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Adventure Fiction

“Ramirez!” I hissed, “Keep your eyes open!”

Ramirez jerked awake and then lazily lifted his head off the butt of his M16A4 rifle. 

“Sorry Jones,” he said, “It’s just so damn comfy outside.” 

“Maybe for you. I’m sweating bullets over here.”

I bent over and shoved the tip of my collapsible shovel into the hardened, mostly clay, dirt at the bottom of my fighting hole. The humidity had reached a point where the air felt muggy and thick. Sweat soaked my camouflage utilities and seeped into my body armor. Ramirez lay in the prone, looking over the sights of his rifle at the forest beyond.

“Are you almost done?” he asked. 

“Does it look like I’m done?”

A standard fighting hole for two people was 5 feet wide and about 4-5 feet deep, depending on the size of the man digging it. At the moment, I was only about waist deep.

“I can’t wait for you to get your ass in here and start digging,” I grumbled, heaving a shovel full of dirt over my shoulder.

Ramirez glanced at his digital watch. 

“I still have an hour left.” 

I rolled my eyes and stabbed the earth beneath my boots, sweat dripping and muscles aching with each blow.

This damned hole will be the death of me.

“Got any dip?” Ramirez asked. Chewing tobacco.

I stared at him blankly wanting nothing more than to throw the shovel at his stupid head. I repeatedly told him–yesterday–to ration his dip as resupplies out here were never guaranteed. Lo and behold, the MV-22 that was supposed to come yesterday encountered small-arms fire and wasn’t able to accomplish its mission.

“It’s easier for me to stay awake when I got a lip in,” he said.

I reached into my cargo pocket and threw him a small, metal tin. He caught it with his free hand, deftly popped the lid open, took a pinch of tobacco with a dirty hand, and shoved it into his bottom lip. 

“Thanks,” he said and threw the can back to me. 

I continued to dig, and after an hour, we switched places. Now I was the one outside the hole providing security with my rifle, watching for any sign of movement but, with the vegetation as thick as it was, it was impossible to see anything past 100 feet. You were more likely to hear the enemy before you saw them, which made me jump every time I heard the snapping of a twig or a falling branch. I looked over at Ramirez and watched him take his sweet time digging the hole, taking a minute break for every half-ass bit of dirt he threw over his shoulder.

“Work faster,” I said. 

Ramirez looked up at me, barely breaking a sweat.

“Cut me some slack,” he said, “I’m hungry.”

“So am I, but we gotta get this hole dug. We’re already behind schedule and our squad leader is going to–”

As if on cue, I heard crunching footsteps, and out of the bushes, came Corporal Ross. He took one look at our hole and scowled. 

“What the hell is this crap?” he fumed.

Ramirez and I looked at each other. 

“We’re working as fast as we can, Corporal,” Ramirez said. 

“Obviously not. Everyone else is done and are clearing brush from their sectors of fire.”

“Corporal, there’s–”

Corporal Ross shut me up with an angry glare.

“Shut up, Jones. Your lazy ass has probably been sleeping while on security and made Ramirez do all the work.”

“No, Corporal. That’s not–”

“Shut it! You just earned yourself a spot on the patrol to go get our resupply.”

“Are you serious, I went yesterday?”

Corporal Ross gritted his teeth. 

“Get your ass over to the staging area. Now! Corporal Jackson is about to kick his brief.”

To the average person, walking three miles isn’t that hard to do. One could tread that distance in about an hour with some comfy shoes. However, walking the same distance through dense forest is a different beast altogether. With the vegetation as thick as it was, our patrol leader had to constantly stop, double-check our heading, and reference his map to ensure we were still on track to reach the landing zone on time. Add in rolling terrain while carrying nearly 50 lbs of gear, ammo, and water, and one hour quickly turned into two. 

I was also the unlucky guy who had to carry the radio; a big, bulky piece of gear you could never seem to fit quite right into your pack. The stupid thing added 20 pounds to my load out and the antenna always got caught on low-hanging branches. 

When we reached the zone, we set up a hasty defense at the tree line while I tuned the radio to the discrete frequency used by pilots. Then, holding the receiver to my mouth, I said, “Oasis 1-1, Bravo One is at point Oscar. Zone is Cherry.” (meaning the zone was not under fire).

Silence. 

This didn’t bother me. Using radios in the forest was always a frustrating game of trying to find out what was interfering with your outbound signal. I tried again.

“Oasis 1-1, Bravo One is at point Oscar. Zone is Cherry.”

Silence. 

I repositioned myself to another spot but yielded the same result. After that, I kept calling every five minutes over the next hour. My stomach growled at the thought of leaving without a resupply of food but just as I was about to give up hope, I heard some static come through on the radio. I perked up. 

“Bravo One, Oasis over base.” 

They were using a different frequency. Not good.

“Go for Bravo One.”

