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Contest | Non-Fiction | Unspecified (April-May 2008)

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Old 04-02-2008, 09:57 AM
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Default Contest | Non-Fiction | Unspecified (April-May 2008)

This time's contest is once again Unspecified. You are free to enter any non-fictional work of prose that you might have written. We just want to see your writing skills this month.

Please note: the contest will close in two months on May 22nd at U.S. 11:59 ET. The contest will be declared null and void if there are one or fewer entries. Also, the March Non-Fiction contest is hereby declared void, due to there being no entries. You must have a minimum of five posts before being eligible for entering. Any contestant not meeting this requirement will be disqualified.

If you win, you will get the chance to join the guest panel of judges next month. The winning entry will be considered for publication, subject to the approval of In Pencil's Editor-in-Chief.

All the best!


Last edited by Mridula; 04-03-2008 at 06:43 PM.. Reason: wording
Old 04-02-2008, 11:04 AM
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Default A Wild Tale of Alaska

(I have posted this before, but not in a contest.)

A Wild Tale of Cabin Fires, Crashed Planes, Gold Fever, Getting Lost in the Woods, Bear Fear And The Angel of Death in Alaska

We caught so many trout the first three days we were sick of fishing, so the three of us men went looking for new excitement -- GOLD! -- in the Alaskan wilderness.

The group included myself, a young couple named Stan and Jeanette and Stan's teenage brother, Spencer. A floatplane had dropped us off at a U.S. Forest Service cabin at Karta Lake on Prince of Wales Island in southern Alaska.

Our fishing trip started out badly. Right after the floatplane left, we realized we had forgotten to bring the white gas cook stove. It would be difficult to cook our food on a wood-burning stove made for heating the cabin.

Then Stan accidentally set the cabin on fire using white gas to ignite wet wood in the stove. Jeanette was trapped inside behind a wall of flames and we were barely able to extinguish the blaze before it spread and burned the cabin to the ground. With no tents or sleeping bags, we would have been forced to sleep in the open on freezing nights before the floatplane returned in a week.

Jeanette shamed us by catching the most fish and we decided to get even by refusing to let her come along when we took the rowboat across the lake to an abandoned gold mine. We thought it would scare Jeanette to be left alone in a wilderness region populated by wolves and bears, but she liked the idea.

"I'm glad to get rid of you guys for awhile," she said. "None of you has taken a bath yet and this cabin is very small."

Obviously, Jeanette didn't understand the prime rule of spending time in the wilderness: no bathing until rashes break out and gagging starts.

(Never bring women on a fishing trip. They will jinx it by catching more fish than you and then insist on cooking them with dill or some other pansy spice. And they won't walk around the cabin naked no matter how much you beg.)

Half-way across the lake, Spencer spotted a crashed plane resting on the bottom. It was another bad omen, not to mention demoralizing since we had to fly out in a few days when the floatplane returned. I kept peering into the water, looking for bodies in the wreckage, but I couldn't see any and I concluded the fish had already eaten them. Yuck! The same fish we were eating.

We rowed on, trying not to think about it. We were in search of true "color" and Spencer had brought a lemon to test for fool's gold. Iron pyrite looks very much like gold, but it will become discolored if exposed to the citric acid in lemon juice and real gold won't. It was literally the acid test.

We also had large metal pans to pan for gold in the stream below the abandoned mine. This involves scooping up stream gravel, shaking it back and forth and looking for gold flakes that sink to the bottom of the pan.

We beached the rowboat and followed a stream that meandered upslope through dense evergreen forest. Some time later Spencer said "here" and we stopped to dig the pans out of our backpacks and begin work.

I don't know how Spencer decided where to pan, but he definitely had gold fever. A few minutes later he let out an ear-piercing shriek and summoned Stan and I to look in his pan. There were two or three tiny gold flakes in the bottom -- worth about 50 cents no doubt -- but Spencer behaved as if he had struck the Mother Lode. I noticed the kind of gleam in his eyes usually seen among patients in mental hospitals.

Like all addictions, gold fever takes over a person's life. Spencer had read books on prospecting, studied the geology of gold mining, memorized the chemistry of minerals associated with gold. This from a kid who normally wouldn't crack a textbook to prevent repeating the same grade in high school.

