War Journal 06: The Art of Heightened Tension

The war in the trenches just got gritty

Any storyteller that wants to make their story worth telling learns how to heighten tension.  Start off with an element of intrigue, build that pace, snap it like a whip and let it recoil to keep the audience on their toes and when you’re ready to get to the conclusion… keep it taut, build it, build it and GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!!

That works for everthing with a story element, from dirty jokes to epic movies.  Yes, this may sound like one of my Creative Combat Arms posts but it’s not.

I’m taking a lesson from life on this one. 

A few days before I finished my vacation in February, I went to renew my prescription of Advair for my asthma.  Without this stuff I’m basically dependent at sporadic times on an albuterol inhaler that is oftentimes ineffective while my lungs constrict.  Last time I took vacation, I took a three month supply of Advair back to Iraq with me.  But the white coats at CVS told me my insurance had changed this year.  Now I could only get one Advair every 25 days.

Naturally, that complicated my life.  One Advair dispenser is only good for 30 days.  This meant my wife would have to pick up another one and mail it out to me with the hope that it would get to me as close as possible within that five day window.  With one month’s worth of Advair and my halfway helpful inhaler, I headed back to Iraq.

Now it’s April.  I’m getting close to my two year anniversary in Iraq.  Nothing makes you feel like you’ve gotten older than spending two years in the craddle of civilization.  In that time my passport, already old with me being a world traveling airman, has gotten to the point of near expiration.  I have approximately two weeks on it, then my “I’m an American” credentials are no longer valid. 

A lack of passp0rt is not a good thing to have in a country where the American presence is dwindling and the political future is questionable.

But the U.S. Embassy can save the day.  It involves a trip to the Victory Base Complex in the Baghdad area then esc0rt (helicopter flight or convoy) to the International Zone.  I’ve never had to go to the International Zone, so I don’t specifically know the danger level… the word “convoy” alone gets me a little edgy.  But it’s not like sitting on base is 100% safe either.  And it’ll be a new experience to tell you guys about.  Adventure is the spice of life… bring it!

Meanwhile, my wife mailed my package of Advair on the 23rd of March.  Here it is, April 8th, and I’ve yet to get it.  Sometimes I’m fine, but with dust storms and the like, sometimes I’m hitting the inhaler like it’s a crack pipe and I got a jones. 

Passport expiration date is closing on me.  If it does expire, I won’t even be able to fly to Baghdad to renew it.  And anyone who’s been here will tell you it’s outright stupid to sign up for a flight at the last minute and expect it to go clockwork.  You need time in case the aircraft is held for weather or maintenance or redirected…. anything can happen.  So with that in mind, I have little time to keep waiting for a package that might have gotten stuck under someone’s chair or placed next to the Ark of the Covenant in that big warehouse.  It could come today, but again, you guys know I don’t believe in 11th hour reprieves.  So I’m leaving, without my medication, to Baghdad.

The story could stop there, but world events make the plot thicker.  Once I get there, I’ll have to turn in my passport and wait for them to issue me a new one before I can come back to home base.  So until they’re done, there’s no coming back to the medicine that’ll likely be waiting for me.  Passport renewals are usually a ten day process.  I say usually because one of the things that suffer from delays during a government shut down is… you’ve guessed it… passport services.

I’m looking at my lone canister of albuterol, the one I’ve been hitting like a crack pipe at times.  It has a counter telling the user how many puffs of deconstricting gas are left in the canister.  Mine reads at 007.  A great number for a secret agent, not so good when you’re waiting to inhale.

How will this end?  Keep reading my future posts to find out as I do!  And if I stop updating after a long duration… expect the worse!

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