31 July 2015

Published July 29, 2015 by rochellewisoff

The disc and the dragonfly

Friday Fictioneers Farm Path

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The next photo is the PHOTO PROMPT. Where does it take you? Can you tell us in a hundred words or less with a beginning, middle and end? Ready, set, write!

PHOTO PROMPT © G.L. MacMillan.

PHOTO PROMPT © G.L. MacMillan.

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Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100


            My brother was the valedictorian of his graduating class. Awarded a scholarship to Harvard, he owned the future.

            When his draft notice came I was inconsolable.

            “Duty calls, Sis. I’ll be back.”

            Tonight we celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday. His hands tremble as he cuts the cake. The knife falls from his fingers and tears stream down in his cheeks.

            “I cut off their ears and hung them from a chain on my belt loop.” He swallows a pill with a swig of beer. “Thirty-six kills. God, I miss it.”

            My brother did come back from Vietnam but he never returned.       








109 comments on “31 July 2015

  • That last line is a killer Rochelle, A very powerful piece, beautifully written. The contrast between what he was in the narrator’s eyes, and what he now is… left me speechless.


  • Another very well written story. I also reminds me of the First World War, and how shell shock took away a part of who the soldiers were.


    • Dear Francesca,

      I’m afraid there are these types of casualties in any war. Vietnam was horrible for this in that, not only did our soldiers suffer over there, but were vilified and reviled when they returned home. Not a proud piece of American history. 😦

      Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • So many different types of horror are illustrated here, Rochelle. Vietnam was particularly bad for our soldiers because of the reception they got at home. But any war, just or unjust, necessary or not, is horrible as are the results.



    • Dear Janet,

      I agree. It was a shame the way the vets were treated. I’m glad that people have rallied and tried to make it up to them, but perhaps it’s too little too late.

      My story is based on an interview I saw recently with a Vietnam vet. Horrifying.




    • Dear Larry,

      That era changed this country…not necessarily for the better. Returning soldiers had to deal with scorn and ridicule in addition to the trauma they suffered. I remember the time well although I was a young teen at the time. 😉




      • I’ve always been both sorry & happy I didn’t live through it. Certain things were sort of good up to a point. Things like excessive reaction to the war, the drug culture, sexual revolution & anything on the left are against all I stand for..


  • I don’t anyone ever came back the same from that war. All were deeply scarred by it in some way. Not all the scars were visible. A very poignant story, Rochelle. Well done!


    • Dear Eric,

      The scars that no one sees with the eye are the worst. A couple of vets I saw in a recent interview spoke of how they were turned into killers and when they came home were expected to be “normal.” I can write a story, but I really have no clue.

      Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Proof positive that the victims of war did not necessarily lose their ears or life…I don’t think any soldier who has witnessed war does not suffer from some level of PTSD.

    Heartbreaking and sucker-punched once again!


    • Dear Dale,

      There are so many casualties of war with scars that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Not only the soldiers who’ve experienced the horror firsthand, but their families as well.

      Sorry about the sucker-punch…not really. 😉 That’s high praise. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Rochelle,
    I’m left pondering so many lines here, but especially “I miss it,” in such proximity to the ear-cutting. We have to assume he doesn’t miss the barbarity (although maybe he does) and therefore to see a wonderful oxymoron in that line.
    You’ve taken a cliche and turned it into a real and surprising story. I often think cliches make great writing prompts, because they really challenge us to go beyond the obvious. You’ve done that here in spades, no just from the picture (which you always do), but also from that last line, which feels fresh here, even though it’s been used before.
    Excellent stuff.



  • Dear Rochelle,
    I don’t think anyone has come back the same from war in the history of all humanity, but Vietnam was an extra helping of bad medicine. I wish those who pass the laws and declare the wars would take the time to really look at those they send to fight. Maybe we would find better ways to effect peace.

    Good work.

    All my best,


    • Dear Marie Gail,

      The Vietnam era was a strange one. I’ve heard it said, “If you remember the ’60’s you weren’t really there.” Not necessarily so. I fear that as long as there are humans there will be wars.

      Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lorna,

      I love it when someone asks how I arrived at a certain story from a prompt. The bottles made me think of narcotics. Immediately my mind went to the addicts that the Vietnam war (as well as all the other wars) produced. I went from there to finding interviews with actual vets. One man had a nest of pill bottles in front of him, a few that he swallowed during the interview with trembling hands.

      Thank you for asking and commenting.




