This is not the story of a hero.
So begins the story of one of the most distinctive heroes you'll ever meet. Drafted into a war he barely comprehends with no taste for combat, Pup will find himself thrust into the very center of the conflict. How he affects that conflict, and how this changes him and everyone around him, is the soul of this utterly unique war story.
Equal parts adventure and farce, tragedy and comedy, PUP introduces an unforgettable accidental hero to war literature, and announces Christopher Slater as a resonant new voice.
WINNER OF THE AUTHORS FIRST NOVEL CONTEST
This is not the story of a hero. If you were hoping to read about a hero that the biggest star in movies would play on the silver screen then you might want to look for something else to read. There are lots of stories about heroes out there. Look around and find one of those, Im sure there are probably some on the Best Sellers list. This is the story of a screw-up. A grade-A, monumental, epic screw-up. I wouldnt even be writing this down except that my wife wants me to record it so that our children can read it when they grow up. Theres a brilliant idea! If my kids havent figured out how much of an idiot their father is by the time theyre old enough to read this, I might as well provide textual evidence to convince them! My therapist also said that it might be cathartic for me to write it all down. What a quack! He still tells me that I should be proud of myself when I look in the mirror. I look like a cartoon character. Why should I be proud of seeing that in the mirror?
All right, I suppose I should stop stalling and get this thing started. I would say that my adventures began the day I was drafted, but that would be a lie. My adventures probably began the day I was born. I often wondered if the doctor dropped me on my head after he saw me. If he did, is it possible he picked me up and dropped me again just to be certain? Whatever happened on that day, I ended up with all kinds of issues. I havent been diagnosed with anything, part of the reason is because I wouldnt allow myself to be tested, but there are still labels that apply to me: socially awkward, clumsy, forgetful, hyper, geek, spaz, schmo, screw-up, goofball, and clueless are at the top of the list. Those are just the labels given to me by friends and family. My grades never reflected these things. I always scored well in class. I can tell you the capital of Tajikistan off of the top of my head (its Dushanbe, in case you wanted to know), but I couldnt tie my shoes before sixth grade, I still have to think hard to remember my left from my right, and my first attempt to boil water on the stove made it on the evening news.
Of course, everyone has their issues. I have a cousin that is scared to death of ducks. Im not kidding. Every time she sees a duck coming towards her, she breaks out into a cold sweat and looks like she is about to have a psychotic episode. The difference between other peoples issues and mine is the fact that you arent likely to have to confront ducks on a daily basis. People are an entirely different story. I have to confront them every day. To tell the truth, I suck at it.
I could probably write a four-volume treatise on my time in school. Just imagine being in an institution for thirteen years where everyone else knows that talking to yourself in public is strange except for you, and where color-coordinating your clothes is highly suggested and you tend to ignore that suggestion. That pretty much sums up as much of my time in school as I think anyone needs to know. Oddly enough, though, I enjoyed it.
It isnt like I never had friends. I had quite a few friends. It turns out that when you spend most of your time fighting against or trying to hide your quirks, you gain a certain amount of insight into people. That insight turned me into a bit of a problem-solver. People would come to me with their problems and I would listen and help talk them through it. When you do things like that, you get a reputation as a nice guy. The funny thing is that I wasnt a nice guy. Sure, I had manners and tried to treat people decently because my mother would make my life miserable if I didnt, but that wasnt the main reason why I helped. I liked hearing these people talk about their problems because it helped me forget about mine for a little while. I never told any of them that. Im pretty sure it would have ruined my reputation.
I admit it. Im stalling. I could spend several pages just talking about how I managed to never touch the toilet seats in the school bathrooms (they really are gross!), but I know that I would just be coming up with ways to avoid telling the story that my wife and my quack therapist want me to tell. Here it goes. I graduated from high school and had been accepted into a college to study psychology. Thats when the war broke out; Im sure you know the history, so Ill leave the details out of it for now. Ive always had a habit of reading. I read a lot. I read about a lot of stuff. At the time, I had become particularly fond of military action novels. Science fiction was my choice for television and movies, but military action seemed more real to me in books. It always amazed me how they could make the heroes so invincible and the villains so conniving. I think that my sense of patriotism was especially aroused by these novels. When the Second Korean War broke out I went and bought flags in every available size, got red-white-and-blue shirts and hats, and I got all kinds of posters and decorations to show my love of country. Obviously, none of this did anything to actually help the war effort, but thats just the way that I think. I figured that looking patriotic would be my contribution. I didnt really consider enlisting. Id never shot a gun before and I had the upper body strength of a . . . well, everything has more upper body strength than I did. So I figured I would just wear my shirts and hats and shout U-S-A! whenever appropriate and that would be enough.
