Raw Man - A Serialized Novel by Fred Rivera Fred Rivera has a powerful story of the Vietnam War, racism, and PTSD that needs to be shared with the world. As I am an ardent fan, I got his permission to submit the book in chapter form. Direct purchase available.
V Dizzy Monday, August 4, 1969 Bob, Darwin Anderson is another good friend. We call him Dizzy. The name speaks volumes. Like Herman, he is also from Detroit. He and I hit it off from the very start. He’s been here longer than me and Herman he is also a driver. When we are in the rear we work on our vehicles together. We are in the rear now. The Squadron lets us come into other unit’s base-camp every four to six weeks in order for us to have a stand down. We use the time to work on our vehicles, clean our weapons and have a few days rest. Usually the unit that we visit will throw us a party with steak and beer and some of them throw in a movie. We watch these movies on what I can only describe as the strangest drive in theater that I’ve ever seen. We line our tracks up like we are at a drive in theater and watch the films from the top of our vehicles. Peace, Fred
Tuesday, September 2, 1969 Dear Mom and Dad, Man this army is messing me up. I can’t even spell anymore. This is the third try for this letter. I had a nice rest in Bien Hoa. It is right next to Long Bien. It has a four lane highway and modern buildings. They even have steaks and cheese burgers. It made me mad to see these guys stationed there. They don’t know the same Vietnam I know. I just hope they let me go into Special Services in December like they said. We are still around Loc Ninh. We lost our platoon Sgt. And his loader a few days ago. We were going through a jungle area and a tree knocked the handle back on a machine-gun – then another one fell on the trigger and it went off. They were in front of it. It was a freak accident that really makes you think that if it’s your time to go – you’re going to go. Just like one night when we got mortared. Two of my friends, Tommy Cruz and Teddy Jones were sleeping outside of an abandoned French villa about three feet apart. Around two AM a mortar shell came screaming through the night breaking the dark silence. The shell landed with a loud thud waking them both up. The close miss sent them scrambling to their feet. Other live rounds hit their mark and caused havoc in the NDP. If God wants you he will take you. If he doesn’t, you will live. My two friends are still alive. I hope you don’t worry too much. Just keep praying like you have.
I haven’t gotten your goodie box yet. Get some tortillas and wrap them in tin foil and send them. I bought a tape recorder when I was in Quon Loi. It’s a cassette and uses cartridges. Tom Kendall is going to send me some tapes. I got a letter from John Westfall. I have to write back. Sorry I missed Barbie’s birthday. I should have written. Yes, send me the camera. I’m driving now. It’s not too bad. Just a lot of work to keep the vehicles going. I enjoy driving though; it’s kind of cool because you can drive those A-Cavs anywhere. It has rained every day since I’ve been here. Sometimes I feel like I’m driving in a lake. You should see the mud. I was just interrupted to go get fuel. I’m back now. We are set up in a clearing sort of like a pasture. The scenery is so beautiful. I can see the Black Virgin Mountain. It is a huge steep black looming mountain with a Special Forces camp on top and one on the bottom. It is the worst place in the world to be. On your map it will say Tay Ninh. Could you find Lai Khe? Ben Cat is the village by it. You should have seen these cute little Montagnard girls about four years old. When we were at LZ Kelly they followed me everywhere I went. It made me homesick because I miss playing with Wendy and Barbie. My platoon is going on a dismounted ambush patrol tonight. I’m the driver so I won’t go. I’ll stay at the NDP (night defensive position) with my vehicle. I can hardly wait to be in the peace and quiet of Montebello again. I’m missing everybody and everything. I love you very much. Just remember that I’m fine and doing the best I can. My tape takes the same cartridges as the portable Lance has. Try to send me some pre-recorded albums. He knows the size. Love, Fred
Friday, September 5, 1969 It has been two weeks of constant skirmishes here in the Michelin rubber plantation outside of An Loc. The rubber trees are planted in row upon row of straight lines just wide enough to drive our tracks through. The NVA is very active on these plantations and we see signs of them everywhere. Lt. Cutter and Capt. Riddle have decided to have us move through here in a straight line abreast of each other. Sgt. Mays’ track is on our right and Clementi is on our left. We move out cautiously at first and find no resistance and soon we are rumbling full throttle through the trees looking for anything that moves. This is a fucked-up way to do things. We are called scouts but the way we do our recon is to just let it all hang out and wait until we are ambushed. The bad guys can hear us coming for miles around and I am starting to feel boxed in inside these trees. There is not much room to maneuver about in here. As Dizzy pulls up next to me we come to a halt and he yells at me over the engine noise. “Slow the fuck down, man!” I let the motor idle down so I can hear him better. “This ain’t no race, you’re going to drop a man!” Now that pissed me off. In all my months of driving out here I have never dropped a man over the side. Not even those stinking ARVN’s when they pile ten or fifteen of them on my track. “Fuck you, Diz!” I yell back. He’s just messing with me to break the tension. We are stressed because the dog-days of August came roaring through our platoon like a hurricane and September is not starting out any better. We are once again just waiting to be ambushed. Hell, yes, I’m going to race through this plantation. The sooner we clear it the better. And what is with these constant stops? We just make for better targets when we do this. Cutter can’t read the goddamn map. Gaines would never let this happen. He always took care of the LT. “LT lost again?” I ask Dizzy.