I could tell his brother Stan had also caught gold fever once he started panning. Maybe it was contagious, like mass hysteria.

As we gradually moved upslope, I sloshed my pan for a couple hours, but I didn't find a single flake and suddenly I felt very bored. Who needed this nonsense? Not me.

I told the two brothers I was returning to the boat. Both looked at me like I was crazy.

In reality I was as crazy as a fox. We had left the beer in the rowboat and I intended to drink all of it by the time they got back. Let 'em have their pathetic amount of gold -- I would be stewed to the gills and laugh in their faces when they showed it to me.

As I walked away, smiling to myself, Stan muttered: "Don't get lost."

Who, me? How could I get lost when all I had to do was follow the stream downhill to the lake?

Within several minutes, I came to the first branch in the stream. The damn thing went in two different directions. Strange how I hadn't noticed this on our way up the hill.

I took the right branch because I was right-handed -- skewed logic, but I was a bit nervous and not thinking too clearly. Another branch awaited me a couple hundred paces further downstream. Then another and still more branches farther along. This stream was unfolding like a spider web.

I continued following right branches for a long time. They led deeper into the woods with no lake in sight. Finally, I sat down on a moss-covered log to collect my thoughts.

My head was spinning. I considered the option of trying to backtrack to Stan and Spencer's location, but discarded it when I realized it would never work. Too many stream branches. I would get really lost and years later my bones would be found picked clean by wild animals.

If only I could spot the lake through these damn evergreen trees. They were so dense I couldn't see 50 feet in any direction. This mountain should be clear cut so I could find my way instead of wandering around like a blind man.

All of a sudden a shiver ran through my body. It was Bear Fear. Earlier that morning I found a pile of bear shit in front of the outhouse. It was so fresh it was still steaming. Black bears were common in this God-forsaken wilderness. If I encountered one, running was out of the question since bears could out-run a deer. Climbing a tree was useless because these bears were avid tree climbers, unlike grizzlies. And lying down to play dead was insane advice. If you look dead, the bear will think you'll be easier to eat.

Without warning, I heard a horrible noise directly overhead and I must have jumped two feet off the log. It sounded like the Angel of Death flapping its wings.

I looked up and saw a bald eagle staring down at me like a vulture. I grabbed a rock and tried to brain him, but I missed and the eagle flew away. I vowed to hunt the bastard down at night when he was sleeping in his nest and fire a gun in the air to scare the hell out of him. See how much he liked it.

I decided to call for help, hoping the sound of my voice would reach Stan and Spencer through the suffocating foliage. I stood up and shouted "STAN!" at the top of my lungs and at that very moment Stan and Spencer emerged from a line of trees not 30 feet away.

"What are you yelling about?" Stan asked.

"Nothing," I lied.

"I think he was lost," Spencer said.

"I wasn't lost," I insisted.

"He was lost," Stan smirked.

"I was attacked by an eagle," I said.

"Just follow us," Spencer said.

I did so with my head hanging low. Within minutes, we were back at the rowboat and I couldn't believe the lake had been so close the whole time I was lost. I must have been walking in circles. That blasted stream had misled me by branching off a dozen times and meandering through the woods like a drunken sailor. If you can't trust water to flow downhill, nature makes no sense.

Sullenly, I sucked on a beer in silence while Spencer rowed across the lake. Jeanette was waiting for us on the floating dock.

"Bill got lost," Spencer tattled.

Jeanette looked at me and grinned condescendingly. "I'm not surprised."

It was the final insult -- laughed at by a woman who caught more fish than I did. Where was the damned floatplane anyway?
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Old 04-03-2008, 03:00 AM
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Default Dog Patrol (excerpt) *Rated R

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I have for you an incredible story of action, adventure, and extreme danger.

It's a story of a dog and an irresponsible owner.

I walked out of the house with the tune of "I'm the Greatest Writer of my Generation" stuck in my head. It's a song I made up. I'm sure you’re familiar with it.

But anyways, I have a cheery smile on my face. . .perhaps too cheery. It's almost an unnatural cheeriness only seen in movies, anime, and blog entries. I know this doesn’t seem real, but I swear it happened.

So me, my dog, and my cheery smile are all walking down the empty sidewalk, listening to a wonderful song. "It's a beautiful day," by Reagan Youth. The streets are empty, and I make some detailed mental observations on how different it is from a busy street.

