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Flash Fiction
474 words
SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

Career Day

by Paul Crenshaw

Were you in the war? Are you going to show us your gun? Did you see any terrorists?

Did you just now get back? How long were you gone? What was the first thing you did when you got back? What did Mike do when you were kissing her? Did he cry?

Was your father in the army? Did he come to Career Day with you when you were in 3rd grade?

Are you a general? How far is sergeant below general?

How did you get there? Was the airplane big? How many people were in it? Any tanks? Any machine guns? Any nuclear weapons? Was it hot when you landed? Do all Iraqis have lice? Do they all stink? Do they all have hairy armpits? Do the women always wear those things over their heads?

Did you get ice cream over there? Do they have McDonald’s? What did you eat? Was it gross? Did the sand get into your mouth? Did it make everything taste like sand?

Do they really ride camels?

Did you see the pyramids?

Do they have phones over there? Did you get to call Mike? What did Mike say when you called? Did he cry? Do you think Mike is a weenie for crying?

Did you pee on any dead Iraqis? Did you torture anyone? Did you make anyone get naked? Did you think it was funny?

Why did Mrs. Winters tell us to be on our best behavior? Are you going to get mad at us? Are you going to shoot us? Have you ever shot at anyone? Did you hit him?

Mike said you killed a man. Mike said you killed a bunch of men. Mike said you wanted to kill a bunch more.

Did you pledge the allegiance every morning? Do you still love America? Mike said you didn’t sometimes. Mike said you hated America sometimes.

How can you love and hate something at the same time?

What are your ribbons for? Did you get a Purple Heart? Did you get a Silver Star? Mike said you got a Medal of Honor. Is Mike lying? Does Mike lie a lot? Do you ever lie? Are you lying to us now?

What do dead bodies look like? Did you ever see one? Did you throw up? How many did you see?

Were you ever scared? What was the scariest thing?

What’s an IED? What does it sound like? Did it kill people? Did you save him? Did you cry afterward? Did that happen a lot? How many times?

Do you think Mike will join the army when he grows up? Do you think there will be a war then? Are you crying now? Why is Mike crying now?

What was it like over there? Do you want to go back? Would you ever? Why not?


SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

Paul Crenshaw’s

stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Essays 2005 and 2011 (anthologies by W.W. Norton and Houghton Mifflin), Ecotone, Glimmer Train, Brevity, and Southern Humanities Review, among others. He teaches writing and literature at Elon University.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury