Full Metal Jacket

A Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr

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Copyright ©1985,1998 Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr, All Rights Reserved.



               FULL METAL JACKET


                Stanley Kubrick
                 Michael Herr

              Based on the novel
               THE SHORT-TIMERS
                Gustav Hasford


               1967 - PARRIS ISLAND

             "IS THAT YOU JOHN WAYNE?
                   IS THIS ME?"


     The Marines are looking for a few good men... 

     Barbershop.  A row of barbers with electric
clippers work ankle deep in hair as they give the 
young Marine recruits a 30-second, skin-head 
haircut.  We see Joker, Cowboy and Leonard.
     A drill instructor shouts at the line of 
waiting recruits: "You are about to receive your 
first Marine Corps recruit haircut.  You will be 
shaved completely bald.
     "If you have a mole, bump, scar or anything 
else protruding from your head, and by protruding 
I mean anything sticking up out of your head, the 
minute you sit down in that chair place your 
finger on whatever if is on your head, and let the 
barber know whatever is there, verbally, by 
saying, 'Sir, the Private has a mole on his



     Dawn.  Green Marines.  Two junior drill 
instructors screaming, "GET IN LINE! GET IN LINE! 
buildings.  Willow trees hung thick with Spanish 
moss. The shaved recruits standing tall on yellow 
footprints painted in a pattern on the concrete

     Parris Island, South Carolina, the United 
     States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, an 
     eight-week college for the phoney-tough and 
     the crazy-brave.

     "I am Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim, your senior 
drill instructor.  And these are your junior drill 
instructors, Corporal Durrane and Corporal 
Seaton.  From now on, you will speak only when 
spoken to, and the first word out of your mouth 
will be, sir!  Do you maggots understand that?" 
     The recruits mumble "Yes, sir," but not in
     "I can't hear you!  Sound off like you got a
     "YES, SIR!"
Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim spits.  "Listen up, 
herd.  You maggots had better start looking like 
United States Marine Corps recruits.  Do not think 
for one second that you are Marines.  You just 
dropped by to pick up a set of dress blues.  Am I 
right, ladies?"
     "YES, SIR!"


     Joker says in a John Wayne voice: "I think 
I'm going to hate this movie." 
     Cowboy laughs.
     Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim laughs, too.  The 
senior drill instructor is an obscene little ogre 
in immaculate khaki.
     Sergeant Gerheim walks slowly back along the 
line of recruits.  "Who said that?"
     Sergeant Gerheim peers into each face.  "Who
said that?"
     "I did, sir," Joker says.
Sergeant Gerheim aims his index finger 
between Joker's eyes and says, "Private Joker... I 
like honesty.  I like you.  You can come over to 
my house and fuck my sister." 
     He grins.  He punches Joker in the stomach. 
     Joker sinks to his knees.
     "You little scumbag.  I got your name.  I got 
your ass.  You will not laugh.  You will not cry. 
You will learn by the numbers. I will teach you. 
Get up!" 
     Joker gets to his feet and comes to attention. 
     Leonard Pratt grins.
Sergeant Gerheim puts his fists on his hips. 
"If you ladies leave my island, if you survive 
recruit training, you will be a weapon, you will 
be a minister of death, praying for war. And 
proud.  Until that day you are pukes, you are 
scumbags, you are the lowest term of life on 
Earth.  You are not even human.  You people are 
nothing but a lot of little pieces of amphibian
     Leonard Pratt grins.


     "You got a name, scumbag?"
     "Leonard Pratt, sir," he says with a thick 
hillbilly accent.
     "Like hell it is!  From now on you're Gomer 
	 Leonard Grins.
     "Private Pyle thinks I am a real funny guy. 
He thinks that Parris Island is more fun then a 
sucking chest wound."
     The hillbilly's fact is frozen into a 
permanent expression of oat-fed innocence. 
     He punches Leonard in the chest.
     "You maggots are not going to have any fun 
here.  You are not going to enjoy standing in 
straight lines and you are not going to enjoy 
massaging your own wand. My orders are to weed 
out all nonhackers who do not pack the gear to 
serve in my beloved Corps.  Because I am hard, you 
will not like me.  But the more you hate me, the 
more you will learn.  I am hard but I am fair. 
There is no racial bigotry here.  We do not look 
down on niggers, kikes, wop or greasers, because 
here you are all equally worthless.  Do you 
     Some of them mumble, "Yes.  Yeah.  Yes,sir."
     "I can't hear you, ladies!"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "I still can't hear you, ladies!"
	 "YES, SIR!"
     "You piss me off. Hit the deck."
     They crumple down onto the parade deck.
     "You got no motivation.  Do you hear me, 
maggots? Listen up.  I will give you motivation. 
You have no esprit de corp. I will give you


esprit de corps.  You have no traditions.  I will 
give you traditions.  And I will show you how to 
live up to them.
     Sergeant Gerheim struts, ramrod straight,
hands on hips.  "GET UP! GET UP!" 
     They get up, knees Sore, hands gritty. 
     Sergeant Gerheim says to his two junior drill 
instructors: "What a humble herd."  Then to the 
recruits: "You silly scumbags are too slow.  Hit 
the deck."
     "HIT IT!"
     Sergeant Gerheim steps over their struggling 
bodies, stomps fingers, kicks ribs with the toe of 
his boot.  "Jesus H. Christ.  You maggots are
huffing and puffing the way your momma did the 
first time your old man put the meat to her."
     "GET UP! GET UP!"
     Up.  Muscles aching.
     Leonard Pratt is slow getting up.
     Sergeant Gerheim stands over him.  "Okay, 
scumbag, on your feet."
     Leonard gets up on one knee, hesitates, then 
stands up, inhaling and exhaling.  He grins. 
     "Why are you grinning at me, Private Pyle?" 
     "I don't know, sir."
     "You are grinning at me, you ugly ape!"
     "I can't help it, sir!" 
     "You got a crush on me?"


     "No, sir!" 
     "You want to smoke my pole?"
     "No, sir!" 
     "Then you hate me?  You want to kill me?"
     "No, sir!"
     "Don't lie to me." 
     "Sir, I'm not...lying to you."
     "YOU? YOU?  Did you say YOU?  Do you know 
what a ewe is?  A ewe is a female sheep.  A female 
sheep is for fucking!"
     "Why do you want to fuck your drill 
     Sergeant Gerheim punches Leonard in the chest 
hard.  Leonard doubles over with pain. "LOCK THEM 
     Leonard comes to attention.  Eyes front.  But 
the trace of a grin remains. 
     "Wipe that grin off your face."
     The grin is involuntary and Leonard cannot 
always control it.
     Sergeant Gerheim backhands Leonard across the 
     Leonard locks his heels.  Leonard's lips are 
busted, pink and purple, and his mouth is bloody, 
but Leonard only shrugs and grins as though 
Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim had just given him a 
birthday present.
     "Why did you join the Marines Cops?" 
     "To become a man, Sir!"
     "Private Pyle, you may just be the dumbest 
United States Marine recruit in Marine Corps



     Close order drill, Leonard makes a mistake. 
     "Private Pyle, what are you trying to do to
my beloved Corps?" 
     "I'm sorry, sir," Leonard says.
     "You are dumb Private Pile but do you expect 
me to believe you don't know right from left?"
     "No, sir."
     "Then you did it on purpose.  You want to be
     "No, sir."  The trace of a grin appears at
the corners of his mouth.
     "You think I'm stupid."
	 "No, sir."
     "Then why are you grinning at me?" 
     "I'm not grinning, sir!"
     Gerheim hits Leonard on the right side of his 
face, a hard stunning clap.  Pain takes the grin 
     "What side was that?"
     "Right ride, sir!"
     "Are you sure?"
	 "Yes, sir!"
     He slaps him just as hard on the left side.
"And what side was that?"
     "Left, sir," Leonard says blinking with
     "Don't fuck with me again, scumbag."
     "Yes, sir!"
     The close order drill continues.


     Beatings, we learn, are a routine element of 
     life on Parris Island.  And not that 
     I'm-only-rough-on-'um-because-I-love-'um crap 
     in Mr. John Wayne's "The Sands of Iwo Jima".


     Mess hall.  The recruits move sideways at the
position of attention, trays held flat against 
their chests, pressed close to the man in front of 
them, the DI's shouting, "Assholes to 
belly-button!  Assholes to belly-button!"
     Mounds of scrambled eggs are piled high on
each tray, with sausages, bacon, hashed brown 
potatoes, cereal, toast and grapefruit.
     The recruits follow the man in front of them
from the food counter to tables which hold 
twelve.  They stand at attention while one recruit 
says grace, reading from a printed plastic card 
which looks like a menu and which has its own 
little stand on each table.
     On the command the recruits sit.  Sergeant 
Gerheim suddenly appears at Leonard's place and 
bellows, "Private Pyle!"
     Leonard leaps to his feet.  "Yes sir!" 
     Sergeant Gerheim sweeps Leonard's tray to the 
floor with a loud crash of dishes and cutlery.
     "Private Pyle, the doctors have certified
you as a fatbody.  With those tits on you you 
belong in Playboy.  You will receive half-portions 
at all meals and no deserts, potatoes, bread, jam 
or butter! Is that clear?" 
     "Aye, aye, sir!"



     Various training shots. Leonard being
shouted at and beaten.

     For the first four weeks of recruit training 
     Leonard continues to grin, even though he 
     receives more then his share of the 
     beatings. Even having the shit beat out of 
     him with calculated regularity fails to 
     educate Leonard the way it educates the other 
     recruits in Platoon 30-92.  Leonard tries 
     harder than any of us.  He can't do anything right.


     At night, as the platoon sleeps in 
double-tiered metal bunks, Leonard cries.  Joker 
whispers to him to be quiet.  He stops crying.



     On the first day of our fifth week, Sergeant 
     Gerheim beats the hell out of me.

     "Private Joker!"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "I want you and Private Cowboy to clean the


     "Yes, sir!"
     "I want it so sanitary and spotless and 
sparkling that the Virgin Mary herself would he 
proud to go in there and take a dump."
     "Yes, sir!"
     Joker and Cowboy start for the head. 
     "Private Joker!"
	 "Yes, sir!"
     "Do you believe in the Virgin Mary?"
     "NO SIR!" I say.

     It's a trick question.  Any answer will be 
     wrong, and Sergeant Gerheim will heat me 
     harder if I reverse myself.

     Sergeant Gerheim punches Joker in the solar 
plexus with his elbow.  You little maggot," he 
says, and his fist punctuates the sentence.  "Are 
you a Jew?"
     "No, sir!"
     "An atheist?"
     "No, sir!"
     "A communist?"
     Joker stands to attention, heels locked, eyes 
front, swallowing groans, trying not to flinch.
     "You make me want to vomit, scumbag.  You 
goddamn heathen.  You better sound off that you 
love the Virgin Mary or I'm going to stomp your 
guts out."
     Sergeant Gerheim's face is about an inch from 
Joker's left ear.  "EYES FRONT!"  Spit sprinkles
his face.


     "Are you winking at me?"  More spit. Joker 
     "No, sir."
     "Are you eye-fucking me?" 
     He punches Joker in the stomach.
     "Negative, sir." 
     "You want to fuck your drill instructor? You
want to smoke his pole?"  More spit.
"No, sir!" Joker manages not to blink.
     "If I catch you winking at ms again, I'm 
going to gouge your eyes out and skullfuck you!"
     "Yes, sir!"
     "Now, sound off, you do love the Virgin Mary, 
don't you?"
     "What did you say, prive?" 
     Sergeant Gerheim's beefy red face floats by 
like a cobra being charmed by music.   His eyes 
drill into Joker's, they invite him to look at 
him; they dare him to move his eyes one fraction 
of an inch.
     "Have you seen the light? The white light? 
The great light? The guiding light - do you have
the vision?"
     "SIR, AYE-AYE, SIR!"
     "Who's  your squad leader, scumbag?" 
     "Private Snowball,  front and center."
     Private Snowball, a black recruit, runs down 
the center of the squad bay snaps to attention in 
front of Sergeant Gerheim.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!"
"Private Snowball, you're fired.  Private


Joker is promoted to squad leader."
     Private Snowball hesitates. "AYE-AYE, SIR!"
     Private Snowball does an about-face, runs 
back down the squad bay, falls back into line in 
front of his rack, snaps to attention.
     Sergeant Gerheim turns to Leonard.  "Private 
Pyle, Private Joker is your new bunkmate. Private 
Joker is a very bright boy.  He will teach you 
everything.  He will teach you how to pee." 
     Sergeant Gerheim looks from Joker to Cowboy. 
"You queer for Private Cowboy's gear?  You smoke 
his pole?"
     "Outstanding.  Then Private Joker will bunk 
with Private Pyle.  Private Joker is silly and 
he's ignorant, but he's got guts, and guts is


     Training continues.
     Shots feature Joker and Leonard.

     I teach Leonard everything I know, from how 
     to lace his black combat boots to the 
     assembly and disassembly of the M-14 
     semi-automatic shoulder weapon.

     I teach Leonard that Marines work hard. 
     Only shitbirds try to avoid work, only


     shitbirds try to skate.  Marines are clean, 
     not skuzzy.

     I teach Leonard to value his 
     rifle as he values his life.  I teach him 
     that blood makes the grass grow.

     "This here gun is one mean-looking piece of 
iron, sure enough."  Leonard's clumsy fingers snap 
his weapon together.
     "Think of your rifle as a tool, Leonard.
like an axe on the farm."
     Leonard grins.  "Okay.  You're right, Joker." 
He looks at Joker.  "I'm sure glad you're helping 
me, Joker.  You're my friend. I know I'm slow.  I 
always bean slow.  Nobody ever helped me..." 
     Joker turns away,  "That sounds like a 
personal problem," he says, keeping his eyes on 
his weapon.

     Mail Call.
     "Private Pyle."
     Leonard yells his name, runs down the squad 
bay and comes to attention in front of Sergeant
     "Private Pyle, sir!" 
     Sergeant Gerheim looks at the envelope. 
     "Who's Lucie Pratt?" 
     "Sir, that's the private's sister."
     "Does she smoke your pole?" 
     "No, sir."  Leonard grins.


     "Is she a good fuck?"
     "Sir, I don't know."
     "Maggot, do you expect me to believe there's 
a shit-kicker in Alabama who doesn't fuck his
     "Yes, sir," 
     "Maybe she likes coons." 
     "No, sir."
     "You think I'm funny?" 
     "No, sir!" 
     "Then wipe that fucking grin off."
     "Yes, sir!"
     "Aye, aye, sir."
     Leonard claps the letter between his palms, 
held out horizontally, takes one step backwards, 
does an about face, and runs back to his bunk.


     Outdoor school circle.  The platoon is 
grouped in a semi-circle around Sergeant Gerheim.
     Sergeant Gerheim holding an M-14 says, "The 
deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his 
rifle.  It is your killer instinct which must be 
harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. 
Your rifle is only a tool; it is a hard heart that 
kills.  If your killer instincts are not clean and 
strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. 
You will not kill.  You will become dead Marines 
and then you will be in a world of shit because 
Marines are not allowed to die without permission;
you are government property!"



     During our sixth week, Sergeant Gerheim
     orders us double-time around the squad bay 
     with our penises in our left hands and our 
     weapons in our right hand, singing:

     This is my rifle
     This is my gun
     One is for fighting
     And one is for fun.
     I don't want no teen-aged queen 
     All I want is my M-14.

     Sergeant Gerheim holds up a rifle.  "You will 
give your rifle a girl's name. This is the only 
pussy you people are going to get.  Your days of 
finger-hanging ol' Mary Jane Rottencrotch through 
her pretty pink panties are over.  You're married 
to this piece, this weapon of iron and wood, and 
you will be faithful."
     They run.  And they sing:

     Well, I don't know 
     But I been told
     Eskimo pussy 
     Is mighty cold...


     Inspection.  My mind isn't on my 
     responsibilities and I forget to remind 
     Leonard to shave.

