Don't Mean Nothing
This is a work of fiction and is copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Now, truthfully…a lot of this…really happened…to somebody…just not all to the same people. I strung several people's stories together for this one, and changed all the names, and a lot of the places, but…if some of this rings a bell or sounds familiar…don't ask me…I don't plan on giving you a straight answer unless you already gave me permission to use your story as a part of this one.
WARNING: Rough language ahead. Realistic soldier speak, sex and violence. If you're easily shocked, please skip this thread. I'm going to try not to make it gratuitous sex and violence, but if that's where the story goes – these are modern soldiers, and when they stub a toe, they don't say "My Goodness Gracious!", ok?
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNEDChapter 01 Snotty College Girls
Buffalo, New York, August 2009
It was a nice August day in Buffalo. About 80 or so, and I was doing something I enjoyed – working on the flower beds at my houses.
Yeah, I said Houses. I've got a couple of old houses on Winspear Avenue in Buffalo, right near the University. Old Victorian places, subdivided up into a bunch of apartments that I rent to College kids at the University. Mostly coeds, I don't advertise, and most of the girls graduate and get a friend to take their apartment. Once in awhile I get a guy renting, but mostly it's girls.
But, like I said, I was working on the flower beds when she showed up. Christ, of all the places, in the entire world, she shows up at my place.
I was having some problems, and that was leading to some uncomfortable memories. I gotta admit Post-traumatic Shock Syndrome and flashbacks – they didn't used to bother me when I was younger, but, when I hit sixty, they started to happen more and more.
I was tugging at a root, and the heat and the humidity was taking me back to Viet Nam and all the mud and dirt I had moved all those years ago…
That's when she kicked my foot, said something…my hearing isn't what it was. I rolled to see who it was, and I saw her.
Or should I say, I saw an oriental face silhouetted against the sun, a woman's face, and had an irrational flash back to Viet Nam. It didn't help that, now that I could hear her, she said "stupid old drunken American pig" in Vietnamese.
I was in Phan Rang again, searching in the rubble for Kim. There was an explosion…I went down…I woke up and there was a Vietnamese woman, a villager…with a knife…and she intended to finish me off. I'd rolled further away, got my .45 out of the shoulder holster, put three in her chest…but her momentum carried her to me and the blade had gone into my chest, just above the sternum.
I rolled, grabbing for the pistol that wasn't there, grabbing the rake and backing up against the wall.
"F**k" she said. "Yo, buddy, you drunk?" she sneered. "Are you the janitor or something? Where's the boss? I need to get into Apartment 2B. I'm the new tenant, and I've been driving all night."
I took in her Asian features and sneered back. "Get the f**k out of her, slope." I said. "You better get the hell off this property, bitch. No goddam gooks allowed her."
She stared back at me. "I'm an American citizen, born in Atlanta, scumbag." She sneered.
""Yeah, by way of goddamn Ho Chi f**king Minh City, bitch." I said right back. "No way am I letting you into 2B, there's three girls in there, already, good American girls, and no chance in hell that you're one of them, you flat face slope bitch."
"This is not f**king happening" she said in Vietnamese. "Drunken worthless crackhead loser"
That sealed it for me. I set the rake down and walked into the house. I turned. "Get the f**k off this property, bitch, and as far as I'm concerned, the hell out of my city, and the hell out of my country." And I turned, but then I turned back for a second. In perfect Vietnamese I hadn't used for years, I said, "if you want to curse, keep it in a language I don't understand" and then I closed the door.
I went upstairs and got the shakes.
I did something I hadn't done for years. Got down the bottle of Elijah Craig, blew the dust off, and drank straight from the bottle.
I looked out the window. She was pacing up and down the sidewalk, sitting on the hood of a blue Toyota with California plates, talking angrily on a cell phone.
She was tall, tall for a woman of her race, but she had the fine features that I remembered so well. Large breasts, well, larger than normal for a Viet, but those graceful long legs that had reminded me of Kim.
I shivered. Maybe it was stepping from the heat to the air conditioning of my living room, maybe it was the big hit of alcohol I dropped on an empty stomach, maybe it was the strength of the flash back I'd had on the lawn…but now I was drawn into a longer flashback, well, more like memories.
I was seventeen when I enlisted. I finished high school in three years, but I was impatient to get out in the world. You grow up on a farm in Colden, New York; there just ain't much in the way of opportunity. Dairy farms and orchards or head out.
I had ambition, but, when you're a white trash kid on a hardscrabble hill farm, there's just not much. I played football, played Varsity, but I didn't get any scholarship offers. I wasn't dumb, but not smart enough to get an academic scholarship.
So, I took the usual route to success. Everybody's favorite Uncle – good old Uncle Sam and the GI bill. Sure, Viet Nam was going on, but hell that was the breaks of the game.
Everybody of my father's generation had served in one service or the other, WWII or Korea. A couple of the guys that had graduated before me had come back from Viet Nam with medals and honor. There were anti-war rallies on the TV, but that was just them damn commie pinko fag city people. In those days, REAL Americans were foursquare behind the President and "Peace with Honor"
And so I went off to boot camp, and AIT, and got off the Pan Am 707 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base two days after my eighteenth birthday, July 18, 1966. I still have that picture that my buddy Sam Johnston took. I was standing there in my short sleeve green shirt, green pants, duffle bag at my feet, standing at the base of the air stairs and looking around.
I was still a virgin, but I got rid of that the next night in a little room above a bar in Cholon. My heart was beating fast as the little girl, barely five foot tall, led a gangling six foot tall nervous virgin up the rickety little stairway.
It was a tiny little room, just big enough to hold a bed and a little nightstand, paper thin walls and you could hear the other GIs and their women humping away. She undressed quickly, she was wearing nothing under her Ao dai. I took a little longer, damn near ripping the buttons off my shirt.
