Two stories by Ron Riekki

In the Military, They Threw Us

on planes that shook like sex, like bad sex. I remember the bad sex. The collusion. I remember flying so low to the ocean that I thought waves would hit the wings. The pilot liked to do that, the feel like we were on a seventy-five ton surfboard. If we crashed, we’d be war heroes. We weren’t. We didn’t. We are.

I flew one time with a six-year-old with a caved-in head. She was getting transferred from one hospital to another. They told us not to make her laugh because any movement on her part could kill her. I prayed angry prayers and shook in the earthquakes of the C-131.

We’d transport classified materials in a van and the driver drove and I had the classified materials in my hand and I’d look down on them trying not to blink and I’d clutch them so hard that when we finally turned them into the next commsta, there would be marks on my hands, as if top secret was carved into my palms. I remember the first time I saw Snowden; I wanted to hug him with axes.

I’d walk home from work. I didn’t want the feel of school bus, the way the Army stank like pipes, the old Navy guts in the air. I’d cut through jungle with the committee of crabs and the fellowship of spiders or whatever their animal group names are, the feel that even the insects have to give up their lives to the greater good of nothingness.

True EMT Story #43: We Had a Patient Once

who had a heart attack in a bathtub. We found him two weeks later. The water turned his body to mush. When we went to lift him out of the tub, his spine stayed in the water. None of us vomited. None of us cried. There were none of us.

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel (Sewanee Writers Series and Great Michigan Read nominated), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book from the Library of Michigan and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award/Grand Prize shortlist, Midwest Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year, and Next Generation Indie Book Award), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes—Best Regional Fiction and Next Generation Indie Book Award—Short Story finalist), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).