The Sad Young Sergeant (A Short Story, Concerning Agent Orange)

((… Agent Orange) (1971, Fort Rucker, Alabama))

His dull face showed a shade of vengeance by some inward self-satisfaction needed, a smugness almost that appeared to offend him, yet gave him content, if not joy-it wasn’t in his nature, but it was there nonetheless, that he found something out of nothing, and now could utter what it was, he had learned the name for it, ‘Agent Orange.’

“They fired bombs and guns I thought,” he told Lee, adding, “I never expected to live through the war, only to die at the hands of some mysterious, infectious chemical agent called ‘Agent Orange.'” He told Lee Evens, his back against the wall, chair up on its two hind legs, Joe Montgomery, from Fayetteville, North Carolina, it was the summer of 1977 (furthermore he added, ‘It had a delayed reaction, somehow’), nine-years, then buff, all of a sudden it was there’).

“It was Lee, to me, the final boom! And now it is the last part of the war for me, which I thought was over nine-years ago, evidently I was wrong. Yes indeed, a lost war, that I forgot was still embedded in me, to my death do I part with it.”

Furthermore, added Joe (in a voice of discontent), “they all fell dead around us, when we went to pick them up, to check out their pockets for papers, and so forth, they were silent, discoloured; the dead are smelly, and ugly, and discoloured, and bloated, and just awful.” He said to Lee, at the mess hall.

Then Joe’s hand started to shake, I mean really shake, as if it his system was on automatic, like someone under electric shock, his left arm, dancing in the air, as he looked at it, then Joe looked at Lee, looking at him, “You see, I have no control over it,” and his face started to pulsate, and his legs seemed to tap, and his back arched. He had to let go of his coffee, and his spoon, he had to wait for his system to cool down. He no longer was in control.

After a moment’s agony, he smiled again, “Everyday now, it gets worse,” he tells Lee, Lee looking, unable to speak, and if he could what would he say, so he told himself.

“No kidding aside, I’ll be dead in two months, so the doctor tells me, and my lawyers say, this substance was used by the army for experimental purposes in several areas in Vietnam, during the time I was there, and I was in one of those several areas, and they are unsure of the effects, but here they are, in full motion, yet I fear my family will not see any money from this for years, it’s under investigation, and you know what that means in the Army. Listen up, you need to check out and see if you were in any of these areas, I mean it lays dormant for years, and then like an eruption from a volcano, it explodes one day.”

“How long you been in the Army?” asked Sergeant Evens.

“Going on fifteen-years, I won’t live to get my pension; perhaps now you understand Sergeant Lee (right then the spoon fell out from under his fingers).”

Under the stringent circumstances, Sergeant Joe Montgomery, still had remarkable agility, and his large black frame, bruised here and there, kept a smile on his face, knowing somehow, there was no escape from his fate, yet, with the brief time he had left, he was not going to ask for pity, or any such thing, and let it imprison him, he committed no crime, he was the victim, and said, sadly, “Too bad I loved the Army so, and it would have been great to get to know you better Lee,” and then I noticed across his arm he had a tattoo of the American Flag, underneath it, it read, “The American Flag, with all its Glory!”

1-4-2008 (Written in Lima, Peru)

Top 10 Successful Short Story Writers in India

1.Rabindranath Tagore:Rabindranath Tagore (born May 7, 1861) was the first non-European laureate to win the Nobel Prize. Best known as a poet, he was a man with a great number of talents. He was a nationalist who gave up his knighthood to protest British policies in colonial India after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He was a painter and a songwriter too. One of these rare talents were short stories too. He wrote them in Bengali, English and Hindi. He even translated various famous English stories in Bengali and Hindi.

His famous short stories are: Sompotti Somorpon, Kabuliwallah (The Fruitseller from Kabul), Ghare Baire (The Home and the World), Jogajog (Relationships), Nastanirh (The Broken Nest), Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem or Farewell Song), Gora, Char Oddhay, Bou Thakuranir Haat, Malancha and Chokher bali are some of his excellent works in short stories.

2. Premchand: Munshi Premchand (born July 31, 1880), is one of the most renowned names in Hindi Literature. His original name was Dhanpat Rai. He was a novelist, a dramatist and mainly a short story writer. His translations into Hindi are still relevant. Munshi Ji was a teacher by profession but was still writing in Urdu language. He also wrote tiny stories. He was very patriotic and his works in Urdu depicted the conditions of the nationalist movement going on in colonial India. His thought-provoking short stories were realistic on one hand and poignant on the other. His short stories always carried some sort of social message while side by side entertaining the readers. His depiction of plight of girls and women in the 19th century is picturesque and hits the readers to create awareness about the status of women. He was later elected as Progressive Writers’ Association in Lucknow.

His famous short stories are: Adeeb Ki Izat, Duniya ka Sabse Anmol Ratan, Bade Bhai Sahab, Beti ka Dhan, Saut, Sajjanata ka dand, Panch Parameshvar and Pariksha.

