I haven't entered anything on my blog for some time. Recently, I began working in a writers group at the VA. This is my first story since I have worked with the group.
I'm in one of the mortar platoon's sand bag bunkers that Viet Cong armor piercing rocket propelled grenades have partially collapsed. The VC had hit us with a company size attack around 2:00 AM. They've breached our defensive perimeter and, since the beginning of their attack, they've hit us and the Vietnamese village we secure with mortar and RPG rounds. We continue to take small arms fire. Since a few minutes after the attack, I've been going to positions on the perimeter helping wounded and sending them back to "dust offs," medevac helicopters.
In the bunker, one light bulb hangs from a horizontal metal ceiling support. The bulb is connected to a thin wire. The light it sheds gives the inside of the bunker a dim glow. Dust hangs in the air giving that glow a reddish, eerie hue. At the RPG rounds explosion, parts of the walls and ceiling have fallen and cascaded down partially burying one man in a pile of sand filled bags. The pile is to the left of and near the bunker door. Wounded are moaning.
The upper torso of this young man protrudes, dusted with sand, from the pile of sandbags. His stomach, chest, and head face up. His face is boyish with lips gently together and eyes closed. His body lay back on the sandbags with two bags slightly propping his right side turning his body slightly toward the door. It looks as though the pile of sandbags is birthing him. There's no movement, no sign of breathing. We cannot tell if he is dead or alive.
Three other troops gather over him kneeling on fallen sandbags. One presses his fingers on the right side of this fallen soldier's neck attempting to find a pulse. The faces of all three are tense. I sense their longing to know that blood pumps through the young soldier's artery.
His left arm, slightly bent at the elbow, rests near his body. I take and clasp this young soldier's wrist pressing the tips of my fingers into the flesh near his hand and along the outside of his tendons that travel down the middle of his forearm. I'm feeling for the artery there, feeling for some slight surge of blood that might pulse through his body. Is it there? Do I feel it? Is that a pulse or my imagination?
After a few minutes, I drop his hand. I think, "fuck it" and move out of the bunker. As I do, the men around him extract this soldier from the sandy and heavy pressing womb at he the moment that may be the birth of his death.