"18th August, 1959. Day's been going by restlessly. A woman clad in Ao-Dai lit up Delta Company's boys like a 4th of July cracker, fucked 'em real good, I'll say. They were stood on the Eastern side of Firebase Ember and the attack came as it always did, without a sound. Thunders from the Jungle really hit them hard. Seven dead in eight seconds flat. Efficient, but that's all I'll give the Charlies credit for. Two started bawling their eyes out, one even complained that the grenade had taken her fingers clean off. Never found her index or ring finger. Guess she isn't getting married now.
And what was I doing when this all went down? Always the same. Downing yet another flask just really hit that itch today. I knew it was going to be a bad day, I just didn't know it was going to be that bad. Later that morning the artillery boys thumped sixteen shells over the horizon. I counted them all. Probably supporting the Armoured Patrol that went out last week, probably. When the gunfire first started on that Eastern side I did all I could. Grabbed something dangerous and joined the first responders. Some fired sporadically into the bushes, hoping to just catch her off guard. Sounded like something hit her on the way out though, bit of unknown blood was left behind. Well, with some luck she'll bleed to death, or maybe catch an infection or three. I'd feel bad if she didn't fucking deserve it.
As always, it's been well over the year. Every morning I tell myself that. One year. One whole-fuckin'-year stuck in some country I should give a shit about, but don't. Every page of this whole journal probably says that at some point. Don't care though.
Weber got hit badly by the grenade. Gonna miss his cooking. His eyes were bloody and his skin was stained with mud, steel and whatever inside juices found from the buddy stood next to him. Always found it weird how the German got my hopes up, considering the last great war. When they brought him past me on a stretcher he looked fuming, spreading language so foul even I fear writing it down, just in case 'Ma' reads this someday. Either way, the chances of him making it are low, obviously finite. Asked the CO to send word if he survives and to never mention him again if he doesn't. Later on the rest of his platoon fought over the scraps of his latest meal. Took the sauerkraut from the now sour Kraut. I'd laugh about it if his stomach wasn't torn open.
Don't know what I'll do for the rest of the day. Most of the people I'd talk to get killed last month anyway. Might visit Saigon, might just go on a patrol, maybe if I'm lucky I'll find someone to kill. As always, if this is the last page taken from my corpse, tell Dad I love him."
And at last, Lucas tucked his pen back into his left breast pocket. Was it nearly out of ink? Probably. He didn't care, he could have just swiped another from whichever greenhorn came to replace the recently deceased. They'd become his form of currency. Most of them were easy to scavenge by when his eyes were turned to the correct places. Five months before a local officer stationed nearby was fragged by his men, all of whom were charged heavily with the bullets of those who caught them. Lucas didn't know the guys, instead he grabbed the pens from the aftermath of it all. A pen without ink gave him anxiety. Anxiety was something that instilled discomfort within his head. Discomfort usually led to a lack of focus. And when his focus found itself in shadows he'd find himself never being found again, sprawled across the bedding of nearby fauna. Thinking about losing his last pen took his mind away from a place of reconciliation. Lucas promptly closed his journal and tied it back up, placing it back into his flock of personal belongings. Now out of sight, Lucas returned to the real world, the gritty and distinctively more ghastly one rather than the one written on paper.
Somewhere nearby, the same radio played the same popular song requested by the same platoon in a different part of Vietnam. Johnathon Rogers' distinctive voice would occasionally break in between songs, throwing in a quip or two to help alleviate the men and women in green, easing in that reminder of what the American homeland sounded like. Four hours felt like four weeks and four days felt like four years. Home was a distant memory. Home was not really a concern anymore. To some of the soldiers scattered around Firebase Ember, the war had no threat to the United States, except for the men and women sent in to deal with it. Lucas didn't remember where he stood, or what he believed in, and took each day slowly, with a rifle in one hand and a flask in the other. Life wasn't always that miserable for him. Sometimes the other infantrymen would get him to play a round of baseball with them, or have a large sing-along to whatever terrible songs they all found utterly hilarious. When Weber was around they'd occasionally chant old Germanic war songs, in jest of course. Weber always found their awful German dialects to be hilarious. Lucas sometimes did too.
There were many things that Sergeant Whittaker had been expecting that day. More artillery shells or another attack were some of the lesser important ones. On his mind mostly was the apparent arrival of a reporter, a war correspondent of sorts, being attached to his very squad, or what was left of it. Those under Whittaker's command were loosely spread in every direction. Corporal Mucker had always been by his side since the last eight months had passed. Lucas would've been grateful if he didn't find him insufferable to work with. Some other names he barely remembered filled up some other boots: Hilton, Granger, Murdoc, Bishop and Bolton. Five men, two women. It was barely a squad anymore. If the war correspondent were to be attached to the Sergeant's accompaniment, then Lucas only hoped that they knew how to handle a gun if they really wanted to take some good photos. To him, a good photo was one taken by a photographer who hadn't been killed yet.