     Sergeant Gerheim looks disappointed. 
     "Private Joker!"
     "Yes, sir." 
     "Private Pyre did not stand close enough to
his razor this morning."
     "No, sir."
     "Private Pyle!"
     "Yes, sir."
     "Into the head on the double!"
     "Yes, sir!"
     Leonard double-times into the head. 
     "Recruit squad leaders, into the head, on the 
     "Yes, sir!"
     Joker and the other recruit squad leaders
double-time into the head.
     Sergeant Gerheim strides in after them. 
     "Recruit squad leaders form a circle around
this toilet."
     They apprehensively group themselves around
the toilet.
     "Now, on my command, you will open your pants 
and urinate into the toilet.  Do you understand?"
     "YES, SIR!" 
     "Open your pants and urinate in the toilet! 
     They hesitate.
     "NO, SIR!"


      They whizz.
      Sergeant Gerheim grabs the back of Leonard's 
neck and forces Leonard to his knees, pushes his 
head down into the yellow pool.  Leonard 
struggles.  Bubbles.  Panic gives Leonard 
strength; Sergeant Gerheim holds him down.
      After it seems that Leonard has drowned, 
Sergeant Gerheim flushes the toilet.  When the 
water stops flowing, Sergeant Gerheim releases his 
hold on Leonard's neck.
      Leonard straightens up coughing and 
sputtering, his face and hair soaked in urine.
     Gerheim says: "Private Pyle, I wouldn't put 
my hands in piss for just anybody.  I hope you 
appreciate that."
     "Yes, sir."


     Practise field bayonet training.
     Sergeant Gerheim demonstrates effective 
attack techniques to a recruit named Barnard, a 
soft-spoken fern boy from Maine.  The beefy drill 
instructor knocks out two of Private Barnard's 
teeth with a rifle butt.
    Sergeant Gerheim says, "The purpose of 
bayonet training is to awaken your killer 
instincts.  The killer instinct will make you 
strong.  If the meek ever inherit the earth the 
strong will take it away from them.  The weak exist 
to be devoured by the strong. Every Marine


must pack his own gear.  Every Marine must be the 
instrument of his own salvation."


     The confidence course was designed to test 
     the recruits' fear of heights.

     The Confidence Course:  they go hand over
hand down a rope strung at a forty-five-degree 
angle across a pond - the slide-for-life.  They 
hang upside down like monkeys and crawl headfirst
down the rope.

     Leonard falls off the slide-for-life 
     repeatedly.  He almost drowns.  He cries.  He 
     climbs the tower.  He tries again.  He falls 
     off again.  This time he sinks.

     Cowboy and Joker dive into the pond.  They 
pull Leonard out of the muddy water.  He's 
     Joker says, "Should we take him to the sick 
bay, sir?"
     Gerheim kneels down to see how badly he is 
hurt.  He says loudly, "It's okay.  It's just a



     Back at the squad bay Sergeant Gerheim fits a 
Trojan rubber with a hole in it over the mouth of 
a canteen and throws the canteen at Leonard.  The 
canteen hits Leonard on the side of the head. 
Sergeant Gerheim bellows, "Marines do not cry! 
You will fill this canteen with milk, and every 
day after chow you will nurse it at the table!"
     "Yes, sir!"


     Mess Hall.  Leonard is nursing on the 
canteen.  The recruits at his table try not to 
notice but crude and derisory remarks come from 
drill instructors at nearby tables.


     Practise field.  Pugil stick fighting.  Two
recruits face each other.  Each man wears a 
football style helmet, face mask and groin 
protector.  He is armed with a five-foot pole, 
padded at each end.  The object being to knock 
your opponent down.  The platoon is formed around 
the combatants in a large circle.  The DI's yell 
at them to be more aggressive.  The recruits 
play war with the pugil sticks.  They beat each 
other without mercy.



     The recruits enter the barracks from a 
training session.  Leonard finds his bedding and 
the contents of his opened locker box strewn on
the floor.
     Gerheim stands at the far end of the
barracks, hands on hips.  "Ten...hutt!"
     The recruits line up at attention in front of 
their bunks.
     Gerheim says "Private Pyle!"
     "Yes, sir!" 
     "Get up here, on the double!"
     "Yes, sir."  Leonard double-times up the 
squad bay and comes to attention in front of 
     "Do you recognize this?"  He points to a 
jelly-donut, placed on a sheet of newspaper on the 
     "Yes, sir."
     "What is it?" 
     "A jelly-donut, sir."
     "Do you know where I found it?"
     "In my footlocker, sir." 
     "How did it get there?" 
     "I took it from the mess hall, sir." 
     "Private Pyle, are you allowed to eat
     "No, sir."
     "Why not, Private Pyle?" 
     "Because I am too heavy, sir."


     "Because you are a disgusting fatbody,
Private Pyle."
     "And is food allowed in the barracks, Private 
     "No, sir." 
     "Then why did you hide a jelly-donut in your
footlocker, Private Pyle?"
     "Because I was hungry, sir." 
     "Because you were hungry?"
     "Yes, sir."
     "Go back to your place, Private Pyle." 
     "Yes, sir." Leonard double-times back to his
     "Private Pyle has dishonoured himself and 
dishonoured the platoon.  He is a dumbass, 
cowardly, fatbody, a ten-percenter who does not 
pack the gear to he in my beloved Corps.  I have 
tried to help him but I have failed.  I have 
failed because you have not helped me.  You have 
not given Private Pyle the right motivation.  So 
from now on whenever Private Pyle fucks up I will 
not punish him, I will punish all of you."


     Outside the barracks,  the platoon does many 
squat-thrusts and side-straddle hops many, many
of them.
     Leonard has been positioned, facing the
platoon, standing at ease.



     Leonard touches Joker's arm as they move 
through the chow line with their metal trays. "I 
just can't do nothing right.  I need some help.  I 
don't want you boys to be in trouble.  I-"
     Joker moves away.


     The first night of our seventh week of 
     training the platoon gives Leonard a blanket 

     The fire watch stands by.  Private Philips, 
the House Mouse,  Sergeant Gerheim's "go-fer," pads 
barefoot down the squad bay to watch for Sergeant 
     In the dark, fifty recruits walk to Leonard's 
     Leonard is grinning, even in his sleep. 
     The squad leaders hold towels and 
bars of soap.
     Four recruits throw a blanket over Leonard. 
They grip the corners of the blanket so that 
Leonard can't sit up and so that his cries will
be muffled.
     The sound of hard breathing of fifty sweating 
bodies and the fump and thud as Cowboy and Private 
Barnard beat Leonard with bars of soap slung in 


     Leonard's screams are like the braying of a
sick mule, heard far away,  he struggles.
     The eyes of the platoon are on Joker.  Eyes 
are aimed at Joker in the dark, eyes like rubies. 
     Leonard stops screaming.  
     Joker hesitates.  The eyes are on him.  He
steps back.
     Cowboy punches him in the chest with his
towel and a bar of soap.
     Joker slings the towel, drops in the soap, 
and then beats Leonard who has stopped moving. He 
lies in silence stunned, gagging for air.  Joker 
beat him harder and harder and when he feels tears 
being flung from his eyes, he beats him harder for 


     The next day, on the parade deck, Leonard
does not grin.
     When Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim asks, "What do 
we do for a living, ladies!"  and the platoon 
replies, KILL! KILL! KILL!", Leonard remains
     When he asks, What makes the grass grow?" 
and they reply "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!"  L	eonard 
remains silent.
    When the junior drill instructors ask, "Do we  
love the beloved Crotch, ladies?"  and the platoon 
answers with one voice, "GUNG HO! GUNG HO! GUNG 
HO! Leonard is silent.



     Shots of the platoon firing their rifles.

     On the third day of our seventh week we move 
     to the rifle range and shoot holes in paper 

     Later they are grouped around Gerheim. "Does 
anyone known who Charles Whitman was?" 
     Blank faces.
     "None of you dumbasses knows?" 
     Cowboy slowly raises his hand. 
     "Private Cowboy?" 
     "Was he the guy that shot a lot of people 
from a roof?"
     "That's right, Private Cowboy.  He shot and 
killed twelve people from a 28-story observation 
tower at the University of Texas, from distances 
of up to four hundred yards." 
     The recruits look impressed.
     "Does anybody know who Lee Harvey Oswald
     That's easy.  Almost every hand goes up.
     "Private Snowball?" 
     Private Snowball says, "He shot Kennedy, Sir!"
     "That's right.  And do you know how far away
he was?"
     "It was pretty far.  From that book 
suppository building, sir!"
     "Two hundred and fifty" feet.  He was two 
hundred and fifty feet away and shooting at a 
moving target.  He got off three shots with a bolt


action rifle in six seconds, and got two hits, 
including a head shot.  Do you know where those 
men learned to shoot like that?"
     No one knows. Joker raises his hand.
     "Private Joker." 
     "In the Marines sir?"
     "In the Marines.  Outstanding!  Now those 
people did not put their Marine training to a good 
purpose but they showed what a Marina with his 
rifle can do, and before I am through you will all 
be able to do the same thing."
     Leonard stares at Gerheim.


     Parade deck,  Manual of arms.
     "I want to hear some snap, crackle and pop
with those weapons."
     Leonard and other recruits smartly doing
their manual of arms.
     "When you snap those rifles to port arms, I
only want to hear one pop!"

     By the and of our seventh week Leonard has
     become a model recruit.  Day by day, he is
     more motivated, more squared away.  We decide 
     that Leonard's silence is a result of his 
     intense concentration.  His manual of arms is 
     flawless now, but his eyes are milk glass.



     Barracks,  Night.  Leonard cleaning his 
disassembled rifle. He handles each piece lovingly 
and seems to be talking to them.

     Leonard cleans his weapon more then any 
     recruit in the platoon.  Every night after 
     chow Leonard caresses the scarred oak stock 
     with linseed oil the way hundreds of earlier 
     recruits have caressed the same piece of


     Training shots featuring Leonard.

     Leonard improves at everything, but remains 
     silent. He does what he is told but he is no 
     longer part of the platoon. 
     Sergeant Gerheim is careful not to come 
     down too hard on Leonard as long as Leonard remains 
     squared away.


     During the hour before Taps, the platoon is 
working on its shoes, brass and rifles.  A 
Kentucky boy named Perkins lays his rifle down, 
steps to the center of the squad bay and slashes 
his wrist with his bayonet.
     "Oh, Jesus Christ,"  Cowboy says.


     Leonard slowly gets to his feet but says
     Gerheim gets up from his table at the head of 
the room and walks unhurriedly down the squad bay.
     He stops in front of Perkins who is still
holding the bayonet.
     "Private Perkins, sheath your bayonet!" 
     Perkins doesn't move.
     "Sheath your bayonet, scumbag!" 
     Perkins drops the bayonet on the floor.
     Gerheim walks closer and looks at Perkins' 
wrist.  It's a mess but Gerheim decides he's got
some time.
     "Private Perkins, why have you made a mess in 
my nice, clean squad bay?" 
     Perkins doesn't reply.
     "Private Perkins, I did not have you down as 
a shitbird.  Why have you done this?" 
     Perkins says nothing.
     "Private Perkins, you have let me down.  You 
have let the platoon down.  You are a gutless 
piece of shit." 
     Perkins just stands looking at the floor.
     "Private Perkins, you can live like a pig in 
your own home but not in my barracks! Get a mop 
and bucket and clean up this mess.  After that, 
double-time to the sick bay." 
     Perkins stumbles off to get the mop.
     Gerheim speaks to the platoon.
     "Private Perkins botched the job.  Now, if 
any of you other shitbirds ever get the same idea 
you better do it right.  (Holds out his arm and 
mimes what he says).  The approved U.S. Marine 
Corps way is to take a razor blade and cut deep


and vertical from wrist to elbow,  Do you
     "YES, SIR!" the platoon shouts.
     "And do it in the shower - no mess 
afterwards - and do it in the middle of the night 
so you'll have enough time to bleed before anyone 
finds you.  Is that clear?
     "YES, SIR!" the platoon shouts.
     Except Leonard, who says nothing.


     The platoon, led by Sergeant Gerheim is

     Happy Birthday to you, 
     Happy Birthday to you, 
     Happy Birthday dear Jesus, 
     Happy Birthday to you.

     Gerheim says, "God has a hard-on for Marines 
because we kill everything we see.  He plays his 
games, we play ours.  To show our appreciation for 
so much power, we keep heaven packed with fresh 
     "The Marine Corps was here before God.  You 
can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs 
to the Corps... Do you understand?"
     	"Today is Christmas.  There will be a magic 
show at 0930 and the Chaplain expects everyone 
there except Jews and atheists..."



     Night Barracks.  The platoon stands by until 
Sergeant Gerheim snaps out his last order of the 
day: "Prepare to mount....Readddy...MOUNT!" Then 
they're lying on their backs in their skivvies, at 
attention, their weapons held at port arms.
     They say their prayers:

     "This is my rifle. There are many like it  
     but this one is mine. My rifle is my best
     friend.  It is my life.  I must master it as 
     I must master my life.

     "Without my rifle, I am useless.  I must fire 
     my rifle true.  I must shoot straighter than 
     my enemy who is trying to kill me.  I must 
     shoot him before he shoots me.  I will."

     Leonard is speaking for the first time in 
weeks.  His voice booms louder and louder.  Heads 
turn. Bodies shift. The platoon voice fades. 
Leonard is about to explode.  His words are being 
coughed up from some deep, ugly place.
     Sergeant Gerheim has the night duty.  He 
struts to Leonard's rack and stands by, fists on
     Leonard doesn't see Sergeant Gerheim.  The 
veins in Leonard's neck are bulging as he bellows:





     "WE WILL...

     OF MY LIFE.



     Sergeant Gerheim kicks Leonard's rack.
"Hey-you-Private Pyle...."
     "What? Yes? YES, Sir!" Leonard snaps to 
attention in his rack.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!
     "What's that weapon's name, maggot?" 
     "At ease maggot." Sergeant Gerheim grins. 
"You are becoming one sharp recruit, Private 
Pyle.  Most motivated prive in my herd.  Why, I 
may even allow you to serve as a rifleman in my 
beloved Corps.  I had you figured for a shitbird, 
but you'll make a good grunt."



     Graduation day. Two hundred new Marines 
stand tall on the parade deck, lean and tan in 
immaculate khaki, their clean weapons held at port 
     They pass in review.
     Joker walks right guide, tall and proud. 
     Cowboy carries the platoon guidon.

     Graduation day.  No words can express the way
     we feel.  The moment the Commandant of the 
     Marine Corps gives us the word, we will grab 
     the Viet Cong guerillas and the battle-
     hardened North Vietnamese regulars by their 
     scrawny throats and we'll punch their fucking 
     heads off.

     The Commanding General of Parris Island 
speaks into a microphone:  "Have you seen the 
light?  The white light?  The great light?  The 
guiding light?  Do you have the vision?" 
     They cheer, happy beyond belief. 
     Leonard does not smile.


     After graduation Sergeant Gerheim forms us 
     into a school circle to read out our orders.

     "Yes, sir!"
     "0300 - infantry."


     "l800 - engineers.  You go out and find
     "0200 - Intelligence.  None of you shitbirds
were smart enough for that." 
     "Yes, sir."
     "0300 - Infantry." 
     Pratt!" (That's Leonard) 
     "Yes, sir!"
     "Davis!" (That's Joker)
     "4212 - Basic Military Journalism...Basic 
Military Journalism?  Do you want to be an office
     "No, sir!"
     "Are you a writer?" 
     "I wrote for my high school newspaper sir!"
     "Jesus Christ,  you're not a writer, you're a
     "A killer, yes, sir!"


     When he finishes, Gerheim says "Today you 
people are no longer maggots.  Today you are 
Marines.  You're part of a brotherhood.  From now 
on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every 
Marine is your brother.  Every Marine will be 
ready to give his life for you, and you will be 
ready to give yours.


"Most of you will go to Vietnam.  Some of you 
will not come back.  But always remember this: 
Marines die - that's what we're here for.  But the 
Marine Corps lives forever - and that means you 
live forever."


     Our last night on the Island.  I draw fire 

     Joker stands by in utility trousers, skivvy 
shirt, spit-shined combat boots, and a helmet 
liner which had been painted silver.
     Sergeant Gerheim gives him his wristwatch and 
flashlight.  "Good night, Marines."
     Joker marches up and down the squad bay 
between two perfectly aligned rows of racks.

     One hundred young Marines breathe peacefully 
     as they asleep - one hundred survivors from 
     the original hundred and twenty.

