Amtrak Dream

Amtrak Dream
(An extract from the unpublished novel The House de Gracie.)

The train jiggled on its suspension as it ran over a curved section of track. Hugh opened his eyes — the Hudson River glided by. He was on his way home to up state New York after receiving a disability discharge from the Army. His route had included Germany to New York via C-130, taxi to Grand Central Station, and now, the last leg by train. All modes of travel had allowed little chance for peaceful sleep. On top of it all, Hugh was still plagued by a virus caught in Afghanistan — generating alternating bouts of fever and chills.
The clickey-clack of the train, a man’s baritone rumble across the aisle, and his fever put him to sleep. Hugh drifted off into a resurrected memory. He was on patrol with Sergeant Murphy. The pair drove a Humvee, the fifth and last vehicle of the convoy taking supplies to an outlying Afghan patrol base. They passed time telling each other riddles. Known as Riddler, Murphy could spew forth an inexhaustible supply, especially dirty ones.
“What’s a mixed feeling? The three-striper asked. The answer: seeing your mother-in-law backing off a cliff in your new car.
Hugh gave her one: “What is the definition of Macho?” The answer: jogging home after a vasectomy.
“What is the difference between oooooh and aaaaah?” The sergeant inquired.
After a respectable silence, Hugh said, “I give up.”
“About three inches.” came the laughing response.
An IED exploded on the lonely stretch of road flipping the lead vehicle onto the roadside. Its fuel tank ignited with a bang. He bailed out of the Humvee, Beretta in hand. A 7.62 round from a Dragunov sniper rifle struck him smack in the middle of his chest. The impact slammed him into the hood of the Humvee.   He dropped to his knees. The pistol fell onto the red-brown earth of the roadbed.
Murphy ran over. She started dragging him to cover. A second round caught the sergeant in the unprotected area below the armpit. The slug tumbled through both her lungs exiting on the other side.      Face in the gravel and dirt, Hugh heard the bass chug-chug-chug of the Ma deuce fifties and the tenor chatter of the M-240’s mounted on the remaining vehicles establish fire superiority. Three minutes later, the action ended. A woof of wind blew around the vehicles, sucked up fine particles of dust to mix with black ash and the odors of burnt pork and cordite.
The ceramic plate in Hugh’s armored vest had saved his life. Other than temporarily knocking the wits out of him and a saucer-sized bruise there was no damage. He rode back to base holding Murphy, keeping pressure on the bandages while bloody foam bubbled out of her chest. They failed to find the killers, the Dragunov rifle with its PSO-1 telescopic sight could hit accurately from 800 meters.
Hugh woke, the deep tearing vacuum of her loss in his heart, with the train taking on passengers at the Albany station.

The End

2 Comments

  1. Autumn Rose

    Thank you for having female buddies. My eyes are rainin’. HUGS

  2. Maggie Westvold

    In my family we always say, ‘We’ve been blessed’, and yes, we have. Every family member (5 young career military…2 women, 3 men) who has served in the Middle East has come home physically whole. Reading your words, seeing the gut-wrenching images you lay out for the reader, I’m thinking my much loved nieces and nephews live with memories they don’t care to talk about. Again, Dennis, I say thank you for your service in Vietnam…and I thank my family members and every veteran who has served our country so that I may live here in freedom, in peace. Congratulations on a piece so worthy of its recognition.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *