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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 17, 2017

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Submitted: April 17, 2017





Eighty yards apart, the AKs’cough and the balls’ whizz sound to me simultaneously, in real-time. Although I couldn’t say what if anything’s real once my left hand began its shake and my left eye its twitch.

My knees slowly bent, dousing my ass in the thousand-year-old paddy cesspool adorned of floating turds and ammonia piss.

Ricki Dicki and Kanon close on slowly sank in unison.

Now so positioned as to only be able to see over the paddy dike, we hoped the Gooks could see us no more.

A burst chewed the water about us. We in response immersed further into the filth.

In silence, I led them on a slow duck walk to the mud shit mixture composing the slanted dike wall.

I raised my sixteen over the dike and sprayed. The AKs’ coughed. Ricki Dicki caught a round over each shoulder through his battle shirt, not even grazing the skin, not even a scratch.

Ricki Dicki’s lips parted in a grin as big as the moon. He howled with laughter, as well as the unmitigated joy and unalloyed elation at his head having not been shattered, splattering his grey brains out over the recently planted green rice shoots. With his back to the dike wall, he continued his unabating celebration.

Kanon reached over to pat his chest, attempting to calm him down, that is to say, shut him up. He pounded with increasing force, hoping Ricki Dicki would get the idea before he had to shout, “Shout the fuck-up,” thereby, drawing more unwanted and unneeded attention.

I moved; crouched along the dike wall, smelling of the accumulated feces of people, water bull, and fowl, mixed into the muck.

For the many millionth time in the nine months since my arrival in country, the voice in my head says, fucking filthy people, live like animals.

Raising my right hand I signal for Kanon to move on down to where the dike wall corners so we can triangulate our fire.

I motion the now quieting Ricki Dicki to stay close on my ass. I slide along hoping to spot something to waste.

Failing, I pop a grenade, hold it for a frightening long count then heave the bitch. The explosion is deafening, regrettably, there is no responding fire to reveal the Cong’s location.

I roll on my back, bump Ricki Dicki in the chest with the butt of my weapon, indicating to him he should check he has a full magazine. Raising his weapon he taps on the magazine to signal to Kanon to do the same. Kanon nods.

Sinking down against the stinking dike wall I think is there anything else to do before going forward.

Not because I really believe there is but to waste a little time before I make a move that may kill me and my two friends for what I consider a dumbass adventure, by dumbass politicians for the benefit of dumbass millionaires, with a bunch of dumbass kids dying for no good reason.

I jump up spraying the two huts in which reside(unknown to me)the Keyong family, father Bangoong, pregnant mother Rabididi holding what appears to be a one-year-old, unnamed as yet as the Keyong family are Buddhists.

The Americans advance on the huts continuing to replace exhausted magazines in order to keep the spray up. When we reach the hut’s entranceway, we observe the (unknown to us) Keyong family ripped to pieces, brains splayed, blue, white, red intestines exposed with a variety of limb meat chewed to a hamburger consistency.

We spin about firing upon the second hut, in which we find nothing.

There is no responding fire; in consequence, we begin to laugh uproariously. Greatly, pleased the Gooks have gone relieving our jeopardy.

No thought is given to the unimaginable terrorizing fear the (unknown to us) Keyong family endured at Charlie’s hands only to be slaughtered by the liberating Americans.

Scraggly little people, chewing beetle nuts, dropping babies in dirt-floored huts, eating with their hands from communal pots without the gumption to fight for their freedom and rights held little interest for us.  

We simply went about the business of counting the bodies, firing the straw huts, coordinating our compass bearings with the map markers then setting off in the direction of the rendezvous point. 

As always I thought, how the hell do these people live like this, fucking animals?

I think of the people caught in the middle of the war as commodities for which the battles are fought, trading them back and forth.

Kanon has a flask of Jack Daniels, the bottle circles twice. We light cigarettes then set off on a trail atop a paddy dike, at interval but lackadaisical, sloppy, thinking the thing is over, all we got to do is walk the clicks to the rendezvous.

When the AKs’ bark the rounds bite into Kanon’s face, tearing away the jaw, the nose, and his left eye, he stands perfectly still. We watch him for the moment, watch the red and white goo slather from beneath the rear of his helmet down over his shoulders until his body tilts, then slumps to the side sliding down the dike wall mud through to the sewage below.

Stunned for the instant then we regain our senses spraying fire all around, not knowing where the yellow shits are but hoping to hit something or at least back them off for the moment.

Ricki Dicki crumples. I drop to my knees then crawl to him. Frantically, my hands and eyes poke about his body. My hands swishing away blood to reveal wounds. He has taken one in the right leg and two in the left.

I tear the battle bandage from the rubber around my helmet, do the same for Ricki Dicki’s applying the dressings to pressure staunch the blood flow. I use the long tails as tourniquets, with a round as a twist.

