Theodore Jerome Cohen is the Readers’ Choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. The winning entry is decided by the popular vote and rewarded with a special feature here today. (In the case of a tie, the writer who submitted an entry first is the winner per our rules.) Without further ado, here’s the winning story:
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“Master Sergeant Cooper! Where the hell are you?”
That’s the captain’s voice, I thought. What’ve I done now?
Within a second the shredded remains of a Jeep tire shot through the door leading to the work bay, followed by the captain himself. “Jesus, sergeant, those guys working in the desert near Wad Medani go through rubber like some drunk going through a pint of Kentucky whiskey.”
It was nine-thirty in the morning at our headquarters south of Khartoum. The temperature was 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Regarding a replacement tire—”
The captain stopped in mid-sentence and stared at me. “Why are you plugging that tire? Where’s Mohammad?”
You’re not going to like this, sir. Mohammad, age 14, and his friend, Ahmed Elmahdi, two years his senior, had appeared at our headquarters soon after we arrived in Khartoum, begging for money. It was Captain Kuchinski’s idea to put them to work in the motor pool. Mohammad was given the responsibility of removing and remounting tires while Ahmed was assigned the job of repairing them. Mohammad was by far the brighter, so within a few weeks, I was directed to train him to do both jobs and release Ahmed. Which I did. Yesterday. Now, Mohammad wouldn’t work.
“Let me see if I got this straight, sergeant. After you trained Mohammad on Ahmed’s job, let Ahmed go, and gave Mohammad all the work—and money—he won’t do anything?”
“That’s affirmative, sir.”
“He thinks he knows enough now to be a supervisor.”