“Bravo One, our planes went down in the chocks for maintenance. We are unable to deliver resupply at this time. Break . . . Iron Horse says they can deliver later tonight.”

Before I could respond and tell them that we would wait, Corporal Jackson snatched the receiver from my hand. Pressing the receiver to his mouth, he said, “Oasis, this is Bravo One Actual, that’s a negative. Higher says that we can’t stay out after dark.”

“Copy that, Bravo One. We’ll work with higher to come up with a plan. Oasis out.”

Corporal Jackson gave me the receiver back. I glared at him.

“What?” he said, puffing out his chest like a bulldog ready to fight. “You got a problem with me, Jones?”

My stomach growled again. 

“No, Corporal,” I said, remembering my place.

“Good,” he said, pointing to my radio set up. “Then suck it up, put all that gear away, and get ready to step.”

After a long, tiring walk back to the patrol base, I arrived at my fighting hole to find Ramirez lazily stabbing the dirt, doing just the bare minimum to look like he was working hard from afar. 

“What the hell man!” I said, pointing to the unfinished hole.

Ramirez looked up at me, confused. 

“What?”

“I’ve been on patrol for five hours. How is this not done?” 

Ramirez shrugged. I felt my blood pulse at my temples and my ears grow hot. 

“You got that resupply?” he asked.

“Ospreys went down in the chocks,” I growled.

Ramirez put his hand to his stomach. 

“Damn. That sucks. Well, now that you’re back from your nature walk, are you ready to dig again? I’m smoked.”

I glared at him, rage pooling in my stomach. If he said one more word, I would have beat the living crap out of him. Instead, I took his shovel and said, “Sure. I got some steam I need to work off anyway.”

He jumped out of the hole and I hopped in. Now that platoon had an established defensive posture, Ramirez didn’t have to provide security while I dug. Instead, he told me that he would be right back, and disappeared into the forest behind me. I couldn’t care less. I picked up the shovel like a caveman grabbing a spear and began stabbing the clay beneath me as if it were wounded prey.

This damned, stupid hole. Stab. Stupid patrol. Stab. Stupid, damned Ospreys never working! Stab. 

Ramirez returned a while later dragging behind him some large branches. 

“What the hell are those?” I asked. 

“Back home, I used to make forts with my buddies out in the boonies. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.”

I shoveled out some of the dirt and stared up at him.

“We're not building forts here,” I said, “We’re digging fighting holes for war!”

Ramirez shrugged off my callous attitude and placed the branches off to the side. 

“Trust me,” he said as he lay down into the prone to provide security. “You’ll thank me later.”

After about thirty minutes, I heaved the last scoop of hardened clay from the hole with the last bit of strength that I had left. I took off my leather gloves. A few blisters clung to my palms. 

“You finally done?” asked Ramirez.

“Yes.” 

“Good. Now sit down on that little seat you carved out and watch me work my magic.”

I wiped the stinging sweat from my eyes with my muddied sleeve. Too tired to protest, I did as he said and sat. Ramirez then proceeded to take the large branches and stake them in the ground around the fighting hole, creating a cozy overhead canopy. He left a small opening, enough for him to wiggle through and join me. 

For a moment, we both sat in silence staring out through the forward-facing opening at the forested landscape beyond. The only sounds we heard were the chirping of the birds, the whining of large insects, and the occasional blowing of a stiff, evening breeze.

“Got any dip?” Ramirez asked.

I nodded and we both took a pinch. Nicotine-inspired calmness took over. As I stared out at the forest, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of oneness with everything, like mother nature was whispering sweet words that I was now in the right state of mind to listen to. I turned to Ramirez and was about to praise him for his idea with the branches when I heard my name being called. 

“Oh no,” I muttered.

Shortly after, Corporal Ross appeared and hovered over our fighting hole, peering in. 

“Nice fort,” he said. “What are you guys, like five years old?”

“Don’t be jealous,” said Ramirez, proudly. 

Ross didn’t respond to him and instead reached through the canopy and tapped me on the head. 

“Jones, higher decided that they actually do want to send out a night patrol for the Iron Horse resupply and Corporal Jackson personally requested your name. Said it had to do with an attitude problem or something.”

I let out a long sigh, grabbed my rifle, and lifted myself out of the hole. 

“Bring back food this time,” called Ramirez. 

“Shut up,” I said and stormed off to the staging area. 

September 02, 2022 02:08

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1 comment

Tam Hoskyns
10:52 Sep 08, 2022

the back and forth dialogue is catchy and enjoyable. I started off finding Ramirez really irritating, but as the piece continued, Ramirez helps to set a more jovial and easy going tone to what would be a very tense and stressful situation. I particularly enjoyed how the discomfort of the place, the job, and the hunger builds, particularly with the slacking of Ramirez. You can feel the intense effort Jones demonstrates to keep it all together. Really great piece!

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