That Son of a Bitch

 

The Captain lives in North Dakota. The Captain says call collect. Captain recalls LZ Ranch overrun, killing dinks in the wire, Wilson shotgunning one close range, blowing her face away. He recalls Skinny Bob and Ken, the runaway dink when Derrig got hit, Lt. Noble dead in Phuc Vinh, rockets on Quan Loi, Arc Light off Compton.

Captain says he loved combat. Lived for it. Captain commanded three line companies. Spent fourteen months in the bush. Twenty years in service.

Captain says, “Wasn’t Miller in your platoon?”

I say, “Sir, Miller was a no-good, brown-nosing, two-faced, motherfuckin’ coward.” I say Timmy Day kicked Miller’s chickenshit ass after Captain and Burtoni killed the dinks and Crazy Frank fucked them up. I say Miller was big and tall and smart and humped that twenty-five pound PRC-25 radio, but that day, that fuckin’ day, Miller hung back, then ran.

Captain is quiet. Captain says he doesn’t remember. Captain says Miller became his RTO in June. Captain says he remembers Keith. Captain says Keith was a no-good E-6 Shake ‘n’ Bake ninety-day fuckup. Captain says it was his own fuckin’ fault tripping the automatic ambush, blowing himself away.

Captain went back with Special Forces spring ’75. Says he burned secret documents, blew the embassy, no choppers, wild civilians, dead Marines, escaped by tank.

Captain says he met his second wife on a pistol range. Damn if she didn’t out shoot him, winning the bet. Been buying her dinner ever since. Captain says got to let me go. Fire department meeting.

I say, “Sir, are you the chief?”

Captain, in that sweet North Dakota, career service, post-Vietnam, post-Panama, post-Grenada, post-Desert Storm, pre-Iraq, understated command voice, Captain says, “Shit. That son of a
son-of-a-bitch works for me.”