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crAZRick
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Re: TWBM History

[ Edited ]
A little history (but no histrionics!) and some slight defense of my verbage for my epic novel The Trouble With Being Me:

When I wrote this novel in 1990, it was on a drunken dare; I was in college, followed my bigger, faster, stronger brother to the U of MN, and spent a fair share of my freshman year in a drunken stupor, making bets, taking dares, trying to get... uh, kissed... by sorority babes, etc etc...

we were watching Die Hard on video (back then DVDs were called Laser-discs and were the size of vinyl records from the 70s (who remembers vinyl??) and were only owned by the uber-rich or those collectors of memorobilia who also owned Beta VCRs!!! HA Beta!!) and it was my favorite movie of all time (still in the Top 20, I guess)

so, I said to myself out loud (I was drunk) 'I could write something like this!!'
and my bother of a brother and our drunk friends made it into a bet, to which no one could agree on the stakes, so it became just a dare instead... so, not only would I write Die Hard 2, I would star in it, and I would get my brother and all my doubful friends killed by the blood-thirsty terrorists in it!! YAY REVENGE!!

so, it was Winter 1990 at the University of Minnesota small campus in Morris MN, when I started crafting the epic Die Hard 2...

July 4, 1990 DIE HARD 2 hit theaters!! oh darn! so I changed the name of my classic sequel to the more spoofilicious DIE HARD TOO (forget Bruce Willis/John McClaine! I'm a Die Hard Too!)

well, it took a year, but I finished my first novel, and met the qualifications of the dare, didn't quite kill off everyone I planned, but it worked out well on paper just the same. My friends were impressed, my bigger faster stronger, less English-composition-minded brother was speechless (for a change!), and the sorority babes were lining up outside my dorm to be... kissed... by me, the grand master author of our day...

eventually, I dreamed of being published, and I figured Why write a whole new novel to be published when I had a perfectly decent First Novel already written, in Die Hard Too? of course, probably wouldn't get noticed had I submitted it with that spoofilicious title, so I brainstormed a new name.

I settled on The Trouble With Being Me, and pounded out a Prologue which outlined the overall troubles with being a guy like me. Then, I set about the chore of editing the work to better reflect the new title, and excises all of the many Die Hard references I had peppered the pages with to that point. During these editing sessions, I was struck once again with the inspiration to revisit this character; not only would I get this work published, but I would submit it with the grand designs of a SERIES of epic novels, each delving deeper into the soul of my epic hero and his nmany struggles to just be Himself! YES! it would be fantastic!!

over the next 3 or 4 years, I came up with ideas for no fewer than 5 follow-up stories in the series. Further, I developed a theme for each story that was supposed to drive the narrative... of course, having already written the first novel to completion, the theme of that installment didn't necessarily hold up. (this is the excuse I tell myself as to why this great grand epic story/series remains unpublished)

this is one reason why the story/prologue starts:

The Trouble With Being Me is... even though it ends up being improper grammar, altered-tenses, etc etc...

also, since I had the idea of a series, and since Book 1 was told as from the perspective of the Hero, in the present-day, I further decided to make the whole series as told via flashback mode, as told by the Hero on the eve of his retirement from Hero-dom. I imagined the Hero at a press-conference to announce his retirement from the Hero's Guild, and all the questions of Why? and How? and What could possibly be the so troubling that a hero would retire? so the Hero answers:

The Trouble With Being Me is... then goes into flashback mode, which dives into the past, told in present-tense, but told from the future...???!!! so, in my twisted way, I'm hinting at this from the first line of every story, even though the truth of the tale being flashback wouldn't be exposed until Book 6

The Trouble With Being Me is I was too boring...
The Trouble With Being Me is I was too shy...
The Trouble With Being Me is I never learned to ski...
The Trouble With Being Me is I was unloved...
The Trouble With Being Me is I was loved by all...
The Trouble With Being Me is I have nothing more to give...

since the last book was told from 'Present day' some day in the future, only the last First Line holds tense and makes sense grammatically.

well, it all made sense to me!!

any way, now it's nearly 20 years later, I submitted my epic first novel several dozen times and was soundly rejected (of course, re-reading it now, I understand why the first few chapters didn't GRAB the attention of agent agency types! but, hey, what about my 'great potential' folks!?? ya, what you learn in school really doesn't translate to the real world after all! great potential my ass!! :smileyhappy:

but, I'm not bitter... :smileywink: )

so, there you have it, the history behind the mystery of the greatest novel never published!!

for anyone keeping track, while I was working on the outline for the 6 stories in this series, it developed another head, and took the shape of 6 more stories set in a futuristic-Earth setting, starring a 'super-hero' which was a further adaptation of the Hero created in the TWBM series

so, 12 novels for the price of 1!! WOW!

of course, I never actually got around to writing the 11 follow-ups...

what was it someone said about 'great potential'??

there you have it, some history and some defense for my improper grammar on page 1, line 1 of my greatest epic...

the rest of the edits suggested so far have been taken under advisement!
thanks for the feedback folks!

Message Edited by crAZRick on 03-03-200706:10 AM

I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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couple of questions to AZ



crAZRick wrote:And that's the basis for my novel, now nearly 20 years in the making!!




Sometimes ideas germinating for a long time finally bear fruit and sometimes it leads to nothing. What do you think is the difference?

How will you nurture this? Do you want to complete it and if so why doesn't it happen?

ziki
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I have no....but what do you have?

AZ: I regret that I have no quote, quip nor anecdotes to give to my countrymen....
-------
bleep, can you think of some quote?
ziki :-)
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duet of the z's

zman wrote:Also, I have to ask the obvious question: is this story autobiographical? If so, is your name in real life “Rick?” If it is, I would suggest an alter ego in order to create a bit of distance between yourself and the protagonist. Take Hemingway for instance: his alter ego was Nick Adams. Having an alter ego gives you a force field in a way. It allows you to write about the most intimate and painful details of your life without directly incurring the the judgment of the outside world.

--------
I am not so sure about that, hemingway's life was torn into shreads many times over and you have just witnessed that anew last month on BNC.

either you settle on memoirs or you do whatever else...stylewise.

if you read something and have that feeling that you turn into an editor the writing is not good enough, at least not good enough for you. Instead of good enough I actually prefer to say complete= The writing is not yet completed.

ziki
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crAZRick
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Re: duet of the z's

[ Edited ]
this character is named Richard King, which is a sly combination of Stephen King and Richard Bachman, Stephen King's alter-ego (a man with ego so big he needs 2!!)

also sly in the fact that, yep sure my real first name is Rick (ie crAZRick.. I maybe crazy, I may be from AZ, I may be both, I'm definitely Rick, so I'm definitely crAZRick!)

so, it's doubly-tricky and twisted, but still a hyperbolic form of autobiographical fiction, and Rick King does a fine job standing in as my alter-ego, I think

what's in a name?
a rose is still a rose
a cigar is just a cigar
(unless your Monica Lewinski!)

I did change all the other names of characters mentioned in this novel, and the characters still read the same, so I don't really think the name of the character has anything to do with the connection you should make as a reader, whether or not you know that a character shares the same first name as the author... even given the fact that this is autobiographical-fiction... you wouldn't know that unless I told you so, but please do point out places that might require more exposition on my part, for taking what I know of 'myself' for granted while placing myself as the Hero in the story.

that's the kind of feedback I need back...

thanks!

Message Edited by crAZRick on 03-03-200706:57 AM

I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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crAZRick
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Re: couple of questions to AZ



ziki wrote:


crAZRick wrote:And that's the basis for my novel, now nearly 20 years in the making!!




Sometimes ideas germinating for a long time finally bear fruit and sometimes it leads to nothing. What do you think is the difference?

How will you nurture this? Do you want to complete it and if so why doesn't it happen?

ziki




there's plenty of fruit to be had from this little germ of an idea... as usual, I see great potential with this type of story, and with the characters here, so much so that I did complete 1 full-length novel. It is complete! whether it sees any more light of day than this book club is something else...

the 11 follow-up stories I have had ruminating as a result of this novel served a purpose at the time I came up with them; they kept me writing, fighting my Muse, even if I never fought a winning battle, in the form of another completed installment in the series of novels. The idea and concept is still solid, who knows what it might become! I have 'great potential'!!!

as stated, it's been nearly 20 years, I've had other ideas come along since then, but always somehow come back to this, my first novel, even tho it became Nothing, even it it remains Nothing, it's already more than Nothing just because it's my first, and it's complete, it stands on its own, but it also acts as the groundwork for at least 11 more stories that I know of!

so, I know there is fruit here, but at the same time, I am aware of the Nothing it has become... as far as 'completing' it, if I didn't want to complete this thing, tighten up the narrative, make sure the characters are as well-rounded and defined to The World as they were as the people I knew who I based the character/caricatures off, all the silly grammar and tense trickery, things I no longer see after reading and re-reading for 15 years... ya, would be nice to clean it up, have a fresh copy in the drawer for the next 20 years. At the same time, if all y'all want to sit thru and read it from start to finish, you could at least tell me it is a 'complete story' has a well-grounded beginning, fruits-a-plenty middle and exciting and satisfying self-contained conclusion, I'll post more, or send it to each of y'all in chapters rather than waste time and space posting to the club...

still, I would like to be published some day, just not necessarily this story

hope that answers some questions

as far as my Quote, I think a Quote about not having a Quote is as twisted and sly as any other Author's quote... that's just crazy!! that's just me!! I am crAZRick!
I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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Bonnie824
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Autobiographical writing

I found most (not a sports person) of these stories interesting, and often funny Rick. It seemed more like a newspaper/magazine column than a tied together novel a lot though. Your characters were real and likeable, but maybe not fictionalized enough. I know when I was younger and wrote more, I wrote the most when I was slightly depressed, drinking, lonely kind of state of mind. Very good for self growth, but not marketable. Depends why you write I guess. IMO if you want to write stuff other people will want to read/buy the "self growing" character would need to be funnier. Or have some real tragedy happen to him, not just growing pain insecure angst stuff.
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crAZRick
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Re: Autobiographical writing



Bonnie824 wrote:
I found most (not a sports person) of these stories interesting, and often funny Rick. It seemed more like a newspaper/magazine column than a tied together novel a lot though. Your characters were real and likeable, but maybe not fictionalized enough. I know when I was younger and wrote more, I wrote the most when I was slightly depressed, drinking, lonely kind of state of mind. Very good for self growth, but not marketable. Depends why you write I guess. IMO if you want to write stuff other people will want to read/buy the "self growing" character would need to be funnier. Or have some real tragedy happen to him, not just growing pain insecure angst stuff.





welcome back Bonnie!! thanks for daring to critique my stuff some more!! :smileyvery-happy:

I agree, many of the characters in this story are mere caricatures, cardboard cutouts, incomplete, not so well-rounded as they should be in a novel... I have thought about submitting this as some for of magazine serial, as it tends to read as such to me as well, and chapter-lengths are generally short enough and encapsulated well enough to suit that form of publication... hmmm.. maybe another round of rejection is in order?

