New guy in Vietnam: a tale from the psychic bunker
Author SABOM, STEVE
Publication title: Houston Chronicle; Houston, Tex.
Undoubtedly this is a “roman a clef” spinning off the writer’s Nam time. The elliptical transubstantiation, in first-person narrative, of the new guy begins immediately. A direct mortar hit on a neighboring bunker kills fellow newcomer Albert Steven Saxon. Thenceforth, martyred innocence reaches for succor through oxymoronic absurdities like Janis Joplin screaming from a firebase hooch; [Gabriel Sauers] panicking over jungle beauty; flashing memories of squirrel hunts while on patrol; lifers insisting on body parts for unit identification.
In Sauers’ pursuit of semiotic meaning, few stones are left unturned. Meanwhile, Prophet intuits incoming artillery and filters his soul through an ancient tongue; Peacock, the epicure and dandy; Chickenfeed, the athlete and soft touch; and Pops, the hyperactive runt of a squad leader, a shoulder-squeezing paterfamilias who uses others to keep him sane. Five months into it, Sauers is christened “Chieu Hoi” (open arms) when two “dinks” (Vietnamese) walk into his ambush and narrowly avoid Gabe’s nervous gunfire.