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Historical Fiction Fantasy Romance

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Don't Mean Nuthin*

Tribute to Unsung Heroes: the Veterans of Vietnam War

Thanks for your service.


(* Coined by G.I.’s in Vietnam. A reverse coping expression indicating that it means everything and I’m about to lose it. Usually used to dismiss witnessing or experiencing something so horrific that it can’t be comprehended by the psyche. Alternately used as an expression of relief that one has avoided being killed even if they are injured or maimed.)


The fighting man of action opened his eyes. And saw nothing. What's happening?

“Why can't I see?” He asked no one in particular. He didn't know where he was or if anyone was near him to hear the question.

When he tried to reach up to rub his useless eyes his left arm was too confined to reach up. “What is holding me down?” He reached over his torso with his right hand and felt tubing coming out of his left forearm. Then he felt his face and realized there were bandages over his eyes.

“Why? What's going on? Anyone there? Help!”

“Hey, G.I. Gonna join the living? The doc's on the other side of the room. Someone will be over soon to explain it all to ya. Kinda laid up myself at the moment on the cot next to ya. Got a few broken bones but I may live to fight again. Ain't bought the farm yet. We're still in the field meat factory. Medivac be coming soon I'm a hopin' to take me to that Freedom Bird. Just a short timer now. What's yer name, Grunt?”

“Uh, Joe. My name is 'Joe'. Can't think of no more. 'Joe' will have to do. Must have lost more than my eyes when my cover was blown off.”

“Well, hey, hey! What da ya know? That's a my name, too. Joe. Joe Black. Nice to meet ya, Joe Will-Have-To-Do. Yeh, gets pretty hairy out there with all that flak flying. Heard someone call 'incoming!' but I wasn't fast enough to run out of the way this time or maybe I ran towards it. Hard to tell. Won't be doing much runnin' fer a while now. They'll send me back to the World to recoup but I'm a lifer so will probably be sent back soon 'nough. Uncle Sam Ain't Released Me Yet.

“So tell me what do you do in your Real Life, Joe Will-Have-To-Do?”

“Me? Real Life? I don't know how I got here. How could I know anything about a real life? But...feels like I've done this before. Or I've done it forever. Or... wait! I remember a girl...”

“Nothin' like a little boom-boom to clear the mind. Maybe she clobbered you in the noggin? You a 'plenty cheap charlie'?”

“No, no. Pretty sure I'm a straight arrow. Don't want to mess up what I got in my 'Real Life' as you call it. Girl back home is really special. If I'm lucky, maybe she'll marry me. Got some stiff competition from some pretty-boy surfer while I'm stuck here fighting... Well, who understands what kind of demons we are fighting? It's worse than H-E-Double Hockey-sticks out there.

“I can't remember much. Something happened out on the trail we was humping. Been humping for days seems like. Carrying full rucksacks on our backs. And me with my Thumper. Through the worse kind of conditions. Air so hot and humid you can't breathe. Wet rice paddies full of leeches. Wouldn't be surprised if I contracted jungle rot on my legs. They're stinging like the devil now that I'm aware of them. Don't mean nuthin.

“Tick infested mountain and jungle paths so slick from monsoons ya can't keep your footing. All the time searching for those two-stepper yellow devils that can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Those vipers spring out then disappear again leaving devastation in our ranks. That's not even accounting for ambushes by the VC devils we are supposed to be routing out. They hide and travel in tunnels. Need tunnel rats to dig 'em out. Can't tell enemy from friendlies. Don't mean nuthin...”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. Don't need ta dwell on it. Take a devil-may-care attitude, Dude. Tell me more about your girl. That's what I want ta hear about!”

“Well, Joe, she is a real doll is all I can tell ya. Don't understand what she sees in a hard-case, ruffian like me. She's a knock-out in a striped swimsuit. Her long blonde ponytail swings in step to her hips when she walks in her high heels. She is sunshine and lollipops, always wearing pink that makes me think of cotton candy and gum drops. Real sweet. And she is smart and ambitious. Wants to be a marine biologist or something like that. Maybe an astronaut someday? Who knows, maybe the next Armstrong?”

