Shop Forum More Submit  Join Login

Mature Content

This content is intended for mature audiences.


or, enter your birth date.*


Month

Day

Year*
Please enter a valid date format (mm-dd-yyyy)
Please confirm you have reviewed DeviantArt's Terms of Service below.
* We do not retain your date-of-birth information.
I was in love once.  Her name was Jennifer, and she was fourteen.

I was twenty at the time and had that whole scruffy, gonna-start-a-ruckus look—the nurses eyed me beadily, but beneath their disapproving gazes were throes of desperate, not-gettin’-any passion.  I would know; one named Laura who’d been making sure my comrade Billy pissed in his cup right headed me off on my way to the jon.  I told her no thanks; I hadn’t seen her wash her hands and Billy had no aim.

I hadn’t really had much time to be in love, see.  I was young, but I’d never been stupid; all through high school I concentrated on lacrosse scholarships and good grades.  I went to one of those fancy-schmancy rich kid schools on scholarship—oh yeah, I was real promising in those days.  Girls were objects to rub ya the right way and make ya feel good after exams, or friends to help ya study, if you respected their brains.  I guess I was unique in that way—I only liked them if they had a good mind; if not, they were useless, trash for me to use and then crumple like a soggy tissue.  I guess I was kind of a bastard, but this story isn’t meant to call my morals into question.

There was one girl, Lisa, and man, she was a bunny.  Great legs, great tan, great breasts...oh, man, I’m tellin’ ya.  We had a fling once or twice.  She was head cheerleader and I was captain of the lacrosse team.  I felt it was my civic duty to uphold school tradition, so I had at it with…what do those Italians call it, gusto?  Yeah, what a great word.  Gusto.  Feels like a punch, or a grunt, or a thrust—skin on skin, a tumble of athletes’ legs on the splintered hardwood under the gym bleachers.  Funny story—I saw Lisa in a pinup section of Playboy my boys back home sent me on my first tour.  Not that any of my comrades would believe I’d scored her five times in school.

Anyway, I’m gettin’ off topic here.  So the pa my mama claimed was mine died back in the Second Great War, and even though there’s a four-year gap between my supposed conception in 1945 and my birthday in 1949, I never asked who my real pa was.  I worked really hard to get into a good college and make my mama proud, if only so she’d have some man to speak of without feeling shame.   Then, just a week before the “big game,” the one where coach was gonna bring some scouts from Stanford with him, I hurt my knee.  Twisted it up real bad—had to have surgery.  Not only did I lose my scholarship, but we lost the game, and here’s the real kicker—I didn’t apply anywhere else.  I had no idea what college to go to.  But, lucky for me, oh, man, lucky for me, my knee healed up like a champ.  A real medical miracle, the doc said.  It’s the good genes, my mama said.  Then, two weeks after the day I should have received my college acceptance packet and bought my twin-long sheets in a pale blue, I got the letter in the mail.

A few months later, I was learning how to handle a machine gun, running four miles a day for PT, and enduring cold showers, and Stanford, believe me, was the last thing on my mind.

--

“Man, what’d you do that for?  That chick was, like, so fillet,” said Billy back at the hospital, clapping me on the back and watching as Laura hurried down the hall, obviously humiliated.  We were both there to get physicals before we were sent to ‘Nam—me for my third tour, he for his second.

“What’re ya talkin’ like that for, man?  I mean, seriously, what the fuck is that?  ‘Fillet?’”  I laughed and started walking—Billy followed like a dog, the way I knew he would.  I heard his heavy, dark green boots clunk against the clean, white tile as he caught up—probably left tracks of mud that poor Nurse Laura’d have to mop up.  I chuckled to myself at the thought.  Like I said, I was a bastard.

“I heard somebody say it on Three’s Company, lay off.  Anyway, you say ‘man’ all the time, man.”  Billy was short and squat; he had to hop on every third step just to keep in stride with me.  But damn, that kid was strong.  He could lift three hundred easy.  Come to think of it, I should’ve had him carry my backpack as well as his.  Bogus, the things ya think of when they don’t matter anymore…

Luck would have it that I’d get the same nurse Billy did for my physical when they finally announced it was my turn.  Laura was pretty bunny—kinda pudgy, but pretty, with pink-tinged cheeks, too much lipstick, and long eyelashes.  “I’m sorry about this,” she said in what I’m sure she thought was a coquettish way.  “I don’t like shots, neither.”

My plan had been set from the beginning—I’d just have to change it up a bit, I reasoned.  Getting paired with Laura had actually worked to my advantage, I told myself.  I reached out a hand and stayed the needle from my arm.  “I’m not going to be gettin’ any shot, ma’am.”

“What?  Specialist, I’m required to give you this shot for all the malarias—”

“Laura—may I call ya Laura?”  I gave the nurse my best smoldering look from under my too-long hair they’d be chopping off any day now.  She nodded, looking dazed.  Too easy, I thought, and tried my best not to smirk.  “Well, see, this is my third tour—and a dude can’t be lucky through three tours, not when he has comrades fallin’ left and right and he’s on the front lines, ya know?  I was just wondering…if you’d like to spend some time with me.  Like, now, for instance.  Before I have to go.”

I could tell her resolve was shaken—her voice was weak when she said, “But…Mr. Bridges, I really have to give you this…”

“No,” I said, my blue eyes boring into her brown ones like I actually meant what I was saying.  “We need to go now.  While there’s time.  Come on, Laura.  Please.  For me.  One last time, being with someone I think I might…”  I let a pregnant, torturous pause build up in Laura’s eyes as they grew wider and wider with anticipation.  “…care about,” I finished, still staring at her, only now noticing that her pudgy cheeks were kind of … well, doughy.  Christ, I thought.  All this so I’ll get sick and die.

Laura swallowed.  “May I call you Lewis, Mr. Bridges?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I whispered in her ear, before I pressed my wide, firm lips to her gunk-covered, squashy ones.