I would appreciate more insight into ways to make writing like this marketable, as I thought the lead characters each have some level of comedic value, growth and traumatic experiences to deal with, maybe it's just too soon too tell after only 2 chapters?? seeing as how it's a novel and not a short story format, I tend to think that the growth should be spread out over the chapters, rather than the conflict and trauma crammed in chapter 1, and the next 20 chapters spent dealing with it.

but, in general, I agree as to why this is not marketable in its present state; it's just fluff, really. What I'm hoping for is a deeper level of insight and critique as to what can be done to something like this, to make it marketable.

no, that's not right... I don't really have hopes to 'fix this' novel. It was great for what it was, a first effort, but life has moved on. What I would do is take the advice given about strengthening characters, plot and other elements of this story and apply them to future efforts...

then, in perhaps 20 more years, after I accomplish my goal of seeing my name engraved in gold lettering on the front of my first published novel, maybe revisit this old clunker, the 'real First novel' I ever wrote..

thanks for all the feedback; I appreciate every word!

(now, get back to writing!!! :smileyhappy: )
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Brandi_R
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise



crAZRick wrote:
Standing in Rick's way during this quest to best his bigger, faster, stronger, wiser, braver brother:

-the man himself, Malcolm, high-school sports hero, football player, wrestler, cheerleader trophy-girl-of-the-week draped dreamily over one arm, letterman's jacket over the opposite shoulder if not wrapped round the girl's shoulders. Malcolm got all the glory, Rick wrote about it, living vicariously through his brother's exploits, but never truly living himself. Rick had to do something, and soon, or Forever be known as 'the Other Brother of Malcolm the Great'

-Rick's own self-doubt, and self-loathing. As much as he hated his big brother for being so great, over the years, he had come to accept his place as #2 Son, in most every way you could imagine, and had learned to think indifferent of himself, as so many others had already also thought. It's a coming-of-age story really, this man-against-himself ideal; had to be faced and conquered before Rick could truly grow beyond the shadow of his big brother

-the entire campus, who would surely rally around the legendary high-school super jock, now that he had moved on up to the collegiate level athletics and academics. How could Rick rise up against a whole new school of faculty and friends who would hoist Malcolm on their shoulders in victory, while trouncing and trampling Little Rick's dreams and hopes?

-the entire National Guard, and, undoubtedly, every other branch of the United States Armed Forces; surely, they had gathered and shared all the information of these two siblings amongst the chains-of-command up and down the ranks across the board, across the country, and around the world, everyone must know of the conflict, the epic struggle, the battle of wit and wills that was building between the brothers? If not, they surely would know soon, Rick determined!






This is an intriguing premise and one that certainly has potential. A young man following in his brother’s footsteps out of admiration and a desire to be better has some interesting emotional heft and a great deal of possibility for complex conflict. You might find you’re able to better focus on that conflict if you look for ways to funnel the obstacles into more specific moments or incidents. For instance, if you focus on three cheerleaders and their admiration and adoration of Malcolm rather than the entire school, you open the novel up to specific scenes. Perhaps one at a football game, where the girl of Rick’s affections has her eyes on the star player. Instead of the “entire National Guard,” you might focus on a particular superior who bolsters Malcolm’s career but not Rick’s.
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise


Brandi_R wrote:
This is an intriguing premise and one that certainly has potential. A young man following in his brother’s footsteps out of admiration and a desire to be better has some interesting emotional heft and a great deal of possibility for complex conflict. You might find you’re able to better focus on that conflict if you look for ways to funnel the obstacles into more specific moments or incidents. For instance, if you focus on three cheerleaders and their admiration and adoration of Malcolm rather than the entire school, you open the novel up to specific scenes. Perhaps one at a football game, where the girl of Rick’s affections has her eyes on the star player. Instead of the “entire National Guard,” you might focus on a particular superior who bolsters Malcolm’s career but not Rick’s.




Thanks for the feedback, Brandi!:smileyhappy:

I actually did follow most of the advice given in your response: there are specific moments or incidents captured in the days depicted in this story that bring out the conflict between the Hero and his many foils; specific females get a rise out of the Hero, and are detailed and dealt with; specific military superiors who, as suggested, tend to let Malcolm get away with murder while seeming to focus specific energy on torturing the Hero; and Malcolm himself is drawn out and detailed, eventually revealing his true-self... but, at the same time, much larger forces are also at work, encompassing the whole campus and eventually involving an entire local National Guard unit, which ties back into the Hero and his friends, including one specific female above all others.

It's nice to read some advice and feedback like this, and to know it's already been followed; maybe I did do a better job on my first novel than I give myself credit for!!

well, there are 2 full chapters posted here already, you can read and judge further for yourselves. If you like, I will post more chapters, or maybe just excerpts as they relate to exercises in this book club.

I value all feedback, and appreciate any time and effort y'all put into my fluff!

thanks a lot everyone!!
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

THREE

Camp Ripley, where all weekend-warriors from the Minnesota National Guard and Reserve units go to train-up on how to become killing machines. 4 or 5 times each year, the Morris, Minnesota unit--- Alpha Company, 1st of the 136th Infantry Division--- the Alpha Bearcats, made the 90-mile road trip to Camp Ripley. Usually, our stay at the ‘luxurious’ 10-foot x 20-foot, corrugated-aluminum huts which made up the so-called ‘civilized’ sector of the camp lasted all of 3 days. On a few special occasions, such as the Annual Training period in the Summer, the troops were given a special treat. We still spent 2 or 3 days in the cramped confines of the 6- to 8-men huts--- which were typically ‘modified’ to hold up to 15 troops simply by cramming in any number of extra bunk racks and mattress pads! In addition, during AT, we were given the bonus of 11 to 14 days or more in the glorious expanse of the vast Minnesota wilderness! Oh, joy! 95 degree days, 40-degree nights, cold, second-rate rations, very little sleep, not to mention the wildlife… All for what?

“Join the National Guard or Army Reserves now and earn up to $18,000 for college…” the recruiting ad offered. “And…” the ad continued, “Enlist now and you’ll receive this official USAR or USNG olive-drab, camouflaged baseball cap. Join the Army…Be all that you can be…”

I really wasn’t all that enthused by the idea at first; the college benefits were great, and the cap was totally cool, but I really wasn’t interested in learning 1,001 ways to kill a man like I’d seen in so many movies. Once again, I’ve got my bigger, faster, stronger brother to thank for setting me straight on the whole matter.

“Don’t be silly, Slick!!” he’d say. “Every good soldier knows there are only 997 ways to kill a man!!”

“Well, in that case, sign me up!!” I laughed. Next thing I knew, I was meeting with the recruiter. From all outward appearances, I suppose the recruiter was led to believe that it was his superior sales pitch that sealed the deal. In reality, it was much, much simpler than that. After carefully weighing my options, examining everything the Army had to offer from bonuses, promotions, and benefits, to the training and travel, and the overall environment geared toward establishing and building character in even the most melancholy and lifeless soul, I came to my decision:

“ I really want one of those caps!!” And, with that, I was in…

“Signed your life away, bro?!” Malcolm teased after the recruiter had gone.

“Maybe so,” I agreed with a smile, “but check out this CAP!” I flipped up the wide bill and cocked the cap to one side of my head, gawking goofily from beneath it and chanting. “Be alllll that you can be, in the A-a-a—aaarmy!”

I couldn’t have known that, about 3 years after that fateful day, Fate would again come around to collect on that debt! How could I have known that, following 2 summers of Basic Training and Advanced Individualized Training in which I specialized in Infantry, I would be attending my first Annual Training period with my National Guard unit?

Who could have guessed that I would have been granted a 4-day leave from AT in order to return to the U of M to complete final exams? And, what was I supposed to do, when, upon my return to the campus, I was thrust into the middle of some whacked-out terrorist incursion?! Fate really sucks, all things considered.

===============================================================

If I just hadn’t signed those papers 3 years ago, none of this would be happening… I would most likely still be leading my same boring life, with no friends, no girls, no skills, and no hope. I wouldn’t be dangling at the edge of a steel girder, 250 feet above a crowded gymnasium while 6 or more Communist terrorists waited below to blow my brains out! If I hadn’t once again been persuaded by the twisted machinations of my bigger, faster, stronger brother, my whole life would still have a simpler, safer, quieter tone… This whole nightmare can all be blamed on Malcolm! Malcolm… and girls…. And the National Guard. Great! Just **bleep**ing great!!

