The Twice-Death of Colonel Highlander
In the city, in seoul . . . under corrugated tin mezzanine in front of atashi concessionaires . . . planning security for the Olympics . . . now the olympics are one and the stands are filled . . . white liquid drips to puddle from a pierced-metal strut, twenty meters above . . . someone says “nerve” which I discount . . . colonel Highlander in black flak jak and Kevlar walks over, takes a knee and puts fingertip in to bring to nose, no smell . . . puts drop on his tongue . . . it’s all tremors and walking convulsions after that . . . he tries to drive away in his hummer, twitching and starting at the wheel, Kevlar bouncing fore and aft
Years later, colonel Highlander had recovered from the nerve agent episode . . . in assembly o mission … gathering up the former teammates, all SF types … gathering weapons and vehicles first far upriver alone then down south piggybacked on to a massive logistics depot where the soldiers slovenly and females there … our humvees parked under corrugated tin, combat parked, loaded for QRC . . . we all slept in darkened Quonsets during the day for our night vision . . . colonel Highlander briefing us in the darkened toc, maps under overlays hung on all walls . . . in the vehicle bay, like a garage, colonel Highlander steps to the bay door . . . me behind harmon rabb, him laughing as the mortar burst . . . colonel Highlander on his back blood leaving his Kevlar going uphill his forehead and him unquestioning dead . . . preparing for missions, we rehearsed our movements on the tops of stacked conexs . . . the movements like a broadway show for ninjas . . . and rehearsed and rehearsed . . . then I took to running the forest of stunt bamboo, the thin trails between, fit only for underfed viets . . . running at full speed on the left I see a machine shop where indig and soldiers are producing go-go motorcycles for tearing up the countryside . . . then a hmmmv racing behind and towards me, crashing through the thick bamboo and I think how can he possibly fit between these . . . oh, he needn’t . . .
On the far side of the camp were the divisional soldiers, bunked on catwalks above the sewer-cells where stood hundreds of other American soldiers, black in filth and moaning with mouths full of peat shit . . . and all we could think was, wish we could get the poor bastards out . . . it’s not us . . . and back to the sweat-soaked rack . . .
One soldier to another, yea, I punked him … he got my M-16 for it . . . but it weren’t nothing . . . other soldier, to buggered soldier, “you were into it . . . “
What kind of colonel is this … ?
That remains? That returns weekly into the fourteenth year thereafter? For whom I’ve cooked, and sprinted through rocky riverbed, gear akimbo, to save imaginary dead soldiers? Whose father died the summer of our dmz missionery and let me show off climbing to my troops; that summer of perpetual sneeze-making flowers e/r FP14, radar tower asthma runs, burning right hamstring and broke right wrist all the summer long? Who came to my BOQ and had chicken with me and Tim, eating on ammo crates and I drove him back to the 4th ID DTOC in my 83nissan truck.
Whose approval I so want, with whom I so badly want to do real work?
Who sent me, “mountain turtle” to munsan to find flowers for the Brigade Commander’s wife for the dining-in.
I reported in to Camp Howze with my mountain bike in a box with ropes and big wall shoes. Mean drunk Major Murphy said“You must go meet the Colonel.” Up the hill to the Colonel’s quarters, on the front porch he grabs my left shoulder, turns it towards him: “Oh great, another tab-less bitch” referring to the absence of the Ranger tab on my uniform—a major omission for an infantry officer.
Major Mark Vialpondo took over from Murphy. Besides being a hard son-of-a-bitch with a soon-broken-ankle (NODs appreciating night). Drank way too hard at the hank emerson-lonesome end dinner and we sat at the o’club bar, and he was practically crying, missing the black stuff he and colonel Highlander did in previous lives, before this namby-pamby korea bullshit. I walked him and his crutches down the 88 stairs to the field-grade Quonset, tucked him in and walked back uphill to the lieutenants’ q.