Thurman P. Woodfork


Thinking back to my year in Nam, I find my mind moving away from the times when the barbarians were not only at the gates but in the wire as well, with malice in their hearts. I’m reminded of a different sort of conflict.

The scene that plays behind my drowsing eyes is of me and the “Cambode” riding on the backs of motorcycles down a large boulevard in Saigon, probably Tu Do Street. We were both comfortably smashed, which is why I was on the motorcycle in the first place; I certainly wouldn’t have gotten on one sober. Riding them must have been Cambode’s idea.

I don’t remember where we went, or what we did that night, I just remember heading back for home alone, still on a motorbike. The driver suddenly decided to take a short cut, ignoring my protests, and I found myself traveling through a decidedly dark and unsavory part of town, something I wasn’t too happy about even in my cheerfully pickled state.

The driver continued to pay little heed to my protests until I remembered, wonder of wonders, that I had neglected to check my .45 in at the 619th along with my other gear when I arrived on Tan Son Nhut from Trang Sup. Somehow, that always seemed to happen when we came in to Saigon. When I discovered my mistake at the team house, I hadn’t wanted to leave the gun laying around, so there it was, nestled snugly in my waistband beneath my shirt.

It was remarkable how quickly the driver’s English improved when he felt the muzzle of that large weapon behind his ear. Or maybe it was the cheery click of it being cocked that so focused his attention. At any rate, he soon found his way back to more brightly lit, populated streets where we parted company amicably and went our separate ways.

I think we parted friends; at least, he didn’t wait to be paid and didn’t call me dinky-dow[•] until he looked back as he was speeding off and saw that both my hands were empty. I guess riding along with an angry drunk pressing a .45 in the crack of his ass had soured his disposition somewhat.

He didn’t know that I had quietly lowered the hammer and slid the safety on, so a sudden bump wouldn’t have instantly endowed him with a second anal orifice. I really wasn’t as much worried about his health as I was about accidentally gelding myself. That .45 was snuggled against both his and my more treasured parts. Our little adventure had sobered me up considerably. I got off that bike a lot more clear-headed than I had been when I got on it.

At least, thanks to my absent-mindedness with the hand gun… and the driver’s sudden grasp of English… I didn’t have to strangle the little rascal and learn to operate a motorcycle myself that night. I just was flat not about to go wherever it was that he’d planned to take me. Call me a candy-ass.

Now, I cite absent-mindedness about having the gun handy since I would never, ever have deliberately disobeyed orders and carried a loaded .45 with me onto the light-hearted, tranquil streets of downtown 1966 Saigon. Not me.

Submitted for the July 2003 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Reflections