Monday, May 25, 2009


We called the enemy ghosts. "Bad night," we'd say, "the ghosts are out." To get spooked, in the lingo, meant not only to get scared but to get killed. "Don't get spooked," we'd say. "Stay cool, stay alive." Or we'd say: "Careful, man, don't give up the ghost." The countryside itself seemed spooky-- shadows and tunnels and incense burning in the dark. The land was haunted. We were fighting forces that did not obey the laws of twentieth-century science. Late at night, on guard, it seemed that all of Vietnam was alive and shimmering-- odd shapes swaying in the paddies, boogiemen in sandals, spirits dancing in old pagodas. It was ghost country, and Charlie Cong was the main ghost. The way he came out at night. How you never really saw him, just thought you did. Almost magical--appearing, disappearing. He could blend with the land, changing form, becoming trees and grass. He could levitate. He could fly. He could pass through barbed wire and melt away like ice and creep up on you without sound or footsteps. He was scary. In the daylight, maybe, you didn't believe in the stuff. You laughed it off. You made jokes. But at night, you turned into a believer; no skeptics in foxholes.

"The Things They Carried" - Tim O'Brien


the R said...

So brave. I wish all the soldiers fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan could come home right now, that the people in those countries were ready to handle their own goals, problems, and triumphs, and that these women and men could come home, be happy, and get the benefits they earned. I am thinking of them right now. Great post, heartbreaking picture.

Jen said...

I had to read this book in college - it was amazing! I agree with The Redhead - I can't wait 'til everyone is home.