January 16, 2012: “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy” by Said Sayrafiezadeh
I found this story depressing as hell. It is apparently part of a collection coming out this year from this author, and I’ll guess that the last couple of stories he’s had in the New Yorker will be in the book. Note particularly the story “Paranoia” which ran last year and also mentions this distant war on the peninsula against an unnamed enemy.
In this story, Luke, who is apparently in a National Guard unit, is called up to serve in this war. It’s supposed to be over soon, except that it isn’t. Luke, 27, with an Associate’s Degree, doesn’t mind leaving his meaningless job for this adventure, which is how he and the girl he thinks he’s interested in, Becky, view it. But his role in the war is also boring. He’s building a bridge to nowhere, or maybe it’s to a spot where there are said to be 880 of the enemy. In any case, he spends his time watching movies, eating, and it’s not very stressful except for the sergeant who occasionally gives them grief. Until, one day just before their year is up and they are about to go home, Luke encounters the enemy.
And that’s all I’m going to say, as the encounter is the story, and makes the story, for me.
I read the piece as an indictment of war. A very effective indictment, it seems to me.