Tag Archives: Fiction

New Release: No Peace After War

I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, No Peace After War!

High Resolution Front Cover_6087540

There may be no experience more horrific, no personal trial more challenging, than a soldier facing the ravages of war. But for many members of the armed services, returning home after combat is only the beginning of a new, very different set of challenges. Facing isolation, lingering traumas, and unspeakable fears, these brave men and women struggle to find peace long after their physical service is done.

As the wife of an Iraq veteran and a volunteer who has worked with armed service members, author Claire St. Hilaire has heard a number of these heartbreaking, often complex stories face-to-face

In No Peace After War, St. Hilaire shares a collection of short stories and poems that give voice to these dark and difficult realities—exploring haunting memories, society’s treatment of veterans, and the true definition of honor.


No Peace After War is available now on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle format.

Reviewers are free to contact me at claire.m.sthilaire@gmail.com for a complimentary digital copy.


The Hunt

KuduThe day we die a soft breeze will wipe out our footprints in the sand. When the wind dies down, who will tell the timelessness that once we walked this way in the dawn of time?

– From a Traditional Song of the San People1

I feel his presence. I sense how he moves. I follow his footsteps. My brothers beside me. I tread softly across the scorching sand. The sun’s heat burns within me. I find him among the acacia. A strong kudu bull guarding his herd. My muscles tense. My time has almost come. My anticipation grows as I creep closer. I am a predator.

My legs twitch like the Cheetah’s tail. Ready at any moment to lunge me into the chase. My mind is focused. I see only my target. I feel his heart beat in my chest. He is wary. He senses me also.

He bolts. My brothers divide the herd. I focus only on my prey. The signal is given and I begin the chase at last. My quarry is faster. He quickly gains the lead. But now blood rushes through my limbs giving them strength. My lungs extract precious oxygen from the dry desert air. They burn, but they will not fail me. Sweat drips down my face, washing away the heat of the sun.

The bull tries to outrun me, but I have a cheetah’s heart. The bull tries to confuse me. His tracks disappear as he flees into heavy brush. But I carry the desert’s wisdom in my mind.

The sun rises high in the sky. My prey tires. He is alone in a land of predators. This proud beast has been torn from his clan and is left fleeing for his life through the unending wilderness. If he stops, he will die. If he stumbles, he will die. If he gives in to fatigue or thirst, he will die. Yet hours have passed among the unforgiving sands and he still lives.

My limbs ache with fatigue. I begin to question my resolve. My prey is driven by fear of death, I by desire for life. The rise and fall of my chest, the rhythm of my feet as they beat the ground beneath me, they are the drumbeat of life – the cadence of a predator.

The bull experiences a different tempo. His hooves frantically pushing against the ground, his heaving gasps for air – his is the beat of survival. Each breath drains his energy and brings him a moment closer to death. But each labored breath with which I answer brings him a moment closer to life.

The sun begins to drop in the sky. I have one goal – to keep running. My body longs for water, food and rest. Every step requires effort. These final moments will decide the winner. My prey has proven his fortitude. He has brought us both to the brink of collapse. Soon the desert will choose the victor.

She is fickle, the desert, and harbors no preference for predator or prey. Only the strongest win favor. And everyday us mortals must once again prove ourselves worthy to reach the night.

The mighty bull collapses. His proud eyes meet mine. His expression is sad and wise. I feel his spirit deep within me. Yesterday he was the survivor. Yesterday his strength and experience was enough. Today I am the victor. Today he returns to the desert sands. But though he gives me life today, tomorrow is unwritten. Only one defeat separates the living from the dead. Only a few moments determine a victor.

I thrust my poisoned spear into his heart. His death is quick. I kneel beside him to honor his valor and ensure the desert receives him with honor. Today I will live. Today I will see the night. May I honor my prey’s sacrifice and face tomorrow with courage. For who can predict their own fortunes in the desert?

1Fourie, C. (Ed.). (1994). Living Legends of a Dying Culture: Bushmen Myths, Legends and Fables. Ekogilde.


More About the San People:


River Song

River Nymph Photo2

The trees bow when she walks past. Or perhaps it is just the wind. Her white dress drapes gently across her shoulders, framing a slender neckline. Her golden hair is pulled gently up. A few stray locks fall loosely at her temples. Her eyes are like the river, just before the rapids, when the swirling greens and blues are barely contained.

I find this creature on the river’s bank – a rushing river with the air of a general at war. The crashing sounds of his battle with the rock have been heard for centuries. And they will be heard for centuries longer. Yet, he slows and calms when she is near. Or perhaps it is just an illusion.

She wades out to her waist. The river parts to embrace her. I watch with wonder as the woman stands in the middle of a river known to drown grown men. She begins to sing. The song is soft at first. Perhaps it is just a songbird. The music weaves in and out with the sounds of the river as if they are two voices. They are playful like a brook, dancing together in the sun.