     The squad bay is as quiet as a funeral parlor 
at midnight.  The silence is disturbed only by the 
soft creak-creak of bedsprings and an occasional 
     A recruit is talking in his sleep.
     Joker stops.  He listens.  A second voice. 
Two guys must be swapping scuttlebutt.  "If 
Sergeant Gerheim hears them it'll be my ass."
Joker hurries towards the sound.
     It's Leonard.  Leonard is talking to his


rifle. But there is also another voice.  A 
whisper.   A cold, seductive moan.
     Leonard's rifle is not slung on his rack. 
He's holding his rifle, hugging it.  "I love you!" 
Joker snaps on his flashlight.  Leonard ignores 
     Leonard's words reverberate down the squad 
bay.  Racks Squeak.  Someone rolls over.  One 
recruit sits up, rubs his eyes.
     Joker watches the far end of the squad bay.
He waits for the light to go on inside Sergeant
Gerheim's palace.
     He touches Leonard's shoulder.  "Hey, shut 
your mouth, Leonard.  Sergeant Gerheim will break
my back."
     Leonard sits up.  He looks at Joker.  He 
strips off his skivvy shirt and ties it around his 
face to blindfold himself.  He begins to 
field-strip his weapon.  He pulls off the 
blindfold.  His fingers continue to break down the 
rifle into components.  Then, gently, he fondles 
each piece.   "Just look at that pretty trigger 
guard.  Have you ever seen a more beautiful piece 
of metal? He starts snapping the steel 
components back together.  "Her connector assembly 
is so beautiful..."
     Leonard continues to babble as his trained 
fingers reassemble the black metal hardware.
     Leonard reaches under his pillow and comes 
out with a loaded magazine.  Gently, he inserts 
the metal magazine into his weapon, into Charlene.
     "Leonard...where did you get those live


Now a lot of guys are sitting up, whispering 
"What's happening?" to each other.
     	Sergeant Gerheim's light floods the far end
of the squad bay.
     "OKAY, LEONARD, LET'S GO," Joker says, 
"You're in a world of shit now, Leonard"
The overhead lights explode.  The squad bay 
is washed with light.  "WHAT'S THIS MICKEY MOUSE 
     Sergeant Gerheim comes at Joker like a mad 
dog.  His voice cuts the squad bay in half:  "MY 
     Leonard pounces from his rack, confronts
Sergeant Gerheim.
     Now the whole platoon is awake. They all 
wait to see what Sergeant Gerheim will do, 
confident that it will he worth watching.
     "Private Joker.  You shitbird.  Front and
     Joker moves his ass.  "AYE-AYE, SIR!"
     "Okay, you little maggot, speak.  Why is 
Private Pyle out of his rack after lights out? 
Why is Private Pyle holding that weapon? Why 
ain't you stomping Private Pyle's guts out?
     "SIR, it is the private's duty to report to 
the drill instructor that Private ... Pyle ... has 
a full magazine and has locked and loaded, SIR!"
     Sergeant Gerheim looks at Leonard and nods. 
He sighs.  Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim looks more 
than a little ridiculous in his pure white


skivvies and red rubber flip-flop shower shoes and 
hairy legs and tattooed forearms and a beer gut 
and a face the colour of raw beef, and, on his 
bald head, the green and brown Smokey the Bear 
campaign cover.
     The senior drill instructor focuses all of 
his considerable powers of intimidation into his 
best John-Wayne-on-Suribachi voice:  "Listen to 
me, Private Pyle.  You will place your weapon on 
your rack and-"
     Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim can't control 
himself any longer.  "NOW YOU LISTLN TO ME,  YOU 
     Leonard aims the weapon at Sergeant Gerheim's 
heart, caresses the trigger guard, then caresses
the trigger...
     Sergeant Gerheim is suddenly calm.  His eyes, 
his manner are those of a wanderer who has found 
his home. He is a man in complete control of 
himself and of the world he lives in.  His face is 
cold and beautiful as the dark side surfaces.  He 
smiles.  It is not a friendly smile, but an evil 
smile, as though Sergeant Gerheim were a werewolf 
baring its fangs.  
     "Private Pyle, I'm proud-"
     The steel buttplate slams into Leonard's


One 7.62 millimeter, high-velocity, full 
metal jacket bullet punches Gunnery Sergeant
Gerheim back.
     He falls.
     They all stare at Sergeant Gerheim.  Nobody
     Sergeant Gerheim sits up as though nothing 
has happened.  For one second, the recruits 
relax.  Leonard has missed.  Then dark blood 
squirts from a little hole in Sergeant Gerheim's 
chest.  The red blood blossoms into his white 
skivvy shirt like a beautiful flower.  Sergeant 
Gerheim's bug eyes are focused upon the blood rose 
on his chest, fascinated.  He looks up at 
Leonard.  He squints.  Then he relaxes.  The 
werewolf smile is frozen on his lips.
     Joker says, "Now, uh, Leonard, we're all your 
bros, man, your brothers.  I'm your bunkmate, 
right? I-"
     "Sure," says Cowboy.  "Go easy, Leonard.  We 
don't want to hurt you." 
     "Affirmative," says Private Snowball. 
     Leonard aims his rifle at Jokers face. 
     Joker doesn't look at the rifle.  He looks
into Leonard's eyes.
     Leonard is grinning at them, the final grin 
that is on the face of death, the terrible grin of 
the skull.
     The grin changes to a look of surprise and 
then to confusion and then to terror as Leonard's 
weapon moves up and back and then Leonard takes 
the black metal barrel into mouth. "NO! Not-"


     Leonard is dead on the deck. The Marines
slowly gather around the two bodies.

     The civilians will demand yet another
     investigation, of course.  But during the   
     investigation the recruits of Platoon 30-92        
     will testify that Private Pratt, while highly 
     motivated, was a ten percenter who did not 
     pack the gear to be a Marine in our beloved 

     Sergeant Gerheim is still smiling.

     Sergeant Gerheim was a fine drill 
     instructor.  Dying, that's what we're here 
     for he would have said  blood makes the 
     grass grow.  If he could speak, Gunnery 
     Sergeant Gerheim would explain to Leonard why 
     the guns that we love don't love back.  And 
     he would say, "Well done."



              1968 - DA NANG, VIETNAM


     A hundred Marines are seated in the Freedom 
Hill PX movie theatre watching John Wayne in "The
Green Berets"
     Joker and Rafter Man sit way down front.
They wear clean uniforms.

     I spend the Vietnamese lunar New Year's 
     Eve,  1968, at the Freedom Hill PX near Da 
     Nang, watching John Wayne in The Green 
     Berets, a Hollywood soap opera about the love 
     of guns.

     The rest of the audience is made up of other 
cleanly dressed Marines and dirty Marine grunts 
who are sprawled across their seats and have 
propped muddy jungle boots onto the seats in front 
of them.  They are bearded and look lean and mean, 
the way human beings look after they've survived a 
long hump in the jungle, the boonies, the bad 
     Joker props his boots on the seats.

     We watch John Wayne leading the Green 
     Beanies.  John Wayne is a beautiful soldier, 
     clean-shaven, sharply attired in tailored 
     tiger-stripe jungle utilities, wearing boots 
     that shine like black glass.  Inspired by


     John Wayne, the fighting soldiers from the
     sky go hand-to-hand with all of the Victor
     Charlies in Southeast Asia.

     He snaps out an order to an Oriental actor 
who played Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek.  Mr. Sulu, now 
playing an Arvin officer, delivers a line with 
great conviction: "First kill...all stinking 
Cong...then go home."
     The audience of Marines roars with laughter. 
This is the funniest movie they have seen in a
long time.
     A Marine yells at Mr. Sulu, "You fuckin' 
asshole, you kill stinking Cong.  I wanna go home


     Freedom Hill PX.

     I'm a combat correspondent assigned to the 
     first Marine Division.  I've been in country 
     for six months.
     Rafter man tags along behind me like a kid. 
     Rafter Man is a combat photographer.  He has 
     never been in the shit.  He thinks I'm one 
     hard field Marine.

     Joker and Rafter Man move in line up to a 
table with the Red Cross emblem on it and two 
large coffee urns and trays of donuts. Joker 
looks the Red Cross girls over.  They're not


particularly pretty, but Vietnam duty has spoiled
     "Hi Marines," the blonde says.   "I'll bet 
some nice hot coffee would go real good about
     Joker smiles.  "Sure would... Girls, I'm 
Corporal James Davis.  I'm a reporter for Sea 
Tiger.  This is Rafter Man.  He's my 
     "How'd you girls like to have a beer with us
when you're through here?"
     "Sorry, guys, we don't go out with enlisted
men," the blonde says.
     "We don't even go out with lieutenants," the
brunette says.
     Joker laughs.  "Hey... just a minute.  You 
girls don't expect us to satisfy our lust with a
donut, do you?" The girls laugh.
     "I'd say a donut is all the hole you zoomies


     Outside,  a ten year-old shoe shine boy 
collars them.  "Changee money?  Boom-boom 
pictures?  Dinky dow Cigarettes?"
     "I'll have a shine," Joker says.
     Nearby an attractive Vietnamese prostitute 
starts preening herself for Rafter Man and Joker.
     Rafter says, "Joker, I want to go out into 
the field.  I been in country for almost three


months and all I do is take hand-shake shots at 
award ceremonies.  A high-school girl could do my
     Joker says, "Rafter, you'll get yourself 
wasted the first day you're in the field and it'll 
be my fault.  Your mom will find me after I rotate 
back to the World and beat the shit out of me. 
That's a negative."
     Not getting very far with body language, 
the Vietnamese hooker tries conversation.  "Hey, 
baby, me so horny.  Me so horny." 
     Joker looks her over.  She looks pretty good.
     "Me so horny.  Me love you too much.  Hey, 
what you say?  Number one pussy.  Me love you too
     "How much!" Joker asks. 
     "Fifteen dolla."
     "For both of us?"
     "No, each you fifteen dolla."
     	Suddenly, Rafter Man's Nikon camera is cut 
from his neckstrap by a teenage boy who jumps on a 
Honda, leaving them in the bike's backwash, 
staring in helpless amazement.  Some White Mice
stand around giggling.
    A beefy civilian engineer standing nearby 
offers some advice.  "You ever catch one of them 
li'l nigs just pinch 'em.  Pinch 'em hard.  Boy,
they hate that."



     The weekly editorial meeting of 'Sea Tiger',
     the Marine Corps newspaper.

     The Da Nang office of Sea Tiger, presided
over by Lieutenant Lockart, seated at a U-shaped
collection of tables.
     A sign on the wall behind him says in 
six-inch block letters: FIRST TO GO, LAST TO KNOW, 
     Present are, Joker, Rafter Man and six other 
combat correspondents and photographers.
     Lieutenant Lockart is hunched over some 
letter trays filled with typed copy, telexes, and 
8 x 10 photographs.
     The atmosphere of the meeting is breezy but
     "Okay, guys, lets keep it short and sweet
today," Lieutenant Lockart says.  "I gotta leave
for Phu Bai in half an hour."
     "What's up there, sir?" Collins asks.
     "Combat Media Techniques seminar," he says,
sorting through a stack of copy.
     "Okay...anybody got anything new?" 
     A pause.
     "There's rumour going around that the Tet 
ceasefire's going to be cancelled," Joker says.
     "Rear echelon paranoia," Lieutenant Lockart 
says without looking up.
     "A bro in intelligence says Charlie might try 
to pull off something big during the Tet holiday."
     "They say the same thing every year."


     "There's a lot of talk about it, sir" Joker 
     "Forget it.  Tet is a combination of 
Christmas, New Year and July 4th, and every 
zipperhead in Nam will be banging gongs, barking 
at the moon and visiting his dead relatives.
Anything else?"
     "Sir, my camera was stolen," Rafter Man says.
     "What camera?"
     "Black body Nikon."
     "Gook just shot by on his Honda, sir, whipped 
that sucker right off Rafter's neck," Joker says.
"Look at his neck."
     Rafter shows the red welt on his neck. 
     "You saw this happen?" Lieutenant Lockart
asks Joker.
     "Yes, sir."
     "Did you try to stop him?"
     "I tried to catch him, sir," Joker says.  "I 
encountered difficulty overtaking the Honda on
     "All right," Lieutenant Lockart says  "When 
we're finished here, report it to Gunny Slocum." 
     Lieutenant Lockart picks up a telex.
     "Ann Margaret and entourage are due here next 
week.  I want someone to be there on the airfield 
and stick with her for a couple of days."
     "Colour me gone," Joker says 
     "You're not a photographer.  Klammer, you
take it."
     "Aye-aye, sir."
     "Get me some good low angle stuff.  Don't 
make it too obvious but I wanna see fur, and early 
morning dew."


     "Aye-aye, sir."
     "Diplomats In Dungarees...Marine engineers 
lend a helping hand rebuilding Dong Phuc village 
recently damaged by heavy fighting with VC forces 
in the area...Good"
     He picks up a photograph.  "Joker, can't you 
come up with a better caption for this picture of 
a sentry dog than, 'G-r-r-r'?
     "How about "Bow-wow!" Joker says. 
     "How 'bout thinking of a better caption?"
     "Aye-aye, sir." He picks up another sheet of paper.
     "The Lawrence Welk Show will go out on TV in 
two weeks.  Chili, do 100 words on it.  AFTV'll
give you some background stuff." 
     "We're plugging Lawrence Welk?" 
     "Don't you like serious music?" 
     He reads again.
     "NVA Soldier Deserts After Reading 
Pamphlets...a young North Vietnamese soldier who 
realized his side could not win the war deserted 
from his unit after reading Open Arms program 
     "Sir!" Joker says.
     "Why don't we drop a couple of million of
those suckers and go home?" 
     "Too expensive"
     He scans another story.
     "Did General Mossberg really say this: "We 
are a nation of high-protein meat-eating hunters, 
while the other guy just eats rice and fish 
heads"?  Did he really say that to The New York 
Times, The Washington Post and Newsweek?"


     "You should have heard the rest." 
     Lieutenant Lockart shrugs and picks up 
another story.
     "'Not While We're Eating.  NVA learn Marines 
don't like to be interrupted while eating chow.' 
...Joker, the enemy never runs.  He flees... 
patrols aren't dangerous, they're danger-filled...
Style...style, Joker." 
     "Yes, sir." 
     "And, Joker, where's the weenie?"
     "The kill, Joker.  The kill.  All that fire, 
the grunts must have hit something" 
     "Didn't see 'em, sir." 
     "Were you actually there on that op?"
     "Yes, sir."
     "Joker, I've told you we run two basic 
stories here.  Grunts who give half their pay to 
buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants - Winning Of
Hearts and Minds.  Okay?  And combat action which 
result in a kill - Winning the War.  I don't ask 
much of you people but I do expect you to adhere 
to my editorial policy."
     "You must have seen blood trails, drag
     "It was raining, sir."
     "Okay, well that's why God passed the law of 
probability."  He tosses the pages to Joker. 
     "Re-write it and give it a happy ending.  One 
killed.  Make it a sapper.  Or an officer.
     "Whatever you say," Joker says. 
     "Grunts like reading about dead officers."


     "Okay - an officer.  How about a general?"
     "Joker, maybe you'd like our guys to read the 
paper and feel bad.  In case you didn't know it, 
this is not a particularly popular war, and it's 
our job to report the news that the why-are-we-here 
civilian newsmen ignore."
     "Sir, maybe you should go out yourself on 
some ops.  It might give you a different 
     "Joker, I've had my ass in the grass.  I 
didn't like it.  Lots of bugs and too dangerous. 
Fortunately, my duties keep me in the rear where I 
belong.  In the rear with the gear."


     Midnight. Down in Dogpatch, the gooks are
     shooting off fireworks to celebrate the Lunar 
     New Year.

     Early evening in the ISO hootch, a pre-fab
wooden building thirty feet long, with screens at 
each end, but otherwise open, with rolled-up 
canvas to be let down in case of rain.
     At one end of the room are a number of 
bunkbeds.  The other part has several desks, and a 
     On the wall are pictures of Bob Dylan, Cesar 
Chavez, several Playmates of the Month, 
Ann-Margaret, Steve McQeen on a motorcycle and 
Lyndon Johnson with a pencilled-in moustache.
     A large hand-written sign says: WE HAVE MET 


     Fireworks can be seen through the screened
end of the hootch.
     The men lie on their racks and swap
     Joker writes in his notebook.

