Selected Stories

"Pinkville" - Excerpt


Exactly what did, in fact, occur in the village of “Pinkville” in March, 1968, I do not know for certain, but I am convinced that it was something very black indeed. I remain irrevocably persuaded that if you and I do truly believe in the principles of justice and equality of every man, however humble, before the law, that form the very backbone that this country is founded on, then we must press forward a widespread and public investigation of the matter… I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “A country without a conscience is a country without a soul, and a country without a soul is a country thatcannot survive.”
—Letter by Ron Ridenhour, requesting an investigation into the My Lai incident.

He followed the shadow of the helicopter along the earth, against the green of the paddies and the gold of dry ground, and thought it resembled the body of a bird in flight. In his bubble there was a jarring, a terrible roaring that made contemplation impossible, only a leading to and then avoidance of danger. Their job was to draw fire, to act as bait, to protect the men on the ground, but until there was the electricity of firepower, his mind took other paths.

He switched places, pretended that instead of being contained in the hot pounding of the machine, he was underneath, lying in the tall, burnt grass, or better still, lying in the moistness of the green stalks of rice. Leaving the imprint of his body on the tender crushed blades. Yes, even the lukewarm muck of the paddies would be preferable. He pictured himself lying there prone, staring into the blue of the sky, and then like a dark genie, like a portent of the future, this black vulture shadow would swoop overhead, blocking out the sun momentarily, the rush causing the air temperature to drop a degree or two. After, the sky would appear even more blue, the sun so bright that it would burn the blue wings of a butterfly he had never seen the likes of before. It was small. Delicate. The roundish wings homely. In his years of high school collecting, he’d never come across one that was quite this color, as if infused with light, or the energy of the land, like a spirit made manifest, electric, in motion. If he ever returned home, he would unpin each of his specimens and release them from their glass prisons.

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