This is only the third dog walk in two days (or is it three? or four? It's hard to say. Insomnia does that to you) so I'm relatively confident that everything will go as planned, just like the last two times. I will walk the dog approximately two blocks, in a semi-circle and then I will return home safe. But alas, my dog threw me a curveball.

He crapped right on the sidewalk.

That is what insomnia does for you.

Of course I couldn't help but laugh, as I waited for him to finish. Then I looked around to make sure I was the only one around. How could I not be? It's six in the morning, for christ's sake.

I am mistaken, naturally. As I turn my head--laughing my head off and feeling like a complete and total asshole--I see a white car approaching. This makes me laugh even harder. I look right at the guy in the front seat and he looks right back at me, and I am hysterically laughing.

I'm still laughing when I notice that it's a police car.

It's the fucking dog patrol. I look at my dog and she looks at me. Then I burst out laughing like a fucking hyena. I swear to God.

As my laughter returns to my normal cheery smile, I realize that the cop car's slowing down. Then I burst into laughter again.

Images come racing through my head.

"Son, did your dog just crap on the sidewalk?"

"Yes sir," I'd say proudly, with my unnaturally cheery smile.

He'd look at me like the fucking asshole I am, and then write me up a ticket.

Or maybe he'll just turn his head and laugh.

Or maybe he'll laugh like me.

Fuck that.

"Son, did your dog just crap on the sidewalk?"

"No sir," I'd say proudly, with my unnaturally cheery smile.

"Don't bullshit me," he'll say with a menacing glare. "I saw your dog crap on the sidewalk."

"I don't mean to contradict you, sir," I'll say, because I know policemen don't like to be contradicted, "but my dog definitely did not crap on that sidewalk."

He'll just glare at me. Then he'll say, "Ok, move it young man. MOVE IT."

And they say being a pothead will ruin your life. Being a pothead saved my life many times from the police. Cause I swear, my parents would've fucking put me in my grave if I'd been caught with weed.

"Son, were you smoking weed?"

"No sir," I'd say proudly, though maybe not with the cheery smile.

"Don't bullshit me," I can smell it on you. I saw you with that shady looking nigger over there."

"I don't mean to contradict you," I'd say, "but I was not smoking weed, sir."

He'll glare at me. "Okay, move it. MOVE it."

Of course, that would never work in real life for several reasons.

One, it's true that cop's don't like to be contradicted, but that doesn't mean that you should ever appear smarter then them. They don't like that. Many a nigger, pothead, paddy, spic, guinea, and chink mother fuckers have been bashed in the head cause of it.

Why do you think the criminals on cops appear so stupid all the time?

It's not because they are, it's because they have to appear that way to fool the cops.

Here's how the real situation would go:

"Son, have you been smoking weed?"

"Please let me go." Begging like your life depended on it always helps in a situation like this. In order to find his equal, an irishman is forced to beg to policemen.

"What's the matter, with you kids," the cop would say, obviously thinking of his son whom he beats up all the time at home. Poor kid never could learn to keep the fuck down while he's watching the football game. "Smoking weed is bad for you. It'll ruin your life." Take note that a cop will never tell you it hurt's your lungs because they used to smoke cigarettes all the time. They might even have blazed once or twice, but they'll never acknowledge that or if they do, they'll write it off as being 'young and dumb'.

You know you’re safe when a cop starts to preach to you. It means he's in a merciful mood. Kinda like a king to a royal subject. "Young squire, you have insulted me. Why have you insulted me? It will shorten your lifespan. I will let you live. And you should feel lucky. Never, ever, ever insult my favorite soap opera again!"

So pretty soon we'll leave, and we'll give him the standard "Thank you, officer."

And when I say "we" I literally mean everybody in the pot smoking community.

That's because, as everyone who has smoked weed knows, if you don't say thank you to a cop, he''ll bitch to you about being grateful to him.

"Why haven't you said thank you to me, young squire? You should be grateful I'm not throwing you into the dungeons!"

Come to think of it, cops are kinda like my boss.

Cops, kings, bosses. What difference is there?

Back to my current situation. The cop doesn't stop me. False alarm. He in fact, turns the corner and I never see him again. However, that doesn't stop me from cutting my walk short and rushing home. I have to warn my dog to keep quiet.