--

“Fuck, man.  The only girls I’ve ever dated are Rosy Palm and her five sisters,” Billy was saying, his hands hanging between his open legs as we both sat in the hospital’s reception room, waiting for the bus to pick us up.  “And you manage to pick up such fillet girls.”

“That’s just raunchy, man.  No.  Just no,” I replied, touching my swollen lips.  I couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off!  I mean, what a bunny!  Nurse Laura ate it all up, even marked that I’d had my shot on my sheet when that needle hadn’t even touched my arm!

“Man, I still don’t understand why you didn’t just take the damn shot.  It wasn’t so bad, you know?”

“It wasn’t the shot, Billy—it was the principle of the thing.  What’s the point of getting a shot for some fever when it’s the moaning minnies that’re gonna kill us the first day, huh?”

Billy put his bottom lip between his teeth and began chewing.  In an impeded voice, he mused, “Well, when you put it that way, maybe I shoulda skipped the shot, too.”  He lifted up the band-aid on the meaty part of his right arm.  “Oh, grody.  Pus.  You know, I reckon you could probably do things with that brain of yours, you know?  Like, espionage.  Work for the fucking CIA.  James Bond all the girls, you know?”

I chuckled, and made my voice deep.  “Name’s Bridges.  Lewis Bridges.”

“That’s ace, man.  You should use it.”  A light came on in Billy’s head—it was like seeing a rat perk up after smelling food.  “But you gotta credit me.”

“Every time I say my name like James Bond I have to credit you?  That’s bogus, man.  I don’t know how I stand being your friend, fool that ya are.”

“Shut up,” he said like a sulking child, apparently unable to think of anything else.

“Smooth play, Shakespeare.”  I laughed until it abruptly cut off at the sound of someone saying, “Oh, face, man!” to my left.  “Huh?”  I whipped around and cricked my neck—ugh, why was Laura so damn short?  I was gonna be stiff for hours.

A girl stood there—looked maybe twelve—with long, dishwater blonde hair plaited in a braid that hung over her shoulder.  She had a bony face and freckles, with the most painful contraption I’d ever seen fastened to her teeth.  

“Ouch, man,” said Billy, rubbing his own set of not-so-pearly whites.

“Eh,” said the girl.  “They don’t hurt so bad.”

“Ya need somethin’?” I asked, stretching out my legs and putting my arm behind the seat—lounging, perfectly at ease with the world.  I hoped the kid would get lost, and fast.  I’d always hated children.  They were whiny, loud, and stupid.

“Yeah, actually.”  The girl flipped her braid to her other shoulder.  “I wanted to talk with you.”

“What about?” asked Billy, leaning around the arm that was tucked comfortably behind my head.  Yeah, let her harass Billy, I thought.  Get both of them off your back for a while.

The girl looked at Billy for a moment, considering, before turning back to me.  “No.  Just one of you.  You.”

“Me?” I grumbled, moving my arms from behind my head to rest on my knees.  “Why me?”

“Because, Private, I say so.”  She turned on her heel and walked a little ways off, swinging her hips, making me recalculate her age by a few years.  I raised my eyes at Billy, who shrugged, looking a little putout by the little girl’s rejection (what a muff), and followed the kid.

“Specialist,” I corrected with a grunt, towering over her five-foot-tiny with my six-foot-huge.

“What number are you on?” the girl asked, plopping down into an identical black chair to the ones me and Billy were sitting on—these were just on the other side of the room.  Cautiously, my eyebrows still raised, I sat as well.
"Number?  Number of what?"

"Tour, of course.  What other number would I care about?"

I had a dirty reply on the tip of my tongue, then remembered I was talking to a bossy little girl, not some bunny.  "I don't know," I growled, seriously getting annoyed before I realized she'd technically asked a question—no matter how convoluted a way.  "Three."

The girl whistled.  "Third tour.  Wow.  You came here for all your shots and shit?"

"Uh—yeah—right—hey, what're ya even doing here, anyway, talkin’ to me?  And who said you could say 'shit?'"

"No one said I couldn't, and anyway, I'm almost fourteen.  I'm a teenager.  We can say shit."

"Right."  My two raised eyebrows had reduced to one—but I was sure it would stay cocked up there for this entire peculiar conversation.  "So what are ya?  A general's kid, or something?  The way ya called me 'Private' like that, I'd have to assume ya got some military blood in ya or somethin'—"

"No relative of mine ever served in a war, at least not as his career, or by his choice.  I was just wondering—is this your career, or is this your choice?"

"Well—" I started, then stopped my mouth.  "Why the hell should I tell you?  Who are you?"

"I'm Jennifer Vigneault, and I just want to know, Sir.  Please?"  In that moment, she couldn't have been more than five years old, what with the look she was giving me.

"Well," I said gruffly, "All right.  Just...I dunno, stop staring at me, or somethin'.  I didn't come into the Army by choice—I was drafted, after I blew my ride to Stanford—”

Jennifer let out a long, low whistle.  "Damn.  Stanford.  You'd think you'd talk smarter if you were going to somewhere like that."

"Yeah, well, since I never did go, I figured I might as well talk as dumb as possible.  Then I'd fit in and be able to keep my head down, ya know?  I wouldn't have any friends at all if I talked like I used to.  Not even Billy over there."  I motioned with my thumb over my shoulder at my pudgy friend, and Jennifer's eyes followed it, quick as a whip.  "You're sharp yourself."

"I'm all right," was all she said, before pouncing on another question.  "So you’re still drafted?  On your third tour?"

"No," I said.  "Back a few years ago I figured if I was going to have to give up my career to be a military man, I might as well give it my all.  For the benefits and everything, ya know?  So I did.  I stayed in."  And it was the worst decision of my short, stupid life, how do you like that, little girl? I thought.

"Huh.  And now you're on your third tour."

"Yeah, okay, will ya stop repeating that?  It's grating on my nerves."

"You have a lot of pent up anger.  How does the war make you feel?"

"What—why—now, how am I supposed to answer that?  How do ya think it makes me feel?"