I remember that I was wearing one of those shirts when the doorbell rang. I had been spending most of the day trying to figure out how to get along with a stranger as a roommate when I got to college. That probably scared me more than anything about going off to school. I dug into my wallet as I went to answer the door. Various groups had been doing door-to-door fundraisers to support our troops in whatever way they could. Hey, I could give a few bucks. I would do my part. I was wearing a patriotic shirt, wasnt I? When I opened the door, the deliveryman asked to see my identification. Maybe it was because he was wearing a uniform, or maybe it was because I was young and stupid, but I showed him my drivers license. He looked at it, double-checked his clip board, and then told me that I was hereby notified that I had been called to active duty through the Selective Service program. He handed me an envelope and then turned to leave. He stopped when I told him thank you. Maybe he thought I was being sarcastic. In truth, it was just an automatic response of politeness. He looked at me with an expression that I couldnt quite place. Then he told me, Good luck, kid. He got in his vehicle and drove off without looking back.
I looked at the envelope that he had given me. I opened it up and found a great deal of information there. In truth, it was information overload. The words that stood out to me as if they had been highlighted were active duty, United States Army. Something about those words disturbed me. Maybe it was the fact that they actually had been highlighted. I read them three times, then dropped the envelope and passed out. The least I could have done was close the door before I passed out. It took my parents two days to round up the cat and dog. My tendency to panic can be so inconsiderate at times.
Its hard to remember a whole lot that happened in the following months. I remember my mother crying a lot. That was no surprise. She wouldnt even let me walk to the neighborhood playground by myself before I was seventeen. By then, I could drive to it. I also remember watching the news a lot. I was really hoping that there would be a breaking news announcement that the Second Korean War had abruptly ended with the enemys unconditional capitulation (I didnt actually expect it to be worded like that, I just wanted an excuse to use the word capitulation). I also did a lot more walking. My therapist tells me that I probably did that so that I could experience more of my familiar surroundings before leaving to a more alien environment. Quack. My mother was crying, the television kept showing depressing news stories, and the dog and cat were constantly trying to escape. I went for walks to get the hell out of there!
The day finally came for me to report for processing. I really didnt want my parents taking me. Thats kind of like having your parents drop you off at school. Its embarrassing. I would know, mine did it until the last week of my senior year. Unfortunately, somebody had to drive me and they insisted. My mother kept giving me kisses when she parked the car. I finally had to speak up. Mom! Stop kissing me!
I dont care if I embarrass you! she replied. Youre my boy going off to war!
Its not that, I insisted. Im so nervous that Im nauseous and I think I might puke all over you. Sometimes you have to hit my mom with the unaltered truth. Imagine my surprise when that just made my mom cry harder. I guess I know where I get some of my issues from.
The processing was . . . unpleasant. After getting all of my information, having me sign a lot of things that I didnt really understand, and then taking away everything that I had brought with me, the military sent me to get a physical. Im not a big fan of physicals. I dont know of anyone who really is, but I think that I hate them more than most. People poking and prodding and asking questions that I wouldnt want to answer if they paid me. Why cant they just have a scanning device like on Star Trek? (Sorry! Flying my geek flag again!) To make matters worse, I had to stand in line in just my underwear with a bunch of other draftees. I guess I should point out that I have never been all that comfortable with being naked, or mostly naked, around others. I always tried to be the last to change in the gym locker room. I dont know why, probably because everyone is in better shape than me. Some people look like you could put five hundred pounds on a bar and they could bench press it without difficulty. I look like I could be the bar. I stood in line not making any real eye contact with the others around me. I shuffled forward whenever I saw the feet of the person in front of me move. I dont know if I should have looked up or not. It might have prevented the shock of what was to come, or it might have prolonged the agony. Ill never know. I only know what did happen, and that was humiliating enough.
