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The Second Tour (TST)

The Second Tour
The Second Tour, by Terry P. Rizzuti
Category: Literary Fiction; War Fiction
Second-Edition Paperback: 220 Pages
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-906755-21-8
Publisher: Spinetinglers Publishing

 

AUTHOR’S SUMMARY

This is a literary novel written in the Modernist tradition that explores the full range of the human condition, everything from the ultimate altruism (guys charging machine gun nests to save their buddies) to the ultimate evil ( guys killing innocents because they enjoy it). It’s a story about a two- or three-year-old Vietnamese girl whose murder haunts the narrator. And it’s a story about that narrator, a low-level Marine, about his descent into spiritual darkness and his life-long struggle to regain some semblance of a meaningful life.

 

ACADEMIC ADOPTIONS

The Second Tour has been adopted for coursework at the following academic institutions:

The US Air Force Academy, by Dr. Wilbur J. Scott, professor of behavioral sciences, for his course titled Military & Society. The book is a case study of PTSD in the making, and is used in his course section called “Aftermath.” Dr. Scott is author of the book Vietnam Veterans Since the War: The Politics of PTSD, Agent Orange, and the National Memorial;

George Washington University by Dr. Marshall Alcorn, professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Studies, for his graduate course titled Literature & Medicine, and his graduate course titled English 4040: Honors Seminar. Dr. Alcorn also taught TST in the March 2012 monthly-held book group at The Washington Psychoanalytical Institute in Washington, D.C.;

Regis University in Denver, CO, by Dr. Tom Bowie, professor of English and director of the Honors Program, and Dr. Dan Clayton, professor of history and director of the Center for the Study of War Experience, for their interdisciplinary course titled Stories From Wartime; and

The University of Kentucky, by Dr. Peter Berres, professor emeritus of political science, for use, previously, in an interdisciplinary course titled Vietnam: The Interplay of War & Culture. The course was offered in the University’s Discovery Seminar Program, a premier offering for undergraduate students along with the Honors Program.

 

AUTHOR’S PERSONALLY SELECTED EXCERPTS

Hill 602 took three lives the first time.  Took Tommy Baker’s lower jaw too.  I couldn’t look him in the eyes that saw so clearly through all of us to the horror we saw in his mangled face.  No teeth bestowed upon him the look of a man made wizened with age.

__________

It was a round between the eyes, I think, because as I yelled in his face, it disappeared, replaced with a blood geyser and the sound of a .41 millimeter.  His legs slid apart slowly at first, then crumbled in the true Cartesian split.

__________

Rootie!  Rootie!  Come closer Rootie.

I’m here, Benjie, I’m here, I said, clasping his hand on my arm.

Help me Rootie, my legs won’t move.

Aw Benjie, it’ll be okay Benj, I’ll give you mine.

__________

Our voices turned to whispers and our countenances to shame.  We left as murderers, our tails between our legs, but it would happen again, inevitably, and each will take his memories to the grave.  Life’s a bitch — and then you die.

__________

It was December, and I was thinking about how miserable Christmas was going to be.  The air was cold, my teeth were chattering, the chow sucked.  Chow?  C-ration leftovers from World War II.  The issue date on my box was 1944.  This was 1966.  We were smoking twenty-year-old cigarettes.  Eatin’ meals older than we were.

__________

A foreboding shiver skittered the length of my backside, suddenly, from the top of my shoulders to the base of my spine.  Scared, I dropped to one knee followed by the seven others behind me and began surveying my senses.  Couldn’t hardly see a thing.  Only the rain made sound, splashing off wet leaves.  The familiar but rank body odor rose from deep inside my flak jacket and hovered about lip level, a smell not unlike musty mothballs mixed with mentholated sweat.  I took a deep breath, sucking in the combined faint odor of burning leaves and betel juice.

__________

Her smile vanished, displaced by fear, more fear than she’d probably ever known in her life.  It was my turn to smile then, and I took advantage of the power laughter has over weakness.  The 26th Marines took heavy casualties at Khe Sanh during Tet in January 1968, and I wasn’t there to help them, but I’d be damned if I’d lose this war on the home front.  I let out an evil laugh and stepped lively into the rain.  It’s so easy to be a hero, I thought, when your weapons are loaded with blanks.

__________

She was stomping her foot, prancing like a white mare.  Her mouth was moving.  She was saying something urgent, lots of something urgents.  I could sense that much.  But nothing seemed urgent anymore.  You wanna know what it was like?  I thought.  Huh? I’ll tell you what it was like.  Nam wasn’t real.  Not when I was there.  Now it’s real.  Now I can think about things like why we were there, what we were trying to prove to ourselves, why we did some of the things we did.  I have time now to sort back through it all:  the dead, the dying, the barbarism, the atrocity, through everything I can remember to help make sense of it.

__________

His name was John Blue and he had a chip on his shoulder — in fact, he once told me he’d rather fight than fuck.  I believed him, yet there he was looking as though someone had stomped his ass bad. I couldn’t imagine that ever happening. Blue was a twenty-five-year-old full-blood reservation-raised Blackfoot who hated people, but for some reason liked me.  All he said, practically without even stopping to say hello, was If you’re ever driving so drunk you see three bridges up ahead, don’t take the one in the middle.