===============================================================

That’s what I should have said. “**bleep**ing great!!” or something like that. Not ‘Neato!” or ‘Swell!” Something with a little sass to it. “**bleep**ing great!” That was something Malcolm might have said, and he has had many an adventure with the opposite sex. I hardly ever curse, and I never score points with the babes… coincidence? I think not. Well, Katy was still on the line, and she sounded almost interested, if as nervous as I was. Maybe I could start talking dirty to her now, and REALLY win her over. Yeah, or scare her off, thinking I’m a freak stalker or something. I couldn’t let the conversation lag though; what to do? Luckily, or not, I had an expert on hand to guide me through the rigors of the romantic conversation.

“Malcolm!” I whispered harshly, cupping my hand over the mouthpiece so Katy couldn’t hear Malcolm’s prompts. Lazily, Malcolm looked up from the colorful theater ad, and I pondered aloud. “What do you think: Early or Late Show this weekend?!” Almost immediately, I picked up on Malcolm’s typical what’s-in-it-for-me expression, as he sassed.

“Well, I’m available any day, any time, Slickster…” he chuckled, “Just let me check with Beth… and, hook me up with the popcorn and **bleep**, since I’m lacking in funds and---“ Deftly, I picked up and flung a quarter at Malcolm, one of the few I had left lying around, for ‘utility expenses’ such as using my greedy brother’s phone, for personal business. Just as skillfully, Malcolm plucked the coin from the air, and flipped it between his fingers, suddenly whirring to life like a freshly-fed jukebox.

“Ohhhhhh, you must mean with your GIRLFRIEND!!” he roared with laughter, so loudly I’m sure Katy overheard, even as I shushed him angrily. “This weekend?! You’ve got a DATE for THIS weekend?!” he continued, as loud as ever. “And, with a GIRL, no less?!” I was certain I heard a giggle or two on the other end of the line, from Katy, who was obviously enjoying the radio-show she was presented with.

“For, you, I’d have to say, this weekend-date thing would definitely have to be a no-show, bro… ya know?” As Malcolm laughed at his pitiful play on words, the giggles from the other end of the line ceased abruptly, and I swallowed hard with a sudden, sickening realization.

There was obviously more than one thing that made me literally hate my big brother with a passion. Besides being a cocky, unfeeling, heartless bastard with little or no feelings for those lesser life-forms that made up the rest of the human race; besides the fact that he was Mister Olympic star-athlete and I was Mister Water-Boy; besides the way he greedily charged me at least 25-cents for even the most mundane assistance he would offer me throughout every day life, from driving me around campus to using the phone or the toilet in ‘his’ house; besides the annoying way he had defenses ready and arguments prepared for any discussion, and how his ideas were always right and everyone else was always wrong, no matter which side of the argument he took up, and even if he changed sides in mid-argument… Putting all of those quirks aside, the one thing that REALLY bothered me about Malcolm was that he usually WAS right about most things!!
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

“Dammit!” I cussed, realizing that this time was once again, no exception. So much had happened in the past few weeks that I had forgotten about the National Guard. The Annual Training period for the year was set to begin this weekend, and I couldn’t miss out on the opening days. Still, how could I go about not asking Katy out after all the trouble I didn’t have to go through to get a hold of her; I mean, I almost had to dial the phone number this time! Suddenly disheartened, I explained the troubling turn of events to Katy’s sympathetic ear, bracing for the inevitable let-down as she removed herself from the misery of my existence.

“What about Finals next week?” Katy chirped, unfazed by the broadcast of bad news.
“They’ve gotta let you out for Finals, don’t they? I mean, they are supporting and supplementing your education, after all…” I never thought I’d see the day when the mention of Final Exams would fill me with such bliss.

It must be love!! No other female would have considered giving a night of cramming during Finals Week to be seen in public with the likes of me! Yet, there she was, Katy Maclintock, and she was dying to make arrangements to go out with me!

“Unbelievable.” I gasped, awestruck by the simple solution, before rebounding brilliantly. “I mean, of course! Of course I’ll be coming back for finals… that’s what I was about to say, I can’t go this weekend, but I will have some time after finals next week, if you really want to go with me… my stupid brother was just being his stupid self. He’s just jealous of me, it’s always been like this…”

I flashed my best Malcolm-grin, and flicked my brother the bird, though he had failed to notice. As Malcolm once again turned his attention to the study of Logic, my attention turned to my schedule.

“My last final is on Tuesday, so how’s Tuesday night for you?” I offered.

“Perfect!” Katy giggled. And, it was set.

“One question…” I added gracefully. “Why is the sky blue?”

“Why?” Katy wondered with that familiar giggle.

“Tell you Tuesday…” and I hung up the phone, hoping to have piqued the princess’ curiosity. Now, I just had to come up with a punch-line by Tuesday! Tuesday, May 30th…

=================================================================

“It was a day that will live in infamy…”

In this case, the quote seemed to fit the situation quite appropriately; I don’t think anyone would easily forget the events of the frightfully long period of time of that evening in late-Spring. I’ll do my best to not allow anyone to forget for quite awhile, especially the guys at my National Guard unit! This little terrorist incursion must have attracted some attention by now. For one thing, there’s a radio station right on-campus! Someone must have gotten word out to the authorities!

Maybe this thing happened so fast that the whole campus was caught completely off-guard and unaware. Maybe these terrorists were part of a highly-trained, Communist intelligence squad, sent to the United States with one goal: To shut down the democratic government and pave the way for the total and complete Communization of the world! Of course!! It made perfect sense to me now, almost… By invading every college campus in the country systematically, the Commie pigs could destroy the economies of many major cities throughout the country. Who buys more fast-food, gas, clothing, alcohol, VCRs, videos, and video games than the average college student? In other words, who contributes more substantially, to a college town’s economic development than college students? Nobody! So, if you wipe out the colleges through direct and organized subversive strikes, you destroy the economy of the surrounding cities. Executed on a nation-wide scale, such terrorism would crush the economy of the entire nation! Mass hysteria would ensue, stocks would crash, madness, chaos and mayhem would reign! Perfect conditions for a Communist take-over!! Of Course! That had to be the reason for all of this!

There was, of course, a minor flaw in my theory about the terrorism: Though I am quite certain that, somewhere in Russia, men are trained for such high-level tasks as infiltration and espionage, something didn’t fit quite right. ‘Communist intelligence’? Sounds like a contradiction in terms to me, as it would to any red-blooded American, I’m sure! An oxymoron, and I wasn’t thinking of Matt Hess, or eve of my brother this time, either! No, there’s no way these creeps are Russkies; or, if they are Russians, they are a couple of very lucky Russians! Luck, I find, makes up for skill and intelligence in almost every case, on occasion. For example, it didn’t take any skill, and even less thoughtful consideration, on my part, to get into my current life-threatening situation. But, in order to survive this nightmare, I was going to have to rely on a exorbitant amount of luck, that’s for damn certain! Pardon my cursing; stress brings out the lecherous side of any man.

OK. I estimate I have one final chance to explore all my options before the all the lights are on and bright, and I am exposed for all the gymnasium to see, and I’m either pumped full of lead or squashed following a 400-foot header to the faux-parquet-tiled flooring of the basketball court below… or BOTH! Oh, Katy, if I cry out as I fall, would you at least attempt to catch me? Or, perhaps I could guide myself to land on top of Angela; that fat, hair bitch could soften the blow of at least 2 or 3 fallen forms! Of course, I would most likely be swallowed up and lost inside her throbbing, creamy crevasse , but…. EEEEwww!
No Way! I wouldn’t give Angela the satisfaction of engulfing this body between her ample thighs! Fat bitch! I’d rather fall 1,000 feet, into a river of molten lava, than to ask Angela Williams or any of her monkey-loving debutante dolls for assistance of any kind! Death is one thing, but owing my life to the Fat Hairy Bitches or any of their apish goon boy-toys is completely out of the question!! Never, no way, no how, no chance! Any way, since this may indeed be my last chance to reflect upon just how pitiful and pathetic my life had become, I should at least have the courtesy to wrap-up the flashback that led up to this final harrowing night, and my inevitable demise…


Softball season had ended, and the school year was soon to follow; Finals Week was about to begin, as was the Morris National Guard’s Annual Training period. Not to mention, the unforeseen unprovoked infiltration of the college campus by a group of Communist terrorist insurgents! And, unfortunately, an unknown college freshman and PFC in the National Guard--- yours truly!--- was stuck in the middle of it all! Looking back at the excitement which enveloped me, I was left to wonder: What did I do to deserve this? Did I ask for things to get exciting? Was I so completely out of ideas as to how to maintain the status-quo of my melancholy and hum-drum existence that something so completely extreme as the painful conclusion to the championship softball game, followed so closely by a terrorist siege had to happen?? Stupid Fate… There I was, not only plagued by the normal stress and anxiety of Finals Week, compounded by my softball injuries. In addition, there were the 6 Communist terrorists holding an entire gymnasium of frightened students hostage, while I dangled helplessly overhead. Over heads… over Hess…

Where was Matt any way? I could just make out faces and figures in the crowd now, as the majority of lights grew ever-brighter. I couldn’t be sure, but there were a few goofy-looking goons languishing below, and I could imagine one was Matt Hess, in all his ignorant-idiot glory. Hey Matt! I’d wave and say ‘Hello!’ but my hands are kinda full. Oh crap! No! Don’t look up here!! Don’t point, you stupid mother---

Fine!! At least my life had stopped being boring!!
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

Boredom sets in quickly in the National Guard. Beginning with the trip to Camp Ripley from the armory, the level of boredom increases exponentially as each day passes. I was one of the lucky ones; Malcolm and I would only be spending the first 2 days at the camp before returning to Morris for finals. Usually, that first weekend of AT is pretty slacked, with most of the time spent unloading gear and supplies, and setting up the sleeping quarters, arranging and rearranging bunks in the corrugated steel huts, to cram the most troops in the least amount of space possible.

