And now, let's return to Viet Nam, and Travels With The Dude...
The New Guy Tank was parked outside what passed for a luncheonette...an open-sided hootch with a couple of kettles being tended in the shade, and patrons squatting outside, scooping their haute cuisine from cracked and chipped French crockery.
The New Guys were happily chowing down in what little shade their M48 offered. Their plump, sleek bodies that filled their fresh utilities were about to be pared down by dysentery, but they didn't know that yet.
"Join 'em, or go on?" The Dude's head was poking out of his hatch, and he was looking toward the New Guys gettin' local. The main gun was turned just a little, so if we hit a mine he wouldn't be catapulted into the barrel and break his neck. Good drivers were hard to find.
I sighed. "We maybe better talk to them. At least try to convince them to avoid the Pepsi." The Pepsi which occasionally contained ground glass.
The Dude pulled us over to the opposite side of the highway, which was a one-and-a-half-lane dirt track...pretty spiffy for these parts.
"I'll go," I said.
"Meter's running." The Dude must have been a cab driver in an alternate life.
The New Guy TC saw me coming, and stood, hesitantly, wiping his not-so-clean hands on his still-too-clean pants. "Uh, hi, sir." His corporal's stripes were sown on crookedly, with a little curlicue of thread showing joyously, here and there. He looked as if he hadn't shaved in days...because he didn't have to, yet. Were we really giving tanks to kids?
"I'm not a sir." I waved for him to sit back down. His tank's motor was running, and I had to speak up.
The New Guy TC had a name, but I had worked hard to forget it, because if he got killed then I could forget him more easily.The nameless passed like wraiths from Viet Nam, and only their families really cared.
"You know, this stuff can make you pretty sick." I looked around at the New Guy crew. They matched their TC in their absurdly rapt expressions...absurd because they'd been told not to do exactly what they were doing now. Two of them were still chewing, and dropping grains of rice from their mouths.
"Oh, no, su...uh, sergeant!" New Guy TC gave me a big smile. "Doc Green said all we had to do was take these!" He handed me a foil-wrapped packet.
"You do know what these are, don't you?" The Dude had turned the driver's seat over to Biff, and had wandered over to help me out, as New Guy care and feeding was a deep swamp to climb.
The New Guy crew swiveled their attention to The Dude.
The uniformed innocents looked at each other, eyes wide. The one who looked oldest, and who wore a watch on each wrist, elected himself as the spokesman. The New Guy TC deferred to him. "Uh, if I may ask..."
"An educated man," murmured The Dude. "Pray continue."
"What's a suppository?"
The Dude blinked rapidly, opened his mouth, and then shut it again. He looked helplessly at me.
"Sonny!" The Dude turned, and waved to our loader. "Got a question for you!"
Sonny had been lounging on the fender, and he stood up. "Wha's y'all wants t'know?"
"Timex here want to know what a suppository is."
There was a sudden murmuring among the Vietnamese patrons; apparently one spoke English, and he briefed his countrymen on what was happening.
Sonny gave his audience a big smile, turned around, dropped his pants, and, using a .45 cartridge, gave a convincing demonstration. His face grinned upside-down from between his ankles.I almost couldn't bear to look. There are atrocities, and then there are atrocities.
Timex's face was white, and the New Guy TC was quietly depositing what he'd eaten onto the red soil of Viet Nam.
The Dude put an arm around Timex's shoulders. "Son," he said, "why are you wearing two watches?"
"So I can know what time it is here, and what time it is back home."
"What did you guys have for lunch?"
Timex looked nervous, and made every effort not to look at Sonny, who had maintained his abominable position. "Chicken and rice."
"Well, Timex, here's a suggestion. For now, why don't you set the watch on your right wrist an hour ahead of the one on your left."
"Uh...why?" Timex's Adam's apple was bobbing nervously.
"Because when your left writ catches up with where your right wrist is now..."
"That's when you'll need the suppositories."