Excerpt from "A Time for Eating Wild Onions"
By L. A. Starks
My body felt like it was still on the other side of the world. Twenty-four hours ago we had lifted off from hot, dank Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, Vietnam, on the way back to the land of the big PX. Now, a foggy summer night in San Francisco, I was freezing.
"You need a hand, come see us. We're better than Haight-Ashbury Switchboard." He handed us a mimeographed sheet of paper with directions and I shoved it in a pocket.
Jack and I crossed Green Street. It reminded me of a Vietcong redball, high speed road. Cars zooming down the hill braked to stop at the light at the last minute. Special San Francisco brakes, I guess.
"Man, I'm starving," Jack said, "and you just turned down a free meal."
Excerpt from "Robert and Thérèse Guillard: Choices"
By L. A. Starks
Knots in his stomach grew and tightened. He'd be a fool not to be worried. Thérèse was right. He was taking an insane gamble for a few minutes of pleasure.
His instructor, a veteran flier, faced him for a final check. Goggles. Skydiving computer. Wingsuit. Parachute. Reserve chute.
Robert stepped out into nothing.
After his two hundred parachute jumps, the speed of free fall didn't surprise him. His ears popped. Quickly, he spread his arms and legs.
The wingsuit inflated exactly as designed. Light, strong nylon —connected his arms to his torso. Another piece of fabric webbed between his legs.
The air stopped rushing past his head. He could hear the airplane's roar. No other sound penetrated the stillness. Frigid air, below zero Celsius, tugged on his body.
He felt weightless. He was body-surfing the very skies. He had only to think of the direction he wished to turn and he found himself there. For every meter of fall, he flew forward two meters.
Robert knew he should check his dive computer, but now, for these few minutes, he didn't think ahead to anything. He held his body rigid, aware of the pain in his shoulder but able to arch his hips or bend his knees to change direction. He flew. He gazed below in amazement and triumph at the distance he was covering and his slow rate of descent. From fifteen thousand feet up, wingsuit flying meant not sixty seconds of freefall like skydiving but a luxurious three minutes of gliding.
He, Robert, had joined the tribe of the elite, the supermen who flew far above the earth.
Excerpt from "Gumbo Filé" in Dreamspell Nightmares
By L. A. Starks
During the months Cheryl Wilkins spent on the Baghdad streets improvised explosive devices, IEDs, had maimed and killed several of her friends. Shortly after returning to Louisiana from her service as a mechanic in Iraq, she applied to join the Coast Guard.
She appreciated the Guard's competence and liked the idea of being "the tip of the spear," as the recruiter had put it. She had mapped the bayous and the coasts with her oysterman father, could fix most machines, and would take down anyone with a weapon when words failed.
Since her homecoming, she'd been asked to give school talks in Lake Charles and other Jeff Davis Parish cities. She refused. She doubted she had the words to explain to civilians, particularly children, that her experience wasn't like playing a video game.
She was immediately accepted into the Guard and joined as a boatswain's mate. Cheryl trained on the job through a striker program.
The Coast Guard had its share of good old boys and hazing, but in the Eighth District she was respected for her military service. She'd already been on a few drug busts and didn't wish for another bad hurricane season but had seen enough of the New Orleans and Morgan City Marine Safety Offices to prefer action.
It was in an advanced course on homeland security that she heard Patrick Boudreaux speak.
. . .
After he finished a late shift, Liamzon ducked down one of the narrow metallic passageways toward his bunk. Without warning a strong arm grabbed him around the neck and his head was jerked back. A knife tickled his throat. "Wandag sent me, too. You must do as I say, or I will tell Wandag he can't trust you."