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12th December
posted by amber

Soldier of Fortune

My last job, I was in Afghanistan for six years. I worked all sides of the conflict. I mean, I’d work for whoever paid me, but it’s nice to think you’re on the side of the good. In that country, it was impossible to tell. People hospitable as hell. I mean, they’d give you their last grain of rice, their last chicken. Then pick up the Kalashnikovs and go out to shoot their neighbours.

I was wounded there. Not the first time I was injured, but it went septic and I lost the damn leg. If I’d been younger and had more money, I could have gotten a good prosthesis. Instead I have this piece of junk. Yeah, it’s not the right colour. I got it in a village near Kandahar. No one else there wanted a black leg. I didn’t care.

It was bizarre, the way they got those legs. I mean, so many people there need an artificial leg, the NGO’s just drop them out of airplanes. I saw it once, all these legs floating down onto the desert, each with their own little parachute. At first, I thought it was some kind of terror tactic, like putting heads on spikes outside the city gates. I thought they were real legs.

Yeah, I’ve seen lots of things, most of them terrible. People can be terrible. But you know, that country has been having the shit kicked out of it for centuries. So if they don’t like outsiders coming in to tell them what to do, who can blame them? Same thing in Viet Nam and other places where I worked.

What I don’t understand is the way people act here. On Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta. Okay, I didn’t fight for my country, I fought for myself. But they can’t look at my leg and know that. I could be a veteran. Lots of the men down here with me are veterans. And, like me, their physical observable injuries are far from the worst legacy they carry. Alcoholism, drug dependence, mental trauma – these guys need help. Instead, they get abuse. Abuse from the people on the street, insulting them, shoving them, refusing to meet their eye. And abuse from the agencies that should be helping them.

This is a cold cold city, and I’m not talking about the weather.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

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