Monday, October 3, 2011

Health Tip

Not feeling well, so I'm just sticking me head out of the covers long enough to post this. Hope everybody has a happy Monday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Door Swung Open

The first challenge is underway in the Platform Building Campaign, and it's a doozy! I loved this particular challenge. It's to write a short story in 200 words. It needs to begin with 'The door swung open". There is the option of making it even more challenging by ending with "The door swung shut." Here's my entry. It's exactly 200 words (and that really was a challenge):  

The door swung open. He was barely visible through the smoke, but I recognized a Corelli when I saw one. Gino? Yeah. Gino. He was the worst. He was looking for someone.

I could guess who.

My partner, John, was in the hospital, not expected to survive the round from Vince Corelli’s D’Eagle. Vince lay in the morgue, and I’d put him there. Now Gino wanted justice, but a cop bar was a stupid place to extract it.

His gaze found me and he smiled; it wasn’t a ‘glad to see you’ sort of smile. He weaved around off-duty cops. They were too drunk to know a storm brewed. I pushed away from the bar.

I wasn’t that drunk.

His hand came up and I stared down the barrel of a .45.

Damn. I was drunker than I thought.

I grasped the barrel, deflected it, and struck him over his jugular—not hard enough to kill, but it buckled his knees. The other officers swarmed. Gino was handcuffed before I picked up my barstool. I sat and Mickey brought another beer.

“You okay, Maggie?” 

“Yeah. Fine. But John wasn't. Vince wasn't. 

I turned and watched as the door swung shut.

Here's the link to the challenge:

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Ethics of Autobiographies

Molly Ringle and I recently discussed the ethics of autobiographies, and I thought I'd blog about that. I think as people we want to "be known." I'm not sure anyone really wants to go through life and not be known intimately by at least one person. Some of us might guard our privacy as fiercely as a Doberman guarding a junkyard, but there are still people we open the locked gates for. We want to let people in. We want to be known. Even if we don't ever offer a complete tour.

There is a large market for biographies and autobiographies. Over the past year we've seen President George Bush's biography, and we've seen Snooki's. I don't think you can get any different as people or life stories. The only thing they had in common was a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

One issue with writing a biography or an autobiography is that we always drag other people into the mess. And I say mess because life is messy. If we're completely honest, we're going to hurt people. That's where the ethics come in. I wrote bits and pieces of my biography, but I have since destroyed it. It was impossible to write it without hurting other people -- people I love. Being known is less important to me than protecting them.

If you had publishers beating down your doors asking for your life story, would you give it to them? Would it be 100% honest, or would you withhold things that made you look bad or hurt others?

With that said, I admit that I still want to be known. I shared a story with Molly from my past. It will never make it into an autobiography, but it is going to make it into this blog. Just because, as I said, I want to be known. At least to a degree. And life is short.

A few months after I arrived in Europe, I was drawn into an incident that made international news. On March 23 of 1985, Major Arthur D. Nicholson became the last American casualty of the Cold War. He was shot by a Soviet soldier and was the only Military Liaison officer to die in the line of duty. This quickly escalated into an international incident, and Major Nicholson was promoted posthumously. The image at the top of this blog post is a photo of Major Nicholson's casket being placed on a U.S. aircraft at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. (A few years later, assassinated CIA Station Chief, William Buckley, who had been kidnapped by the Iranian backed Islamic Jihad, tortured and executed, came home through this same airport. He's known as the spy who never came out of the cold.)

As a result of the incident with Major Nicholson, I was assigned to a patrol at the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM). We had two cars. One was a stationary car and the other was a chase car. Our stationary car remained at the mission on a more-or-less permanent stake out, monitoring and logging all of the activity taking place at the mission. The comings and goings at the mission, and any observed activity, was documented. That was the job of our stationary car.

The chase car's job was to follow the Soviet officers whenever they left the mission and report on everything they did. It was pretty pointless really. They knew we followed them, and we were limited in what we could do. So whenever they didn't want us to follow, they would just "go beyond our boundaries" so to speak. The chase would break off at that point and we would return to SMLM.

So, back to my earlier question. If you had publishing houses knocking down your door begging for your autobiography, would you give it to them? And how important is it for you to be known? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Late Night Patrol. Writing Justice for the Dead - One Veteran's Story.

Why do we choose the subjects we do when we write? Some of us have political, social, or religious agendas. Some of us just want to educate, entertain, express ourselves, or cope. But I believe all writers have a reason for writing what they do.

When I first began putting stories on paper, I was a child, so I wrote children's stories. My subjects have changed over the years. I tend to write from experience, and my life usually shows up in my stories. I'm not writing my life, but my life definitely affects everything I write.

Over the last several years, I have written stories that primarily center around justice, and I tie that to incidents that I experienced in law enforcement. Justice is rarely served, and sometimes, the only way to achieve it is to write it into a story. It is so often lacking in real life. One of the times I encountered this was when I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany with the Army's 284th Military Police Company.

It was foggy that night, impossible to see beyond the beams of our patrol car. I began the shift with a lie of omission -- and a new partner in a bad mood. Confessing to being the source of Beheng's anger wasn't an option at that moment, and I decided to save the necessary moment of truth for later, preferably as much later as possible.

The 284th was one of those assignments that everyone wanted, and we were the lucky ones to get it. We handled military-related law enforcement for Frankfurt and all of the surrounding cities. It was like being a cop in New York City -- only we covered more territory. I listened quietly as Beheng ranted about his pre-shift detail, which had been the laundry room of our barracks.

