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PART ONE: FLASHBACKS AND BLUE MONDAYS.
Life in the Lyrics of Dr John. Must have been the right place at the wrong time.
By: Billy Pilgrim Vonnegut and Vincent P. Vonnegut
3 Chapter One: My murder
I can hear the sounds of my medical equipment hooked into my body. The beeps, and pings of the monitors indicate that my brain and heart are still alive, but it is just a matter of time for my death to be complete. I have been murdered, for now; my body is paralyzed, and the medical staff on my caseis sadly clueless. A tox screen my detect what is killing me, but for now, the thing that the tests they have run show them nothing except a guy with good cholesterol, no sign of a heart attack, but no sign of muscle movement. I know this since I can hear all the doctors, and nurses come into my room talk briefly then leave. I try to move, but nothing. I try to speak, but nothing. My name is Billy Pilgrim Vonnegut. No, I am not related to Kurt or his family tree. A little fame or the right connection seemed to always escape me like a roach under the kitchen counter. And so it goes. The nutter of it. Life for me was being in the right place at the wrong time. It was just an odd twist of fate that I got stuck with this weird name, Pilgrim, as it was supposed to be Phillip, but then someone made giant typos and had been a devoted fan of John Wayne that day in 1948. If this story is somewhat odd, surreal, it is because my recollections are somewhat clouded by the nervous breakdown and my ex-wife's attempt to kill me for pure greed and insurance money. I escaped that one, as my wife who normally didn't cook started cooking and trying to get me to eat her meals. What she didn't know was that I had set up web-cams hidden in the house, which recorded her new found culinary pursuits. The wife was not known for her pursuit of being a foodie, as she normally went to BUN ON The Run fast food and called it a night. My wife's new-found pursuit of cooking made me suspicious of what she planned for the marriage. Bingo, the web-cam showed my loving wife had been grinding up a light bulb and putting in my food. I tricked her by keeping a bag underneath the kitchen table, and as soon as she left the room. I merely threw the meal into the trash. Before, I could call the cops, she had taken off with her boyfriend to parts unknown, but she did leave me with the gift of my three rottenly spoiled kids, all teenagers. Most likely, she found out that I changed the will and that the life insurance policy had been voided. Her biggest booby trap was the kids who she turned against me. It was a moot effort, as I didn't spoil them, so they already hated me.
4 I felt my life had been a fucked-up Rubics cube, that never could be resolved with my dumb fingers and thumbs. Even the disappointment of work and my failed family had me considering suicide. I am still here, sort of. Maybe, I should have eaten the meal of light bulbs and meatloaf, like the Roman Emperor Claudius with the poisoned mushrooms who knew those damn fungi he was devouring was going to kill him with his loving wife, the Mother of Nero, smiling at her poisoned treat. At least, I would have been done with my miserable life. Only the dog and cats would have actually missed me. On no. What about my dear pets. Bingo! I realized it was the animals that have been good to me, people not so much. Now, I am upset knowing my kids are incredibly lazy. I imagine that my cats are just a mere whisker now and begging to get out to kill mice, while the dog has learned to dial 911 to order a pizza. My life after the ex-wife trying to kill me had become sort of boring, but then somebody changes your spin or course in life, to make you wonder, what the hell? Now, being stuck motionless in this hospital; I am forced to relive my life in bad home movies of the brain. When did it all turn to shit? Maybe it was when I was up to my ass in mud, leeches, bullets and dope in Vietnam is when my depression began. NO wonder I am depressed, not even a THANK YOU for that one. All of sudden my oatmeal life changed with the final incident was more related to nine to five jobs, you see I discovered financial malfeasance at work. Pure theft, that involved social security numbers and members of my team installing scrubber scripts to strip off that information. I can only assume that they were selling those to a Mafia type group for the big money. I should have been the hero, but ended up the pasty, the fool, the despised one. Instead of being rewarded: I was psychology-tortured so that my disappearance was assured. Then I noticed something odd, as I was typing on my work laptop. I noticed a tacky goo on my work laptop. Next thing I knew I went home only to find myself paralyzed two hours later. I would haven't been found, unless the neighbor hadn't come over to ask me to fix her computer. Mrs. Tallas had a key to the house and found me stiff as a board in my recliner. I know who was out to get me, but now can't tell anybody. In cosmic merry go around, it sounds like this just a looney tune of conspiracy theories running around like a hamster in a wheel of the unstable mind or is my mind really unstable. Boy, I am screwed. Tick, Tick, Tick....How much time do I have? My life was passing in front of me, while the Doctors most likely go golfing or bitch about the new health care policies. I hope; I have one Doctor with an ounce of Sherlock Holmes curiosity.
