Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 3 | Fall 1983 (Portland) /// Issue 19 of 41 /// Master# 19 of 73

roof off the transmitter shack.” Pollock nodded, threw on a coat, and followed him out. The storm was worse. Pollock was surprised. He didn’t think it could get much worse. Now the jagged bolts of lightning from the thick black clouds continuously flashed yellow into the green-greyness of the surrounding hills. Up the road in silhouette Pollock saw a soldier rush into the mess building to escape the rain. “ It ’s a Tropical Storm,” shouted Brown from under the fatigue jacket. “We got a call from Carole just before the transmitter went out. Where were you?” "Out there.” Pollock pointed toward the bay. Brown looked at him incredulously. “Where’s Fred?” Pollock asked. “ He’s down there already. Pollock, there’s a war on out there.” “ I needed to escape it, just for a few minutes. Escape the reality of it for a few minutes.” “ This isn’t reality anyway.” They left the edge of the building and plunged out into the wind and rain and darkness. They hurried past the studio and turned off the road to the transmitter. Most of the sheet metal roof had blown off and dangled down the outside wall, held by a few nails. It clattered against the wall. Fred held the door of the shack open, standing half behind it to protect himself from sparks that were flying out. “ The rain is shorting it,” he hollered, “ I can’t get in.” Then the sparks abated for a moment. Fred peered around the corner, then sprang into the room. He grabbed the electrical main on the wall and shut it down. The transmitter fell silent. The rain splattered against it harmlessly. Fred walked back to the door and looked at Pollock and Brown, raising his eyebrows. His glasses were covered with rain. His features looked especially sharp in the glare of the lightning. “What did you need me for?” asked Now the jagged bolts of lightning from the thick black clouds continuously flashed yellow into the green-greyness of the surrounding hills. Pollock. Fred grinned. “ Come on. We’d better start the other one,” said Brown, motioning them to follow. The three of them trudged out toward a shed further back that housed a gas-powered generator and a small emergency transmitter. The building was not much bigger than a crate. Brown reached it first and opened the low door. The wind caught the door and slapped it against the side of the building. He held it there with his foot. “We’ve got to start that motor,” he shouted. He pointed into the shed. Pollock could see just well enough to reach the pull rope on the side of the engine. Stepping in further he adjusted the choke lever and pulled the cord out twice slowly, testing it. Then he yanked hard. A hum went up in the room as the engine sputtered, then roared into life, and a light went on overhead. Meter lights went on and the needles leapt into action. Some applause came from outside. “We’ll go check in the studio,” Fred hollered through the door. Po llock nodded. Fred and Sergeant Brown splashed back up the path. Their silhouettes jangled in the flashes, tall and short, Mutt and Jeff. In a few moments the needles modulated normally. Pollock took headphones from the wall and plugged them into a jack on the transmitter. Brown’s voice came through. “ Pollock, Pollock, are you there, Pollock?” “ Yes, I’m here.” “ All right. Hit that switch on the far right of the panel.” Pollock flipped the switch. “ OK, we’ve got a signal. We’re going on the air.” Music came up slowly over a speaker in the corner of the room. Then it was faded down and Brown in his rich DJ’s voice came in over it. “This is AFVN radio coming to you from Cam Rahn Bay. We’re back on the air again after a short shut-down due to Tropical Storm Hanna, who blew the roof right off our transmitter shack a little while ago. “We’ve got our backup system going now, but I tell you it ain’t nice out there, so you just stay safe and warm in your room and stay tuned.” The music from Saigon came up again. It was ‘My Sweet Lord’ by George Harrison. “Whoo-eel!” Pollock heard over the phones. “Whoo-ee,” Leo replied. He hung up the headphones and walked out of the shed. Let Brown watch the station for awhile, he thought. Lightning flashed, illum inating the buildings and roads, wet and muddy and in relief, half in eerie white, half unbordered darkness. Cans and other debris tumbled headlong, gusting over the mud. Cardboard and newspapers strobed past like dancers. Out across the road he saw Fred, hunching against the rain, returning from the studio. The wind flapped his baggy fatigues. “ Hey, Fred, Fred,” he shouted. Fred couldn’t hear, so Pollock started out to meet him. Then a sudden gust of the tempest curled under a tin eave of the hootch roof and ripped it. The corrugated steel sheet peeled back along the roof about three-fourths of its length, then resettled. Then another burst of wind tore off the steel sheet and flung it into space. The sheet floated like a carpet, caught in a scintilla of lightning. Pollock froze. He heart jolted in his chest. The sheet lilted lazily toward Fred. “ Fred !” Pollock hollered, “ Fred, Fred.” The storm swallowed up the words. Leo ran but his feet slipped. He got up and ran, but slipped again. Lightning flashed and held Fred and the sheet frozen for a moment in an abominable glare. Then it went dark. In the refraction of the next bolt, Pollock was moving. The sheet was closer. Each droplet of water in the air between him and Fred seemed individually lit, prismafied. In a momentary silence he heard his own breath. It went dark again. When he got there, Fred was on the ground. The steel sheet was on top of him. The wind shook the roofing and cut Pollock’s hand as he lifted it. A gust caught the sheet and flipped it dully into the mud. “Oh, Jesus, Fred. Oh, Jesus.” The sheet had caught Fred in the neck. It had slashed his neck. In the half- light, the muscles were twitching and the windpipe guttered aimlessly. He was dead. Pollock, disbelieving, pulled him over to the hootch out of the rain. After awhile he went to the studio and told Brown and they called the medics. The medics came and got him and took him to the infirmary. The next day Leo went up there to check, but the body had been driven over to Cam Rahn Air Base. It was put into an aluminum coffin and piled with others on a pallet. Then they flew it home. Not long after that Brown got orders to close the detachment. He was sent down to AFVN Headquarters in Saigon, and Pollock was sent to the detachment in Nha Trang. The war was winding down. ■ Ron Netherton-Johnson is a Portland writer. Dana Hoyle is a Portland artist. Experience the Boulevard twenty-third avenue New Books • General Selection 1015 N.W. 23rd Avenue • 224-5097 LUNCHES ® DINNERS THE HOBBIT RESTAURANT COCKTAILS—CASUAL DINING Brunch 11 am - 3 pm Sat. &Sun. S.E. 52nd &Woodstock 771-0742 Prime Rib • Steaks • Famous Tostadas Chicken “8? Seafood Specialties T ry our daily Chef 's Specials 20% OFF DINOSAUR RECORDS 13410 N. W. Cornell Rd. Portland,OR 97229 20% OFF B 4 1 . 9 3 6 6 Open Every Day 11 AM 7958 SW Barbur Blvd. 244-2298 THE CATB IRD SEAT 1231 SWWASHINGTON PORTLAND. OR 97205 222-5817 BOOKS FOR THE OMNIVOROUS READER OPEN 9 30-930 MON —FRI 1000-5.30 SAT 12 00-5 00 SUN THIS AD GOOD FOR 20% OFF ON ANY BOOK NO DISCOUNT ON TEXTBOOKS, MAGAZINES, OR SPECIAL ORDERS Clinton St. Quarterly 15