"Alone, At Night," and "Airman ******** might have been"

Alone, at night,

when the old reruns came on TV, the Boy would watch episodes of M*A*S*H. He wanted to learn everything he could about the War. He wanted to know what his grandpa knew.

In tonight's episode, a team of Army doctors treated roughly a dozen different patients: one spinal cord injury, one missing ear, multiple lacerations, contusions, and abrasions. One soldier suffered from shock, one inflamed appendix requiring surgery, and of course, multiple gunshot victims. The last patient was threatened by the doctor with something called an epi-dect-omy, if he continued to use sick call every week to get out of formation. The Boy didn’t know what an epidectomy was, or what it had to do with marching.

There was one death, the doctor's hometown friend. The friend was writing a book, about the way a soldier saw the War through their own eyes. Not the words from some war correspondent, he said. He titled it, “You Never Hear the Bullet.”  The friend recounts how he watched the man next to him, one of his best buddies, lose half his body in the blink of an eye. Right before he died, his last words were, he never heard the bullet.

The doctor laughs and suggests they grab a drink afterward.

A few days later, near the end of the episode, when the friend returns bleeding to death, he tells the doctor he was wrong. He said, he heard the bullet coming, just like you do in the movies. The doctor suggests he change the title of his book to, “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet.”

The Boy laughed whenever there was a laugh track. He thought that’s what you were supposed to do.



Airman Phillips might have been

the Man’s best friend, at least while it mattered. The two were an odd pair by military standards, more interested in old movies and classic video games, but a pair, nonetheless. In the military, you have a lot of best friends, a lot of people you love. You also lose a lot of best friends, a lot of people you love.

I’m an alcoholic.

The Man made a funny face at that.

Aren’t we all kind of alcoholics here?

No, I mean, I’m really an alcoholic. I can’t even have one drink.

Not even one? Come on.

The Man would convince him otherwise, with a little help from the girls in the Alley. Girls from the Alley can help with anything, especially if you don’t know a lot about girls from the Alley, or just about girls in general. Airman Phillips didn’t have a lot of friends, and some of the others were mean to him. But once the Man told him everything would be okay and to stick with him, that he knew the ropes around here, he would love the Man for it.

But the Man lied and everything was not okay.

Airman Phillips could not even have one drink.

A lifetime later, the Man received a text message.

Sergeant Randolph?


Can I use you on a job application? Can I tell them you were my supervisor?

Who is this?

Airman Phillips.

The Man wasn’t his supervisor, but he could have been. It was only a small lie.

Yeah man, of course. How have you been?

There was no response.

Airman Phillips could not even have one drink.

Not even one? Come on.



Lucas Randolph served nine years enlisted in the United States Air Force and is writing a novel about the impact of generational service on the American family. Lucas holds a BA in English and creative writing and a MFA in fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. He is currently a stay at home dad to three boys.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, June 6, 2022 - 13:50