“The Fall of Nguoi Rung” by Rob Kristoffersen
Before we get to the story, first a confession: Nguoi Rung is a fictional place. It doesn’t exist. In fact, Nguoi Rung is the Vietnamese name for Bigfoot, translated as “Forest-man.” Secondly, I am not a Vietnam vet. I was born almost ten years after the war in Vietnam ended. I tried to do the Vietnam vet justice. If you feel offended by the way they’re represented in my story, I express my sincerest apologies. This is only me trying to understand. I also apologize for the length of this story. It’s long, but they tell themselves.
I present to you “The Fall of Nguoi Rung”:
“WE THE UNWILLING, LED BY THE UNQUALIFIED, TO KILL THE
UNFORTUNATE, DIE FOR THE UNGRATEFUL.”
– A Zippo Lighter, ‘Nam 71-72’
A hornet is meandering in my sister’s kitchen, trying to find its way back into the open, free air. It’s heavy body is clearly a hindrance, but it continues to fly in a recognizable, circular pattern, often breaking toward the window. I lose sight of the insect when it passes through the sun spots created by that window, looking out on to the back yard. The view is picturesque: a lush green field that extends for what feels like forever. From the back door is a step down to a modest deck populated with a glass topped table, and four aluminum chair frames wrapped in a thick nylon webbing around it. The chair’s colors are as bright as the sun itself; even those colors look like they extend forever like the field.
The hornet inspires a deep fear in me, a feeling that I’m surrounded by enemy infiltrators. My Area of Operations (AO) is about to be overrun. Come on, Charlie, you smug son-of-a-bitch. Show yourself! This ordinary kitchen that once was has fallen away into a dark forest, where the trees look like soldiers themselves, and the leaves are infused with death. They take the shape of rifles and bayonets. The sixth sense we all come to trust is now malfunctioning in me. There’s just too many of them for my body to make out. Conversely, I can’t see Charlie. The forest has picked sides, not ours, the American, and taught Charlie to move through the trees like a ghost in the wind.
A large bang I assume to be mortar fire, sends me behind a group of trees that has fallen near me. Hitting the ground parallel to the trees, I look up. These tall towers extend unto eternity, and carved out at the top is a tiny section of sky making the stars visible and through which my soul may travel when it is finally stolen from my body. As the bullets fly by, their dark shadows interrupt my field of vision and the light from those stars. I can hear my units cherry radio man, a replacement, giving an order. “Broken Arrow,” he says, “I repeat, Broken Arrow.” The code for being overrun. After he repeats the order, a bullet enters his throat, and I can hear the gurgle as he chokes on his own blood. The second shot goes through his head. I can tell because the sound of bullet hitting helmet was very familiar to me. I’ve heard the sound so many times that it makes regular appearances in my dreams. It’s the sound of my alarm every morning, not an annoying programmed bleat, but that metal on metal entering flesh.
Too little, too late now. Running low on ammo, I decide to stay low and pray that air support finds the unit soon.
“Oh, Buzzy.” A voice, low, in a caring tone comes from my left flank. The darkness recedes into the light of day again. The bullets stop, and I look up and over. My sister, Anne, is here, and she has a can of Lysol in her hand. She aims it high above her, and sprays the hornet as it makes another revolution. It instantly falls to the floor, dead seconds before it actually hits the ground.
I can feel a new terror filling my mind, and it brings forth a resounding chorus of “No’s.”
A pair of hands grip my shoulders. I look up to see Anne there, trying to fold her arms around me in a hug. My fear begins fading away. “Buzzy, it’s okay. You’re here in my kitchen. It’s 1972, you’re not over there anymore.” She always tells me the year. I don’t know why. Maybe she thinks I associate my time in Vietnam with the numbers 1-9-6-7, but I don’t. Very early on you learn that Vietnam isn’t a war about years passed, or ground attained, or anything like that. It’s a whose worth is judged on the basis of dead bodies. That’s it. If LBJ or Nixon told you otherwise, it’s bullshit.
