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Exercise #22: Lead Line: “I was so tired that night, I fell asleep with my clothes on…”

Contrary to every science fiction or horror movie stereotype, they came at about 11:30 in the morning, not in the dead of night. I guess, strictly speaking, it was the dead of night somewhere, because they touched down simultaneously in at least three dozen places around the globe. But it was 11:30 a.m. here, and the last thought I remember having before I heard the shriek of something very large braking in the atmosphere was, “I should think about lunch.”

And then, like everyone else, I raced out of the building to find out what was making that awful noise, and I saw a huge gray cylinder streak across the sky pushing a wave of white heat ahead of it, trailing a stream of white vapor. It slowed noticeably as I watched. The sound of its passage diminished until all that was left …more

50/50 Exercise #34: Lead Line: “Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking…”

Tonight his comrades are patrolling up near the logging camp. They haven’t taken Klein along because it’s a dangerous assignment, and he’s still worth too much to them as a hostage, even though they—and he—have long since stopped thinking of him primarily as a hostage.

He stays in the camp and cooks a bland meal of corn cakes and red beans to keep himself busy, and so his captors will have something warm to eat when they return from their reconnaissance mission in the cold, damp hills. He warms the canned beans a little over a propane stove and cooks the corn barely long enough …more

50/50 Exercise #24: Siblings

My brother calls me a collaborator, a traitor—and worse. I ask him what he would do if he were the one responsible for our mother’s care. But he’s not responsible. What good are his principles when she is near starving and I don’t have the money to buy the medicine that might quiet her pain?

I take responsibility for the choices I have made. I accept the rations that they give me, although it is not enough for three of us. My brother lectures me on the subject of sacrifice. When he comes to visit us on a moonless night, he invokes the name of our father. I don’t need to be reminded of what was taken from both of us. I don’t want to hear …more

50/50 Exercise #9: Resistance

When I am 18, I will go up on the surface to fight beside my brothers. My mother says that she needs me too much to let me go sooner. She says that she cannot tend the plot of hydroponics beds by herself. Every day she tells me what a good worker I am. She wants me to believe that she could not produce our quota without my help.

I know what she is afraid of. She knows that most of our people who go out there never come back down below.

I cannot wait until I am 18, so I fight in the ways that I have found to fight. It is not much. …more

50/50 Exercise #7: Pick a Card

Loteria card: El Soldado
Loteria is a traditional Mexican game similar to bingo, played with a tarot-like deck of picture cards. In card number 34, El Soldado, I see M., my “ex‑husband” of eight years and still one of my very closest friends. Long before I knew him, M. was one of the thousands of Mexican-American soldiers from Corpus Christi, a native of the area where his family has probably lived since it was still part of Mexico.

The brown and smoky tones of the card remind me of a photo of M. from his service during the first Gulf War. He served as a specialist in the U.S. Army stationed in Saudi Arabia …more