Home » A Wasted Life » Short Stories » Ole’ Tin-tin – Chapter Six

Ole’ Tin-tin – Chapter Six

I had never seen my grandfather look so melancholy. I couldn’t imagine what he had seen and heard and done, as could no one, unless they had been there.

“Weeks went by,” he said, “and those weeks turned into months. We saw guys in our platoon get wounded or killed and it changed us all. I came to understand the way we were treated when we first arrived. These wide-eyed grunts were no different than we, and most of us didn’t want to give them a warm welcome. We had learned. We got to know and like a guy and the next thing we knew, we were covered with his blood and guts.”

“We all welcomed R&R. It was a chance to get a hot meal, sit around a campfire, not worry about getting killed, and just shoot the breeze. It was a chance for us to get a good nights’ sleep for the first time in what most of us couldn’t even remember how long.” Grandpa’s voice trailed off as he quietly said, “funny…none of us talked about our last mission. One night, I remember seeing this soldier walking back into camp. His face had that blank, unfocused look that I had heard so much about. It was called ‘the thousand yard stare’. That was the first time I saw it, but it wouldn’t be the last.”

I guess Grandpa needed to momentarily get out of that dark place. He laughed and said, “while we were enjoying, or trying to enjoy those few peaceful minutes of the only civility we would know for a while, George would start playing ole tin-tin. I guess we figured it was a little less hellacious than the unspeakable horrors of the past days…and weeks…and months, and it gave us the chance to laugh and forget for a while.”

“While we were sitting around, one question we all asked each other was, ‘how many days’?” He looked at me and said, “that was important. From day one, we were counting the days that we would be in country. When someone was getting short, they were running on a sort of high. We’d give them some crap of course, but we were always glad for them…and would be doing our own countdown.”

“After our three days of R&R, we were headed for the worst conflict we had yet seen. We were locked and loaded and waited until almost midnight to start moving.”

He gestured with his hands as he said, “they had these giant crickets and we’d listen to them while were were walking. It was so dark, we couldn’t see our own hand in front of our faces, but that didn’t stop us. We just muddled on. Then…the crickets stopped chirping and we got worried. We got really worried.”

“All of a sudden, bullets started flying, grenades were being thrown at us… and by us. There were bloodcurdling screams of desperation…or maybe they were the agonizing final screams of acceptance. I don’t know. It was just so chaotic and at times, I wasn’t sure if I was shooting at one of them or one of us.”

“The next thing I remember was seeing a blinding flash of light and then…nothing.”

“Did you get shot?” I asked. Grandpa looked at me and said, “no, I got what they call a sub concussive blow. It just knocked my lights out for a few minutes and left me not hearing so well for a while. We lost almost half of our platoon that night, but amidst the shock and turmoil, the next morning, we were able to collect the dead and wounded. The wounded got medivaced out, and the dead were put on a litter and carried away.”

“Death,” he said, “is indiscriminate. There’s no rhyme or reason. It doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you’re a short timer or just hopped off the chopper. It doesn’t care if you’re a good person or a bad person. When it comes for you, there is no apology. It’s just your time.”

Grandpa once again took a deep breath. He looked down and said, “when we got back to camp, we noticed that something wasn’t right.”

“Nobody had seen George.”

To be continued____________________

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