Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Palpable Tension, FFF #22

Explosives expert Dickie Hume wiped the sweat from his brow as the tension was palpable. It was so palpable that you could have cut it with a knife, and he would have if he was able to hold his shaky hands still long enough.

The bomb in front of him ticked away with a contented sound much like Grandma's clock, and it seemed to seethe contentment in the fact that it's job would soon be done with a spectacular finish. The rest of the crew had moved to the back of the submarine and huddled in the engine room anxiously awaiting the call that would tell them that they wouldn't be blown to smithereens at eight hundred feet below sub-zero water.

Dickie leaned against a torpedo and tried to calm his jangled nerves but was instantly reminded that he had sprained that elbow playing tennis with the Murphy twins before the sub left port. "God I wish I had a drink right now," Dickie thought to himself as he looked over the wiring that resembled a D.C. street map, "and why on earth did I drink so much coffee today?" He took a deep breath and felt his asthma coming on. He fumbled for a cigarette in hopes that this would steady his hand and on the eleventh strike of his lighter, he lit it and took a puff. "Egad! This is a menthol!" he realised and tossed it aside in disgust.

It landed in a pile of oily rags that immediately put it to good use. The fire was enough to better illuminate the bomb wiring but in no way lessened the tension. Dickie looked up at the frightened albino ensign that had been assigned to him for the purpose of disarming the bomb and casually said, "Do you mind putting that out? I've got to look this over for a few seconds." Ensign Whitey's eyes bulged a little farther before he started to try and smother the fire with his sweat filled shirt. He found it to be inadequate and started to bail water from the rapidly rising pool on the floor.

Dickie got down on his knees to examine the bomb closer as it's ticking became ever louder, and his leg was seized with a cramp. He tried to straighten up but his bad back kicked in and reminded him that he should never help his friends move a piano, despite what generous swingers they were.

He fished around in the rising water for a moment looking for his flashlight. Without meaning to, he shoved his paper-cut fingers into a large glass of lemon juice. The sting was enough to remind him that he was still alive and that he had a job to do.

His will was iron and his resolve was steel but his nerves were spaghetti in a blender, but that was a problem that needed to be resolved later. He picked up the wire cutters and held them limply in his right hand that had gone to sleep after sitting on it for so long. Dickie Hume stared into the mass of wires until he knew he had found his culprits. It all depended on the red and green wires. Much like Christmas, it only had two colors.


"Yes sir?" Whitey said as he waved the flames away from the torpedoes with his wet shirt.

"I'm colorblind. How about you?" Dickie asked.

"Me too sir. Why?"

"We don't have time for that! Pick a wire!"

Whitey shook like a manic disco dancer and pointed in the vague direction of the bomb. Dickie's right hand wouldn't answer the call of duty, so with clumsy, shaking fingers, his left hand grasped the wire cutters.

"That's a pipe wrench," screamed the panicked Whitey.

Dickie struggled for his glasses before smirking at the young man. He needn't have bothered, as the fire had spread to the leaking fuel and Ensign Whitey didn't notice his smirk as he was too busy trying to put out the flames with his wet shirt again.

"Alright," Dickie thought, "I'll just cut a wire. If it's the right one, I'm a hero. If it's the wrong one, I won't have to worry long." Dickie's stomach rumbled and he was filled with the urge to defecate. "I gotta start eating more organic food," he thought.

The bomb ticked ever closer to it's end and Dickie shoved the wire clippers into it and frantically started cutting. The final seconds ticked, four, three, two, one...nothing. The bomb sputtered a small puff of smoke in frustration and died.

Dickie stood and tossed the wire cutters into the rising water and strolled away to tell the crew that they were safe, as well as spend some quality time in the can with a tall martini. As he headed for the door, he turned to Ensign Whitey, "When you are all finished cleaning up down here, swing by my cabin. I need you to put some cream on the boil on my butt. Don't worry, it's non-corrosive," and he ambled away.


***Author's Note*** Like most of my ideas, this story grew from my beautiful muse, Flannery. The woman has stood by me when anyone one else would have chucked me into a ditch and called it a job well done. Thank you darlin'. You mean the world to me!


  1. Nice job building the right amount of tension Doc. Loved the casual outward appearance of Dickie against the inner stress. Good job.

    Glad to see you back at the wheel. Hope all is looking up and those Demons have at least been shown to a nuetral corner.

  2. Classy story, Doc. Could feel the stress levels rising for poor Dickie and you brought it home really nicely.
    Great piece!

  3. Glad to see your demons are all wrestled and we're back to wondering just how your writer's mind works.

  4. Good stuff Doc, nice to have you back out here with us!

  5. Doc, good to see you back at your best. Another great story well written. I would have helped you fight those demons, but I had faith in you to do it yourself. I'm still sat at the bar waiting for you my friend. The next one is on me. ;-)


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