All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this ebook or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright 1988 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough 978-‐1-‐49763217-‐2 © This edition published in 2014 by Open Road Integrated Media, Inc. 345 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014 www.openroadmedia.com .
Glossary Spellings are phonetic and meanings are approximate, not literal, translations. Many terms are not actually Vietnamese but pidgin. My apologies to any Vietnamese speakers for inaccuracies. I wish I had had your assistance when compiling this.
Prologue The nightmares have lost some of their power by now. I can haul myself out of one almost at will, knowing that the sweat-soaked sheet under me is not wet jungle floor, that the pressure against my back is not the barrel of an enemy rifle or a terribly wounded Vietnamese but my sleeping cat. When someone in a suit or a uniform frowns at me, it doesn’t always make me feel as if the skin over my spinal column were being chewed away by pointed teeth. Sometimes I can just shrug, and recognize the authority in question as an uptight asshole with no legitimate power over me—none that counts, that is, nothing life-threatening.
1 I didn’t know old Xe was a magician the night I began to be aware of his powers. If anybody had told me there was anything magical going on that night, I’d have told them they were full of crap, and assumed they either had a sicko sense of humor or had been smoking too much Hanoi Gold.
2 I tramped up the wooden stairs of the barracks and down the landing to my own hooch too tired to spare a glance for Monkey Mountain or the South China Sea, and unsure whether I wanted to continue to beat my breast, lick my wounds, or gloat. What I really wanted to do was sleep, but as soon as I opened the door to my hooch I knew that was going to present a problem.
3 The China Beach Officers’ Club was a rambling French colonial building on a hill above the beach. It commanded a splendid view of the South China Sea and the adjacent mountains and jungle. It was a romantic-looking place if you overlooked the concertina wire and sandbags and disregarded the attire of the clientele. With its lazily rotating ceiling fans, latticework of white painted wood, wide veranda, and potted palms, the place always made me feel as if I should be wearing a white linen safari suit and a pith helmet and walk in on the arm of Jungle Jim. I kept expecting somebody to come riding up on an elephant and call me “memsahib.” Right then, however, the Gunga Din illusions of the place were of less allure than its distance from the hospital.
4 Nobody shuddered in horror when I reported for duty on orthopedics. Nobody said, “Oh no, not her.” Nobody gave me knowing glances that said, “Lieutenant Colonel Blaylock told us about your kind.” Major Marge Canon looked up from counting narcotics only long enough to give me a quick, slightly distracted smile. Sarah Marcus, who occupied the hooch next door to mine, wiped the sweaty hair off her forehead with her arm, pouched out her bottom lip to blow upward to cool her face, and looked straight through me in a spacey way not unusual for night nurses just coming off a twelve-hour shift. Then her eyes focused, and she sighed and nodded her head in my direction before resuming the count.