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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)

TITLE: Dog Saw It First
By dub W


Tremor Dog first named it “the pulpit.” I thought of it only as a burned out tree stump, about a click outside the wire. It was, for all intensive purposes, a marker. Beyond the pulpit was an existence of momentary life, or an invitation to leave the same, depending on the day and time.

We lost the lieutenant two steps off the chopper. What was left of our platoon sort of linked with Scott’s squad and we crawled through leech-laden rice paddies to a drier landing. My job was not to determine location. Somebody said we would run recon with a forward patrol. Big O chattered back to fire base and minutes later the hills rocked with exploding ordinance.

Orders came down. During the night we would move to the pulpit. Mick walked by with strands of his 60 cal ammo strung around his shoulders. I nodded. “Hey.”

“Yeah.” He was a man of limited vocabulary. “You got room to carry my extra barrel?” Mick had a habit of melting barrels.

“Naw, but Big O’s not hauling the lieutenant’s gear any more. Give it to him.”

Seconds later I got a tap on the shoulder, which meant we were moving out. I checked the safety on my weapon. There were two theories. First was to walk along the trail with the safety off, immediately ready to fire; the second theory was to keep the safety on because an accidental misfire would alert the enemy to our location. Dog sawed my safety off to match his – for us, there was no debate.

Nance stepped in front of me. “They need you back with O.”

“Sheesh, the last place I want to be is with a radio antenna.”

Nance chuckled and snapped another grenade to his shoulder belt. “Yeah, you’re guarding him. Captain needs a com man back ten from the squad."

Dog looked up. “I’m tagging here too, recon needs flank push.” This simply meant that Dog was fighting his own war. It also meant that he would follow the platoon and would pick off any activity that took up the trail behind them. He carried a bluster, a 16, and a very ugly long knife.

Captain Scott slid in behind O and picked up the handset. “Light the brush on the flare.”

All this meant was that an F14 would lay down Napalm at a location indicated by the flare. The jet or possibly two would spray enough fire that anything living would be a sitting cinder. The trick for the platoon would be for the flare to be set forward of their own position.

I glanced at my watch. The patrol had been gone ten minutes. “How long Captain?” My voice was horse from tension strain.

“Watch for the flare.”

A minute later a blue sparkler lit the night. An obvious exchange of gunfire followed, and then the roar of two tomcats fresh off the decks of a nearby carrier cracked overhead; and then as if a match was struck, the entire hillside lit up on fire.

The party continued into the morning hours. Finally, the search platoon showed up, O and I joined them and we walked through the brush toward the previous night’s fight. Forward units had secured the trail.

Along the trail were the remains of a previous country life, one of cultivating rice, now destroyed in the wake of a needless battle.

Finally, we made it to the site of the platoon. The results of the night’s carnage were everywhere. I could hear Tremor Dog’s distinct voice as we approached. The search dogs’ ears seemed to perk up. Finally, I caught sight of him. My buddy Dog, a grenade hanging from his vest, was leaning on the pulpit praying, and six men knelt on the ground in front of him praying too.

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This article has been read 746 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ed VanDeMark11/22/07
This is an interesting take on this topic. Not what I would have thought, but definately a story worth telling. The Navy didn't see fit to send me to south east Asia so I was fortunate to have missed this aspect of the war. While I'm a Vietnam era Vet I didn't have these experiences. You made them as real as 750 words can for a man who has not had the experience. Good Job!
Joanne Sher 11/23/07
Very vivid writing - I agree with Ed. Despite my lack of knowledge of this, you put me there.
Laury Hubrich 11/23/07
This was very interesting and very unique. Thank you for sharing.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/24/07
Your images are vivid, the story gripping. The last paragraph is very touching.
Debi Derrick11/25/07
Excellent writing - interesting take on the subject.
Dee Yoder 11/26/07
Wow. This is an excellent story on this topic. Very unique and very powerful. I could see every image you described with great clarity.
Jan Ackerson 11/29/07
What a wonderful sense of time and place! This could be an examplar for teaching "setting."

FYI--the correct phrase is "for all intents and purposes." A redundant phrase, but that's our ridiculous language.

I love the title, and the very unique tree stump/pulpit. You're fantastic at out-of-the-box writing.
Gerald Shuler 11/30/07
I have finally figured out what I love about your writing. Other great writers use words to show what life is like but you don't waste time with words. You just take out a scalpel and dissect an actual living chunk of life. Then you glue that still pulsing piece of life to the page. You are the first writer I am putting in my favorites! (Oh… sorry about the exclamation mark but you deserve it.)
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/30/07
Talk about out-of-the-box... it's amazing how boundaryless your knowledge and talents are. Your students are fortunate.
lynn gipson 04/18/13
Very gripping dramatic writing, felt like I was there along with you. You have a definite flair for detail and imagery. Thanks for telling me about this one. Very well done.

Lynn "Tomoral" Gipson