“Anne, I’m sorry. I guess the hornet just brought me back.” When I look behind me, the kitchen table is over turned. I don’t like the damn thing anyway, so I’m not completely broken up about that ugly piece of shit. Anne helps me turn it back up right. I notice the body of the hornet as the table legs make contact with the equally ugly shag carpet it rests on.
“You were screaming ‘no, no, no, no.’ It scared the hell out of me.” She is stronger than me, able to work through her fears to get the job done. That’s something I wished I was, something I needed to be in Vietnam. Instead I was Buzzy the Horror, Buzzy the Coward.
“Sorry. I…” I don’t know what to say, instead thinking it more noble to suffer in silence
“It’s okay, Buzzy. Jessica’s at school right now. It’s only us and the house.” Jessica is my niece. A teenager now, she was just eight when uncle Buzzy shipped out to fight in the war. When we thought we could be like the heroes that our fathers were and still are on foreign shores and strange sand. I never knew my dad, he died on a small beach in the Palau Island chain of the Pacific known as Peleliu when I was two years old. Historians overlook the battle on Peleliu. The only person that didn’t was Eugene Sledge. He fought there too. He didn’t know my dad, but he knew about the wind of bullets, and the fires that mortars built.
“Good, because I don’t want her to see me like this.” I say, with a little shell shock still audible in my voice.
“That doesn’t mean you should hide when she’s home. She wants to know her uncle Buzzy. She asks me questions about you all the time, and I can’t answer them all.”
“I don’t want her to see me like this. I don’t want anyone to see me like this. The only reason I’m here is because the VA can’t do anything for me anymore. I can barely function, I can’t get a job, not that they’re hiring any of us anyway, but, just… fuck.” Fuck is the word that best describes this situation. I’m “fucked” because the government wanted me to “fucking” kill gooks. The war made it so I can’t “fucking” get it up anymore so I can’t “fuck” a woman; the lawyer is taking his “fucking” time with my disability settlement. (80% disabled, though my brain is 100% “fucked.”) So, yes, I’m FUCKED.
So what does somebody who’s fucked do all day? Sleeps. Tries to help out around the house until something sets him off again. Helps himself to food, which his sister doesn’t seem to mind, but still makes him feel bad anyway. And TV. Lot’s of TV.
I used to watch ‘nam coverage all day long, but I just can’t anymore. The TV ends up looking like one giant scab that needs to be picked.
Anne sees the sadness and guilt written on my face, but she doesn’t push the subject. Anne is gentle, like a pillow, and I’d rather be pushed with a pillow than artillery any day. Talking about Jessica is her form of pushing. It doesn’t hurt.
My days don’t change much, the only thing that does are my meltdowns. They occur at different times and for different reasons. The incident this morning, for instance, with the hornet: I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I’ve always had a fear of bees, for allergic reasons. And then to see it sprayed brought back too many memories of Agent Orange and what it does to the skin.
Vietnam turned the nature of my fears up exponentially, like the amp of a guitar. My attacks don’t happen every day, but they’ve been getting worse since the VA cut me loose.
Routine helps. I have a routine that seems to work for me. I sleep a good portion of my morning, until ten at least when I finally getting up at eleven, and start assuming a relatively normal life by twelve, random mental episodes permitting. I park myself on the couch and watch TV until Jessica is due home, stuffing my face with junk food all the while. When she does come home, I retreat to my room, bury my nose in some bullshit religious texts I think are going to help me, but never do. When the books eventually frustrate me, I throw it against the wall, and I fall asleep.
Anne says I should talk about my problems. She says her ears are always open. She says that talking to her and Jessica will help. I want to believe, but I don’t know if I can. More than anything, I wish I was a grenade. Not an active one, but a dud that can never be set off.
