Richard D. Preston
ODYSSEY: ‘NAM 66 – 67 (Part 4)
Torrential downpour, we will move but not far today. The skinny being passed around is that we will move our position a few clicks and then cover our asses the best we can until this rain lets up. Time to suck it up and get moving again, so we wade into the dense bush straining to gain ground with every step we take. Brothers to the left of me and Brothers to the right just yards apart. We won’t be heard in the jungle today, the rain is beating down to hard. It won’t be great for us either, as the rain careens off our piss pot helmets and ponchos to deafen us with its constant droning. It’s enough to drive a man insane, but hell we were insane already out here in the shit wandering around like Moses in the wilderness.
My mind wanders back to just a year or so ago when I was in high school. I went to a school dance with this chick from Vermont. The Beatles were big then and life was a hoot. We danced around the floor without a care in the world except maybe to get lucky. “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah, she loves you yeah, yeah, yeah, yeaaaah!” Don’t I wish? The lights dim and the song, “Will you still love me tomorrow” comes on and it’s instant boner time. Slow dancing was the best but frustrating as hell. The chaperones could give a shit less and there was no six-inch rule to follow, so cheek-to-cheek we swayed to the music. Her arms wrapped around my neck and my arms wrapped around her waist, Oh sure I accidentally patted her on the ass a time or two. But the only response I got was, “nice boys don’t do that!” Well sister I thought, I ain’t a nice boy and willy don’t have a conscious either. So I smiled and rolled my eyes as our cheeks met once again.
Wally, my bud, was out with my date’s cousin; in fact it was they who hooked us up. We were on a double date and Wally and I had been planning this set up all day at school. We brushed up on our technique and decided to go get a burger down at the local A&W root beer drive in. But we would take the long way around by going the opposite direction towards Wilder dam. When we stepped outside it was pouring cats and dogs and we ran to the car and jumped in. We were soaked but we were young and didn’t really care. It was blacker than coal outside and the windows fogged up instantly. I started the Valiant up and turned on the lights and pulled on out of the parking lot only half being able to see. We drove around as the Beach boys crooned and soon we were near the dam. The clouds burst violently and the road was impossible to see. Wally was right on cue, Hey Burt, (my nickname), why don’t we pull off at the dam and park until this rain lets up. I replied in my most sincere voice, “Why sure Wally that would be a great idea, lets do!” So I wheeled into the elevated parking lot and shut the car off and turned out the lights. The Dam had a string of lights running across the top of the water chutes about a quarter mile long. We used to say, “Let’s go count the lights”, the ultimate signal that we were going parking. The fog started rolling off the windows front and back and sides as we kissed under the thunder and lightening filled skies. Man this was great, “I wanna hold your hand” started playing on the radio and life was good.
Instantly, I was yanked out of the past when the ambush sprung up ahead of us. All shit broke loose as the shots echoed in what seemed like all directions. We dropped to our knees and opened up on our flanks. What we were shooting at only God knew but we felt it the thing to do at the time. Crack, Crack, and then the 60’s broke loose and then silence and the order to cease-fire came down the line. We stood up slowly and gazed wide eyed into the green haze that surrounded us. After the situation was accessed we moved out two by two with rifles at the ready. We filed by the bodies of three Vietcong lying there steaming, lifeless and twisted. Their eyes were glazed in death and their jaws slack and opened. Blood trickled from the corner of their mouths as the rain-washed the mud from their faces. Fuck me, I thought as I walked on by glancing down at them. Better them than me and I blanked it out of my mind. Don’t mean nuthin’. It’s too fucking bad for the losing team.
I tried to get back into the safety of my head, and into the steamy Dodge Valiant. I wanted so much to wrap my arms around the girl of my dreams and escape the reality of Vietnam.
But the music wouldn’t play, and there was no one there. Wally Vanished, Charley fucked up my dream walk, and there was no one to hold my hand.
©Copyright August 2004 by Richard D. Preston