your guy was quite the stud muffin.”

“I prefer to remember Lieutenant Scott Harold as a wonderful husband, soldier, and patriot–not a stud muffin.”

“Sorry, I meant no disrespect, but he’s awfully cute.”

Christina smiled but didn’t respond.

“How did he die?” Jessie asked.

“He was killed in a firefight somewhere near the Cambodian border, but not before saving the lives of three of his men. Scott, Sr. was only twenty-two at the time.” Christina put her hand to her mouth and turned partially away.

“You must be very proud,” Jessie said, “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.”

Christina sighed. “I am…but regret that Scott Jr. grew up without a father.”

“It had to be hard on you too.”

“We managed.” After a long awkward silence, Christina asked, “So…how did you two meet–Laundromat, bowling alley…brothel?”

Scott frowned. “You know how we met, mother.”

“Oh, Scott, I don’t really care. Lust is natural in a boy, of course, but girls today; with their loose morals and provocative manner of dress. No wonder there are so many unwanted children. I suppose you two will want to sleep together.”

Scott restrained Jessie.

“First of all, I am not sleeping with your son–and even if I were, it’s none of your damn business. Where do you get off making snap judgments of people? I’ve half-a-mind to…”

“I don’t doubt the half-a-mind part, but Scott is my only son and I want what’s best for him.”

Jessie said, “He can make his own decisions.”

Scott interrupted. “Can I say something about this?”

Both women turned and yelled at the same time, “No!”

Christina addressed Jessie again. “You may think I’m an overprotective mother, but I don’t want Scott to climb on the first cute bus that comes along.”

Jessie clenched her fists. “He hasn’t climbed on anything yet.”

“All right, that’s enough,” Scott said. “Mother, you are being very rude to Jessie, and although she can be hot headed at times…”

Jessie shoved him. “Who’s hot headed?”

“…as I was saying, even though her temper flairs occasionally, I love her.”

Jessie said, “Sweet,” to Scott, and then got up into Christina’s face and stuck out her jaw. “See, he loves me.”

Scott forced his way between the women. “You both are acting like children. I expect it from Jessie, but mom you’re the adult here. Now either you two make up, or we’re leaving right now.”

The ladies stood their ground. Scott started for the door.

Christina grabbed his arm. “No, don’t go, I haven’t seen you in weeks.” She paused. “I might have been a bit harsh…”

“You got that right,” Jessie replied.

“Jessie…” Scott warned.

Jessie nodded toward Christina. “I’ll play nice if she will.”

Christina composed herself. “I’m sorry I spoke so bluntly. How about we start over?”

“Please, Jessie,” said Scott.

Jessie went silent for a moment. “Oh, all right. What the hell.”

Christina smiled. “Splendid. Let’s go downstairs for a cup of tea. You can tell me all about yourself, and I can share some of Scott’s little quirks.”

“Quirks, mother?” Scott asked.

“Yes, dear, she’s entitled to all the facts.”

Scott observed in amazement as his mother and Jessie walked off, chatting away like old friends as if nothing had happened. “Don’t worry about me,” he shouted after them, but neither one looked back. Scott would never understand women. He shook his head, had second thoughts about the whole “meet the mom” idea, and then went off to bed–alone again.

*********************************************

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Theatre Review — Hamilton (National Tour)

Instructions: Read out loud in a “rap” style; white people pretend it’s a poem (except for EMINEM and Vanilla Ice). With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda…

Last night I took a trip to the Pantages, bought a ticket to a show; handed over half my wages

took a seat inside, excitement was contagious, as I flipped through my program’s pages

The lights went down, audience started to stir when out on the stage walked Aaron Burr

We listened closely as he started rappin, didn’t want to miss a thing, about what was happenin

then he introduced us to a native son, a man called Alexander Hamilton

From the Carribean, a bastard clear, daddy walked out, mama died holding him near

Had to escape, use his charms, in New York City, he heard the call to arms

Freedom was the cry from Laurens and Lafayette, joined by Burr and Mulligan, against the British threat

Washington with Hamilton by his side fought the bloody British and turned the tide

Born a new nation, like an infant it cried, as the founding fathers looked on with pride.

…and that was only Act One.