     I add some lines to the notebook which I keep 
     so that I return to hometown America in 
     a rainbow of campaign ribbons across my 
     chest, brave beyond belief, the military 
     Jesus, I will use it to write the war novel 
     which will make James Jones and Ernest 
     Hemingway look like a couple of pussies.

     Joker puts down the notebook, lights up a 
joint and says, "I got to get back into the shit. 
I ain't heard a shot fired in anger in weeks.  I'm 
bored to death.  How are we ever going to get used 
to being back in the World?  I mean, a day without 
blood is like a day without sunshine." 
     "Shit."  Corporal Payback turns to Rafter 
Man.  "Joker thinks that the bad bush is down the 
road in the ville.  He's never been in the shit. 
It's hard to talk about it.  Like on Hastings-" 
     Chili Vendor, a tough Chicano from East L.A., 
interrupts: "You weren't on Operation Hastings, 
Payback.  You weren't even in country."
     Oh, eat shit and die, you fucking Spanish 
American.  You poge.  I was there, man.  I was in 
the shit with the grunts, man." 
     Joker grunts.  "Sea stories."
    "Oh, yeah?  How long you been in country, 
Joker? Huh? How much T.I. you got?  How much


fucking time in?  Thirty months, poge.  I got
thirty months in country.  I've been there, man."
     "Yeah," Joker says.  "They've got his 
picture on the wall in the Hanoi Post Office."
     "That's affirmative" says Corporal Payback. 
"You listen to Joker, New Guy.  He knows ti ti- 
very little.  And it be ever does know anything 
it'll be because he learned it from me.  You just 
know he's newer been in the shit. He ain't got
the stare."
     Rafter Man looks up.  "The stare?" 
     "The thousand-yard stare.  A Marine gets it 
after he's been in the shit for too long.  It's 
like you've really seen...beyond.  I got it. All 
field Marines got it.  You'll have it, too."
     Rafter Man says, "I will?"
     	Corporal Payback takes a few hits off the 
joint and then passes it to Chili Vendor. "I used 
to be an atheist when I was a New Guy, a long
time ago..."
     Corporal Payback takes his Zippo lighter out 
of his shirt pocket and hands it to Rafter Man. 
"See? It says, 'Just you and me, God - right?'"
     Corporal Payback giggles.  He seems to be 
trying to focus his vision on some distant 
object.  "Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole.  
You'll be praying."
     Rafter Man looks at Joker grins, hands the 
lighter back.  "There sure is a lot of stuff to 



     Suddenly, there is a series of tremendous 
explosions a few hundred yards away. 
     "Oh, shit, rockets." 
     A sudden swooosssh... 
     "Incoming!"  Daytona Dave shouts. 
     "Them're outgoin'," says Chili Vendor.
     Daytona Dave hears the deep sliding whistle 
of the other shells. That ain' outgoin'". 
     "That ain't outgoing," Chili Vendor says.
     "Now what I jus' say?" Daytona Dave yells as 
they run for a short trench a few yards away.
     Rafter Man stands there, frozen.  "What..." 
     A rocket hits the deck twenty yards away.
Rafter Man hits the ground.
     Joker jerks Rafter to his feet and shoves him 
towards a sandbagged trench a few feet away.
     Corporal Payback does a stunt-man dive into 
the trench and lets out a scream of pain.
     Guys are running around in their shorts, 
firing their M-l6's blind.
     In the trench, Payback is moaning. 
     "Where you hit man?" Joker says. 
     "I'm not hit.  I think I broke my fucking
    "Then shut the fuck up, man," Daytona Dave 
says.  "You're making me nervous."
     Joker peeks cautiously over the sandbags. A 
few yards, in front, three Marines lie dead.
     "Jesus Christ I'm not ready for this," Joker
mumbles to himself.
     Corporal Payback is groaning. 
     Rafter whimpers.


     All around the hill orange machine-gun
tracers flash up into the sky. 
     Outgoing mortars. 
     Outgoing artillery. 
     Incoming rockets.
     All kinds of noise.
     Illumination rounds pop high above the rice 
     The flares sway down, glowing, suspended 
beneath little parachutes.
     Joker grabs Rafter Man and pulls him into 
their hootch.  "Get your piece."
     Joker picks up his M-16.  He snaps in a 
magazine.  He throws a bandolier of full magazines 
to Rafter Man.  "Lock and load, recruit.  Lock and 
     "But that's against regulations."
     "Do it."
     Outside, headquarters personnel from the 
surrounding hootches are stumbling into rifle pits 
on the perimeter.  They crouch down in the damp 
holes in their skivvies.  They stare out through 
the wire.
     The rockets blink like flashbulbs.  The 
flashbulbs pop.  And then the sound of drums.
     "Well, happy fuckin' New Year everybody,"
Joker says.
    Chili Vendor says.  "Oh man, why can' they 
jus' leave us alone one 
     "'Cause they ain't gettin' paid to leave us 
alone,"  Daytona Dave says.  "Sides, they do it 
'cause they know how it fucks you all up" 
     The crumps start again somewhere outside the 
wire and walk in like the footsteps of a monster.


     The crumps are becoming thuds.  Thud.  Thud. 
THUD.  And then it's a whistle and a roar.
     	On the perimeter M-60 machine guns are 
banging and the M-79 grenade launchers are 
blooping and mortar shells are thumping out of the 
     Star flares burst all along the wire,
beautiful clusters of green fire.
     "I hope they're just fucking with us," Joker 
says.  "I hope they're not going to hit the wire. 
I'm not really ready for this shit." 
     Outside their bunker: BANG, BANG, BANG.
     Daytona Pave, huddled against a wall of the 
trench, mutters to himself, "Don't worry, baby, 
God'll think of something"
     Somewhere someone has left on a radio playing 
the Rolling Stones" "Get offa my cloud".

     Inside our damn cave of sandbags we huddle 
     elbow-to-elbow in wet skivvies, feeling the 
     weight of the darkness, as helpless as  
     cavemen hiding from a monster.  
     Each of us is waiting for the next shell to 
     nail him right on the head - the mortar is an 
     agent of existential doom.


     Dawn.  Major Lynch's office.  The mortars 
have stopped but sporadic rifle and machine gun 
fire can be beard in the distance.


     The Informational Services Office on the hill 
     is a carnival with green performers - many, 
     many of them.  The lifers are all being 
     fearless leaders.  The New Guys are about to 
     wet their pants.

     Everyone is talking.
     Major Lynch, their commanding officer, 
marches in and squares them away.
     "Everyone will shut the fuck up," he says, 
"The enemy has used the Tet Ceasefire to launch an 
offensive all over the country.  He has hit every 
major military target in Vietnam.  In Saigon, the 
United States Embassy has been overrun by suicide 
squads.  Khe Sanh is standing-by to be overrun."
     Everybody starts talking at once.
Major Lynch is calm.  He stands in the center 
of chaos and tries to give them orders. Nobody 
      "Everybody will shut the fuck up!" His words 
snap out like bullets from a machine gun.  "Zip up 
those flak jackets.  Put on that helmet, Marine. 
Load your weapons but do not put a round in the 
chamber.  Joker!"
     "Aye-aye, sir."
     Major Lynch stands in front of the Marine 
Corps flag - blood red, with an eagle, globe, and 
anchor of gold, U.S.M.C. and SEMPER FIDELIS.  He 
taps Joker's chest with his finger.  "Joker, you 
will take off that damned button.  How is it going 
to look if you get killed wearing a peace symbol?"
     "Aye-aye, sir!"
     "Get up to Phu Bai.  Captain January will 
need all his people."


     Rafter Man steps forward. "Sir? Could I go 
with Joker?"
     "What?  Sound off."
     "I'm Compton, sir.  Lance Corporal Compton. 
From Photo.  I want to get into the shit."
     "Permission granted. And welcome aboard." 
The major turns, starts yelling at the New Guys.
     Joker says, "Sir, I don't think that-" 
     Major Lynch turns back to him, irritated. 
"You still here?  Vanish, Joker, most ricky-tick. 
And take the New Guy with you.  You're responsible 
for him."  The major turns away and starts 
snapping out orders for the defense of the First 
Marine Division's Informational Services Office.


     Joker and Rafter Man look out of the open 
door of an S-55 helicopter.

     Thousands of feet below, Vietnam is a narrow 
     strip of dried dragon shit upon which God has
     sprinkled toy tanks and airplanes and a lot
     of trees, flies and Marines.

     Joker's ears pop.  He pinches his nose and 
puffs out his cheeks.  Rafter man imitates him. 
They sit on bales of green rubber-impregnated
canvas body bags.

     It's a beautiful day.  I'm so happy to be
     alive and in one piece. I'm in a world of 
     shit, but I'm alive. And I'm not afraid.


     The door gunner smokes marijuana and fires 
his M-60 machine gun at a farmer in the rice
paddies below.
     "Git some...git same...harharhar." 
     The door gunner has long hair, a bushy 
moustache,  and wears an unbuttoned Hawaiian sports 
shirt.  On the Hawaiian sport shirt are a hundred 
yellow hula dancers.

     The hamlet beneath us is in a free fire zone 
     - anybody can shoot at it at any time for any 
     reason. We watch the farmer run in the 
     shallow water.  The farmer knows only that 
     his family needs some rice to eat.  The 
     farmer knows only that the bullets are
     tearing him apart.

     "You guys ought to do a story on me suntahm," 
the door gunner shouts above the noise of the helicopter.
     "Why should we do a story about you?" 
"Cause I'm so fuckin good," he says, "'n that 
ain't no shit neither.  Got me one hunnert 'n 
fifty-se'en gooks kilt. 'N' fifty caribou." He 
grins and staunches the saliva for a second. 
"Them're all certified," he adds.
     "Ever shoot any women or children?"
     "How can you do that?" 
     "Easy - you just don't lead "em so much.
     Since lift-off, a bullying Arvin captain and 
a big Arvin sergeant have been questioning two VC 
prisoners seated on the floor opposite them with


their backs to the open door, the wind tearing at 
their shirts, their arms sharply tied behind them.
     The Arvin captain has been concentrating on 
one man, a hard-core VC, who won't even look at 
him. Suddenly, the captain starts yelling 
hysterically but the prisoner keeps his eyes
     The Arvin captain stops shouting, breathes 
hard a couple of times and makes a sharp movement 
with his head to the Arvin sergeant standing over
the prisoner.
     The sergeant pushes the prisoner out of the 
door, a frozen look of horror on the victim's face 
in the split second before he disappears.
     It happens so fast, it takes a couple of 
seconds to sink in to Joker and Rafter Man.
     Joker looks at the door gunner. 
     The door gunner winks amiably at him. 
     Joker looks at Rafter.  Rafter's mouth is
     The Arvin captain starts shouting at the 
second VC prisoner who looks like he's ready to 
give Uncle Ho's Private telephone number.
     Joker gestures to Rafter Man's camera. 
Rafter Man looks down and sets his exposure.
     It looks like the prisoner is answering the 
questions but he doesn't seem to be making the 
Arvin captain any happier.
     Joker says, "Start shooting pictures - lots
of them."
     Rafter starts shooting pictures.
     The captain doesn't like this at all and 
angrily gives Rafter Man the traditional


no-pictures-wave-off.  "Hey, you, Marine.  No
camera me!  No camera me!"
     Joker gestures to Rafter to keep shooting.   
     "Number ten! Hey, Marine - why you camera
     Joker leans closer and shouts to be heard.
     "Captain, we are officially accredited US Marine 
Corps combat correspondents and if you harm this 
prisoner we're going to file an official report of 
this entire incident together with our 
photographic evidence."
     "You number 10 motherfucker.  Me captain.
Who you talking to?"
     "I'm talking to you, Captain Zipperhead, sir."
     The Arvin captain looks like he's going to 
have a stroke.  He shouts something to the 
sergeant who draws his pistol but keeps it pointed 
at the floor.
     Joker shifts the M-16 across his knees.
     Then, suddenly, the Arvin captain turns and 
pushes the prisoner out 
of the door.
     He turns back to Joker and laughs, showing 
two gold teeth.  The sergeant thinks this is 
pretty funny, too.
     Joker fires his M-l6 on full automatic into 
the two men, blasting them 
out of the door.
     Joker stares at the empty door. 
     Rafter flops down on the floor. 
     The door gunner grins and leans over to
Joker.  "Ain't war hell?"
     Joker stares at the empty door.



     Captain January is in his plywood cubicle in 
the back of the ISO hootch.  Captain January is 
the kind of officer who chews an unlit pipe 
because he thinks that a pipe will help to make 
him a father figure.  He's playing cut-throat 
Monopoly with Corporal Kegan.  Captain January 
isn't Captain Queeg, but then he's not Humphrey
Bogart, either.
     He picks up his little silver shoe and moves 
it to Baltic Avenue, tapping each property along 
the way.
     "I'll buy Baltic.  And two houses."  Captain 
January reaches for the white and purple deed to 
Baltic Avenue.  "That's another monopoly, 
Corporal."  He positions tiny green houses on the
     "Joker, I've got big piece of slack for 
you."  Captain January picks up a manila guard 
mail envelope and pulls out a piece of paper with 
fancy writing on it.  "Congratulations, Sergeant 
Joker."  He hands him the paper.

     T. DAVIS, 2306777/4312, I DO APPOINT HIM A 

    Joker stares at the piece of paper.  Then he 
puts the order on Captain January's field desk. 
"Number ten.  I mean,  no way, sir."


Captain January stops his silver shoe in 
midstride.  "What did you say?"
     "Sir, I rose by sheer military genius to the 
rank Of Corporal.  But I'm not a sergeant.  I 
guess I'm just a snuffy at heart."
     "Joker, you will belay the Mickey Mouse 
shit.  You've got an excellent 6-month record in 
country.  You've got enough time-in-grade.  You've 
been on enough combat ops.  You rate this 
promotion. This is the only was war we've got."
     "Captain January, you know I do my job. I've 
fouqht to make the world safe for hypocrisy. My 
stories are paper bullets fired into the fat black 
heart of Communism. Let me do it as a Corporal." 
     "Joker, I don't think you understand how 
important our job is.  Grunts are good show 
business but we make them what they are.  History 
may be written with blood and iron but it's 
printed with ink."
     Joker thinks for a few seconds.  "Sir, I shot 
two Arvins on the way up here on the helicopter. 
They were killing prisoners."
     "You shot two Arvins on the way up here on 
the helicopter?" Captain January asks, looking 
down at the monopoly board. 
     "Yes, sir." 
     "You're pulling me leg, right?"
     "No, sir."
     "You're not pulling me leg?"
     "No, sir."
     "Oh, damn."  Captain January slaps a card 
onto the field desk.  "Go to jail - go directly to 
jail - do not pass go - do not collect two hundred


dollars."  The captain puts his little silver shoe 
into jail.
     Captain January looks troubled.  Then he 
looks up and says with finality, "Joker, you've
always had a sick sense of humour.  You are 
definitely pulling me leg.  You will be wearing 
chevrons indicating your proper rank next time I
see you or I will definitely jump on your 
     "Yes, sir."
     	Captain January shifts into another gear. 
"Okay... now I want you to hump up to Hue. 
One-One is in the shit.  Two NVA divisions have
overrun the city.  Charlie's finally decided to 
dig in and fight."
     Captain January looks at Rafter Man.  "Who's 
this?  Sound off, Marine!"
     Rafter Man stutters.
     Joker says, "This is Lance Corporal Compton, 
sir.  The New Guy in Photo." 
     "Outstanding.  Welcome aboard, Marine." 
     "Thank you, sir!"
     "Joker, make sleeping sounds here tonight and 
head up to Hue in the morning.  We've had reports 
the VC have executed hundreds of civilians, maybe 
thousands.  They've uncovered several mass 
graves.  Walter Cronkite is due here tomorrow so 
we'll be busy.  But your job is important, too. 
We need some good, clear photographs. And some 
hard-hitting captions.  Get me photographs of 
indigenous civilian personnel who have been 
executed with their hands tied behind their backs, 
people buried alive, priests with their throats 
cut, dead babies - you know what I want.  Then get


me come good feature stuff on the fighting with 
good body counts.  And remember: we're writing our 
own report cards in this country.  Don't be afraid 
to give us a few A's." 
     "Yes, sir."
     "Joker, before you go up there you will 
remove the unauthorized peace button from your 
duty uniform." 
     "Aye-aye, sir." 
     "And Joker..."
     "Yes, sir."
     "Don't even photograph any naked bodies
unless they're mutilated." 
     "Aye-aye, sir."
     "And Joker..."
     "Yes, sir?" 
     "Get a haircut."
     	"Aye-aye, sir."


