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Irma Fritz

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Member Since: Dec, 2008

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Cigarette Break
by Irma Fritz   

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Books by Irma Fritz
· Confessions of a Predatory Lender
· Amazing Grace (The Angel of Death)
· Irretrievably Broken
                >> View all

Category: 

Family

ISBN-10:  B007YNPQAU Type: 


Fiction

C.J. and Crystal might be a typical young couple vacationing with their three children, if it weren’t for the fact that he suffers from PTSD.

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C.J. and Crystal might be a typical young couple vacationing with their three small children. If it were not for the fact that C.J. suffers from PTSD. He’s an American soldier, on leave after three tours of duty in Iraq and with orders to deploy to Afghanistan. When they cross the border into Canada, C.J. says he’d rather kill himself than go back. The family stops at a remote B & B where they’re the only guests. Crystal decides it's an idyllic place for the kids. For C.J. it's the place where he plots his suicide. What happens when he decides he can’t leave her behind?


Excerpt

When they crossed the border, C.J. said he’d rather kill himself than go back.
They spent days driving around, nights looking for cheap motels. The home they came from was in a place as flat as a flapjack, and now Crystal wanted to go to Banff. She thought they could make it there in another day or so.
“Where in hell you think I got the kind of money it takes to stay in a place like that?” C.J. asked.
Crystal had heard it was spendy but she wanted the kids to see the Rockies. While she and C.J. argued it was getting on toward late afternoon. And then they saw the sign for Tom and Noreen’s Bed & Breakfast, twenty-two kilometers from the highway.
“I’ve never stayed at a B & B,” Crystal said, willing to compromise. If it wasn’t going to be the Rockies at least they could stay in a nice place for a change. “There’s one where Granny lives. It’s this beautiful Victorian house. Two old ladies who’d been schoolteachers run it. Why can’t we stay at a decent place for once, huh? What do you say, C.J.? Just for this one night?”
The twins, Charlie and Jimmy, were pinching each other in the backseat, and Katie was getting crabby. “Settle down back there. Your mom and I are talking,” C.J. said while extrapolating miles from kilometers in his head. But he was tired and could feel one of his headaches coming on. Deciding to give in to her he followed the signs, turning down the crooked road. “Only let’s not get too chummy with these people. They don’t need to know our whole life story.” This for Crystal who collected friends as easily as tattoos.
The road wound and curved down and around until they thought they might have missed a turnoff somewhere and gotten lost. The twins had stopped bickering and concentrated hard on the task of being lookouts for their dad. Soon enough they spotted another marker and another road, this a gravel one. Driving along this rough road their car bumped them in their seats and left a plume of dust behind them. Crystal yelled for the boys to close their windows but they were at an age where they equated dust and dirt, puddles and mud with fun times. They fanned the air and coughed, they pretended to choke and pass out, all the while roaring with laughter. By the time they drove through the entry gate of the B & B even little Katie was giggling.
It was still bright daylight when their hosts rushed from the house to greet them. There were no other guests staying at the B & B and Tom and Noreen, whose last name was Lessard, welcomed them like friends. There was the main house, the Lessards’ private residence, stables, and barns. There were flower gardens, raised beds for herbs and vegetables, and a fruit orchard. Shade trees bordered a path that led down to a private lake.
The Lessards had left professional careers in Montreal when they bought this parcel of land some years back. The property was enclosed by dense forest and craggy hills from which they’d carved their miniature Eden. The sprawling lodge had eight bedrooms, each with its own bath. The large dining room was a sunny place that overlooked the back deck. A giant rock fireplace in the wood-paneled sitting room promised warmth on a cold night, which Tom and Noreen said was pretty much any night up here. There were bookshelves along the walls and overstuffed chairs. Card tables loaded with board games provided a comfy place to relax after a day spent outdoors.
While Katie clung to her mother’s hand, the twins ran off with the Lessards’ son, Perry, to the hens and the horses, and to check out the paddleboats down by the lake. Excited to have another man to whom he could show off his engineering skills, Tom got C.J. to climb the rocky west slope with him up to the power station he’d built using the natural hydropower of a waterfall.
“You got yourself quite a place here,” said C.J., staring out over the valley, all the way to the distant Rockies. “It’s nothing I could afford on a soldier’s pay.”
“It’s peaceful, that’s for sure. Just the way we like it. Out here, you’d never know there was a war going on.”
“Or two,” said C.J., massaging his temples with both hands. “They say we’ll be done with this one by Christmas. But after seven years in the army you tend not to believe everything they tell you.”
“Which one are you in, Iraq or Afghanistan?” Tom asked.
“Came from one and supposed to go on to the other.” C.J. reached into the pocket of his jeans and shook out two pills from a bottle.
“Water?” Tom asked, leaning over the gushing waterfall, showing the younger man how to drink it by the handful.
“Water’s for pussies.” C.J. grinned and swallowed his medicine down dry. “Excuse my French,” he said, as he picked his way through the rocks to step back onto the downhill trail. “That’s how we say it in the army. Besides, in the desert you get used to saving what water you got.”
“From what I’ve seen on the news Iraq strikes me as a place like a moon crater, what with the dust blowing and the car bombs. At least we never got too deep into that mess,” he said, reminding C.J. that they did not share the same nationality.
When the men came back, Tom went off to check on the livestock and lock the gate for the night. Observing C.J.’s fidgety fingers pressing in on his temples, Noreen remarked how it must have been a long day of driving for him, and she went inside to brew up a pot of blackberry tea.
“This place is so amazing,” said Crystal. “Let’s stay a while.”
“It’s too quiet. I’m not used to it. It makes me nervous,” he said, rattling the change in his pocket. “Besides, we talked about this, Crystal. I can’t stay in any place too long or they’ll track me down.”
“How are they going to track you when we’re paying with cash? Relax,” she said and smiled up at him. “Guess what? Noreen says the kids get to have their own room and we don’t have to pay extra. And here they can just run and I don’t have to worry about them like in some of the places we been staying at.” When C.J. didn’t answer her, she tried coaxing. “Think of it, honey. You and me, all alone at night,” she said, doing her special cheerleader dance step for him. “In a four-poster bed?”



