as I drive to work

the dawn light right in my face

there’s the threat of rain

So I’m looking at one of these TV clips with the good hearted GI giving candy to this kid.   An uplifting story.   So let me tell a little war story about why I don’t do uplifting.

Early December of 1970.   The 4th Infantry.   The An Khe Pass.   Nam.   I’ve got a lot of memories of the An Khe Pass.   Watching a sniper, who tried to kill us, get killed for instance.   Stuff like that.

This one day we were on a convoy moving equipment.   I’m in back with the equipment and a grunt, and there’s no cover on our truck.   We’re pissed because it’s rain and it’s Nam and it’s C-rations for lunch.   The C’s were packaged in early 1950-something, one whole war ago.   So, yea, we’re pissed.   Then the grunt says he wants to show me a trick.   That’s the grunt’s words.   A trick.   I half expect him to pull out a deck of cards.   He takes his now empty C-ration can, pulls out a rock from his pocket –  he’s been saving it, I remember him picking it up – puts the rock in the can, and bends back the lid to seal it.   Then he waits.   Not long.   We start to pass this bunch of beggar kids.   The grunt holds out the can, but doesn’t throw it.   He keeps it just out of reach of the beggar kids until he like culls one out of the pack.   A boy maybe eight or ten.   The boy keeps running and the grunt keeps the can just out of reach.   (Keep in mind that convoys never stop.   Never.   To the snipers, we were always a moving target.   Appleman and O’Leary once had a blowout, and we just left their asses.)   So the grunt now has the kid running along the side of the truck.   I guess we’re doing five or ten miles an hour, and the grunt slowly starts to move rearward.   Till finally he’s got the kid at the back of our truck, running between us and the next ten ton truck.   The driver behind us, I mean maybe fifteen feet behind us, he’s not so much horrified as astonished.   This whole time, the grunt is something like impassive, expressionless, flat, this whole time.

Now the kid is within an inch of what he thinks is a meal, when the grunt throws the can to a whole other bunch of beggar kids.   The boy breaks left, gets to the other kids, and has to look over their shoulders as they huddle.   All his effort, and the kid can’t even get to the can for all the other beggar kids.   Then they open it.   Then the boy gets it, the trick.   He looks up.   At me.   I had never before, nor have I since, seen a look of such unmitigated hatred.

driving home from work

I watch a hawk fly nowhere

in perfect circles

when I recall a Nam whore

her cold breast out of nowhere


Filed under: John Samuel Tieman, Prose