I take my place in an orange recliner with TV to entertain. A sure therapy after an episode is for me to eat, and I’ve made a monster of a sandwich. Turkey, ham, salami on rye with lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese cut in friendly slices, topped with enough mayonnaise to trigger someone’s second heart attack. On the plate beside the sandwich are two dill pickles. A bag of chips completes this whole thing, and I sit down to watch Mysterious America.
“How can you watch all this crap?” Anne asks, with a paperback in hand. A large wooden shelf is adorn in paperback books behind the couch. I asked her once why she didn’t read hardcovers. “I don’t like the weight,” she told me. It’s that admission that makes me think I’m too much for her and Jessica. What weight do I bring? Is it too much for her to carry?
“What crap? This is some great Television.”
“Bonanza sucks.” In a single two word sentence, I feel for the first time, in a long time, like we are brother and sister again.
“Bonanza does not suck, miss 60 Minutes. And my God, every time PBS has an Andy Rooney special, I feel like I should give you two some privacy.”
She laughs for the first time since I can remember. I’ve almost forgotten what her laughter sounds like.
“Okay Mr. Mysterious America. At least Andy Rooney is real. Bigfoot and Nessie aren’t!” Mysterious America is a show that details “the unknown.” Bigfoot and Nessie sightings are a common occurrence here. So are other Fortean phenomena: raining frogs, UFOs, psychic events, the works. It’s my favorite program, partly because of content, but mostly because it’s hosted by famed actor Robert Stack. Guy freaks the shit out of me!
I firmly believe that there are people who are living ghosts, walking haunted. Whenever I look at pictures of Abraham Lincoln in Civil War texts, he looks like he he is haunted and haunting the living. Robert Stack gives me the same feeling. In his inflection and facial expressions, I mean, would it kill the guy to smile every now and then?
“Yeah, well… I got nothing.” I shoot back with. Ooh, burn!
“What’s this episode about?” She says, putting down her copy of Catch-22. I know the book well. It was heavily circulated among the platoons, good for laughs and introspection. Some say it helped keep the men sane, but I had no perspective about this. I never read it. Part of me thinks Anne is reading it to understand what I went through. Her copy is fresh and new from the looks of it. No creases on the spine or dog ears on the pages. She couldn’t possibly learn what I went through in the black words and the white pages. She’d have to see it in color if she truly wanted to know.
“The Patterson-Gimlin footage. It turned five years old! My, it’s growing up so fast.” I say, with false sincerity and imaginary tears.
“What is a Patterson-Gimlin?”
“It’s the best evidence for Bigfoot. Look, it’s back on. Watch.”
We both watch a lumbering humanoid creature walk across the screen, looking back briefly like it’s doing a photo shoot for some magazine.
“Oh, come on Buzzy. You can’t believe THAT is real.”
“I’d rather believe in that than…” I don’t finish the sentence, and it doesn’t matter because we both know what I’d say. And for a moment, in this ugly ass orange upholstered chair, I think about it. Through the swarm of green shapes in the equally ghastly carpet, I’m back in Nguoi Rung.
Nguoi Rung is a small, thick portion of jungle located about two and a half miles north of Saigon. The area was overrun with gooks left and right, as part of the southern tip of the “iron” triangle. It was the only VC stronghold in South Vietnam. My unit was called in to clear the area and hold it until they could get a permanent unit to hold it indefinitely. Later this area would be vital in Operation Cedar Falls to clear out the “iron” triangle permanently, well, until the Viet Cong overran our forces later.
My unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division (”The Screaming Eagles”) as an Airmobile force. We were a liberating force that was inserted, via helicopter, into a particular area, and asked to repel enemy forces and hold it indefinitely. Come hell or high water, we’d hold it.
When our Slick bird made it to the Landing Zone (LZ), there was only twenty four of us: “Bingo,” our sniper, was a short, stout man, who called out bingo! whenever he hit his target; “Kickstand” had a hog, 60mm, and hot temper. He could fire it well and with accuracy; “Digger,” our only Australian brother was an infantryman. We called all the Australians diggers, but he was ours. Whenever he talked of Australia, he made it feel like home to all of us. “Blinker” was a young guy who always seemed nervous in the field. He wasn’t so bad that he’d get his own comrades killed, but whenever he was in a firefight, his eyes blinked rapidly. Sometimes you had to snap him out of it when all the shooting stopped. “Donut” was the ladies man of the group, and he’d go on and on about them if you let him. We named him Donut after the Donut Dollies he’d be pining over at rear base camp, though he never had any takers. He had a Vincent Price like mustache which we all pointed out and razzed him about. We all assumed that’s why the dollies never took the bait. It never creeped us out though, until he got the killing stroke in him, then it’d creep you the fuck right out. I’d known most of these guys since Ia Drang, the rest were cherries so green that their fatigues were still clean.
Intelligence told us that a small force was holding Nguoi Rung. They fled sometime before we were choppered in. Someone must have told them we were coming, or our Slick birds gave it away.
At the base of the trees were signs of a leftover camp recently abandoned. A fire reduced to embers surrounded by blankets lain on the ground and numerous bowls of rice and chopsticks resting within the circle. I bent over a small wooden box on top of a very thick blanket. I felt a nervousness overcome me, my blood run high, my heart beat faster. My nervous system completely shut down. It had to be a bomb or was it sitting on a mine. I threw it as instinct told me to. In retrospect, this was a stupid move, I could have killed everyone in my unit. I expected an explosion, but only heard the large thud of the box against the trees, and the sound of its contents raining out over the forest floor. The only ones who didn’t feel nervous were the cherries. They hadn’t spent night after night in the bush under constant watch of things you couldn’t see. Our nerves were shattered, our bowls let loose on their own.
After we made the camp our own, all twenty-four of us sat around a small fire brought back to life like Lazarus. In retrospect, the fire was probably a bad idea, and who really needed it? The heat was intolerable in Vietnam. It fell on you like a blanket. You wanted to pull it off you, but you couldn’t no matter how hard you tried. We wanted light, because even the darkness was swallowed here, swallowed by eyes that knew who you were and had a name of their own. We would talk in hushed tones, about where we were from. Kickstand talked about his days in a stamping plant in northern Michigan. How it wasn’t much, but it was something. One of the cherries, Billy, had just been married before leaving for this shit hole. Another was going to use the G.I. Bill to “get him an education;” he wanted to be an engineer, a noble field in this day and age.
Digger had us all enthralled. He talked about the morning sun that would shine in through his bedroom window. How the the morning glory of the days first glow made that bedroom feel right like Heaven. He made omelets from eggs that his own Chickens laid. He worked the fields of his own farm to grow what he needed. What he grew we grew in our hearts as we all ached for home.
When Digger finished his story, it all became white noise to me, and I drown out. My hand brushed against one of my side pockets, in the process of reaching for a cigarette. The pocket made a small crumpling noise, the kind that paper makes. I opened the pocket and pulled out a short snorter, 1953B series two dollar bill signed by the men of a unit that was supposedly killed in the battle of Ia Drang. Whether the story is true or not, I have no clue. I was there, but couldn’t recall the unit. I did know one thing: I sure as shit didn’t want this thing on me. Snorters are supposedly good luck, but if this one really did die with its unit, what chance did we have? How it got into my pocket is another mystery itself.
Later that night, when the conversation died down, I could see a pair of yellow eyes peeking out of the darkness. Through the crackling of the fire and the light cast on the trees, those eyes stood tall. Taller than anything I’d ever seen in Vietnam before. The owner of those eyes stayed just out of the lights reach, and the pair began moving in a large circular pattern around the camp, careful never to cross in front of the trees. As I dozed through the night, I would wake up periodically, and notice them in a different location around the camp. No one else seemed to notice, and I assumed it was some stupid VC tactic to draw us out, so I told no one. The eyes did nothing until the light of our fire began to die, when a guttural howl came from their direction. We all woke then, and didn’t sleep while there was darkness in the sky.