The contonement area—a military term that meant ‘the place where young Guard troops will be allowed to have the most fun i.e. the place those troops will send the absolute least amount of time’— was the central gathering point for corralling the troops and the beginning and end of the Annual Training cycle. One weekend, usually the opening weekend, the entire Company would have a cook-out, barbecue-banquet-bash, complete with burgers, bratwurst sausage, buns and beer—plenty of beer.

Malcolm and I decided to stick around for the opening-weekend festivities. It wasn’t exactly our choice, to be honest. First Platoon Leader, Cadet James Sorenson, insisted that everyone show up for opening weekend inspection, simply for the sake of numbers. In the National Guard, much as in the real world, everything comes down to timing and scheduling, being in the right place at the right time to acquire the spoils of war. The training supplies for the entire AT period were divided and disseminated according to role-call accountability rosters; the more troops present and accounted for by the platoon leaders, the larger the allotment of supplies, including ammunition and ordinance, blanks, live rounds, grenades, radios, night-vision equipment, rations and medical and other incidentals.

Then, if any troops had to abandon training for any reason, that left more toys and food and supplies for the good Cadet to enjoy all for himself. So, Cadet Sorenson’s overall level of excitement and enjoyment over the course of the whole 2 week AT experience was directly dependent on the number of troops present at the opening inspection and disbursal of ordnance. The happy Cadet would beam brightly and cheer as the counts were made, and his stock of loot increased. He would hoot and holler and chant ‘Hoooo-yah!’ as the numbers increased into the double-digits, and neared 100… He was so cool and comical at the same time, I often had to laugh at his confident, cocky antics. So much like someone else I knew, but just different enough…

I liked Cadet Sorenson, he was a good kind of cocky, as opposed to Malcolm’s domineering, vicious attitude, so I was more than happy to do my part to keep his spirits up. If it led to him being easier on my fellow platoon-mates in my absence, all the better. Never know when it might come back around; when Cadet Sorenson might need a favor, or if I ever needed a favor myself, like some way out of serious hard-core military training… as in the case of this opening weekend…

The way it looked, I would avoid doing too much serious training anyway, considering my injuries. My left arm, which I had landed on and slid over when crossing between Home Plate and the catcher’s mitt, was severely scraped and bruised, with a slight fracture of the ulna. From the elbow to my fingertips, a thin plaster stabilizer cast encased my forearm. Above the cast, from elbow to shoulder, a thick wrap of gauze protected my bruised and slightly-dislocated appendage. The cloth bandage continued around my chest and back, wrapped tightly enough to restrict movement, and only just loose enough to permit slightly-labored breathing, to protect the few bruised and battered ribs I had also incurred. So much injury on such a sissy-girl body, who would have guessed such damage could occur during a game that was supposed to be just so much fun?!

The softball season was 2-weeks over, and the doctors had instructed that I not exert myself for at least 3 to 4 weeks, to allow my fracture time to reseal itself, and the bruising to fade. I didn’t see any reason to argue with the medical professionals, so I relaxed. Once I had made the date with Katy, and the excitement and adrenaline level rose within me, the trip to Camp Ripley became all the more bearable. 2 hours or more of sheer bliss easily made up for 2 days of utter boredom, especially considering how Katy and I would have all of Finals Weeks to get to know each other better, after our First Date on Tuesday. Malcolm had his finals on Monday, Thursday and Friday, so we wouldn’t be able to return to Camp Ripley until the following weekend. Oh, how I came to love Logic--- especially when its not me but Malcolm who has to study the crap!! It’s times like this when that worthless, unfeeling, obnoxious, cold-hearted, cocky piece of scum was actually an OK-dude in my book. Since he had the Camaro, and I was without wheels of my own, I was stuck in Morris until Malcolm was free to make the return trip. Woo hoo!! “Footloose and fancy free” I called my situation, until I needed to be somewhere urgently. Malcolm charged a flat fee---
25-cents a mile--- to ‘haul my ass around town’ as he so eloquently put it. So, at those times when I required transportation, to escape the dreadful boredom of the typical college afternoons or evenings, I called my situation desperate.’

========================================================================

Speaking of desperate situations, I could use Malcolm’s Camaro to escape THIS dreadful evening of terror and terrorism… if only I could get off this damnable girder!! And, speaking of Malcolm, where the Hell is that slick SOB?! I could definitely use his brotherly guidance and stupid sage advice right about now! I was glad he had not decided to follow my lead, plunging into the open air duct as boldly, bravely, blindly as I had. Still, he must have known I was in a bit of trouble by now! So, where was he?!

“Where’s King?” the stern-faced Officer Candidate barked from his post position in front of First Platoon.

“I’m right here, Cadet!” I spoke up from my place in the second squad of soldiers, bouncing up and down behind the first rank and file, waving my one good arm overhead frantically to get Sorenson’s attention.

“Not YOU, King…” the cadet huffed the usual retort whenever I volunteered myself in place of any one of my other brothers, “Where’s your brother? Where’s the Ghost?”

“He’s uhhhhmmm… “ I stuttered and stalled, hoping to come up with a good excuse. “Maybe he’s in the bathroo--- uhh, the latrine?!”

“The bath-latrine, huh?” Sorenson laughed, trying to maintain control as chuckles and giggles erupted throughout the 4 ranks of First Platoon troops. “well, Ghost 2: The Sequel, I suggest you go collect your brother and the rest of the Slacker Squad from the bath-latrine so we can get this day of training under way…”

“Okey-doke!” I cheered, stepping forward and bounding from the row of sharply formed soldiers. Before I could take 2 steps toward the restroom, Cadet Sorenson barked again harshly. “HALT, Private!” Although his voice was sharp and stern, as I turned, I noticed the curl of a slight, cocky smirk at the corners of his mouth, and I realized: Sorenson wasn’t angry… he just wanted to mess with me some more, to save face in front of his troops. Besides, Sorenson ALWAYS sounded gruff; he had a voice like coarse sand-paper, rough and deep and throaty, droning, but none too damaging when it came right down to it.

“Aren’t you forgetting something??” he snapped, stroking his brow suggestively with his fingertip, indicating the salute I’d forgotten to render before breaking formation.

“Oh…” I fooled. “Okie-dokey, SIR!” I roared, alerting the entire armory docking bay to my antics.

“Get the Hell outta here, Sequel!” Sorenson had to shout to be heard over the outburst of laughter from his troops. “Bring back the Ghost, and I might just let you slide this time…” Yeah sure! Even in my limited experience in the National Guard, I had learned early on that Cadet Sorenson never, NEVER let anyone slide! Still, I had a mission, and once again set out on a bee-line for the Men’s Room, hoping to find Malcolm, and to avoid any further harassment from the gung-ho cadet.

Ever since joining the Guard unit in Morris, I had been a constant source of amusement and entertainment for the non-commissioned officers—the corporals, sergeants, and first sergeants and such—as well as for the officer-types, including Cadet Sorenson and even the Company Commander, Captain John England. Malcolm had set the stage for my arrival, starting off on the wrong foot with everyone in the upper echelon of command, joining up with the Slacker Squad from Day One. Before I had even set foot on the grounds at the armory, I had once again been granted a reputation as the younger brother of my bigger, faster, stronger, lazier sibling. Malcolm’s impeccable ability to disappear along with his select group of cronies whenever there was the slightest real work to be done, earned him the nickname ‘Ghost’ as christened by Cadet Sorenson himself.

The entire unit latched on to the nickname soon enough, after Sorenson strategically placed a plastic clip-on Casper The Friendly Ghost figurine on the tip of the antenna on Malcolm’s Camaro. At the close of duty for the day, as everyone filed from the armory to watch Malcolm and the other Slackers squeal and race madly around the parking lot in a pointless bid to be the first ones off the lot, peals of laughter erupted from the bystanders. Malcolm hadn’t noticed Sorenson’s gift, and was cruising with usual reckless abandon, weaving amongst the rows of parked cars, Casper bobbing gingerly in the wind the whole time.

“Gotchya, Ghost!” Sorenson smiled, content with this small victory, knowing there would be greater things to come if he had his way…
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

Malcolm’s absence from such trivial duties as cleaning details at the end of each day of training rarely came to reflect negatively on his overall military-career standing. But, the antics of the Slacker Squad did have a mystical way of almost-always getting ME into trouble in one way or another! Most cases involved Malcolm over-sleeping the morning of the Guard drill, leading to our tardiness or absence from the morning role-call, and Cadet Sorenson’s sour attitude for the rest of the weekend. Though Malcolm was obviously to blame for our tardiness on most every occasion, the trickle-down theory of my childhood STILL managed to come into play into my adulthood, as I was singled out at the end of days for the menial manual labor tasks, while Malcolm and the Slackers fled and hid out.

“Here we go again…” I muttered, pushing open the door into the Mens’ Room. Before I even saw them, I knew I’d find Malcolm and the others close-by; something deep in my gut stirred the instant the door swayed open.

“I hope it’s not going to get too hot down there this year…” Justin was whining already, and the trip to Ripley had not even begun yet!

“This aint hot, Carlson!” Charley countered. “Want to see hot? Spend a Summer in Arizona with me and my cousins… THAT’s **bleep**ing HOT!”

“No, man…” Justin disagreed. “Arizona has ASU chicks, and ASU chicks are hot, so that would be so cool! HA! HA!”

This was the typical ‘bath-latrine’ humor of the Slacker Squad. When they weren’t concocting new and different ways to verbally thrash the Cadet or verbally or physically abuse each other in as playful a manner as possible, the troublesome trio would gather in the latrine, or just about anywhere else out of sight and out of mind of the A-Company cadre, and prattle on about the various mysteries of life. Most often, these sordid and assorted mysteries involved the female form, in one graphic and detailed guise or another. How they walk, how they talk, how she sits, stands or…

“Sucks! This **bleep** **bleep**ing sucks!!” Charley seethed, apparently caught up in some fantasy about college coeds and scorching desert sun. “I’m so damn bored!”

