“Tour and Duty” by Rebecca Emin

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This was the second story of my 2013 version of “Project: Deal Me In.” (this year, Hearts is my suit for female authors.)

I discovered this story via the book blogosphere, where I learned the book is a part of – “A Knowing Look and Other Stories.” I purchased an e-copy last spring and read the title story right away. I liked it and thought I should include one from the book in my next annual short story reading project. Randomness led me to pick the story “Tour and Duty” and when I created my deck it became the queen of hearts, which I drew this morning… (sorry I can only include a screen capture of the book here, but for some reason I was having trouble downloading a copy online)

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This story is very short, maybe the shortest one I will read this year. I don’t know if it qualifies for the term “flash fiction” but my guess would be yes.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a term that is well known in today’s world (and that hasn’t always been the case). My take on this story was that it explores some more subtle manifestations of PTSD – one needn’t be missing a limb or jumping at every loud noise to be suffering. The protagonist in the story spent time with her (and the reader doesn’t learn the sex of the protagonist at first either, which I found interesting) unit in the mountains of Afghanistan, and much of this time hiding from potential discovery by the enemy. We don’t learn how or why this situation has come about, but we do know that she escapes with her life, unlike some other comrades she muses about upon her return.

Returning home is a shock in many ways. Emin relates that it is “always a shock to the system to come back from somewhere so bleak and isolated, to the developed world with networks of roads, fully working communications and running water, not to mention electricity as well as gas.”

Though uninjured, our returning soldier has brought back some ‘baggage’ from her tour of duty. Something she dreads telling her fiancé about, but circumstances soon dictate that NOT telling him isn’t an option. I can’t really say more without a major spoiler alert, which I don’t want to include. You’ll have to read for yourself.

I generally prefer a little more ’meat’ on my short stories and am always impressed when one so short can get the job done, as is the case with this one.

(below: an Infantryman from 10th Mountain Division outside a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan, April 06, 2004. (US Army photo by SPC Gul A Alisan) (Released). From http://www.25idl.army.mil/deployment/oef%20afghanistan/deployment/12april04pictures.htm)

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If you are interested in buying this collection, it’s only $2.99 at Amazon and may be found at http://www.amazon.com/Knowing-Look-And-Other-Stories/dp/1471647943