ANGRY BLACK GRUNT
I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday. He sat alone at a table in the small drab rec room. He was black under 20 years of age not a large man but every inch of his frame was solid muscle. He sat staring down at his clinched fists on the table top and did not look up even when the screen door slammed shut behind me.
I walked over and stood smiling next to him. Still he did not acknowledge my presence.
"Hi, there," I said with my cheeriest voice. "Weve come to visit your company but Im told they are out on patrol, so I guess you have me all to yourself today."
He looked slowly up toward my face. The glare in his eyes told me he was in no mood for witticism.
"Mind if I sit down?"
"Do whatever you want."
"So, how did you manage to get a day off?"
He looked back down at his clenched fists.
"I dont mean to bother you. Are you sick?"
His eyes were filled with rage when he looked up at me. "Yea, Im sick sick to death of this whole fuckin place Im sick of Nam sick of the Army and I aint never goin back out in the field I dont give a damn what the Hell they do to me so go peddle your damn donuts somewhere else lady!"
I knew that he wanted his last word to be "bitch," but the fact that it wasnt gave me enough courage to try and reach through his anger.
"I dont have any donuts. I mean, they call us Donut Dollies but the truth is that I havent seen a single donut since I landed in Saigon."
I didnt get a smile, but I did notice his facial muscles relax for an instant before he looked back down at his clinched fists.
"Look, this company was our last stop for the day. Our chopper wont be here for awhile and Im a great listener."
"I dont need no pep talk from some lady who dont know jack shit about what the hell its like out there in the boonies. I aint goin and thats it!"
"I dont want you to go. I wish nobody had to be out there killing and dying. Id just like to listen if you want to talk. You seem like you could use a friend right now."
"OK! You wanna hear it? I came in country 11 months ago with a platoon of men mostly black men. Eleven fuckin months I been humpin them goddamn paddies watchin my buddies get wasted. A whole goddamn platoon of men and Im the only one left. The only fuckin one left. Do you know what its like to watch your friends blown away one by one - and wonderin all the time when itll be your turn? You got any idea what thats like? Hell no ya dont! Yesterday we were out on patrol me and Collins we stuck pretty close together. Sometimes wed joke about which one of us would be the last one here. Some goddamn joke! I was trying to light a cigarette the column was stopped for some stupid ass reason and I was sweatin so fuckin bad it dripped on the match and put it out. Pissed the shit out of me. So I lit the whole goddamn pack of matches to light one fuckin cigarette and you know what that stupid mother fucker did? kept right on walking and laughin probably goin to take a piss and stepped right on a fuckin booby trap blew both his goddamn legs off."
He sat silent for a moment staring at his clenched fists. " You know what that stupid bastard said to me while we were waiting for the dustoff? He looked up at me and laughed can you beat that? he laughed and said, Too bad for you, Jonesie, I get to go home and you have to stay here. And then he said, good luck. Good luck, Hell. I dont need no luck cause I aint goin out there again. They said if I dont they gonna give me a Dishonorable Discharge. So give me the damn thing I dont give a shit. Im goin home alive with 2 arms and 2 legs and I dont give a flyin fuck what that piece of paper says!"
The screen door squeaked and a voice said, "Your choppers here."
I cupped my hands around his still clinched fists, looked deeply into his thousand yard stare and said, "I care about you. You deserve to be taken out of the field after 11 months of Hell. My name is Emily ____. Our hooch is in Dong Tam. Get in touch with me if they give you any more shit."
I never heard from him.
I continue to wonder, Where has he been? Where is he now? Did he make it home or did they send him back out to die? Was he one of the delayed casualties a suicide victim? Was he one of those "Crazy Vietnam Vets" who killed several people and held off a squad of police until a SWAT team killed him? I still care about him.
See also, Emily's other spot in
An American Red Cross Donut Dollie with the 9th Infantry Division and Mobile Riverine Force in VIETNAM
My Vietnam Related Websites:
The Irish on the Wall ~ An effort to locate the Irish who died in Vietnam
Tim O'Brien's Home Page ~ National Book Award Winner and Americal Vet
All About Vietnam ~ Books about Vietnam for sale thru Amazon Worldwide!