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The costumes were great, the set inspiring, the orchestra top notch, the dancers never tiring

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choreography on its toes, (who knows how they moved so gracefully in those heavy clothes)

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Too many actors to name them all by name, so I pick out a few who brought their A game

Rory O’Malley as King George always made us laugh…

Jordon Donica (Lafayette and Jefferson), tall as a giraffe, brought his characters to life with aplomb and panache…

Rubin Carbajal (John/Philip) got to die in Act One and Act Two, he played it so real we all got blue…

Joshua Henry (Aaron Burr) started the show, hero, and a villain, he rapped a different tune, then spent most of the show, envious of Hamilton and wanting to be “in the room”…

Isaiah Johnson (Washington), played frustrated but strong, defeated the British and became the father of our country where he belonged…

Ah, the ladies, Amber Iman (Peggy/Maria) and Solea Pfeiffer (Eliza Hamilton) brought sympathy, sophistication, and class, rapping with the best of them, and beat boxing with sass…

Finally, Michael Luwoye played with intensity/layers the star of the show, my recommendation? If you get a chance, I’d go…

***********************************************************************************

Richard Allan Jones is an actor, musician, and author from Los Angeles, California.

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Novel – DRAFTED – Chapter 15

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 The platoon gathered outside a ten-by-twelve wooden shack, far removed from any inhabited part of the base. The drill instructor held up a rubber gas mask with bug-eyed goggles, a pig’s snout containing two dense filters, and double straps that fit over your head. He explained how the mask protected us from enemy chemical warfare and that it did the Army no favors if we died or passed out and couldn’t fire at the bad guys. It made sense to me.

The training officer told us to put on our masks, and so adorned, we turned an alien army of insect men, waiting uneasily for our turn to test out the weird-looking apparatus. There was one rubber-sealed door to enter the windowless building, and another to exit. The first group of five soldiers entered, and about thirty seconds later came running out, one after the other, mask in hand, with crocodile tears streaming down their faces.

I swallowed hard after they called out Sam, Tex, Steve, Harry and I to go next. We pulled our mask straps tight to assure a firm seal, and then cautiously opened the door.

A single bare bulb in the ceiling and an illuminated exit sign hanging over the back door provided most of the light. The dirt floor hut stood empty except for a small wooden table in the corner that held a raised metal canister full of gas pellets with a burning six-inch candle underneath. Some smoke rose from the candle, but, for the most part, the air looked clear.

Sarge stood in the middle of the room, also wearing a mask. “I want each of you to take a deep breath.” We reluctantly did… and nothing happened. The darn things still worked, even though they were WW II surplus.

Sarge ordered Sam. “Take off your mask.” Sam glanced at us for support, closed his eyes, held his breath, and then removed his mask with his right hand. Sarge said, “Open your eyes and look at me.” Sam squinted, but his eyes still swelled up and the tears began to flow. “What’s your full name, Private?”

“Samuel L. Johnston, drill sergeant”

“Now say your serial number, slowly, so I can understand it.”

“267-00-9999, drill sergeant.” The tears ran like a river now.

Sarge waited another few seconds. “Okay, private, you’re dismissed.”

Sam ran like hell for the back door, bawling like a baby. Sarge followed the same process for Steve and Tex but held Harry and me until last.

Catching us by surprise, Sarge reached out and ripped off our masks before we closed our eyes or held our breath. Harry cried out, a huge mistake because he got a giant gulp of the gas when he inhaled. He started running around like a headless chicken, first bumping into the table, knocking over the candle and tear gas canister, and then ran full speed into Sarge, almost knocking him down.

Sarge grabbed Horowitz by the shoulders. “Stand still, you little shit. What’s your name?”

“You know my name,” bawled Harry.

“Say it, along with your serial number.”

“Harry Oliver Horowitz, 222-47-0000.”

“Next time you have a grenade in your hand, what are you going to do with it?”

“Stuff it down your shorts.”

“Get the hell out my sight, wimpy boy.” He pushed Horowitz out the exit door.

Exposed to the gas for too long, my eyes had almost swelled shut. A burning pain extended from the front of my eyes to the back of my brain. I couldn’t wait, so I yelled, “Eli J. Jones, 256-24-2488,” as I ran toward the door. But Sarge stepped in my way and blocked the exit.

“I’m not done with you yet. I’m sick and tired of your smart-ass remarks and your little fucking tricks. You think I don’t know who’s behind all these stunts?”

“Shoot me or move,” I said, choking.

Sarge took a swing at me. I ducked to the side and then ripped off his gas mask. When he put his hands to his face, I punched him in the stomach and threw my shoulder into his side knocking him off balance. I neatly stepped around him and out the door, not caring if he brought charges against me or not.