Act natural.

You didn't take a shit. You've never taken a shit in your whole life. It'll ruin your life, shitting on the sidewalk.

I guess all this could've been avoided if I took a plastic bag. I knew this day would come. But I also knew that I was way too lazy to take a plastic bag when it's 6 in the morning and I know nobody will notice a little crap on the sidewalk until an unfortunate passerby steps in it.

"Fuck it all,” they’ll say, and throw their suitcase and bitch, bitch, bitch. I won't give a fuck though. I'll be sitting in front of the computer, typing another fucked up story, or else watching about a thousand episodes of Naruto on the computer. I might occasionally think back to that crap on the sidewalk and say, "Wow, some poor fuck is going to step in that shit." But I'll just shrug my shoulders, put on a cheery smile, and forget about it. Typical.

The crap on a sidewalk is a literary symbol. Insert vague, I-am-smarter-then-though, witty masterful prose here.

Anyways, back to the copper. I know what you guys must be thinking; especially you poor fucks that like the cops or even (god forbid) have cops in their family.

Well, being irish, I have two uncles who are cops. How fucked up is that?

But I see both sides of cops. Good cop, bad cop. It's corny, but it's true!

Cause if that cop was a bad cop, he would've stopped me with a condescending, "Kid, what are you doing," or some other shit.

But not the good cop. The good cop is a slacker, which is precisely what makes him a good cop.

You see, cops don't exactly harass potheads because they like to, per see. It's because they have to.

I heard a story once about a cop who kept harassing a group of skateboarders. But this cop wasn't the ordinary harasser. He actually helped them find another spot to skate. When I first heard this, I was in shock. It's amazing! There are actually good cops!

I knew that good cops existed, of course. But they were kind of like a mythical fantasy. Folklore, if you will. My uncle Sean is a police officer, and he is a great guy. He was born in Ireland so how could he not be? Not only does he likes Irish folk, he is an avid Grand Theft Auto player ("I love to run over the cops," he told me once, cheerfully), and he laughs at the same stuff that my parents and my sisters find retarded.

In other words, he's just like me; with a few differences.
Old 04-03-2008, 05:36 AM
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Default Bombs fell over Baghdad (language warning)

Bombs fell in Baghdad. Bernard Shaw made his famous hotel room broadcast that rocketed CNN from a minor player in the television news market to the dominant force. American television was interrupted with the breaking news. I was sound asleep.

It may have been prime-time in the USA, but there in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, it was three in the morning. I was tired and had about a quart of homemade hootch helping push the fog of fear aside so I could sleep a little.

The phone rang.


It was my wife calling from Indiana.


“They’re on the news. Something’s happening.”


“They’re bombing Baghdad. The war has started.”

“Oh? Well, they did it, then.” I experienced the quickest transformation from half-drunk to completely sober in my file.

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is there anything happening there?”

“Just a minute.” I walked over to the bedroom window with the phone still held up to my ear. All I could see was the light on at the top of the minaret of the mosque across the street. “No… wait a minute. I can hear jets flying over. Harriers, I think. I can hear a B-52. Oh, Jesus! Shit!”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Cruise missile, I think. Scared me. Sorry.”

“When are they going to send you home?”

“They haven’t said yet. I won’t know any more till I get back to work on Saturday.”

Hadeed – Saudi Iron and Steel told us employees that if and when the war started, everyone who wasn’t on the critical position list would be sent home until the war was over. I wasn’t on the critical position list. That was a list I didn’t want to be on. Those poor suckers would be stuck in Jubail, just 80 miles from Kuwait, until the war was over. We lucky ones would be sent home until the war ended and would be brought back to put the steel plant back online.

“Let me know as soon as you hear what they’re going to do. Have you seen Rudy?”

Rudy is my wife’s twin brother. By a quirk of fate, his Marine unit was sent to a base just 10 miles from my apartment in Jubail. I spent almost every weekend with him at the base for three months leading up to the war. I adopted his entire squad and I bought them things from town that they couldn’t get since they weren’t allowed off the base. I also baked them cookies, made them pizza, and took their clothes back to my apartment to wash for them. They were stuck in the armpit of the world – Saudi Arabia. I lived in that armpit but at least I had a little more mobility than they did.

