Ho Chang rests his rifle across a branch and focuses its sights on the American infantryman. Ho Chang is fourteen years old. He is a guerrilla fighter, a skilled assassin, a sniper. Concealed high in a tree — a tree that a short time ago he climbed in play — he reaches and methodically plucks a leaf from his line of fire. Killing is his single remaining pleasure.…

Don’t Go

Ho Chang is a fanatic. He became a fanatic six months earlier while watching his mother, father, and beloved sister run screaming from the pyre of curling flame and smoke that had been their home. He watched his loved ones, each a wild torch, stumbling crazily through the village and finally sprawling laying in the dust, eyeless hairless black smoking hulks that twitched and emitted sounds not human. In the terrible racking sobbing agony of his grief the boy knelt beside the charred remains of his family and pleaded that he too might die… Their hut had been struck by an American bomb….

Don’t Go

The American infantryman, Private Eugene Roberts, is in his first day of combat. Always a peaceful boy and raised in the quiet suburbs of Los Angeles, Private Roberts had never been involved in physical conflict until today. Today he has killed three people. A few hours earlier his squad was fired on from a dense thicket by a number of the enemy. The boy beside him suddenly stopped and turned, a puzzled expression on his face and a small red oozing hole in his forehead….

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Private Roberts, in a blurred rage of revenge, followed his combat training. Running, zigzagging, firing from the hip, he charged the thicket with his squad. A flurry of shouts, of confusion and violent hand-to-hand combat resulted in Private Roberts shooting two uniformed boys and pulling his bayonet from deep in the breast of a third, a slim uniformed enemy — a girl enemy, a girl younger than he. Their eyes had locked… His in young blue-irised horror… hers in brown graceful long-lashed acceptance that glazed to death while he watched and whimpered…..

Don’t Go

Alone now, lost from his squad, wandering aimlessly, he slogs through the lonely landscape. Dazed, oblivious, mumbling to himself, his mind has returned home… To Los Angeles, to the suburban high school he last year graduated from, to sixteen-year-old Donna who still attends the school — Donna who promised to wait, who writes long chatty lonesome letters on wide-ruled notebook paper. School days together, surfing together, high together, their clear eyes close staring inquisitive innocent learning one another, touching one another, loving one another in gentle tentative passion…..

Don’t Go

There’s others who wait: his younger brother who brags of a big brother hero in uniform. His father, veteran of an earlier war, proud of his fighting son. His mother, who successfully impersonalizes the war news and insures Eugene’s safety by prayer… perhaps a medal, perhaps a purple heart, a slight, romantic wound. His car waits parked in their suburban yard, and his surfboard — the board he decorated and glassed himself––waits stored in the garage rafters. Sometimes Mrs. Roberts goes to the garage and stands a moment looking up at the board…..

Don’t Go

Private Roberts’ head looms large, circle-framed in Ho Chang’s telescopic sights. The boy feels grim satisfaction at the imminent destruction of another American. He pauses… Deciding against a quick death, he lowers his sights on the enemy figure and slowly, skillfully squeezes the trigger… The rifle jumps, kicks solidly against his shoulder and a single violent crack of sound shatters the insect-buzzing bird-calling tropical day… The immediate absolute silence that follows hangs still and ominous on the warm heavy air….

Don’t Go

The hate-altered hollownose bullet makes a small smoldering hole in Private Roberts’ tunic, enters his side below the ribs and above the hip bone. Expanding rapidly it plows a deep hole through the abdomen. Private Roberts throws up his hands, and as a wind-up toy soldier whose spring has burst, staggers crazily wildly awkwardly. He does not fall. Stunned by the bullet’s slamming impact he fails to understand what has happened… But immediately the numbness begins to change to pain, a trail of dull pain across his belly. He looks down and in confused stupor unbelts his tunic….

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He stands there swaying in shock and bewildered comprehension while with fear fumbling fingers he tries to unbutton the shirt. Sweat pours over his face and his lips move trembling. The real pain hits him then. Its white hot sear is terrible. He rips frantically at the red seeping cloth — buttons fly — the shirt opens… He sees the wound from which his entrails now bulge, a wound that now sluggishly disgorges long grotesque ropes of mangled gut, of yellow dismembered quivering glands, of blue ruptured spurting arteries, of red severed nerve jumping muscles — a hanging mutilated mass of brown leaking intestine that dangles and splashes to the ground…..

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Private Roberts begins shaking his head in unbelieving protest. He mumbles, “No… No… Oh, God… No…” Swaying, crying, still moving his head in denial he clumsily grasps the mangled mess of maimed entrails and begins to stuff them back into himself. For a few seconds he plays the hopeless game. His legs begin to shake violently, to jump uncontrollably. They buckle….

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Still striving to hold his intestines within himself, Private Roberts slowly sinks to his knees. He kneels there, and his blood bleeds a clear crimson stain. He understands then the futility — dimly understands his death, as head bowed, he watches his weakened hands fall away and the bulging intestines emerge, go floating out like bright hued tentacles reaching across the void….

Don’t Go

Private Roberts’ face contorts with the last flashing emotions of his quick young life. No glory, no thoughts of country, no audience, no movie-soldier brave clenched-cigarette wisecracking death, no patriotic slogans in his fading mind. He sobs his last now, nods in final acceptance and as thousands and thousands of dying boy soldiers before him, he piteously asks for that woman who bore him and who eased each childhood pain — quietly softly he whispers, “Mom… Mother… I…” And upon the sunlit surface of a far distant native land only a red smear remains… Nineteen years of clean young promise gone. Shot to hell….

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© 2003 Zendik Arts

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