In the early morning hours, we were all pretty tired. Some cherries were dozing, as was I when the VC opened fire on our position. A kind of wind rose up, composed of bullets. We were still gathered around the fire as open targets. Our cherry radioman, Dennis, managed to get the order, “Broken Arrow,” over the radio before some gook put a bullet through his throat, head, and radio. I took cover behind a group of fallen trees near me. In my fear, I had thrown myself in the direction of the bullets. I just laid there while my unit bought the farm.
At one point, a VC soldier approached me. He put his finger over his mouth, urging me to keep quiet. He raised his weapon toward me with a sick little grin growing on his mouth. Before he could fire, one of our birds opened with machine gun fire, killing him instantly. The VC pulled back.
Intelligence later gathered that the VC fled into Cambodia. Truth is, we had no real intelligence in Vietnam. We were all dumb as hell.
When the extraction occurred, I was the only man in the unit that lived. I had no visible wounds. I looked upon the carnage and cried out for Digger and his slice of Heaven. I cried for Donut. I cried for them all. Then the government cried for me, ruling me unfit to return to combat. They sent me home on a Freedom bird.
I was back in my sister’s ghastly living room again. The TV, resting on a hand-me-down stand, still spoke of Bigfoot’s miraculous home movie. Anne’s nose was buried in Catch-22 again, at least halfway through the book at this point. A glint of light off of glass caught my view and I turned my head: on the wall were a series of photos. The first of our parents, Bud and Nancy from the late 30’s. Next in line, my father in his dress blues before he was killed on Peleliu in the Pacific. The image fades into one of Mom, Anne and I: me when I was 9 and Anne when she was 12. The final image is of a man in a green service uniform. That was Richard fucking Sherman. He died in 1967, replaced with a damaged doppelgänger named Buzzy.
The name came from my ability to place my head at just the right height so the bullets would fly right over it. They’d buzz by and buzz me, so Buzzy became me. I can’t function without it now. If you ask for Richard Sherman, you won’t get a response. If you ask for buzzy, you may not like the response you get.
That name, Buzzy, is less than a name, more of a ticket to a freak show. Look folks, right next to The Minnesota Iceman is the Frozen Soldier known as Buzzy. It’s become Alice and the looking glass, a portal to a personal nightmare played endlessly.
Anne has become so keen to my nightmares the last few months, she can see when my mind drifts to the bush. She reads people as well as she reads books. “You okay, Buzzy? Seem a little more “transported” than usual.” That’s what she calls my fits, being transported.
“What am I doing, Anne? These trips, especially today, I feel like I’m losing myself more with every one.”
“You need to immerse yourself in something. What do you like? What did you like before you went to war?”
“No seriously. What do you like to do.”
“I like Bigfoot. He’s like my white whale.”
“Technically, he’s a giant ape.”
“Metaphorically, Anne!” I blurt, with a bit of laughter in my voice.
“Sometimes, Buzzy, I swear you just have a one track mind. What can you do with Bigfoot?”
“Become a researcher? Go to school and get a degree in zoology or something.”
In my moment of insecurity, a proclamation comes across the television through Robert Stack’s creepy personage: “We’re asking for your help in finding this creature. If you have footage that you believe proves the existence of Sasquatch, send it to this address for a chance to win $100,000.”
A look comes on Anne’s face in response to a look that comes on mine. “You’re kidding, right?” she says innocently enough.
“You know me too well.” A wide grin becomes wider. I can’t help it, I have to do it.
In the weeks that followed, I couldn’t get Bigfoot out of my head. It became a kind of mantra: Bigfoot is my money, Bigfoot is my money, Bigfoot is my money. I checked out books on Bigfoot from the local library. The first day I brought them home, Anne rolled her eyes a little. She didn’t say anything though, probably because it was just books. What’s the harm in that?
