Figment of Reality

This short story/essay is an existential scream from deep in my soul. I’ve been trying to birth this “muddle of memory and metaphor” for many, many years. The photo, by an anonymous VQ-1 airman, shows flares, Cobra gunships, and assorted noise looking west from my barracks at Da Nang Air Base. It was nights like these that inspired this story. We had a lot of them in April and May of 1970.

Although this story is informed by reality, including a reference to the death of a Viet Cong sapper under the wings of one of VQ-1’s EA-3B Super Constellations, keep in mind that this story is more poetry than fact. Anyway, when I wrote this, I imagined it to be about an Air Force unit flying Caribous, not a Navy squadron.

“It had to be OK because Figment of Reality imagined these tales of fear and death again and again. Of armed teenagers angry, afraid, and unable to understand. Of more nights of rockets, mortars, machine guns, and terror. Of running to warn my comrades who work on warplanes in the black night. Of flares creating shadows dancing macabre under olive drab wings.”

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Path of the Painter

I’ve been writing a lot of memoirs. They seem to require an economy of writing that doesn’t interfere with the story. As a mild rebellion, I wanted to let loose with description. The result is this short fiction about the contradictory soup of friendship, love, and the imperative of ambition among and within those who must create art. Image from photo by Katarzyna Gonsior on

“Astrid seemed too pretty, too gentle, too in touch with her feelings to be the paramour of the Painter. I knew that part of me and saw this immediately. But oh, how I was smitten by this precious gift. I promised the Painter that I would not become lost in a trackless wilderness. This time.”

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