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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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PTSD

Muddy Water Memories – flash fiction

The band was packing their instruments when a young man approached Mac. He stuck an old photo of two men, one supporting the other, in a muddy rice paddy apparently in Vietnam in front of him. “I’m wondering if that’s you on the left?”

Mac stared at the photo…”Billy Metott.”

“My grandfather. He says you saved his life that day. I wanted to tell you he’s doin’ well and say thank you.”

“How did you find me?”

“I’m attending college near here. He saw the bar’s name  when he passed by and thought it must be you.”

“I’ll be.”

(Part two)

Mac handed the picture back, wiped the tears from his eyes, and finally looked at the young man. “The truth about that day is nobody lived without the help of a buddy. Why didn’t Billy stop in?”

“Fear he was wrong. Memories.”

“That I understand. Your name?”

“Colm, after my father.”

When the band members heard the name, their curiosity peaked. They heard Mac say, “Sorry about the name. I’d like to get together with your grandfather. Maybe we can save each other from some future bad dreams.”

“He’ll agree to that. I’ll let him know.”

“Thank you, Colm.”

Written in response to Charli Mills October 30, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads!

Emma Won’t Tell

Tessa and Lexi were sitting on the far side of the bonfire so could see Michael cuddling Emma Blossom through the bay window. He laid his forehead against hers and his lips were moving. Had they been able to hear him…”My sweet baby girl who wants to hear a spooky story, I live one. I can feel feet I don’t have. My driver’s ghost keeps me company way too often and the tea kettle whistling or light flashes can cause me to drench my clothes with sweat in seconds. Your Grandma knows, and I don’t think you’ll tell anyone.”

Note: Michael is a 100 % disabled vet who lost his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. Tessa is his significant other and Lexi is her daughter.

Written in response to Charli Mills October 22, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a spooky tale told around a campfire. It doesn’t have to include the campfire; it can be the tale. Go where the prompt leads!

PTSD Personified – Flash Fiction

January 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

“Doc, my family feared I would die shortly after the ink was dry on my enlistment papers. Now I’ve made it back home without a visible wound they want me to tell them what my days were like: what I ate, what I saw, if I met any nice girls. They have no idea all the Army wanted from me was a body count. Having done what I was expected to do in order to survive, now I am dead inside. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night because of the nightmares and ashamed I made it home.”

Too Many Suffer

It’s National PTSD Awareness Day. I had to study the picture to figure out what it was showing me. In case you need help, the background is camouflage, for a military uniform, and there is a tear running from the very healthy looking green eye.

I know a lot of people who suffer from PTSD, not all military. The men and women who have served in war zones and seen the effects of combat on the human body suffer, mostly in silence, trying to make sense of the senseless. Generally it is an invisible problem, so easy for someone else to say, “Well, he/she came home without a scratch.” There might not be any visible wound, but I can guarantee they have emotional ones. Some just deal with it better than others. A friend named Norm had the job of arming war head bombs during the Korean War. He never was in a war zone himself, but to this day he wonders if any of those bombs he loaded, killed anyone. It keeps him awake at night, even after all these years.

Another group who suffer from PTSD are parents who have buried children. The siblings of that child suffer also. I just read an article by Paula Stephens entitled “What I Wish More People Understood About Losing a Child”. She called the death of a child an “out-of-order death”. It’s unnatural. The pain never goes away and the child’s birthday and the day they became an angel are the toughest days of the year for the family. The power of the date is sometimes overwhelming. If you know anyone in this category mention to them the fact you remember something about their child. It helps them to know people haven’t forgotten their baby (no matter the age).

Sometimes even a stressful job can result in PTSD symptoms for those who did the job. Police officers, medical personnel, company heads, and anyone who has dealt with a traumatic situation are in that group. And their spouses and families suffer with them. It is proven that support groups can help people who deal with PTSD, but it is also a fact that too many people don’t look for a group because “they can handle it on their own”. I find that sad. I thinks it’s very helpful for a person to know they aren’t the only one who feels the way they do and they are still normal, maybe with a new definition of normal.

Thank a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day. I will be spending the evening with a special group of Veterans who are my personal friends. We belong to the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. Following is part of my portfolio that is on our web-sight page:

When we gather, we catch up on each other’s news and then write for about twenty minutes from a prompt sheet that gets our ideas forming. There are usually four prompts provided by one of our facilitators. After writing, each person reads aloud what he or she has written. Members of the group then offer constructive criticism on how to improve semantics. Suggestions are made for extending the piece into an essay, short story, or whatever. That’s the plan.

This is what really happens; most of us have chosen a prompt that requires a walk down memory lane: it can be a poignant memory with a good, or not so good, outcome while in the military; a humorous escapade from childhood or adult life; something a loved one did or experienced; a subject we feel strongly about and why; or sharing what losing a loved one feels like. After each person reads, the others acknowledge that the emotions shared are legitimate, worthy, and acceptable. The military brotherhood understands the range of feelings and the impact of PTSD. It’s a safe place to share. Personally, I always need my box of tissues; that’s just how I’m wired. Funny, I can talk about a situation, but when I read my own writing, I cry. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

The number that attends the group ebbs and flows. There can be as many as twelve people and sometimes only five. Most attendees have served in a branch (or two) of the U.S. military and others have close affiliations to a current or past military member. There are no rules other than to have a desire to write, share, and learn. And, it’s free.

Attending this group for over a year now has given me some remarkable gains — friends, understanding, and knowledge. I am part of the tribe and I belong.

My husband is a veteran, as is the father of my children. I pay close attention to the Veterans who are my Facebook friends and vote the way they do because I trust their judgement. They have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. May I suggest, today and every day; Thank a Veteran.

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