My Duffel Bag Tried to Kill Me

By on Nov 19, 2013 in Fiction, Humor

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Soldier with duffel bag in olive drab

This is the story of Joshua Greenleaf, a young man who spent three years, eight months, twenty seven days, and thirteen hours in the Army. He would tell you that the Army gave him a good education, helped him realize what he wanted to do with his life, and helped him grow and mature. Nevertheless, he hated the army. He appreciated what the Army did for him, but he could never adjust to being owned. While he was in the Army, in the back of his mind, there was always the thought that Lincoln freed the slaves, but forgot to free enlisted men. This is his story, a story that starts with a nightmare.

Joshua stood at ease in front of an officer who was sitting, looking through some folders. “What did you say your name was?”

“Joshua Greenfleaf… I mean, Greenleaf, Joshua,” he said, realizing the Army didn’t like first names first.

“And you were told to report here to be discharged?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Well, there seems to be a mistake. According to your file, you aren’t scheduled to be discharged for three years.”

“What? No. That’s wrong. I’ve been in the Army for 3 years, 8 months, 27 days, 13 hours, and” — he looked at his watch — “8 minutes. They said I’ve been in the Army long enough. They sent me here to be set free.”

“Who are they?”

They. You know. They.”

“Well, they made a mistake. It says here that you have to stay in the Army for three more years, probably longer. That’s the way the old rifle shoots, isn’t it? Nope, we can’t let you out,” the officer said, laughing sardonically.

That was Josh’s nightmare. For five months before he was discharged, he had that nightmare every night. Even after they freed him, that nightmare haunted him for twenty years. His psychotherapist said his problem was post-traumatic stress disorder and told him to suck it up and stop whining. Unfortunately, his therapist’s words triggered emotions in him that he didn’t know he had. Fortunately, his therapist said he was crazy, so he didn’t file assault and battery charges. Josh never went back to him.

Finally, the day came, the day that he was sure would never come, for he was absolutely positive that he was going to be attacked by something olive drab and killed before he was set free. Trying to put those fears out of his mind, he began packing. It was easier getting into the clutches of the Army than it was getting out. First, he had to pack almost four years worth of “stuff” into a duffel bag, and, second, he had to lift the bag. He weighed 125 pounds; the duffle bag weighed about 2,000 pounds, and he had to carry it from his barracks to the discharge office, and then about 3,000 miles to the front gate and freedom. After slaving over a hot duffel bag for two hours, the bag was stuffed to its limit and opening secured. He was ready to go, so he grasped the strap and pulled the duffel bag onto his back. The ripping sound in his stomach was deafening. He was sure he had moved all the organs in his body to places where they didn’t belong. There he was, bent over so that all he could see was the floor. Even a partially mangled body was not going to stop him. Josh tried not to pay attention to the crunching noises that emanated from his spine as his feet took what was left of his body out of his barracks. When he got outside, he waddled to the office building where the prisoners were released. Facing him were three steps, a frightening mountain to climb, considering he had the Eiffel Tower on his back. Unfortunately, he couldn’t put the duffel bag down because the Army didn’t want the ground littered with things like cigarette butts, grass, duffel bags, and bodies of enlisted men.

Groaning, he made it up the steps, and, after he entered the building, he released the strap, and the duffel bag slid off his back to the floor. The duffel bag was off his back, but he was bent like a paper clip. After a few moments, someone came over to see why a person folded up like a paper clip was cluttering up the hallway. The army didn’t like their hallways cluttered with bent bodies and duffel bags. Whoever came to see what was going on did not sound happy and told Josh that he and his duffel bag couldn’t stay in the middle of the hallway. Josh looked at the voice’s boots and decided to try to reason with them. He pointed out the fact that he was bent because he couldn’t straighten up and asked the voice if he would help him.

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While in the Army, Saul Greenblatt was trained to be a Russian language interpreter. At the time (1962), the United States was not at war with the Soviet Union, so he worked as a lecturer and performer, all of which influenced his future endeavors. After he was discharged, he studied at Emerson College in Boston, and, after graduating with a master's degree, he and his wife and first child moved to a small town in New York, where he began his teaching career. After three years, he moved with his wife and two children to teach at community college in Massachusetts, where he taught communication skills courses and English. During his time in Massachusetts, he performed in community theater productions and tasted joy, agony, and defeat when he attempted the task of producing his ten-minute plays for community television. He asserted that he pitied producers. Twenty years prior to retiring from teaching, he began writing, and over the years, wrote stories and stage plays, one of which won a Smith College playwriting contest. He also wrote sitcoms, one of which was a finalist in a national contest. Since retiring, he has been writing short stories, novellas, and novels. His stories have been published online by Xica Love Stories and Flash-Fiction-World, and will be published in two anthologies. Writing has kept his 75-year-old mind working well, and he hopes to be writing when he is 100.

One Comment

  1. Greetings from a fellow member of R-12-85 from long ago. Hope you are well. Looks we have outlived a couple of conflicts and as hard as it tried, the Army didn’t do us in. Be well.