I, Soldier – part 19

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Fiction | 37 comments

“Tommy, can you hear me?”

It was Colonel Truman. That was a pleasant surprise. I picked up the radio and pushed the talk button.

“Hello, sir. I really stuck my dick in the mashed potatoes this time. I’m sorry.”

“You can say that again. Bailing you out of trouble is becoming my full-time job and I don’t want that. Stay with me, I have a special guest.”

I was pretty sure I knew who was going to talk next.

“Thomas? Can you hear me? It’s Alexandra.”

“Reading you loud and clear, my love.”

“Good, because if you truly love me, you’ll do what I tell you now. You nearly killed several people today: your fellow Americans. The people you swore to defend. The people who paid your salary in Army. Go back to that cabin. There are cops waiting for you there. You’ll spend the night in jail. We’ll work things out from there. Understand?”

“Yes. I’m sorry I broke my promise.”

“We’ll talk more about that later. Make sure you return that radio.”

“If there are any National Guard around, I’d love to meet them. Maybe shoot an M60 again for old time’s sake.”

“I don’t want you touching any guns for a long time. Please come out of the woods.”

“OK, I’m coming. Over and out.”

I returned to cabin with my hands up and my fingers spread. They cuffed me, put me in a cop car, and drove me back to town. As the cell door clanked shut, I spread out on the bunk and finally got some decent shut eye. I found it strangely amusing that after kicking me out of town, they were now locking me in so I couldn’t leave. People are weird.

I had a vivid nightmare full of bloody violence, darkness, and running. Maybe it was a lingering scopolamine flashback. I had heard LSD does that. I awoke with a start and freaked out the guard a bit. He tapped the cell door with his nightstick and spoke.

“You OK in there?”

“Yeah, just had a rough day is all”

“You and me both, pal.”

The next morning, they let me out with little fanfare. Alexandra met me at the police station entrance, and we got into a taxi together. I broke the ice.

“I know I’m not getting off scot-free, so what’s the plan?”

“So glad you asked. Also, good morning, how are you? Anyway, you’re going to pay for the damage and injuries you caused. Don’t worry, you can afford it. You’ll be under house arrest with me for a year and will be required to take mandatory counseling for your substance abuse and mental health problems. Don’t even try to argue with me. The judge was extremely impressed with your military record. Truman told him everything. That’s why you’re getting off so easy.”

“Thank god for that, at least.”

“Yeah. You hungry? There’s diner on the way to Portland. It’s about 40 miles up the road. We’ll stop there. And we’re flying back. We’ll land at Dulles. My car is parked there.”

“I’m impressed Truman was able to track you down so quickly.”

“Let me put it this way. You weren’t the only person reading my letters. A lot of your fellow soldiers at Da Nang were really worried about you.”

“Crafty sons of bitches. I had no idea. All’s well that ends well, I guess.”

The diner had really good coffee. I guess that sheriff wasn’t so bad after all. They didn’t have avocado toast, but she didn’t care.

“Listen, you have so much potential. Don’t throw it away out of anger. We’ll work through it together.”

“One day at a time…”

I stared off into space and drank my coffee slowly.

The rest of the trip was peaceful. It felt so good to be back at her place. There was new typewriter on her kitchen table. She pointed at it.

“That’s for you. Write everything. It will help you. You’ve had an amazing life.”

That was first time anyone said something like to me. I did well in school, but never got much recognition for it. At least that’s how it seemed to me at the time. I was looking forward to telling my story.

The next day, it was off to the therapist. I had a vague understanding of what they did. To me, they seemed like Army chaplains minus the religion. I can respect that.
It was a nice office with soft earthtone colors, potted plants, bookcases, and so on. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been in such a relaxing room.

“Hello, Thomas. Make yourself comfortable.”

She seemed nice. She was in her mid 40s, I guess. A lovely yet mature face and glasses. I was curious.

“Before I start, do you mind telling me a bit about your education and clinical experience? I’m honestly curious.”

“I have a master’s degree in psychology and spent most of my career treating criminals and addicts. Later, I opened my own practice.”

“That’s good to hear. I think we will get along well.”

“How are you feeling today?”

“Pretty good. I’m kinda sorta married to the love of my life.”

“Kinda sorta?”

“I proposed to her. I live in her apartment. She hasn’t given up on me yet, and don’t think she will.”

“When was your last drink?”

“I had a beer the night I got back from Vietnam. None since then. I’d like one, but Alexandra hasn’t brought any home and I doubt she will any time soon.”

“Does that make you angry?”

“Not really. My emotions are subdued.”

“I see that. You have a blank expression. The clinical term is a flat aspect.”

“I read about that once. I’ve read a bit about psychology for military purposes.”

“And what do you mean by that?”

“I studied psychology for the same reason that torturers study anatomy.”

