Letters from Home
By Dan Ramirez
Grounded by the weather, we had to shout over the noise of the rain hitting the tents, the fuel canisters, the maintenance hangers, to have a conversation. Our helicopter looked like a ghost ship sitting on the flight line.
Phillip, my crew chief, sat next to me on the porch, smoking a Tiparillo. He took one last drag and flicked it into the sheet of water cascading off the roof. Pfft! The butt sizzled and disappeared. We were thinking the same thing-- we had a squad of Recon brothers in the northern highlands waiting to be evacuated. They had been in the bush three weeks. We were three hours late.
He turned to me. "Think it's raining on Recon, too?"
I shrugged. "Think they're still there?" I replied.
Phillip lit another Tiparillo. We sat. Our war was boredom and routine, punctuated by episodes of terror and an opportunity to die. Like waiting for an earthquake. Never able to relax.
"You hear from Louise?"
I smiled. Phillip knew the latest letter from Louise was sitting in my pocket. She faithfully wrote me while I was overseas, keeping me informed of the neighborhood happenings.
"Yeah," I said, tapping my breast pocket. "Wanna hear the latest?"
He nods, smiling. Phillip was a guy from small town and a small family. These letters, chronicles of my lively neighborhood life, had become his novellas, his soap opera. I begin.
"....So, I got some chisme for you..."
"What's chisme?" Phillip asked.
"Gossip. The latest."
He nods. I continue.
"Didn't you date Mona Morales in school? And she dumped you for Rafa Gutierrez? (BooHoo) I don't know if you know, but they got married, had a little girl, moved into a duplex on Meridian (where Peggy Gonzalez lived, remember?) and Rafa went to work for the gas company.
They seemed to be doing OK, but Mona stayed fat after the baby, and Rafa didn't like the way she cooked or the baby always crying, (he just didn't like being a father, or married,) so he yells at Mona and smacks her around. This gets to be a habit according to my friend who lives across the street from them. Mr. Morales finds out what's what with his daughter, shows up at their door with Crazy Tony as backup and proceeds to beat the snot out of Rafa, the dog that he is. Rafa missed two days of work, recovering."
Phillip interrupted." Mr. Morales was you baseball coach?"
"Yeah. And the neighborhood barber."
"Mr. Morales told him that the next time he hears Rafa was hurting his daughter, he'd cut Rafa into little pieces and feed him to his roosters. Rafa left town a few days later.
Oh, Crazy Tony says hi. He's doing weekend time at county and claims he found Jesus. Then he asked if he could see my chi chis! Pig"
I refold the letter, putting it back into my pocket.
He puffed on the Tiparillo."You know Rafa?"
"Rafael. His family came late to the neighborhood. I always thought he was a jerk, but Ramona fell pretty hard for him."
He puffs. The sweet smoke hangs in the air. "What does she look like?"
No, no. Ramona."
"Louise says she got fat, but when I dated her, she had more curves than Route 66."
"According to you, all the girls in your neighborhood look like that."
"Only the ones I'm interested in." Listening to the rain, I smiled at my memories. So did Phillip.
© Dan Ramirez
By Dan Ramirez
It's a casual conversation, before class starts.
"How do say your name?"
"Faro." To my quizzical look, he adds, "Like Egypt." He smiles self-consciously. Pharaoh? My time in Vietnam and his features tell me he is from southeast Asia. "Where are you from?"
"You were born in Fullerton?"
He shakes his head. "No. Vietnam."
He leans forward. "You know Vietnam?"
"Yes. I was there during the war."
"Hue. I was a helicopter pilot."
Faro leans back, nods. "At Phu Bai."
"Yes, yes." Now we're talking. “You’re from Hue?' I ask, not waiting for an answer. "I spent time there. Hue. Phu Bai. It's a beautiful city. Old."
"Lots of damage from the war," he says. I nod. I remember flying over Hue, along the Perfume River, seeing the intricate facades and statuary of old temples, castles and monasteries riddled with bullet holes, walls scorched from battle fires, roofs collapsed from artillery shells. After Tet.
And then I remember flying across the highlands, Johnnie Black my copilot, buzzing villages at 80 mph, thirty feet off the deck, scaring children and mama-sans, spooking animals, scattering loose food and cooking fires. Dropping hand grenades onto the terraced fields, disrupting irrigation flow. Crazed cursing and maniacal laughter filling my headset. My crew. Fear. Fatigue. Frustration. Boredom.
And I remember the bar girls at the Sunset Trip. Small women in tight skirts and sweaters, impossibly high heels, bouffant hairdos, "eyes-round" makeup, trying to look like Betty or Candy or Joyce from back home. And I remember frantic five dollar sex.
Faro gives me an empty look. He's not interested in taking a trip down memory lane. Perhaps he's too young to remember. Maybe he doesn't want to offend. Or maybe his sister, mother was one of the bar girls.
The conversation wilts. Faro looks away. I concentrate on reading the class handout. The sounds and smells of that time worry the edges of my memory. I spent twenty months in Faro's country, destroying it to defend it. Forty years ago.
© Dan Ramirez
***As a young man, Dan ignored the voice of his writing Muse, plunging into the work force, working to be “a success”. His intermittent writing "career" was littered with journals filled with more empty pages than words. Years passed.
Life changed. Business success, a supportive family and the Creative Writing Program at the local JC, Glendale Community College, allowed Dan to retrieve, like a dusty old manuscript, his writing career. Forty years after high school, he took his first creative writing class at GCC. This Fall, four years later, Dan will receive his Creative Writing Certificate from Glendale Community College, Glendale, AZ.
Leave a Reply.
Kimberly has been fortunate to travel to half the Spanish-speaking countries in the world by the time she was forty. As a traveler into different cultures, she has learned to listen ask questions, and seek points of connections. This page is meant to offer different points of connections between writers, words, ideas, languages, and imaginations. Thank you for visiting.