Jack the Ratter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
During warfare, Uncle Sam sometimes makes good use of criminals.

Submitted: January 13, 2015

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Submitted: January 13, 2015

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He wanted to be called Jack. It wasn't his real name. Hell, it wasn't even a proper nickname for the man. It was something he chose for himself. He was that kind of guy.

His actual name, the one on his birth certificate, was Sunshine B. Rainey. No joke. I verified the fact when he was assigned to my unit in Vietnam. It's the sort of thing that happens when your mama is a free spirit, one from the Deep South, from way back up in the piney woods where yahoos take deer out of season and pussy anytime and anywhere they can get it, most often in pickup trucks.

Ma Rainey was definitely a free spirit, so much so that she never bothered to guess which of her numerous lovers was Jack's father. She neither knew nor wanted to know. That would cause too many complications. And if there were any doubt of the woman's flakiness, his middle name proved the point. It was Braithwaite, a town somewhere down in Louisiana I believe, where his mama had lost her virginity when she was 13 years old.

As one might suspect, Jack led an unsettled childhood, never spending more than a couple months in any one place. He and his mama were always on the run whether it be from her lovers, her creditors or the law. Neglected when not outright abused my his mama's men folk, Jack grew up fending for himself.

Undernourished from birth, Jack was a small and scrawny kid. Unable to stand up to the larger bullies in school, he developed a keen knack for deception. He became the master of the sucker punch and was uncommonly clever at building booby traps. He committed his first felony at the tender age of six years old and his first murder a couple of weeks before his 12th birthday.

There is no use claiming Jack was innocent because of his youth. He knew exactly what he was doing. He planned the killing meticulously from the start. He goaded a bully into charging him at the end of a long hallway. At the last second, Jack slipped aside and using the bully's own momentum, hurled the kid out of a third floor window to the pavement below. The boy died five days later, never having regained consciousness.

He was never caught for any of the crimes of his younger days, but Jack's luck ran out when he was 17. It was only a minor offense, shoplifting to be exact. The judge gave him a choice. He could either go to jail or enlist in the Army. For most men of that era, it would have been a difficult decision. With a war in full swing, it might prove dangerous to be a soldier. For Jack, it was a no-brainer. Being able to kill people and getting paid to do it seemed like a dandy idea. Little did he suspect that he was exactly the kind of guy Uncle Sam was seeking at the time.

By the late 1960s, Viet Cong forces were suffering heavy losses, mostly from air strikes and American sweeps through the rice paddies and jungles cleared of foliage with Agent Orange. They adapted. They began living in tunnels by day and coming out at night to cause mayhem and terror. Some of their underground facilities were marvels of engineering, containing miles of tunnels with ammunition dumps, hospitals and even schools.

The only effective means of fighting the underground enemy was to send some of our soldiers into the tunnels to take on the V.C. face to face, hand to hand. For that task, small and scrawny men were needed, men of devious cleverness who could outwit the wily foe on his own turf, preferably men who were natural born killers. I have no idea if there was an official term for the tunnel divers, but we called them ratters, and Jack was the best ratter in the whole damn United States Army.

From the start, Jack and I became best buddies. We were total opposites in almost every respect, but our jobs meshed perfectly. His mission was not specifically to kill people, although that was the usual result, but rather to collect enemy documents. My job was intelligence analyst, making sense of the paperwork. Jack provided me with literally tons of useful stuff which precipitated my rapid rise through the ranks of the intelligence community. For my part, I protected Jack from the bureaucracy. He tended to do things against the rules like prying out gold teeth and cutting off fingers to get wedding rings. While he managed to amass a small fortune in gold souvenirs, I saw to it that his mis-adventures were expunged from the official records. Seven months later, much to my dismay, I was transferred to duty in the Pentagon and never again heard anything from or about Jack, at least not until today.

I nearly choked on my coffee when I stumbled across his obituary in this morning's newspaper. I had no idea that he lived here in Paducah. I also couldn't believe my eyes when I read that he was a retired computer programmer survived by a wife, five children and two grandchildren. Somehow, that just didn't jibe with my image of Jack the Ratter, but come on folks, how many 65 year old men can there be with the name Sunshine B. Rainey?

Copyright © 2015 W.C. Bell; All rights reserved.


© Copyright 2020 Whiskey Charlie. All rights reserved.

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