__________

Nine men’s not enough, said Wiskey, never looking up from cleaning the big gun.  I looked at him curiously, wondering what motivated him to say that. C-More looked at him funny, too, and sensed he was losing control of the squad.  Square away, he said.  You dudes call yourselves Marines or Swabbies?  We owe ‘em.  We owe all the others, like JB and Bursar and Seldom and Benjie and Lugar.  Remember Lugar, Rootie, remember man?  They blew the back of his goddamn head off. Stuffed his balls in his mouth and then sewed it shut.  Remember man? Them muthers hung him by the thumbs from a fuckin’ tree.

__________

C-More screamed CHARGE suddenly and the whole squad moved out quickly, zigging and zagging and diving in holes and behind trees, spraying the area like fire fighters, chunks of lead and M-79 rounds exploding on impact.  I leapt up too, then fell back down, jerked by Benjie’s tight hand on my arm. I looked at his swollen face, watched it turn ashen and then bluish purple as he held his breath fighting the pain and the inevitable, his whole head bloating out, then caving in quickly as his breath rushed out loud.  Tears shot out my eyes I remember, rocking back on my heels looking straight up.  Arrrrrrrr…… I clenched and screamed, but the wind swept the sounds to the mere decibels of silence.

__________

Charles Stricklyn is dead. With him are Watson, Wiskey, and Murphy. Everyone asks “Why Rizzuti? Someone upstairs must like him. But why him?”  I don’t know why but I’ve got to know.  Something’s got to tell me.  I say something cause  nothing human can tell me.  The guys all think I lead some kind of charmed life. They hang around me like I’m a lucky piece, a Saint Christopher medal or something.  Can you believe that?  People are dying all around me, and these dudes think I’m lucky.  It’s raining outside this leaky tent; artillery is firing and enemy mortar rounds are splashing in the mud.  Why don’t I take cover?  Cause I don’t give a damn.  I don’t give a damn about anything.  It just don’t mean nothin’ no more.

__________

I moved toward the front, one step at a time, slowly past staring eyes as frightened as my own, then froze solid again as Baker’s and mine locked in instantaneous telepathy.  I looked away quickly, but not before registering one life-lasting color photo of his mutilated face, torn off from the nose down, shredded flesh oozing blood and saliva, dripping like melting cherry icicles, splattering off his flak jacket and boots, his eyes wild and glossy like someone speaking in tongues, his arms and shoulders limp, his hands wringing frantically at rosary beads, his sunken life’s essence hurling toward total completion — He knew it — I knew it — God knew it — everyone and everything abandoning him on this, the afternoon of  his supreme and inevitable day.

__________

McKlusky, plastered, was funnier than shit as usual.  Six foot seven, about 240 pounds, he looked like a genetic throwback to more primitive times, the kind of guy who’d wipe his ass on a tree trunk if he didn’t have no toilet paper, just back right up to it and rub up and down on the bark.

__________

She hadn’t looked back.  I moved my eyes toward the window as their shadow passed by and then parted my lips.  I opened my mouth to yell, to call her back, to tell her what Nam was like, but no sound came out, only a tremble and then a tear and then several tears and then convulsions followed by silence and that haunting single thought I’m alone again, I’ll always be alone.  I know now it could never have worked out.  I think I knew then I’d never see them again.

__________

I’ve come so far.  To have it all end my last two months seems so meaningless — so much in vain.  I can’t die now; it doesn’t make sense; I’ve got too many things to do.  And yet death looks so close.  It’s staring us all in the face like so many clouds.  I can’t stand it.  Everybody else is so new.  Half of them have never even been shot at.  They’re all boots, boots! Do you know what that means?  It means they’re all gonna be looking for me to tell them what to do, to show  them.  I can’t show them, not anymore.  I can’t show them without becoming some sort of John Wayne.  And yet if I don’t they’ll think I’m a coward. I’m not a coward, but it’s time to play safe.  It’s time to come home, but they’re all so innocent.  They haven’t even lost their baby fat yet.  I can’t let them down.  I just can’t.

__________

It was important to us in Nam to always be men, to be brave no matter the cost.  One of the most difficult things we faced was tight-rope walking that delicate ground between caution and cowardice.  NOBODY wanted to be a coward, yet nearly everyone wanted to stay alive without having to be too brave either.  It wasn’t enough to just keep going; courage couldn’t be found in the mere act of putting one foot in front of the other.  Difficult as that was, we never really felt like we had any choice.  And some things were just so intrinsically expected of you, like going out under fire after the dead or wounded; doing them didn’t make you a hero even though not doing them made you a coward.

__________

Another problem was that fine line that separates fear from rage.  Sometimes fear rose to such uncontrollable, such unbelievable levels, suppression and sublimation only succeeded in converting it to anger — anger at your own blindness for placing yourself in such a predicament in the first place; anger at your country’s Madison Avenue sales approach to the military lifestyle; anger at the gung-ho lifers who don’t give a shit about anything except their own career advancements; and anger at the Viet Cong for providing what seems at the time like the only legitimate means of dissipating that rage.  By the time I was down to EIGHTY DAYS I lived seconds away from a breakdown I felt certain was coming.

__________

Raven had his M-79 tucked up under his right arm like a shotgun.  His .45 was in his left hand.  He charged that .51 caliber nest Chesty Puller reincarnated, John Wayne himself, blooping and blasting and reloading one-handed like nobody and nothing I’d ever seen.  His eyes were huge and bulging out like they’d pop any second, his mouth spread tight and wide, his teeth bared, his throat growling and gurgling and spitting and all the time alternately firing the .45 and the M-79.