Just before I died
second time – too young The First –
I was nightmare wakened.
I just-escaped both those deaths
and I pray: no more warnings!
- (Walked into a freak DelMarVa Penninsular wave at two years old as my parents were renting extra attention on my two siblings – brothers being busy can get a kid extra time alone if he plans it right – when this back-side-of Chesapeake Bay beach got a solitary two-foot wave which crashed right over my crouching – perriwinkles! – form. According to Mom, I had blue lips and would not sputter until Dad gave me a big whack as he – against all advice rendered at least 20 years too late – held me upside down by the ankles – and whacked me in the small of the back. I coughed, spit, spluttered and giggled: this upside-down view must have been a reward, no? The Second time I got a call from Okinawa asking me to do a story-and-photos of Marines who walk point in the dangerous side of nowhere near any towns. It was monsoon. I was miserable. I was going to South Africa in a couple of weeks for a month -yeah, I know: not even a note to Mom or Dad, just do it – and the only helo out of Division Rear was going to stop just exactly where the nightmare the night before placed me just before a mortar attack. The Chopper landed at the newly established 5th Marines Regimental Command Post, the only jeep they had leaving that afternoon was going to Hill 25 just outside Que Son City where The Dream was first staged for my benefit…twenty years later the story got a lot better – and scarier – but for the nonce suffice to say I woke when I heard the arming pin being removed from a B-40 Rocket Propelled Grenade and muttered: “Hey, that’s not a mortar it’s a…..(and the world goes away) as I lifted my head just past the shaped charge of the RPG took out the 12×12 beam that held up the roof of the above-ground bunker our mortar team used for a crib – and I used for a head-stop where my flak jacket was a hasty-pillow: first time in almost a year muchly in “The Bush” I dossed inside barbed wire in a bunker. It wasn’t the Dream, J: it was the stupid sleeping inside during a rain. But I was damned tired of being wet, miserable and scared. Dummy. Never did that in T’Nam before – sleep in a bunker: the other three adjectives were constant companions, friends almost. And never had I slept so close to four others in The Bush before either. And, six months later I read it in Navy Times: we were the only five Americans wounded in Vietnam that fateful dreamy day. What I said, finally, over the MARS radio-telephone call to Mom back in Sanford was: Mom – no matter what you hear, I am all right…and some other stuff the censor said I wasn’t supposed to say, just as she and Dad were leaving for a couple of weeks to spend Christmas in Colorado with my cousins. That phrase: “No matter what you hear, I’m all right,” was what a friend of mom’s had said to her three days before I got wounded. The same day/night/time as my dream and which later I got the call from Stars & Stripes Pacific’s newspaper asking me for the “Walking Point” photoJ assignment. Wonder who they got to play me in the real movie that filled those two or four pages. I got reported first: MIA or KIA back to Division rear and the 1st Marine Division Public Affairs shop in Danang – thus the telegrams I found at the Richards’ family manse when I, head wrapped up like a mummy, dragged ass up the porch step to the locked? front door. Of course I knew it was another bad dream: the street had been paved in my absence. I had entered The Well-Past-Twilight Time. Still there sometimes. Come visit. But bring your own dreams.)