Sarge followed me out of the building, also coughing and crying from the gas. Before Sarge could say anything, the instructor came over, took one glance at my face and said, “You’ve been overexposed to tear gas. I’m sending you to the base hospital for treatment.” He then turned back to Wolinski. “Sergeant, I want a full report about this incident on my desk by tomorrow morning.”

“Yes sir,” said Sarge, still glaring at me hiding behind the instructor.

I smiled through the pain. Sarge had just provided me a way to see Nurse Sarah again-maybe not too well at first, but I didn’t care.

****

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Novel – DRAFTED – Chapter 14

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Our instructor today reminded me of Don Knotts, the nervous deputy on the Andy Griffin Show. “This is a grenade,” said Sgt. Don in a shaky voice. “With an effective killing radius of five-to-ten feet. To activate, you hold this handle down against the base of the grenade with your right hand and pull the ring attached to this pin with your left hand. Once the pin is pulled, the grenade is live, but will not explode until you release the handle, which will pop off and trigger the device. There are an additional twenty seconds before the grenade explodes.”

“You will be going into the grenade pits in groups of three–two trainees and one instructor. You are to lob the grenade over the wall in front of you as far as you can–then duck and cover your head. To throw the grenade, cock your arm like this, next to your ear, and then throw as you would a football. Steel helmets are to remain on at all times. Any questions?”

Horowitz raised his hand. “What happens if you’re left handed?”

Sgt. Don said, “Good question. Hold the grenade with your normal throwing hand in the center of your chest, like this, and then with the opposite hand, reach over and pull the pin.”

Horowitz raised his hand again. “Is the grenade heavy?”

“The grenade only weighs about nine ounces. Any other questions? No? Let’s begin.”

Sgt. Don then divided us into two-man teams. Just my luck, I got partnered with Harry. We entered the first throwing pit, consisting of a timber-lined, U-shaped bunker built into a hill of dirt. Harry stood on the left, and I stood on the right, facing the target. Sarge stood behind us supervising. I gave a short prayer that the instructions had sunk into Harry’s brain.

“Jones, you’re first.” Sarge handed me a grenade. I held the weapon close to my chest, pulled the pin, looked through the small observation window at the target and with my left hand gave the grenade a heave over the five-foot wall. The three of us crouched down, covered our heads, and a few seconds later there was a loud explosion.

“Horowitz, your turn.” We watched in horror as Harry pulled the pin and threw it over the wall, leaving the grenade still in his right hand.

“Private, listen to me,” said Sarge. “Whatever you do don’t release the handle. Do you understand?”

Horowitz whined. “I knew I’d fail. I can’t throw with my right hand.”

“Transfer the grenade to your left hand, but don’t let up the pressure on the handle or the grenade will arm itself.”

Harry carefully transferred the grenade to his left hand, but his sweaty hands slipped off the handle. The three of us followed the handle as it fell in slow motion to the ground.

“THROW THE GRENADE NOW,” yelled Sarge.

Harry panicked, jerked around, and tossed the grenade toward the target. His wobbly pitch almost cleared the top of the wall, but instead bounced backward and landed smack in the middle of the training grenades box sitting at Sarge’s feet.

“RUN,” yelled Sarge, pushing Harry and me out the back of the bunker.

You didn’t need to tell me twice. Pretty sure I broke the world dash record that day while dragging Harry. Sarge kept pace step-for-step. Instructor Don ran next to Sarge, waving his hands in the air, and screaming like a girl, “I don’t want to die.”

Sarge yelled to the men in the other grenade pits to lie on the ground against the wooden walls for protection. The rest of the platoon scattered, trying to run as far away as possible before Harry’s grenade exploded.

We flung ourselves to the ground and covered our heads when we heard the first blast. Immediately after, a second, louder detonation turned pit number one, where we had stood moments before, into a mini-mushroom cloud of dirt, which rained down on us for several seconds. Thank God these practice grenades didn’t contain shrapnel like the real ones, just small explosive charges.

“Jesus Christ, Horowitz,” Sarge erupted. “I’ve been through two wars and never met a soldier as incompetent as you. For the safety of the platoon, you should be shot.” I felt sorry for Harry, but silently agreed, and began checking to see if any vital body parts were missing while trying to make my ears to stop ringing.

