Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

Picnic - 1969

by Tom Mcgee

A hot sunny day invades my reoccurring sweaty nightmares even forty years later.

The smell of oil, grease, and diesel fuel lingered in the air at the Dong Ha 11th Engineer Battalion motor pool. Dust exploded in the air like dense powdery brown fog, settling gently as we tossed, chased and caught balls and disks while others grappled in the dirt, tumbled, walked on their hands, and played various childhood games. One Marine put down his warm beer,picked up his guitar and sang a humorous folk tale as we gathered around chuckling and celebrating in picnic fashion.

We gobbled down our barbeque, licked our dirty fingers, laughed, drank and spilled the brew, told stories of home, girl friends, R & R in distant lands, and bragged about how few days we had left on our tour in Vietnam. Then two inebriated friends made a dare before they ran, wobbly, boots kicking up dust, arms flailing, giggling and taunting each other, splashing beers still in hand, for the huge flatbed truck.

One jumped in, started the engine with the camouflaged door still open and began backing as the other wild and rowdy comrade jumped on the huge rear tire in his attempt to climb upon the flatbed. His laughing playfulness was suddenly silenced as his crushed lifeless body lay dead and bleeding beneath the wheel. Shocked and bewildered boys moaned, wailed, and pulled at their hair. Some lay upon the ground screaming in blood curdling agony through their gnashing teeth while others vomited and stumbled off in a daze.

Tom McGee lives with his wife Maureen in Springfield, Illinois. He retired from the Marines in 1990. From July 1968 through August 1969 he served in the 11th Engineer Battalion at Dong Ha, Vietnam.

Eighteenth Flash

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