The Nam. Blood Trail. Part 2.

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

Featured Review on this writing by Serge Wlodarski

The Nam. Blood Trail.
Part two of this short story set during the Vietnam War.
Two US grunts are lost behind enemy lines, they make their way through the jungle hoping to find a way out of their desperate predicament.
Warning... Contains bloody scenes and some profane language......

The Nam

Part Two

Blood Trail

 

I was thirteen years old when my father took me hunting. I was excited; we camped out under the stars, ate beans from a tin can, and drank hot black coffee. My father even allowed me to have a nip of whiskey in mine.

‘Do not tell your mom!’ my dad said with a gleam in his eye.

 I felt like a man walking through the woodlands with a 22. caliber hunting rifle slung across my young shoulders.

And then we spotted our prey! It was a young buck deer. I took a knee and held up my rifle and looked down the sights. My heart was beating so hard and fast, with excitement and a little fear.

The deer looked so sleek and beautiful, its big dark long lash eyes blinked. It bent down and began to strip a shrub of its leaves. It was quite a moment for me.

‘Take the shot, son!’ my father whispered in my ear.

I held my breath, I hesitated, my hands began to shake, and sweat broke out on my brow. My eyes misted over. I lowered the rifle. I was shaking.

‘I can’t dad! I can’t kill it, it would be murder!’

I held my breath expecting my dad to give me a stern telling off. Instead, he rested his hand on my shoulder.

‘It’s Okay, son! You have made your decision; I can respect that.’

I looked up; he was smiling at me,

‘Come on, let’s get packed up and go home. I am sure your mom has been missing us and will have cooked one of her special lasagnas for our tea’ He threw his arms lovingly around my shoulders and we walked arm in arm back to our campsite.

 

That was the first time, and the last time I had ever held a firearm, until now.

 

Now, here I was, halfway around the world in a small jungle infested country, I knew next to nothing about, or cared anything for, with an M16 semi-automatic rifle slung over my shoulder, dressed in fatigues and expected to shoot and kill other human beings, just because they had different and opposing politics than my country! If I could not shoot an innocent deer, what chance was there that I could take another human life?

I had become the prey, the deer! And my hunters would have no problem pulling the trigger on me. I was up shit creek, Hell! I was up to my neck in shit! And I was in no doubt that before the day was out, I would be dead!

This was all fucked up!

We trekked off through the jungle, swallowed up in its thick, green, foliage. The sounds of jungle critters assailed our senses. Strange birds squawked, hidden in the jungle canopy. Something wailed out there, in the green, it was a desolate cry! I hoped it was just a monkey.

We were hopelessly lost; we could be walking in circles, and probably were. I looked at my squadmate, He had a King of hearts playing card sticking in his helmet band with ‘Screwtop’ biro’d on it.  His face was ashen, and his sleeve was wet and dripping with blood. I stopped and un-slung my backpack.

‘Here, let me see your arm.’ I said and unclipped my IFAK (first aid kit) from my belt. I helped him take off his jacket. He gritted his teeth with pain.

The cut was long, but not as deep as I first suspected. I ripped open a packet of sulfa and sprinkled the white clotting agent powder over the wound.

‘Jesus Christ... that stings like a Bitch, man...’ he hissed through clenched teeth.

I took out some gauze and a bandage and wrapped his arm up all nice and neat.

He watched me and then raised an eyebrow.

‘Nice job!’ he smiled at me, ‘Where’d you learn how to do that so good?’

‘My, Mom,’ I replied without looking up. ‘She was a Nurse.’

‘She’d be proud of her little boy and his med skills, now,’ he joked.

‘She’s dead.’ I said coldly’

There was that uncomfortable pause you get when you are thrown a curveball. The other person tries to process your answer and come up with some understanding and sympathetic reply... I wasn’t disappointed! Here it came...

‘Oh! I’m sorry, that sucks, man!’

Yep! There it was, uncomfortable reply received, over and out...

I don’t know why, but I suddenly got the urge to explain and make him feel better, or perhaps I just had a little cathartic moment.

‘I was thirteen,’ I sighed. ‘My dad and I had been away camping for the weekend. My dad is a cop and my mom was a nurse. We got back home, to find my dad’s partner waiting for us outside of the house. We went inside and that is when he told us that my mom was dead... she had come out of work and was on her way to her car when she was mugged. They reckoned she had put up a struggle against her attacker... they shot her three times... She died instantly...’

‘Shit, man... that’s so bad, man...’ he sighed sincerely.

I fell silent for a moment then pointed to the bandage.

‘I wanted to be like my mom and help people and become a Doctor, but after her murder, I decided I wanted to be a cop like my dad, so I could put away the bad guys...’ I cracked a half-smile, ‘My dad said... Son,’ I don’t know why I did it, but I put on a deep authoritative voice.

‘Son, cops just catch the bad guys; it’s the judicial system that puts them away.’

Screwtop smirked at my dad impersonation.

 ‘So I decided, then and there I was going to become a prosecution attorney...’ I slipped into my dad voice again, ‘And put the bad guys away.’

