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Lance Corporal Mitchell came around slowly. He knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He was supposed to be part of a night convoy between Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms California. He remembered stopping at a gas station that was roughly halfway between the two for a break, and he remember leaving after the break was over…Mitchell gave his head a shake and it banged off something hard. He also felt a lot of pressure across his chest and waist. The seatbelt!!! Now it was coming back to him. He’d bought a bottle of Mt. Dew at the gas station. After getting back on the road, he’d wedged his knee between the seat and steering wheel to free up his hands so he could open it. His knee had slipped and the HMMWV had veered into a ditch. That’s the last thing Mitchell remembered. The truck must have flipped because he was hanging upside down by the seat belt and his head was hitting the roof of the truck. Mitchell put his hands down and felt the fiberglass of the cab just in front of him. If he’d been in a canvas topped truck he’d have been toast for sure. The roof was covered in puddles of something wet and Mitchell could smell something familiar. At first, he thought that the wetness was blood from his head because his face was wet too. He brought his hand to his face to try and see it better in the dark when suddenly, the smell clicked into place. It wasn’t blood, it was diesel fuel. The fuel tank must have been punctured, and now it was draining down into the cab. It was everywhere! It had soaked the seat and Mitchell’s clothes. He was already beginning to feel light headed from the fumes.

Mitchell reached up and felt for the seat belt buckle. He pushed but nothing happened. By touch, he determined that the plastic button had been broken off and he was going to have to play with the metal on the inside to unlatch it. It might take a few minutes, but LCPL Mitchell was a mechanic. He was used to smelling diesel and working in tight spots that he couldn’t see.

“Are you alright son,” said a voice from just outside the truck. Mitchell started as a flash light shined in his eyes. The light was aimed down and Mitchell saw a California State Trooper behind it.

“Yeah,” Mitchell said, “I’m fine but the seat belt latch is broken and I’m kinda stuck. I can probably make it work, but it will take me a minute or two.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll have you outta there in no time,” the cop smiled at him. “Are you hurt?”

“I got a nasty shot to the head, but it’s not bleeding,” Mitchell replied.

“Ok, once we get some more light down here, we’ll cut you out off that belt and take a look at your head. EMT’s are on the way. Hang in there buddy,” he said.

He gave one last reassuring smile then started back up the hill. Mitchell could just see the top of the ditch. It was steeper than he remembered, but he didn’t really trust his judgment at this point. He chuckled as he saw the officer slip, catch himself with his hands, and then scramble the rest of the way up. The blue and red lights outlined him as he took something from another cop. Mitchell squinted to make it out, then he screamed. He meant to yell that there was fuel everywhere down here but only got out, “NOOOOOO!!” before the guy popped the road flare and gave it an underhanded lob toward the truck…
that never hit its mark. From his perspective, Mitchell couldn’t see what prevented it from blowing him up but he did see the cop’s reaction: Surprised and dumbstruck - like a teenaged girl standing before her idol. The cop followed the trajectory of the flare as it went flying up the road, in the opposite direction.

Mitchell was too busy trying not to die and didn’t initially notice the pair of legs rushing toward his upturned vehicle. When he finally did, the first thing he noticed were the creases in the expensive looking jeans. Who creases their jeans? Trapped upside down, Mitchell followed the straight lines up to the expensive looking shoes. Definitely Italian, he thought.

“You all right in there?” asked the stranger who didn’t seem all that strange. That voice, both childlike and experienced, seemed familiar. It reminded him of a friend he’d grown up with in the eighties and nineties who hadn’t been ‘round much lately. But it couldn’t be him because the odds of his friend finding him at such a time was nil to half of that. Perhaps it was his brother calling to him. The voice was that familiar and comforting. It must be my brother, he thought, remembering how many times his brother had gotten him out of trouble in the past and how he always managed to sound like he was smiling when he recounted the story to anyone who would listen. Always the life of the party, his brother. Mitchell looked up to him as a child would a superhero.

“You alive, buddy?” asked his possible brother from outside his shattered window. Mitchell managed a groan as a well-manicured hand reached into the upended compartment and pulled him out.

“Your shoes…mud…sorry,” was all Mitchell remembers saying before passing out and waking up in the hospital. He tried but couldn’t remember his hero’s face – just the creased jeans and Italian shoes. Oh, well, someone will eventually tell me, he thought as he pressed the green button on the tv remote hanging from the hospital bed rail. The news was on. And, judging by the darkness outside his window, he figure it was the local evening news.

“And in tonight’s how-does-this-keep-happening news, Tom Cruise rescues yet another person…,” was all he heard before his memories came flooding back.

I will never write like you and I hope you never write like me.

"...the only war that matters is the war against the imagination--all other wars are subsumed in it..." -Diane di Prima

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The following comments are for "Can you...?"
by toscano

This is great! Really liked the mystery and the ending!

Did he? YES!

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: October 30, 2011 )

Holding out for a hero
Thanks, Sandra. The solution came to me shortly after reading Dave's set-up.

BTW, you can call me Francisco. Toscano reminds me of my outcast days (aka, high school) when everyone called me that, being that I was the only person anyone knew with that name. Went with it as my profile name here cos I couldn't think of something clever.

( Posted by: toscano [Member] On: October 31, 2011 )

Francisco's Can You?
Did he? Yes he did!!!

I loved it, I would have never imagined in my craziest acid induced dreams. Great work!



( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: November 1, 2011 )

Thanks, Dave. Had fun writing this. It was actually longer but I whittled it down to comply with the rules.

Do you actually write own endings for these challenges or do you just set them up?

( Posted by: toscano [Member] On: November 1, 2011 )

I do write my own endings to these things. I think I went ahead and posted my exit to the first one I did. I stopped because I thought it wasn't fair. I mean, since I wrote the set-up scene, then there is a pretty good chance I already know the ending, right? Well, a possible ending anyway. Where's the challenge? Would you like me to post my exit's? I don't mind at all. Let me know, and I'll throw it up there.


( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: November 4, 2011 )

I think that would be interesting, seeing what you originally wrote. But I think you should post them after the previous month's entries.

( Posted by: toscano [Member] On: November 4, 2011 )

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