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Dreaming and Waking In A Yokohama Hospital, 1969
By rg cantalupo
From Kill Today, So Tomorrow Will Not Come</span> by rg cantalupo (aka Ross Canton) (currently in printing to be out in September 2018)
A moonless night, dark, so dark.
Red and green tracers streak by a few inches above my head.
Bullets smash into sandbags around our makeshift mortar pit, splash bits of sand and debris onto my face.
Mud drenches my back. Chills run up my spine.
I tear charges off a 60-millimeter mortar round, hand the cool, metal round to Baby San lying beside me.
His soft, sweaty fingers touch mine as he grabs the fin.
Mortar explosions walk toward us.
The first explodes about 30 meters away.
Then, one by one, each bursts a little closer.
The ground trembles and quakes.
Fiery clods of rice paddy mud hail down upon me.
"Two! Two!" Mike screams and sights the mortar tube toward enemy mortar flashes flaring from the black horizon.
My fingers quicken, tear off eight charges leaving two.
Two! Fuck! Fuuuck!
Two hundred meters.
We're gonna be overrun.
I turn, reach over, slide another round out of the makeshift ammo crate.
An RPG explodes near my head, knocks me sideways into the sandbags we've stacked four high to make our pit.
Red-hot shrapnel stabs into my ear and along the side of my head.
I turn to hand Baby San the round, and blood streams down over my eyes.
"You...okay?" Baby San whispers.
"One!" Mike screams! "One!"
I turn, grab another round, tear off nine charges, and pass a bloody mortar into his hands.
Another RPG whistles past.
A mortar explodes.
Each one walking a little farther from our pit.
Twenty meters away, on the perimeter, I hear screams.
"MEDIC!!! MEDIC!!! MEDIC!!!"
I swivel, grab two more rounds, tear the charges off with my blood-smeared hands, pass them to Baby San.
I can't see.
I can't open my eyes for the blood streaming down.
I grab rounds as blood slides down my forehead, over my eyes, and onto my neck and chest.
Terror rises in my chest like a caged beast.
I tear off charges, hand the rounds to Baby San, who hands the rounds to Lee, who guides the rounds into the tube, as Mike stares out into the dark.
He sights in on an enemy mortar flash, gauges the distance, the range, the direction, adjusts the tube, shouts "ONE!!! ONE!!!"
I tear off charges and hand Baby San the rounds.
Blood trickles down my ribcage, over my belly, and into my groin.
Blood runs down the back of my neck, feels like a centipede crawling along my spine.
I wipe the blood out of my eyes, but it keeps streaming down.
I need to get Baby San more rounds.
The burning spreads from my ear to around the side and back of my head.
I bite back the pain, break off charges two rounds at a time.
I hear feet zigzag past.
I throw two more rounds onto my belly, rip off nine charges, and pass the rounds.
"Five more!!!" Mike commands. "Now! Now!!!"
Lee frantically throws rounds into the mortar tube.
Poomph! Poomph! Poomph! Poomph! Poomph!—muzzle flashes, and the rounds disappearing into the dark sky.
A few feet outside our pit, a mortar explodes.
Shrapnel, flesh, and debris hail down upon us.
A scream. A groan.
A long, baying moan.
I turn to hand Baby San another round.
A searing pain shoots up my left arm.
Darkness bleeds to dim light.
Beside me, a man moans.
He moans like an animal, like a dog run over by a car lying along the side of a road.
Two enormous purple black eyes punctuate his face.
But there are no bandages on his body, no bloody gauze wrapped around his head like mine.
Probably a percussion wound, a high-intensity explosion too close to his head. Brain trauma. Air particles propelled so fast and hard they shot through his skull and jellied his brain.
A 122 millimeter rocket exploding on his bunker as he slept, maybe.
Or a five hundred pound bomb—a 155 short-rounder—a misplaced dot on a grid—some fuck up somewhere.
Nothing worse than to get wasted by your own bad intentions.
Probably never knew it was coming.
Probably never even woke from the percussive shock, and doesn't know he's here.
Aces and eights, man. That's all this war deals—Aces and eights every hand.
rg cantalupo, (Ross Canton), is a poet, playwright, filmmaker, novelist, and director. His work has been published widely in literary journals in the United States, England, and Australia. He served in the 25th Infantry Division as an RTO for an infantry company from 1968-69 and received three purple hearts and a Bronze Star with a combat V for Valor under fire.