February 24, 2019

Fiction by Philip Brown: "Authority"

Phillip Brown is a frequent contributor to Indiana Voice Journal.


Stocker came out of the woods doing 60. I complained too fast. Stocker, high on heroine; I wondered if he even heard me. The bumpy ride made the jeep ambulance rattle in the back where the stretchers were. I was the medic on the passenger side. A cloud of dust enclosed us as the jeep-ambulance sped out into the short grass of the field. I spit out the open side of the ambulance.
Stocker shifted down and headed up over the rise to the left, and then down into the level area where the creek snaked through. Slowing to a crawl I hopped out and ran into the water. I grabbed the West Point cadet by the back of the shirt and dragged him to shore. His lips purplish-blue; he was in heat stroke.
Dragging him to shore I dropped him face down. The front edge of his light blue helmet bit into the sand. With all the force I could muster I slugged him in the back. The side his heart was on. He took a breath. Saved me cardiac compressions.
I raised my right arm and whirled my index finger in tight circles. That was the signal for my driver to call a chopper. If the cadet’s lips hadn’t been purplish-blue I would have saved the chopper-boys a trip. Didn’t seem two minutes and the helicopter arrived. Those boys wasted no time flying into training sights at Ft. Benning. Serving one or more tours in Vietnam, stateside landings were cakewalks. It made a big difference the enemy shooting at you.
The casualty loaded onto the floor of the chopper the crew chief saluted me. Even though lower in rank, his salute meant job-well-done. Casualty laid-out in specified manner; designated area secured off; that sort of thing. Medics were held in high esteem. Once you fell from grace, it was hard to win back the confidence of the troops.

They came out of nowhere. Two West Point captains. Light blue helmets.
“What the hell are you doing, medic?”
I turned around.
“Stand at attention, soldier.”
I came to attention. My mind raced.
“Medic,” the captain said. “You evacuated our cadet?”
“Sir, he was in …”
“I don’t care what he was in!”
“We have our own medics who flew in with us this morning.”
My evacuating the fallen cadet made the two West Point officers look bad. Their responsibility was to make sure cadets took their salt tablets. A blot on their record could mean the difference staying a glorified major or promoted to Colonel.
“Just who the hell …” the captain started again. He turned to look at something in the distance. My eyes also went to the top of the rise where Stocker and I had come down. It was the Colonel. His jeep was coming toward us.
The Colonel’s jeep pulled up. The distance between us and him was misgauged by his driver. The driver stepped on the brakes too hard. It pushed the Colonel forward against his seat belt. The Colonel always took a substandard soldier and worked with him.
The Colonel: Medal of Honor recipient; from the streets of Chicago, found a home in the army. Learned to read in his twenties. A black man who taught Sunday school at main post. Politicians and Pentagon brass flew in to have lunch with him. Play golf.
The Colonel got out of his jeep and walked over to us. He came to stand perpendicular to the captions. The space to my left was empty.
“Alright,” the colonel said. “What’s going on here, Baunn?”
I noticed the Colonel addressed his words to me. Not the captains.
The captain interrupted, “Sir, this medic …”
Colonel raised his arm like it’s not your turn, captain!
“Brown,” the Colonel said. “You’re standing at attention?”
“Captain—ordered it, sir.”
“Stand at ease, son.”
“Yes, sir.”
I feared for the captains then.
“Sir,” the West Point officer interrupted again. “We have here…” The sound of his words faded as the Colonel got a certain look on his face. I imagined it was the one he had when the President put the Medal of Honor ribbon around his neck. That look was directed at me now
Then I noticed the Colonel did a right face and took a step into the empty space beside me. A simple maneuver in the physical world; but one that made an indelible imprint upon my soul.
In the ensuing years I would commit my life to Jesus Christ. When Satan would attack me with that you are a good person-stuff, I would say it says in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is desperately wicked and depraved; and who can understand it. Satan would congratulate me on my humility; and being open to the knowledge that there were many ways to God. Then I would remember the Colonel that day when he took that step to stand beside me, and told the captains that if he ever saw them around here again, they would deal with him.
The Bible says that Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. That He is the only way to God. But like the every-Sunday-in-church person Satan is, he will ultimately ask you the question philosophers down through the ages ask, “By who’s—authority?”

When I got back to the barracks all my gear was packed up, and the Lieutenant said I was going to Officer Candidate School.

~Phillip Brown

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