Her eyes bore into mine the same way mine had Laura's, only there was nothing sexual or manipulative in this gaze.  "I think you're scared," she said.  "And lonely.  A little sad, and a whole lot angry.  Is your mom at home?"

"Yeah, what's she got to do with anything?"

"Are you worried about her?"

"Naw, she's got her own life."

"Without you?  That must be tough."

"What are you, a psychoanalyst or somethin’?  What do you want, really?"

"I just want to understand how the war makes you feel.  What are your goals, after it's over?  Your dreams, aspirations... Do you want a family?"

"A family?  Look, kid, I—" I was saved the trouble of answering this touchy question by the Army bus coming to pick up me and my comrades—Thank god, I thought, rolling my eyes and turning away from Jennifer.

"Hey!  Specialist!" she called right before I'd reached the hospital entrance.

"Yeah?" I grunted; I didn't turn around, but my hand stalled on the door handle.

"What's your name?" she asked more softly, but I could hear her voice clearly.

"Name's Bridges," I said, a grin forming as my voice got deeper.  "Lewis Bridges."

"Talk to you later, Lewis," whispered Jennifer.

No chance in hell, I thought.

--

"What did the kid want?" Billy asked as he sat down next to me on the bus.  I'd tried to spread my leg out a little so it covered more than half the seat, but I didn't really want to deter him from sitting; I just didn't want him to think I wanted him to sit there.  Our relationship was a fine one, for sure.

"What kid?"

"The kid you were just talking to, man!"

"Oh, that kid.  Uh, I dunno.  She was some Flower Power hippie-chick.  Wanted me to say I didn't believe in the war effort."

"Not believin' in the war effort—you?  Pah!  You're the most patriotic dude I know!"

I pivoted in my seat to look at him.  "Billy," I said, astonished.  "Was that sarcasm?"

Billy smiled proudly and puffed out his chest.  "I've been practicin'."

"I've been rubbin' off on ya, huh?"

"No!" he said indignantly, snapping his suspenders against his chest, having just removed his army coat.  It was pretty hot on the un-air-conditioned bus; I removed mine as well.  "Shut up!"

"Smooth play, Shakespeare," I said for the second time in twenty minutes.  "Smooth play."

--

So I shipped out after my briefing.

The ship is, I swear to god, the same ship I departed on last time—the same exact fucking ship.  I can tell because I'm stuck in the same bunk.  I wrote my name on it last tour, convinced I wouldn't make it back and wanting to leave a little reminder of my existence, however petty.

PRIVATE LEWIS BRIDGES—
JUMP OFF THE BOAT WHILE YOU STILL CAN, SONNY


Ah, I was a good ol' time back then on my second tour.  I wasn't so optimistic as my first time in ‘Nam.

On my first tour, when I made that glorious decision, I figured the army was actually a good plan, seeing as I wasn't going to Stanford.  Yeah, folks.  I actually willingly stayed the fuck in.  Third Tour of Duty?  You think regular shits with their wits about them say yes when they’re asked to go on another tour?  Naw, man.  They only make you serve one.  The rest of them are reserved for the real idiots who get called “baby killer” when they get home to Byrnes Mill, Missouri, and feel like they deserve it.  For the guys who left their balls back in Nha Trang and welcome the spit hacked on their boots.  

They come back to ‘Nam with their guns slung over their backs like they're dragging a dead body along with them.  Or, in my case, a shitload of little dead bodies, their little fingernails dragging in the dirt behind me because there just wasn’t enough room on my back for them all.

I wasn’t as cynical as I was now, either, on my second tour.  See, then, the whole "death wish" thing was just a ruse to get respect among my comrades.
This time, it was the real deal.  I wasn't going to live through this one, even if I wasn't shot or blown up or diseased.  And Nurse Laura had taught me that I could get away with it—I was sure I wasn't special; I saw seventeen-year-old kids get killed left and right, up and down on my second tour.  This was after the Tet Offensive, when everyone thought they were gonna be let off easy.  You know, they’d come over, get their medals, get to be heroes, but never actually have to fight.  I mean, of course the Vietcong blew all their resources after that big show of theirs!  All we had to do was sweep in there, clean up the brain guts they left after shooting themselves in the head, and pretend like it was our doing!  Sounds like a plan, right?

No go.  The plan came shooting down like a moaning minnie on a hot n' humid Saigon day and exploded on half of those suckers’ heads as they ran for their cowardly, worthless little American lives with their tails between their legs and their arms over their heads.  It wasn't like I had any more idea what Charlie was capable of than they did, I just had no faith in what "everyone was saying," and knew that, over here?  Yeah, it can get a hell of a lot worse.  I just had to sit and wait.

So the third tour started off as a fuckin' trip.  I was having flashbacks all the time—Billy overreacted and said I should talk to Doc Alberts.  I told him that it was just all of this déjà vu messing with my head, and what would they do anyway if I complained about it?  Send me home and straight to the psyche ward, that's what.  I'd be stuck in there with a lot of psychos doped up on Thorazine and I'd be sitting there drooling all over myself just like them.  No, I was staying right where I was.

I felt...bored.  Not scared, not angry, not impatient for some action—not like all of the other soldiers.  I knew what would come, and I also knew how it was going to end—me, bleeding out of my head as consciousness slowly ebbed away, and all I could feel was the wet warmth enveloping me.  I hoped I'd be aware enough to die smiling—that'd be a real kicker for whoever carried my body off.

"What's he smiling about?  Do you think he's dreaming?" one soldier would say, moving to check my pulse.

"Naw, look, half his head is gone, idiot!  He's dead.  Musta...musta just been thinking about his girlfriend, or somethin'."

"Yeah..."  And then they'd carry me off, my knuckles dragging in the soggy dirt, just like the dead babies on my back, to my awaiting chariot—a shiny, black casket with a specially folded American flag, just for me.

I felt bored, that is, before I received my first letter.

--

Dear Mr. Bridges,

This is Jennifer Vigneault.  I don't know if you remember me—I was the girl who talked to you the day you were getting your shots in the hospital, do you remember?  I have long, blonde hair?

