blue moon (2)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Red Clay: Part Twenty ©

Hali was deep in his hole hugging the ground tightly to his breast anticipating that at any moment January 1 1968 was to be his last day on this earth.
The ground all around him was being violently torn up by mortars.
They had been warned that the Vietcong might do something on their New Year but being as it was an important holiday to all Vietnamese and they had agreed to a three-day ceasefire.

The atmosphere at camp was relaxed on that New Years Eve, up until the early morning of New Years day, when they came.
They came like a dark wave out of nowhere and everywhere causing death and destruction to everything and everyone like a hoard of locusts swarming across a wheat field.

They had been camped on the south bank of the Perfume River when the attack came.
First the mortars then rockets stabbed into their fortifications before they came out of the darkness like ghosts riding the smoke belching death with every step.
They came by the thousands.
Eyes bulging and screaming like demons from the deepest pits of hell they came.
They came at them with their AK47s showering down death from every direction.

Ten months earlier he had been in Louisiana wandering the bayou either collecting herbs or fishing for catfish or crawfish.
At night he would sit out on the porch with his son in his arms while his mother rocked nearby in her chair.
The boy’s mother, Manon...she had died after childbirth from fever so it was just he and his mother to raised the boy now but his unit was ordered to Vietnam.
Now he was far from home.

It seemed his life was just beginning a year earlier when Manon told him she was pregnant.
It was right after entering boot camp.
Now, he might never see his son again, his only comfort was in knowing his mother would care for the boy if something were to happen and he didn’t come back again.

There were only a couple of hundred men in camp and they were spread out really thin with large gaps between them.
Like lunatics from an insane asylum the enemy ran towards them.
Hali and his comrades poured a wall of death into them but they just kept coming.
With the burning fires all around them now to light up the night their exposed positions were being fired on more accurately than before as the rockets and mortars come down from overhead.

Hali looked to his left and could see Zawolski and Henderson shooting into the oncoming enemy.
To his right he could hear the chatter of the M-60 manned by O’Rieley and Moses “Eagle Feather” Jones.
His partner Frank Enriques was three feet away from him picking and choosing his targets as fast as he could but they were still getting closer and closer to their position.

Lt. Col. J. Beecham III sat at his desk two miles from where the battle was taking place busily trying to find a way out of there before they were overrun and he was killed.
He had too much at stake to be killed here in this shit hole he thought to himself.
Just yesterday he got his leave approved to return home for his father’s funeral.
His father never approved of him joining the military but he joined just to spite his father whom he despised more than anyone he knew.

When he was a boy he watched his father push his mother to drink herself to death then put him in military school for the next twelve years.
Twelve years passed without a word from his father.
He wasn’t even at his graduation when he finally finished school.
It wasn’t until he found out that he’d joined the Marine Corps did his father Jonas Beecham II speak to his son and that was only to belittle him in front of his commanding officer.

Now he was dead.
Fuck him and good riddance he thought to himself as he stuffed papers into his attaché case.
The only time his father ever sat him down to speak to him was right after his mother died.
He was drunk, his breath reeking of brandy.
He said his mother was a whore he fucked in some back room then mumbled about some kind of family curse.

The only curse he ever saw was his father and now he wouldn’t have to bare that demon with him gone.
That’s if he could get out of this hellhole.

He had been in the Corps now for twenty years and had climbed through the ranks safely until Vietnam but it all wasn’t that bad.
In fact, until now Vietnam had been very profitable for him and had amassed a fortune that he had hidden in various foreign banks waiting for the day he could leave this army of fools and live a life of leisure.
If he got anything from his father it was his business sense and maybe a little of his cruelty.

Over the last five years he along with some acquaintances from school back in the United States had a lucrative business going back and forth shipping cash and drugs by using military planes.
This allowed them to bypass customs by landing safely on air force bases back home and abroad all at Uncle Sam’s expense.
So many planes were coming and gong there was no time to check them all and his friends had people working on the receiving end thus avoiding any detection of the goings on behind their backs.

As he closed the case there was a knock at the door.
Picking up his 45 he asked who it was, Corporal Smith, his driver was there to drive him to the airfield to catch his helicopter.
He told him he would be with him shortly then grabbed his coat from the coat rack and his case.
He was going to miss the money he made here and the women but with what money he had along with his father’s estate, he should be able to keep him in the lifestyle he craved.
Besides, he would think of ways to make more.

“You will never amount to anything in the military” Jonas Beecham II, his father said to him twenty years earlier.
With this last shipment he would have twelve million dollars put away but the old fucker went and die before he could choke him with it.

Hali grabbed the radio and called Headquarters for flairs to be put up.
Less than a minute later the night sky lit up and they could see, a sea of Vietcong moving on them.
He knew there was no way to stop this many.
There were hundreds just in front of him alone, as an ocean of flesh running across the field pouring waves of death down upon him and his comrades.

Picking up the radio again he sent in the coordinates for some heavy gun support just a hundred yard ahead of their position then yelled to Enriques to get ready to pull back towards H.Q.
They could hear the shells coming in overhead before erupting on the ground showering everything, everyone with dirt, blood and scorched flesh everywhere.

Standing up he call to his left at Zawolski and Henderson to pull back then he looked to the right and could already see the others falling back with them.
It was a mad dash falling back a hundred yards to their secondary positions where they dug in once more to wait for the enemy to occupy their old positions.
They didn’t have long to wait.
Despite the merciless pounding they took in the open, there was still a swarm of screaming bodies crawling over their old parapets.