“Relax, Chuckles!” Justin smiled. “This week is bound to be a blast! Just you wait! Hey, King, where the hell are ya?!”

“Did somebody say BOARD?!” I recognized Malcolm’s bellow even before I saw him leap from one of the stalls behind Charley, as Charley studied his moping mug in the mirror across the room. A loud and violent -SMACK!- of wood across his shoulder blades sent Charley yelping and dancing in a fit of frantic-fake pain. The crack of the flimsy particle board slat reverberated loudly in the cramped tiled latrine, as laughter erupted from the terrorizing trio.

“Bastage…” Charley coughed, flushed with pain and embarrassment, while Malcolm hooted with glee behind him.

“Excellent **bleep**ing hit, King!” Justin Carlson howled, stepping up to Charley and whacking him heartily across the back with his open palm, and laughing as Charley cringed.

“Yeah…” Charley agreed, regaining his wind and shrugging Justin off. “Real slick!” These 3 troublemakers were always harassing and torturing each other, physically, verbally, or mentally, whenever I was out of the line of fire any way. Almost as if on cue, the trio turned to face me, and I somehow sensed Malcolm’s greeting even before his lips had formed the words.

“Slickster! What the **bleep**’s up, huh?” his words boomed off the dingy tiles, and his half-cocked smirk instantly told me that he knew as well as the others did exactly why I had wandered into the latrine at that particular moment.

“Yeah, Li’l fairy queen, whaddya want?!” Charley greeted, approaching me stiffly, squashing my camouflage-patterned soft cap atop my head.

“Are they in formation out there yet, Dick?!” Justin wondered with his usual flair, though he most likely already knew the answer to his question. He also knew my real first name, and my ‘preferred’ nickname, but he reveled in insulting me, for whatever twisted reason. Still, he was reaching to adjust my soft cap, smoothing the mashed and wrinkled edges, returning the cap once more to its full-military bearing; how considerate, how completely out of character… a moment later, Justin swiped the perfectly sculpted cap from my head and tossed it forcefully into the dome-lidded waste basket… how rude!!

Then, as I pulled the dome from atop the garbage can, to sift through the debris of paper towels, toilet paper and razors, Justin and Charley stepped up on either side of me, and hooked a hold of my belt loops. The twin terrors then hoisted me up and over, depositing me inside to over-sized barrel, and squashed the lid back over my head, before again exploding in uproarious laughter.

“Perfect fit!!” Carlson cackled. “Now, where’s that damn board, Chuck?!”

Oh crap!

The newest form of harassment and torture the guys had come up with involved beating each other across the back, arms and legs with pieces of wood; not REAL wood, used in construction of any kind, merely particle-board fragments, flimsy and prefabricated, hardly capable of causing any serious, long-term damage to any poor soul unlucky enough to be caught unaware on the receiving end of a good whack. Most times, the wood would make a hearty crack, and would splinter on impact, as the class-clowns of Alpha Company over-acted in such supreme splendor, to the shock and surprise of anyone who would witness the display and was uninitiated to the sweet science of the Slacker Squad shenanigans. Still, the affect of even a gentle wallop--- assuming that Justin Carlson was even capable of anything resembling gentleness--- against an aluminum side of the trash can, might just prove deafening to anyone unfortunate enough to be trapped beneath the domed lid.

=WHAA-A-A-A-A-A-C-C-C-C-L-L-L-L-O-O-O-O-O-N-N-N-G-G-G-G-G-G!!!=

“AUGH!”

While I was tucked safely out of sight and the others were laughing hysterically at my dilemma, the door to the latrine whooshed open violently and in stepped Cadet Sorenson.

“CARLSON! ANDREWS! KING! MOVE OUT!” he roared sternly, then backed out of the room. The silence of that moment was at least as deafening as the noise the moment before, and I took that moment to announce my presence.

“Uhhh, Cadet Sorenson’s looking for you guys…” I said, rising from under the dome, and shrugging it off my shoulders. “Oh, and thanks!” I smirked slyly, fishing my soft cap from the can and whacking it back to bearing across Carlson’s shoulder, before once again returning to full-uniform, donning the cap and turning away from the gang defiantly.

“Sorenson?! HA!” Justin joked, his somewhat staunch belly bucking into me as I passed and he laughed. “He probably wants me to drive that other **bleep**in’ deuce-n-a-half!” Carlson was 1 of the few registered assistant drivers for the 2.5-ton trucks assigned to the Morris armory, but, as per usual, he usually managed to ‘disappear’ whenever his services were required.

“Bull**bleep**!” Charley cried. “We went down on the Advanced Party last week! You won’t have to drive that **bleep**ing deuce!” The Advanced Party was assigned to make a pre-AT trek to Camp Ripley, to insure proper billeting assignments, rationing, and equipment appropriations had been made; it was a slack job, perfectly suited as some level of ‘pay-back’ as Sorenson would call it. Justin and Charley most likely volunteered themselves for such trivial duty, to avoid something more stressful or strenuous on campus--- like studying for finals or something! For Specialists, there sure wasn’t anything special about Justin Carlson or Charley Andrews!!
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

Both Carlson and Andrews were Specialists, E-4 in rank, same as Malcolm, one rank higher than myself. One would logically think that Spec-4s had gained some higher level of skill, some greater maturity, and should garner a larger degree of respect along with the rank. This, however, was not the case with Specialists Carlson, and Andrews. In fact, it was Malcolm’s initial friendship with the pair of Specialists that started his troubles with the NCOs. Justin was the original party animal at the Morris unit, so when Malcolm and Charley joined the unit, they immediately took a liking to him, and were almost as immediately branded the Slacker Squad by anyone in the upper-rankings of authority.

All of that was in the pre-Sorenson/pre-Ghost era, in the year when Malcolm himself was a new man at the unit, along with Charley, and the two of them could get away with most things just for being the newbies. Being another year older and more accustomed to the Guard-way of living and running things should have helped wear down the antics of the Slacker Squad, especially once the career-centered cadet transferred into command of Alpha Company, First Platoon, just before my arrival in the small college town. Instead, however, it seemed that the entire unit’s day-to-day operations were adjusted to accommodate the trio’s high-jinx. Month after month, during the opening formations, it was none-too-surprising to hear Cadet Sorenson ask,

“Squad leaders, who’s missing?” and to hear all 4 squad leaders, as well as most of the rest of First Platoon, respond in unison.

“Carlson, Andrews, and King…” while Cadet Sorenson shook his head in disbelief. Every month, the follow-up question, “Squad leaders, where are your men?!” would most likely be followed-up by a blank stare, a shrug and a grunt of humiliation and embarrassment from second-squad leader, and baby-sitter to all 3 slackers, Sergeant Jesse Graham! 20 minutes later, after Sgt. Graham had been taken aside and sternly dealt with by Cadet Sorenson for not keeping better control over the men in his squad, who should appear but Carlson, Andrews, and King, grinning, laughing and always ready with a well-thought-out excuse for their whereabouts. In response, the ‘re-educated’ Sgt. Graham would threaten his tardy troops verbally.

“Well, boys…” he’d huff with a sly smug glare, “When the rest of us have finished training tonight, the 3 of you are going to be hard at it! I guaran-**bleep**ing-tee it! I’ll burn the slack-and-sluff **bleep** out of you boys yet!”

Then, at day’s end, when the good Sergeant looked for the troublesome trio to complete the days menial labors, of course, they were nowhere to be found. The troubles of one day would melt away and blend in with those from days gone by, and nothing in the way of serious punishment ever came to befall Carlson, Andrews, or King.

Only one man kept a constant tally of ‘dues owed’ by the troublesome troops. Cadet James Sorenson knew it all, and kept meticulous written records— as meticulous as you can get in a 3x5 inch notepad. No matter the infraction or degree of insubordination, Sorenson documented EVERYTHING, in one of several thick notepads which he kept close at hand at all times. Before his tour was done, Sorenson would see to it that all those debts were paid in full… I guaran-**bleep**ing-tee it!

From simple monthly comments such as ‘I’m watching you, King’ or ‘That’s 1 you owe me, Carlson’ or ‘a bit late again today, are we gentlemen?’ to simple, silent jots in his notebooks, Cadet Sorenson let everyone know that their minor lapses in judgment had not gone totally unnoticed. Normally, the Cadet’s warnings and notes went unheeded by the more prominent rough-housers; but, Sorenson’s patience, as well as his supply of note paper, was wearing thin. If Cadet Sorenson had his way, pay-backs would begin soon… very soon!

As soon as I arrived at the Morris National Guard Armory, I immediately fell in with the Slacker Squad; once again, I found myself drawn into the shadow of my bigger, faster, stronger brother. Malcolm was the only person I knew at the unit, so I decided to make an effort to make his friends my friends, or have no friends at all… which may have proven to be the better of the two options, in hindsight. So, I would make friends with Malcolm’s friends, even if it killed me!

I knew quite well that Malcolm and I were 2 entirely unique and different individuals, in almost every way; and therefore, his friends would most likely be hell-raising hooligans with a similar slant on life as him, as opposed to the quiet, introspective genius that was me. But, as I was a stranger in a strange land, I had no choice but to latch on to any connection I could; besides, I had ALWAYS been the good kid growing up, and this was the ‘college years’ time for me to raise a little Hell! It would be nice to leave people guessing about me and my motives and intentions; surely they could see the naïve and innocent wanna-be on the surface, but hopefully some of the Slacker Skills would rub off on me and make me all the more an enigma. Once again, my big brother’s ideals would warp my mind and lead me astray, forcing me into the middle of a confrontation between the trouble-making threesome and the gung-ho cadet.

“Come on guys!” I begged, stepping toward the Men’s Room door. “Cadet Sorenson’s really pissed this time!” Carlson responded with a long, drawn-out guttural belch, and Charley laughed. It took my brother’s witty insight to set me straight, as only Malcolm could.

