The Story Behind the Story: “Dig a Sheet-rag a Hole”

I was participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest in 2014 while living in Puebla, Mexico.  The parameters of the contest are that all participants in their respective groups are given a genre, location, and object and must write a story in 48 hours with less than 1,000 words.  My group had to write a ghost story that takes place at a boot camp involving an outdoor grill.  Instead of writing, I went to Huamantla for a festival that reflects Spain’s San Fermin.  Streets are secured with makeshift walls below bleachers and solitary bulls are released into separate blocks.  I participated in the approach-and-run-and climb game being played with the bull.  That night I tried to write a fantastical story about it without allowing genre to narrow it.  About ghosts training in a bull run, about issues of equity between trainees, animals, living, and the dead.  The story was garbage.  But it prompted an idea, and then a premise in the form of two sentences came to my head: Training with dead men sucks; Sergeant Miller says the army is an equal opportunity employer.  I started again from there.  The story originally was much longer, but I cut in half as was necessary.  I hope you enjoy it.

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About Samuel Nelson

Sam Nelson is a public school teacher and writer.  He currently lives and works in Washington, D.C. but he has previously taught and worked in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Puebla, Mexico. He grew up in Richmond, VA.  He has contributed fiction, creative non-fiction, and journalistic work to Country Roads MagazineThe Lens, Verbsap, Word Riot, Edible New Orleans, Where Y\'at, Mid-City Messenger, Neutral Ground News, and Nolavie.   You can find his work here.