Reaching down Hali picked up a plunger and twisted the handle time and time again setting off the explosives that they had planted in their old foxholes sending bodies and parts sailing through the air.
They had anticipated this might happen and had prepared this little trap.
As the fireworks were going off they poured clip after clip into the smoke and dust but the enemy was still advancing on their new positions.
This was suicide.

Hali reached down to his belt and pulled out his last clip.
He yelled over at Enriques for ammo and Enriques said he was on his last one too.
This was it.
Each shot had to count and then run for it or fight hand to hand with an empty gun.
Zawolski and Henderson ran over both looking for more ammunition.
He told him there was none and to prepare to pull out but to look out for any weapons from those who were killed.

There was nothing left to do.
They had enough ammunition to cover their retreat and with any luck maybe find some along the way back and maybe make a stand but to stay now would only bring on their own death in a short time.

Taking all the smoke grenades they still had left they pulled then tossed them along the route they were heading to, to cover their retreat.
They pulled up to Moses, the big black man stood there legs planted into the ground cursing, swearing down at the enemy as he poured hot lead into the darkness with the M60 in his arms.
O’Rieley was leaning up against a tree with his face blown off.
Hali told Moses they were pulling out then yanked O’Rieley’s tags from around him neck.

As they turned to bug out between the sandbagged walls behind them, a group of Vietcong burst out of the smoke and upon Moses.
Moses cut into them with the big gun mowing six down with his first sweep but was hit repeatedly as he swung around to face a new group.
Enriques stumbled, tripping Hali.
Zawolski and Henderson went to their knees picking off the enemy as they swarmed around Moses.
Moses raised the big gun and fired into them until the big gun went silent then used it as a club to beat down the enemy as their bayonets pierced his body.

More and more poured out of the smoke until ten stood over Moses continuously stabbing him in the chest.
Hali crawled over to Enriques to see how he was.
He was hit inside the thigh and bleeding profusely.
Doing his best to tie it up under these condition he help him to his feet and they all fell back together.

They had gone half way back when they had to stop to rest.
Henderson had found a shotgun along the way and Hali picked up a 45 from a dead officer.
Enriques was in bad shape and needed a medic as soon as possible before he went into shock.

Lt. Col. J. Beecham III with Corp Smith following behind with his bags made their way to the airstrip for a ride out to safety by helicopter but when he got to the hanger there was no helicopter.
The only helicopters were ferrying out wounded and was told it was only for wounded and he would have to wait for his to arrive if it was coming at all.

He could hear the battle getting close and knew he wouldn’t make it if he didn’t get out now.
He told the Corporal to watch his bags until he got back and took off towards the communications tent to see if there was another helicopter coming to get him.

Jonas ran through the dust and smoke until he got to the tent only to find it blown up.
Stepping back out to look for someone to help him mortar shells exploded all around knocking him to the ground.
A continuous barrage rained around him for what seemed like an eternity before it stopped as quickly as it had started.
Jonas lay there in a daze.
Deaf from the concussion that had knock him to the ground he stared around in terror before he started pushing himself off the ground.
As he got to his feet two men stumbled out of the smoke running towards him.
Quickly he pulled out his gun and took aim at the nearest one then shot him through the body.
He then turned it towards the second man but before he could shoot they both fell to the ground in a heap.

Hali help Enriques to his feet again as Zawolski and Henderson covered their retreat.
As they reached the outskirts on the HQ bunker it started raining mortars.
They stumble through the exploding ground trying to get to the safety of the bunker but didn’t make it.
A mortar landed under Zawolski ripping him to pieces.
Henderson stood there staring blankly, Zawolski femur sticking out of his chest with Zawolski’s boot still on the foot.

Hali carrying Enriques moved into the HD compound when something punched him in the side spinning him around and to the ground.
Both he and Enriques lay on the ground side by side now helpless.
He rolled over on his back and stared up at the night sky.
The sky was clear and the stars twinkled as they did back on the Bayou.
He remembered the nights they sat on the porch staring out at the stars together.

Jonas walked over to the two men on the ground and looked down at them.
These were two of his own men and not enemy combatants.
He looked around to see if anyone saw anything then bent down to see how they were.
One was shot in the leg and in a bad way.
The other one was shot in the side and would probably survive with immediate help but if he did that, they would find out it was he who shot him and could be used against him.
But on the other hand he could use these men as a ticket out of here.
Jonas stood up and thought for second.
Enriques looked up at Jonas as Jonas raised the gun then pulling the trigger once, then again.

Jonas made his way to the medical helicopter with Corporal Smith on his heels carrying his gear.
Jonas told him he found a wounded man needing evacuating immediately and told the pilot he and the Corporal were coming along as they all pilled into the last helicopter and flew off.
Hali opened his eyes and looked up at Jonas.
It was the last time he ever opened his eyes.
The pilot came around after landing to check on the wounded man but he had died before reaching safety.
Looking at the body the pilot noticed the bruises around his throat then looked at Jonas.
Jonas stared back at him saying nothing.
The pilot though he wouldn’t want to mess with that man as he slowly backed away.

Hali sat on the edge of the bed looking at the two tags.
They were his father’s.


No comments: