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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

No Ticket To The World - A Story Of Viet Nam {#BlogBattle}

Time for this week's #BlogBattle, the weekly keyword-driven flash-fiction contest hosted by Rachael Ritchey.

The word this week is TICKET.

This story is the fifth part of a specific vignette...the first part was A Life In A Yearthe second was White Feather the third was Jonah, and the fourth was Two Shots.

No Ticket To The World

I looked down at the dead NVA, who New Guy TC has brushed off the back of Ship Of Fools with his second shot, then up at Smiley, who New Guy TC had managed to hit with his first. Still, I couldn't be too angry, because the American frg that the NVA still held was, indeed, still in his hand, and not stuffed down the turret.

"yeah," I said to The Dude. "Give Smiley a hand. I'll check this gomer for intel." Smiley has groaning and kind of flopping around in pain. He really needed a syrette to la-la land for the trip out, assuming we could get moving and reach Con Thien.

"On it," said The Dude, with a glance at the dead guy. He reached up to pull himself onto the fender, and the dropped back for a second look. "Uh, TC?"

I'd knelt down and was moving my hands over the NVA's bloody blouse. "Yeah?"

"I think the pin's..."


The dead guy had pulled the pin, and as I moved him, his hand relaxed, or something, but I didn't care about that. What I did care about was that the spoon had flipped, and a live grenade rolled hissing from the dead hand.

"Grenade!" yelled The Dude. "TC, COVER!"

I tried to duck and protect my head, and as I did something heavy slammed me into the dead guy's chest, face down. 

"Crap!" There was horror in The Dude's voice.

A boot kicked me in the side, and then there was a loud but oddly muffled WHUMP and the sulfur-smell of explosives unleashed. My ears were ringing, and dirt filled my eyes.

But the blast had sounded wrong. Low-order det. I guess the dead guy had a defective frag. Tough.

A couple more boots hit my ribs. Sore but glad to be alive, I got to my knees, kneeling on the dead guy's chest, and rubbed my eyes. The Dude and Biff were crouching over a still form on the ground, and The Dude was laughing.

I must be concussed, I thought. I must be hallucinating this.

I shook by head. My ears were still ringing. And The Dude was still laughing.

Biff reached over and pulled me around. tears were running down his face, and he was laughing, too. "Oh, man, TC...you gotta...oh, man!"

Smiley was laying on the ground, bleeding from a lot of little holes, but I could see his face, and he was...yeah, smiling. His arms were extended in front of him, and were still clutching a large and now badly shredded ruck. Scraps of cloth and torn webbing were hanging off it, and it was smoking. Some cigarettes inside were burning, and gave the scene the feeling of a party.

And there was the smell of ten-year-old Glenlivet.

I knew the awful truth.

Smiley had seen the spoon fly, and had grabbed a ruck from the gypsy rack, and launched himself off the tank to cover the frag. He'd not gone quite far enough, so he didn't quite manage to do the Medal of Honour thing and cover it with his body. Instead, he'd pushed the frag away under the ruck, and he'd lived.

But it was my ruck, and my Glenlivet, and I wanted to kill him.

Smiley looked at me, grinning from the joy of being a living hero, and grimacing from the new holes that had to hurt.

"You idiot," I said.

His grin widened.

"If you think this is your ticket back to the world...you know where to stick that."

"Yeah?" he said, weakly?

"You ain't getting off this tank any time soon."

"I'm pretty banged up." His voice softened. The Dude had stuck him with morphine.

"Well, heal fast...loader."

Smiley's eyes closed, and in the distance I heard the thump of Huey blades. Someone popped a smoke, and Biff went up to lay out panels. We weren't alone any more.

Smiley's eyes closed, and his breathing went from ragged and painful to regular.

New Guy TC came up. "We got air," he said. "Timex got the radio up. So can you tow my tank?"

I stood up, and we looked down at Smiley.

"Thought the guy was bad luck," New Guy TC said.

"Yeah. Well."

"If you wanna trade loaders..."

The Dude pulled out his sidearm, and dangled it in New Guy TC's view. "Son," he said, "don't make me regret I didn't shoot you."

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  1. I must admit that there are so many terms that are not familiar to me--for which you and your brothers at arms bandied about while in Viet Nam--that I'm having a bit of a struggle to understand all that happened here. But it sounds like Smiley saved the day, correct, Andrew? You've had a lot of close to death moments in your lifetime, haven't you? That must give you such a powerful perspective on the brevity of life. It shows in all that you write about here, my friend. Btw, how is your book coming along? Close to finishing it?

    Prayers for you, Andrew!

  2. This was hilarious. I hereby observe minute of silence in honor of the bottle of Glenlivet. :)