Professional Reviews

A Man At War With Himself
Cigarette Break is a cautionary tale detailing the curious stranglehold of war's after-effects. C.J. has PTSD (or PTSI, Post Traumatic Stress Injury, as many define it); wife Crystal is doing the best she can to help him without training and three children underfoot. When they flee to Canada, they stumble upon a gorgeous home retreat, a B & B with a picture perfect family. The disparity of their lives sharpens into focus, and instead of providing the respite C.J. needs, it propels him further down a dangerous path. Unfortunately, Crystal chooses to follow him in a co-dependent form of AWOL. Cigarette Break is chilling, gritty, a bit uncomfortable, but so very real

The End?
I enjoyed this short story very much. I see not everyone was satisfied with the ending. Well, I agree that the story could have continued for a few more pages, but IT IS a short story. I was satisfied with how it ended because I knew what happened and don't really feel it needed to be confirmed. But really, I'm just assuming I knew what happened.....either way, it was a good read and a great take on reality. I'm looking forward to more published works from this author :)

Five Golden Cigarettes for Irma Fritz
Sometimes life takes on a different meaning when a traumatic incident or injury causes you to change your perspective on life. One young couple would pay the ultimate price when something happens to this young soldier whose life crumbles from fear, stress, and distrust resulting from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Meet CJ and Crystal an ordinary married couple with three children. Although they appeared happy on the surface they appeared to be living in two separate worlds. CJ is AWOL from the army after returning from a tour overseas. Left with remnants and visions of what he encountered he can't seem to function properly without the aid of his meds and Crystal's calming effect. Hiding from the army and often himself CJ enters a world that only he feels safe in but not anyone else. Enjoying life, his children and his blessings comes hard to him and he often takes out his frustrations on his family. But, a family vacation and meeting two wonderful people might give him some solace and peace for the first time. Paranoid, suspicious of other people and not wanting his family to get close to anyone he constantly threatens and warns Crystal to watch her words and deliver them carefully. Loyal to him and never floundering or faulting her feelings for him, CJ still does not trust Crystal. Always thinking she tempts men or flirts to get their attention he never really appreciates the fact that she is always there for him. Hoping to relax and allow his children to have a proper vacation he decides to give in to Crystal and stay at a Bed and Breakfast owned by Tom and Noreen Lessard. Instant friendships form as CJ and Tom bond and fish together allowing Crystal to talk to Noreen and vent for the first time in her life...
One conversation and several to follow allows the reader to learn of what he has planned. Leaving the B&B and saying goodbye to Tom and Noreen they stop at a diner for lunch. What happens next you will have to decide for yourself as the author leaves the ending wide open to speculation. Lunch, dessert and then as the children chant, " Cigarette Break, Cigarette Break," as their two parents exit the diner. Thinking they would return they continued eating, have their lunch and drinks never realizing the ultimate outcome. This story will leave the reader asking many questions. Where are CJ and Crystal? What really happened to them? Would they really leave their children unattended? What caused them to fall off the face of the earth an unable to be found? Many soldiers commit suicide when things in their own minds become too difficult to handle. This they feel is their only way out. But, how many would take another person with them? After reading this story, hearing the voices of CJ and Crystal relating the events, as Crystal is your narrator for most of it, you decide for yourself what happened. Did they take the ultimate way out? Author Irma Fritz brilliantly and deliberately leaves the ending open for the reader to decide for himself/herself. From the author of Irretrievably Broken comes a story that will make you stop and think and realize the sacrifices our young men and women in the service make everyday.


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