     The helicopter on it's way to Hue.  Joker and 
Rafter Man stare silently out of the door.


     The helicopter settles down at an LZ on the 
outskirts of Hue.  Joker 
and Rafter hop off.
     The LZ is cluttered with walking wounded,
stretcher cases and body bags.


Corpsmen immediately start carrying canvas 
stretchers to the helicopter.  On the stretchers 
are bloody rags with men inside.
     Joker stops a master sergeant.  "Top, we want 
to get into the shit.
     "The master sergeant is writing on a piece of 
yellow paper on a clipboard.  He doesn't look up, 
but jerks his thumb over his shoulder. 
     "Two-five.  Gasworks...a click north." 
     "Gasworks.  Outstanding.  Thanks top." 
     The master sergeant walks away, writing on 
the yellow paper.  He ignores four skuzzy grunts 
who run into the compound, each man holding up one 
corner of a poncho.  On the poncho is a dead 
Marine.  The grunts are screaming for a corpsman 
and when they put the poncho down, very gently, a 
pool of dark blood pours out onto the concrete 


     	Joker and Rafter Man walk up the shattered 
street, awed by the sheer destruction. 
     A huge, black pall of smoke hangs above the 
city in the distance and the sound of distant 
firing of M-16's and AK-47's can be heard.
     They pass a tank, its treads blown off, a 
huge black hole through its turret. 
     Rafter Man photographs it.
     Three or four wounded Marines walk towards 
them along side a jeep with stretchers tied to 
it.  They're bloody and bandaged, and their
fatigues are torn.


"Whyn't you take a picture?  It'll last 
longer," one of the grunts says.
     Rafter does.
     Some Vietnamese who have been huddled by the 
side of the road are pointing towards the smoke, 
crying and wailing pitifully.
     	One of the wounded grunts yells at them, 
"Hey, fuck you if you can't take a joke! 
     The wounded grunt laughs without humour and 
walks on.
     A shell goes off in the distance and Rafter 
starts to hit the deck.  Joker gives him a look 
and he straightens up, slightly embarrassed.


     A squad of Arvin troops are looting a house. 
They are loading a truck with furniture, TV's, 
stereos, clothes.  They look like boys in their 
outsized helmets and uniforms.
     Another shell goes off in the distance. 
Rafter Man checks his impulse to dive for cover 
and looks at Joker.
     "Remember this, Rafter Man," Joker says, "Any 
time you can see an Arvin you are safe from Victor 
Charlie.  That's definite.  You're safe until 
they start yelling, 'Beaucoup VC, beaucoup VC!' and 
then runaway.  But then you have to he careful, 
Arvins are always shooting at chickens, other 
people's pigs, and trees.  Arvins will shoot 
anything except transistor radios, stereos, 
Coca Colas, sun glasses, and the enemy."



     Joker and Rafter Man catch up with a big 
Marine lieutenant with an expensive pump shotgun 
slung across his back and DEADLY DELTA on his flak 
jacket, followed by his radio man.
     "Sir, we're looking for Hotel, 2/5.  I got a 
bro in the First Platoon.  They call him Cowboy. 
He wears a Cowboy hat."
     "I'm Cowboy's platoon commander.  The Lusthog 
Squad's up in the platoon area up by the 
gasworks.  You people 1/17?"
     "No, sir. We're correspondents for Sea 
Tiger.  I'm Joker, sir, Corporal Joker.  This is 
Rafter Man."
     "Glad to see you." 
     They walk along with the big Marine. 
     Rafter takes a few shots of the lieutenant
who enjoys the attention.
     "If you men have come looking for a story 
this is your lucky day.  We've got Condition Red 
here and we are definitely expecting rain." 
     "Outstanding.  How is it going, sir?" 
     "Well, it looks like Charlie's got a whole 
division in the town, and he's dug in pretty 
good.  We're still working this side of the river 
street by street and house by house.  But when we 
get 'em out where we can see 'em, we're getting 
some really decent kills." 
     "Mind if we tag along?"
     "Welcome aboard.  By the way, my name is 
Bayer.  Robert M. Bayer, the third.  My people 
call me Touchdown. I played a little ball at 
SMU.  You here to make Cowboy famous?"


Joker laughs:  "Never happen... Sir, we've 
heard the NVA have executed a lot of civilians. 
Have you come across anything?"
     "There's a mass grave about half a klick 
east, just this side of the Phu Cam Canal."
     Joker takes out a map.  "Can you show me
where, sir?"


     Joker and Rafter Man stand in a small group 
of military and civilian officials near a large 
excavation containing about 40 bodies.
     It smells really bad.  The snuffies doing the
digging have all tied olive-drab skivvy shirts 
around their faces but casualties due to 
uncontrollable puking are heavy.

     All of the dead people are grinning that 
     hideous, joyless grin of those who have heard 
     the joke, of those who have seen the terrible 
     secrets of the earth.

     Rafter man shoots a roll fast and reloads. 
     Joker asks a lieutenant, "Now many bodies 
have you got so far, sir?"
     	The lieutenant looks irritably at Joker and 
Rafter Man.  "What outfit are you men with?"
     "Sir, we're correspondents from Sea Tiger." 
     Complete change of attitude.  The lieutenant
brightens up.  "Oh, hello."
     "I'm Corporal Joker, sir.  This is my 
photographer Rafter Man."


     The lieutenant smiles.  I'm Lieutenant
Cleave, I'm from Hartford, Connecticut." 
     "Sir, do you have a body count yet?" 
     "Unofficially it's about forty."
     "Do we know how it happened, sir?" 
     "Well, apparently the NVA came in with lists 
of names - government officials, land owners, army 
and police officers.  They went around to their 
houses and politely told them to report to local 
schools for political indoctrination.  They shot 
everyone who turned up, some of them were buried 
     Joker nods and writes in his notebook with a 
ballpoint pen.
Joker looks up and sees a poge Army colonel 
marching up to face him.  The poge colonel has a 
classic granite jaw.  His jungle utilities are 
razor-creased, starched to the consistency of 
green armour.  Joker stands to attention.
     "Corporal," the Army colonel says.  "Don't 
you know how to execute a hand salute?" 
     "Yes, sir!" Joker says.

     I hold the salute until the colonel returns 
     it, plus a couple of seconds extra, to 
     identify the colonel as an officer to any 
     snipers in the area.

     "Marine," the colonel says.  "What is that on
your body armour?" 
     "You mean this button, sir?"


     "What is it?" the colonel says.
     "A peace symbol, sir."
     "Where did you get it?"
     Joker thinks for a couple of seconds.  "A 
liberal gave it to me, sir," Joker says, keeping 
a serious face.
     The colonel jabs Joker's button with a 
forefinger and giver him a fairly decent Polished 
Glare.  His blue eyes sparkle.  "That's right, son, 
act innocent.  But I know what that button means."
     "Yes, sir! 
     "It's a ban-the-bomb propaganda button.
     Admit it!"
     "What is that you've got written on your 
     "Born To Kill?"
     "You've written 'Born to Kill' on your 
     "Yes, sir."
     Why did you do that?" 
     "I don't know, sir. Everyone writes things 
on their helmets."
     "You write 'Born to Kill' on your helmet and 
you wear a peace button.  What is that supposed to 
be, some kind of sick joke?" 
     "No, sir." 
     "Well, what is it supposed to mean?"
     "I don't know, sir."
     "Answer that question, corporal, or you'll be 
standing tall before the man."
     "Well, sir," Joker says with exaggerated 
thoughtfulness, "I suppose...I was trying to


suggest something about the duality of man." 
     "The what?"
     "The dual nature of man?...  You know, sir, 
the Jungian thing about aggression and xenophobia 
on one hand, and altruism and cooperation on the 
     There is a fairly considerable 
mouth-breathing pause from the colonel.
     "Whose side are you on, son?"
     "Our side, sir."
     "Yes, sir." 
     "Don't you love your country?" 
     "Yes, I do, sir."
     "Then how about getting with the program? 
Why don't you jump on the team and come in for the 
big win?"
     Joker still manages to keep a straight face. 
"I'm certainly ready to do that, sir." 
     "Confess corporal, confess that you want peace."
     "I confess, sir."
     The colonel leans closer and lowers his 
voice, "Son, we've all got to keep our heads until 
this peace craze blows over."
     Joker makes a serious face to consider the 
full implications of this statement.  "Yes, sir." 
     The poge colonel tries to think of something 
more inspiring to say, but he hasn't got it.  So 
he says: "You can't wear that button, Marine. 
It's against regulations.  Remove it immediately."
     Joker is saved from further difficulty by 
several mortar rounds that come in about 50 yards 
away, BANG! BANG! BANG! everyone dives for


cover.  In the ensuing shouting and confusion, 
Rafter Man and Joker take off.


     Joker and Rafter Man find Cowboy's squad 
resting in the rubble of a demolished building.
     Cowboy gets to his feet and says, "Holy shit, 
it's the Joker."
     Cowboy and Joker grab each other and wrestle 
and punch and pound each other on the back.  They 
say, "Hey, you old mother-fucker.  How you been? 
What's happening?  Been getting any?  Only your 
sister.  Well, better my sister than my mom, 
although mom's not bad."
     "Hey, Joker, I was hoping I'd never see you 
again, you piece of shit."
     Joker laughs. "Cowboy, you look real mean. 
If I didn't know that you're a born poge I'd be 
     "Hey, we're the Lusthog squad - we are 
lifetakers and heartbreakers.  We fill them full 
of lead.  You should have been with us yesterday 
we wasted so many it wasn't even funny."
     Joker says, "This is Rafter Man.  He's not a 
walking camera store.  He's a photographer." 
     "Lai dai, bro" 
     "Hi, pleased to meet you," Rafter says.
     The rest of the squad stare at Joker and 
Rafter Man the way people do in a train station.
     Cowboy says to the squad, "Hey, this is 
Joker, my bro from the Island, and this is Rafter 
Man.  They're from Sea Tiger.  They'll make you


famous.  This is Alice...(nod).... Donlon... (nod) 
Stutten...(wave) Hand Job...(holds out his 
hand), for Christ sake don't shake hands with 
him...(laughter)... Doc Jay."
     "You can trust me," Doc Jay says. "I got 
magic hands."
     "Doc Jay wants to save all the wounded, even 
those killed and buried months ago.  Every night 
dead Marines beg him to come to their graves."
     Doc Jay laughs.
"And this is our squad leader, Crazy Earl." 
     Crazy Earl is armed with an M-16 and a Red 
Ryder BB gun.   Crazy Earl looks at Joker.  There 
is no expression on his face.  "There it is," he 
says.  "They call me Crazy Earl.  Gooks love me 
until I blow them away.  Then they don't love me 
     A big Marine and a small Marine double-time 
up the road carrying a large cardboard box between 
them.  The big Marine is Animal Mother. The small 
Marine is T.H.E. Rock.
     They drop the box and reach inside. 
     "Resupply. Resupply. Get your red-hot 
bennies. Scarf it up," T.H.E. Rock says.  He 
throws plastic bags to each of the men.
     "This is T.H.E. Rock.  He wears that rock 
around his neck so when the dinks zap him they'll 
know who he is."
     T.H.E. Rock pulls out a rawhide cord and 
shows Joker his rock, a quartz crystal mounted in 
brass.  "I'll live forever. I'm the Rock." 
    Cowboy points to the big marine, "This is 
Animal Mother.  He's hard."
     Animal Mother has a belt of machine-gun 
bullets crisscrossing his chest.  He picks his 
nose and says to Joker, "You better believe it."


     "This is my bro, Joker and this is Rafter 
Man. They're from Sea Tiger." 
     "You a photographer?" Animal Mother says to 
     Joker shakes his head.  "I'm a combat 
     Animal Mother smiles scornfully, "You seen 
much combat?"
     "Hey, don't fuck with me," Joker says.  "I 
got twice as many operations as my grunt in Eye 
     Cowboy says, "Hey, come on bro, sit down, 
sit and share."
     Animal Mother sits down, cross-legged  "Man, 
I almost got me some eatin' pussy." 
     T.H.E. Rock says, "That's affirmative. 
Mother was chasing a little gook girl with his 
dick hanging out."
     Lieutenant Touchdown lights a small block of 
C-4 explosives to make hot chocolate. "How old was 
     "Maybe twelve or thirteen," says Animal 
     "Mother, you know what I told you about 
     Animal Mother grins, spits: "If she's old 
enough to bleed, she's old enough to butcher." 
     "Animal Mother, listen up," Lieutenant 
Touchdown says.  "You harass one more little girl 
and I'm going to put my silver bar in my pocket 
and you and I are going to throw some hands." 
     Animal Mother grunts, spits, picks up a 
bottle of tiger piss.  He hooks a tooth into the


metal cap and forces the bottle up.  The cap pops 
     "Cowboy, you remember when we was set up in 
that L-shaped ambush up by Khe Sanh and blew away 
that NVA rifle squad? You remember that little 
gook bitch that was guiding them? She was a lot 
younger than the one I saw today."  He takes a 
swallow.  "I didn't get to fuck that one either. 
But that's okay.  That's okay.  I shot her 
motherfucking face off."  He looks at Joker and 
grins.  "That's affirmative, poge. I shot her 
motherfucking face off." He burps in Joker's face.
     Joker says, "Hey, Animal fucker.  How come 
you think you're so bad?"
     Animal Mother looks surprised.  "Hey, 
motherfucker, you want me to tear you a new 
     "Only after you eat the peanuts out of my 
     "Whoa, now just whoa," Cowboy says.  "If 
there's one thing I can't stand it's bad 
language.  Now violence, that's something else. 
I mean if you feel you got to blow Animal Mother 
away,  that's outstanding. But some other time, 
Joker, 'cause we need him right now." 
     Alice, a big black marine says, "You might 
not believe it but under fire Animal Mother is one 
of the finest human being in the world. All he 
needs is someone to throw hand grenades at him for 
the rest of his life."
     "Hey, jungle bunny," Animal Mother says. 
"Thank god for the sickle cell, huh?"
     Rafter Man starts taking some pictures of the 
squad.  Crazy Earl puts his arm across the 


shoulders of the man next to him.  The man has a 
bush cover pulled down over his face and a beer in 
his hand.
     "Hey photographer, you want a good picture? 
Here man, take this.  This it my bro," says Crazy 
Earl, removing the bush cover from the man's 
face.  "This is his party.  He is the guest of 
honour.  You see, today is his birthday." 
     The man next to Crazy Earl is a dead man, a 
North Vietnamese corporal, a clean-cut Asian kid 
about seventeen years old with ink-black hair, 
cropped short.
     Rafter Man looks at Joker.  Then he starts 
taking shots with his Nikon.
     Crazy Earl hugs the North Vietnamese 
corporal.  He grins.  "I love the little commie 
bastards, man.  I really do.  They're as hard as 
slant-eyed drill instructors.  They are highly 
motivated individuals.  Hey, take a couple like 
this." Crazy Earl poses, Rafter keeps shooting.
     "Grunts understand grunts.  These are great 
days we are living, bros.  We are jolly green 
giants, walking the earth with guns.  The people 
we wasted here today are the finest individuals we 
will ever know. When we rotate back to the World 
we're gonna miss having somebody around who's 
worth shooting.  Hell, it'd be okay with me if he 
came to America and married my sister." 
     "How 'bout me, Craze?" Alice, the black 
Marine, says. "Could I marry your sister?" 
     A few men laugh.
     Donlon is talking on the handset.  "Sir, the 
CO wants the actual."