Now an echo emerges, far away, as in a great canyon. A painful echo of loss and suffering layered among the rock. An angry rush drowns the pain as the river surges tempestuously. The notes crash together. The river takes over as the woman’s voice falters.

She recovers. The river calms and the woman’s voice, clear and strong, pierces the air. The two voices are now almost completely united. They form a melody forceful and deep, yet tender.

I fall asleep on the riverbank, but the harmonies haunt my dreams. When I wake the woman is gone and the river has resumed its war. A fly plays above the water and the flowers are enjoying the sun. It’s getting late and I should be at home. Perhaps it was just a dream after all.


A Diamond is Born

EngagementRing

Deep in the mantle of Earth, a diamond is born.

Carbon, the once proud remnant of stars, is humbled beneath Earth’s surface. No longer does it grace the sky – illuminating space with honor and fervor. Its dignity is crushed beneath ancient rock; its fortitude tested by the seething heat of a capricious planet.

Nevertheless, clinging to ancestral pride, it will not relinquish its birthright and be consumed by the depths. Instead, it uses Earth’s own rage and might to grow, atom by atom, into a crystal – as hard and powerful as it is radiant. With each carbon bond the crystalline structure grows stronger. Infused with the unconstrained heart of the planet it connects earth and fire until a star is reborn.

In a fit of jealousy the volatile planet banishes the crystalized carbon from its mantel and expels it onto the surface. Forced from Earth’s bosom and left unprotected in the cold, its shape gains permanence, and millennia upon millennia it lies, abandoned and forgotten. Until, finally blessed by fate, it is unearthed from the volcanic wreckage. It is admiringly called “diamond” and given unconditional care. Cut into exquisite form, it sparkles with the remembrance of its once august place in the sky.

And now, my husband, you give it to me. A stone that, like myself, has survived unyielding fire, crushing pressure and interminable abandonment. And yet, discovered and loved by you, today we both once again shine with the brilliance of stars.


A Soldier’s Letter Home

mailbox

He sat down to write the letter. This was not his first letter, but each time he hoped it would be his last. Words never came easily to him. The blank page lay on the desk, innocent of the words he was about to assault it with. And still, words remained chambered in his mind, waiting for pen to touch paper.

He dropped his forehead into the palm of his hand. He tapped his pen against the paper in agitation. He glanced around for inspiration – a green cot, a desk and chair, a refrigerator and a grey locker – nothing to write home about. He finished off the warm water left in a crackling plastic bottle and began staring blankly at the wall.

His mind wandered to the recipients of the letter. Dad would probably be catching a train to Boston. He would be sitting down in a worn seat on the isle, offering the conductor his ticket, and then taking out his tablet to catch up on the news before a long day in the financial district.

Mom would be eating breakfast before heading to the community college. Maybe she was finishing up a few last minute grades while trying not to burn herself on a second cup of coffee. Looking out the window she would sigh as the loosening blossoms from a nearby cherry tree floated by on the breeze. This letter wouldn’t be the first they had heard of their son. But it would be the most personal.

He set the pen down, ripped the U.S. flag from the right sleeve of his ACUs and turned it over in his hands thoughtfully. He’d been here eight months and had dreamed about home so often he wondered if he had made it up in his head. Maybe home was like heaven. You hope and pray its there. You work your ass off to get there. But you actually live – and die – in hell.

Enough philosophizing. He slapped the flag back onto his shoulder and forced himself to write the first lines:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,

I am deeply saddened by your loss. Please accept my earnest and personal condolences for the loss of your son


Our Father

maninchurch

A man walked cautiously into an empty church. The towering ceilings made him feel small, like a child. The elegant stained glass made him feel course and dirty. The embroidered wall hangings made him feel poor and humbled. The Holy Sacrament displayed on the alter at the head of the church made him feel nervous and unworthy. But, the church as a whole, in all its grandeur, made him feel safe. God would meet him here.

He found a place among the pews and sat down, hat in hand. Silence echoed through the imperious hall. The man’s eyes dropped to the floor, unsure of what to do next. He only remembered one prayer from his childhood, so he began softly to recite it. With each familiar line his mind wandered into unscripted invocation.

“Our Father, who art in heaven,”

God, I’m not sure if you see me as a child or a creation. I’m not even sure if you really care about the everyday troubles of man with all the problems facing this world. But, I really want to believe right now. I could sure use a hand figuring out this life you created.

“Hallowed be thy name,”

Right now nothing seems sacred anymore. You start off life with this dream – this expectation – that certain things are your right if you’re a good person and you work hard. Lord, you know I do my best, but over the years my dreams seem to have dissipated into oblivion.