“I saw him last weekend. He said I wouldn’t be able to get onto the base for a while once the war started.”

“Are you safe there?”

“I’ll be fine. I have the car packed and we’re going to go in a convoy if things get bad here. I have to call Stewart and Jim. They said to call them if I hear anything. They’re going to come over here.”

“O.K. I’m really worried. You be careful and let me know as soon as you know when you’ll be coming home.”

“Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. I love you.”

“I love you, too. Bye.”


I hung up the phone and went back to the window. I was worried. I wasn’t safe there. Everything was not going to be all right. Fighter jets were screaming overhead from Rudy’s air base. Bomber jets were high above. Cruise missiles were lighting the sky over Al-Fanateer bay. I could hear the sixteen inch guns from the battleships further up the coast. The anti-aircraft battery at the end of the peninsula had fired several times already. What was I going to do?

What I did first was run to the bathroom and puke. Stewart’s homemade wine went down a little rough and came up even rougher. Illegal alcohol and raw fear were coming out of my mouth so fast that my nose had to provide a relief valve for the pressure. Nose puking is the worst kind.

I was on the phone with Stewart when my doorbell rang. I finished the call quickly and rushed to the door. I was shirtless, barefoot, and hadn’t managed to get my belt buckled yet. Jim was standing there with a blanket, pillow, and a look of shock on his face. “Jesus Christ! They’re right over us. Oh fuck. They’re fucking going to kill us. Why the fuck didn’t we get out of here last week? Jesus fucking Christ! What do we do now?”

Jim didn’t usually swear much. I wasn’t a swearer either, but it seemed completely appropriate for situation. The words that came out of his mouth were what were running through my head. He came into the apartment and as I was closing the door behind him, I saw Stewart coming down the front sidewalk at a dead run. He had a gallon jug of his homebrew wine swinging by a finger, a carton of Marlboro Lights under his arm, and two one-liter bottles of Sidiki cradled in his other arm.

As well as his many buckets of wine and beer brewing in his apartment, Stewart also had a still in his kitchen. He manufactured ample quantities of what the locals called Sidiki. It was triple-distilled grain alcohol – 190 proof. It took your breath away to drink it straight, and we used it in our Zippo lighters because it burned better than lighter fluid.

Although alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia, most of the local authorities looked the other way as long as we kept it to ourselves and didn’t try to sell it to any Saudis. They were even more lax about us westerners because of the upcoming war. Although they would never admit it, most major industries in the country would collapse if we left and didn’t come back. It was a begrudging tolerance in return for us running things for them.

Stewart rushed through the door, out of breath and sharing the same look of shock that Jim and I were wearing. He held the jug out for Jim and I took the bottles of fire water out of his arm. He bent over with his hands on his knees until he got his breathing under control. As soon as he got his breath back, he took a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt, shook one up, and lit it. He held the pack out to me and after I took one, he lit it with his still burning lighter. He knew Jim didn’t smoke and didn’t offer one to him.

As he was putting the smokes back in his pocket, Jim said, “I’ll take one.”

Stewart looked surprised but shook one up for him. “You don’t smoke.”

“They’re fucking going to kill us.”

“That’s why I brought the booze. If we’re going to die, we’re going to die drunk.“

“Fuckin’ A.”

I turned and walked back to my bedroom without adding my agreement to the death declarations. No need to say it again. We were going to die. Stewart and Jim followed me. Jim sat the jug on the dresser and I put the two plastic water bottles filled with Sidiki on the cases lined up against the wall. They both sat on the edge of the bed while I sealed the door with packing tape. Those were our instructions from the meetings we had with the American consulate in Dhahran. That little strip of adhesive tape around the doors and windows was supposed to keep the poison gas out. The poison gas they told us that Saddam didn’t posses. Launched in the warheads of missiles they told us couldn’t reach us in Jubail. US consulates are such fucking liars. That’s what they get paid to do.

I followed their survival instructions, though. I had enough food and supplies stockpiled in the bedroom to keep three people alive for two weeks. That is unless something else killed us first. I also had the gas mask they gave me in the bedroom. I had the one that my brother-in-law gave me that he “acquisitioned” from the marines in my kitchen. One of the five that I got from my employer was on the front seat of my car. The other four were spread out in the house.