I think you remember.  Anyway, I asked around and found out what troop number you were in, and I already knew what rank you were from your badge—so here we are.

I'm going to be your pen pal!  Your anchor to the real world!  I think, in time, you'll find me a valuable and indispensable resource.

You can ask me about my life and tell me about yours - I'll sympathize as best I can, but as a girl, I don't think I'll ever get the chance to experience what you're experiencing first hand.  I’m not saying I’m jealous, but, man, I wish I could do something that intense.  I’ll never be a hero, not like you.

I'm in ninth grade, I'm fourteen, I want to be a pediatric doctor or a fashion designer or maybe one of those girls who waves the flags at NASCAR games (that's what my mom did when she met my dad, and my dad's a good guy—my grandma says I'll be lucky to get a husband as good as my daddy, but then again, I don’t have much of a figure yet) but I don't know, really.

I can’t wait for your first letter!

Jennifer Vigneault


--

That little girl actually got up and stalked me?  That’s all I could think—she looked up what troop number I was in—in Saigon, Vietnam—and wrote me a letter.  Asking me to be her pen pal.  I crooked my head around and saw Riley writing to his wife and kids back home—“Hey, could I borrow a sheet of that?  No, no, just one sheet, thanks.”

--

Dear Miss Vigneault,

I don't remember giving you permission to contact me.  Please stop writing—I have plenty of people writing, namely my mother and my GIRLFRIEND, Lisa.  I don't need nine-year-olds, too.

Cordially,

Specialist Lewis Bridges


--

Ha, take that, little girl!  No, Lisa wasn’t my girlfriend.  She was that bunny I’d left behind in high school.  But this Jennifer Vigneault didn’t know that—she’d probably nursed a little crush on me and now would feel heartbroken and leave me alone, I thought, indulging myself.  Yeah, she probably thought I was one slick guy when she first met me, all dapper and tall.

Perhaps, even then, she did think I was slick—but she was never the type to be heartbroken without a fight.

To be continued in Part Two...
Say hello to 3,981/17,195. :aww:

I took *ThornyEnglishRose's advice and am splitting it into 3,000-5,000 word chunks so it's easier to digest, and so you can have more specific areas to give critique on, if you so choose to help me.

Let me know what you think as I go along!

Inspired in part by Billy Joel's song "Goodnight Saigon," where the piece got its working title.

Part Two - [link]
Part Three - [link]
Part Four - [link]
Part Five - [link]
:iconthornyenglishrose:
This is a very promising start. You capture the voice really well, and you've definitely got me interested.

A couple of suggestions for improvement. In my experience, all the best works of fiction never mention dates. Historical stories capture the time period through the descriptions and events, and the experiences of the characters and such. I think you could easily do the same thing - and I think you already are, certainly from the appearance of the nurse Laura onwards.

Before that, your narrator tells us he was supposedly conceived in 1945 and born in 1949. I think you should take those years out. Most of us know when the 'second Great War' was, and mentioning it gives us an idea of when he was born and, if we think for a second, the time in which the young adult he becomes is telling this story. You can (and should) still point out the four-year gap between conception and birth. We'll know roughly when it was, but mentioning exact years just makes it a bit too stark, and I think takes away from the atmosphere and sense of time you build up in the narrative.

It seemed to take me a long time to make that one point! I do just have a couple more. One is that the tone of the narrative voice seems to change a bit from beginning to end. It remains colloquial and conversational, but we don't see many phrases like 'fancy-shmancy' and 'I'm tellin' ya' towards the end. I do prefer the later tone - the first few paragraphs perhaps feel a bit over-stated.

I would also like to suggest that the expression 'bunny' is a tad over-used. Contemporary slang is great, but this one comes up a lot, and you don't want your readers to get annoyed with it.

This is only a small point, but I did trip up on the description of Laura. He describes her as 'kinda pudgy, but pretty'. As a rule, chubbiness in the sixties wasn't generally considered that unattractive, from what I gather. Marilyn Monroe was a size sixteen (a UK size sixteen - in the US it's a couple of numbers down, I think). Everyone has different tastes, and perhaps this character does prefer very thin women (he is going to fall in love with a fourteen year old, after all). But there was a very modern feel around that little description for me. Then the makeup, and your description of her voice, gave me a real impression of both the time period and her character - they seem to sit much better in the narrative than the reference to her size.

The joy of historical fiction is, for me, the author's ability to capture the time period. You are writing in one of the most famous and memorable time periods ever. I see from this that you can do it brilliantly, if you just clean up a few things here and there.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
10 out of 10 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconkira73:
Hey there. First off, congrats on winning Bekkia’s contest. You win a crit from me. Wheee...

I crit line-by-line, like I’m editing my own work, not just giving my opinion like a beta would. My thoughts/suggestions are in caps and brackets. I hope it doesn’t confuse. Let me know if you have any questions.

