Writing

THE SHORT RIDE

Posted by Paul McCall on August 20, 2015 at 10:00 PM

 

 

As a Viet Nam veteran, I’m relieved how attitudes about Viet Nam veterans, have improved since my discharged from the Marine Corps in the summer of 1969.

I can recall how, in 1967 and 1968, when I was in Viet Nam, the U. S. military indulged in censorship to prevent negative news, back home, from reaching the troops. When my tour of duty was up, in the summer of 1968, I was sent home for a long deserved four, or was it six-week leave.

During the thirteen months I served in Viet Nam; I had no clue how widespread the negative feelings about the war in Viet Nam was back in the U.S. All I knew was, I was hungry to go home.

My first day home I learned how dangerous those feelings could be. The first thing I did, was to get out of my uniform and changed into civilian clothing. Having no driver’s license, I asked my mother if she would give me a ride to a local mini-mall. When she dropped me off, she said, "I have some errands to run, are you going to need a ride home?"

"No, I can hitch a ride home." I wanted to enjoy my first sense of freedom from the military and play civilian hanging out for a while.

I was eager to wade through crowds of civilians and pretend I was one of them. After a bit of window shopping and poking around, the only thing I bought was a carton of Marlborough cigarettes. I left the Mall and walked across the parking lot and up to the street to hitch a ride home.

Stand on the shoulder of the road cars rushed by; I paused to light a cigarette. I began walking backward slowly facing the oncoming traffic. Holding my cigarette between my fore, and middle finger of my left hand I held my right arm stretched out with my thumb out.

 

I wasn't paying much attention to the cars as they zoomed by. I was preoccupied looking at houses and yards, dreaming about owning my own home someday. I kept glancing, behind now and then to be sure I wasn't going to back into a ditch.

Eventually, a car pulled over waking me from my daydream. I spun around and trotted up to the car door. The window was open, and I glanced in to be sure I did not miss read the drivers intentions. the guy said, "hop in." I opened the door and jumped in. "Thank you," I said before the driver had a chance to speak.

“Where ya headed kid?" He was a middle-aged man.

"Straight up the road, not far," I said nodding toward the windshield. "Just past Howard's produce stand."

“Hot one today,” the man said, his head poked out the window checking for oncoming traffic as he pulled back onto the road.

“Yeah, it sure is,” I said placing my right elbow out the open window.

"I hate this shit, don't you?" the guy said.

"I don't know; I'm sort of use to it" I replied.

“Ya are ha," he said with a smirk.

“Yeah, I just got back from Viet Nam. It’s hot as hell over there” I said.

“What!” the man said in a raised tone of voice.

“I’m in the Marine Corps; I just got back from a thirteen-month tour over there.”

I thought a dog ran out in front of us, the way he braked and swerved the car to the side of the road.

A giant cloud of dust drifted from the rear of the car and past the front end of the vehicle as he hollered at me. "Get out!"

"What's wrong?" I said, completely puzzled. This guy was agitated.

"I don't want no goddamn baby killer in my car. Now get the fuck out, now!"

I got out, and the guy spun his tires, pelting me with gravel in the process leaving me standing in a cloud of dust. I couldn't believe what had just happened; This was my hometown.

I don’t know where that guy heard that kind of crap, but the few enemy I got when I was in the country, were at the age of consent and had notches carved in their rifle butts.

I guess that’s just another cost for freedom.



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