I had five from Hadeed because they offered five – one for each member of my family. It didn’t matter that my family was safely back in Indiana. When in Saudi – do as the Saudis do. If something is offered to you free, you take it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you could never possibly use. You take it anyway. If they offered free prosthetic legs to whomever wanted one, you would have a line of Saudis a block long waiting to get theirs. They would take it home and stash it in a closet – unless they could sell it.

Even if Saddam couldn’t hit us with chemical weapons, we lived three miles from a huge industrial complex. Sadaf had two million gallons of ammonia stored at their facility. Al-Razi had a half-million gallons of methanol. Ibn Al-Bitar had several thousand metric tons of potassium nitrate. Petra-Kemya had four million gallons of jet fuel. Sharq had huge quantities of chlorine gas. We were one explosion away from having our lungs dissolved into a chemical goo. Its hard to breathe when that happens.

We also had two hundred thousand soldiers stationed in and around Jubail. It was a secret. Saddam wasn’t supposed to know about that. CNN took care of letting the cat out of the bag until someone had the sense to bitch-slap them off the air. Journalists are assholes.

Stewart and Jim sat on the edge of the over-sized king bed. Everything was big in that apartment. It was huge by normal apartment standards. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms (one for the men and one for the women), a large dining room, and an equally large kitchen. 2,700 square feet in all – 250 square meters for you metrically inclined. There were also two separate entrances. One for the men, and the other for the women so neither one would be seen by the other. This was Saudi Arabia, after all. They call it tradition. I call it stupidity.

I turned on the television set and tuned it to one of the two English speaking channels available to us. There were only four channels in the country – two in Arabic and two in English. The government tightly controlled what went out on the airwaves and broadcasts from other countries were jammed. Satellite dishes were illegal. So were ham radios. Everything they allowed to be broadcast was heavily censored. The funniest one was during a National Geographic documentary when they kept bleeping out the word “Octopus”. Like I said, the Saudis are idiots. Maybe they heard some American infidel say, “I need to get myself a piece of octopus.”

I wasn’t very hopeful about the quality of news I would get from the Saudi station. I was surprised when I saw that they had replaced their regular news broadcast about the amazing benevolence of King Fahad – “Keeper of the Faith”, and the atrocities of the day committed by the “enemy Israelis”, with a live feed from CNN. I flipped to the other English channel and they had a live feed from the BBC. Both Jim and Stewart said, “Wow” at the same time. Jim swore again, “Fucking unbelievable. Real news.” I flipped back to CNN. We’d let Stewart watch the BBC for a while later. There were two Americans and one Brit there in the room. We were both a lot bigger than him too.

As is typical at the beginning of something major happening, the journalists and commentators knew absolutely nothing, but they kept telling us what they didn’t know anyway. We spent an hour listening to every word that didn’t tell us anything we wanted to know.

The one thing I neglected to bring into the bedroom was the coffee maker. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could go a week without eating but getting through a day without coffee was impossible. I was no longer worried about chemical weapons – it was caffeine deprivation that would kill me. Sure, I had four cases of Coca Cola in the bedroom and that has caffeine in it, but real coffee addicts know that’s not the same. I needed a fix and I would storm the gates of hell to get some.

I fastened the belt holding my bedroom gas mask around my waist so I could make it down the hallway until my kitchen gas mask was within reach. We were more spooked about chemical weapons than just about anything else. We had seen the pictures of the five thousand dead Kurds as a result of Saddam dropping mustard gas, Sarin, and Tabun on them in 1986. If he killed his own people with nerve gas, what would he do to us in a war?

I took the coffee maker and a stack of paper filters back to the bedroom and sealed the door again. I had five pounds of coffee among my bedroom survival supplies. It was just the maker that I forgot about. I suppose I could have found a way to make coffee in the bathroom using the sink or possibly that bidet that didn’t seem to have any other use. The idea of drinking coffee out of a butt washer didn’t have much appeal.

Our mood mellowed out when we had some steaming mugs of coffee to sip on. By the time I made the second pot, we were fairly relaxed. We even tried to put some Sidiki in the coffee. It was kind of like Irish coffee except it wasn’t whiskey, it wasn’t Irish, and it tasted like shit. We didn’t do that again.