His famous short stories are: The timeless beastly tales and other stories, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, Arion and the Dolphin (for children)

3. R. K. Narayan: Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami (born October 10, 1906) was an Indian writer who was renowned as a man of simplicity. His writing was as simple as his life was. He had been nominated for Nobel prize for literature several times. The compassionate humanism of each of his short and tiny stories. Swami was one of his best characters which was even adapted as a series on Doordarshan. Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami won various awards and honors for his works. These include, Sahitya Akademi Award for The Guide in 1958 and Padma Bhushan in 1964.

His famous short stories are: Gods, Demons and Others, The Grandmother’s Tale and Selected Stories, A Horse and Two Goats and Other Stories, Malgudi Days (book), Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories and The World of Malgudi.

4. Ruskin Bond: Ruskin Bond (born May 19, 1934) is a great Indian writer of British descent. He has authored many great children’s stories and was awarded Sahitya Akademi award to honor his work of literature. His famous character is Rusty who was involved in various mischievous activities since his birth.

His famous short stories are: The sensualist, The night train at Deoli, The cherry tree, The tiger in the tunnel, Time stops at shamli, Sussana’s 7 husbands, Delhi is not far, The room in the roof, Death of the trees, The blue umbrella, A flight of pigeons, When darkness falls.

5. Mahadevi Verma: Mahadevi Verma (Born March 26, 1907) was in true sense the modern Meera as Mahadevi Verma was greatly influenced by Buddhism and she was deeply aesthetic. Her poetry is marked by a constant pain, the pain of separation from her beloved, the supreme being.She brought Chhayavaad generation back to its position when romanticism was at its peak. She received Jnanpith award in the year 1982.

Her famous short stories and prose are: Ateet Ke chalchitra, Kshanda, Mera Parivaar, Path ke Saathi, Sahityakaar ki Asatha, Sambhashan, Sankalpita, Shrinkhla ki kadiya, Smriti Ki Rekhayen

6. Khushwant Singh: Khushwant Singh (Born Feb 02, 1915) was an Indian novelist, a lawyer and a journalist. He was a man of rare intellect and possessed many hidden talents. He was a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and King’s College London.He was the editor of many reputed newspapers and magazines like, The Illustrated Weekly of India, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times.

His famous short stories’ collections are: The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, The Voice of God and Other Stories, A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, Black Jasmine, The Collected Stories.

7. Mulk Raj Anand: Mulk Raj Anand (Born Dec 12, 1905) was the first Indian writer in English to be in the light in the international scene. He can be considered a pioneer in anglo-Indian fiction and the first to depict the masses and their plight. He highlighted many social evils prevailing in the society of that time. He himself was born in a coppersmith family but being an avid learner, he went to Cambridge for higher studies.

His famous short stories’ collections are: The Lost Child and Other Stories, The Barber’s Trade Union and Other Stories, The Tractor and the Corn Goddess and Other Stories, Reflections on the Golden Bed, The Power of Darkness and Other Stories Lajwanti and Other Stories, Between Tears and Laughter, Selected Short Stories of Mulk Raj Anand, Tales Told by an Idiot: Selected Short Stories.

8. Jhumpa Lahiri: Jhumpa Lahiri(Born July 11, 1967) is a Pulitzer prize winning writer known for works of fiction like Interpreter of maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland. She is famous for the pondering thought she spends on each and every character and the mesmerizing emotional connection with them.

Her famous short stories’ collections are: Interpreter of maladies, the namesake

9. Vikram Seth: Vikram Seth (Born June 20, 1952) is an Indian novelist, poet, travel writer best known for his epic novel ‘A Suitable Boy’. For more than three decades he has been writing and getting the due appreciation from critics. He graduated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford and did his master’s in economics from Stanford University, U.S.A. The novel ‘The Golden Gate’ published in 1986 made him one of the most highly acclaimed novelists of his time and the book won him plenty of accolade from readers as well as critics.

10. Anita Desai: Anita Desai(Born June 24, 1937) is one of the most notable contemporary Indian fiction writers in English. She was born to a Bengali father and a German mother. She grew up in Delhi, receiving her education first at Queen Mary’s School and later at Miranda House, one of Delhi University’s most prestigious colleges. At the early age of seven, she published her first novel,Cry, the Peacock, in 1963. Desai since then published novels, short stories, and children’s literature.

Her famous short stories’ collections are: Games at Twilight and Other Stories, Diamond Dust: Stories

Other notable short story writers include, Jayshankar Prasad, Rohinton Mistry, Kiran Desai, Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati Roy.

Boobala Darling’s Long Awaited Proposal – Part 2 Of 3 – A Short Story

Boobala is finally on the cruise that she has wanted to take her whole life, but so far, it hasn’t gone that well. She’s been humiliated by the Captain, and aggravated by other guests. In part 2, though, her cruise takes a surprising turn.

As Boobala gorges on her food, a tall slim gentleman by the name of Irving Levy enters the dining room. He is assisted by his quad cane. Irving, a retired sixty year old wealthy stock broker, is known by the Captain because of the numerous trips he takes aboard the Empress Carinthia, but since his total hip replacement surgery and extensive physical therapy, he had not been able to travel as much recently, until now. Grateful that the worst has passed, he still uses his quad cane for support for the time being. Dressed in a loud multi-striped shirt with a bow tie, plaid pants and ridiculous suspenders, he sees Boobala sitting by herself. He shuffles over to her table.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” he asks in a well-mannered voice.