These are only my opinions. It’s up to you to take what you need from them.

~~~

I was in love once. Her name was Jennifer, and she was fourteen.

I was twenty at the time and had that whole scruffy, gonna-start-a-ruckus look-the nurses [eyed me beadily...HUH? FUGLY ADVERB ALERT AND I’M NOT EVEN SURE IT’S EVEN A WORD. MAYBE JUST SAY ‘GLARED AT ME WITH BEADY EYES’?], but beneath their disapproving [LOOKS] [DELETEgazes...GAZE IS A VERB WITH MORE OF A POSITIVE CONNOTATION AND YOU DON’T WANT THAT HERE] were throes of desperate, not-gettin’-any passion. I would know; one named Laura who’d been making sure my comrade Billy pissed in his cup right headed me off on my way to the jon. I told her no[,] thanks; I hadn’t seen her wash her hands and Billy had no aim.

I hadn’t really had much time to be in love, see. I was young, but I’d never been stupid; all through high school I concentrated on lacrosse scholarships and good grades. I went to one of those fancy-schmancy rich kid schools [DELon scholarship]-oh yeah, I was real promising in those days. Girls were objects to rub ya the right way and make [ya...FINE FOR INTERNAL THOUGHTS AND DIALOGUE, BUT USING YA INSTEAD OF YOU DURING THE REST...YOU’RE COMMITTED TO DOING IT THE REST OF THE STORY WHEN YOU’RE IN HIS HEAD. JUST MHO. I LIKE THE VOICE HERE, THOUGH] feel good after exams, or friends to help ya study, if you respected their brains. I guess I was unique in that way-I only liked them if they had a good mind[.][DEL;] if not, they were useless, trash for me to use and then crumple like a soggy tissue. I guess I was kind of a bastard, but this story isn’t meant to call my morals into question.[..]

[IMO, A PERFECT PLACE TO START THE STORY. ALL THE REST OF THIS INTRO CAN BE ADDED IN LATER]

There was one girl, Lisa, and man, she was a bunny. Great legs, great tan, great breasts...oh, man, I’m tellin’ ya. We had a fling once or twice. She was head cheerleader and I was captain of the lacrosse team. I felt it was my civic duty to uphold school tradition, so I had at it with…what do those Italians call it, gusto? Yeah, what a great word. Gusto. Feels like a punch, or a grunt, or a thrust-skin on skin, a tumble of athletes’ legs on the splintered hardwood under the gym bleachers. Funny story-I saw Lisa in a pinup section of Playboy my boys back home sent me on my first tour. Not that any of my comrades would believe I’d scored her five times in school.

Anyway, I’m gettin’ off topic here. So the pa my mama claimed was mine died back in the Second Great War, and even though there’s a four-year gap between my supposed conception in 1945 and my birthday in 1949, I never asked who my real pa was. I worked really hard to get into a good college and make my mama proud, if only so she’d have some man to speak of without feeling shame. [Then], just a week before the “big game,” the one where coach was gonna bring some scouts from Stanford with him, I hurt my knee. Twisted it up real bad-had to have surgery. Not only did I lose my scholarship, but we lost the game, and here’s the real kicker-I didn’t apply anywhere else. I had no idea what college to go to. But, lucky for me, oh, man, lucky for me, my knee healed up like a champ. A real medical miracle, the doc said. It’s the good genes, my mama said. [Then], two weeks after the day I should have received my college acceptance packet and bought my twin-long sheets in a pale blue, I got the letter in the mail. [CAREFUL WITH TOO MUCH ‘THENS’]

A few months later, I was learning how to handle a machine gun, running four miles a day for PT, and enduring cold showers, and Stanford, believe me, was the last thing on my mind.

[NOT SURE IF HEARING THIS GUY’S LIFE STORY OFF THE BAT IS RELEVANT TO PLOT. IT COMES OFF AS POINTLESS RAMBLING TO ME RIGHT NOW, BUT I’M CRITTING AS I READ. I WOULD RATHER BE THROWN INTO THE PLOT FIRST THEN GET MY BACKSTORY FED TO ME WHEN IT’S NEEDED, BUT IT’S NONETHELESS AN INTERESTING START. HIS VOICE IS CRASS AND I REALLY LIKE THAT.]

--

“Man, what’d you do that for? That chick was, like, so fillet,” said Billy [back at the hospital...WERE WE SOMEWHERE ELSE BEFORE?], clapping me on the back and watching [WHO OR WHAT?] as Laura hurried down the hall, obviously [humiliated...WHO WAS HUMILIATED? “Man, what’d you do that for? That chick was, like, so fillet.” Billy clapped me on the back as he watched Laura hurry down the hall, who was obviously humiliated from the furious blush she wore beneath her white nurse’s cap....IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU WORD IT, OTHERWISE WE HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS DOING WHAT ACTION.] We were both there to get physicals before we were sent to ‘Nam-[-...NEED THE EM DASH, NOT A SINGLE OTHERWISE IT LOOKS LIKE NAM-ME. IT THREW ME FOR A SECOND, BUT IT’S STILL EARLY AND COFFEE IS NEEDED :giggle:]me for my third tour, he for his second.

“What’re ya talkin’ like that for, man? I mean, seriously, what the fuck is that? [I WAS WONDERING THE SAME THING. MAKES THE POOR CHICK SOUND LIKE DEEP-FRIED FISH] ‘Fillet?’” I laughed and started walking [WHERE?]

[NEW PARAGRAPH]Billy followed like a dog, the way I knew he would. I heard his heavy, dark green boots clunk against the clean, white tile as he caught up-probably left tracks of mud that poor Nurse Laura’d have to mop up. I chuckled to myself at the thought. Like I said, I was a bastard.

“I heard somebody say it on Three’s Company [I LOVE THAT SHOW], lay off. Anyway, you say ‘man’ all the time, man.” Billy was short and squat; he had to hop on every third step just to keep in stride with me. But damn, that kid was strong. He could lift three hundred easy. Come to think of it, I should’ve had him carry my backpack as well as his. Bogus, the things ya think of when they don’t matter anymore…

Luck would have it that I’d get the same nurse Billy did for my physical when they finally announced it was my turn. Laura was pretty bunny-kinda pudgy, but pretty, with pink-tinged cheeks, too much lipstick, and long eyelashes.

[NEW PARAGRAPH]“I’m sorry about this,” she said in what I’m sure she thought was a coquettish way. “I don’t like shots, neither.”

My plan had been set from the beginning-I’d just have to change it up a bit[DELETE, I reasoned...IF WE ARE IN HIS HEAD, WE CAN ASSUME THIS]. Getting paired with Laura had actually worked to my advantage[DEL, I told myself...SAME HERE]. I reached out a hand and stayed the needle from my arm. “I’m not going to be gettin’ any shot, ma’am.”

“What? Specialist, I’m required to give you this shot for all the malarias-[-]”

“Laura-may I call ya Laura?” I gave the nurse my best smoldering look from under my too-long hair they’d be chopping off any day now.

[NEW PARA]She nodded, looking dazed.

[NEW PARA]Too easy, I thought, and tried my best not to smirk. “Well, see, this is my third tour[DEL-] and a dude can’t be lucky through three tours, not when he has comrades fallin’ left and right and he’s on the front lines, ya know? I was just wondering…if you’d like to spend some time with me. Like, now, for instance. Before I have to go.”

I could tell her resolve was shaken[.][DEL-] her voice was weak when she said, “But…Mr. Bridges, I really have to give you this[--][DEL…]”

“No,” I said, my blue eyes boring into her brown ones like I actually meant what I was saying. “We need to go now. While there’s time. Come on, Laura. Please. For me. One last time, being with someone I think I might…” I let a pregnant, torturous pause build up [WHILE] [DELin] Laura’s eyes [DELas they] grew wider and wider with anticipation. “…care about,” I finished, still staring at her, only now noticing that her pudgy cheeks were kind of … well, doughy. Christ, I thought. All this so I’ll get sick and die.

Laura swallowed. “May I call you Lewis, Mr. Bridges?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I whispered in her ear, before I pressed my wide, firm lips to her gunk-covered, squashy ones.

