For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“After Action Report”

Phil Klay


I kept telling the story. Everybody asked. There were follow-up questions too. Yeah, I was like here, and Timhead was here... let me draw it in the sand. See that, that's the MRAP. And hajji's here. Yeah, I could just see him, poking around the side of the building. Dumbass.

Timhead nodded along. It was bullshit, but every time I told the story, it felt better. Like I owned it a little more. When I told the story, everything was clear. I made diagrams. Explained the angles of bullet trajectories. Even saying it was dark and dusty and fucking scary made it less dark and dusty and fucking scary. So when I thought back on it, there were the memories I had, and the stories I told, and they sort of sat together in my mind, the stories becoming stronger every time I retold them, feeling more and more true.

Eventually, Staff Sergeant would roll up and say, “Shut the fuck up, Suba. Hajji shot at us. Lance Corporal Suba shot back. Dead Hajji. That's the happiest ending you can get outside a Thai massage parlor. Now it's over, Gunners, be alert, get positive ID, you'll get your chance.”