5 The crime or my death took years, and it was the change from a strange business model that left me to meet my murders. Oddly, I was slotted to be let go and replaced by these killers anyway. Being alone I am reliving how I got started with this company that would actually doom me. Just then I hear my son, and the youngest daughter enter the room. “Jesus, I hope Dad has big life insurance policy. How are we going to make it if he dies?” That of course was my daughter, who ironically in college to be a social worker. (She was never social to me, especially when I told her to do something.) Damn, she only cares about the money train and not me. “ Well, you idiot, you will have to try to get a job, because Pops is certainly not going to make it.” My son was most logical of my progeny who even on the rare occasion helped me around the house. However, my daughter's role models were the Kadashians, who do nothing but look pretty and spend money. Therefore, my daughters sit around doing nothing. Damn those Armenian sluts. Thankfully, my son is not as cruel as my youngest daughter. My oldest daughter will not even know I am dead, since she already took thirty thousand dollars for school and disappeared into a career of stripping and bar-tending. Like all teenagers, she was a victim of the lounge lifestyle; she loved to lounge around just tweeting, and yapping on her cell-phone Damn, isn't the cell-phone a step back in civilization, as who really needs to be yapping that much.
My youngest daughter know goes into her standard pout then let's me know how she truly cares about me. “Let's call Mom and see if Dad has a will and life insurance.” “Jesus, do think that Dad was stupid enough to leave you money?” My son was right about that, my daughters had proven along with their Mother turned out to be my greatest disappoints and put me in the house of pain and shame.” “Let's just go he is just a Veg, let's get some lunch at Chiptole.”
6 “Vince do you have any money?” My son looks back at her with such disgust and disdain: “You are such a mooch.” I hear their footsteps leave me. Damn it if I only had been sterile my life would have been a lot better and richer. Wrong time, wrong woman, wrong kids. Screwed again. My mind is still functioning, but the muscles won't move, can't speak, but can see images from my past floating around. I know that I was poisoned, but I can't help the police, and I am not sure they are even involved. Damn if I had taken that job with Bluit, I might not be in this fine mess. I hear and see a nurse come in. She is taking a blood sample. They must be running some sort of tests, but most likely they are calling my Insurance company to see I have made my last payment. Oh Christ, I am on a Cobra plan since they laid me off, and I can't remember if I made the last payment? She looks at the monitors makes notes of my blood pressure and heart rate, but doesn't draw any blood. A doctor walks in and stares for two minutes at my monitors and looks at me briefly. Come on Doctor take some interest, why I am paralyzed? The doctor turns to the nurse. “Get a full-blood work done, and contact the family about his will and who has the power of attorney." “Okay, Doctor.” Is that all there is? That is what my mind went. Jesus, fuckin H. Couldn't I've had a better life then this one. I never screwed anybody over that badly that I deserve this shit. Since I am stuck, paralyzed I started playing over my life as if it was Utube clip or worse yet a defective DVD that skipped and missed pieces of the movie. Maybe if my job had been interesting, or I had been surrounded with nice people working as a team to achieve something meaningful my breakdown would have not happened. Now, I take you to my office, yes a corner office, that looked out into a parking lot. If I could have spun my office around, I would have been facing a forest. You see we are located in a lovely area of the forest repelt Lincolnshire Il, sort of the Sherwood forest of Illinois. The company BLUIT, is hidden from the tollway and the well healed houses, as not to spoil the view. It is weird, but my mind wanders to the beginning of my interview process to get into this company.
I was interviewed by an ex-hippie, who was still suffering the effects of Woodstock and Ludes, his name Tom Hadees. The ex-hippie actually fell asleep during my interview and drooled on himself. The next guy who interviewed me was a large, bulky, Mafia looking executive who was named Tony Gorrention. He seemed to be hit with a very large stupid stick, but was a very imposing figure.