“Get a **bleep**in’ life Slick, huh?!” Again with the cursing… how rude!!
“They aint going anywhere without us, so just relax, huh?” That last little arrogant ‘huh?’ always stung me more than any of the other drivel Malcolm might spout. Most of the rest I just tuned out as a jumble of cursing, babbling gibberish, but that selfish, defiant, know-it-all twang when he spewed his closing ‘huh?!’ always made me feel my lowest. ‘What’s your **bleep**in’ problem, huh?’ or ‘who the Hell do you think you are, huh?’ No matter what ungodly obscenities preceded it, that unanswerable, rhetorical ‘huh’ always held me in check.

“Time check!” Malcolm asked, punching through the silence he had rendered in me a mere moment after he had hushed me with his ‘huh?!’ He was always into those sorts of mind games too; just get you swayed into a lull of one line of thinking, when he’d totally shift gears and blast away with the other barrel, or from the complete opposing viewpoint of the argument. He was a master at manipulation, and I hated that in him. Almost as much as I hated my poor pathetic self.

“0849…” I droned after a quick check of my wrist watch, adding, “That’s about 10 minutes to 9, to you slacker civilian types…” my slight went unnoticed, and I was curious about the sudden silence from the usually boisterous boys. Perplexed, I turned back to them as they stood, locked in a perpetual triangle of blank stares, transfixed, almost…afraid? A second glance at my wristwatch and a moment of quick thought sent my mind to the same plane of existence, if on some lowly Private First Class Level, as the others, when we realized just how late we were. A quick recap of the daily training schedule we’d each received with our monthly mailer reminder of the guard drill and AT training dates set us all straight:

0800: OPENING FORMATION
0815-0840: FINAL BRIEFING PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
0845 SHARP: DEPARTURE TO CAMP RIPLEY

“Oh, great!” I muttered, following hurriedly as the others scrambled past me, bolting for the door. “Late again…”

“Yeah, but,” Charley Andrews began his regular-as-clockwork excuse, “it wasn’t our fault!” Nothing these guys did was ever their fault, according to them! Somehow, I didn’t think Cadet Sorenson would buy it this time though. Pay-backs are a bitch, and the bitch’s name in James Sorenson! Actually, the bitch was named Angela, but her boyfriend was the squad leader under Cadet Sorenson, so in a weird way, it’s all connected…
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

“Sorenson, HA!” Carlson cracked again as he emerged from the latrine. “Let me at ‘im!” He began dancing and shadow-boxing in raucous reverie, rights and lefts, jabs and hooks, ducking and dodging, to the delight of… nobody! No one remained in the armory docking bay as we, the Slacker Squad of Alpha Company stepped forward to once again face the music, and atone for our delinquency.

“What the---“ Charley choked. “I guess we’re off the hook! They all left already! Woo Hoo!”

“Uhhh…” I paused, pointing across the bay toward the entry corridor to the offices of the armory. Following my finger dumbfounded, the others could do little else but sigh and whimper in unison, as their gazes met with the straight-faced stern scowl that was Cadet Sorenson’s game-face. Sorenson simply stared back, the showdown at the AT Corral, as he scrawled in his notepad without shifting his gaze from our hapless hopeless crew. Not flinching an inch from his glare, not pausing a moment to check his spelling or dot his ‘I’s or cross his ‘T’s Sorenson suddenly summoned us in turn.

“King, King, Andrews and Carlson… you’ve got exactly 2 hours to get your butts to the contonement area at Camp Ripley… 2 hours, or your asses are all mine!! DISMISSED!!”

We knew we had 2 hours to make the 90 mile drive to Ripley, but Cadet Sorenson often felt it necessary to restate the obvious to the Slacker Squad, if for no other reason than to hear himself talk. Of course, following Sorenson’s angry exit from the armory, Justin Carlson took a few moments to mock the hard-core cadet, compounding the strict, stern senior officer’s attitude with attitude of his own.

“Oh yeah, Sore-Nut-Sack?!” the gagster Guardsman guffawed, suddenly acquiring a strong Hispanic accent. “Weeeel, man, I say, yo esai… we ain’ no stupido gringos! We gots ourselves a Z-28 homes… -VARROOOOM!” Justin took off, behind the wheel of his Imagimaro-28, zooming and careening wildly around the loading dock, squealing and squawking maniacally.

“CARLSON! DISMISSED!!” the thunderous command shook the empty room to the rafters, and the shocked Specialist blushed brightly, and ceased his antics. An unexpected expulsion of laughter from behind him flashed Justin’s flushed face from embarrassment to anger as he turned to face only Malcolm, myself, and a stout-chested Specialist Andrews as Charley roared once again. “I said DISMISSED, Carlson! Dammit!!”

“Very funny, **bleep**er!” Carlson sighed, slugging Charley in the shoulder, wiping away the flush from his cheeks.

“Watch it, jerk-off!” Charley danced away from the slugs, then dove back toward Justin, clutching Carlson’s bare forearm in his 2 hands gruffly. “This is a little trick I learned from my cousin…SNAKE-BITE!” he twisted his hands back and forth rapidly against the flesh of Justin’s forearm, searing the skin slightly in the pinch-and-twist, leaving the area red and raw and tingling with slight pain. Justin howled in overly-exaggerated anger and torturous pain, collapsing to the floor writhing, as the rest of us looked on, in hysterics. Charley dug into the deep cargo pocket of his combat-fatigue pants, and pulled out a crusty, dry brownish pod of some sort, and began dancing and shaking the thing maniacally, hissing and hooting the whole time.

When Justin recovered, he stormed to Charley angrily, clutching Charley’s wrist in his grip.

“Watch out!” Charley warned, still shaking the tiny pod, which clicked and clacked with each shuffle of his wrist. “This rattlesnake’s about to strike! -Hisssssssssss!-”

“Don’t piss yourself, worm!” Justin shoved Charley away playfully. “And you can shove that rattle up your ass!”

“Hey now!” Charley calmed himself, still shaking the rattle vigorously. “This is a genuine rattlesnake rattle from a diamondback rattler I wrangled with my own 2 hands a few years ago at my cousin’s…”

“Whatever!” Carlson huffed. “It is kinda cool though, fool…”

“Let’s go, King.” Charley laughed, taking off in a half-trot across the parking lot while Justin playfully pummeled him repeatedly about the head and neck. And finally, we were off…

For a quick moment, I thought we were actually going to make it to Camp Ripley on time to take our punishment and get down to some serious barbecuing. Then, I made the mistake of asking the question.

“So, we’re actually going to get to Ripley on time this time?”

“Oh, Hell yeah!” Malcolm promised, revving the engine of the Camaro as the other slackers took their seats. “In fact, we have enough time for a quick Nintendo break!”

“YAAHOOOO!!” Carlson cheered, drowning out my protests while Malcolm rocketed the Z-28 from the parking lot. Yeah, Yahoo! There was no such thing as ‘a quick Nintendo break’--- or a quick anything--- where the Slacker Squad was concerned. So, we headed back to our off-campus home for what would be the beginning of the end, or, more accurately, the end of the beginning, of a very long weekend.

35 minutes later, we began to pack the Camaro with our gear: duffel bags, backpacks, utility belts, and personal bags, when Slacker Squad Delay Tactic #357 took affect.

“Hey!” Charley realized. “How the flying **bleep** are we going to remember whose **bleep**ing ruck is whose?” He did have a point; each of our OD-green duffel bags was marked in black stencil with our names, social security numbers and unit marker, but the 4 rucksack backpacks were unmarked and looked identical. A simple solution would be to open them upon arrival at Ripley and deduce from the contents inside whose was whose. But of course, these were the Slackers I was dealing with , so nothing was ever quite that simple.

“Check this out!” Charley cheered, once again fishing the rattlesnake rattle from his pocket. Deftly, he lashed the rattle to the drawstring of his rucksack, and left it to dangle, before stuffing his pack into the trunk.

“Ahhh…” Malcolm saw the logic in this action, and stepped around the Camaro, snapping off the Casper figurine that he had always wanted to remove from his car, his chariot, but never actually got around to until now. He clipped the figure to the front of his rucksack, and turned to me.

“That just leaves you 2 losers…”

“Hey! I don’t want to touch Dick’s **bleep**!” Carlson sassed. “Gimme something to tie to mine!”

“I got it covered, Carlson.” I realized, revealing the empty tin ball-and-bat key-chain I always carried with me, for luck, since the dreadful day on the softball diamond. I clipped the chain to my rucksack strap, and we completed the loading of our gear in the compact Camaro trunk.

Only then did we find that there wasn’t enough room in the small car for the 4 of us and our gear, as the full effect of Slacker Squad Delay Tactic #357 took hold! 10 minutes of thoughtful discussion over the merits of leaving the gear behind and heading to Ripley with just the clothes on our backs vs taking 2 vehicles, then reloading half the gear into Charley’s station wagon, and again, finally, we were off! Following a ‘quick pit stop’ we were only about 1 hour and 10 minutes behind the rest of Alpha Company.

Needless to say, Cadet Sorenson was more than a little upset by our tardiness.

“A little late again, hey boys?” he checked his watch and flipped open his notepad with a single quick flick of his wrist.

“Yeah, but, it wasn’t our fault!” Charley pleaded. Carlson chimed in, as usual, adding to the myth and the legend that would become Slacker Squad Story #897.

“Well, you know about those escapees from Sauke Center?” even though the cadet stared back at them, straight-faced and stone-cold sober, unwavering, the guys continued.

“Well, we ran into them at 7-11, when Dick had to piss… and they wanted a ride out of town. We declined, of course, because it would make us late for AT, so they chased us. We ran around all the back-roads and hick towns, all over Hell…” The story grew to epic proportions as Justin and Charley seemed to get lost in the heaping steaming pile of their own insanity, all over some half-cooked tale about bandits or crazed killers who were stalking us from the mental asylum, until Malcolm miraculously lost them…

“…and THAT’s why we’re so late!”