Even so, blood still spreads seeping through the greens and out onto the ground. I remove the K-belt and unzip the armor, fling his helmet without reason into the paddy sludge.

The sour, sweet, repellant, organic stench of his evacuated bowels both feces and gas temporarily nauseates me. His prostrate has released drenching his crotch with ammonia reeking piss.

I remove my K-belt, unzip my armor, and raise the screaming Ricki Dicki across my shoulders fighting the twitching jerk of his legs and flail of his arms.

The Gooks do not fire, they know as do I the distance to the rendezvous, as well as the wounds Ricki Dicki has sustained and the fact that he is too heavy for me to carry the distance.   He will die, I will die. The Gooks know we will suffer more this way. I should think they laugh and chortle at the thought, hating us as they do.

I sling Ricki Dicki up on my shoulders, right hand holding his left shoulder, left hand between the crotch and over his left leg.

The shit and piss give off a strong pungent sweetness, causing me to retch until I become accustomed to the tear-inducing odor.

I dog trot, slow pace. The trot drags me forward easing the burden. My mind tells me the quicker I cover the ground the greater the chance I, in fact, will survive.

My lungs are afire; they feel as though they are being raked from within. The ligaments in the fronts of my thighs are searing molten strings with the effect of cramping the backs of my calves.

Sweat courses from every pore of my body, soaking through my underwear and uniform. The weight of the cloth is exaggerated.

About my head, over Ricki Dicki’s piss/shit soaked crotch blue and green bell flies buzz, light then buzz again by the thousands, some crawl into my nose, some into my eyes and some into my mouth.

My boots slip and slide in the muck and mire, working my ankles into painful connective tissue.

At no time never, do I give thought to putting Ricki Dicki down. I do not think it even though I believe he will die. I do not think it even though I believe the effort will kill me. I do not think it even though I know the exertion is futile.

I’ll give over my life, but not his. For him I will endure all, no weight too great, no obstacle too overwhelming, and no challenge too daunting. He is primary.

I do not think my worth less than his.

I think ultimately in terms of my obligation to bring him in from the storm, to get him to refuge, to bring him to safe harbor.

I think of the honorable exchange, the noble bargain. I know he’d bear the burden for me, unquestionably without the slightest doubt, I know this in my bones.

Ricki Dicki would suffer the unimaginable for me.

I can do no less for him.

I stumble now into the switch grass that catches on my uniform. The tiny stickers imbed in the material producing a friction, slowing my advance.

It’s then I hear the sweetest words anyone has ever said to me, sweeter than my mother’s good nights, sweeter than my wife’s pillow whispering, sweeter than my mistress’s erotic musings, sweeter than a coach’s att’a boy, sweeter than my father’s praise, sweeter than any other words ever uttered by anyone, “Hold up asshole, fucken’a,” the sentry’s sweet song.

I knelt, rolling Ricki Dicki onto the ground while the holler went up, “Corpsman, Corpsman.”


I drink Irish whiskey, just to be a pain in the ass when everyone else pontificates on the attributes of Scotch.

I’ve never compromised to casual clothes in the office. I maintain with the hand tailored suit, the handmade Italian shoes, the English shirt, and tie. My hair cut costs a Benjamin every other week. I have the corner office. My wife selected the furniture.

I’m here because of a Wharton MBA and because my prospective father-in-law a Wharton Graduate School professor wanted his daughter to have anything in the world her heart desired.


My soon to be in-law put his case in the following manner succinctly avoiding any troubling sense of humanity or familial grace.

“Lon, you’re a top student. As a result, you will be getting many job offers. You’ll have your choice. But I would like to suggest to you something a little radical, offbeat you might say, may I have your ear?”
“Frank, I’m always interested in what you have to say,” I spill the formulated words as a matter of obligation rather than choice.

“Some friends in the financial community are looking to hire someone to take on a task that is not of interest to many people of your caliber.” My thesis advisor, my wife’s father, and my father-in-law to be, all wrapped into one, took a draught and placed the tumbler back on the magazine he used as a coaster.

Then he stood, took up the poker, and proceeded to have a go at the logs and coals until a fair blaze erupted.

As he replaced the poker he said, “Within the investment community, there is the area of commodities and within commodities, there is a narrow focus on the subject of exotic commodities. Many people of your generation eschew this line, due to the extraordinary amount of travel, diplomatic involvement, and in-depth research; however, for these very reasons the pay is, shall we say, extravagant.” By now he had moved back to his seat in the overstuffed chair and settled himself comfortably appearing quite at ease.

Apparently, my father-in-law to be didn’t care if I was home with the kids, home with his daughter, whether I missed family affairs all he wanted was that I produce a prodigious amount of money.

Clearly, he would not have broached this subject without having discussed the matter with my finance that is to say his daughter and had her approval.

What’s the bottom line? No one really cared if I was around much.

