THE RAT

Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by Guest, Feb 25, 2003.

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    J. Wilborn
    Posts: 27
    (2/8/01 3:46:57 pm)
    Reply THE RAT
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    The rat-faced PFC’s head popped up over the top of the muddy
    berm, then ducked down. The berm was an irregularly
    shaped mound of dirt that was symmetrically distributed all
    around the top of a water-soaked bomb crater. His head
    popped up again--black, rodent looking eyes, furitively
    scanning the moonscape looking wasteland--then ducking down
    again. The man’s breathing was raspy and wheezing--the
    terrible concussion that had ended the brief firefight had

    knocked the breath out of his lungs. He had laid inside the
    crater for a number of minutes fighting to regain his
    breathing.
    The RPG round that the dink solider had rocketed off in the
    heat of the rifle fire had caused a secondary detonation of
    some
    sort--an dud artillery round, the war head on an unexploded
    aerial bomb--whatever--it was one hellv’a blast. It had
    hurled
    the PFC and another squad member up and over the berm into
    the muddy, stagnant chasm. The other man everyone
    called FARMER was spreadeagled against the angled side of
    the crater--stuck there like an insect onto flypaper.
    Either an
    errant fragment from the grenade or one of the AK-47 rounds
    had cleanly sliced across his stomach--both his canteens
    were spewing water from sharpnel holes punctured in
    them--his muddy hands were attempting to push his glistening

    intestines back into the gaping wound. His mumblings were
    incoherent--the gray ashen coloring proclaimed either a
    state
    of shock or perhaps that death was near.
    Throughout his entire life the rat-faced PFC had been able
    to sense things--it was talked about among the squad members

    as something almost supernatural. WEASEL was what the men
    called him--the rodent looking appearance--his nose, eyes,
    and teeth---even his attitude enhanced the name. He usually
    walked the point on patrol--he could sense booby-traps, trip

    wires, Claymores--he didn’t make a big deal of it--none of
    the troops liked WEASEL--WEASEL just didn’t like anyone at
    all.
    WEASEL no longer sensed danger outside the berm--he didn’t
    go up and down like a chipmunk looking out of his hole now,
    but peered over the top out onto the horrible scene. The
    camouflaged scraps of American uniforms and mounds of human

    remains were mixed and shredded with the greenish-brown
    scraps of the NVA soliders uniforms and their respective
    mounds of torn and tattered flesh. WEASEL’s continued stare
    at the ghastly scene was interrupted by strengthened calls
    from FARMER--”water---water---please WEASEL--gimmee a drink
    of water”. Without even turning his head, WEASEL
    uttered a caustic threat to FARMER--”you dumb
    bastard--you’re gutt-shot--water is gonna drain right
    through--plus you ain’t
    got no damn water--that friggin’ bomb blew holes in your
    ‘teen and you sure as hell ain’t gonna get any of my water”.

    The patrol out this time had been a ‘short squad’ --only
    two fire teams instead of the full three---they called these
    patrols the
    ‘poop and snoop patrol’--nothing aggressive---no ambush--no
    capture to interrogate--the men looked on it as something to

