“Fire and Forget: Short Stories From the Long War” is an anthology of fiction about war and the aftermath of war, written by 14 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and by one military spouse. The book was edited by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher (both veterans of the Iraq War), with a foreword by Colum McCann. Here’s how one of the stories — “Poughkeepsie,” by Perry O’Brien — begins:
It’s 0300 and I’m sitting on the sidewalk in front of Port Authority, trying to make a plan. I can’t keep purchase on my thoughts with all this night traffic — taxis and limousines, garbage trucks, buses filled with vacant seats and harsh fluorescent light — this restless march of cars, all of them awake at crow piss and going somewhere. I was going somewhere, too.
It’s raining a little, and the light from the television screens gets distorted in the wet air. Everything is sponged in a mist of color, even the smog from down below where passing trains rattle along the unchristly nethers of the bus station. Through it all I keep hearing Charlotte, her voice shingled by payphone static. “Medrick,” she says, “what would you even do here?” She thought that was an explanation.
A female Reservist is guarding the entrance to the bus station. She’s looking rugged in her plus-size digital cammies, and her pistol belt is decorated with big loops of plastic flex-cuffs. When the wind comes up, the plastic loops do a little dance on her hips. I caught her eye on me, one time, and a fat, black eel started squirming in my guts. What if she asks for my leave papers?