Occasionally, the woman in Ao-Dai came back to his mind. Hatred followed. Or was it genuine fear? He didn't know. He didn't want to see another woman like that. An old part of himself would've hoped she'd made it back to her home alive. Lucas instead swore for her death to at least come quickly before she split another skull open. Why she attacked the Firebase was beyond his understanding. No one ever truly understood the enemy, that was what made them so demonic.
"Ey, Lighter, you got one?" And just as the spawns of hell answered his stray thoughts, he turned up to add to the day's shortcomings. "Murdoc told me to suck it when I asked for her one."
Slipping his helmet by his side, Lucas too one clear look at his interceptor. Corporal Alfred 'Mucker' Muceroni. Fogged up on each lens, Lucas could barely see the man's eyes beneath his spectacles. Mundane and barely changed, his uniform still somehow retained an original pristine sharpness to it. Creases were few in numbers and its muddy complexion had been washed out through hard work and a general waste of time, at least in Lucas' eyes. The GI held out a hand, gesturing for his Sergeant to hand him his own lighter.
"Would you be surprised if I told you to suck it, too?" Deadpan in his glare, Lucas waited for his Corporal's response. He seemed to withhold his confidence, stepping back as if shocked to hear his crude and impolite Sergeant crack out yet another insignificant answer to the insignificant problem. Before Mucker could say much, Lucas smirked to himself before looking into his pockets for a few seconds. "Where is your own lighter, Corporal?"
"I don't know, Sergeant." Even in his formal responses, Lucas couldn't help but be slightly annoyed by his presence. He quickly challenged his lack of knowledge with a raised eyebrow, quietly slotting his gaze into Mucker's dishonest pupils. In his silent interrogation, the nearby shudder of Huey blades soared across the valley and the arrival of a few truckloads of soldiers revamped the awkward inactivity of the Firebase. "A-Alright, I lost it whilst I was doing the last cleaning round..."
How this man had survived eight months in Vietnam was beyond his understanding. What also baffled Lucas was how the man was a Corporal. The aforementioned Murdoc would've made a better candidate. Rough, hardheaded and easy to lend a hand if lives were at risk, she was the sort of squadmate that Lucas enjoyed having around. She wasn't exactly a conversationalist though, much like the rest of their merry band. In a minor way, he hoped the arrival of the replacements, nearby grunts, approaching war correspondent or anyone yet to be acquainted was going to strike up a conversation he desperately wanted. Besides, the day would end quicker for him. Worst case scenario, he always had the brothels of Saigon if the day truly was that dull.
"You're really wasting your time, Corporal. Not even the officers care if you look like a rat's ass. Stop losing stuff." Lucas tossed Mucker his own personal lighter, letting him quickly light his own cigarette before him. Once the Corporal had settled his qualm, he handed it back and stood there, puffing away desperately for that ashy release. "Anyway, can you go tell Murdoc we aren't going on patrol today? I've gotten us moved to tomorrow. Need another day's rest."
"Really?" Mucker perched up, straightening his back and letting a smile slip through his miserable tone. "Glad to hear that. Each day we spent out of the trees the better. Can't stand the shi-"
"If you're going to break into another monologue you can go stand over there where I can't hear or see you, thanks." Mucker looked to where he pointed, sighting the nearest officer's tent layered with hundreds of radio communcations equipment. The Corporal frowned yet he still submitted to the request of departure. Quietly, he nodded and walked off, muttering a small ounce of gratitude towards Lucas sharing his lighter. Personally, Lucas didn't think he was a bad guy, but rather just one who wasn't suited for the war. There was the greenhorns, the protesters, the draft dodgers, the volunteers, the veterans and the hardasses who didn't see anything as morally questionable. Mucker was stuck in the mindset of a GI bound with pride, at least in the sense that if he copied the mannerisms of some Napoleonic NCO maybe he'd be seen as efficient. The guy could barely shoot, at least when he was needed to. Lucas was sure that Mucker hadn't even killed a single Charlie since their reassignment to one another, whilst Lucas had counted each of the nineteen he'd put down in combat. Specifically the ones that were in combat. Sometimes he refused to count the ones from executions or fleeing from arrest. Sometimes he liked to pretend they were never really there in the first place, as if to keep a state of mind worth holding on to.
With the song on the radio coming to a close, Lucas switched his sights on to his surroundings, hearing the remaining Huey's land. Far above the sky, two Hardy aircraft flutter on ahead towards some other engagement, far off beyond Firebase Ember's reach. If he wasn't going to have any rest or relaxation in the base itself, he was prepared to move to Saigon for the remainder of the sunlit hours. Until that decision came forward, he simply sat down and took yet another sip from his flask, helmet by his side and eyes drifting across the landscapes he seemingly never got tired of, despite the fear of them. Another thump of an artillery gun shook the floor. Lucas smiled to himself, muttering in a croaked response.