Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Ken Rodgers
In my dream Betty and I fret about boarding a plane. We're to meet Alice and Neil in Paris but something pops up and prevents departure, something unexplained, a palpable murk—a hazy barrier.
Wakened several times by diesel trucks chugging down US Highway 30, I've drifted in and out of this dream—I know the dream probably happens in a few seconds—yet I'm uncertain.
Betty and I met Neil and Alice at the reunion of the Khe Sanh Veterans. Neil and I survived that combat and now he spends time preaching PTSD and he's almost convinced me I'm infected, too. For forty years I've said, "No way."
I think Betty thinks I've got it.
Neil and I shook on it. He says he hates the French. Alice loves the French. Betty and I adore France and if I contact the Veterans Administration and pursue treatment for something I'm not sure I've got, we'll go to Paris together.
Thus, I suppose, my irritation with our inability to board that plane, but I must admit that dream pales in comparison to two earlier in the night—I think it was this night— knockoffs of a dream that pops up and invades my slumber ever since we returned from that reunion (and maybe before—long before).
I'm in the jungle grass and saber-like blades tent above my head. There's yelling. Incoming shrieks and concusses the red ground beneath my knees. I have orders to attack the top of a ridge. Every time I try to advance, a North Vietnamese soldier pops up and shoots at me, and then another one pops up, and then another, AK-47 rounds zipping by my head. It's like my enemy's connected to a string that gets yanked every time I try to advance.
It reminds me of string theory—or my rendition—where an indiscernible string of energy yanks connected objects all across the universe; events are tied. Or like quantum mechanics and Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle where things pop up like the enemy in my dreams and when I leap up to waste them first, they are not where I think they ought to be—they aren't there.
That's how the dream keeps erupting. Like quarks and all that quantum particle stuff. Yanked by a string tied to events forty years past. Maybe the dream played in my sleep all these years, but my insistence of the dream's non-existence suppressed it and now it pops up like random electrons because I have capitulated.
"Yes. This terrible thing happened to me."
I hate that admission.
But the process marches on irrevocable as time's relationship to the second law of thermodynamics-we ain't going back, Jack—not to the age of twenty-one and certainly not to my war. And though I want to keep that violent past to my front so I'm not ambushed by ghosts, too many issues I thought I held in firm hands now seem out of control.
Except our trip to Paris. Bonjour.
Ken Rodgers lives and teaches in Boise, Idaho--sometimes he writes, too, and right now forty-year-old Marine Corps war memories consume him. Semper Fidelis.
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