--

“Fuck, man. The only girls I’ve ever dated are Rosy Palm and her five sisters [LOL!],” Billy was saying, his hands hanging between his open legs as we both sat in the hospital’s reception room, waiting for the bus to pick us up. “And you manage to pick up such fillet girls.”

“That’s just raunchy, man. No. Just no,” I replied, touching my swollen lips. I couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off! I mean, what a bunny! Nurse Laura ate it all up, even marked that I’d had my shot on my sheet when that needle hadn’t even touched my arm!

“Man, I still don’t understand why you didn’t just take the damn shot. It wasn’t so bad, you know?”

“It wasn’t the shot, Billy-[-]it was the principle of the thing. What’s the point of getting a shot for some fever when it’s the moaning minnies that’re gonna kill us the first day, huh?”

Billy put his bottom lip between his teeth and began chewing. In an impeded voice, he mused, “Well, when you put it that way, maybe I shoulda skipped the shot, too.” He lifted up the band-aid on the meaty part of his right arm. “Oh, [grody...I REMEMBER THAT WORD, ALTHOUGH WASN’T IT MORE OF AN 80’S VALLEY-GIRL SPEAK?]. Pus. You know, I reckon you could probably do things with that brain of yours, you know? Like, espionage. Work for the fucking CIA. James Bond all the girls, you know?”

I chuckled, and made my voice deep. “Name’s Bridges. Lewis Bridges.”

“That’s ace, man. You should use it.” A light came on in Billy’s head[.][DEL-]it was like seeing a rat perk up after smelling food. “But you gotta credit me.”

“Every time I say my name like James Bond I have to credit you? That’s [bogus...SAME HERE...IT SEEMS TOO OUT OF PLACE], man. I don’t know how I stand being your friend, fool that ya are.”

“Shut up,” he said like a sulking child, apparently unable to think of anything else.

“Smooth play, Shakespeare.” I laughed until it abruptly cut off at the sound of someone saying, “Oh, face, man!” to my left. [DEL...JUST BECAUSE IT’S UNCLEAR WHO SAYS IT AND IMO IS NOT NEEDED ANYWAY BECAUSE OF HIS IMMEDIATE REACTION“Huh?”] I whipped around and cricked my neck-[-]ugh, why was Laura so damn short? I was gonna be stiff for hours.

A girl stood there-[-]looked maybe twelve-[-]with long, dishwater blonde hair plaited in a braid that hung over her shoulder. She had a bony face and freckles, with the most painful contraption I’d ever seen fastened to her teeth.

“Ouch, man,” said Billy, rubbing his own set of not-so-pearly whites.

“Eh,” said the girl. “They don’t hurt so bad.”

“Ya need somethin’?” I asked, stretching out my legs and putting my arm behind the seat-lounging, perfectly at ease with the world. I hoped the kid would get lost, and fast. I’d always hated children. They were whiny, loud, and stupid.

“Yeah, actually.” The girl flipped her braid to her other shoulder. “I wanted to talk with you.”

“What about?” asked Billy, leaning around the arm that was tucked comfortably behind my head.

[NEW PARA]Yeah, let her harass Billy, I thought. Get both of them off your back for a while.

The girl looked at Billy for a moment, considering [SOMETHING], before turning back to me. “No. Just one of you. You.”

“Me?” I grumbled, moving my arms from behind my head to rest on my knees. “Why me?”

“Because, Private, I say so.” She turned on her heel and walked a little ways off, swinging her hips, making me recalculate her age by a few years.

[NEW PARA]I raised my eyes at Billy, who shrugged, looking a little putout by the little girl’s rejection (what a muff), and followed the kid.

“Specialist,” I corrected with a grunt, towering over her five-foot-tiny with my six-foot-huge.

“What number are you on?” the girl asked, plopping down into an identical black chair to the ones me and Billy were sitting on-[-]these were just on the other side of the room.

[NEW PARA]Cautiously, my eyebrows still raised, I sat as well.

"Number? Number of what?"

"Tour, of course. What other number would I care about?"

I had a dirty reply on the tip of my tongue, then remembered I was talking to a bossy little girl, not some bunny. "I don't know," I growled, seriously getting annoyed before I realized she'd technically asked a question-[-]no matter how convoluted a way. "Three."

The girl whistled. "Third tour. Wow. You came here for all your shots and shit?"

"Uh-yeah-right[.][DEL-] hey, what're ya even doing here, anyway, talkin’ to me? And who said you could say 'shit?'"

"No one said I couldn't, and anyway, I'm almost fourteen. I'm a teenager. We can say shit."

"Right." My two raised eyebrows had reduced to one[DEL-] but I was sure it would stay cocked up there for this entire peculiar conversation. "So what are ya? A general's kid, or something? The way ya called me ';Private' like that, I'd have to assume ya got some military blood in ya or somethin'[DEL-]"

"No relative of mine ever served in a war, at least not as his career, or by his choice. I was just wondering[...][DEL-] is this your career, or is this your choice?"

"Well[...][DEL-]" I started, then stopped my mouth. "Why the hell should I tell you? Who are you?"

"I'm Jennifer Vigneault, and I just want to know, Sir. Please?" In that moment, she couldn't have been more than five years old, what with the look she was giving me.

"Well," I said gruffly, "All right. Just...I dunno, stop staring at me, or somethin'. I didn't come into the Army by choice[.][DEL-] I was drafted, after I blew my ride to Stanford[.][DEL-]”

[THIS WOULD BE WHERE YOU’D INTRO HIS BACKSTORY TO STANFORD]

Jennifer let out a long, low whistle. "Damn. Stanford. You'd think you'd talk smarter if you were going to somewhere like that."

"Yeah, well, since I never did go, I figured I might as well talk as dumb as possible. Then I'd fit in and be able to keep my head down, ya know? I wouldn't have any friends at all if I talked like I used to. Not even Billy over there." I motioned with my thumb over my shoulder at my pudgy friend, and Jennifer's eyes followed it, quick as a whip. "You're sharp yourself."

"I'm all right," was all she said[DEL,] before pouncing on another question. "So you’re still drafted? On your third tour?"

"No," I said. "Back a few years ago I figured if I was going to have to give up my career to be a military man, I might as well give it my all. For the benefits and everything, ya know? So I did. I stayed in." And it was the worst decision of my short, stupid life, how do you like that, little girl? I thought.

"Huh. And now you're on your third tour."

"Yeah, okay, will ya stop repeating that? It's grating on my nerves."

"You have a lot of pent up anger. How does the war make you feel?"

"What-why-now, how am I supposed to answer that? How do ya think it makes me feel?"

Her eyes bore into mine the same way mine had Laura's, only there was nothing sexual or manipulative in this gaze. "I think you're scared," she said. "And lonely. A little sad, and a whole lot angry. Is your mom at home?"

"Yeah, what's she got to do with anything?"

"Are you worried about her?"

"Naw, she's got her own life."

"Without you? That must be tough."

"What are you, a psychoanalyst or somethin’? What do you want, really?"

"I just want to understand how the war makes you feel. What are your goals, after it's over? Your dreams, aspirations... Do you want a family?"

"A family? Look, kid, I-[-]" I was saved the trouble of answering this touchy question by the Army bus coming to pick up me and my comrades[.][DEL-] Thank god, I thought, rolling my eyes and turning away from Jennifer.

"Hey! Specialist!" she called right before I'd reached the hospital entrance.

"Yeah?" I grunted[.][DEL;] I didn't turn around, but my hand stalled on the door handle.

"What's your name?" she asked more softly, but I could hear her voice clearly.

"Name's Bridges," I said, a grin forming as my voice got deeper. "Lewis Bridges."

"Talk to you later, Lewis," whispered Jennifer.