“Lon, I recommend this opportunity to you because you’ve a way with people, shall I be blunt in saying a cold way. Not that you are not a generous or charitable man, no one could fault you there. You’ve a crust on you that I have not been able to perceive any person has been able to pierce, not even my daughter. I believe over time the virility, the good looks, the suave style, and physicality that attract my daughter will shall we say wither. My daughter will seek solace elsewhere. You will seek your comforts elsewhere. The family will hold together for financial, moral and parenting reasons but the marriage shall be a hollow shell. There is nothing unique in what I say. What may be unique here is rather than having a tragic, horrid, offensive ending we might create a path where all parties are satisfied. I believe such a path begins with you on a job that is significantly demanding that will keep you occupied and challenged so that when you deign to spend time with the family it will be what people call quality time. All will be able to live under such an arrangement with gentility as well as I might say profitability.”

Considering what he said I believed he deserved a like frankness in kind, so I questioned, “If I may say so, you are a little on the frigid side in your calculations of the future. Apparently, you have little regard for the concept of love, of people growing closer, increasingly attached, more devoted to one another. What has bent you to this brutal thinking? Has your marriage been so unrewarding? Has your love dried to dust?” Normally, a person might think the remarks rather tart, however, he was pursuing a rather acerbic course himself. 

“Let’s not be overdramatic here, my life experiences and yours have been very dissimilar. I prefer to think the war corrupted you, giving you the benefit of the doubt that you did not appear from the womb in this state. It has not been my lot to experience the horror of armed conflict. The question as I see it is can we finagle a way to make a productive match between you and my daughter as well the rest of the family, something all can enjoy and revel in, not something that will end with recrimination and vile clashes in a courtroom and beyond. Why not leave the soppiness behind shall we and be realistic? Let’s create a functional arrangement.”


Late one night, in my corner office that looked out over the cityscape from on high I sipped an Irish whiskey as I awaited a phone call from the Far East in consequence to purchase a rare commodity necessary for some manufacturer but so entangled in custom and politics as to be almost impossible to extract. The call will be the culmination of months of work to bring the parties to this juncture.

I have figuratively macheted through and literally orally hacked through, religious ideology, political entanglements, maniacal egotism, dictatorial fanaticism and narcissism with the result I will receive a substantial bonus.

There is self-satisfaction, may I say a pride. I have done well. I am at the top of the heap.

Professionally, the recognition of my work is incessant. My achievements are lauded universally.  In the charitable arena, my largesse is recognized as generous by any measure. My home life is satisfying and rewarding. My mistress is well managed, ensconced in her apartment and appropriately ladened with jewels. Happiness and contentment reign throughout my life.

Looking out through the glass that divides my domain from the bull pit, I see a lone janitor, pushing his cart along the aisle collecting the diminishing paper refuse due to its being replaced with bits and bytes.

An unidentifiable something catches my subconscious, the slant of his head, a shoulder movement, his gait, something draws my attention. I move my feet from the credenza to the floor. My large leather office chair comes upright. My focus is laser-like.

I stand to improve my view, the way he bends, his frame, maybe the shape of his head. Unaware of myself but only of his image, my stance is bent at the hips, all self-consciousness evaporates. My usual attention to self-presentation is allayed. I, in a rare and unusual moment, am no longer conscious of my importance rather I am minutely focused on his import. I emote carried forward by urges generating an unaccustomed mood.  

Now I am more intrigued. My head bobs about attempting to improve my sightline. There is irritation with the glare on the glass that impedes my view. I damn the grey tinting with artful etching on the glaze which prohibits my full observation.

Absent mindedly, I put down my drink. Beginning a walk out into the bull pen, I bump my thigh against my desk as I round its corner then experience a slight difficulty in opening the door as my distraction is so complete I have no remnant of attention to apply in recalling its operation.

Approaching the man, I believe I know him, have interacted with him. I’m drawn to him almost magnetically. My breast beats palpably.

He turns towards me. My heart flips, stops, I know it I feel of it in my breast. My body flexes in shock. Here is a phantom of the past; here is a man who identifies with the me of another incarnation. Here is a man who knew a better me.

Unfathomably, it is Ricki Dicki. I tremble, my emotions overwhelm me, my tongue goes dry, my stomach contracts, my testicles recede.

I place a hand on each of his shoulders, “Is it you? How? Is it you? Ricki Dicki, god damn!” I grasp him to me.

“Fucking Jesus, you’ve gone pussy, Luckman?” Hugging me back, on my cheek I feel the tears that roll down his face, “Jesus fucken’a, Luckman”.

I feel as though I melt in a spasm of joy. There is in me an ineffable delight I have not experienced prior, an actual glow of warmth and bliss.

Life, hot, boiling, turbulent life, flows through me.

Through Ricki Dicki’s grace my redemption is at hand.

I am resurrected.




© Copyright 2018 jeffrey a paolano. All rights reserved.

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