global portraitsPosted: June 13, 2010
I’ll be posting some short fiction sketches that capture something about the cultural mix that’s going on in Asia. To see all the fiction posts, go to “Categories” and click on the “fiction” link.
That summer I went back to Vietnam, that was a strange one. Speed and cocaine was everywhere, my kids were goin’ crazy and somebody with BB guns shot the eyes out of two cows in my pasture. I finally found my youngest son in a county-line motel room filled with dirty clothes and eight other run-away kids. He was 17 then, going out with girls 23 years old. I mean beautiful girls, the prettiest in the county. My oldest son was let out of jail early ’cause he was a “model prisoner.” Hell, how proud was that supposed to make me?
Then I started getting calls on the answering machine, “We’re going to kill your family.” “Your time’s up, hombre, say adios.” My wife, who’d just turned Pentecostal, had done said goodbye to me. Really she didn’t say anything––she was just gone. Even took the curtains and the lawn chairs. The youngest boy, the gigolo, he finally took a high school test and placed in the Top 5 percent in the country––the Top 5. He’s smart, but stubborn. Now he’s the youngest electrician in Junction, Colorado. Joined the Pentecostals. Goes regular. Got some credit cards. Sends me a little money sometimes, but he never writes.
I got arthritis, a big belly. It’s hard to walk. My mother’s lingering. Yesterday, my sister says, “I want those blue Limoge bowls.” I said, “Hell, your mother’s not dead. What are you talking about?” Then I got to thinking, and told her, “Ok, tell mother to get some of those stickers. Put names on the bottom of things. Then there won’t be no fighting when she goes.” Truth was, I wanted Dad’s trunk with the old uniforms in it. He worked for the Texaco gas station when people at those stations wore real uniforms, hats, special belts, and all. My mother, she made me proud yesterday. She said, “You got good boys now.” My oldest boy, he’s in China now. Married a Chinese gal, real cute, in San Diego after the Navy. Her father is something in their government. The boy don’t work. Says they’re tearing down all the old things in Beijing. He says they got a lot of that to knock down. It’s the same everywhere, I guess. Except we got a black man president now. It’s about time, I say. After I came back from Vietnam and the Airborne, I seen the world clear. I seen it for real. It’s what it is. A blessing in the center of sorrow. I dispatched the two cows, dressed them out, filled the freezer, had meat for a year, and I said to myself, “it’s time to go to Vietnam.” I nearly died over there two times. Once with the Airborne on Nui Cuong Mountain. Then again last year on that same mountain.
I told myself I was going to climb to the top of that mountain again, to see it all again, and I did, but it didn’t mean anything. I didn’t recognize anything. It looked like no one had ever been there. Getting back down, it nearly killed me. It turned dark, and I was on the ground––couldn’t walk. Thought I was dying. My guide, who was a good kid––I seen that when he first started to cut trail going up the mountain––he said, “Look at the stars, mister. They’re beautiful.” I thought, “Son, I’m dying here right now.”
Then I see the damn stars––they were beautiful. It felt like they had come down and were touching me. I said, get your ass up, you’re not dying here. The boy, he about carried me down the mountain. I think he understood what it was all about. He was a good kid.