No chance in hell, I thought.

--

"What did the kid want?" Billy asked as he sat down next to me on the bus. I'd tried to spread my leg out a little so it covered more than half the seat, but I didn't really want to deter him from sitting; I just didn't want him to think I wanted him to sit there. Our relationship was a fine one, for sure.

"What kid?"

"The kid you were just talking to, man!"

"Oh, that kid. Uh, I dunno. She was some Flower Power hippie-chick. Wanted me to say I didn't believe in the war effort."

"Not believin' in the war effort[?][DEL-] you? Pah! You're the most patriotic dude I know!"

I pivoted in my seat to look at him. "Billy," I said, astonished. "Was that sarcasm?"

Billy smiled proudly and puffed out his chest. "I've been practicin'."

"I've been rubbin' off on ya, huh?"

"No!" he said indignantly, snapping his suspenders against his chest, having just removed his army coat. It was pretty hot on the un-air-conditioned bus; I removed mine as well. "Shut up!"

"Smooth play, Shakespeare," I said for the second time in twenty minutes. "Smooth play."

--

So I shipped out after my briefing.

The ship is, I swear to god, the same ship I departed on last time-[-]the same exact fucking ship. I can tell because I'm stuck in the same bunk. I wrote my name on it last tour, convinced I wouldn't make it back and wanting to leave a little reminder of my existence, however petty.

PRIVATE LEWIS BRIDGES-
JUMP OFF THE BOAT WHILE YOU STILL CAN, SONNY

Ah, I was a good ol' time back then on my second tour. I wasn't so optimistic as my first time in ‘Nam.

On my first tour, when I made that glorious decision, I figured the army was actually a good plan, seeing as I wasn't going to Stanford. Yeah, folks. I actually willingly stayed the fuck in. Third Tour of Duty? You think regular shits with their wits about them say yes when they’re asked to go on another tour? Naw, man. They only make you serve one. The rest of them are reserved for the real idiots who get called “baby killer” when they get home to Byrnes Mill, Missouri, and feel like they deserve it. For the guys who left their balls back in Nha Trang and welcome the spit hacked on their boots.

They come back to ‘Nam with their guns slung over their backs like they're dragging a dead body along with them. Or, in my case, a shitload of [little] dead bodies, their [little] fingernails dragging in the dirt behind me because there just wasn’t enough room on my back for them all.

I wasn’t as cynical as I was now, either, on my second tour. See, then, the whole "death wish" thing was just a ruse to get respect among my comrades.

This time, it was the real deal. I wasn't going to live through this one, even if I wasn't shot or blown up or diseased. And Nurse Laura had taught me that I could get away with it[.][DEL-] I was sure I wasn't special; I saw seventeen-year-old kids get killed left and right, up and down on my second tour. [This was after the Tet Offensive, when everyone thought they were gonna be let off easy. You know, they’d come over, get their medals, get to be heroes, but never actually have to fight. I mean, of course the Vietcong blew all their resources after that big show of theirs! All we had to do was sweep in there, clean up the brain guts they left after shooting themselves in the head, and pretend like it was our doing! Sounds like a plan, right?... THIS GUY’S RAMBLING AGAIN AND LOSING ME.]

No go. The plan came shooting down like a moaning minnie on a hot n' humid Saigon day and exploded on half of those suckers’ heads as they ran for their cowardly, worthless little American lives with their tails between their legs and their arms over their heads. It wasn't like I had any more idea what Charlie was capable of than they did, I just had no faith in what "everyone was saying," and knew that, over here? Yeah, it can get a hell of a lot worse. I just had to sit and wait. [HERE TOO. MAYBE TRY CONDENSING THIS DOWN A TAD? OR RIDDING IT ALTOGETHER IF IT ISN’T RELATIVE TO PLOT.]

[BACK TO THE PRESENT?] So the third tour started off as a fuckin' trip. I was having flashbacks all the time[.][DEL-] Billy overreacted and said I should talk to Doc Alberts. I told him that it was just all of this déjà vu messing with my head, and what would they do anyway if I complained about it? Send me home and straight to the psyche ward, that's what. I'd be stuck in there with a lot of psychos doped up on Thorazine and I'd be sitting there drooling all over myself just like them. No, I was staying right where I was.

I felt...bored. Not scared, not angry, not impatient for some action-not like all of the other soldiers. I knew what would come, and I also knew how it was going to end-[-]me, bleeding out of my head as consciousness slowly ebbed away, and all I could feel was the wet warmth enveloping me. I hoped I'd be aware enough to die smiling-[-]that'd be a real kicker for whoever carried my body off.

"What's he smiling about? Do you think he's dreaming?" one soldier would say, moving to check my pulse.

"Naw, look, half his head is gone, idiot! He's dead. Musta...musta just been thinking about his girlfriend, or somethin'."

"Yeah..." And then they'd carry me off, my knuckles dragging in the soggy dirt, just like the dead babies on my back, to my awaiting chariot-[-]a shiny, black casket with a specially folded American flag, just for me.

I felt bored, that is, before I received my first letter.

--

Dear Mr. Bridges,

This is Jennifer Vigneault. I don't know if you remember me[.][DEL-] I was the girl who talked to you the day you were getting your shots in the hospital, do you remember? I have long, blonde hair?

I think you remember. Anyway, I asked around and found out what troop number you were in, and I already knew what rank you were from your badge-[-]so here we are.

I'm going to be your pen pal! Your anchor to the real world! I think, in time, you'll find me a valuable and indispensable resource.

You can ask me about my life and tell me about yours[.] [DEL-] I'll sympathize as best I can, but as a girl, I don't think I'll ever get the chance to experience what you're experiencing first hand. I’m not saying I’m jealous, but, man, I wish I could do something that intense. I’ll never be a hero, not like you.

I'm in ninth grade, I'm fourteen, I want to be a pediatric doctor or a fashion designer or maybe one of those girls who waves the flags at NASCAR games (that's what my mom did when she met my dad, and my dad's a good guy[.][DEL-] my grandma says I'll be lucky to get a husband as good as my daddy, but then again, I don’t have much of a figure yet) but I don't know, really.

I can’t wait for your first letter!

Jennifer Vigneault

--

That little girl actually got up and stalked me? That’s all I could think[.][DEL-]she looked up what troop number I was in-[-][DELin] Saigon, Vietnam[-]-and wrote me a letter. Asking me to be her pen pal. I crooked my head around and saw Riley writing to his wife and kids back home[.][DEL-] “Hey, could I borrow a sheet of that? No, no, just one sheet, thanks.”

--

Dear Miss Vigneault,

I don't remember giving you permission to contact me. Please stop writing[.][DEL-] I have plenty of people writing, namely my mother and my GIRLFRIEND, Lisa. I don't need nine-year-olds, too.

Cordially,

Specialist Lewis Bridges

--

Ha, take that, little girl! No, Lisa wasn’t my girlfriend. She was that bunny I’d left behind in high school. [THIS IS WHERE YOU’D INTRO THE BACKSTORY ON LISA]

[NEW PARA]But this Jennifer Vigneault didn’t know that[.] [DEL-] she’d probably nursed a little crush on me and now would feel heartbroken and leave me alone, I thought, indulging myself. Yeah, she probably thought I was one slick guy when she first met me, all dapper and tall.

Perhaps, even then, she did think I was slick[,][DEL-] but she was never the type to be heartbroken without a fight.

To be continued in Part Two...