Tension returned quickly after a report from Charles Jaco at the International Hotel in Dhahran. During his semi-hourly broadcast telling us that he didn’t know anything yet, there appeared to be a scuffle behind him in the lobby, he said in a panicked voice, “Something’s happening here! Something’s happening here at the hotel!” Then the feed was lost.

The anchors back in Atlanta proceeded to tell us what they didn’t know. They took it a step farther into baseless supposition by speculating that the Iraqis may have gotten to Dhahran and had taken over the hotel, and possibly the Saudi Royal Air Base that is located just a mile from the hotel.

That did more than pique our interest a little. It puckered our anuses into a knot of frightened muscle that you couldn’t squeeze a turd through if you got a hernia trying. Kuwait was 80 miles to the north. Dhahran was 50 miles to the south. The Persian gulf was a mile to the East. 200 miles of desert lay to the west of us. There were no roads out of Jubail going west. You had to first drive north to Abu Hadriah – 10 miles from Kuwait, or south to Dhahran.

Even those routes could quickly become impassable. The Saudis had wired all of the bridges and overpasses with explosives so they could blow them to slow the Iraqis down if they made it across the border. All of the pre-planned escape routes to drive me and my little Mazda 929 out of danger were eliminated.

Time to go to plan B. Stewart and Jim monitored the news – frantically flipping back and forth from CNN to the BBC while I got on the phone with Dave. The Americans at Hadeed (all ten of us) selected Dave as our representative in dealing with the consulate and he was the central contact point to coordinate our escape if it came to that.

Five of the Americans owned four-wheel drive vehicles. There were ten men, three wives, and three children. We thought Clyde was nuts to have his kids stay in Saudi with him and his wife – but I guess we were all a little nuts. We were there too. We had organized an alternative escape plan with each of us assigned to a specific vehicle. The vehicles were topped off with gasoline and had an additional supply of fuel contained in four 30-liter containers. Plan B was to convoy across 200 miles of desert to Riyadh. There was no plan C.

Seven vehicles owned by British expatriates and one by an Australian would join our international escape across the desolate landscape and sand dunes. The line was forming at Dave’s compound across town as we spoke on the phone. We decided that it would take at least three hours for an invasion force to reach Jubail from Kuwait and possibly as little as two hours from Dhahran. Dave would make the go or no go call in thirty minutes to give us time to get out before the Iraqis could hit us with chemical weapons.

By the time I rejoined Jim and Stewart watching developments on CNN, Charles Jaco was back on the air and explained that the “Something’s happening” was a panic fueled by a sonic boom followed by exhaust fumes from jet fighters that caused some of the people hiding there at the hotel think that they had been hit with a chemical weapon. People put on their gas masks and started running for the air raid shelter set up in the basement. An employee at the hotel shut off the electricity – for reasons unknown to everyone. Probably a Saudi. A stupid Saudi.

I got back on the phone with Dave and he had already cancelled the convoy after seeing the same broadcast on CNN. We laughed with each other even though there was nothing funny.

Stewart broke out his gallon jug of wine. We got buzzed but not drunk, because this was only day one and there was a lot more war to come.

Last edited by gary_wagner; 04-03-2008 at 05:42 AM..
Old 04-04-2008, 05:24 AM
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Default In Memoriam

Although Patches was only with us for a short time—July until September 12th of 2005—I knew he was a wonderful and loving dog. How anyone could have abandoned him, I'll never understand. Even more, I'll never know why.

He wasn't like any of the other rescue dogs at the kennel; he harbored an intelligence far beyond them, a sweetness that was unrivaled, a soul that was patient. He sought attention not just for attention's sake and cherished the attention he did receive; he never seemed to take it for granted. But beyond that, something about the way he looked at me—watched me, especially—whispered so much more.

I can remember the first moment the bond began. I was cleaning up the back play yard alone. He stood at the end of his outdoor run, silently watching me. No other dogs did; he, as well, was alone.

It was a hot day, so he had every reason to be in the cool shade of his indoor run, and yet he stood, with a panting doggy smile on his face, and watched. When someone came through the outside common area of the kennel, the other dogs rushed out to bark. Patches stood and watched me. When the other person left, the other dogs went back inside. Still, Patches stood . . . and watched.

