Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vietnam Fiction -- Day One Dead

Frank Oz woke up, shot his alarm clock with a finger gun and hit the floor.

Around him was chaos. A private war around him told of organized promises that were never finished. A jungle war of unopened bills, letters of rejection and unread newspapers he would use, someday, for a fireplace that hadn't been used for 30 years.

The smell of old trash, cigars and his best of buddies, the coffee machine filling the one bedroom with the aroma of Starbucks Sumatra.

The day had been already up past the rush hour traffic. He stretched his 6 foot frame, revealing the scar that won him a purple heart. Heard his dead wife's voice tell him as he scanned the room for the dark green pack of kools, "finish it for me."

The room felt colder with that memory. "I will. Today.", he thought as he headed for the shower with a slight hint of a tear welling in his eyes. It wasn't fair, he thought, she left the world first. And me alone.

He had three hours to cook up a hook for his book and all he could think about was his stomach which ached from three day old pizza and the six pack of beer. Resolution came in the form of two slices of bacon, one sunny side up egg and two pieces of toast.

He smiled to himself over that thought, dried off the body and the three year old beard, didn't confront the man in the mirror and walked naked into the kitchen.

His cell phone rang. He already knew who it was.

"You know, they should give you a medal for relentless, Carmon."

"Frank," started Carmon, "Just tell me the revisions will be in my e-mail by one."

"Alright, the revisions will be there by Two." And with that, he hung up on her.

The bacon was about to burn and the popping grease firing molecular level buck shots at his skin let him know two things.  One the pan was too hot and, two, cooking naked can be hazardous to one's health.

He shouted a lot of obscenities and made a mental note to never do that again. And then wondered how hairless apes as a species survived cooking meat over a wood fire. Guess, he mused, a few would have to die to teach the experience to the living so they wouldn't do the same and die.

A smile grew on Franks face. As he realized he had the hook he was looking for.  He wrote it down on a piece of paper and then ate breakfast. After that, he cleaned up his apartment.  Something that hadn't been done in almost three years.

At 1:45 pm, he put the hook right where it was needed and then sent the finished chapter over to Carmen.

Who promptly called Frank.

"Oh, my god, Frank.  That's brillent!", remarked Carmon.

"It had to be," replied Frank.

The line was quite simple and to the point.  "You had to doe to get better."

Friday, March 22, 2013

I was once an Eagle

I was once an Eagle
There are many who serve their country. When I became an Eagle soldier, I found some were volunteers -RAs like myself - but many were drafted - USes. But all of us were put into a world way much different than any other division in the world.
They call us the Screaming Eagles. We were and will always be remembered as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Of course, back in Vietnam, it was the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile). 
And, yes, in Vietnam, you spit shined your shoes and wore starched fatigues. You were always a soldier and always an Eagle. You always ate breakfast and took your malaria pill. And you always, always were ready to dive under tables or move like greased lightning into a bunker at the slightest vapor Charlie Con had death in the air and on its way.
Indeed, life at Camp Eagle was 17,000 stories that had never been written.
So, please forgive me if I romance in my memories of hell. 
You tried finding others who were like yourself. A silent rule of pairs survive. Soloist were always loners and suspected. If you didn't drink, smoke or entertain yourself with some kind of illegal substance or drug, you had to be a narc (narcotics agent).  
There wasn't a moment of silence.  Even if it were just quiet enough to hear the crickets at night someone off in the distance was the scream of a gas run generator. And even further away, the numbing thunder of B52 dropped bombs.
Metal rain.
Some of use got lucky and came home with only movie scenes more real than any producer could imagine.
The pictures of old women with black teeth smiles selling marijuana just outside the camp's gates, of kids who tried stealing your wrist watch, and of police who pulled guns on their own if their citizens didn't comply with their instructions.
The sounds of  "GI Number One", of hundreds of choppers in the air, the hiss of rockets, the popping of flares and the screams of agony of our own wounded.
The smells of jet fuel, axle grease, hydraulic fluid, diesel exhaust and Agent Orange.
The stench of burning human waste.
The jungle had its own stories to tell. As did the fire bases and towns and cities between them.
Many of us live to forget. Those who never came home remind us to remember.
Over time, you realize if you stay in the military, you eventually come back to the nest.
I did three assignments with the Screaming Eagles. My first was Vietnam.
And I am very proud to have been there.
Part 2 and Part 3 will cover those two tours.