  • Hola Rochelle,
    Oh my, it sounds like PTSD. No matter, scars don’t need a label. All of the soldiers from Vietnam and other wars have scars that they have to live with. My Dad and Father-in-Law told us stories of their experiences during the WW. No one is unscarred.
    You packed a great deal in those few words.
    BRAVA ….!!!!


  • Hi Rochelle,

    That was a terrifying story at some level. Gut-wrenching. Excellent narration. I read your response to an earlier poster, asking how the prompt led you to your story. Glad to read your response — I was about to ask that question, so I’m glad I read your comments before I sat down to type.



    • Dear Vijaya,

      One of the things I love about writing for a Friday Fictioneers’ prompt is stepping outside the box. 😉 The other thing I love is explaining to someone how I got from Point A to Point B.

      I believe the terror comes from the brother’s back story.

      Thank you for taking the time to read, ponder and leave such nice comments.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Wonderful piece. I had an instructor, a mentor, a man with a doctorate teach a few of my master’s classes, he served in Vietnam, and during one class that just happened to take place in his garage, I don’t remember the reason, maybe to make this next statement part of the lesson, but while there he told us that he had the ears of the men he killed in a jar, in the refrigerator sitting not far from us. Did we want to see them, and then he asked specific questions about our reaction to his statement, etc. I realized then that War is War, and to think you know it, to think you can judge a person who’s been there – well, I had no right. NONE. I admired this man, he was brilliant, a true scholar, hero, and war survivor. But no I did not need to see what he had in that refrigerator.The sad fact is a man or woman can come back whole and yet have scars deeper than any wound could ever cause.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Yolanda,

      Did he really have ears in his refrigerator or was he going for the reaction? Either way, it leads me to believe this wasn’t an uncommon practice over there. The vet in my story is based on an interview with actual vet who did cut off the ears of his kills and carried them on a chain on his belt loop. He no longer has them because Customs wouldn’t allow him to take them.

      Thank you for sharing this experience and making such a nice comment on my story.




  • Oh Rochelle, this one truly carries an extra punch! “I miss it…” That single line, in an already beautifully crafted story, is haunting. Wow.

    Sorry to be MIA… but too much going on, and will be for the next month or so! Youngest leaving (very unexpectedly) for college, and eldest waiting to give birth! My oh my… finding time for writing, or flash fiction is challenging! Thinking of you… xox

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Rochelle, You have the gift of writing and your story is so true. Reading your story and then bam – it hits you with the truth “I miss it” Everyone can identify with this – you are an amazing storyteller! Nan


  • Dear Rodette Serling,
    Several of the local boys, just a few years older than me, went off to Vietnam on their senior trip. None returned whole. You captured their story perfectly.
    – Spike


  • This hits home. My dad’s a Vietnam War vet. He sacrificed an eye and lifetimes of trauma to that war. He still has shrapnel in his back and some PTSD all these years later.

    Wonderful story, Rochelle. Well done.


  • Duty is an incredibly powerful emotion – one I think the 21st Century is sadly lacking. But as your story points out, it has an important consequence too, and one we often overlook.

    It’s been a couple of years since I did a Friday Fictioneers piece and it’s good to be back. Hope all is well with you Rochelle.


    • Dear Linda,

      It’s good to see you back.

      The saddest part of the Vietnam war is that when these guys (and some of them had no choice) did their duty they were treated like criminals when they returned.

      Thank you for dropping by.




  • Nice one Rochelle. I had a friend who came back silent and uncommunicative during a leave. Next time when he was on leave again he mentioned why he had been so silent the last time. A truck in the convoy he was on had been blown up by a land mine killing all the soldiers. And even nearer to home, my father had the task of identifying casualties and writing letters to the families after the war. I was told that he was silent and withdrawn for a few months later. I was born after the war ended and growing up I knew he had a gallantry award but he never talked about the war with us. I think about it now and perhaps that was his way of shutting those memories out.


  • Dear Subroto,

    I lived through the Vietnam era but remained untouched for the most part. A friend of mine is married to a vet and says that he still has nightmares. I can’t imagine it’s something you can ever ‘get over.’

    Thank you for sharing and for commenting.




  • Dear Rochelle, Hi! The first time I read the story, I could not comment. I was numb. You have a great way to tell a story in just 100 words.Last line is very powerful. I know so little about the world around me, every time I read your story I learn something new. Thanks for hosting FF. It’s great to read so much here. Love and hugs.


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