“Speaking of that guy Armstrong, how about that moon landing, huh? Quite a stretch. JFK wanted to get there by the end of the decade and we did it! Think it was for real?”

“Could of been all smoke and mirrors for all I know about it. All the FUBAR here in-country it is hard to believe anything good coming out of Disneyland East or NASA.

“Anyway, can't wait ta see her again. Oh, wait... Maybe I won't ever be able ta see her again...Don't mean nuthin.”

“Now, don't start thinkin' like that. Maybe your brain just needs a little rest and everything will be normal again. No doc has told ya different, right? Besides, with a dame ya can always read Braille in the dark, get it?”

“Yeah, right, like I said 'don't mean nuthin'.”

“We're in luck. Here comes the doc. Now you'll maybe get some answers. But be wary. They say nice things and always wear those manufactured smiles.”

<><><>

“Well, Mr. Black. Good news. Your REFRAD orders have come through and you will be going home to recuperate. Make sure you never show up again on my watch. Stay healthy, will you? No more being a pin cushion for Satin's toothpicks. Or a mine magnet or anything else that threatens to zap you. Take a nice state-side job when they offer you one. Your old boots have seen too many tours in Nam.

“Now, how's the new cherry guy getting along?”

“His gourd is pretty messed up, Doc. Can't remember his own name and lot's don't mean nuthin to him no more. Dinky dau. Thinks he has been through all this before.”

“I hear you. Well, now Mr... Joe. That's all it says on your tag. How is your head feeling?”

“Like it hurts to think. Why are my eyes bandaged? Will I be able to see again? What happened to me?”

“Dustoff helicopter picked you and a few of your platoon members off a mountain near a Yard village. Probably a sapper popped up on you as they were aiming for a bigger target to blow up. You have a pretty good concussion and your eyes are bandaged as a precaution to let them get some rest. We can take them off now if you want. However, you may always need to wear a patch over one.”

“Of course, I want. Unwrap them, please.”

<><><>

“You? W-What are you doing here? You are supposed to be waiting for me back home in my Real Life. W-why are you here?”

“I wanted to become a doctor so I donned this lab coat and stethoscope and had a diploma printed up to add to my accessories. That is really all it took. Signed up to work out in the field so here I am. How do I look?”

“Fabulously sweet as always. Pink is your color.”

“I see you have met G.I. Joe Black. He is USMC. One of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. He'll go back to the World and be patched up to be put back in a box to start his next big adventure as a fighting man of action. If you want I can write a prescription advising it is wise to get your ETS settled since you are obviously dinky dau. Then you can fly the Freedom Bird home to start over again, too, G.I. Joe. You can find yourself back in a box with all your camouflage, canteen, K-bar, M16 and Thumper. Any more COBRA devils to fight? Still need more action and adventure? What's your pleasure?”

“Think I would like to brush up on my Braille, Barbie.”

<><><>

Glossary terms:

Bought the farm: Died

Meat Factory: Hospital

Freedom Bird: Plane taking soldiers back to USA.

Cover: Hat or helmet

The World/ Real Life: Home/Career

Thumper: Grenade launcher

Jungle Rot: Generally a fungal of staph infection causing boils, swelling and tissue necrosis resulting from dirt, grime, and constant wet conditions.

Two-Stepper: Yellow bamboo pit viper – said to kill a person within two steps after being bitten.

VC: Viet Cong; North Vietnamese

FUBAR: F...ed UP Beyond All Recognition

Disneyland East: Pentagon or USA

REFRAD: Released From Active Duty

Satin's toothpicks: Nails or hardened steel darts fired from howitzers or grenade launchers

Dinky Dau: Crazy

Dustoff Helicopter: Duty Uniform Services To Others Friend and Foe

Yard: Short for Montagnard, a French word meaning; “mountaineer.” Member of any one of a number of semi-nomadic, aboriginal tribes which live in the mountains of Vietnam.