     Donlon gives the handset to Touchdown.  The 
Lieutenant talks to Delta Six, the commanding 
officer of Delta 2-5.
     "Number ten.  Just when we were scarfing up 
some good bennies" Crazy Earl says.
     Lieutenant Touchdown stands up and starts 
putting on his gear.
     "Moving, rich kids.  Saddle up in five. 
Craze, get your people on their feet." 
     "Moving.  Moving." 
     "You two with us today?" Crazy Earls asks.
     "Yeah," Joker says.
     "Good.  That makes fourteen."


     The platoon moves Indian-file along both 
sides of the road, twenty yards between each man.
     The lines pop and snick as cocking levers are 
snapped back and bolts sent home, chambering 
rounds.  Safeties are clicked off.  Selector 
switches are thumbed to the full automatic 
position.  Those Marines armed with M-14's fix 

     Machine guns start typing our history.  First 
     our guns, then theirs.  Snipers fire a round 
     here and there, sighting us in.

     Somebody starts singing:


     They all sing:
     "So come along and sing our song
     And join our: fam-i-ly...
     Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse...."

     The machine guns are exchanging a steady fire 
     now, like old friends having a conversation.

     Thumps and thuds puncture the rhythm of the 
     The platoon moves into a line abreast 

     The snipers zero in on us.  Each shot becomes 
     a word spoken by death.  Death is talking to 
     us. Death wants to tell us a funny secret. 
     We may not like death but death likes us.

     Joker says out loud: "You and me, God - 
     Black roses of smoke bloom in the distance.

     Shots of the platoon crossing open ground.

     I put out the word to every part of my body. 
     Dear Feet, tiptoe through the tulips.  Balls, 
     hang in there.  Legs, don't do any John 
     Wayne.  My body is serviceable.  I intend to 
     maintain my body in the excellent condition 
     in which it was issued.


     "Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?" Joker 
says aloud.
     "Hey, start the cameras," Cowboy says. "This 
is Vietnam, the movie."
     "Joker can be Paul Newman.  I'll be a horse,"
Cowboy says. 
     "Crazy Earl says, "Can I be Gabby Hayes?" 
     "The Rock can be a rock," says Donlon, the 
radioman.  He is chewing bubblegum and popping 
     Alice says, "I'll be Ann Margaret." 
     "Animal Mother can be a rabid buffalo," says 
Stutten, honcho of the third fire team.
     "If this was real I'd be scared," Joker says.
     The enemy are assaulted by werewolf laughter. 
     "Who'll be the Indians?" 
     The little enemy folks audition for the part,
machine-gun bullets rip across a wall to starboard.
     "You follow me, New Guy," T.H.E. Rock says to 
Rafter Man, smiling, "'Cause I'm a lucky guy." 
     T.H.E. Rock starts singing:

     Lucky lucky lucky me, 
     I'm a lucky son-of-a-gun.
     I work eight hours, 
     I sleep eight hours, 
     I leave eight hours for fun.

     A mortar explodes ten feet in front of him. 
Small bits of metal, brains and blood splatter over 
Rafter Man as T.H.E. Rock stops the full charge of 


     More mortar rounds explode ahead of them. 
     Doc Jay dashes to T.H.E. Rock but he is dead.
     "Jesus Christ," Rafter Man says.  "The Rock 
is all fucked up." 
     The men keep running. 
     A B-40 rocket explodes.
     Hand Job laughs, "Hey, I pissed all over 
myself."  But he looks down and sees he's soaked 
in blood from his stomach to his knees.  A flicker 
of comprehension as he falls dead.
     Crazy Earl starts whooping and hollering and 
shooting his Red Ryder - BB gun.  A sniper's 
bullet drills him right through his head.


     The platoon reaches the ruins they are 
     Cowboy, Alice and Joker rush forward and 
flatten themselves against the building, each by a 
window.  They start throwing grenades in. 
     Joker takes some fire but isn't hit. 
     They kick in the door and run in, firing. 
     Lieutenant Touchdown is killed by a grenade.
     Animal Mother rushes in with his M-60, 
spraying wildly.  Most of the NVA inside are dead.
     There are some short, sharp exchanges of 
automatic fire and grenades with the few remaining 
NVA die-hards who are all killed.



     The firing has all but stopped.  The Lusthog 
squad has taken up defensive positions in the 
     Some civilians start to appear, smiling 
shrugging, trying to get back to their homes.
     The Marines try to menace them away at rifle 
point, shouting, "Di, di, di, you sorry-ass 
motherfuckers, go on, get the hell away from 
here!" and the refugees smile, half bowing, and 
flit up the shattered streets.
     "Don't those zipperheads know there's a war 
     A little boy of about ten comes up to the 
squad.  He is laughing and moving his head from 
side to side in a funny way.  The fierceness in 
his eyes should tell everyone what it is, but it 
doesn't occur to most of the grunts that a 
Vietnamese child can be driven mad too, and by the 
time they understand it the boy is going for their 
eyes and tearing at their fatigues, spooking 
everyone, putting everyone really uptight, until 
Alice grabs him from behind and holds his arms. 
"C'mon, poor li'l baby, 'fore one a these grunt 
mothers shoots you," he says and carries the boy 
back to where the corpsmen are.


     Later, outside the ruined factory, the 
Lusthog squad stand looking at the bodies of 
Lieutenant Touchdown, Crazy Earl, T.H.E. Rock and 
Hand Job, which have been laid out on the ground 
in a straight row.
     Helicopters stand nearby to carry away the 
     Nearby, two Graves Registration men are 
struggling with a body trying to get it into a 
body bag.
     "Shit, this is a gook!  What'd they bring him 
here for?"
     "Look, man, he's got on our uniform." 
     "I don't give a fuck, that ain't no American,  
that's a fucking gook!"
     "Wait a minute," the other one says. Maybe 
it's a spade..."
     Joker stands over Lieutenant Touchdown's 

     Dead Lieutenant Touchdown didn't look like 
     an officer anymore.  He was just another 
     meatbag with a hole in it.  My reaction was 
     curiosity.  I wondered what the rounds felt 
     like as they entered his body, what his last 
     thought was, what his last sound was at the 
     moment of impact.  I marvelled at the 
     ultimate power of death.  I never felt so 

     Donlon steps up.  "We're mean Marines, sir." 
He hurries away, fumbling with the handset.


     Alice gently kicks Lieutenant Touchdown's 
corpse.  "Go easy, bro."
     Animal Mother says quietly, "Better you than 
me, man."
     Rafter Man says, "Well, at least he died for 
a good cause,"
     "Which cause was that?" Animal Mother says.
     Animal Mother says, "Flush out your head 
gear, New Guy.  You think we waste gooks for 
democracy?  Don't kid yourself; this is a 
slaughter, and if I'm gonna get my balls shot off 
for a word I get to pick my own word and my word 
is poontang." 
     No one seems interested in arguing with him.
     Cowboy looks down at Hand Job.  "It's a tough 
break for Hand Job, he was just set to get a 
medical discharge."
     "What was the matter with him?" Joker asks. 
     "He was jerkin' off ten times a day." 
     Joker laughs.
     "That's no shit," says Alice.  "At leas' ten 
times a day.  It was disgustin'."
     "Last week," Cowboy says, "he was sent down 
to Danang to see the Navy psychiatrist there, and 
the crazy fucker starts jerkin' off in the waiting 
room.  Instant Section Eight.  He was just waiting 
for his papers to clear division."
     Sergeant Murphy comes up to them.  "Okay, 
gather 'round.  Gather 'round...I'm acting platoon 
leader until they can send up an officer. 
Cowboy's first-squad leader to replace Craze. 
Okay, Cowboy?"


     Cowboy nods,"Sure."  He is pleased. 
     Joker slaps him on the back. 
     "I'll follow you anywhere, scumbag."


     Twilight in the rubble of the ruined factory.

     Later, the company is set in for the night. 
     Listening posts are strung out 50 yards on 
     all sides, claymore mines are set in place, 
     and artillery is registered in on likely 
     enemy approaches.

     A few shots to illustrate this.

     A CBS camera crew turns up, asking how we
     feel about maintaining the equilibrium of the
     Dingdong by containing the ever encroaching 
     Doodah, and getting the star-struck grunts to
     strike combat poses, pretending to be
     what they are.

     A few shots to illustrate this - interviews, 
     A CBS cameraman gives Alice direction.
     "Okay, wait until I say action and then fire 
off a few shots."
     	Wisecracks from the Lusthog squad.
     	Alice nods, "Okay."	
     	"Turnover -Hue city fire fight - take 
one...Okay, action."


     Alice fires off a few shots, looks out, a bit 
over-intently, to see what he's hit, then he fires 
off a few more shots.
     "Okay, cut it" 
     "How  was that?"
     	"Great. Let's try just one more. Fire off a 
whole clip on automatic and when you finish, shout 
something at them." 
     "What should I say?"
     "It doesn't matter.  Just shout something 
like you're really mad.  Okay?"
     	"I'll try."
     More wise cracks from the squad.
     "Okay, quiet, guys...turn over.  Hue city - 
fire fight, take 2...0kay, action."
     Alice blasts off a clip and hesitates, stuck 
for something to say.
     "Go 'head, shout!"
     Alice hesitates, then shouts,  "Hey... 
gook...get offa my cloud!"
     Everyone breaks up.


     Later, the CBS crew have gone.  The men are 
heating and eating C-rations.
     Joker is writing in his notebook. 
     Donlon and Stutten are looking at a glossy,  
car brochure.
     "It's been proven, I'm tellin' you.  You 
put a Ford engine in a Chevvy, and a Chevvy engine 
in a Ford, and they both go faster"


     Alice is hunched over his radio.  'Let's talk 
about tracers,' the radio announces says.  'Sure, 
they're fun to shoot.  They light up the sky!  But 
did you know that tracers leave deposits on your 
barrel?  Deposits than often lead to malfunctions 
and even jamming...' 
     "Hey, Alice, turn that fuckin' thing off." 
     "Right after Sports" Alice says, cleaning 
his face with some Wash 'n Dri's.
     Donlon looks up from the car brochure.  "I 
hope we stay here.  This street fighting is decent 
duty.  We can see them here."
     The DJ plays "The Girl with the Faraway Eyes" 
by the Stones.
     "Hey, we sure as hell knocked the living shit 
out this place today, didn't we?" Stutten says 
     "Yeah.  Godzilla never drew that kind of 
fire," Alice says.
     "It's a damned shame, all them poor people 
though, all them nice looking houses, they even 
had a Shell station there," Rafter Man says. 
     "We said we were going to bomb then back to 
the Stone Age and we do not lie."
     Daddy DA is playing with a yo-yo.  He's doing 
'Square the Circle', 'Rollercoaster' and 'Kiss the 
Cat' when Sergeant Murphy walks up to him.
     "What the fuck do you think you're doin'?" 
He grabs the yo-yo from Daddy DA's hand and throws 
it outside.  "This isn't a playground. You're a 
fucking Marine.  Act like one!"



     They hear the sound of a motorbike 
     "Oh man, I don't believe this Cowboy says. 
     A young Arvin soldier with a girl riding 
the pillion comes up the road and stops. The girl 
get off,  brushes her hair back and smiles. She is 
attractively dressed in a blouse and skin-tight 
pants.  She is pretty.
     Some of the squad get to their feet and 
gather around them.
     "Hey, you," the Arvin says.  "You wan' number 
one fuckey?"
     "Hey, any you guys want number one fuckey?"
Cowboy says.
     Laughter and affirmative ad libs.
     "Me want suckey," Donlon says.
     	Some laughter.
     "Fuckey, suckey, smoke cigarette in pussy. 
Everything you wan'" the Arvin says without 
cracking a smile. 
     More laughter.
     "How much?" Cowboy says. 
     "Ten dolla," the Arvin says.
     "For all of us?" 
     "Ten dolla each," the Arvin says. 
     "Five dollars for each." 
     "Me love you good," the girl says. 
     "Five dollars," Cowboy says firmly. 
     "Okay...five dolla."
     "Hey, she ain't bad lookin'," Alice, the big 
black marine, says moving closer to her.


     The girl looks at Alice and says something to 
the Arvin.  There is a brief disagreement between 
them which ends with the girl shaking her head no, 
several times.
     Cowboy says, "What's the problem?" 
     "She say, no boom-boom with soul brother." 
     The squad laughs.
     "What the motherfuck" Alice says. 
     "Soul brothers too boo-coo," the Arvin says. 
"Too boo-coo." 
     "What's he talkin' about?"
     "I think they're sayin' that you coloured 
boys pack too much meat," Cowboy says. 
     "Shit," Alice says.  "These fuckin' whores 
got pussies on 'em like the Grand Canyon. What 
the fuck they sayin'?" 
     The Arvin shakes his head.  "Too boo-coo." 
"Well I'll tell you what," Alice says.  "Just 
look at this, mother fucker." He unbuttons his 
fatigue pants and whips it out.  "That ain't no 
big thing.  It's magnificent, but it sure as shit 
ain't that big.  Look." 
     The men laugh.
     The girl has a look and says something to the 
     The Arvin says, "Okay, soul brotha'. You 
     Laughter and wisecracks from the squad. 
     "All right," Alice says.
     "What's the batting order?" Rafter Man says.
     Animal Mother pushes his way in.  "If I gotta 
pay for it, I'm goin' first," he says, grabbing 
the girl and walking away with her.


     A chorus of complaints from the men. 
     Cowboy says, "Hey, Mother, we'll draw lots." 
     "I'll be right back," Animal Mother says. 
"I'll skip the foreplay."


     Night in the factory.  The squad is peering 
into the darkness, safeties off, on a maximum 

     During the night the LP's report hearing 
     movement.  The Captain decides to have a Mad 
     Minute which means that on a signal we blast 
     away for exactly one minute, and on another 
     signal, we stop and listen for movement or 

     The signal is given and the men fire on 
full-auto, into the blackness.  Then, on a signal, 
they abruptly stop. 
     Total silence.

     We're absolutely deafened by the terrific 
     noise but we strain to listen for any 
     suspicious sounds.

     Suddenly the nerve wracking silence is broken 
by a terrific fart - vrrruumpp!! 
     Everyone breaks up laughing.



     Intelligence passed the word down that the 
     NVA had pulled out of our area during the 
     night to positions across the river. 
     Our squad is walking point for the platoon to 
     find out if that's true.

     The Lusthog squad files past a skull, charred 
black, mounted on a stake in the kill zone, on 
which someone has stuck some old black felt 
Mousketeer ears.
     Someone has nailed a scrap of ammo crate on a 
tree with crude letters: ALL HOPE ABANDON, YE WHO 
     Resupply choppers wop-wop down to earth 
behind them like monster grasshoppers.
     They lock and load.
     The squad comes to the last two-man listening 
post.  Cowboy waves his hand and Alice takes the 
     All clear, says Alice with a hand signal.
  Cowboy waves his hand and they move slowly along 
the deserted streets ten yards apart, half the 
squad hugging the walls on each side of the 
street, peering into doorways and windows and 
keeping an eye on the roof tops.
     Cowboy jabs his gray Marine-issue glasses 
with his forefinger.

     In the gray glasses Cowboy does not look like 
     a killer, but like a reporter for a high 
     school newspaper, which he was, less than a 
     year ago.


     The clink of their gear as they walk sounds 
loud in the unnatural silence.
     Cowboy reminds them to maintain ten yards 
between each man.
     Frequently he stops to check his compass and 
acetate map.
     Rafter Man changes his lens and starts taking 
shots of the patrol.  The zip, zip of his shutter 
seems loud in the ominous quiet.


     Shots of the patrol in different streets, 
separated by dissolves.
     Shot of Joker.

     My thoughts begin to drift into the things I 
     will do after I rotate back to the World, 
     which inevitably means erect-nipple wet 
     dreams of Mary Jane Rottencrotch and the 
     Great Homecoming Fuck Fantasy.

     The patrol continues slowly up another 
     Alice raises his right hand.
     The squad stops.
     Cowboy flexes the fingers of his right hand 
as though cupping a breast.  Booby trap? 
     Alice shrugs.  Just cool it, man.
     They move off again.


     Alice really understands, the shrewd race of 
     men we are fighting - hard soldiers, strange, 
     diminutive phantoms with iron insides, brass 
     balls, incredible courage, and no scruples at 
     all.  They look small, but they fight tall, 
     and their bullets are the same size as ours.

     Joker moves very carefully, staying close to 
the buildings.

     We live by the law of the jungle, which is 
     that more marines go in than come out.  There 
     it is.


