Thurman P. Woodfork


I’m sitting in a bar in Saigon, wearing civilian clothes. If one ignores the fact that all the women are Asian, I could be in a GI bar almost anywhere in the world.

Well, that, and the loaded.45 tucked in my waistband behind my belt. Aside from that reminder, in here, the war seems far off. It’s easy to let the mind slip away; I’ve been in many similar bars.

A young lady slides in beside me and begins the ancient, time honored, professional seduction – for want of a better term, since I’m hardly being seduced. We argue amiably and desultorily, first over the price of the Saigon Tea and then over what I maintain is an equally exorbitant price for sex before I give in and accompany her.

We enter a huge room, and here, the familiarity ends: The room is filled with rows of precisely aligned cots covered with white, gauze-like mosquito netting. Dimly seen figures are gyrating under the netting in the timeless motions of ‘love.’ I undress and climb onto the cot under my own netting with the girl, slipping the.45 under the pillow, unobtrusively, I hope.

But it’s no good… too surreal… the rows of ghostly white-shrouded beds make me think of a casualty ward, or worse. The gun, inches from my hand, adds to the unreality of the scene. Coupled with the occupied, spectral cots on every side of me, it’s too disconcerting. Eventually, I give up and start to dress again, which is quickly done, since I don’t wear underclothing, in deference to the climate.

This time, I make no effort to conceal the gun as I tuck it back under my shirt. The girl only offers a token protest; she’s undoubtedly glad for the respite. She remains there under the netting as I make my way back past the ghostly files of shrouded cots and out to the street. The next day, I’m back on Trang Sup, and it is all like a half-remembered dream.