OUT OF THE NAM
Khe Sanh, April 1967
They shouldn’t send some people here. This place, this heat, the jungle—it does things to some people. Not all people. Some of us can take it. Some of us are even good at it, being here, in this shit—-killing an enemy we never see. But, there’s some. They just don’t belong here. The Nam gets them before the Vietcong does.
You can see it in their faces, their eyes, their hands—-the way they hold things—-the way they look around—-the way they spook easy.
Most of them die real fast. Spooked men don’t live long here. Jumping at things makes you panic. Once you panic, you die. Losing your head, man, that makes you do stupid shit.
Just last night some college boy started ripping off his uniform, taking off his brainbucket, throwing down his M16 and just ran right into the jungle. First night out. Couldn’t take the darkness closing in on him, pinned down in that foxhole with that darkness and Charlie just sitting out there, waiting.
So this guy, I don’t even know his name, he shouts some crazy shit about it not being his problem and he just wanted peace and love and he wasn’t staying here to do this war shit for any one and he just jumps his bare ass out of the hole and runs.
He didn’t get that far when we heard him start screaming. But, we kept our cool. Just sat there, in our hole, with the screams coming and the Nam night all around us. We just sat there, hearing it, waiting for it all to stop. Taking it, though, taking it, because we weren’t going out—-not out there. Not for some new meat who lost his cool and ran out there, straight to them. Brought himself right to them. No point wasting men like that.
Besides, we knew what was happening to him. Shit, we knew what was gonna happen to him before it even did. Charlie don’t give a crap about peace and love.
We found him this afternoon. I ain’t even going to start getting in to how he looked. Hardly enough left of his hippy ass to keep hanging off the tree it was pinned to.
They never should have sent him here. He didn’t do any good; all he did was cost the Marine Corps a uniform and a body bag in the end, that’s all. Now we gotta wait for new new-meat.
Yeah, if I had my way I’d send them back, those ones who can’t take it. I’d send them back as soon as I saw them. As soon as I saw the weakness in them. No point in putting them here. Leave them back in the world.
Leave the Nam to us.
Death Ain’t Nothing
Dah Nong 1967
Let me tell you something, death ain’t nothing, not when it happens.
The worst is the feeling of dying. Laying there with your own bright red wet blood falling out all across your legs–down your fatigues–down your boots…
Somewhere in your thigh. The red is just pumping up like gas out of some hole inside you, somewhere deep in your leg. There’s so much blood outside of you, you can’t see where it’s coming from. Just too much to let you see.
You can’t feel it, the blood coming out, no sir, not when you’ve been blown up and slammed hard against the shattered pieces of jungle wood and old boxes that you used to be standing on. Standing on for hours, just waiting, then—-bam.
You hurt all over for a second when that happens, everything, everywhere, and then you don’t. And you don’t feel the red blood pumping out over your legs that could be coming from anywhere.
You accept this without thinking about it because this jangled sparkled black and white feeling is busy telling you that you are not coming back from this one. There’s these black dots, swirling, that jump as points of grey and points of white flicker.
Feels like needles and pins in your head.
And your heart starts doing this thing: this pulling thing, deep down inside your chest. Hammering away like an engine running on low oil—-straining and cranking while the black dots gather in front of your eyes.
You want your hands to move and wipe the blood away, to see where it is coming out of, but suddenly you realize it’s so much to do, too much to do, the heavy bloody stickiness weighs your hands down.
And your heart, your heart starts jumping around on empty and your brain starts seeing stars like your eyes been seeing and the stars explode into black…just black…and your hands stop trying to move and you just run out.
Like some god-damned Chevy. Oil gone. Engine blown.
If Anybody Asks Me
1966 Cho-Heip Vietnam
If anyone asks me, I can tell them. Kevin Thomason. The guy in that bag’s name.
His middle name was Arthur. He had two kid sisters. One was real pretty, the other one not so much but she was a great swimmer and everyone liked her.
His folks had a farm in Washington State but his mother was from New York. They met during the war—-not this one, the real one—-fell in love and she left everything behind, her college, her apartment, to marry his father and start a new life on a dairy farm on the other side of the country after he got back from Europe.
Kevin was the name of some guy who flew with his father in air raids on Germany. Arthur was his mother’s choice—-for the King of England with the round table and the knights.
His sisters’ names were Patricia and Carolyn. I think it was Carolyn. I think she was the swimmer. He showed me pictures once, and a picture of some other girl but we all see so many pictures, after a while it’s hard to remember.
Once when he was a kid he saved thirty five dollars in dimes.
He liked potato chips better than corn puffs.
He had a scar shaped like Florida on his leg from when he was chased by a hunting dog gone crazy.
He died quick from a sniper’s bullet.
If anyone asks me, I can tell them.
Juleigh Howard Hobson has appeared in History is Dead (Permuted Press), Loving The Undead (From The Asylum), Black Sails (1018 Press), Black Box (Brimstone Books), Lost Innocence Anthology (Niteblade), and many other places. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Award, and the Best of the Net, as well as being named a Million Writers Award “Notable Story” writer and, most recently, a first finalist for the 2010 Consequence Prize in Poetry. Her great uncle, John Parsons, was the real “Master Termite” in Ross Carter’s classic WW2 paratrooper novel Those Devils In Baggy Pants.