     Alice freezes.  His right hand closes into a 
fist:  Danger.
     All of Alice's senses open up.  He waits. 
     Invisible birds scatter from tree to tree.
     Alice grins, and lifts his M-79 grenade 
launcher to his shoulder.  The "blooper" is like a 
toy shotgun, comically small. 
     Adrenaline gives them a high.
     Alice shrugs, lowers his weapon, gives them 
his usual thumbs-up, all clear; as if to say, I'm 
so cool that even my errors are correct.
     Cowboy's right hand slices the air again, and 
they all shift gear to less painful positions and 
move out, grumbling, bitching. 
     Alice hesitates.    
     In rows of loops across the front of his vest 
hang two dozen M-79 grenade rounds.


     On Animal Mother's back pack is the warning:
     Cowboy waves his hand and the squad moves 
     Animal Mother tells Rafter Man "Don't follow 
me too close, New Guy.  If you step on a mine I 
don't want to get fucked up." 
     Rafter falls back a few paces.
     From somewhere, from everywhere, an almost 
inaudible snap.
A bird goes insane.  One bird sputters overhead.
     Alice stands rigid and listens.  He raises 
his right hand and closes it into a fist.  Danger.
     Cowboy thinks about it.  Then he says, "Hit it."
     Wavering forms crumple to the deck as 
Cowboy's order is echoed from man to man back down 
the trail.
     Joker says to Cowboy, "Bro, I was hoping a 
sniper would ding me so I'd have an excuse to fall 
down.  I mean, I think I'm going to hate this 
     Cowboy is watching Alice.  "Cut the shit,
Joker. "
     Kneeling, Alice studies the empty street. 
Alice studies the street for a long time. "It's 
not right, bro, " he says just above a whisper.
     Cowboy studies the street.  "We got to move, 
     The city is ominously silent except for the 
squeak-squeak of a canteen being unscrewed.
     Alice wipes the sweat from his eyes, and 
says mostly to himself, "All I want to do is make


it back to the hill so I can smoke about one ton 
of dope.  I...wait...I heard something!"
     "A bird," says Cowboy.  "Or a branch 
falling." Alice shakes his head.  "Maybe.  Maybe." 
     Cowboy's voice is stern: "You're paranoid, 
Midnight.  The gooks have pulled out.  We got to 
keep moving." 
     Donlon crawls over to Cowboy, handset at his 
ear.  "Hey, Lone Ranger, the old man wants a 
report on our position." 
     "Let's" move, Midnight.  I mean it." 
     Alice rolls his eyes.  "Put a nigger behind 
the trigger."  Alice takes one step forward, then 
hesitates.  "I can remember when I've had more 
     Joker says in his John Wayne voice:  "Viet 
Nam is giving war a bad name."
     Cowboy says, "Everybody shut the fuck up." 
     Alice shrugs, mumbles, "Feets, get movin'," 
and takes another step forward.  "Cowboy, m'man, 
it ain't easy being the black Errol Flynn, you 
     Alice, the point man, moves out.  He 
ditty-bops across an intersection.
     The crack of an SKS sniper's carbine jolts 
Alice into a rigid position of attention.  His 
mouth opens.  He turns to speak.  His eyes cry 
     Alice falls.
     	"HIT IT!"
     Falling forward - now...


     "Oh, no..." Rubble.
     Pavement.  "ALICE!"
     "What.. .?" Damp. Bleeding elbows.
     Looking, not seeing, looking... 
     "Oh-oh...Shit City..." 
     Waiting.  Waiting. 
     "Hey, man..."
     My guts melt.
     Alice is lying in the middle of the 
intersection, about 35 yards away.  He doesn't 
     Joker takes cover behind some rubble.

     I curl up and try to make myself small and I
     think how wonderful it would be if I could 
     crawl up into my own asshole and just 
     disappear and I think:  I'm glad it's him and 
     not me. 

     Alice, the point man, is down on the 
pavement.  His big black hands are locked around 
his right thigh.
     Cowboy says, "Damn." He shoves his Stetson 
to the back of his head and jabs at his glasses 
with his index finger.
     Alice is trying to crawl to cover. 
     Alice extends his hand.


     Alice's hand is knocked down.  He lifts it 
again slowly. Alice's right forefinger is 
missing.  "Oh, no...not"
     Animal Mother opens fire.  High-velocity 
machine-gun bullets clip, chop, and ricochet along 
the deserted streets snapping into the masonry 
with rhythmic precision.
     Rafter opens up with his M-16 and then 
switches to his Nikon.
     Lance Corporal Stutten fires an M-79 and the 
grenade bursts, against a wall.

     I see a strange shadow in a doorway so I 
     throw a few rounds in there with my grease 
     gun.  But it's Maggie's drawers.  There's 
     nothing to shoot at.

     Daddy D.A. pops a frag and lobs it in. 
     Everybody is blazing away at an empty street. 
     Cowboy screams into the jarring thud: "OKAY, 
     Everyone stops firing - everyone except 
Animal Mother.  His weapon continues to spill hot 
brass and black metal links until the belt runs 
     "We gotta kill that cocksucker! says Animal Mother.
     "COOL IT!" says Cowboy.
     "Where did it come from?  Did anyone see it?" 
     No one says anything, then Animal Mother says.  
"He's out there in front of us." 
     "Where? "
     Animal doesn't know.


     Cowboy grabs the radio handset from Donlon. 
"Delta Actual, this is Delta One."
     "This is Delta Actual," says the insect voice 
of the Platoon commander from inside the handset.
     "Delta Actual, we are receiving enemy sniper 
fire.  I have one Whiskey, India, Alpha."  Cowboy 
looks at his map.  "My position, up three over 
one. Azimuth 105 degrees, back 210 degrees." 
     "Roger, copy that, Delta One." 
     "Request a dust-off and a tank." 
     Roger, copy that, Delta One, but what is 
tank for?"
     "Delta Actual, possible strong enemy force 
occupying buildings in front of us, and sniper 
just trying to suck us in." 
     "Roger, copy that, Delta One." 
     A rifle bullet snaps through Donlon's radio. 
The impact of the bullet flips Donlon onto his 
back.  Cowboy dives for cover.  Donlon struggles 
like an overturned turtle.
     Joker crawls on his hands and knees.  He 
grabs Donlon's rifle belt.  He drags him behind 
some cover.
     Donlon swallows air.  "Beaucoup thanks, 
     Doc Jay comes scrambling up on all fours like 
a bear in a hurry.
     Cowboy says, "Alice is in the open. We can't 
reach him."
     "Bullshit," Animal Mother says.
     	Cowboy rolls over.  "I'm okay.  I'm okay."
     "He hit Alice again!"


     Alice moves, groans. "It hurts...it 
     There's a dark hole through the boot on 
Alice's left foot.  Alice laughs, grins, grits his 
teeth.  "I'm short..."
     Doc Jay stands up.
     Cowboy grabs him and pulls him down.
     "You crazy?"  But Doc Jay wrestles free.  He 
unhooks the Unit One medical kit from his web belt 
and drops the rest of his gear.
     Cowboy looks sick.  "Don't try it, bro.  That 
sniper does not miss..."
     "I'm the corpsman," says Doc Jay, "Not you," 
and before Cowboy can react Doc Jay is on his 
feet and running.  He runs at a crouch, 
zigzagging. He hits the intersection. 
     Doc Jay stumbles, falls.
     The Doc's left thigh has been torn open. 
Jagged bone protrudes.  The Doc tries to push 
himself forward with his good leg.
     Cowboy pops a smoke grenade, lobs it in. 
     "We've got to do something..." 
     Green smoke pours from Cowboy's smoke 
grenade, obscuring the street.
     Cowboy starts to tell us what to do.  But he 
can't make up his mind.  Then he says, "The 
sniper's trying to suck us in.  Wants the whole 
squad, one at a time."
     The squad looks around to Cowboy, ready to do 
or die.
     "Donlon get on the radio and see what's 
happening about that tank." 
     "I can't, the radio's dead."


"I saw some tanks on the way up," Cowboy 
says.  "Double time back there and get something 
     "Okay." Donlon takes off down the street in 
little zig-zag rushes.
     Rafter Man is watching with wild eyes, his 
weapon held at port arms.
     Animal Mother's bloodshot eyes scan the 
street for muzzle flashes, movement, any sign of 
     Lance Corporal Stutten and the rest of the 
squad watch silently - they are waiting for 
     "Spread out, both sides of the street, and 
wait for the tank," Cowboy says quietly. 
     The squad slowly obeys the order.
     At the intersection, Doc Jay manages to stand 
up, balances himself on his good leg.  He bends 
over and hooks Alice under the armpit with his 
forearm, tries to lift him.  "You're okay, Alice. 
No sweat. I'm Doc Jay.  You can trust me. I got 
magic hands."
     BANG !
     Doc Jay collapses.  Now his left foot is a 
bloody lump.  He waits for the last bullet.  When 
the last bullet doesn't come he sits up,  pulls 
Alice across his lap.  The Doc fumbles in his Unit 
One, takes out a syringe, gives Alice a hit of
     The squad opens fire again, shooting at 
     Using his teeth, Doc Jay tears the waxy brown 
wrappers off three compress bandages.  The Doc 
ties the bandages around Alice's wound.  Alice


groans, says something we can't hear.  Doc Jay 
uses his shirttail to wipe sweat from Alice's 
forehead then pulls out a piece of rubber tubing 
he uses for tourniquets.
     Doc Jay's right hand is shattered.  The Doc 
tries to move his fingers.
     He can't.
     Animal says, "How long are we going to sit on 
our asses?"
     "We'll move up with the armour," Cowboy says. 
     "When the fuck is that?" 
     "Alice and Doc can't wait anymore!" 
     "We've got no choice.  The sniper is just 
sucking us in."
     "We can do it if we all go at once.  The 
sniper'll have too many targets."
     "That might be what they're waiting for.  How 
do you know there's only one sniper?"
     "Alice and Doc Jay are out there gettin' shot 
to shit!"
"I don't like the situation any more than you 
do but we have to accept it."
     Mother says, "We can go for Alice and Doc, 
give the sniper too many targets.  We can save 
them!"  He checks his M-60.
     Cowboy grabs Mother's arm, "Listen man, cool 
it.  No one's going out there."
     Animal says, "Stand down, motherfucker, or 
I'll cut you in half."
     Cowboy slowly lets go of his arm.
     Animal Mother hoists his B-60 machine gun and
charges for the street crossing.


     He fires blind.
     He lopes along with the fluid grace of a meat 
     His chin is dripping saliva.

     Animal Mother is a predator attacking.  He 
     wants warm blood to drink.  Animal Mother 
     wants human flesh to tear apart and devour. 
     Animal Mother doesn't know what the hell he's 
     doing.  He thinks he's John Wayne.

He makes it to Alice and Doc Jays spraying long 
bursts from his M-60. 
     The sniper fires, kicking up dust a few 
inches from Mother's foot.  His first miss.  The 
M-60 return fire has made it less fun.
     Mother fumbles with Doc Jay and sees he's 
     He fires another burst up the side street and 
drags Alice behind a burned-out Citroen car 
overturned in the intersection.
     BANG !
     The sniper's bullet ricochets off the car. 
     "Close, but no cigar, motherfucker!" 
     Mother fires back.
     The squad lends morale support, firing 
     Cowboy says to Joker, "I guess I just can't 
hack this shit, bro."
     Joker doesn't know what to say. 
     "Mother was lucky," he finally says. "He had 
a John Wayne wet dream."


     "If I sent my people out there to get the 
sniper I might have lost the whole squad."
     "Look Cowboy, you're the honcho.  You give 
the orders.  You make the decisions.  I could 
never do that.  I could never run a rifle squad. 
I don't have the balls."
     Cowboy thinks about it.  "You're right, 
Joker.  You shit bird, you're right.  I've got to 
get my program squared away.  I wish Sergeant 
Gerheim was here."  Then he grins, but something 
inside has gone.
     A big, M-48 Patton tank clanks into view in 
the rear.  Dutton is riding behind the turret. 
Cowboy shouts and waves like a traffic cop. 
     Mother holds Alice's head and says, "How's it 
going, Jungle Bunny?" 
     "That morphine is great shit," Alice says.
     "Anything for a fix," Animal Mother says. 
     Alice looks like he's going to pass out. 
     "Hey, jungle bunny...Hey, stay with me, man." 
     "Right on," Alice says weakly and closes his 
eyes again.
     Animal Mother shakes him.  "Hey, Jungle 
Bunny... do you know how you keep five niggers 
from raping a white girl?" 
Alice opens his eyes.
     "Do you know how you keep five niggers from 
raping a white girl?" 
     "Throw 'em a basketball."
     Animal Mother laughs and fires  another burst 
from his M-60. His eyes blaze with excitement. He 
is high on primeval adrenaline.


     The tank is near.  Cowboy double-times down 
the road to meet it.  He runs past heaps of rubble 
which were houses yesterday, bricks and stones and 
shattered wood today.
     The tank jerks to a halt.  The turret whirs. 
The big ninety-millimeter gun locks on him.  For a 
long moment it looks like the tank is going to 
blow Cowboy away.
     The top half of a blond tank commander 
appears in the turret hatch.  The lieutenant is 
wearing a flak jacket and an olive-drab football 
helmet with a microphone that protrudes over his 
lips.  He is a mechanical centaur, half man, half
     Cowboy explains about the sniper and points 
to Animal Mother and Alice lying on the ground 
behind the burned-out Citroen.
     The blond tank commander is silent. He gives 
Cowboy a thumbs-up.
     The tank rolls up to the street corner.
     Animal Mother shouts and points down the 
street where he has spotted the sniper.


     The tank clanks down the block and opens fire 
with its big ninety-millimeter gun and its machine 
     Hugging the walls, the squad follows the 
tank, leap-frogging forward in short rushes. 
     The medivac helicopter appears overhead.
     Cowboy throws a pink smoke grenade near Alice 
and waves the helicopter to the spot.


     Animal Mother dashes across the open street 
and ducks down with the squad.
     He is a big hero. The men laugh and pound 
him on the back.
     Cowboy sends Lance Corporal Stutten and his 
fire team around behind some buildings.
     Animal Mother sets up his M-60 on a low wall 
and opens fire, raking the building he thinks the 
sniper is in. Every fifth round is a tracer. 
     The tank rolls up to that building.
     The rest of the squad double-time down an 
alley and cross the road down the street, at the 
end of the row of buildings.
     Up the street sits the tank.  The tank fires 
a round of high explosives.  The upper story of 
the building is blown apart.  The roof collapses.
     Animal Mother continues to fire from his 
position near the tank.
     The helicopter crew loads Alice aboard and 
the chopper whop-whop-whops into the air.
     Cowboy double-times to the first building at 
their end of the street. He steps carefully to 
the rear corner of the house, peeks around the 
corner.Cowboy waits for Lance Corporal Stutten 
to pop a green smoke as a signal that his fire 
team is in position as a blocking force.
     When green smoke begins to pour from a 
drainage ditch at the far end of the street Cowboy 
waves his hand and they all open fire at the 
     One at a time, they run across the street to 
join Cowboy.  Animal Mother joins up with them.
     Cowboy waves his hand around the corner and 
Lance Corporal Stutten's fire team opens up with


their weapons on full automatic, pouring hundreds 
of high-velocity copper-jacketed bullets into the 
     The tank fires a second round.  The ground 
floor of the building is blown apart.
     The tank grinds forward twenty yards, stops, 
fires again.  The first story of the building 


     Cowboy leads them into the building.
     Inside, they leapfrog from corner to corner. 
Cowboy pops a frag and underhands it into 
somebody's kitchen.  The detonation rocks the 
whole house, numbs their ears.
     Joker steps forward.  He gestures to Cowboy, 
jerks his thumb at he ceiling. Cowboy holds up a 
circled thumb and index finger, "okay." 
     Joker pops a frag and pitches it up a 
stairwell to the second story.  The explosion 
splits the plaster over their heads.
     Outside, up the street, the tank fires again.
     Cowboy waves his hand and they follow him up 
the stairs.
     Upstairs, he kicks out a window and they all 
hop out onto the roof. 
     The tank is two buildings away.  It fires. 
     They drop their gear and jump the six-foot 
chasm between buildings.
     Cowboy stands up and signals Lance Corporal 
Stutten, who waves back with his poncho.  Bullets


from Lance Corporal Stutten's fire team stop 
hitting the rear of the house they're standing on.
     The tank fires.  The shell bursts.  Shrapnel 
whines over them.
     They converge on a skylight.  Joker drops a 
frag through the glass.
     The grenade explodes in an invisible room 
below. Concussion shatters the skylight.
     They drop through the ragged rectangular hole 
into somebody's library.  Shrapnel has mangled 
leatherbound books.  
     Joker picks up a small leatherbound book for 
a souvenir.  The author is Jules Verne; the title 
is in French.  He stuffs the book into his thigh 
pocket and reaches to the front of his flak jacket 
for another grenade.
     They work their way through the house, 
fragging every hallway, every room.  But they 
can't find the sniper.
     The tank fires into the second story of the 
house next door.


