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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)

TITLE: Rhamadi
By Maxx .


For a terrifying instant there was no sound. A puff of smoke behind a low brick wall flipped a mental switch … then nothing … only the rending grate of my own breathing.

From the plume, an incoming RPG. The metal tip glinted orange, reflecting a sunset tinted with dust scorched in the Iraqi desert. At 170 meters, we had less than two seconds.

My world flickered and slowed like a nickelodeon movie that slipped off its reel.

I tracked the flight path, calculating its trajectory from the launch position beneath a silhouetted minaret to the point of our squad. The fatigue in my muscles evaporated and I tensed, ready to dive into cover.

But I hesitated.

Danny was covering point.


He'd run track with me in high school and kept on me about practice until we both made state finals senior year; he'd given up a full scholarship at UCLA to work his way through Fresno State with me; he’d held me for ten minutes when I proposed to his sister, tears of joy soaking my sweatshirt.

Danny ...

He’d led me to Christ the day after my mother died of cervical cancer.

A vulture circled above the flaming maw of Rhamadi. The grenade streaked over the sand, a gray trail of burned propellant stretching behind like yarn pulled taught from a tangled skein. Its path was true, direct, deadly.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t, accept the inevitable.

I staggered toward him, running as if under water with a full pack. My movements encumbered, dull, despite the thunder in my chest. He hadn’t seen, didn’t know.


He had a child, eight months old. Purity. Golden ringlets already. Her father’s eyes, bright with laughter. He’d never met her. Only the pictures. Our deployment was ending in three weeks, when my own daughter was due. We’d wanted to raise them as sisters.

I drew a breath, filling my lungs, and tried to shout a warning. But my throat constricted behind drawing lips, the lone sound a muffled scream that dribbled through my mind like wet cotton.

Movements beside, Gunny was gesturing, fingers pointing as the squad began to disperse. They raised weapons, taking aim as they tumbled away …

… from Danny who turned, face twisted, mouth gaping.

Valley of the shadow … valley of the shadow … valley of the shadow. The words spit in machinegun rounds, cutting me as deeply as any wound. … of death.

The cocoon of silence was breached by a rising growl, fierce, and ominous. The rocket bore in, flaming red, a foreshadowing of the flesh it was about to consume.

“Danny!” I screamed and the full tumult of chaos broke over me. Gunny barking orders, the clatter of armaments being readied, the press of breath as bodies fell to the dirt, seeking shelter.

And Danny’s eyes, wide, searching, staring at me.

I dropped my M-16 and hurtled toward him, my shoulder making impact with his chest in mid-leap. Concussive heat seared my back and legs as we toppled into a ditch.

Danny rolled my twitching frame off of him, shouting for a medic amid a scene that transfigured to black and white … and red. He stood by my boot, sodden with gore, in the center of the road while the crackle of return fire faded into whispers.

The Lord is my shepherd … the Lord is my shepherd … the Lord is my shepherd.

Darkness covered me as Danny knelt and held my hand.

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This article has been read 1854 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie OConnor05/04/06
Zing! What a great story. I could see it all. Your descriptions are so powerful and the ending was so strong. I believe it plays out this way in war sometimes. Great job.
Marilyn Schnepp 05/04/06
I hate war - and this beautifully written story only triples my hatred. Nice job on the horrible subject of war.
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/04/06
Wow. Wonderful, yet horrid story. Well done. God bless our troops and their families for their sacrafice.
Jan Kamp05/07/06
What an unexpected turn at the end. You did a marvelous job of telling the story through the voice of the one who gave his life.
Crista Darr05/07/06
This quality of writing inspires me! Gripping, vivid, and a perfect picture of "no greater love." Excellent.
Suzanne R05/08/06
Well, that was an unpredictable ending. Great writing. Well done.
Virginia Gorg05/08/06
Brings the horrors of war home - something that we need to remember, even though we don't want to think of it. Well-done, descriptive, and visual.
Lynda Schultz 05/08/06
No greater love… This is wonderful.
Debbie Sickler05/08/06
I had a feeling this was yours. One suggestion, you used the word nickelodeon. I know what you meant, but being a mom, the first thought that popped into my head was the kids tv network. Hardly the effect you were going for, but it is something others may be distracted by too. :) Otherwise, very good writing as usual.
Sally Hanan05/08/06
Great descriptions - I wouldn't expect any less of you. When you said, darkness covered me, at the end, it seemd to mean that he was dead.
Pat Guy 05/08/06
Loved the build up, the twist, the suprise ending. I got it that he died. It was enough to let us know, and it fit well with the piece.

