Silver and Golden Christmas Falls (Part 4)

They drank some more and Jared stoked the fire.

“I was an embassy Marine,” said Wayne.

“Shit. Those guys were bad ass,” said Jared.

“I was in Saigon for exactly 17 days and then we left in a hurry.”

“I don’t get it. Seventeen days? Were you wounded?”

“Kind of. To this day I don’t know what it was that nicked me.”

“So what happened?”

“You don’t know the story of the American embassy in Saigon at the end of the war?”


Of course Jared didn’t. That’s why America and their Masters of War keep getting into useless wars that send expendable Americans to shatter, die, and raise the stock market. About the only progressive change is that now America sends women and trans soldiers to shatter and die as well.

“You look up stuff on your phone?” said Wayne.

“Yeah,” said Jared.

“Then look up fall of Saigon.”

Jared whipped out his phone. He hadn’t touched it all day.

A few seconds later he was watching the last helicopter on the embassy roof and Marines loading South Vietnamese civilians into it. It was the last seconds of a unique American folly and ended in deadly farce.

“This is insane,” said Jared.

“I’m up there.”

“Point you out.” Jared held out the phone to Wayne.

“I can’t. I tried once on the computer at the library. A kid had to help me. But I can’t spot myself. We all look alike up there in the panic.”

Jared put the phone away.

“I was the third to last American soldier alive to leave Vietnam,” said Wayne.

“You in touch with any of those guys in the video?” said Jared.

“No. I got home, mustered out, came back here, got disability, made the paper, and never wanted to see anyone connected to Vietnam again.”

“I’m not sure what to say. In my war you would have been a hero.”

“I’m glad I wasn’t and all that ‘Thank you for service’ bullshit I hear around town at car wash and the grocery store.”

“You don’t think it’s genuine?” Jared had heard it ten million times since his return from Iraq.

“If Americans wanted to thank me for my service…then don’t keep going to fucking war and sending back fucked up Americans.”

“I don’t really think about that.”

“Maybe you should. Look what America sent back with you.”

Wayne regretted instantly he’d said such a thing. But he didn’t apologize.

Jared didn’t respond. His answer was to crack open another can of malt liquor. Wayne poured another mug of Carlo Rossi.

“So what about you in Iraq?” said Wayne.

“I’ll give you the short version,” said Jared, “because I’ve told it to doctors and therapists a thousand times.”

“Did that help?”

“No. They prescribed pills and sent me to more therapists and here I am.

“I didn’t see a single therapist and here I am, too.”

They laughed. The fire popped and shot up sparks.

“We were going house to house looking for insurgents,” said Jared. “We had some intelligence. It was wrong. There was an explosion. Friendly fire. My ear drums blew out. I started firing and killed some kids. They gave me a citation of valor and partial disability for hearing loss and I was through. I came home a hero, got a friend from high school pregnant, and then fell apart. Two drunk driving convictions. I tried the VA in Portland.”

“Did you ever go into rehab?”


“The last time I walked away and kept going until I hit the coast.”

“Do the pills help?”

“Does the wine?”

“It’s something to do.”

“But at least you’re working the lot and have a farm.”

“Jared, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing besides sitting right here with you and Chief.”

“Well, it seems like a good life.”

Wind rattled the canopy. Rain drops hissed in the fire. Wayne slugged wine and Jared slugged malt liquor.

“Jared,” said Wayne, “why don’t you stick out the season and work for me. God knows I need the help. I’m getting too old to do it all.”

“I’d like to, but I am afraid I’ll fuck up with the pills and alcohol.”

“You’ll fuck up.”

“I’m not violent or anything like that.”

“I know. I’ll pay you $500 for the month and feed you breakfast and dinner. You’re on your own for lunch. When you fuck up, we’ll deal with it.”

“Okay. I hope this isn’t charity.”

“You’re going to work hard and live in a shed. You’re going to eat fart stew every night and sometimes play nice with Coos Bay assholes. That’s not charity.”

They shook hands. It was the first time either one of them had shook hands in a long while. There was still something to it.