I looked up at him; I judged he was maybe a year or two older than me. He had a slight southern twang to his voice; He seemed well-grounded and had an air of confidence about him. He had kept his head during the crash and seemed calm. He gave me the impression of someone who was used to taking care of themselves.

‘That’s my story, man, what about you?’

He laughed and shook his head, ‘there’s not much to tell, really. My dad skedaddled out of town when he got my mom pregnant; she wasn’t cut up about it. She describes my dad as an Asshole with a big dick, and a small brain.’

We both started to laugh; it was just what we needed to break the tension and trauma of the day. We laughed till the tears ran down our cheeks.

After several minutes, Screwball regained his composure and continued.

‘My mom is a waitress, she works in a Diner; she finally got married when I was about eight. Her husband is a good man; he treats her well but never had much time for me. We argued a lot as I got older, especially once he got my mom pregnant and had his own kids. I guess I was just jealous she had someone else in her life she could show love and attention to! Finally, I left home at sixteen. I bummed around for a while and then eventually got myself a job in a brewery in St Louis, in the bottling plant.’

‘What did you bottle?’ I asked.

He tapped the card on his helmet, ‘Why, the King of Beers, of course.’ He chuckled.

Well, that explained the card and nickname!

I licked my lips, ‘I could sure do with an ice-cold one, right now!’

‘I hear that!’ he agreed and slid his jacket back on. ‘Tell you what, when we get back to the pound, I will buy you one. I owe you!’ he grinned and lifted his shoulder and then winced with the pain.

I smiled at that little glimmer of optimistic hope that he actually thought we were going to make it out of this shit show, alive.’

‘You got a deal, man!’ I slapped him on the shoulder, ‘c’mon, let’s hump it out of here.’ I said and picked up my pack. Together, we trudged on through the jungle without a clue as to where the hell we were going.

*****

We spent the night under the stars. Sleep stayed just out of reach, even though we were exhausted. Every sound out there in the dark stoked our overactive imaginations keeping us on high alert. We were afraid to make a fire in case Charlie saw it. And so we huddled up beneath a tree, clutching our M16s tightly, and waited for the daybreak.

We spent the morning sharing a tin of chipped beef and gravy and burning leeches off each other with cigarettes.

Screwtop took the empty smokes packet, wrote something on it, and handed it to me.

‘Here, stick that in your hat, man!’

A smile spread across my face as I read his scrawl. He had drawn a sheriff’s badge on it and written ‘Lawman’ across his crude artwork.

I slipped it into my helmet band. I smiled and nodded. We shared a silent moment; we knew our survival was slim, if we didn’t stumble into the VC sooner or later then we would either die of starvation or some jungle infection.

‘Come on, man, let’s get our sorry asses out of this goddamn Jungle!’ I eventually said.

‘Roger, that, Lawman,Screwtop grinned, and then we set off again, hoping, against hope, a miracle was just around the corner.

*****

Time means nothing when you are lost and your surroundings just look the same with no change. The heat of the day was increasing. The sound of the jungle was almost torturous. With the constant squawking of birds and the incessant clicking of insects, I was in my own personal hell. I wiped sweat droplets off my nose and took a swift sip from my almost empty water-can. And then I heard it. I stopped; my ears were straining to filter out the jungle noise. My heart thudded, I turned to Screwtop.

‘You hear that, man?’

The concentration on Screwtop’s face was easy to read, and then his face lit up, ‘Choppers, man, close-by!’

‘Huey’s,’ I would recognize that sound, anywhere,’ I gleefully replied, ‘C’mon, man we don’t want to miss our ride home!’ I laughed, and then we both began to run toward the sweet sound of those roaring engines as fast as our tired legs could carry us.

 

As I ran like the devil was on my tail, I suddenly spotted something to my left amongst the big flopping leaves. A quick glance kick-started my heart into triple-time. I counted three VCs running level with us toward the sound of the choppers.

‘VCs three o’clock...’ I screamed at Screwtop.

And then they opened fire on us!

The jungle erupted around me, ripped up with the thunderous Blam...Blam... Blam of an AK47s emptying its magazine at us.

I glanced at Screwtop, he raised his M16 out at arm’s length and let rip with his own volley of deadly fire. His muzzle flashed, his arm vibrated as the weapon jerked in his hand and a steady stream of smoking shells were ejected from the hammering stock.

And then we broke through the trees into the sunlight and tumbled down a hand-dug waterlogged ditch like felled nine pins as bullets flew over our heads. We were on the far end of a huge rice field. A small ramshackle village stood on its far side on a hill.

Three Huey’s were taking off and getting ready to leave.

‘Pop the smoke, man!’ Screwtop screamed.

‘I ripped a smoke canister from my belt, pulled the pin, and threw it into the field.

The canister flashed with sparks and then a thick stream of red smoke belched from it.

We began to run toward the choppers, yelling and waving our hands frantically trying to catch their attention.

The choppers were a good thirty feet in the air and looked as if they were going to leave us, and then one stopped, it hovered in the air and then swung around to face us, and then it tilted in the air and came toward us dropping to a few feet off the ground. It was about two hundred feet away.

I could see the gunner in the doorway, crouched behind his M60 belt-fed machine gun. He was waving his hand for us to get down.