“Oh, and Slick…” Malcolm interjected, almost as a side-note, including me as a part of the whole scheme. “All that extra chasing around is going to cost you! An even hundred should cover it!” I should have spoken up right then and there, blown the whole crazy story completely out of the water, but I didn’t think I would have to…

“Come on, Carlson…” Sorenson couldn’t help but laugh, “You guys met up with escapees from Sauke? That part I might believe. But, why would you malcontents run away from a group like that, psychotic as they may be? Seems to me they’d fit right in with the rest of you, Carlson, Andrews, King… and Li’l King!” Crap! He noticed me! Thanks again, Bro!

It was amazing how, even when cornered and caught completely, Malcolm, Justin and Charley were able to band together, to concoct such wildly diverse tales of misery, mayhem and adventure, with little or no predetermined collaboration. Using the flimsiest bits of the truth, the wizards of words would create wonderful works of fiction to explain away their every misguided error in judgment. True, we had heard a tiny snippet of a news story on the radio, concerning a group of apparent escape mental patients from the Sauke Center Regional Correctional Facility, but those reports were very vague. In fact, the first news of the event we’d even heard at all came to us as Malcolm changed cassettes, and the web of lies began to weave itself.

“…details are sketchy at this hour…” the report blared between the guttural moans of Aerosmith and the wretched upheavals of Tesla, “But, we can tell you this… Earlier in the week, reports of an escape attempt were released from the Sauke Center facility. Reports claimed that as many as 16 inmates of the facility were unaccounted for. By Wednesday, we had confirmed reports of at least 12 patients who remained unaccounted for, following a lock-down and subsequent manhunt… K-Q News will keep you informed of the details as the manhunt continues… Hate groups and teenagers, the subject of an in-depth probe for the 10 o’clock hour… In Sports news, rumors of trade talks swirl around Minnesota Twins, as maybe pitching ace Frank Viola AND center fielder Kirby Puckett are on the block—“
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Brandi_R
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise



crAZRick wrote:
Thanks for the feedback, Brandi!:smileyhappy:

I actually did follow most of the advice given in your response: there are specific moments or incidents captured in the days depicted in this story that bring out the conflict between the Hero and his many foils; specific females get a rise out of the Hero, and are detailed and dealt with; specific military superiors who, as suggested, tend to let Malcolm get away with murder while seeming to focus specific energy on torturing the Hero; and Malcolm himself is drawn out and detailed, eventually revealing his true-self... but, at the same time, much larger forces are also at work, encompassing the whole campus and eventually involving an entire local National Guard unit, which ties back into the Hero and his friends, including one specific female above all others.

It's nice to read some advice and feedback like this, and to know it's already been followed; maybe I did do a better job on my first novel than I give myself credit for!!

well, there are 2 full chapters posted here already, you can read and judge further for yourselves. If you like, I will post more chapters, or maybe just excerpts as they relate to exercises in this book club.

I value all feedback, and appreciate any time and effort y'all put into my fluff!

thanks a lot everyone!!




This discussion makes me think of Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In it, McMurphy finds himself in a psychiatric unit and he rabble-rouses in a way that really gets to Nurse Ratched. The very focused power struggle between these two characters says something larger about the hospital environment, and even the way such patients are treated. The more we want to capture the larger, universal issues, the more we must dig into the particular and individual.

Sounds like you’re well on your way!
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise



Brandi_R wrote:

This discussion makes me think of Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In it, McMurphy finds himself in a psychiatric unit and he rabble-rouses in a way that really gets to Nurse Ratched. The very focused power struggle between these two characters says something larger about the hospital environment, and even the way such patients are treated. The more we want to capture the larger, universal issues, the more we must dig into the particular and individual.

Sounds like you’re well on your way!





I guess how far on my way to capturing universal issues by digging in and dissecting the actions of a few individuals would be up to my readers to decide.

I'm not sure this story really tries to be so involved or heavy in that way.

that's why I call if 'fluff'

that's also probably a reason why it fails to draw much in the way of critique or responses, also why it has yet to be published...

it's all connected, I suppose
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

FOUR

“Carlson! Andrews! Report to the Mess Hall immediately for KP!!” Cadet Sorenson ordered before turning his attention to Malcolm and me. “As for you two, Ghost and Sequel…” I didn’t exactly like the evil glint in Sorenson’s eye, or the cocky smirk that crossed his face; in that moment, he reminded me of someone else whose omnipresent arrogance riled me on a daily basis--- Malcolm! That evil glare always only meant one thing: Trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with P, and that stands for PT. In this case, Cadet Sorenson had arranged an interesting and challenging format of strenuous physical training, at least for 2 of the Slacker Squad. Specifically, Sorenson’s orders sounded something like this:

“OK Kings… Let me see you low-crawl!” I was still a newbie in the unit, and pretty wet-behind-the-ears when it came to dealing with the high-ranking officials, but even I could not believe that Cadet Sorenson would force me to low-crawl in my seriously-injured state.

“But, what about my arm, Sir?” I held up the plaster-casted appendage without thinking, demonstrating my mobility with no indication of pain. “And my ribs?” I lowered my arm and began wincing and moaning, about 30 seconds too late…

“What about them, Sequel?!” Sorenson grunted, smirking still. Casually, and now fully immersed in my mock-pain antics, I explained the injuries, hoping the conversation would crack that smirk and weaken the cadet’s resolve to torture us Slackers. For a moment, I saw a glimmer of hope…

“You got hurt THIS bad, during a softball game?!” Sorenson sobered up with concern, and I nodded pitifully, playing on his weakness, a skill I had learned over the years, from watching Malcolm. “But, you LOST the game?” Again, I nodded, and shrugged slightly.

Sorenson half-frowned, then flashed that damnable devilish smirk, pointing to the ground, and growling. “You lose again! Get on down!!”

“But…” I protested to deaf ears, cringing as I dropped to my knees.

“Just get as low as you can then, Sequel…” Cadet caved in.


So, there I was, all assholes-and-elbows, on the ground, ready to be put the rigors of a vicious and vile, cruel low-crawl race against my bigger, faster, stronger brother. Only then did it REALLY set in that I didn’t do anything wrong!! I was just a pawn in all this, along for the ride, on my brothers coat-tails, and lost in his shadow, as always! Carlson and Andrews were the real culprits, and they had gotten off easy. KP duty! BAH! Those 2 idiots practically volunteer for KP every month, it’s a non-job!! The only other person involved in all this was Malcolm… what about him? Where the Hell was Malcolm?!

==========================================================================

“…if he’s gone and left me hanging like this, I’ll kill him!!” I thought, seeing more than feeling my weaker, heavier left arm slip from the girder once more. The thickly-wrapped limb hung like dead weight from its socket, all sense of feeling sapped from the strain and intensity of my situation. With the heat, the fall, the hostages and the terrorists all bombarding my mind and my body, I couldn’t be sure how long my right arm would hold out either!! Almost directly below me, the ‘EXIT’ door was clearly marked. In fact, there were 4 exits, 2 on either end of the gym. But, in order to reach the doors, I would have to chance the fall, and survive without shattering my legs or hips. OK, so maybe it wasn’t exactly 300 feet—it was only probably around 30 feet at most—but still…

There had to be another way. I just had to find it before the terrorist scum-sucking bastages found me! All the lights were on now, and rapidly warming up, I noticed. Soon, their filaments would be hot enough to completely illuminate the entire room. I would be spotted for sure! A 30-foot fall and a 10-foot sprint to freedom. 10-foot crawl more than likely. 30 feet down, 10 feet back… Using Algebra, I could determine the shortest distance between myself and the EXIT door. Unfortunately, that distance turned out to be even more than the 30-feet straight free-fall; if I swung myself backwards with just enough momentum, AND if I released my hold on the beam at just the right moment, AND if I fell backwards at just the proper angle, I would land like a butterfly against the door and fall through it, performing the most perfectly acrobatic combat-roll and recovering, racing to freedom. a-squared + b-squared =c-squared... 10 squared + 30 squared =c-squared... 100 + 900=c-squared... c-squared=1000... So, the square root of 1000 feet, something like a 31.6227766…. foot fall, if everything went exactly perfect, and I would be free!

And They say you never use Algebra again in real life!!

Of course, if I swung too hard or released too late, I’d slam into the wall before collapsing to the floor; and too little momentum or if I released too early would leave me with that much farther to crawl, limp or sprint to the EXIT if I survived the fall. In any case, falling 30 feet, 100 feet, or 31.6227… feet didn’t really sit too well with me at all, no matter how it all worked out Alegebraically! If only there was some other way! If only… my gaze drifted back to the red-glow of the EXIT sign which protruded on a brace from the wall just over the door. The sign was losing its glow as the room slowly brightened around it, though, to me, the chill in the air seemed to increase, and I grew numb.

Oh God! Why is this happening to me?! Why---

=========================================================================

“ME?!” Malcolm spoke up from behind the Cadet. “You’re looking for me, Sir?”

“Well, Ghost…” Sorenson snorted. “Tell you what I’m going to do…” His idea was simple; sine this was the slacked opening weekend, a time of joyous reverie, he would give us Slackers a break, while enjoying some fun in the sun for him and the rest of the troops. His ingenious plan of our execution involved the low-crawl race, between 2 of the steel-huts, between Malcolm and I. The winner, Sorenson concluded, would be off the hook for the remainder of the weekend before training really started, and before Malcolm and I had to return to Morris. And the loser?

“You and I will become very close this weekend, Sequel…” Sorenson’s prediction stung me, and again I cringed, not-so-much faking that time.