“That’s very disturbing and makes me uncomfortable.”

“My bad, just being honest. War isn’t about playing nice.”

“Very true. How do you feel about Vietnam? Your time there?”

“I feel sad about what’s happened there and what’s going to happen. I did as much as I could, and that was a lot more than most.”

“You did a brave thing. I was given your file in advance. On the whole, I think you should be proud of yourself.”

About The Author



The world's foremost authority on the science of stupidity, Professor Emeritus at Derpskatonic University, Editor of the Journal of Pure and Theoretical Derp, Chancellor of the Royal Derp Society, and Senior Fellow at The Dipshit Doodlebug Institute for Advanced Idiocy


  1. Timeloose

    I like the ending Derpy. It appears some crossover has creeped in. I’m down with it.

  2. Derpetologist

    When I sent this novella to my brother, he said it was like a mash-up of my life and Rambo, which is basically true.

    I always thought that if Rambo had a special someone waiting for him back home, he would not have lashed out so angrily.

    A visual aid for tonight’s installment from The Best Years of Our Lives:

    My brother was an Army medevac pilot. He saw a lot of blood and guts, and showed me the pictures.

    Earlier today, I read that a short story by Kipling inspired Starship Troopers:

    Kipling’s son was killed in WW1.

    Only the dead have seen the end of war. Sic transit gloria mundi.

    My job interview went well. I expect to be teaching math somewhere again soon.

    • Gustave Lytton

      One of my favorite movies.

    • R C Dean

      I hope the teaching job comes through, bro. You’re due for a break.

    • hayeksplosives

      I hope the writing was as therapeutic in real life as you portray it here.

      And best of luck with the teaching job!

      Unofficial teaching/mentoring of my young employees is my favorite part of the job!

  3. dbleagle

    What are your thoughts if you get multiple teaching offers? Go with the private or public option? Try to get out of “joining” the union? Become the girls’ golf team coach?

    • Fourscore

      Hired as a teacher, fired as a coach.

      • Yusef drives a Kia

        I teach and lead, and teach to lead,
        Experience passed down
        Cheers 4x!

    • Chafed

      What’s this about coaching the girls golf team?

  4. Gustave Lytton

    Middle of heat wave and AC is struggling. Wife is leaving tealights burning, and scoffing that it’s producing any heat.

  5. Derpetologist

    OK, sisten up. Evervbody fights; nonobdy quits. If you’re too stupid or incompetent, I’ll kill myself. Let’s kick this pig and piss in the ashes. Do you get me?! MOVE OUT!

    • hayeksplosives

      Wait, what?

      I don’t get the reference.

    • hayeksplosives

      Dammit, Sean.

      You’re way too chipper for 3 am.

    • Gender Traitor

      Good morning, Sean and hayek!

      No jury duty again today! 😁 Especially good since I was reminded yesterday that because the CU met two of our semi-annual goals, it’s time to calculate incentives for next week’s pay. Best of all, though, I don’t have to reschedule today’s hair appointment! 👩‍🦰

      • Gender Traitor

        Good morning, U!

        Which kind of haircut? A DIY with Wahl or performed by a trained professional?

      • UnCivilServant

        I just slip some cash to the barber each time.

        It’s faster and easier than trying to do it myself.

        Plus he doesn’t miss any spots.

      • Gender Traitor

        💈💇‍♂️ 🙂👍

    • Ownbestenemy

      Didn’t click on it but assuming it’s the “big boy” moniker they gave him that I posted yesterday?

      They are leaning into “ya he is turning into a vegetable, but it’s okay because Dr. Jill is really running the show”

      • Gender Traitor

        Will he be wearing his Pull-Ups®?

    • Suthenboy

      Beyond embarrassing. They have been doing that since Obama I. It’s different this time because…..?

    • Suthenboy

      Looks like the people making the rules have a nice cutout for themselves.

  6. hayeksplosives

    BTW, Victor Davis Hansen’s “The End of Everything” is an excellent read.

    I’m partway through on Audiobook.

    • Not Adahn

      speaking of firearm vending machines and System Shock: A choke tube should not take up two inventory slots when installed in a shotgun.

      • Suthenboy

        Inventory slots?

      • Not Adahn

        Is game.

      • UnCivilServant

        You’re right, it should take up four.

      • Grummun

        Game dev does not understand how choke tubes work.

        Or annoying attempt at game balance: “nothing useful can be had with no cost”.

      • UnCivilServant

        Inside your shotgun isn’t free inventory space!

        What’s next, expecting that ammo loaded in the tube not take inventory space either!?

  7. Sean

    I’m due for a service on my car. I scheduled an appointment at the dealership, and on the confirmation e-mail I was notified about a new policy of a 3% surcharge for credit cards. 🙄

    • Sensei

      Same here on vacation. Most restaurants are offering a cash discount.