Speakeasy 152 – Survivor’s Guilt

Okay, so this week’s sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Suzanne, can be used ANYWHERE in your piece. And the media prompt is a song that many of you will recognize. It’s Stayin’ Alive, by the Bee Gees. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the song, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.

 “It would be so easy.”


The bland colors of the countryside were a stark back drop for anyone to experience when they first arrived into this foreign country so far from home. Days of trudging and riding through this rocky environment did nothing to buoy the spirits of those charged with the task. Then you had to factor in the likelihood that at any time your life could be taken away due to a roadside bomb or actual attack by those unhappy to have you visiting their country.

It was these factors that Company G dealt with as they went about fulfilling their role as part of the U.S.A. Army contingent remaining in Afghanistan. Their rate of loss was among the lowest of all the command in Afghanistan. They were half-jokingly called the Angle Brigade due to their affinity for skirting disaster. Not thirty minutes before they had been subject to a hostile encounter by at least a dozen insurgents and only had two of fifteen squad members injured, but none seriously.

Sergeant Willie Hays crooned his favorite tune, the one he always did after one of their near misses.

“Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive, ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh, stayin’ alive!!!!”

“Willie, knock it off!” another soldier shouted.

“No way York. It’s our lucky charm. You guys don’t want me to stop singing that and you know it.”

The glances between the team did not deny his claim, although it was unlikely anyone would claim he was correct. They knew better than anybody how many close calls their collection could claim.

The leader of the group, Lieutenant Thomas Baker turned for his tent, knowing the routine all too well. An after action report was in his immediate future, followed by a trip to the chaplain for a follow up ministering session. The close calls were becoming too common for his individual ability to cope. The chaplain extended the invitation because he could see the strain on Baker’s face and personality.

Dusk was nearing when Tom Baker finally exited his tent on his way to the Chaplain’s tent. He could hear Hays still singing the refrain of the tune that embodied their luck of late. Baker was a man of faith, believing in a divine Creator of all that lay before and around him. But even with his view of faith the benefit his group enjoyed seemed too good to be true.

“Tom,” Chaplain Gray said when the young officer crossed the threshold of his tent.

“Chaplain. Thanks for seeing me again.”

“You know you are always welcome. I understand it happened again,” The chaplain said, studying Tom;s expression as he reacted to the words.

“Yes. Once again we managed to be on the best side of a situation. But it could easily have gone the other way.”

“But it didn’t,” Chaplain Gray said. “Your training and experience made the difference.”

Tom’s face showed he did not take the Chaplain’s words as a full explanation.

“I can’t do this much longer,” Tom said, dropping his face to his hands. “I’ve asked Major Peak for reassignment.”

“How long until your tour is up?”

“Seven months,” Tom replied, his voice muffled by his fingers.

“Do you think it would be better if some of your men were gone?”

Tom slowly removed his hands from his face, thinking about the words from the chaplain.

The older man waited for his response, knowing he was pushing, but also knowing what the lieutenant’s answer would be.

“NO, of course not,” Tom finally answered.

“It would be so easy, to come over here and do this with no casualties; no fear of death, but we know that is not the way,” Gray started. “The bible tells us death comes to all men.”

For Tom Baker these words never seemed so out of place as they did at this moment. He wondered if death would give him peace from the overwhelming guilt that dogged him every day. He knew many peers that trained new troops all the time. He claimed more days with the same men under his command than any other. That should be what he hung his hat on, not the guilt.

The chaplain saw the change in his demeanor and uttered a soft “Amen” as he saw Tom straighten his shoulders and stand to leave.

“Thank you chaplain, I think I finally understand.”

Tom could feel his body moving as if the weight of the world was no longer dragging him. But the pain from a sniper round stopped his joy. 


About Joe Owens

Can you tell from my writing I love God? I hope so because that is what I want you to know most about me. I am also a writer who loves taking on fiction prompts and crafting a story. One day you will read my work in print. Until then enjoy it here! For free!
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10 Responses to Speakeasy 152 – Survivor’s Guilt

  1. EagleAye says:

    Ouch! What a vicious turnaround at the end. So how was it they were so lucky? Was it singing the song or Tom’s strong religious conviction?

  2. jannatwrites says:

    The conversation with the chaplain lifted my spirits, in that he’d been enlightened and found peace. And then you slipped that ending in there. Ouch. Way to bring me crashing back down 🙂

  3. I really liked this. How sad that a sniper stole his joy just when he had come to terms with the guilt he was feeling. You dropped me in a setting that seemed so real where I felt apart. Brilliant!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Really interesting take on the prompts, Joe! And what a twist of an ending! Nicely done. 🙂

  5. tinsenpup says:

    Ouch! That couldn’t have been more of a surprise. I like the process of reconciliation he went through and the fact that his load was lightened before he died.

  6. Stacie says:

    Oh man, that last line is literally killer! Poor guy.

  7. I’ve nominated you for the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award!!! Find out more about it at http://proverbs31teen.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/wonderful-team-member-readership-award/.

  8. ranu802 says:

    I like it when it’s free, I enjoyed reading it.

So you took time to read what I wrote and I appreciate it, but comments are even better!

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