“The old man wants us to meet him at some old plantation house,” Dizzy replies. It looks like Capt. Riddle is actually going to be coming out to the bush tonight. Good! That means hot chow for supper and maybe some beer. The headset in my helmet starts to crackle and I hear Bobby telling me to turn left and fall behind Sgt. Mays. “Fall in single file.” I put it in gear and head out behind Mays. Can’t Cutter make up his mind on our formation? It must be Riddle trying to throw his weight around. Somebody’s fucking up. Before long, our column picks up speed and we head out for that plantation house some thirty clicks away. After a little over an hour or so we reach the ruins of a formerly impressive compound. During the French occupation this must have been one hell of a set-up. As we draw closer I see the bombed-out portions of roof that have collapsed inside and the bullet holes that nearly tore down what little is left of the walls. Vegetation creeps up the burned-out columns of a once magnificent house. We dismount and explore it more thoroughly. I see Herman on the far side of the ruins and look at Dizzy. He smirks and we walk up to Herman and slap hands. “Look like we got our hotel for the night,” Herman says. “That so?” Dizzy asks. “The old man is coming out to meet us here,” I say, and just then we all look up to the noise of a helicopter flying in low. “Here come the muthafucka now,” Herman sighs. The chopper lands and out steps Capt. Perry James Riddle. With his crisp clean fatigues and big black cavalry hat, this son of a bitch is making a very big target. Everyone knows you don’t salute in the field but Riddle is walking around saluting everyone he encounters. The three of us make it a point not to get anywhere near Riddle, but as long as he is going to be with us tonight we’ll see if we can have some fun. Bobby has been looking for me and he finally catches us near an old campfire site left by the former occupants of the house. Probably a company-size unit of NVA camped here a few nights ago. Well, it’s ours now. Bobby wants us to set up house. “Come on, you guys, mount up. Fred, move the track into the NDP next to number Three-Three.” Herman and I jumped aboard and I hit the engine and moved into position. As I did this, Herman started getting the trip-flares and Claymores ready. We had our routine down so well now that we moved without speaking to each other and set the shit up real pro-like. Gone was the guessing and fear that used to grip us when we did this little task. Tonight, though, things would be different. As I brought the wires for the Claymores to the track, Bobby nudged me and whispered in my ear, “Run a wire back from the trip-flares. Let’s have some fun with the captain tonight. Don’t say a word to anyone else. Just do it.” So tonight, Bobby and I have a little secret. I run the wire back and rig it to the cupola right next to the .50caliber. I don’t even tell Herman what I have done. I don’t give it a second thought. I’m just following orders. As expected, we get hot food flown out to us from base camp. Dizzy, Herman, Doc and I sit in the ruins and build a fire. Too bad we don’t have marshmallows, but we do have cold beer, one of the benefits of having the old man with us. You know, you have to take this war a day at a time and when you have days and nights of quiet peace it makes it all the more bearable for when things get hard. I take my shift behind the .50 and the night goes by swiftly. I look at the thousands, millions of stars out tonight and think of home. I wonder what my friends are doing right now. It’s OK. I think that I just might make it out of this place alive.
*** *** *** This is Fred’s raw world, characters and setting unadorned but for the layer of racism, horror and war. It stinks of it, and yet you will not put it down. You will not want to. It is for this reason that Raw Man is a
Pulitzer Prize nominee, and has already received the Isabel Allende Mariposa Award for Best New Fiction at the International Latino Book Award. If you would rather not wait for the next installment, you may purchase a signed copy of Raw Man and for 19.95, go to http://rawmanthebook.com/buy-the-book/. For the e-book version (only 5.95), go to http://awordwithyoupress.com/store/raw-man/.
This chapter submission is brought to you by: A Word With You Press Publishers & Purveyors of Fine Stories in the Digital Age