Boobala gets annoyed as she really didn’t want him or anyone at her table. She responds sarcastically, “Do you see a reserve sign?”

“Why no,” stutters Irving, taken aback by her response.

Boobala looks Irving over, amused at his outfit, though she has to admit he is kind of cute. He is meticulously groomed. His grey hair looks refreshingly healthy. He is clean-shaven face with a thin mustache. She likes the sound of his voice and the scent of his cologne.

“Not bad, Not bad for an old guy,” she thinks.

“So vat are you waiting for, go ahead and park your Tuchis.”

Irving pulls out the chair and sits at the table with Boobala. “Thank you, Thank you,” says Irving.

Boobala snaps at him, “Alright already, stop with the thanks. You’re giving me a headache.”

Irving turns to Boobala and introduces himself, “My name is Irving Levy. May I inquire, what is yours?”

“Boobala Finkenberg Darling.”

“Darling,That’s not a Jewish name, is it? Irving asks.

Boobala gets pissed by his many questions. She snaps at him with an edge in her voice “Vat, are you writing a book? You ask about my private life. I don’t know you? My husband was English and he was a lazy bum. He beat me up and made my life very unhappy. It was a loveless marriage of seventeen years. Because he couldn’t hold down a job, we ended up living with his Uncle Jake throughout our marriage. We lived through bad times where even a penny was considered money. I worked, and he stole my paychecks to gamble. Harry died from a heart attack at age 36 because he owed money to a loan shark who was going to slice him up. I should have listened to my mother, she did not like him, but I was so young and so in love, I eloped with him. My parents were very wealthy, they owned a top of the line clothing business in Brooklyn, but they disinherited me when I eloped with Harry. Guess what, I didn’t even pay for this trip, I won it. There you go, my whole life in a nutshell!” Boobala quickly puts her hand to her mouth, shocked by what she just said to a total stranger. It slid out like oil over water. She felt embarrassed, wanting the ground to open up and swallow her. She hoped the ladies at the other table hadn’t heard. What was there about this man, that made her feel so instantly comfortable that she blurted out her whole life to him?

Irving looked at Boobala with compassion and adoring eyes, “The world is beautiful Boobala, but it’s the people who make it ugly.” He was mesmerized by this feisty woman. For the first time in many years, he believed that he was in love. His hazel eyes glowed as he continued to talk to Boobala.

‘What a charming smile,’ she thought, as she looked at his face. ‘Nice dental work. At least his breath doesn’t smell, and there are no hairs popping out of his ears and nose.’

“I see you are a nice Jewish woman. Do you speak Yiddish?” Irving asked.

“How could you tell I’m Jewish?

Irving points to her chest, “You’re wearing a button that says: “Kiss me I’m Jewish”, plus it’s written all over you.” Boobala looks down at her chest, smiling as she remembers Myrtle pinning the button on her. She could still hear Myrtle laughing and saying: “Here Boobala, an attention grabber. It will be a great conversation piece to help you meet someone. Mazel Tov!” she had said as she hugged her beloved friend good-bye.

Irving continued to speak, “Besides, you remind me of my ‘Libe Mameleh’.” (Yiddish term: beloved mother). He takes a large handkerchief out and wipes away tears and blows his nose, putting the handkerchief back into his pocket.

After clearing his throat he asks, “So tell me, did you remarry?

Boobala answers curtly as usual. “Would I be here alone, if I was married?”

“Sorry, I was not thinking. Just trying to make small conversation.” he responded.

Boobala, now irritated, continues to indulge in her meal. She suddenly pauses for a moment to let out a belch, and says to Irving “Pass me a roll and the salt shaker please, and wipe your chin, you’re dribbling. “

After she finishes, she gets up abruptly and leaves the dining room area to go back to her cabin, stopping to purchase a ticket for the land cruise. Irving, on the other hand, is so smitten by Cupid’s arrow that he follows her like a lost puppy dog. Boobala stops at the photographer’s section to admire the pictures taken when the passengers boarded the Empress Carinthia. She remembers her rough ordeal and exclaims, “They didn’t even take my picture. I don’t see it here.”

She turns around and sees Irving behind her. ‘No way on earth he can be my prince charming. Those outfits and the quad cane have to go.’ She is starting to get annoyed and avoids him constantly to the point of rudeness. No matter how much he is insulted, he always shuffles his way back to her.

Every day they would meet in the dining room. Boobala started to relax her guard and warm up to him as they got to know each other better. She was starting to expect him to show up. She really began to like him. Actually, Irving had a terrific sense of humor, which Boobala instantly adored. He became enraptured with her smile. He was a man in love, and she was the woman he wanted to marry. He would wait for Captain’s night to propose to her.

My, my, what will happen next. Will Boobala accept Irving as her Prince Charming? Has Boobala found true love? Will Boobala finally get a fairy tale ending in her troubled life. You can only find out by reading part 3.