I'll never know exactly what he was searching for that day. A simple bond of love to replace the emptiness he felt by heartless abandonment? Perhaps. I'll never forget that moment and I pray that I fulfilled, or came close to fulfilling, whatever his wish was when I took him on as my kennel companion.

I'll always remember my time with Patches out in the kennel play yard. Though they were brief, they were the times I looked forward to the most after a twelve-hour day at work. Just to be able to give him time away from his run was enough to make me happy. Confinement within a chain-link area the size of a narrow bedroom was nothing short of torture; he needed to experience the outside world with grass, instead of concrete, beneath his old paws. So we played.

A tan and white mix of something or other, Patches
had a bit of retriever in him. Chasing tennis balls was his favorite game, and he would always carry one in his mouth whenever he and I were in the play yard together. We were quite the pair: an old dog and an overworked kennel attendant, yet we seemed to give one another strength. For a while, anyway. Until he got sick.

The morning before Patches died, I knew something was wrong. He was lethargic, shaky. He refused to eat or drink, spending most of his time in his outdoor run. I visited him often during that day to pet and soothe him. He would watch me, as he always had, with those intelligent eyes. I hoped that he would get better as time went on. But he didn't. When I informed the kennel owners of his state, they said they wanted to 'wait and see what happened.' Translation (at least in my mind): he was a rescue dog, and vet bills for rescue dogs weren't funded.

Before I left for the day, I found him in his indoor run. His state hadn't changed, and in fact, it seemed worse. I hugged him and said, “Hang in there, someone does love you, you know” and that I would see him in two days, when I came back to work. So often I'd heard about sick dogs resorting to aggression when touched, and knew I was taking the chance of being bitten. But Patches absorbed my affection as he always had. Perhaps that was all he needed.

He died that night. The kennel owner delivered the news to me at the end of the following day. It was my first experience with the death of someone close and I cried for hours.

I wish I could have given Patches a real home. He more than deserved it. I believe God realized this as well, and when He saw it wasn't possible for me to adopt him, He thought it best the He return Patches to his real home. One day we'll be together again.
No one will ever take his place in my heart.

Rest in Peace.
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Last edited by Devon; 04-29-2008 at 05:20 PM..
Old 05-13-2008, 06:00 AM
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Icon11 I’m Dreaming of Me

I’m Dreaming of Me
Have you ever had a dream that seemed too real that when you woke up you didn't know what to believe? Well I do all of the time. It is difficult when you fall asleep some times. Just because when you are awake before you fall asleep you have sense of reality. But then when you fall asleep & have a dream; you wake up feeling you don't know what to believe.

When you are asleep you have all of your 5 senses too. So how can you tell if what you are dreaming is real? When I am awake my body tells me that I am touching, seeing, hearing, smelling & tasting all that is around me. Also I am doing all off those things when I am sleeping too. So obviously, I believe that dreaming is reality too.

The reason is because of that, is one word "imagination". When ever I think to my self I am also imagining images inside my head too. Meaning that with imaginations you can create your own 5 senses too. But for some how when you go to sleep those imaginations come to your reality. Again still with all 5 senses. Some how I believe that you can at least control when you wake up but not what you imagine in your dreams.

When you wake up I believe is all in a matter of your own stability. In this case challenging your own will to wake up & when. If you wake up but don't you then stumble into another dream if you understand what I mean. It's like when you finally find out that you’re dreaming then you say "Hey wake up." but don't you just go into another dream. Then you’re right back where you’re started to.

Another way of putting it is you can write yourself notes in your dreams too. I have at some times written "I want to remember." But I didn't know what I wanted to remember all I know is I still remember that dream like it was last night & still very clear in my head. At other times I would put images that I do remember from that day. Meaning that my own will even remembers what I did that day so it puts in memories from that day. I often ask my self when that happens "Did that really happen or was that all just a dream?"

The point is that when you do happen to finally wake up all together inside your body. You do come into a sense of reality. However you just don't believe that if your dream was reality or your life was reality. The truth is actually both. I figured that your mind makes your imagination into a movie & you in it as the main character. While you’re dreaming you’re thinking to yourself in the movie as well as creating your own 5 senses too. So is it a good idea to rest your head on a pillow at night & stream into your very own movie staring you as your self? All I know is that I am annoyed by seeing so many movies all of the time every signal night.

Life if full of Endless Possibilities!

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