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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 @#%$--ya
hear me--”!
As WEASEL looked out into the lengthening shadows of late
afternoon, a plan was forming behind his rodent looking
eyes.
He knew that FARMER was mortally wounded--that he had no
intention of staying here with FARMER--’be he live or be he
dead’--the faintest hint of a smile flashed across WEASEL’s
ugly features as he thought of the giant in JACK IN THE
BEANSTALK . WEASEL’s developing plan was to wait until
twilight dusk and then to head back the way the patrol had
come and then on into friendly lines. WEASEL run a quick
tally of his ammunition--always use a few more
magazines--didn’t weigh much--he’d gather some from over the
berm or take FARMER’s --and those frag grenades that
FARMER had on his web gear--he sure as hell won’t need them
WEASEL surmised. “Water---water--” the weakening crys
from FARMER was pathetic--WEASEL ignored the pitiful
beggings. He mused in his mind what if he were the one
plastered
against the craters side--in FARMER’s place--what would
FARMER do for him. WEASEL promptly put those thoughts
aside--’who really gives a big rats ass’, WEASEL muttered
aloud--”ain’t a good day fer dyin’ anyhow”.
WEASEL suddenly made up his mind--he was going to
‘boogie-out’. He turned toward FARMER who was still begging
for
water and morphine--WEASEL had made up his mind he was going
to claim the three fragementation grenades that
FARMER had secured to his web gear. “[email protected]#%$”, 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
 
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