Sapper: Enemy soldier whose job is to blow things up.

ETS: End Time of Service

K-Bar: Marine-issue fighting knife.

COBRA: Evil force trying to rule the world GI Joe fought against.


Source:https://cherrieswriter.com/2014/02/13/military-speak-during-the-vietnam-war/








July 27, 2023 22:14

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18 comments

Amanda Lieser
13:29 Aug 22, 2023

Hi Mary! Oh my gosh! This story was intense and handled beautifully. I loved the vivid descriptions of everything and how you balanced the pain of wad with the comfort of friendship. Selfishly, I wish you had put the whole glossary of terms at the beginning. To give us a bit of a taste.

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Mary Bendickson
14:17 Aug 22, 2023

I did debate on where to put glossary. Thought it might give too much away if first. Thanks for the like and comment.

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Parul Shah
21:15 Aug 02, 2023

Wow, just so good! Your dialog is perfect, sounds very natural. And the play on the prompt is witty yet dramatic. Way to go!

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Mary Bendickson
22:04 Aug 02, 2023

Thanks for the complimentary comment!

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Russell Mickler
01:56 Aug 02, 2023

Military might :) R

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Jarrel Jefferson
04:37 Aug 01, 2023

Great dialogue. Everyone has a unique voice, which was something that kept me reading. Is everyone a toy? Interesting. I thought it was weird how Joe Will-Have-To-Do could remember the girl he loved with such detail yet couldn’t remember his own name, but I guess it makes more sense if they’re all toys. Good stuff, Mary.

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Mary Bendickson
05:33 Aug 01, 2023

Yes, the three were all toys. Did GI Joe have a last name? Could be why he couldn't remember. Thanks for liking and nice compliment.

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Kevin Logue
09:53 Jul 30, 2023

The turn of phrase in this Mary is great, it's either a subject your are familiar with or did a lot of research, regardless it grounded it in reality. Then the twist, how did I not realise they were G.I.Joes! Nice working in of Barbie, she just needed to print out her diploma lol

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Mary Bendickson
11:01 Jul 30, 2023

Well how else did she become all those aspirations? Glad you liked it.

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Michelle Oliver
23:49 Jul 29, 2023

This is great. I like your twist here. As usual your dialogue is great with definite personalities coming through. I enjoyed this very much.

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Mary Bendickson
02:57 Jul 30, 2023

And thank you so much😊

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Kevin Keegan
09:56 Jul 29, 2023

Thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was excellently written and I could see the two men side by side in the meat factory. What those men had to go through was hell which you described brilliantly. Great twist at the end to with the doctor being Joe’s girl.

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Mary Bendickson
14:21 Jul 29, 2023

Had to work in Barbie😉. Thanks for liking this and my mayhem one,too. Oh, and take a peek at comments under Susan Catucci in my mayhem story. Had some exciting news. My first 50 pages in my novel made the finalist list for Claymore Award!

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Kevin Keegan
15:21 Jul 29, 2023

Yes you did so well to work Barbie into the story, I meant to applaud you for that😊 Lovely comments from Susan Catucci by the way. And huge congratulations to you on making the final for the Claymore Award…….Well deserved no doubt. I’m delighted for you Mary👏🏻

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Mary Bendickson
15:32 Jul 29, 2023

🙏 thanks. Feels strange blowing my own 🥳 horn.

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Kevin Keegan
17:30 Jul 29, 2023

Not at all Mary. I’m hoping you have a big success in the Claymore🤞

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Chris Miller
15:02 Jul 28, 2023

Good work, Mary. I enjoyed this. You had me thinking it was a straight story about recovering soldiers for a minute there! Great cameo from Barbie to break the spell. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

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Mary Bendickson
15:05 Jul 28, 2023

Needed some pink in a cameo world. Thanks for liking.

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