Horowitz sat up, his glasses dangling from one ear, wearing the dazed look of a deer caught in the headlights. “What happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happen numb nuts,” said Sarge, in his charming style. “You almost maimed more people in twenty seconds than the Viet Cong does in a week.”

“Sorry, Sarge. I threw the grenade as hard as I could. I told you I’m left handed.”

Wolinski growled, “Get the hell out of my sight before I shoot you.”

Harry walked away with his head hung down to his chest.

Thank God, no one got hurt; even the guys in pit two had their hearing return after an hour. We never did see Instructor Don again. For all I know, he is still running with his hands over his ears. Thus ended the lesson.

****

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Novel – DRAFTED – Chapter 13

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Today was our first visit to Proficiency Park to test our level of physical fitness by attempting a series of timed tests with a required minimum score necessary to pass and graduate.

The sun was out, raising the temperature a bit, so we left our heavy winter coats behind, wearing only our fatigue shirt, pants, and boots with our long-sleeved one-piece woolen underwear underneath.

According to the entrance sign, Proficiency Park is where the true test is written in steel and blood. How odd…at Ohio State, we used pen and paper.

We unloaded from the transport trucks and gathered in an open meadow next to the park. Sam took his turn to lead us in our daily exercises. He stood on a small, four-by-four, raised platform in front of the platoon shouting instructions and demonstrating proper technique.

I’m not sure what Horowitz thought he was doing, but it didn’t look anything like jumping jacks. He couldn’t get his hands and legs together in the right place at the right time. When God passed out coordination, Harry must have been in some other line. It didn’t help that Sarge kept riding his ass, standing so close that on one of the up cycles, Horowitz accidentally slapped him. At first, I thought Wolinski would kill the little guy, but Sarge backed off and continued yelling at any other trainee who wasn’t doing it right.

After we finished warming up with our stretches, push-ups, and sit-ups, Sarge took us first to the run, dodge, and jump. The course consisted of two hurdles buried in the ground, followed by a four-foot wide ditch, then two more hurdles. The test allowed 21 seconds to run in and out of the first two hurdles, leap the ditch, run in and out of the next two hurdles, turn around and come back in the same manner. Not easy, especially if you happened to be short-legged or heavy-set, like Harry.

Harry tried but never could quite clear that ditch. Even with Sarge shouting at him every step of the way, Horowitz would launch off the edge and come down somewhere in the middle. Most of the time, he would stumble and fall flat on his face.

Next came the monkey bars, like the ones on the playground, except mounted more than seven feet in the air so even the tallest man could hang without his feet touching the ground. Each soldier had thirty seconds to complete as many bars as possible, easy enough to achieve the top score–if you managed to hang onto the cold bars, and if you possessed enough wing span to skip every other rung.

“Climb up the steps and put your right hand on the first bar,” ordered Sarge.

Steve, Harry, Sam and I climbed up into position, side-by-side, and waited for the signal to start.

“Sergeant Wolinski,” whined Horowitz.

“What is it now?”

“I can’t reach the bar.”

“Tex, give Horowitz a boost.” Tex with the help of another soldier lifted Harry up until he got a good grip on the bar.

Sarge yelled, “Ready, set, go,” and we took off swinging ape-style from bar to bar. The three of us reached the end simultaneously, but nearly lost it, when we flipped around and saw Horowitz hanging like a ripe apple still on the first bar, feet dangling and wailing, “Help!”

Next came the low crawl event held in a parallel series of four twenty-yard sandboxes. “First row down on your bellies,” instructed Sarge. “Stay close to the ground, and crawl, alligator-style, to the far end as fast as you can. Do not rise to your knees.” Not too hard to score well, but we dug sand out of our shorts for the next three days.

My favorite was the beast-of-burden test, racing 25 yards, carrying another man piggyback. Of course, Sarge assigned me the biggest, heaviest person in our platoon, but I still scored a time better than the minimum.

The final event in Proficiency Park was the mile run. To get a perfect score on this test required running four laps under six minutes on a quarter-mile track, in clunky army boots. The majority of the guys could run the mile in seven to nine minutes, while some took twelve minutes or more, and then afterward puked their guts out. Horowitz took so long his first try; Sarge gave up on him, loaded us back on the trucks, and we all went to lunch.

We had survived our first visit to Proficiency Park…and if you believed the entrance sign, in six more weeks, because of this wonderful training; there would be turned loose on the world another sixty ultimate fighting machines, ready to defend the constitution and the Playboy Playmate of the Month.

****

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Kindle.Paperback (2017)