Extracts torn from forgotten books
Whatever Happened to Your Bright Eyes, Johnny?
by Lloyd Langford
They had been on patrol 50 clicks north of the Mekong when it happened. Hazlewood, a quarterback from Lubbock, Texas, had been scouting up ahead. When they found him, he was hanging from a tree, his feet still dancin’ to a tune only he could hear. And then the humid stillness exploded, like a bratwurst that hadn’t been sufficiently pricked. It was a demonic wall of sound, as if Phil Spector had turned down the Ronettes in favor of two dozen Asian psychopaths armed to their clicking teeth with Russian machine-guns. Amid the gunfire and grenades, 19-year-old Johnny Moses could pick out muffled orders barked in a strange unfamiliar language, as if he was sat too close to the kitchen in a foreign restaurant. Johnny was completely unprepared, like a beekeeper min a sombrero. Most of the platoon were just kids, fighting a war they didn’t believe in for those starch suited sons-of-bitches in Washington. Hell, Johnny didn’t have no problem with no Vietcong. Or no double-negatives. To his right, Billy Jenkins was yelling as he emptied his M60 into the dense undergrowth.
“I know I’m goin’ to heaven, Johnny, cause I’ve already been to Hell!” he cackled, bloodshot eyes wild with a heady mix of testosterone, Napalm vapor and too much Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Johnny closed his own eyes, wishing he was back on the farm in Virginia. He missed Mary Beth, and the way her curly, blonde hair used to nestle on her thigh. He missed her cherry-red lips and forthright nipples. He couldn’t wait to see her again; to lift her up
off her feet and kiss her passionately. She’d promised to save herself for him and her memory was one of the few things keeping him sane.
At that very moment, some 8,000 miles away, Mary Beth was being vigorously penetrated by his brother, Chuck.
“Bang!” A grenade awoke him from his reverie. Billy’s leg was gone. “You get the slant-eye that did that, Johnny!” Billy cried, spitting snot, blood and hatred into Johnny’s
The enemy voices were getting louder now. Johnny wasn’t sure how many rounds he had left. Where was the rest of the platoon? This was it. The end. Suddenly a huge figure was looming over them.
“On your toes, soldier! You ain’t been black-bagged just yet!” It was Colonel Franks. Bullet-headed, grenadeballed Franks. “This ain’t no thing!” he screamed. “We’re gonna be tag-teaming pussy Saigon-side by 0800!”
Some of the boys said Franks had been at My Lai. They reckon he had some Polaroids in his kit that could make your eyes bleed. Johnny stared at him. He had that ‘Nam tan’: a face that had seen too much death and rape and overly broad stereotyping and just didn’t care a damn anymore. Johnny was just glad the sonofabitch was on his team, as he was madder than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
“I’ve made the call!” yelled Franks, lifting the groaning Billy up and throwing him over his shoulder, cauterizing the leg wound with his cigar. “Our birds’ll be droppin’ the death treacle any minute. We gotta get out of this goddamned rat trap!”
With that, the Colonel threw Johnny over his other shoulder and ran full tilt toward Gook Town, fending off the enemy with a deft combination of gunfire, invective and wild, confident swinging of Billy’s severed leg. As Johnny clung helplessly to the Colonel’s backpack, he got a grandstand view of the airstrike ripping the jungle apart, the trees dancing a death jig, just like poor old Hazlewood. Johnny felt a different type of fire well up inside him. It was for Hazlewood, for Mary Beth, for Billy’s leg. He was angry now. And a lot of people were going to pay.
This Lost Chapter was loaned to us with the kind permission of Mustard Magazine.