“Oh great…” my sigh was drowned out by raucous laughter from my friends and fellow Guard troops who had gathered to watch the spectacle of my defeat. Malcolm had already assumed a good low-crawl position upon hearing the award; he was revved up and ready to once again strut his stuff as the King of All Things Athletic, and there I was, staring down the gap 2 huts away, wishing at that moment I had stayed back in Morris… the circular irony of this whole twisted affair really preys on the weak mind, don’t it? Then, there’s the whole idea that the low-crawl race was a study in absurdity in and of itself ; the low-crawl was designed as a safe and effective means to avoid enemy detection, while advancing your position in enemy territory. Used most effectively by snipers and other special forces units, the low-crawl was meant to be undertaken at a snail’s pace, so as to not attract attention to the crawler, until he achieved the objective and found the perfect close-quarters assault point. The whole idea of a low-crawl RACE was absurd, to me from just about every angle!
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Re: crAZRick, Plot -- Writing Exercise

Fortunately, before my head could explode from dire thoughts of the Hell to come this weekend, Sorenson’s voice boomed, and the race was on. The thin plaster cast on my arm actually turned out to be more help during my half-assed shimmy than I expected. After only a few weeks, the very slight fracture in the bone in my arm was probably completely healed, and didn’t hurt as much as it itched. My bruised ribs didn’t ache so much either, even stretched out ‘as low as I could go’ which was more like on my elbows and knees than actually completely flat against the ground on my stomach, as Malcolm was required to be. I really was feeling fine then, and probably could have gotten completely prone, but hey! What Cadet Sorenson and Malcolm didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, so…

“Ohhhh, my ribs!” I cried in agony as I reached the far side of the grassy space between the corrugated-steel huts. As I sprawled and gasped in phony-pain, I hoped my antics would grant me a reprieve from Sorenson’s sick and twisted plans for me over the next few days.

“Holy **bleep**, Sequel!” Sorenson stormed up to me, obviously fully-intent on getting in my face right from the start. “Where did you learn to low-crawl like that?!”

“Well…” I babbled from the ground, gawking up at the Officer Candidate gloomily. “My ribs are busted, Sir! And it wasn’t my fault! It’s not a fair test anyway, the low-crawl is supposed to be done slow, and---“

“Incredible!” the cadet cried, checking his stop-watch again. Oh come on! I didn’t think I had gone that slow, I mean the sun was still on the rise, not quite setting or anything just yet! These histrionics were hardly appropriate!

Malcolm was probably basking in all his glory again, carried around camp on the shoulders of his peers, Champion over the gimp again! I looked down the row of huts, fully expecting to see my bigger, faster, stronger brother being showered in wine and roses, swarmed by the masses and cheered for his superior skill and speed and low-crawl style.

Instead, I was stunned to find Malcolm only just completing his struggle from between the huts! I had beaten my bigger, stronger, faster, brother! Even though he was a year older, and had learned to crawl even before I was born, I had crawled the crawl this time better than even he could!! I was King! Malcolm was nothing! Sorenson was right; this WAS incredible!! The cadet was still announcing my record-breaking time, as if it was truly something for the books: 3.54 seconds by his stop-watch. I had slithered about 20 feet in 3.54 seconds, to best Malcolm by almost 4 whole seconds!! Wow! If this don’t get me laid, nothing will!

OK, so I admit I had practically every advantage over Malcolm in the race, it was not fair in the slightest, I was basically on hands-and-knees trotting through the passage between the huts, while Malcolm was flat on his stomach, shuffling slowly. This was a ‘victory’ in the absolute weakest sense of the word. So, then, why was I smiling, BEAMING in fact?! If you only knew Malcolm, you’d understand…


“Unbe-**bleep**ing-lievable!” Sorenson was only adding to my glow with his ranting. “Great job, Sequel!” He whacked me on the back heartily, then turned to Malcolm, who was still doubled over, cussing under his breath and shaking his head in disbelief.

“Ghost With The Most!” the cadet hooted, “You’re ALL MINE!!” he laughed insidiously, and I caught Malcolm giving me the evil eye. Only then did I realize the colossal hole I may have just dug for myself… Malcolm was my ride home!! What a dreadful thought that trip had suddenly become! ‘Footloose and fancy-free’ suddenly meant one long walk back to the UMM campus, and I was in no way prepared to undertake such a trek. Sure, I’d save the $100 Malcolm would most definitely charge me now, but a hundred-mile cross-country hike was not my ideal of a pleasant way to spend a weekend. Talk about a desperate situation! “Now then…” Cadet Sorenson mused, almost to himself. “What can I find for the Ghost??” He’d hardly said the words before a call went out across the open field between the huts and the supply trucks parked on the road.

“I could use some help over here, Cadet!” a distant and undistinguished figure in fatigues beckoned.

“Who’s that?” Sorenson wondered, squinting across the field.

“I think it’s Quizzy, Sir…” I answered, “Quisberg…”

“You got Carlson over there?” Everybody knew of the Slacker Squad, and Sorenson’s detailed list of debts, so every time a cleaning detail was needed, the call went out ‘Send Me A Slacker!’ Sometimes Carlson… “Or Andrews, maybe?” the distant driver beckoned again.

“Special--- uh, Corporal Quisberg?!” Cadet caught and corrected himself. “’Ghost’ is on the way!” he turned to Malcolm, and barked. “Go ‘Ghost’ GO!”

“Special-Corporal Quisberg’s got some pretty good ears, huh Sir?” I joked. Corporal Quisberg had only been promoted from the rank of Specialist because he was the only truly qualified and licensed driver for the 2.5-ton trucks. As the deuce-and-a-half driver, Quisberg was responsible for hauling the required supplies from the Morris Armory to the various field-training camps and exercises Alpha Company would attend throughout the year, including AT at Camp Ripley. Because of his extra 6-week training courses involving the deuces, Quizzy was also the only qualified mechanic for the vehicles; and in order to be certified as a trainer both in mechanics and operating the vehicles, it required that Specialist Quisberg be promoted to the Officer E-4 Rank of Corporal…kinda like E-4 ½, or something. The promotion had only been in place for a few weeks prior to AT, and Cadet Sorenson wasn’t quite used to Quisberg’s new title.

“Don’t push it, Sequel.” Sorenson threatened with a sly grin. “ I’m sure CORPORAL Quisberg could always use a second man over there… or, maybe the bath-latrines could use a good spit-and-polish tooth-brushing…”

“Yes Sir! Shutting Up Sir!” I snapped to attention, flashed a sharp salute and smiled, with a wink, as I watched Malcolm jog briskly across the contonement area. Whoa! Malcolm jogging? And to WORK, no less? This was the man who drove 15 feet down our driveway to check the mail, jogging to unload a deuce-and-a-half full of heavy supplies?! Unbelievable!!

=====================================================================================

I guess it wasn’t unbelievably far to the EXIT door below; if only I could figure a way to reach solid ground without falling so fast! I wish the ground would suddenly rise up to meet me, like if we had an earthquake right at that moment or something. Of course, as earthquake would most likely bring the building down around me as the ground rose up beneath me, and THAT was unacceptable. Hmmmm…
There’s always ground around when you don’t need it, like that day on the softball field when I swallowed a few inches of top-soil, or just recently as I high-crawled my sorry ass across a stretch of ground in 3.54 seconds. Why couldn’t there be ground beneath my feet right NOW?! Where was the ground now, when I needed it most?! 30 feet below! Damn it all! If only my palms were sweaty enough to cling to the concrete walls, I could Spiderman climb down to the lower level, or better yet, across the ceiling and back up the ventilation shaft to the roof. Or, split the difference, and I could work my way off the girder to the concourse level… of course!!!

The concourse level was about 20-feet above the gymnasium level, and surrounded the gym on three sides. For sporting events such as basketball games and wrestling matches, spectators entered the lobby, paid the required fees, and then moved onto the concourse. From the concourse, fans could exit down the left- and right-legs of the walk-way, to the rows of bleachers which extended to court-side into the gymnasium. The base of the U-shaped concourse was also left open to the public, sort of ‘balcony’ seating, only with no seats. No bleachers extended beneath the base, because the entrances to the hallway leading to the locker-rooms, supply closet and other Athletic Department office lined that wall. That open-end, where crowds of kids often gathered during sporting events, was open now, and clear, and was simply 10 feet to my rear, just a few feet beyond and 6 or 7 feet beneath the girder from which I dangled. Freedom for me was only 180-degrees and 10 feet away! All I had to do was turn around and shimmy quickly across the girder, swing over the 3-foot guard-rail which secured the balcony, and I was home-free!

With new found strength and determination, I hefted the dead-weight of my left arm back to the beam. Only upon hearing the droning -CLANK!- as the plaster cast struck the steel beam did it occur to me: If I could hear that CLANK! then, possibly, so could the Communist terrorist bastages!! At least now, I had both hands on the same edge of the I-beam. Now, the tricky part; to complete my turn, I would have to rely completely upon the strength of my injured left arm, while I released the beam with my right hand and swung it around to the other side of the I, before I could begin my quick-shimmy. For a second or 2, my full body weight would be suspended at the end of my slightly fractured weaker arm. What damage would that cause to me? Not nearly as much as the barrage of bullets which were undoubtedly about to be unleashed upon me! I had to move, NOW!

I cast a final glance below, to check my chances of going unnoticed, and to more precisely place where the gunfire might be coming from.

“This is a LAW rocket launcher, people!” One of the dirty half- dozen was explaining loudly to his captive audience. In his hands, he displayed the olive-green tube which I recognized from my Army training. “A Light, Anti-Tank Weapon… capable of bringing this entire building down on top of us all!” Although I was glad the scum had apparently not paid any attention to me clumsy CLANKing, as he took mock aim at the ceiling to drill fear into the masses, I knew it was now or never for me.

“AUUUUGHH!” I grunted as I released the beam with my right arm, knowing that noise would not go unnoticed, or unchallenged.

“Mira!! Mira arriba en el techo!! En el viga!! En el viga!!” I didn’t have to know the specifics of what he’d said, didn’t even have to know what language he was speaking, to know I was about to get dead!
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