We hit the dirt as he swung the gun up and then unleashed hell upon the emerging VCs behind us.

The gun roared like thunder, the metallic clack... clack... clack... of the ammo belt feeding hungrily through the beast gun was deafening as full metal death flew over our heads. Tracer bullets lit up the air like angry orange hornets, and the downdraft from the rotor blades ripped at our clothing. 

The M60 came to a smoking stop, the gunner beckoned us on. We jumped up and ran toward the chopper, never looking back. A burst of gunfire behind us cut through the whumping of the rotors. Screwtop lurched forward and splashed face first into the muddy water.

My stomach lurched with sickening panic for my buddy. I picked up his broken body dragging him toward the chopper. Blood ran down his back and chest from multiple gun wounds.

Moments later hands were bundling us into the chopper.

 

The engines roared as the pilot hit the throttle; the chopper shuddered and lurched forward as we made a swift lift off.

I dragged myself into a seat and looked at Screwtop.

My heart sank; I was shaking with fear and pain.

One of the flight crew was leaning over him, pressing down on his blood-soaked chest.

Screwtop was struggling to breathe; his eyes were darting about wildly. His lungs were punctured and collapsing and he was drowning in his own blood. He was coughing and making an awful gurgling noise, blood spurted from his mouth with every cough as he desperately tried to take a breath.

‘Hold on man, hold on!’ the medic urged.

 Our eyes met for a brief moment, we both knew he was done. The finality in those eyes was agonizing. And then he fell silent.

The Medic leaned back shaking his head, ‘Shit...shit... shit!’

I stared out of the door; the Nam was fast disappearing below us. The VCs were standing in the paddy field looking like a gathering of ants; there must have been a dozen of them.

 

I watched with dispassionate eyes, as our rockets hit their target. The tree line erupted in hellfire the VCs were swallowed up in the flames that ballooned into the air.

I turned away from the horror. I felt sick to my stomach. What the fuck were we doing here? Killing and being killed, for what reason? The answers did not come. I took one last look at Screwtop, his face and body covered in blood, what a pointless waste of a life.

I turned away and looked out of the door and cursed the jungle below us. I had only been here one week; I still had three hundred and fifty-seven days left of my tour of Duty... not that I was counting... I wondered if I would survive this hell. Who would win in the end, not me I was sure, there was only ever going to be one winner in this fucked up conflict and that was, the Nam?

 

‘Some folks inherit star spangled eyes

They send you down to war

It ain’t me... it ain’t me, I am no military son...

It ain’t me... it ain’t me, I am no fortunate one.......’

Song lyrics from Fortunate Son

By Creedence Clearwater Revival

Lyrics by: John C Fogerty 1969.

 

 


Submitted: January 27, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Celtic-Scribe63. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

Excellent conclusion, C-S. Lots of action, but it was the character creation that I was most impressed with.

Thu, January 28th, 2021 7:24pm

Author
Reply


Thank you for your comments, they are like gold, valuable, and always welcome.

I could have so easily have gone down the Rambo action route with this but decided to make it a character-driven story. I think it gave the senselessness of the war and the deaths more impact in a non-sensationalist way (My little anti-war story)

With Regards
CS63

Fri, January 29th, 2021 1:30am

AdamCarlton

And we can remember the Vietnamese peasants whose war of to liberate themselves from foreigners running their country had seen off the French only to run up against the might of America and its anti-communist crusade. So many victims at the bottom of both societies.

You have a very easy way with these kinds of story, immersive, flowing and compelling.

Thu, January 28th, 2021 7:28pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, so much for your continued support, Adam.
As usual, your thoughtful and compelling comments are always a pleasure to read.

Regards
CS63

Fri, January 29th, 2021 1:17am

Serge Wlodarski

Excellent capture of the brutality of war. You don't need vampires to tell a horror story.

Thu, January 28th, 2021 11:41pm

Author
Reply

Hi!
Thanks' for sticking around for part 2. I hope You enjoyed it?
Yes! War is its own little horror story.
I really enjoyed writing this story in this setting. My mind is playing with the idea of maybe doing another Nam story with new characters and situations. It is a fascinating subject and such a volatile backdrop for drama and action.

Regards
CS63

Fri, January 29th, 2021 1:15am

Sharief Hendricks

Wow, CS, you pulled it off ,yes sir what a climax !!

This was intense yet so sensitive and I found myself more interested in the characters than the chaos surrounding them.

You really are a master of conflict and destruction, yet you always manage to create an attachment between reader and character.

The action scenes did not disappoint and the demise of Screwtop was a bitter pill even though it kind of felt inevitable given the dire situation.

I loved your elegant descriptions of killing machines..."full metal death" comes to mind, awesome !

Thu, February 11th, 2021 7:26am

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for the great feedback.

I am pleased part 2 did not disappoint you.

I wanted to show that these were just normal young men, thrown into a situation beyond their control.

I have had some good positive comments from it. It seemed to hit the mark.

I am currently working on another Nam story. The subject fascinates me.
'Lawman' will be back, soon!

regards
CS63

Thu, February 11th, 2021 1:48am

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