“Thy Kingdom Come,”

I never wanted much, Lord, just a family that loved me. A wife I could spoil. A couple kids I could pass on my knowledge to. A little house that would hold our memories. Work that would leave me tired at the end of each day, eager to come home.

“Thy will be done – on earth as it is in heaven,”

But somehow I’ve gotten lost on this journey called life. Lately I feel like I haven’t just lost sight of the destination, I’m spiraling out of control. I seem to be making decisions without a purpose, simply to get by. I don’t have a direction in mind, so I just swerve around in the dark.

“Give us this day our daily bread,”

Some days I wonder where the money for our next meal is gonna come from. Since I lost my job in February everything’s been mighty tight. I know I should be content asking for a square meal and a roof over our head, but it is so hard not being able to surprise my wife with roses or buy my kid a new bike. Lord, wasn’t it you who said man does not live by bread alone?

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,”

If it was just you I had to ask forgiveness from I’d do it in a heartbeat. But, it’s my family that really deserves an apology. I’ve been so stressed, and been feeling like such a louse for not providing better. I guess I take it out on them. My wife thinks I don’t listen or don’t understand; I do. I just can’t fix it, so all her lecturing just makes me feel like I’m in quick sand, getting smaller and less significant every moment. Eventually, she’ll just swallow me up, and then who will she blame?

“And lead us not into temptation,”

I don’t understand. If you love me like a father and want me to be a good person, why do you make it so hard on me. I’ve made some bad decisions in my life, but I was young and stupid. I’ve tried to love my wife, be a responsible father for my children, work hard and make a home. And yet, everyday you test my very will to survive.

“But deliver us from evil,”

I’m tired God. Tired of work with no reward. Tired of fighting for every little thing. Tired of all the bickering at home. Tired of being pushed backwards every time I take a stride forwards. I don’t need a perfect life, Lord, just a break from the battle.

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

After reciting those final words aloud he stood up resolutely. His rugged, oil-stained fingers brushed against the worn wood of the pews as he returned to the isle. Crossing himself, he returned to the door. His hat settled back into the well-worn groove in his hair, and the church door shut behind him. Climbing into his run-down truck he drove home in silent reverie.

“Amen.”


klbradleyreviews

She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live. -Annie Dillard

مدونة الشاعر مثنى ابراهيم دهام

مدونة شعرية تتضمن قصائد مختارة للشاعر

Blue & Black Ink

Coffee Mug. Blue Sky. Dreams. Khaleesi. I am no Stranger!

Operation Gratitude Blog

Care Packages for U.S. Troops, Veterans, New Recruits, Wounded Warriors and Military Children

Motivation for today's REALITY

No matter what life throws your way, your actions, attitude, determination, and desire can make the impossible, POSSIBLE!

Dances with Wools

knitting, spinning, dyeing, and related fiber arts

You're History!

"History is a vast early warning system." Norman Cousins

deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way ...

Spread love not hate

Everything under the sunshine

World of Horror

A place for writers and book lovers

Ana Spoke, author

It's time to get hella serious about writing!

The Ghosts of Tal'Afar

My writing and poetry helps me heal, honors our soldiers, and helps show you what we experienced.

Running After 50

"In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can." Nikos Kazantzakis

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Ashes of Life

A journey to discover my own writing voice

A Hansen Chronicle

...lyrical reflections on life's curiosities...

Finding a Place For Me

This zebra needs a home.

Be Like Water

Music, Film and Life

goran sabah ghafour

Empowerment Through Art & Storytelling

DoubleU = W

WITHIN ARE PIECES OF ME

Hasmeet Writes

Gratitude-Love-Peace-Humanity

Stitch School

Empowerment Through Art & Storytelling

Storing Hope

Stories about love to restore hope in people's hearts

Storing Hope

Stories about love to restore hope in people's hearts

Bikers Against Child Abuse International

Empowerment Through Art & Storytelling

NOT IN MY WORLD!!!!

Indifference Will Never Stop Child Abuse....

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy

Brotherly Love

A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics

FWACATA!

COMICS: It's all Ink and Fury, Thunder and Love

Plus Ultra

Stories and photographs from places “further beyond”.

Give Me Liberty

Conservative Views and News.

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

I May Be Some Time

Empowerment Through Art & Storytelling

Let's talk about the L word...

Yeah, I'll tell you a few things regarding LOVE!

A Veteran With PTSD

Living With PTSD

R & R Ramblings

Fictional Fingertip Tapping Tales...

A Word Of Substance

"Object Relations"

The Ninth Life

It's time to be inspired, become encouraged, and get uplifted!

Just Another Blog

My Life and Everything In Between

Veterans Healing & Wellness

Discussions On: PTSD * TBI * VA Issues * Disability Agent Orange * Military Sexual Trauma * and More!

existentiallens

Being Photography

amateur airplanes

Let's build.

Glitchy Artist

Screenshots of the Universe