We all had pre-shift details. We worked twelve-hour shifts, but before and after each shift, we had Army-related duties. Our twelve-hour shifts usually worked out to be about eighteen. After that, we did our personal chores: laundry, ironing, cleaning, and whatever else we needed to do to get ready for our next shift. It left us with no time, and we were usually functioning on two to three hours of sleep a night. There were times when we worked up to three months without days off. We were all on the verge of snapping. That night, Beheng had snapped.

And it was my fault.

He just didn't know it yet.

I had been running late and needed to get the trash out of my room. I shared the room with Janelle Bebo. Janelle was gone, and I couldn't ask her for help, so I took our trash and put it into the trash can in the laundry room. I was too tired to think about the consequences for whoever was responsible for the laundry room. I was just thinking about getting the trash out of my room and still making it to guard mount on time.

As I settled into the patrol car with Beheng, he began his rant. Bebo had left her trash in the laundry room. There had been a pizza box with her name on it in the trash, and he was going to let her have it the next time he saw her. Literally. He had saved the trash and was going to bury her in it. Since I was her roommate, he was taking it out on me. I debated telling him the truth right then, but I ended up deciding to save the confession for later. After all, we were both armed, and I didn't want to get shot.

Like I said, Beheng had snapped.

It wasn't a very busy midnight shift, so we met up with other MPs throughout the course of the night. Each time we did, the 'trash' subject was brought up by Beheng. He would rage on about what he was going to do to Bebo next time he saw her, and I just stood by in guilty silence, waiting for the best time to tell him. I decided that would be at the end of the shift after we'd turned in our weapons to the arms' room.

Since we weren't busy, we were able to do all of our security checks. There had been several terrorist bombings on military bases in the area, so we did frequent checks of those compounds to watch for suspicious activity. But we also patrolled civilian apartment complexes that housed large numbers of military personnel. We were patrolling a German apartment complex around two A.M.. Beheng was driving, and he cautiously maneuvered the different streets in the complex. It was so foggy we couldn't even see the sidewalks or the grass, much less the buildings.

After we finished, we called in our check, and Beheng pulled out of the complex back onto the street.

We had no sooner called it in than dispatch called us back. A soldier, who was walking his dog, had discovered a dead body lying in the grass beside one of the buildings of the apartment complex. We had just driven by it but hadn't even seen it because of the fog. We turned around, drove a few hundred feet, and parked -- quickly finding the man, his dog, and the deceased.

At first, I thought I was looking at a dead child -- a boy of about twelve. Here was someone's baby. I walked as close as I could without disturbing anything and bent down, checking the child's neck for a pulse. There was no pulse, and the skin was still warm and supple. The death had recently occurred. The child's head was completely caved in on the right side. It looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it. There was no blood on the scene, so it was obvious that the death had occurred someplace else, and this was a secondary crime scene. The boy had been laid flat, and his body was neatly arranged. His hands were in his pockets. He wore clean white socks. The ground was soaked from earlier rains, but those socks were pristine. They had not even touched a floor -- much less the wet grass.

I stood and moved back, hoping I hadn't contaminated the crime scene. We secured the area and started talking to apartment residents. We soon discovered that the 12-year-old boy was actually an adult woman. She was so small and boyish looking that her appearance had been deceptive. We also discovered that she was a German national, so we called in the German police.

While we waited for them, we spoke with her neighbors. She was a lesbian and a prostitute. She worked in the red-light district in Frankfurt. She and her girlfriend shared the apartment, and apparently they were involved in a lovers' triangle. There had been a loud argument in the apartment shortly before she was found murdered. We had a general idea of what had happened, and when the polizei arrived, we attempted to tell them what we had discovered. They brushed us off and told us it was obviously a suicide.

The woman, according to them, had jumped.

I'd been with the 284th for over a year, and I had worked with many German police officers during that time. These were the first German police officers who had not impressed me.

The woman's body was removed without any investigation, and Beheng and I were left with our mouths hanging open. We could barely believe what had just taken place. Apparently, the murder of a lesbian prostitute was not high on the priority list of these particular police officers.

Beheng had forgotten about the trash.

We were both devastated by what had just happened. The story soon spread like the flu. Everyone on duty with the 284th that night was sickened by the lack of justice for this murdered woman. Though Beheng and I had primarily been just acquaintances when our shift began, we were now bonded by this experience. We ended up our shift completely somber.

After we returned to the police station, I told Beheng the truth about the trash. He barely commented on it. A few minutes later, he asked if I could do him a favor. Would I go out to the patrol car and get his briefcase? He needed some paperwork in it. I went out, but when I came back in, he told me he didn't have the right paperwork after all and asked if I'd check my briefcase. Perhaps I had the right paperwork. At this point, all of the MPs who had been on duty that night had returned, and many of the MPs who were coming on duty were present.

I went to my briefcase, opened it

... and it was filled with trash.

I almost fell down laughing. Dozens of people were there when I opened that briefcase -- the MPs coming on duty, and the MPs going off, the desk sergeants, and the patrol supervisors -- and every one of them was laughing.

And we really needed that laugh.

I dreamed about her several times after that -- the woman discarded like trash. In my dreams she always had my sister's face. It haunted me for months. Very few people cared. Those who should have sought justice, didn't. Heartless killers walked free.

My writing changed because of things I witnessed in the military.

I always make sure justice is served in my stories.

It's so often lacking in reality.

Doralynn Kennedy

The photo I use in this post was taken in Rome in early 1986, about one year after the event I relate in this post. I was working with PSD at the time this photo was taken.

Today is Veteran's Day, November 11, 2009. So thank you to all vets and all active duty military personnel and their families.