Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crazy Bastards [Chapter 21]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Chapter 21 is the first chapter of the third act of the novel. Here's Chapter 21:

Act III Cuneiform Tales

“So you all ready for Baghdad, Doc?” The technician in a T-shirt and blue overalls and sneakers folded his thick, hairy forearms across his chest, resting them easily on his enormous belly. He had a large, round skull topped with the thinning remnants of a full head of bright red hair. His face was pasty white, looking as if it would blush to burgundy with the slightest provocation or exertion.

“Yeah, Gabe. I think I’m ready,” replied Adam Hueghlomm. He enjoyed coming to the fabrication shop. He liked working with the technicians, good-humored old-school machinists who could build working prototypes out of the most theoretical equipment designs. In addition to the fascinating lessons in applied engineering and the occasional off-color joke, Hueghlomm could get away with wearing an untucked polo shirt and comfortable jeans while in the long, high-ceilinged cinderblock warehouse.

“Let’s hope this works,” said Gabe, his hoarse voice at once both friendly and gruff. “I hate seeing all those poor kids coming back from Iraq in caskets, missing limbs. Roadside bombs. Umm!” Gabe tilted his head slightly and pulled his mouth open on one side. “I thought I’d seen it all in ‘Nam, but here we go again. Who woulda thunk it?”

“Everything packed in these three cases, Gabe?” asked Hueghlomm.

“Yes siree, Doc.” Gabe stood from his wooden stool and walked his rounded form to the front of the workbench. “Neutron source packed in lead shielding, right here.” He dropped a meaty palm on a hard, gray box. “Germanium spectrometer, here.” He slapped a second box. “Mounting hardware, here.” He tapped the last container twice with a thick, stubby index finger. Gabe turned his head from side to side and furrowed his brow. “Golly gee! You got some crazy bastards over there, Doc.” The old technician smiled and squinted his eyes teasingly at Hueghlomm’s Pakistani complexion and Middle Eastern features. “With your looks, though, you oughta be OK, huh?”

“One would think,” said Hueghlomm.

“Just don’t let ‘em know Daddy was a Jew,” laughed Gabe, his shoulders beginning to bounce up and down like a cartoon character, his face reddening the way it always did before a hard laugh. “Take it from a good ‘ole Baptist boy, don’t let ‘em know Daddy was a Jew,” he snorted.

“Yeah, I heard Jesus got the same advice before his last trip to Jerusalem,” said Hueghlomm.

“Doc, you crazy, mixed-breed bastard!” Gabe snorted again and caught a few quick, sharp breaths, now completely red faced. “I bet you don’t know who to kill and who to kiss.”

“Wrong again, Gabriel. I’ve never been short on ideas about who to kiss,” said Hueghlomm.

Gabe stopped laughing in a series of gradually fading sighs that ended in a moment of silence. He filled the silence with an uncharacteristic slice of seriousness. “I’ll see you when you get back, my friend.”

“That you will, Gabe.”

“And if your little idea works out, you’ll save a lot of lives. That’s big. Maybe you’ll get a medal from God, huh?”

“One can hope,” said Hueghlomm. “One can hope.”

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