~~~

I like this a lot. Lewis’s sarcastic voice makes me laugh. I really like him, even if he’s a bastard. :giggle:

Not too much to point out, and there were only two main issues I had.

1. The easy thing--your dashes. You use them a lot. Sometimes in places where another (or no) punctuation is needed. And when they are, they should be emdashes -- two not one. :icondarcknyt: did a wonderful news article on em dashes and ellipses if you want to take a look at it... [link]

2. The backstory. This started out with it, which is not a bad thing at all if it’s just a little and if it’s called for at the time. Here it was a bit TMI. You hit us with it, almost like you were trying to get it out of the way. It was kinda like having to eat all your broccoli before the steak. You suffer through it when you’re dying to dig into the meat. Most of your backstory you could, and IMO--should--have stuck it in when you introduced the concepts. And when you do go into the backstory parts, be careful of his rambling... it really slows the pace down and deflects from the story.

Anyhoo, I hope I didn’t offend. Take what you need. :hug:
KM
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
1 out of 1 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

Please sign up or login to post a critique.

:iconahavati:
Ahavati Featured By Owner May 26, 2009  Professional General Artist
Looking forward to Part Two. I have a feeling 'Jennifer' isn't the type to give up...
Reply
:iconwaltz-with-me:
Waltz-With-Me Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2009
Hahaha. *just sits back and smiles* I look forward to your reaction. :heart:
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconwaltz-with-me: More from Waltz-With-Me



More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
May 23, 2009
File Size
26.3 KB
Mature Content
Yes
Thumb

Stats

Views
634
Favourites
6 (who?)
Comments
2