The bed was dirty, the sheets wet with sweat and other bodily secretions I didn't want to think about, but I wasn't thinking with my brain anymore anyway.
She was beautiful, small and perfect, with smooth skin and pert breasts that just had no need for a bra. Looking back, I realize she might have been anywhere from fifteen to forty, and my memory is probably clouded from my inexperience. She was the first adult female I'd ever seen naked outside of a porno magazine, and she still shines in my memory.
That first time was $5, and it was so good that I happily paid the thirty bucks to keep her all night. Her name was Van, but I never knew her last name, never saw her again.
Hey, I was only 19, you know?
We shipped out to the Northern end of the country the next day, up in I corps country, up near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We went into the jungle. I'd thought Fort Dix in the summer was a bitch, but that was nothing, compared to humping the boonies with a ruck and a rifle, playing "bungle in the jungle" with the NVA.
It was a sparsely populated area, not to much in the way of VC, but we were running into main force NVA units up there. We were hard young bastards, taught by slick talking instructors that the only good Viet was a dead Viet. Shot at, ate up by leeches and bitten by insects science probably doesn't have a name for. Blown up by mines, killed by booby traps, shot at by snipers who disappeared back into the jungle without a trace. Guys would transfer in from the repple-depple – the replacement depot, and you didn't want to even learn their names for the first month or so.
If they lived through the first month, they were worth knowing. Otherwise, "Don't mean nothing.:
That was our koan, our mantra, as we moved through the green hell of Viet Nam.
"Doan mean nothing"
We relocated villagers, shot anybody that even looked at us funny, burned their huts down and killed their animals. Tore up the dikes, destroyed the dams. Raped the women when ever we felt like it, laughed as their men stood by helplessly.
"Doan mean nothing"
I look back on those memories, in many cases, with horror at the monster I was. In those days, we didn't care about consequences. Why care, when you don't expect to live out the day? Civilization had sheared away from us, and –I know now – our leadership was crap. "Push-button" NCOs – guys that signed up for six years and had six more months of stateside training than us – led us. The officers were guys that went to ROTC or OTS, but weren't rich enough or smart enough to wrangle a posting to somewhere safe.
"Doan mean nothing"
It was a poor man's war, fought by the bottom tier of American Society. Rich kids went to college and protested. Oxford for Billy-boy.
Or maybe Daddy got them into the Guard, like old George W, and they got wasted on Margaritas, guarding Texas from the Cubans.
Or maybe they did the seagull thing, like John Kerry, slid in for four months of cruising the Mekong in a f**king powerboat, then the rest of his tour as an Admiral's assistant.
Shit, say, what you want about Al Gore, but he pulled strings to GET into combat…well, I guess, at the time, I would' a called him dumber than shit, to go up there into the mud and cold of the Central Highlands and the Au Shau when he had an easy out, but…
"Doan mean nothing"
I did well. I learned to shoot when I was a kid. I hunted the scrubby Alleghany foothills and put a lot of game on the table when I was a kid. Ammo wasn't cheap, and you learned real quick to hit what you aimed at, or daddy sent one of the other kids out. I liked hunting better than mucking out the dairy stalls.
I learned to survive in the jungle. The field craft was different, but I'd been out in the woods setting snares with my Grandpa when I was three. Pretty soon, I learned the tricks of moving through the jungle like I'd moved through the woods.
What was surprising – at least to the Army – was that I had an ear for languages. I hadn't listed any foreign language skills on my paperwork, but – dumb as I was – I didn't really consider German and Polish to be foreign languages.
I'd just grown up speaking English at school, German and Polish at home. I was speaking and understanding conversations in Viet the first month, reading and writing pretty fluently by my third month.
We did twelve month tours in those days. I read a study a few years later, which said that something like 40% of the casualties in 'Nam happened in the first three months, 40% in the last three months.
The first three months because you were too new to know what was dangerous, the last three months because you were physically too worn out.
Re-supply was pretty crappy, especially up where we were. My unit did a little better than some, because we had some good foragers – I was one of them.
We'd go out with three days of C-rations, but the re-supply bird might be down for weather, or maintenance, or some shit, and we sometimes went as long as twenty days before we got more C-rats. We learned to eat wild potatoes, and which fruits to pick, and a lot of the rice we confiscated, we ate ourselves.
But it was still physically wearing. I went to 'Nam with 180 pounds – when they weighed me at the hospital, I weighed 135. I have some of those pictures – some folks see those, and think I was a POW and starved – but no, that's just how I got fed on that tour.
Got tired, made a dumb mistake, got shot by an NVA up on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in July of '67. Sucking chest wound, medevaced to Camp Zama in Japan, got leave and convalescent leave back to the States.
Went back to Colden, the ribbons got me a few beers at the VFW post, got laid a couple of times, but hell…it just wasn't home anymore. I just couldn't see coming back here and working the dairy farm. My oldest brother was going to inherit the farm, only thing I could do was either work for Dad, work for my brother when Dad passed on, or maybe marry the daughter of a guy with no sons, and get a farm that way.
It wasn't very appealing.
Could'a got out and gone to the steel mill, or the car plants, like a lot of my buddies, but that wasn't all that appetizing either. All those guys got laid off ten years later when the factories started closing, but I really can't say I saw that coming.
The Army was what I knew, and as much as I hated it, I liked it better than any other option I had at the time.
"Doan mean nothing"
So I got off leave, and reported to Fort Riley in my brand new '68 Mustang – I had a lot of back pay – and tried to teach some of the newbies about what they'd need to know if and when they went to 'Nam.
I was there about a month, and the Intel guys came to see me. Seems I'd attracted some attention on my first tour, and they wanted me to go into Special Ops.