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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

That Little Voice - A Story of Viet Nam {#BlogBattle}

Time again for #BlogBattle, the keyword-inspired flash-fiction contest hosted by the vivacious Rachael Ritchey.

The word this time is VOICE.

This is the second installment in a multi-part anecdote...part one was Hope Floats.

That Little Voice

As it turned out, no one cared whether we were wearing our A's or not. 

The Dude, Biff and I were waiting in the transit shed at Tan Son Nhut, slowly wilting. The C-130 we'd been booked on for what the departure clerk smirkingly called our 'hop' to Bangkok was being taken to bits on the ramp by a group of puzzled mechanics, and there was no beer.

Could life get worse?

Suddenly The Dude straightened up, then stood. "I don't believe it...Brother Cedric?"

The Marlboro Man, or his twin brother, had been walking past on the ramp, and he stopped at The Dude's call. Tall, and lean, he wore Levi's, cowboy boots, and a shirt that had once been plaid. There was a holstered .45 tucked under one arm, and a cigarette dangled from the fingers of his left hand. Mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes.

I wondered about smoking where there were airplanes filled with gas around, and decided not to ask.

The Marlboro Man removed his glasses, and squinted into the dim shed. "What...no, really?" His voice had a nasal new England inflection that didn't really go with the hat.

"It IS you!" The Dude ran out onto the ramp, and for a horrible moment I thought the two would embrace...but fortunately they stopped to shake hands and flail at each other's shoulders in an emotively manly greeting. "Guys, get out here!

The Dude was beaming. "This is Brother Cedric...he's a Jesuit, taught spiritual formation at the seminary." He introduced us as might a proud parent, with praise that neither Biff nor I deserved.

Brother Cedric shook our hands, and the Northeasterly twang softened. "I've heard about you guys. It's good to meet you."

He sounded like a monk, but sure didn't look like one. I looked at The Dude, and he asked the question for all of us.

"So...uh, what gives with the..." He waved his hands up and down in an almost helpless gesture. 

The monk grinned. "No I haven't left the order, but you remember, before I went in, I flew for Uncle Sam. Did an early tour over here, training the VNAF. The experience gave me religion."

He paused, expecting a laugh, which came. We'd heard of some of the VNAF's antics.

"Anyway, vocations started to tail off...and since the abbott didn't think I was suitable for parish work, he gave me the option of coming back out here, as a missionary."

He looked more like a mercenary to me, but I held my tongue.

"When I got here, there was someone waiting, with an offer I couldn't refuse. So now I'm flying for Air America, spreading the gospel along the way."

Biff, the innocent, asked, "What's Air America?"

The Dude answered for Brother Cedric. "It's the CIA airline."

"They can be persuasive," said the monk. "So what's with you guys? R&R?"

"Bangkok," said The Dude. "Someday." He pointed to the increasingly disemboweled C-130.

"Gosh," said brother Cedric, "that doesn't look too good. You want a lift?" He pointed down the ramp to an unpainted and unmarked C123. "I was heading upcountry, to NKP, but I can drop you and Don Muang, no sweat."

The Dude, Biff and I exchanged glances that spoke of this bit of divine intervention, and headed for our ride.

Brother Cedric's copilot was a small dark man with a ready smile and no words. He was introduced as Sam, and we were introduced to him in a sibilant blend of vowels of which he understood not a word,not even our own names repeated.

"Sam's Laotian," said Brother Cedric.

"Is Sam his real name?" asked Biff, still testing the bounds of naivete.

Sam startled us all by saying, "My real name..."

Brother Cedric was right. It was unpronounceable.

The 123 was smaller than the 130, and had a cozy feeling. Brother Cedric and Sam stepped up a small ladder to the cockpit, and then the monk motioned for The Dude to follow them.

The cargo hold had the usual wildly uncomfortable tube-slung nylon seat, a kind of hammock for one's butt. Since we were the only passengers, we gave ourselves plenty of room.

"Do you think we can go the the Floating Market? Pattaya Beach?" Biff had been loaned a Fodor's Guide, and I figured we were doomed to every tourist trap in the area.

"Sure," I said. "You can send home all the monkeypod you can afford, and we'll keep you sober at Pattaya."

The Dude came back from the cockpit, smiling enigmatically. "What do you guys think about a change in plans?"

Biff, anguish touching his tones, said, "But I want to see Bangkok!"

"You'll have way more fun. Trust me."

The two most dangerous words in the English language, said my Little Voice.

But at least we wouldn't have to babysit a drunken Biff.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

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  1. Guess what? We are neighbors at Beth's today - can you believe it? I'm bringing over a cuppa and a dog biscuit so we can koffee klatch....neighbor!

  2. Hey Andrew! So GLAD to see you and Sylvia again!! I didn't get to comment, but I've been praying daily for you since your scare last week... Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to share with us over at Coffee & Conversation this morning! Hugs to Barbara, too :-) Stay strong, friend!!

  3. And the plot thickens! Great installment, Andrew. Emerald Isle is keeping me from doing all sorts of things on my TO DO list this week, but I'm not really complaining :) Thankful that you've had the strength to write this week, friend. You and Barbara remain at the forefront of my prayers.

  4. This is a great installment of The Dude's story. I can't help saying how much I love these guys. They are so real (and for good reason, I'm sure). I hope you are recovering from all your sickness, Andrew.