I don't enjoy reading about military war stuff because I lived it, but I read it because it was yours, and you did a great job.

T. F. Chezum05/08/06
Very vivid and well told story.
janet rubin05/09/06
My very favorite Maxx story in a while. "no greater love has man than this; that he should lay down his life for hisfriend." That's love. I can't imagine how many millions of times Psalm 23 had been quoted and prayed on battlefields. Great job!
James Clem 05/09/06
A Love Story by Maxx

I was really wondering what this would look like. :-)
An extremely creative twist on LOVE. I'm not judging this week, but it looks like this scores well in all nine!
Kate Wells05/09/06
I don't think he died. I think Danny prayed for him and the medics got there in time and he maybe only lost a leg or something and got to stay home with his new baby daughter and took up writing.
Sorry...I couldn't stand to see him die. I write my own endings sometimes. You did good, Maxx! Excellent. Kate~
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/09/06
What a beautiful story of friendship. So believable.
Purity Snowe05/09/06
Most important is that this story is just written great. I refuse to think he died... he lived. Danny held his hand and it all worked out. The line that got to me (yes, I cried!)was when the world turned to black and white. I don't know why that was mushy, but it was!

But it was sweet that you used my name and said (on the boards) that you liked it! I never much cared for it growing up since its a good one for poking fun at. But I was touched to see it there and read your nice words on the boards!
Linda Watson Owen05/09/06
Amen to all the comments above...this IS excellent. There's no surprise in that from you, Maxx! I love the way you used color images throughout leading right into the contrast of stark darkness at the end. Truly masterful execution of story telling skills!!
dub W05/10/06
Abridged continuity - bet Maxx already found it.
Theresa Kissinger05/11/06
Fabulous, I have been wondering how the judges can pick a winner in the Master's category. Perhaps it's when a writer that raises the bar of excellence again!
Trina Courtenay05/11/06
I was at a lose for words when I first read this. It is a powerful piece. Congrats on placing.
Rachel Rudd 05/11/06
This is an wonderful story.
As one would say in Danish, it's "barsk"-harsh, rough, or tough. At the same time, love in action is so vividly displayed.
Congratulations on the win!
Shelley Snyder05/11/06
Excellent writing! Congrats on 7th place!
Edy T Johnson 05/16/06
Pardon the late entry: I read this last week and have to marvel how powerfully your words can grip the heart and pull a reader into the experience. This is on my "favorites" list. Also, I want to thank you for your comment on my "hope" entry this week. I am quite flattered and delighted to know the Best of the Best writer at FW actually read my stuff! Thanks so much!
Cristy Zinn05/17/06
God has given you such an awesome gift... you glorify God by using it. Keep glorifying him!!!
Jessica Schmit06/21/06
I read this one in slow motion. I saw it as a movie, heard the music rise, then fall. Saw Danny turn and lock eyes with his best friend. Saw it all. The boom, the blast occurs, back to real time. I've never read anything that I could "see" so well. I truly hope you get your name out there in the world. You'd be one of the greats. Put your stuff beside Blake, Poe and DaVinci. Amazing. Ever think of writting a screenplay? You'd make a great director.
Karen Deikun06/28/06

Just catching up on my faithwriter's reading and caught this. It left me breathless. Great story - very powerfully written.