Going Home

For our last story of 2012, we're going out with a bang. Literally. (Of course "literally"; we're a goddamn crime fiction site. How many of our stories don't have guns?)

Lee Lincecum stops by to prove ain't no atheists in foxholes. Oh, wait...

Going Home by Lee Lincecum

I shot a kid in ’68 when I was damn near a kid myself. See, in them days, the gooks weren't above using children for soldiers. And for the most part the kids went along with it, thinking they'd be heroes to their country for killing an American imperialist pig. It was the damndest thing I ever saw. Twelve-year-olds with rifles. Little bastards knew how to use them, too. In the U.S., they wouldn't even be old enough to drive a car, but here they could break down and reassemble an SKS like nobody's business. If you had asked me before I got drafted if I'd ever kill a child, I probably would have whipped your ass just for thinking it.

We were just out west of Da Nang on routine patrol on the day it happened. I was in with the 25th infantry, so "patrol"slang for roaming the countryside and killing any goddamned thing that moved was pretty much all we did. The fire came like it always did in Nam, quick. One minute you're off in lala land thinking about how much you miss mama's chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and slipping your dick in that redheaded Connor girl from church, the preacher's daughter, no less; next thing you know, the whole world's gone to hell. God just opened up the sky and took a thousand 7.62mm shits on your parade.

Your buddies are dropping four and six at a time, you've done been hit with so much blood-spray you can't even be sure whether you're the one bleeding. All you hear is folks hollering “Medic!”, and twelve o'clock fire, and two o'clock fire, and nine o'clock fire, like some damned clock bleeding to death somewhere can't make up it's mind what time it is. The whole raging shitstorm lasts thirty, maybe forty-five seconds. Then it gets real quiet. After that there's more gunfire, but that goes away gradually, as the rest of what's left of your platoon walks through the rice paddy finishing off survivors.

Now somehow or another, there's always another gook or two or three that somehow don't get hit. So they just lay there, real quiet, and wait. And that's how it happened to me. I got to my knees and wiped the blood and mud out of my eyes, then got to my feet. I start walking the direction we were headed before the firefight broke out, and wouldn't you know it, I get ten steps from where I stood up and the little son of a bitch popped up out of the rice and took a shot at me. I didn't even think, I just leveled my M14 to my shoulder and fired once, and he went down. I walked over two him real slow, looked down and kicked his rifle away from him. That's when I saw he couldn't have been no older than my little brother, who was thirteen that year.

He was lying there wheezing and coughing up blood, trying to say something. The same damn gook word over and over. I thought maybe he was trying to pray. When I saw how young he was, I felt truly sorry for what I done. But it was done. I knelt down and held his hand. I'm sorry, I said to him. I am truly sorry this happened to you. I am so sorry. I figure he didn't have but a few minutes left, and I could not bring myself to shoot him again, so I just left him there. I figured God would answer his prayer. Maybe that word was mercy. A few steps back I heard Jimmy say my name. Almost a whisper.

Bill. Bill I got hit.

Oh, Jimmy. Oh no, man.

Jimmy was lying there, wheezing and coughing up blood, trying to say something. He couldn't get out much but the same words over and over. My name, and I want, I want, I want my mommy. I saw this a hundred times or more in Nam. Grown men, men killing men and boys, and when it's their time to go, they all say the same thing. They all say they want their mommy. I knelt down and held one of his hands with mine, put the other on his forehead. I went to basic with Jimmy and he was from the same part of East Texas I was from and we had got to be real good friends. And this was the best I could offer my friend who was lying there dying, crying for his mommy; hold his hand and say it's okay, you're going home buddy, till he finally bled all the way out.

I walked back over to the boy, still lying there wheezing, coughing up blood, saying that same damn gook prayer word over and over. His age didn't matter to me no more. For all I knew, he fired the bullet that killed my friend. I pulled my sidearm and shot him between the eyes. Then I emptied the magazine into him for good measure.

Somebody told me later that the gooks were atheists and don't pray, and what the boy was saying while he was lying there dying was the gook word for mother.

Lee Lincecum has been writing poetry and short fiction for over fifteen years. Published here and there on the web, he is currently working on his first novel. Lee is thirty-two years old and lives in Texas