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Joseph Hirsch

Joseph Hirsch, Author of American Pig Dogs Joseph Hirsch is the author of many published books, short stories, novellas, poems, essays, and articles. He served four years in the U.S. Army, where his travels took him to Iraq, Germany, and Texas. He holds an MA in Germanistik from the University of Cincinnati, and can be found online @

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American Pig Dogs by Joseph Hirsch

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American Pig Dogs by Joseph Hirsch It’s the 80s and the Cold War is at full freeze, and that freeze is pretty literal for Corporal Chris Talworth and his two friends, Private Legg and Specialist Jablonski. They have been tasked with the mundane job of guarding a Christmas fair in the sleepy village of Langemarck. It should have been an easy (albeit cold) gig, but then Fate throws them a curveball and they find themselves in deep trouble, not to mention probably stripped of rank and dishonorably discharged from the Army.

Their only hope at this point--and it’s a longshot--lies with an ancient map one of them found while on field maneuvers. It may lead to untold riches. Or deep into the bowels of the Abyss.

Word Count: 40331
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American Pig Dogs

Christmas Caller

One could never say for sure during the Cold War, but the town of Langemarck definitely didn’t feel like it was important. It wasn’t an asset for the West Germans, as far I knew. Our small outpost with only a signal unit and a couple attached assets were the only evidence of the American army in the sleepy burg. And as for the Ossies? There wasn’t much to spy on or collect intel about, unless the GDR hoped to steal the layouts for the yearly Christmas markets, which, to be fair, were pretty impressive for a town as small as Langemarck.

We were at the final night of the Weinachtsmarkt on work detail when things went sideways. There were me and my two buddies, fellow MPs: PFC Martin Legg and Spec 4 Jablonski. We’d gotten tasked by Top to do police call and teardown at the tail end of festivities, but we still had a few minutes until the last booth closed.

We were at the edge of the market waiting for the final shoppers and ring-toss throwers to finish up and we hung back on a ryegrass tussock, smoking and joking as soldiers do when there’s nothing else to be done.

I took a puff on the Gauloises and watched the vapor form in front of my face, tried to guess what was cold air and what was smoke. It was the kind of question that was rhetorical for me, but Jablonski could have really answered if I asked him. I didn’t ask him though, because the pleasure he’d get answering such a question would piss Legg off.

Instead, I shifted the smoke to him without a word, bundled myself deeper in my field jacket and turned the collar up. I moved my fingers inside their glove liners and outer leather shells to keep from feeling numb.

“Scheisse,” I said.

“That’s the only German Americans know,” Jablonski lamented, as he puffed the cigarette. “Shit.”

“You act like you’re not American, dingus.”

Jablonski shot Legg a sharp look, like he might either not pass him the cigarette or might flick it in his face and call him a fat ape. “Yeah, but we should make the effort to be good ambassadors to them.” He pointed his smoke, or our smoke rather, toward the village square down in the dale.

It was beautiful, with white sparkling lights strung up over the small wooden booths with thatched roofs, where Stollen and puff pastries were being sold, games and gewgaws on offer. Outside the perimeter where the fairgoers reveled there was a baroque carousel where the painted horses went in circles. Beyond that the hazelnut and apple trees were bare of fruit and heavy with frost.

“Why do you think we’re here?” Jablonski asked. He thought Legg was too dumb to answer the simplest question and Legg didn’t respect him enough to field queries, so the question had to be rhetorical. Except Legg was pissed because it was cold and late and answering gave him a chance to complain.

“We’re here because the War between East and West is being fought in Berlin, and we’re out here in some town in Hesse, watching Krauts pin tails on donkeys because the Army has no use for us now.”

“‘We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here’,” I said, quoting the old Tommy from the Trench. And then I checked to see whether or not Legg was done with the cigarette, and if so, how close it was to the filter. “I feel ready to cross the Rubicon.”

“Don’t reference the Rubicon to him.” Jablonski shifted his square-framed glasses on his sharp nose. “He won’t know what it is.”

“How do you know what I know?”

We could have gone on like this all night, but a dark form came toward us, leaving the little fachwerk and cobblestone town square where the lights glowed, and snow fell. Oompah horns and the Schlager croon of Heino came to us on the wind, and she approached us on foot.

Jablonski’s glasses fogged and Legg did his best to suck in his gut beneath his field jacket. He even doffed his field cap, or tipped the brim, as if he were some paladin and wasn’t the kind to comment on her ass after she turned around and walked back down to the village.

Our expressions changed, even Legg’s, as she got closer. The young woman wore a heavy gray merino sweater and a hat with earflaps and snowy pompom tassels. She was probably in her early twenties and had a button nose and burnt almond complexion, green eyes that highlighted her mixed parentage. She was beautiful, but to many of the older Germans she was probably a bit of Rassenschande; denazification had come here, just like everywhere else, but a lot of the Germans didn’t like American soldiers, and definitely not the ones who got their daughters knocked up. Especially not the black GIs.

“I need help.” Tears streamed down her high cheekbones and froze in place reflecting light like crystals.

“Yes, ma’am.” I reflexively felt for my sidearm, remembered we couldn’t have them for these joint-nation meet-and-greet things. Weapons were still at the armory since it was doubtful there would be trouble, as most of the old Red Army fighters were either in prison, dead, or were college professors now.

“A man down there…” She trailed off, avoided eye contact.

Legg balled his fists, maybe because he felt compelled to defend the assault on womanhood, or maybe because he was more violent sober than drunk and he was pissed to be here after duty hours.

“Can you point him out to us, ma’am?”

“No,” she said. “I have fear.” She shook her head and some black shiny curls fell free from beneath her cap. “I am shamed.”

Jablonski stepped forward. “Can you describe him to us, then?”

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