I shuffled forward and saw a chair in front of me. Have a seat, a voice said. A feminine voice. A very feminine voice. I looked up and saw a young lady in green scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck. She was gorgeous. She was about twenty years old with red hair and a smile that could light up an entire room. I would know. Shed gone to high school with me. It was one of those rare instances that I actually recognized someone. She also recognized me. She smiled that dazzling smile. I was too nervous to smile back, but that didnt prevent other parts of me from . . . responding. While I was standing in front of her. In my underwear.
I dont think that theres any need to continue with that particular memory. Well just say that she checked my blood pressure (it was high at the moment) and my pulse rate (which was dangerously high at the moment) and sent me to the next table. It was difficult to tell if the smile remained one of familiarity or of amusement. Of course, most people who were familiar with me were also amused by me, so six of one, half a dozen of the other. I guess that it was good news that the rest of the people involved with giving the physical were male. It prevented any repeats of that episode. I almost expected to fail the physical at the hearing test portion. I hear everything very well. The problem is that I cant seem to understand anyone. Its like everyone mumbles. Maybe everyone does mumble, and Im the only one that didnt receive the memo. That would be about the speed of things. I was all ready to explain this with a vague hope that it might get me a medical discharge when they stuck a couple of earbuds in my ears. I heard a few odd tones come through the speakers and saw the tech look at his laptop screen. After about fifteen seconds, he removed the earbuds and put an approval on my paper. My hearing isnt . . .
Your hearing is fine. Move on, he interrupted. I started to protest when he looked at me with eyes that did not broker discussion. Your hearing is fine. Move on. I picked up my paper and followed instructions. At the final table was the only man in the room in an army uniform. I sat down in front of him and handed him my physical form. He took a look at it and checked off a few boxes himself. Since he was the final person in the line of tables, I figured that I had better ask him some of the questions that I had. Sir, I have a few concerns. First, I have an unusual hearing issue. I cant always make out what people are saying. Secondly, my stomach tends to get upset when I eat unusual foods. Third, Im not certain that I am in good enough physical condition for the military. Finally, I was just about to start college. Doesnt that exempt me from the draft?
The corporal (I had studied up a little on military rank) had not looked up from his paperwork while I had spoken. He didnt bother looking up afterwards to answer me either. Everyone is trying to go to college now, he began in a bored voice. Because of that, there are no more college deferments. Your tests say your ears are fine. Boot camp will get you into shape, and you can crap your pants after mess call for all I care so long as you dont foul up your weapon. Congratulations, pal. You are now a member of the United States Army. He finally looked up at me. When he saw how scrawny I was and the already-homesick look on my face, I heard him mutter under his breath, May God help us all. And that is how my glorious career in the military began.
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE:
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Pup. It was clever, unique, hilarious and sorrowful! I thought Pup might remind of Gomer Pyle, but it never did. Rather I found myself feeling like his mother, saddened by a fact that he would no longer be my boy, but a man when he returned home.
I loved that the writing seemed self depricating and very tongue in cheek. My favorite part was the airport scene when he first left for Korea. The author depicted a gangly, awkward teenager who seemed to do everything incorrectly and embarrass himself in so doing. However this young man also realized his clumsiness and acjnowledged it. You know the saying, "It is what it is?" This fits a description of this story to a T.
Slater often speaks to Pups children as they are reading this book and I found that to be endearing and all a part of Pup's wonderful personna!
If you like war stories and if you like to laugh out loud while reading, this just might be the book for you to read. I know I'm getting my grandson Noah a copy and I know he will love it as well. After reading Pup, I can thoroughly agree, it earned the win in the AUTHORS FIRST NOVEL CONTEST! Well done Christopher Slater!
I rated this a five wink read!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christopher Slater was born, raised, and continues to haunt Middle Tennessee. His love of history led him to teaching that subject, which gave him the opportunity to hone his storytelling skills with a captive audience. Once he thought he had sharpened his abilities enough, he decided to start writing for a more voluntary audience. When not writing, Slater enjoys historic reenacting, playing airsoft, and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. He teaches middle school in Tennessee where he still lives with his entertaining son, very patient wife and a cat that wont get out of his seat. Pup is his first novel.
Disclaimer: I read for my pleasure. I may receive ARC copies for review purposes, but I am not compensated for my reviews . I like to read and I like to share my reviews. I post my thoughts without prejudice or bias. The words are mine and I write reviews based on my humble opinion. I will admit, I seldom meet a book I don't like. I received a copy of this book from the author or their representative in exchange for an honest review.