One night the guy who paced around his hospital bed talking to himself all the time threw something like a conniption fit and when the Corporal went to grab him from behind to hold and restrain him the guy snapped his head back and smashed the Corporal in the nose. Didn’t break nothin’, but it bled like crazy and looked awful. Somebody finally got the Doc out of his bunk to come over and sedate the guy. They put him in one of the locked, isolated quarters for the severe cases; Doc promised the guy would sleep through the night and into most of the next day after the sedative he’d pumped into him. The Corporal finally got to go to the washroom and clean up. His T-shirt and dungarees were pretty much shot, but at least he got the blood off his face. Doc came in to see if he was ok, real look of concern behind his wire rim glasses. Doc was a congenial, laid-back sort of guy, slightly built, soft spoken and non-confrontational, with little to no prospect of ending up closer to the fighting, and he knew it. A tick too old and they didn’t put psychiatrists on the front line.
They’d both been there on Banika about six months. Pavuvu, where most of the Marines were shoved into makeshift quarters, was right next door. The Marines hated Pavuvu with a passion – hated the rats and the crabs and the mosquitos that inundated every inch of the place, not to mention the excruciating boredom. Some of them went out of their way to get a few weeks in hospital on Banika, where the structures were slightly more solid and the place considerably cleaner and where there were actual, honest to god female nurses. But most of the healthy Marines were gone now, off to storm a place called Peleliu, the securing of which was supposed to take three days.
It would actually take closer to six weeks of the most horrific fighting of the war, massive casualty counts that would flood back to Banika, and afterwards it would be mostly forgotten as it turned the battle had been largely unnecessary.
But nobody knew that yet as the Corporal walked the compound in the early morning light after his conversation with the Doc, still in his bloody clothes and still nursing his sore nose. He saw some of those nurses and, as always, saw some of the patients gaping at them from their wheelchairs or their crutches, heavy white dressings where legs or arms used to be, heads wrapped in white bandages like mummies, gaping sometimes with just one eye showing, the nurses clad in white, everything everywhere covered or painted white, the color of snow, cool and sterile over the hot Pacific patch of hell. He tried not to see them and focus on the sunrise; thought about his last shift and his conversation with the Doc.
The Corporal had assured the Doc he was indeed okay, then said to him, “You know, for me, little battles this is as bad as the war gets”.
That statement rattling around his head as the golden glow of the morning engulfed the world, he had an inkling that it might not actually turn out to be true. Indeed, like the Doc, he’d probably never see combat; one of those guys relegated to cleaning up afterwards. He wouldn’t go home with nightmarish visions of bodies disintegrating in combat. Instead he would go home with memories of human beings having been torn apart by bombs and bullets. Of the vacant looks of young men still trying to believe that pieces of them were gone. He would remember, he knew, the amputated souls, the men staring wide-eyed at the ceiling all night because their brains had been exploded, the men pacing around their beds talking to themselves. Worst of all, he would go home still whole. How could he ever relate to people who had not experienced this? How could he ever love a woman? How could he ever be a father to a naïve and trusting child? How long could he go without blotting it out with alcohol or something worse? Without hating, literally hating, anything and anyone untouched by it, or, even crueler, oblivious to it.
And that, he thought as the warm sunrise transitioned into an incinerating glare, would be the worst of it.
Small Literature is also sometimes called micro-stories or short-short-stories. Nothing seems to appeal to my writing instincts as well as this format, and I've written everything from journalism to full novels. I set a goal of 1,000 words, in the space of which I will create character, setting, plot, and resolution; don't always make it, sometimes it takes a few hundred more words, but most of the time I get there.