Well, as the clock fell backwards one hour I hit 11,055 words – words that I am happy with and not just pounding out for count – which means I am over 20% done and only 12% into the time allotted.
Sales for “Firedancer” have been moving along as well – not as great as I want, of course – because I’ve yet to be featured in magazines the world over – but doing nicely. Of course you can get it by clicking the “Firedancer” link on the left side – in Kindle or Paperback.
Also remember that 50% of all royalties from November go to Abra Hall, my good friend who needs help monetarily to battle brain cancer, who is also linked there on the left (there is a link to her fundraising page if you feel the desire to send the money directly her way.)
Back to NaNoWriMo and “The Shifting Sands”. Here is another (unedited and rough draft) excerpt – again, naughty language and themes:
Camp Oregon was one of dozens of small “FOBs” – Forward Operating Bases – that dotted the northwestern Kuwaiti desert in a checkerboard pattern. Each base housed several thousand soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. One of the largest and most culturally diverse invasion forces since June 6, 1944 occupied the featureless dune sea in the winter of 2003. And it was a crowded party.
“Base” or even “Camp” were exaggerations I discovered when my eyes adjusted to the sunlight. What I could see was endless rows of white tents with dirt paths separating them. Off to my left I could see one of the “walls” of our “base”: a berm of sand that had been pushed up to about six feet high by bulldozers. I would find out that the entire base was nothing more than a box, made of four of these berm walls, one mile wide by one mile deep. Almost every base fit the same pattern.
Camp Oregon had been officially built a week before we arrived. The first troops to get there had arrived three days before us. Our group was split up based upon the units we were destined join – I was sent to the 440th Military Police Company.
“MP company?” I asked the other seven who had been pulled out of the group with me, “I’m not a MP.”
“Neither am I,” a Sergeant First Class answered.
A chorus of “me too” and “not me” came from the group.
A man wearing the patch of the 101st Airborne Division – the Division that our new military police company belonged to – drove up in a LMTV – a large cargo truck – and hopped out.
“Alright. I’m Sergeant Kelsey – the PAC for 440th and I’m here to take ya’ll to your new home.” He then read off a roster of our names and directed us to load our gear onto the back to the truck and climb in with it.
“What about our other stuff, Sergeant?” The female soldier asked.
“Your rucks and C-bags are all already at the unit AO.”
We struggled our way into the LMTV and off we went down the narrow “streets” of the base. It was a short ride to our AO – Area of Operation – for that base. A green and yellow guidon of twin crossed pistols and the number “440” in front of the otherwise anonymous tents told us we were home. We disembarked, unloaded our stuff, and were taken to a tent that had actual cots. We claimed our individual spaces and were told to go get breakfast and then muster with the rest of the unit in an hour.
Breakfast was held in a larger, albeit just as anonymous, tent not far from where we were bivouacked. Inside more brown men who didn’t speak English served us food from tins. Something brown and square was plopped onto my paper plate – it looked much like tan jello cut into a cake slice.
“The hell is that?” I mumbled, loud enough for a nearby soldier to hear.
“Egg block with cheese,” he responded with an exaggerated shudder, “the UGR version of eggs.”
“What is an UGR?”
“Pre-made meals that come in tins – they boil them to cook them and cut them out in squares and serve them to us.”
“Take my advice, man, and put a lot of Tabasco on it.”
After the “egg block with cheese” came something that resembled scalloped potatoes and then something white and chunky spread over the whole mess. I walked over to the condiments table and found my breakfast mentor soaking his unidentifiable slop in Tabasco sauce and salsa. I wisely decided to follow his example.
“You one of the new guys?” He asked as I was turning the whitish gravy red.
“Yeah, got in last night.”
“What is your MOS?”
“The hell is that?”
“What the fuck are you doing in a MP unit?” We were walking away from the condiments towards one of the many plastic picnic tables.
“Fuck if I know. They told us this morning.”
“I’m a twenty-seven delta – paralegal. At least an MP unit has use of a paralegal. I don’t know what the fuck they expect you to do. Here, we’ll sit here and introduce each other.”
His name was Christian Wagner and he was taller than my 5’9” height by several inches. He had a face that was thin and pointed and looked happy even when he frowned. His blond hair was slightly too long for regulation and consequently it stood up in a wild mess that looked much like a stiff paintbrush – splayed out in all directions. He had blue eyes that shined – as if he was laughing at a joke only he knew. He was a Corporal, a lower non-commissioned officer, and the only paralegal for the entire battalion.
“440th is the headquarters unit for the 761st Military Police Battalion,” he explained, “and by regulation we are supposed to have a JAG officer and a paralegal. We don’t got the JAG but we got me. I have been given both jobs.” The last sentence was punctuated with a slight downturn to the corners of his mouth.
“I’m Ritz,” I shook his hand over the food. I noticed that he hadn’t touched his breakfast yet – his wary approach to the questionable meal left me fearful.
“Like the hotel.”
“Why no nametape?” He asked, pointing towards my uniform where my name was supposed to be stenciled on.
“Didn’t have time to get one issued before we shipped out. They ran out of them. Told us we’d get some in theater.”
He laughed, “Good fucking luck, dude. They don’t got shit here. Well, not true, all they have is shit. That’s because the damn honey trucks haven’t come yet and we don’t have enough shitters to make up for it.”
There was a sudden silence and we both turned our attentions to the messes on our cardboard plates. The combination of brown “egg block”, grey “potatoes”, white and black chunky “gravy”, and copious amounts of salsa and Tabasco made the plates look less like food and more like something one would expect to find left over in a slaughterhouse. I dipped my plastic fork in the undesirable wellspring of upset stomachs and took a bite. Corporal Wagner watched me with a grin.
“Oh God,” I groaned around the mess in my mouth.
“It isn’t the taste so much as the texture, right?”
He was right. I forced myself to swallow the first bite without any chewing. The texture of the “food” reminded me of lumpy gravy with the gritty overtones of a fiber drink. The flavor was mercifully beaten and ultimately defeated by the inordinate amount of Tabasco that killed any sensory input from my taste buds.
“I think I’m gonna puke.”
“If you do,” someone else at the table quipped, “could you save it for me? It has to be better than this shit.”