The Right Thing
Brian G. Angevine
He lay belly down in the tall grass, retching up the greasy breakfast he had forced down early that morning. Tears flowed freely down smearing the jungle camouflage on his cheeks. He lay trembling in the hot sun exhausted from heavy emotion and churning stomach muscles. Stench rose all around him causing his stomach to spasm again. Decaying flesh, vomit, burned gunpowder and normal jungle smells were overpowering. His first impulse was to run away from this place. But he knew to do so would mean certain death.
He had been sent here as an adviser to the rebels. The freedom fighters needed him, according to his secret orders. The cargo plane in which he had arrived was heavily laden with supplies. Six highly trained advisors accompanied the shipment. Landing in a remote part of the airport, the plane was unloaded at night under heavy guard. Heavy trucks trundled the cargo through a side gate into the forest.
They had ridden the grinding trucks all night through jungle and plain. Villages were bypassed as they made their way southward. Finally they stopped early in the morning at a mountainous jungle base camp. Everything was shrouded with camouflage nets and great care was taken to hide the road by placing branches over the tracks. This camp must be close to the border, he thought.
He didn’t know why he was here. He didn’t quite fit in. all the way down on the plane, the other advisors had laughed and talked crudely. They despised the brown-skinned people they had been sent to help and looked forward to “plugging” a few of them. He had no quarrel with anyone and couldn’t understand that attitude. Another part of his training had been neglected. The other spoke the native language; he did not.
After their arrival the advisors fad dispersed with different groups. One advisor had gone with each patrol. They were to be gone for indeterminate time periods, but would eventually meet back at the base camp to file their reports. They were there to gather data on the government forces and to help the rebels be more effective in their struggle. Their mission was of vital importance to the United States Government. U.S. interests must be preserved in the region at al costs. Since there was a great deal of resistance to continued American involvement in this conflict, the entire operation was top-secret and not recorded in official documents.
He only knew he was here because America said it was the right thing to do. Because of his commission what the government said was right, must be right. He still had misgivings but he kept them to himself. His lifelong training had dictated obedience to Government edicts.
The group of freedom fighters he accompanied must have suspected his anxiety and inability to speak the language. At breakfast and on the trail they had conversed freely.
In language he couldn’t understand one guy said, “Look at the fucking white Yankee pig. His face shines like a beacon in the jungle. Stay away from him or we’ll all be spotted.”
“He puts on the grease paint but he moves like a city dweller. He looks scared shitless,” said another.
“I spit on the bastard. His fear will be our downfall. Why do they keep sending us these shitheads? All we want is the money and the bullets. Who needs these whit monkeys?
“If I get a chance I’ll put my knife in him. Then we can take what we want and blame it on the government mother fuckers.”
The men seemed to be enjoying the conversation and trying to include him. They kept laughing and smiling at him. He smiled in return but felt helpless. Somehow their smiles lacked warmth and their laughter was harsh.
“Look how the white prick grins like a monkey. Let me stick him now!”
“No! Perhaps the government turds will air him out for us in a little while.”
Shortly after that break, the raiding party came upon a broad, grassy area. They crawled into the area cautiously using the tall grass for cover. Suddenly a land mine whumped nearby throwing dirt, blood and human parts high in the air. The ensuing silence was rent by the victim’s screams and the sudden firefight that broke out. The cacophony spread all across the plain as the American advisor hugged the ground, not knowing where to move for safety. People were shooting and dying all around. He could not even tell which were freedom fighters and which the enemy. But he was there to do the right thing.
He had lain completely motionless for a long time. The fight gradually subsided and silence once again reigned. Oppressive heat enveloped him as the sun beat down on his back. In the moist climate and hot conditions, bodies began to decay rapidly. He felt as though he were suffocating yet he lay still. After an interminable time he thought he heard cautious footsteps. A brown face suddenly appeared above him. Screaming and firing his rifle at the same time he watched the face disintegrate, spouting blood from many holes. The warm, sticky red mass spattered all over him. And he retched.
Although he had been trained to kill this was his first. He lay there sobbing and trying to justify his actions. He was sent here to do the right thing. He guessed this must be the right thing. That’s what he was sent to do.
Finally his sobs began to subside. He had to move. The sun had traveled clear across the sky and now was the time to get out of there. Cautiously, slowly, he rose up on hands and knees. He checked his rifle and reloaded. Inching his head above the tops of the grass stems he began to crawl over the body in front of him. A movement caught his eye. He watched his bullet split brown skin as he held the trigger down firing again and again, doing the right thing.