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Hélène of Tuy Hòa

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
The war that never ends. Inspired by 'Chickenhawk', Robert Mason (1984); image by Steve on Unsplash - (520 words).

Submitted: June 16, 2019

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Submitted: June 16, 2019

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A Veterans psychiatric hospital in Maryland. A private room on the second floor: beige walls, minimal furniture, a bed next to a window.

The man lying on the bed is asleep, sedated. The psychiatrist: male, late thirties, bearded - is standing on the patient's left.

Nguyen Van Quyet watches the comatose figure in concern.

The man, now in his early seventies, is twitching and grunting in his sleep.

---

He had been ordered to this small track to lie prone under a bush, next to a tree. It was deathly-hot although the sun had only just risen. Sweat ran down his face. Mosquitoes colonised bare skin. Ants crawled inside his trousers. He was sure there were black, bloated, squishy things on his ankles, guests from the swamp they had squelched through in their pursuit of the guerillas.

Who were now holed up in this village.

The lieutenant had called for an air-strike. The village was surrounded by his troops.

But you couldn't tell the VC from the population. The commies used men, women, boys and girls indiscriminately. His orders had been clear. No prisoners. Anyone trying to escape, shoot them dead!

And now he could hear the far-off rumble of aircraft engines. The gasoline smell of napalm would soon be overpowering.

---

The doctor looks concerned. The veteran's agitation has increased. He's moaning now, though his words are hard to decipher. He's shaking his head from side to side.

“Get me a sedative,” he says to the nurse standing at the other side of the bed, the patient's right.

She scurries off.

---

He brushes away the insistent, pestering flies; hears the slightest sound of running footsteps coming closer. Around the bend a figure comes into view.

He has his orders. He aims the rifle. His target resolves to a young girl. Her black hair coils around her delicate Asian features. She pauses, looks back in terror, turns back to face him.

He aims at her heart.

Fires.

---

The nurse returns with the hypodermic. The psychiatrist waves it away. The crisis has passed. The old man has settled back into a deep sleep, muttering inaudibly.

---

It is his first time in a brothel. He is nineteen. He's been months in the jungle. It's a long way from squirrel-hunting in West Virginia. He's done some terrible things - things he will never forget.

But now, in this thinly-walled cubicle, lying on this makeshift bed, he is naked and relaxed. It's taken more than a few drinks to nurture this calm. But nothing has prepared him for this Vietnamese angel who looks on him with such quiet concern.

She speaks low, incomprehensible words. She strokes his brow She holds his hand.

It's like she cares.

He feels his anxieties melting away.

He tentatively smiles.

---

The patient is calm now. The psychiatrist looks at him, at his gently smiling face, and looks across to the attractive young nurse.

He makes a joke.

“Perhaps it's you he's dreaming about, Hà Liên!”


© Copyright 2019 AdamCarlton. All rights reserved.

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