    do. There were times when the VC and NVA put out the same
    kind of probes--just something to do. That may have been
    what happened this day--two probing patrols had bumped into
    one another much by chance--the tell-tale cough and burps
    of the AK-47’s---the more rapid chattering noise of the
    M-16’s--and then one of the dinks had cranked off the RPG
    round--that seeming to cause the terrific secondary blast.
    WEASEL and FARMER seemed to be the only suvivors--it may
    take several hours before a reinforced squad would be sent
    to look for them.
    FARMER was still stuck in the same position--hands
    continuing to push at his intestines--suddendly he groaned
    and
    screamed-- ”aaahhhaaa---damn it WEASEL--you gotta give me a
    drink--and I gotta have some morphine WEASEL--my
    gutts hurt worse than gettin’ kicked in the crotch---gimme a
    shot of ‘morph’ WEASEL--please---I hurt so bad”.
    “Ya ain’t gettin no ‘morph’ ya dumb bastard--you’re
    dying--can’t ya tell that--it’d just be a waste--I’ll mark a
    big ‘M’ on your
    forehead and they’ll think I give you a shot of the @#%$--I
    kin get fifty bucks for a tube back at base---and quit tryin
    to stuff that
    @#%$ back in that hole--yer gutts are slick as @#%$ and
    they just keep a poppin’ out--stop it now, you dumb @#%$--ya
    hear me--”!
    As WEASEL looked out into the lengthening shadows of late
    afternoon, a plan was forming behind his rodent looking
    eyes.
    He knew that FARMER was mortally wounded--that he had no
    intention of staying here with FARMER--’be he live or be he
    dead’--the faintest hint of a smile flashed across WEASEL’s
    ugly features as he thought of the giant in JACK IN THE
    BEANSTALK . WEASEL’s developing plan was to wait until
    twilight dusk and then to head back the way the patrol had
    come and then on into friendly lines. WEASEL run a quick
    tally of his ammunition--always use a few more
    magazines--didn’t weigh much--he’d gather some from over the
    berm or take FARMER’s --and those frag grenades that
    FARMER had on his web gear--he sure as hell won’t need them
    WEASEL surmised. “Water---water--” the weakening crys
    from FARMER was pathetic--WEASEL ignored the pitiful
    beggings. He mused in his mind what if he were the one
    plastered
    against the craters side--in FARMER’s place--what would
    FARMER do for him. WEASEL promptly put those thoughts
    aside--’who really gives a big rats ass’, WEASEL muttered
    aloud--”ain’t a good day fer dyin’ anyhow”.
    WEASEL suddenly made up his mind--he was going to
    ‘boogie-out’. He turned toward FARMER who was still begging
    for
    water and morphine--WEASEL had made up his mind he was going
    to claim the three fragementation grenades that
    FARMER had secured to his web gear. “Yuck-@#%$”, WEASEL
    exclaimed as he drew near to the spread-eagled FARMER,
    “don’t want to touch that bloody, muddy @#%$--yuck”, WEASEL
    muttered again.
    In a matter of the next few minutes, things that had
    developed, would be forever changed. When WEASEL grasped
    the frag
    grenade, he had been squatting on the slippery, muddy
    slope along side of FARMER--when WEASEL slipped on the mud
    and lost his footing, he also lost his grip on the blood
    slippery grendade--a popping sound of the pin and spoon
    being
    released from the grenade was like an ‘end-of-the-world’
    sound for WEASEL--and it was to be exactly that.
    The loose and armed weapon flew clear across the crater and
    landed with a thud. In a micro-second, WEASEL had flung
    himself in the prone position--the lingering scream of one
    tormented, tearing away in his throat. When he had thrown
    himself into the prone to escape the tiny missles kill
    zone, he had litterly sheltered FARMER’s body with his
    own. The
    blast of the deadly hand grenade drove WEASEL’s body down
    against FARMER’s-- and held him there. The shudderings
    and twitchings that had torn at WEASEL’s skninny frame
    ceased--then WEASEL’s limp and lifeless form slid down into
    the
    craters bottom--like a discarded banana peel.
    “I’m sorry WEASEL”, moaned FARMER--”what a shitty way to buy
    the farm”. FARMER’s last plaintive declaration was
    interrupted by a loud American voice “HEADS-UP---HOLD YOUR
    FIRE--HOLD YOUR FIRE--CHARLIE THREE SQUAD
    COMIN’ IN--HOLD YOUR FIRE”!
    The reinforced CHARLIE THREE SQUAD set up a hasty defense
    perimeter around the scene of carnage--the litter bearers
    and the corpsman tended to FARMER, all the while amazed that
    he had survived when all the others had perished in such
    a hellish manner. Not more than fifteen minutes after the
    outgoing radio request, a medi-vac chopper showed up on the
    scene and FARMER was on his way to Delta Med at Dong Ha.
    Weeks later the word got back to the troops that FARMER had
    gone out to the hospital ship REPOSE--from there onto
    medical facilities in Japan and eventually, to full and
    complete recovery in the Veterans Hospital near his Boston
    home.
    FARMER was one of those rare people God creates often by
    either design or intent--as far as FARMER was concerned his
    life had been spared for some unexplained reason--his
    benefactor that day had been WEASEL--for all FARMER was ever

    able to discern, WEASEL had sheltered FARMER’s torn and
    wounded body with his --that he had absorbed that grenade
    blast with his body--the ultimate sacrifice. What were
    those words FARMER been told by that well meaning Chaplain
    in
    Japan--let’s see now--how did that saying go:
    GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR
    ANOTHER---.
    FARMER thrilled at the sound of those glorious words. In
    his heart he had thanked WEASEL more often than he could
    remember. Years later when FARMER was doing volunteer work
    at the local Red Cross Chapter in Deedam, Mass, a
    person unknown to FARMER had uttered those GREATER LOVE HATH
    NO MAN---words. FARMER still thrilled --his heart
    seemed to just swell to the bursting point--and he
    remembered his friend WEASEL with the most intense of human
    emotions.


    A story by John H. Wilborn