It sort of reminded you of a waterfront at low tide when the pollution is at full hilt. The shit continued to burn for about a half hour. When the fire seemed to extinguish itself, the guy with the pole would poke the drum until it rose to full hilt. This had to be one of the punishment details of the company. The whole process amused me to the fullest. After awhile they began to ask me a few questions about myself. Then the fire was completely extinguished after awhile. With this the guy with the pole came over to the drum and tilted it over on the ground. The black charred shit fell out in clumps and laid upon the ground. It had seemed to true to believe.
There was an uneasiness within myself at the moment. More facts and information seemed to be stimulating my mind. This placed seemed like the last place on earth they needed air trafficcontrollers. The two guys in the truck said they were up to their ears with them. Most of them were assigned to other jobs and idling there time away. The two towers at AN KHE were filled on all shifts. One of them figured that a few of them were getting short and this maybe were there replacements. They might be getting early outs. There was always that hope that lingered in the back of everyone's mind. Well the time was moving along and the answers were going to keep right on coming, as time passed.
They both began to explain the operation on the base itself. It seemed there was a helipad on the other side of the base. This was named the golf course. It was used as the primary airport, when AN KHE itself was secured by the First Air Cav. They said, there was a P.S.P. runway that had not been used since the new concrete one had been built about a year ago. The concrete runway ran parallel to the company area. It was located about one hundred yards from my bunk. You could hear the roar of the engines, every time one of them landed or took off. It was explained that the golf course handled helicopters and gun ships. The main airport handled fixed wing, at intervals helicopters with V.I.P.s. Some were landing on simulated auto-rotations, forced landings. This was a practice maneuver to simulate the loss of an engine.
There was a warm friendliness that was emitted from both of them. They were from Louisiana way around New Orleans. It seemed both of them were getting short. That meant that they both had limited time left within the country. There was that gleam that arose from both of them, the moment the word short was mentioned. Both of them at once yelled out, at the top of their lungs - SHORT. It had startled me for the moment and held my breath in that suspended state of animation, that captures one at those moments.
Then they both began to look at me in that strange way that only a person who was in NAM for awhile would look. It had an eeriness about it that made ones blood shudder in the veins. The very soul of your existence seemed to be brought up to the surface of reality. The whole of AN KHE was starting to unfold like a flower, that is in bloom. They seemed to be looking at the green-line which surrounded the airport. It had an eeriness and illusion about which none could describe. It seemed like that was the place of all reality and being.
At that point my eyes followed the perimeter around the whole of AN KHE as far as I could see. It surrounded the runway and all that was enclosed within. It seemed like a giant serpent that would twist and turn. It consisted of rows at a time of barbed wire. This was the stuff that was so familiar of a word in the war movies. Now here it was that moment of shattered reality becoming the truth of all reality. It left that emptiness that you feel when going down in a roller-coaster. It was haunting, yet, there was no place to go or to turn. You found yourself a prisoner within this serpent.
The green-line passed within twenty-five yards of the barracks. There was a guard tower in the rear of the green-line. It stood in a straight line with the out houses and the barracks. Yes, it seemed like the perfect focusing of reality. To the right of this was there was a river that passed through the camp itself. This was used for the procurement of water and drinking water at times. It seemed funny, that one always thought of pipes bringing water to ones home. It seemed the river was very unprotected in relation to the rest of the base. This gave one the feeling that the enemy could attack at any moment and give very little warning of the attack. This led to further insecurities and more of that shattering reality of war.
Here the thought process was starting to crystallize in that fogone knows will lift in the time of passing. Yes, it was the river of life. It had its high banks on either side, that left one in awe and suspension of the progress of time. It seemed like this was the place where they would attack. That weak point in the green-line, that all armies look for at that moment. The tall grass that was left unburnt and afforded the enemy perfect protection in the ensuing attack. It sort of made you wonder about the leadership of the war and the policies of the base.
My curiosity got the best of me again. I began to walk toward this serpent perimeter of protection.
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