He really had no clue about Mainframe computers, although he was the manager of the Technology Unit. The final interview was guy who managed the scheduling department. This guy was as gay as Liberace. Steve Salle's head of scheduling department and possible interior designer. He was the most intelligent interviewer I had, who knew his product and his job. However, I am a straight guy, who gives off no gay vibe, so I thought I was not going to get any points with this guy. The only thing I had been going is that I could answer all his questions correctly. Maybe dumb luck or the fact that nobody wanted to work the third shift was my gift of future employment. I was hired and started to work for the best and the brightest. I am a trend setter in many ways, but the trends I set were a horrid trend of being stuck in the mire of middle-class blues. Following the middle-class dream had now become a weird Escher style map, every-time I had made a step ahead some stair case went nowhere or into the basement. In my office, the Bluit company is going through them changes from being a Benefits company to an outsourcing company. My stomach now flipped flopped as this is Deja vu all over again. I had survived being a Marine in Vietnam only to end up getting my career stalled, first by a turnaround artist named Sanford Sigloff. (NICKNAMED MING THE MERCILESS BY COMPANIES HE HAD TURNED AROUND.) The term turnaround artist, meant I turned around and my job and the others' jobs were gone. This turned out to be a trend later adopted by Mitt Romney under the concept of Venture capitalist. I survived that by getting hired at one of the top consultant firms handling the quaint product called benefits. Bluit went broke first by buying a lot of office buildings, now empty and by going on a hiring spree. Times were good, as the company had the famous free lunch for employees. That free lunch was not really free since it kept you on-site to work through your lunch break. For me, the free lunch was usually a bad baloney sandwich or lunch meat so old it was changing into a science experiment. You know that the free lunch is not free if you have to buy the Pink stomach medicine to get through the day. Therefore, the shit was bound to hit the fan, and they switched to become an outsourcing company and realized that the hiring freeze, and all those buildings were weighing down the balance sheet with losses not profits. Bluit ended up being taken over, by another company who would do the Romney shuffle on the employees' asses and turn the place into home of the walking dead.
8 A bored nurse comes into my room and turns on the news to listen to the Fox News version of the day's events. I hear the praises of the pundits how Mitt Romney would be a strong military leader and show Iran how a real President stops their crazed desire for the bomb. Staring into space wondering the concept of why me? Shit! Why do people vote for chicken hawks and why are chicken hawks, mostly Republicans? Military leadership from a guy with Daddy issues is what gets you killed. My mind now floats to the News of my teenage years. Good ole Walter Cronkite, everybody's favorite uncle or Grand-pappy is announcing the news of Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War. I had been drafted and thought I would try to shuffle into the Navy to stay away from the jungle swamps of that lovely ex-french colony, Vietnam. It is all coming back now, as I can see my induction center in December 1968, I thought that only the Army, Navy would be accepting draftees. I thought the Marines only accepted volunteers. Well was I surprised. Like pee in your pants surprised. A Marine sergeant separated all the Marine enlistees from the remainder of the group (of about 30-40. I was in that hapless crowd of malcontents). He then went down the line and at every 5th inductee he said, "YOU!" At the end of the line, he said, "to all those so indicated, welcome to the Marine Corps!" “OH crap, he picked me!" I wanted to raise my hand and give latter. What would become the infamous Dick Cheney excuse. “Well Sarge, I am just too busy to serve, and I am sure that this little police action will be cleared up without my help.”
You should have seen our faces. We all looked like we were going to die. Some actually did die in Vietnam. My boot-camp took place in that lovely Island, Paris Island, personally I would have chosen the Hawaiian Islands. One of the recruits, Bob Ake, went wacko and jumped on the window in boot camp, the only problem is the barracks was a one-level aluminum hut. Sprained his ankle and tried for a section eight. He spent most of his time in the brig, until he was farmed out somewhere. It was the most interesting to see the cross cultures, Hillbillies, Negroes, Mexicans and white-folks from the poor side of town, like myself. I didn't notice any kids from the better side of town. I couldn't find a kid whose Father was a senator, but maybe it was the guy who went nuts would later run for office.
9 I see myself back in Vietnam under fire with the chaos of fear, incompetence and smell of burning flesh and death filling my nostrils. Boot-camp never prepares for the reality, of blood, piss and death. Now the Military can kill with a Radio controlled airplane. Oddly, my Father made those RC in the basement and would take them out for a spin and lose them in a cornfield, or they would come crashing down and turn into kindling. No longer is war from the air a matter of a winged warrior against another warrior. War is now a video game, except for the bastard grunts on the ground for them, it is a Video game with no reset, and the blood is real, and you don' t get another replay or any points when the bullet hits the bone. A civilian now is just a minor blip on the target screen where you lose some points by taking a hapless native. All wars have a habit of killing the populace by mistake or by will. On the ground, my two feet stuck in hellish mud and there is nothing like Vietnam mud to make you realize that being a grunt is the worse method of fighting guys, and girls dressed in black Pjs. I was a new fish and entered a hell that made me want to find out why I was fighting somebody elses War. To this day, I can still smell of decaying bodies that made me throw up and get pegged as the stupid new fish, destined to take the first bullet. If you served in combat, you will never forget the first vision of bloated corpses of both friend and foe that makes you wonder if there is a god or isn't there a better way. My mind takes me back to Nam at home base and reading my mail from home. “Shit, a dear John letter, my girlfriend Katy Pierson stated nicely that she had run off with the guitar player in our band. I had been in High-school and formed the band with Mark Tester, and he had a knack was always pulling the chicks in. Great, she wishes me well and stay safe. Great news, thanks. Months later got a note from Mom, how they both got arrested in Chicago with a trunk load of pot. Daley's cops were looking forward to getting even with the long-hairs who broke the convention, so they were an easy mark. I smiled about the Karma of the bust, but deep down, I knew both would skate and skeeter through life.
