Excerpt from a story I’ve been working on:
It’s been five days since hill 927. That’s fine with me. It’s been quiet and I feel blood collecting in my temples, its getting sticky and thick from just sitting here swatting at the flies buzzing around the tent. Thick blood in this climate spells disaster. Once in a while one of these poor kids just drops while we’re on the move… ice cold, and for no apparent reason. But I know it’s the thick blood.
We try to laugh, smoke grass, play cards, anything to take our minds off of the shit… but then some half-starved kid with sunken eyes and jutting ribs that look like they’re about to poke out of his skin marches into your camp with a live grenade and nothing to live for. Your brain can’t keep up and decides to shut down on you. Logic and reasoning are tossed out the window, and its bad enough when your wife and kids seem like they’re on another planet and you can’t see ‘em. You know somewhere a million miles across the ocean your boss is still being an asshole and you’re a decent guy and there’s no fucking reason why you’re in this hell while he’s sitting in an air-conditioned room, sipping coffee while studying the careful curve of his secretary’s thigh.
The resilience of the human body begins to break down from the confusion, and that’s when that heavy air rolls down the MeKong, filling your lungs with jungle bacteria. It’s hard to accept the fact that loyalty, duty, and honor are all illusions, especially when you spent half a year in boot camp with a screaming drill sergeant insisting that those are exactly the things you must be prepared to die for.
I don’t even remember opening my eyes. It takes a few seconds to realize that the room isn’t moving anymore. It wasn’t jarring like an earthquake, but steadily rolling and dipping, like a fishing boat cutting through choppy seas, which in some circles is much worse. I was punching at that little goblin sitting on my chest, wailing and swinging my arms like wood clubs, and now he’s gone, that devious little bastard.
My neck is moist with sweat and my heart is banging against my ribcage, ready to give out at any moment. “I’m gonna die,” I mouth to myself. But then the silence settles in around me and I turn to see my wife calm, still asleep, completely oblivious to the horrors she has just slept through.
Soon I am able to breathe a little easier, I slowly loosen my grip. Each hand full of balled-up comforter. I toss my head back into the pillow and let my whole body go limp. Tomorrow I’ll get that goblin, I think to myself, gonna smear vasoline all over my chest. He’ll slide right off and I’ll beat him into submission.
My parents were fairly wealthy people. They made a killing in the alfalfa farming boom of the early 80’s and that gave them more than enough capital to send me clear across the country to Yale a scant two weeks after graduating high school.
New Haven was a beautiful town, teeming with life and and ripe with opportunity, but I was struggling with severe self esteem issues and was referred by my Sports ministry professor to a psychologist. The doctor gave me a three month prescription of Zoloft, and told me to take my mind off of things and get some fresh air every now and then, so I took his advice, secretly yanked the rest of my tuition and bought a one way ticket to Samoa, where the air is the cleanest in the world.
Taro root was a huge cash crop in that tiny corner of the world. Because of my deep agricultural background, I figured it would come naturally to me. I poured every last dollar I had into working those sun-kissed fields but despite my best efforts, the taro crop was wiped out that year due to a massive fungal outbreak. With nothing left to my name, I was reduced to working as a back-alley tattoo artist, drinking far too much whiskey and creating crude designs on the backs of these giant men with a needle fashioned out of the razor edge of a can of tuna.
Life was tough during those dark years. With nothing left to live for I paddled a small canoe blindly out into the Pacific as a last resort, having very little concern whether I lived or died. Miraculously I washed up on a little known island named Niulakita, where they have not seen a white man in over 70 years. I was instantly revered as a god and fed a feast of wild pig and untainted taro paste. I grew fat and healthy on that tiny island, teaching the locals how to surf and marrying five of their most beautiful women.
With all of my wild adventures, I never forgot about mom and dad. I kept a weathered picture of them in my wallet and always teared up when looking at it. Finally, one day I couldn’t take it anymore, I bid adieu to my lovely wives, hopped in my ragged canoe and set sail once more, poised with steady determination to make it home…
To Be Continued?
He just sits there, an empty yellowing husk of what once was, lonely upon my shelf. Hollow eye holes peering out of a great nothing. Razor fangs which long ago tore through flesh, providing sustenance for this great beast. Even after death he retains a certain kind of stoic dignity, forever king of the jungle, expressionless in frozen content with the great beyond.