     Joker takes a few steps down the stairs. 
Cowboy holds up his hand.  
     They hear a noise on the roof. 
     They run back to the library.
     They drag a heavy antique desk to the ruined 
skylight and cowboy climbs upon it and starts to 
lift himself back onto the roof.
     Joker grabs Cowboy.


     "Wait a minute.  If he's up there he'll pop 
your head off as soon as you stick it out." 
     "Never happen."
     "Hey, man, you're crazy."
     Cowboy lifts himself up on the roof, looks 
around and starts to reach a hand down for Joker.
     The CRACK! of a Simonov sniper's carbine - 
 Cowboy falls back through the skylight.  Joker 
catches him and eases him down to the rooftop.
     He is bleeding heavily from a chest wound.
     Suddenly, everyone looks up to the cracked 
ceiling through which can be heard the muffled 
thud, thud, thud of running footsteps on the roof.
     Joker tears open his first aid pack and 
kneels beside Cowboy.
     The rest of the squad cautiously move off in 
several different directions to cut off the 
     Joker carefully pulls open Cowboy's shirt, 
now soaked with blood.
     "Am I hit bad?... Am I gonna make it?" 
     "You're gonna be okay." 
     Jokes tries to stop the flow of blood. 
     "Don't shit me, Joker." 
     "I'm not shitting you man." 
     The wound is terrible and there is nothing 
Joker can do.
     "Don't shit me, man.  I'm not gonna make it." 
     "Hey, if you don't make it who'll introduce 
me to your sister?"
     "I... don't have a... sister... I thought...
you knew that."
     "No sister? You mean I've been wasting my 
time with you?"


     "Looks like it." 
     Cowboy is going vary pale. 
     "Tomorrow is... my birthday." 
     "No, shit.  How old will you be?" 
     "Hey, if I don't have time to get you a 
     Joker takes Cowboy's hand. 
     "Go and see... my Mom."
     Joker knows there is no point in any further 
pretense.  "Sure." 
     "Hey, Joker..." 
     "Why me?" 
     Cowboy's eyes close and his head rolls to one 
     Joker feels for a pulse and checks his pupil 
reflex, just to make sure.
     Cowboy is dead.
     Animal Mother and Rafter Man came running 
down the corridor.
     "We got him cornered up on the roof," Rafter 
Man says.
     "Cowboy's dead," Joker says.
     Animal Mother looks at Cowboy.  "Come on, 
let's kill the cocksucker."
     Joker stands up slowly.



     Joker pops a frag.  He climb up onto the 
desk and take hold of the roof with his left 
hand.  He lets the spoon fly.
     The spoon phinnnnings away and rattles across 
the floor.
     He holds the sweaty green oval for three 
seconds and, lifting himself up, he flips it up 
and back so that it rolls across the roof directly 
over them.
     The frag bursts, spraying seven hundred and 
fifty pieces of steel wire across the roof. 
     The ceiling splits.
     Plaster and splintered wood bounce off his 
     Rafter Man jumps up onto the desk and lifts 
himself up onto the roof.
     Surprised, Joker and Mother pull themselves 
up after him.
     The tank fires into the ground floor of the 
house next door.
     Rafter Man, Animal Mother and Joker crawl on 
their bellies on the roof.
     Rafter Man crawls up to the crest of the 
roof. He peers over the crest. 
     BANG.  A hiss.
     Animal Mother pantomimes with his hand 
meaning: I'll crawl off to the left, you and 
Rafter Man crawl off to the right.
     Joker gives him a thumbs up.
     Joker crawls up beside Rafter Man.  He takes 
a peek.  From behind a low chimney at the opposite 
corner of the roof a thin black line protrudes.


     They hear the incredibly loud clanking of the 
tank as it rolls on the street below.  It stops.
     Rafter Man pulls away.
     Joker turns away and duck walks to the edge 
of the roof. He stands up and is about to jump 
across when the house explodes beneath him.
     He falls on his back.
     The sniper is moving.
     Rafter Man jumps over the crest of the roof 
and slides down the incline on his ass.
     Joker tries to stand up. But all of his 
bones have shifted one inch to the left.
     Suddenly a foot steps on his chest, pinning 
     The sniper looks down, surprised.
     The sniper sees that Joker is helpless, 
glances back at Rafter Man, gets ready to jump 
across to the other roof.
     Rafter Man runs back up the incline and 
slides back down on his ass, ten yards away.
     Joker reaches for his grease gun. 
     The sniper turns towards Rafter Man and 
raises her SKS carbine.
     She is a young girl, no more than seventeen 
years old, a slender Eurasian angel with dark, 
beautiful eyes, which, at the same time are the 
hard eyes of a grunt.  She's not quite five feet 
tall.  Her hair is long and black and shiny, held 
together by rawhide cord tied in a bow.  Her shirt 
and shorts are mustard-coloured khaki and look 
new.  Slung diagonally across her chest, 
separating her small breasts, is a white cloth 
tube fat with sticky reddish rice.  Her B. F. 
Goodrich sandals have been cut from discarded


tires. Around her tiny waist hangs a web belt 
from which dangle homemade hand grenades with 
hollow wooden handles, made by stuffing black 
powder into Coca-Cola cans, a knife for cleaning 
fish, and six canvas pouches containing banana 
clips for the AK-47 assault rifle slung on her 
     Rafter Man is firing his M-16. 
     The sniper lowers her weapon. 
     She looks at Rafter Man.
     She looks at Joker.  She tries to raise her 
     Bullets shock flesh. 
     Rafter Man is firing.
     Rafter Man's bullets are punching the life 
out of the sniper.
     The sniper falls off the roof and hits the 
street with a terrible sound.
     	The tank fires into the ground floor beneath 
us.  The house shakes.
     Animal Mother appears from behind a chimney.
     Joker stands up.He feels like a dead man's 
shit. He walks to the front of the house.  He 
waves to the blond tank commander. 
     He swings a fifty-caliber machine gun around 
and aims it at Joker.
     Joker steps into full view on the edge of the


roof.  He waves an "all clear." 
     The tank commander gives him a thumbs-up. 
     Joker pops a green smoke grenade and drops it 
on the roof.
     Joker limps over to the sky light and climbs 
back down into the library.
     Rafter Man has already jumped into the 
library and is running down the shrapnel-scarred 


     Down the street Joker watches as the tank 
rolls up to the last house still standing.  He 
waves another "all clear" and the tank commander 
gives him another smile and another thumbs-up and 
then the tank fires, blasting the top floor. 
It fires again, blasting the ground floor.
     The tank commander's great mechanical body 
grumbles contentedly and rumbles away.
     "Did you see that tank?  Was that tank bad? 
What a honey," says Donlon.
     Animal Mother and Joker walk around to the 
rear of the house.
     They find Rafter Man standing over the 
sniper, drinking a can of Coca-Cola.  Rafter Man 
grins.  He says, "Things go better with coke." 
     Animal Mother walks up and Rafter Man says, 
"Look at her! Look at her!"
     They all stand over the sniper.  The sniper 
is drawing her breath with great effort.  She 
grits her teeth and then makes a sound like a dog that 
has been run over.


Lance Corporal Stutten leads his fire team to 
the sniper.  "Look at that," says Lance Corporal 
Stutten.  "It's a girl.  She's all busted up." 
     "Look at her!"  Rafter Man it saying.  He 
struts around the moaning lump of torn meat. 
"Look at her!  Am I bad?  Am I a menace?  Am I a 
life taker?  Am I a heart breaker?" 
     Animal Mother kneels and searches for 
papers.  There are none.  Then he unbuckles the 
sniper's web belt and jerks it from under her 
body.  The sniper whimpers.  She speaks to them in 
French.  Animal Mother tosses the bloody belt to 
Rafter Man.
     A corpsman comes up and kneels beside the 
sniper.  "No more boom-boom for this mama-san," 
he says.
     The sniper begins to pray in Vietnamese. 
     Joker says, "Let's get her back to the aid 
     "She'd never make it." 
     Rafter Man asks, "What's she saying?" 
     Joker shrugs.  "What difference does it 
     Animal Mother spits.
     There is a burst of gunfire which sounds like 
it's coming from just down the street.  It 
sputters out and then flares up again.
     Animal Mother says, "Let's get the fuck outta 
     Joker says, "What about her?" 
     "Fuck her," says Animal Mother. "Let her 
     "We can't just leave her here," Joker says. 
     Animal Mother takes a giant step towards


Joker, puts his face up close to his.  "Hey, 
asshole, Cowboy is wasted.  You're fresh out of 
friends.  I say we leave the gook for the 
mother-loving rats."
     Rafter Man is buckling on his NVA belt.  The 
belt has a dull-silver buckle with a star engraved 
in the center.
     Joker says, "We can't leave her like this." 
     "I don't care," say Animal Mother.  "Go on 
and waste her."
     Joker says, "No. Not me."
     "Then we saddle up and move...now." 
     Joker looks at the sniper.  She whimpers.

     I try to decide what I would want if I were 
     down, half dead, hurting bad, surrounded by 
     my enemies.  I look into her eyes, trying to 
     find the answer. She sees me.  She 
     recognizes me - I am the one who will end 
     her life.  We share a bloody intimacy.
     As Joker lifts his grease gun the is praying 
in French.  He jerks the trigger.  BANG! 
     The squad is silent.
     Then Donlon grunts, flashes a big grin. 
"Man, you are one hard dude." 
     Stutton and Liccardi are standing beside him.
     Stutton says, "Joker, that's a well done. 
You're hard."
     Animal Mother spits.   He takes a step, 
kneels, zips out his machete.  With one powerful 
blow he chops off her head.
     He picks the head up by its long black hair


and holds it high.  He laughs and says, "Rest in 
pieces, bitch."
     Animal Mother laughs again.  He walks around 
and sticks the bloody ball of gore into all their 
faces.  "Hard?  Now who's hard?  Now who's 
hard, motherfuckers?"
     Animal Mother pauses, spits, throws the head 
into a ditch.
     He picks up his M-60 machine gun, lays it 
across his shoulders, struts over to Joker. 
"Nobody shits on the Animal, motherfucker. 
     Joker stares at him.


     Up ahead, at the street corner, the rest of 
the platoon has moved up and are crouched and 
lying behind cover, under fire.
     Three mortar rounds explode near their 
     Animal Mother turns and trots to the street 
     The squad follows him.
     Rafter Man says to Joker, "Let's go, we'll 
come back for Cowboy."
     Joker doesn't say anything and slowly moves 
     Animal Mother reaches the corner.  "We got 
the sniper - a gook bitch.  Cowboy is wasted." 
     Sergeant Murphy frowns.  "Anyone else?"


     "Come on, hurry up." Sergeant Murphy shouts 
to Joker and Rafter Man.
     Joker and Rafter Man run the last part of the 
way, all their gear clattering.
     Sergeant Murphy points to some ruins a few 
hundred yards away. "We're taking fire from over 
there. We're getting ready to move out." 
     He looks at Joker and Rafter Man.  "Are you 
two still with us?"
     Rafter Man nods, eagerly.  Joker looks at the 
ruins, "Sure."     
     The radio operator gives Sergeant Murphy the 
handset.  Sergeant Murphy sticks a finger in one 
ear and has a short conversation.  He gives the 
handset back to the radio man.
     He creeps forward, takes out his binoculars 
and studies the ruins. 
     Several artillery rounds crash into the 
ruins, raising a pillar of smoke.
     "Lookit! Lookit that!" Rafter Man says. 
"That's sex!  That's pure sex!"
     Sergeant Murphy gets to his feet. "Okay, 
rich kids we're moving out. When we get past the 
fence form a line abreast, ten years a part.  Let's 
     The platoon rise up behind Sergeant Murphy 
and begin to run forward.
     They fan out in a line abreast.
     The men begin to fire their rifles in the 
direction of the attack.
     Joker fires his rifle.
     The air is being torn.
     Green tracer bullets dissect the sky.


     Boots crunch in powdered stone.  Equipment 
slaps, clangs and rattles.  People curse.

     We're all running like big-assed birds. We 
     don't want to do this. We are all afraid. 
     But if you stayed behind you would be alone. 
     Your friends are going; you go too.

     The shock of bullets punching through bricks. 
     Splinters of stone sting their faces.

     You don't have to be who you are anymore. 
     You're not a person anymore.  You're part of 
     an attack, one green object in a line of 
     green objects.

     Bullets hit the street.
     	The impact of the bullets is the sound of a 
covey of quail taking flight.
     And sparks.

     Something snaps and we're past the point of 
     no return. We're running fast and we aren't 
     going to stop. Nothing can stop us.

     Sounds.  Cardboard being torn.  Head-on 
collisions. Trains derailing.  Walls falling into 
the sea.  Metal hornets swarm overhead.
     Pictures.  The dark eyes of guns; the cold 
eyes of guns.  Pictures blink and blur, a wall, a 
tiny man, shattered blocks of stone.




     "Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving!!!"

     People tell you what to do.  Keep moving, 
     keep moving, keep moving.  If you stop 
     moving, if you hesitate, your heart will stop 
     beating.  Your legs are machines winding you 
     up like a mechanical toy.


          HIS TOY RIFLE.

     You feel like you could run around the 
     world.  Now the asphalt is a trampoline and 
     you are fast and graceful, a green jungle 



     Your feet take you up...up...over the rubble 
     up...up... you're loving it... you're not 
     human, you're an animal, you feel like a 
     god...you scream: "DIE! DIE! DIE, YOU 



          JOKER, THE 8 YEAR OLD, 
          BY THE CAMERA.

          8 YEAR-OLD BOY.


     Cemetery.  Joker's funeral.  It is a bright 
sunny day.  Joker's mother and father, pale and 
drawn, are grouped under a canopy facing the 
flag-draped casket, flanked by relatives and
     Joker's father speaks with difficulty;  "My 
son... wanted passionately... to be a writer...and 
while he was in Vietnam he kept this notebook... 
which was found.. on his body.  I'm going to 
read... a few lines from it... which show... the


immense...  talent...  he  possessed...  which is
now... lost... forever."
     With tears in his eyes, Joker's father 
fumbles for a particular page of writing in the 
dirty, worn notebook.  He finds it and begins, 
haltingly, to read it aloud.
     "I often think about... how things were when 
I was ten...
     "I loved to lie in bed... before the sun was 
up... and before I was really awake... and think 
of the long, exciting day ahead.
     "The sky... had begun to turn pink, and the 
great stillness outside... gave way... to the 
rustling of trees... and the sound of 
     "I went downstairs... without waking 
anyone... and went out into the backyard.
     "The air was fragrant... and cold... and I 
watched the sun slowly come up from behind the 
mountain... and the sparrows pecking away... on 
the dewy grass...
     "I could hardly contain... my happiness." 
     Joker's father is barely able to continue.
     "How little I knew of the world... beyond 
that garden and our town."
     Joker's father is overcome by a rush of 
tears.  His wife holds on to him.  He regains some 
composure and continues.
     "And now I want to read some poetry... by 
A. E. Housman... which his Mother and I.. have 
chosen.. as his... Epitaph..."

     "Here we lie...
     we did not choose...


     To shame the land... 
     from which we sprung... 
     Life ..
     to be sure...
     is nothing much to lose...
     But young men think it is... 
     and we were young..."

     Tears streaming down his face, his father 
slowly closes the notebook.
     We see Joker's peace button pinned to the 
notebook cover.