Damn now the memories our flooding back, it was that mistake. Christ O mighty, I can see it all coming back now. I was on my first patrol, and I was still gung-ho. The boot-camp experience had changed me. “I’m going to go to Vietnam. I’m going to kill the Viet Cong!”
10 My unit third Battalion of 7th Marine is stationed in the port city of Danang in Quang Nam Province. It is the fucking monsoon season, and the rain is heavy and depressing. Everything is turning into mud, and I am suffering with crotch rot and a weird fungus growing out of my toes. This is really incredibly insane as the enemy and natives blend in. They also can disappear into the jungle with a quick ease while we lumber through the mud like water buffaloes. Both of us and water buffaloes are afflicted by human's cruel nature to set up mines. The first time you see the poor bastard get blown up when wandering through the rice paddies and step on one of those damn mines is a sight that brings one to the realization that humanity advances by learning things by blowing up things. Not sure what sort of a company makes these damn things and why they aren't outlawed, as they kill citizens, farm animals and both sides. Unlike, chicken hawks or supporters of killing each other for politics or religion it hit me that I didn't give a rat's ass about whether these people were commies or not. It was the incident that changed my view of combat. We were going through a Vietnamese village, and we were all on edge of the hooch. I was a newbie, but I knew to stick with the group, not get split up unless instructed to. One of the other newbies got distracted and panicked when shots were fired from the bush. We all turned as the kid came running up the path and was firing wildly. Our Sargent Warwick thought he was a VC coming in from the brush, then turned and fired. The kid crumpled. He got it right in the chest. “Shit," “Damn it” “Everybody took cover. When the VC saw this cluster fuck, they stayed hidden until they saw the panic, fear and disorganized new recruits getting tangled up in their own equipment. They started picking us off one by one. As we then took cover as the VC opened with a barrage of small-arms fire AK-47, and mortars fired pinned us down. Junior Raizer got in the leg and started screaming and bullets were pinning us behind a pig pen, as the hogs squealed and gave me and PFC Kowlski cover. Mike Boyle the tallest guy in the unit got hit right in the forehead and his brains and skull splattered all over Sargent Warwick's face. I fired in the direction of the bush to try and catch some of the gook bastards. It was weird, but I didn't see them as human just a target. I heard them moving forward knowing that we were now sitting ducks. The dead hogs still gave us cover, but everybody was scattered. The VC starting mortaring us and the huts we were taking cover, which now blew apart into splinters and caught fire. PURE panic. Fire at any object that is hidden in those fucking trees, and bush. The radio man a Marine lifer, Frank Pesir called in for air support with a cool calm, as if he was ordering a pizza.
11 We newbies thought we were all fucked. Just when we saw more movements in the front of the bush, a stinger (helicopter) came in guns a blazing. That was a sweet sound. Woosh, Woosh, ka-boom with a rocket fired in that fuckers direction. The gun fire from the bush disappeared, somehow the Gooks could just fade away. It was like they had never really been there. We all were stunned, as the first taste of battle shows how slippery, the knot of life is. The smell of sulfur, burnt flesh, death and burning bamboo hit my nostrils. Wosh, Wosh, overhead a Huey came hovering in and landed to pick the dead and wounded. I looked around and saw Mike Boyle, the jovial Irish con man, just now being lifted into a body bag. That funny bastard now gone. The newbie that panicked and got shot by Sargent was being lifted into another body bag. We didn't even really know that kid, now worm food. The Sarge looked stunned and pissed. He motioned to us with a wave to gather around, as he was going, to sum up, our screw-ups. “Okay, guys there is another Chopper coming in order to take us out of here.” “Mums, the word on how the new guy, got it as it is going to make us look bad.” “Yes, Sarge.” The chopper arrived, and we piled into it all sweating and exhausted. Nobody said anything; afraid that if we bitched or questioned any of our actions, we would be listed as a coward. We arrived back at our base to see the others just staring at us knowing that being newbies we most likely fucked up. The choppers with the body bags made it back first. No of that John Wayne shit really exists in real combat. If you get shot, you see the blood and real guts, not a cutaway shot of a man dying with dignity or grace. It's reminded me of when I worked as a kid in a butcher shop, the meat is bloody and has certain ugly quality that makes one recoil with self-hatred. Now, the rancid smells of flesh hit my nostril, the jungle being over ninety degrees made me sick to my stomach, I moved off my post and threw-up in the weeds. I just couldn't shake the smell of death. It is something you will never forget as long as you live.