Zucchini

by Tracy

Standing over the array of organic vegetables at Trader Joes, he began to cry.

He’d been holding it back for days. Weeks, actually, and he thought he’d been doing really well.

They always say it will hit you where you least expect it.

They’re right.

He was 36 years old and crying into the vegetables at a grocery store.

He swiped at his cheeks, hoping to pull himself back together, but he couldn’t manage. The tears kept coming and he couldn’t make them stop.

It was organic zucchini that was his undoing.

Zucchini bread.

There had been zucchini bread in his lunchbox every first day of school of every year.

Zucchini bread and milk when she’d told him his dad had left and wouldn’t be back.

Zucchini bread and milk when he’d gotten an F in science in 7th grade.

Zucchini bread and milk when he got his driver’s license.

Zucchini bread in his first care package at college.

Zucchini bread when he brought home his first serious “real” girlfriend.

Zucchini bread when he’d announced his engagement.

Zucchini bread on the counter of his apartment when he’d come home from his honeymoon.

Zucchini bread as a housewarming gift for his first house.

Zucchini bread waiting at home when his son had been born.

Zucchini bread and milk when she’d told him she was dying.

Zucchini bread, he realized, there in Trader Joe’s, was her I love you.

So the tears came. Not just because there would be no more zucchini bread, no more I love you.

The tears came because he couldn’t remember what it tasted like anymore.

Follow Tracy on Twitter: @some1tookmename

Medic

by Carrie

“Medic!”

Coates heard the call moments before being momentarily deafened by the thunderous crack of a rifle being fired by a private who fell into the sand behind him and knocked him to his knees. As he was struggling to his feet, a mortar exploded ahead of him, spewing sand and shrapnel in all directions. He heard a clink as something hit the top of his helmet. He did not have to look behind him to know that the private was dead, as he could see out of the corner of his eye that his M1 lay on its side in the sand, a smear of blood on its stock.

“Medic!” the voice screamed again. “Mehhh-dic!”

Coates wiped the sweat from his upper lip and lunged forward, raising his arm to shield his face from another spray of sand thrown by a bursting mortar shell.

“Medic, God-dammit!”

He took several long strides, stepping over a corporal laid face-down on the bloody strand, his motionless shoulders draped with a garland of .30-cal ammunition and a deck of playing cards, still in their box, laying nearby. Coates pushed his helmet back from his forehead and lunged forward.

“Medi—!”

Coates saw the first sergeant writhing in the sand, clutching an empty, shredded left sleeve with his right hand as blood pulsed between his fingers. “It’s okay, Top,” he said as he dropped to his knees and gently put his left hand over the sergeant’s. He reached into his medical kit with his right hand and—without looking—retrieved a tourniquet and forceps.

“Mother fucker!” the sergeant spat, his lips curled in anger and his eyes wide with fear as he watched the blood dribble between his fingers and down his forearm.

Coates worked to staunch the bleeding, tying the tourniquet tight around what remained of the first sergeant’s upper left arm, as the old non-com grimaced and bit down on one of the chin straps dangling from his helmet. Once the tourniquet was applied and the bleeding had stopped, he turned and reached back into his bag.

“How you doin’, Top?” he asked as he fumbled for a morphine syrette.

The gray-headed sergeant wriggled in the sand and grunted, “I’m alrigh—”

As Coates turned back to him holding the syrette’s plastic cap between his teeth, a bullet passed through the first sergeant’s throat, just below his Adam’s apple, puncturing his windpipe. The old sergeant wheezed. Clutching at his throat with his one remaining hand, his lips moved but no words came out. Just then, as Coates reached for the sergeant’s neck, another burst of machine gun fire crackled down the beach with a fwip, fwip sound. The medic heard a thud and felt a spray of crimson in his face. Top was dead, his temple shattered by a German round.

Coates put the cap back on the syrette and tucked it into his pocket. He looked at the tourniquet still tied around the sergeant’s stub, then shook his head and clambered over two more broken bodies to continue advancing up the beach.

That night, after the first elements of the American landing force penetrated the German beach defenses and pushed beyond the beachhead, Coates collapsed in exhaustion outside of the battalion aid station. All around him, the roar of trucks and half-tracks was punctuated by the sounds of nearby fighting: the pattering sound of a distant machine gun, the crackle of rifle fire and the faint punch of mortars being spat from tubes followed by an explosive thunk as they found their mark. He heard the moans of men in the hospital tents behind him and the unmistakable sound of a bone saw.

His head pounded and, despite his utter exhaustion, he could not sleep.

Screams. Shouting. The crackle of an MG-42 sweeping the beach.

“Medic!”