Without the ability to get a job, what was I going to do? It was like Robert Stack was giving me a way out. A slim, but possible way out. I wanted to contribute around here, and start paying my own way. Anne never looked disappointed in me, and I’ll never know why. Maybe it’s because my own shame carries more weight than anybody else’s around here. Maybe shame wasn’t a currency Anne dealt in. The snorter I still kept in my pocket sure didn’t help.
I keep hoping that the damn thing is lucky, I keep asking for it. This wretched two dollar bill has never left my pocket since the day I was air lifted out of Nguoi Rung, and these last few weeks, I’ve been asking it for the fortune I felt I deserved. If a two dollar bill can save your life in the bush, surely it can bring you Bigfoot. That kind of flawless logic and religious faith keeps me on my feed.
About three weeks after Robert Stack uttered my cause, a comrade from ‘nam, “Butcher” Locke, injured while fighting in Ia Drang, gave me a call. How he got my info from the VA, I’ll never know, but he had a tip for me about some Bigfoot tracks he found near his place and if I’d like to come see them.
In the VA hospital, Butcher was the only guy I kept in contact with. Hell, after my entire unit was killed, he was the only one I really knew. In a letter dated 6 June 1968, I told him about the tall yellow eyes. How they circled our camp, and how I thought the eyes were responsible for the guttural howl the entire unit heard before being fired upon by VC.
He responded in a letter, saying I was “bug fuck nuts” and that I had “bush trauma.” Bush trauma is what we called it when a guy came back all fucked up in the head from ‘nam.
Was I nuts? No, I couldn’t have been. There’s nothing that tall in the bush, and two gooks could never be coordinated enough to pull that off. The sound… it was like nothing I’d ever heard, and nothing I’ve heard since.
I had to go.
And I begged Anne for the money to go:
“You want me to give you money so you can fly out to Washington and see Bigfoot tracks? You’re kidding me, right?” A look of concern washes over her face. She cares about me deeply. It shows on her face as it tries to shut me down. I’m the child I never wanted to be to her, and it’s how I’ll always feel living with her.
“If you’re breaking it down to the lowest common denominator, yes. But it’s more than that.”
“What more is it? What good do you think it will do?”
“I’m hoping it will help my portal err… close it.”
“Portal? What the fuck are you talking about?!” I don’t blame her frustration. In the service, the government forces a new language on you, and a new way of thinking. It’s similar to English, but a very bastardized version of it. They teach you a new way of learning, and ascribe names to situations or concepts that you’d never use in civilian life. Buzzy is a word for portal in my world, and it’s my portal, and it needs to be closed.
“Buzzy is my portal. That stupid fucking name has consumed all of me! I can’t look people in the eye and I can’t function properly. I can’t get it up to jerk-off, Anne. I know you don’t want to know that, but it’s true. I need to fix me, and I think visiting Butcher can help.” My eyes feel like a damn on the verge of bursting. I can feel the muscles in my face contort into a horrible mask. Anne’s face contorts in the opposite direction, one toward sympathy and caring.
“Do you really think this well help? Like, deep down, you think it could work? I need to know, Buzzy.”
“Please don’t call me that. I’m Richard Sherman. Buzzy needs to fucking die.”
“Rich, do you really think it will help?” She won’t let it go, and she shouldn’t.
I look up into her face, her eyes. For a moment, it’s like she can see into the portal too. She’s in 1967 Vietnam beside those trees praying for my life. “I do, Anne. I really do.”
A week later I was on a plane to Butcher Locke and Washington state. Anne gave me $500 and told me to make it count. I swore I would.
Flying into Trout Lake Airport in Skamania County, Washington, I could see a lush landscape of trees and mountains from my window seat. Butcher lives near Gifford Pinchot National Forrest, a “hot bed” for Bigfoot sightings.
