Monday, February 8, 2010

Let's Start with "Sarge"!

From now on this blog will be cruising down a literary stream! Initially, I am going to periodically post some of the short stories I wrote for a writers group in the Cascade Lakes community (Boynton Beach, FL) a few years ago. Each of you is invited to submit their short stories, essays or poetry (e-mail them to me at riart1@aol.com)for inclusion in the blog which I hope will become a true potpourri of all levels ( good, bad or otherwise) of original writing. And now, although it's nowhere near Halloween, here's

Sarge

Jack Lippman

“Sarge, it’s the middle of fall already, and up north, we call weather like this the ‘dog days of summer.’ It’s August weather at the end of October! Boy, I’m hot and itchy.”

The lanky sergeant looked disdainfully at his companion on the wagon as it bumped its way, pulled by four tired mules, along the old military trail that ran down the east coast of Florida. It was 1903, five years after the Spanish-American War, but the government still felt the forts running up and down the Florida peninsula had to be maintained and supplied, to protect the country’s southern flank.

“Sarge,” the young soldier continued. “When are we going to get to Fort Lauderdale? I sure could use a real bed for a change instead of camping in the woods along here every night, with all of the bugs and snakes and things out there.”

“Shut up, soldier,” the obviously irritated sergeant replied. “We’re going to camp around here tonight, clean up the wagon, rest the mules and maybe get to Lauderdale tomorrow. Now shut your damn mouth and stop your bitching about everything. We might as well stop right now, so you can get started feeding them mules and tying down the cargo. Move it, soldier. And stop calling me ‘Sarge’! You call me Sergeant O’Toole, you hear, none of this ‘Sarge’ crap, any more.”

And as he pulled the wagon to a stop, Sergeant O’Toole raised his bullwhip, usually reserved for use with the mules, and flicked its lash out across the young soldier’s back, as he was dismounting. The soldier screamed with pain and turned to face the sergeant.

“You dumb bastard! Why did you do that? Get down from the wagon, Sarge, and fight like a man, if you are one.”

The infuriated sergeant raised the bullwhip again and sent it screaming through the air, wrapping its lash around the soldier’s arm and shoulder, throwing him to the ground.

“That’ll teach you to give me some respect, soldier,” he called out as he climbed down from the wagon. But he never saw the soldier rise, turn and aim his Springfield rifle directly at his stomach, which, as the fiery round of steel tore into it, spurt forth blood and innards in several directions simultaneously.

The mules bolted and tore off into the woods, dragging the wagon behind them. The soldier dug a shallow hole and buried the still warm body of Sergeant Timothy O’Toole in the sandy Florida soil, and hiked eastward, eventually reaching the ocean near the village of Boynton, where he found a job and settled down, quite correctly figuring the Army would never find him.

A century later, Sue and Sam Pincus were lying awake in bed in their Cascade Lakes home.

“Sam,” Sue asked. “Do you feel … I don’t know … sort of funny tonight? You know I’ve gotten up about three times already and looked through the house. I’ve been hearing, I think, noises. Almost as if we had a break-in and someone is in here with us, but everything is locked and the alarm didn’t go off. Sam, I swear something is wrong, but I don’t know what.”

Raising himself up on his elbows, he muttered, “Then, it’s not just me. I can’t sleep either. I can’t put my finger on it, but something weird is going on. Feel my hands, honey.”

“They’re ice cold,” she replied, “but mine are too. Let’s get up and see if we can find out what’s the matter. I’ll make some coffee.”

But they didn’t have time to get out of the bedroom. Bursting through the bedroom doorway, in filthy, dirt-covered rags, with disheveled hair flying in all directions, came a ponderous hulk, which because it had a head, arms and legs, appeared to be a man. And in its mid-section, a gaping wound, still spewing gore, dripped blood onto the rug. In his right hand was a bullwhip, which the creature was swinging around the room in whistling ellipses. And from his throat, there came a rasping moan.

“A hundred years, and Sergeant O'Toole ain’t dead yet, despite this hole in my guts … but at least I was at rest where that bastard buried me alive … until you put this damn house on top of where I lay. For years I crawled from my grave at night to get what to eat, and you covered it all with a concrete slab. Have you no respect for me? A hundred years, and Sergeant O’Toole ain’t dead yet!”

With that he snapped the whip again, its tongue curling painfully around Sam’s leg. The pain was excruciating.

Sam screamed, and sat up in bed. Sue screamed too, and grabbed her husband and held him, as the first rays of morning sun crept into the house.

“Hold me close, Sam, I’m frightened.”

“There’s no one here to be frightened of anymore, Sue. I must have had a nightmare,” he said.

“Come off of it, Sam,” Sue said. “Let me look at your leg, because I think we were both having the same nightmare. And you’re right. Whoever, or whatever was here is gone now. I can feel it.”

The red welt around Sam’s ankle was clearly visible.

“I must have tied my shoelaces too tightly yesterday,” he said. Let’s leave it at that, Sue. Okay”?

“Sam, all you ever wear are loafers! But all right, Sam, we’ll leave it at that.”

Two weeks later, the real estate agent told them they could get a great price for their house, looked at them curiously and suggested that they had better get the bloodstains off of the rug in the bedroom before she brought any prospective buyers around.

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