Mortars exploding. The distinctive pa-ching of an M1 clip as it is ejected from the breach.

Screams.

He could see what looked like lightning behind the trees in the distance, but without the thunder.

Coates reached for his chest pocket, groped for a cigarette, then realized he had none. He had smoked most of them before boarding the landing craft and given the rest away to injured men. He felt something, then paused for several long moments.

Screams.

He pulled the syrette from his pocket, pulled the cap off with his teeth, broke the metal seal and removed the wire pin. He rolled up his sleeve, felt for a vein, then slipped the needle under his skin at a shallow angle, squeezing the collapsible metal tube until—

A euphoric rush of lightness swept over him as he watched the light show along the horizon to the east.

The rush reminded him of the afternoons spent swinging from an old tire hanging from the oak tree, and of the weightlessness felt as its arc swept him down to earth into his sister’s arms.

Follow Carrie on Twitter: @C_T_Morgan Visit her blog: http://wages-of-war.com

The Fiction with Friends “Manifesto”

About three and half years ago, I opened up a new Microsoft Word document and after a few days of writing out some miscellaneous, inter-connected scenes about a character that had been living in my head for many years, I scrolled to the top of the document and wrote these lines:

“I am writing this story for me, and no one else. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out because it is just for me.”

I found those lines liberating because, see, I had just been coming out of a years-long hiatus from creative writing, and I was nervous.  What if I didn’t have any creative ideas left in me? What if I didn’t know how to do this anymore? What if I had fooled myself into thinking I ever did? What if all I could write was utter drivel? Rubbish?

That’s when I stopped, and wrote those lines at the top, because I reminded myself, who cares? I honestly hadn’t started writing for any other purpose than I just missed it and that I just really needed that creative outlet back in my life.

After that, my miscellaneous scenes grew, and then they actually turned into SOMETHING, which gave me hope and a tiny bit of confidence.

A few months into that “nothing” turning into “something”, I discovered fan fiction. Now, if you are a writer who scoffs at the whole idea of fan fiction, then you might have just found your stopping point in this post, even though this blog won’t ever host fan fiction. And that’s totally cool. If you have read or written it, then you have found a kindred spirit, as Anne Shirley would say, and you will understand the rest of this “manifesto” even better.

The day I decided to publish the first chapter of my first fan fiction story, I thought I would pass out from hyperventilating after realizing what I just did. Holy shi– crap. People could SEE what I just posted. What if they laughed? What if they thought it was stupid? Poorly written? Or maybe the worst, what if no one even read it at all?

While I have always recognized that fan fiction is not some paragon of publishing (copyright law not even being the most obvious issue), I saw in it a unique opportunity to get experience with writing for a public audience, which proved extremely valuable as I continued to pursue broader aspirations with my own, original writing. Not only that, but it helped me discover that a lot of fan fiction writers were just like me in that they were learning and practicing the craft. They were experimenting.

Perhaps now you can see where this is all leading.

Maybe you are that kind of writer. Maybe you are thinking of publishing a major work some day – or maybe you aren’t. Maybe you’d like to just experiment with original characters and original ideas in a small, non-competitive venue. Maybe this small venue is a chance to share without judgment.

Fiction with Friends is my vision for just such writers and experimentation. 50-100 word flash fiction story? Share it here. 2,000 word story? That’s welcome here, too. What makes this site different than others? To be honest, not a whole lot. There are many places to post your original fiction. But for now – and maybe for always, who knows? – we are small. This isn’t a place for me (I already have my own blog, yo), it’s for you and others. We will be promotion-free and review-free (ie: no comments on stories).

Why no comments on stories? If I am appealing to you as a new writer or even a writer who has published on community forums before, then you might be able to understand the following: reviews and comments on our writing are AWESOME, no doubt about it. Feedback is the lifeblood of writing for the public. On the other hand, it’s remarkably easy to feed self-doubt when we don’t get the quality or more importantly, the quantity of feedback that we hope for or expect. My friends, writing can be hard enough on the self-esteem and publishing our writing can be a difficult enough obstacle as it is without adding the pressure of “is it popular” or “is it good enough”. If you need the feedback, then this site might not be for you, and that’s okay. There are lots of other great sites for that kind of thing. But if you’re looking for a safe place to share and experiment, then this might be just the venue for you.

Check out the “Prompts” link if you are stuck for something to write (and feel free to share possible prompts that I can add as we go, too). Got a little something ready to go? Check out the submissions link for both general guidelines and the submission form. If your story fits within the guidelines, it will be accepted and published in the order it was received. This is not a contest or a juried periodical.

Questions? Use the contact form or tweet me @FictionWFriends. I hope to see your work here soon!