Flash—Thunder by Al McDermid

On the plane in, some guys fingered their crosses, but I didn’t have one, so I fiddled nervously with my signal clicker, breaking it. By then we were on our feet and hooking up.

I had joined the airborne because I wanted to know that the guy fighting next to me was the best, but I’d never liked jumping. Waiting for that green light, though, I’d watched one of the other planes break up after taking a hit, flaming paratroopers, guys I certainly knew, spilling from its door. After that, all I could think of was getting off that plane.

When I finally landed I was so surprised to be alive I momentarily forgot where I was, surrounded by the enemy, my weapon and leg bag torn from me by the plane’s prop wash, with no idea if I was anywhere near my drop zone. I crouched next to a tree, listening to the anti-aircraft guns, which didn’t sound nearly so frightening now that I was on the ground. Compared to inside the plane, where the noise had been deafening even before the shelling started, this grove where I hid was almost peaceful.

I heard movement close, but with no weapon, I feared using the password, feared giving away my position. Then I heard the sweetest word in the English language.

“Flash,” said the darkness.

“Thunder,” I said, emerging from the shadows. “Thunder.”

“One ‘thunder’ is sufficient, Trooper,” came the voice of my lieutenant. I could tell he was smiling.


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Filed under Al McDermid

14 responses to “Flash—Thunder by Al McDermid

  1. Al McDermid

    Adapted from Band of Brothers, Episode 2 “Day of Days”. The HBO miniseries Band of Brothers is based on Stephen Ambrose’s history of Easy Company (506th Regiment, 101st Airborne). Episode 2 “Day of Days” recounts Easy Company’s part in the D-Day invasion of Europe, June 6, 1944, when the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division dropped into German-occupied Normandy the night before.

    The challenge/response password system dates to Roman times, as recorded by Polybius, but this story recounts one of the best known recent uses of the device. The paratroopers on D-Day also used a ‘cricket’, or toy clicker, wherein one click was to be answered by two clicks.

  2. Awesome flash! I remember watching my husband jump into the dropzone at Ft. Bragg, and I could never imagine jumping out of a plane. And that wasn’t when anyone was being shot at. Very emotional piece.

  3. Your story took me inside the plane, the fear, and the paratrooper’s relief. And your conclusion, “I could tell he was smiling,” was the perfect. Also liked your background info in the comments section. All interesting stuff. Doris

  4. right there al, this brought me right by his side

  5. Deborah A. Upton

    I felt a definite tenseness as I read this piece. I too welcomed the peacefulness of the grove.

  6. Thanks everyone for the generous comments, especially since I really enjoyed writing this one. I glad it seemed realistic. I have to imagine that having once jumped from a plane, using that same static line method, may have help some. Although, as will Catherine’s husband, was not being shot at. Of course, the realistic treatment of Band of Brothers helped as well.

  7. I don’t usually like military themes in stories – I actively avoid them – but I did like this one, for its humanity and its humour, both so evident at the end.

  8. Wonderful piece, Al. I love the raw honesty of fear, the reality of the scene in the details, the ending that came with such relief by the character and because of our invested interest in him, by us.

  9. Awesome story, Al. You put me right there with your protag. His relief at the end – palpable. Peace…

  10. Riveting piece, was moved by this one. Thanks.

  11. Pingback: Week #39 – Password | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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