NVA mortar tubes pop. Bodies respond by instinct of combat. Hit dirt.
Curl small as possible. Hide behind something, anything harder than skin.
Rounds land. Explosions shred air. Furious sound. Sucking heat.
I cram my lanky body into my steel helmet.
My brain picks out a single note among the dins of the scything steel,
I hear a buzz, streaking, a single piece of shrapnel.
By growing, piercing intensity, I know it’s mine.
Louder, louder blows its harrowing whistle.
I wait, feeling nothing but a strange mix of detachment and wonder—
detachment: the sound pins me beetle-like to the earth; wonder at
my unfearful willingness to accept bloody death: no wild misgivings,
no wishing otherwise—just amazement—intense, focused amazement.
The screaming, whistling scythe thuds loudly. I tilt my head to look.
A steaming, smoldering, 5-inch hunk of ragged steel knifes
the red dirt inches from my nose, right between my eyes.
I raise my face from beneath the steel tortoise shell.
I stare at that jagged junk for an indeterminate time—
eyes wide, mind blank, nerves trilling.
Copyright Tim Bagwell