When I go to retrieve my luggage, he ambushes me with a huge hug, and I almost miss my luggage on the conveyor belt. After surviving a war that still rages on, hugs never feels awkward, even for a couple of Screaming Eagles.
“How you doing, Buzzy? How you handling things?” He asks.
“I’m alright. Trying to pick up the pieces, man. And it’s Rich from now on.”
“You got it, buddy.” He says. I feel like he understands that I’m trying to kill Buzzy too, and resurrect my old self at the same time. Butcher helps me out to his Jeep, an M715. How he got it home from Vietnam, I’ll never know. We head out to the local McDonald’s for a quick bite and talk.
“So, what’s the story? Where did you find the tracks?”
Since I sent the letters, Butcher’s become an enthusiast himself. He keeps tabs on sightings which he says goes back hundreds of years, even before “the founding of America.” In a way that’s what we were looking for, the founders of America, which makes our founding fathers the hairiest mother fuckers you’ve ever seen. He pulls out a map and begins pointing at certain areas.
“We’ve been getting a lot of sightings this summer from Pyramid rock, Sturgeon rock, and over here on Little Baldy. But it seems like they’re migrating my way, or at least there’s just a shit ton of ‘em and they’re all throughout the woods. Think is, I’ve never seen this much activity before.” He pulls a photograph from his pocket and hands it to me. “I found this in the woods out in back of my house. I took a plaster cast, which I’ll show you at the house, but it’s 18.4 inches long.” His eyes light up.
“Holy shit, Butcher, this is amazing.” My face lights up too, and I think I’ve got him. I’m going to be a rich man. We’re going to be rich men.
“Please, if we’re turning a new leaf, it’s Bob.”
“Alright.” I offer to we new men.
“Do you have a camera, Bob? A video camera?”
“Nah, they’re expensive.”
“Know where we can rent one? I’ve got the funds.”
“Yeah, I think I do.”
That night we drank beer on Bob’s back deck. We reminisced about what we were like before and after Vietnam, if we thought America could win the war, and our passion for the Foot.
“There’s no way America is winning this war. Not the way the gooks fight.” Bob said.
“Goddamned right. Wish America would have used that pussy foot style of fighting. ‘Cept we’re not on good terms with Cambodia and all those other countries on the border.”
“Fuck, had they given us authority to run into them countries, we could have had ‘em. Fucking government. People dying over there for fucking nothing.” Anger rises in his voice, and it rises in mine too. We both take a swig of bear to calm us down.
The sky’s light is beginning to fade, as if the box that holds the sun is closing for the night, in a slow, swift movement. The crickets are producing a rhythm that our bodies sway to inside. Bob ducks inside the house for a moment to turn on some lights. Now we’re back lit against the house, a show for the forest and all who inhabit the woods.
A moment later, Bob returns and sits back down.
“Pretty sad when the people you’re trying to help aren’t even appreciative. Fuck them.” I say.
“That’s right, fuck ‘em!” He chuckles a little, and grows to a hearty laugh when I join in.
“So, when did you get hooked on the Foot, Bob?” I never used the term “the Foot” with Anne. Probably would have thought I was too far gone and never given me the money or the ticket to come here.
“Shit, been a few years. Your letters got to me. Not long after, I decided that I wanted to believe in Bigfoot more than I did the war in ‘nam. So, I just set out looking. Got a few prints here and there, though I’ve never seen one in the bush… I mean the woods.
“Those tracks are the closest thing I’ve seen to home. Been searching the woods but I haven’t found anything yet.”
“That’s going to change, Brother. We’ll find them.”
“You better believe it.”
Both of us lifted the bottle to our lips and sipped. Beer and the backyard felt more like home than Anne’s. I felt bad for thinking it, but I can’t help the way I feel anymore. I’m home with my comrade and among the hairy ancestors, the ones I believe are out there.