My Calendar

I kept a pocket calendar by my rack.  Every evening before lights out, I'd cross off another day.  It was sort of a ritual for me.  The daily countdown helped me keep it together over there.

It was a rare evening.  So far, no ambushes.  Just the nightly fireworks show, courtesy of tracers from Viet Cong gunfire high above our tents. 

“You joking?”  Sugden laughed, almost dropping the flashlight he was using to read in his rack.

“Hey, pipe down, we’re trying to get some shut-eye here!” somebody yelled out.

“Captain’s for real,” I whispered, trying to get comfortable in my cot, the sheets damp as always.  “He wants us to play again, like back at Bragg.  Only here.”

"Who?" Sugden whispered back.  "You and Ioli and Voina?"

"I guess."  I thought for a moment.  "Ioli can handle it, I think."

"You could ask him in the morning.  He's got the four to midnight tonight.  What about Voina?"

"I don't know, man.  I want to play stuff that's on the radio, new stuff.  He likes the old stuff."  I waved away a cloud of giant mosquitoes.  "Besides, if I’m on guitar and Ioli's on drums, what we'd really need is a bass player.  So what do you think," I whispered.  "You up for it?"

"What?  Hell, yeah!" he said.

"Hey, shut it up over there!" somebody else yelled.

Sugden lowered his voice.  "But where the hell are we going to find instruments in this dump?  Black market?”

 “No idea,” I said, reaching for my pocket calendar and pen on the footlocker next to my cot.  I squinted in the dark and crossed out another day. “I just told Captain I’d do it.”

“Even if we could find some, how we gonna pay for them?  We ain’t got that kind of cash.”   Sugden pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

“I don’t know,” I said, using the point of my pen to silently count off my time left.  Three hundred and six days to go.

“Sleep on it,” he grunted, snapping off the flashlight.  He rolled over.   Soon he was snoring.

The rumble of distant artillery rattled my cot.  I didn't think I'd ever get used to it...


Rock 'N' Roll Soldier: A Memoir by Dean Ellis Kohler with Susan VanHecke, foreword by Graham Nash  •  © 2023