TERRY’S PERSONALLY SELECTED EXCERPTS
1) From Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse, by Terry Rizzuti
Excerpt From Chapter 1:
Seacil was born to third-generation German parents, Butch and Yolanda Mallard, and grew up in a dilapidated two-story on what had once been the family dairy farm. Poor business decisions and alcoholism had long ago driven Butch into near bankruptcy, but eventually he found and maintained menial labor in town at Revere Copper & Brass. Yolanda named their son Seacil mostly to get back at Butch for their financial difficulties, but also because Butch had landed himself in the hospital the very night she had given birth, January 11, 1952.
Yolanda laid there in bed squirming against propped pillows, her hair done up in something resembling a deserted beehive. Drugged out and barely awake, she was trying to respond to the nurse’s question “How do you spell that, Mrs. Mallard?”
Thinking “Seacil,” would stand out better on paper, Yolanda chose the variant spelling for the birth certificate. Butch wanted his son called something masculine like LeeRoy, Max or, better yet, Butch Jr., but Yolanda figured “to hell with you, buster, knockin’ me up and then seeing to it that you’re not even here to help out with the pain. I ain’t namin’ him no LeeRoy nor Max, and certainly not Butch Jr. I’m namin’ him Seacil, by God.”
Of course, mean as Butch was, Yolanda never said this to his face. Instead, “I like the name Seacil,” she said, “it’s different, distinctive even. He’ll grow up to be a doctor or something.” “Brother,” Butch mumbled, exasperated, “you’re such a yo-yo,” to which Yolanda, hearing only the word “brother,” replied “No more kids, Butch, not now, not ever.” So Seacil was an only child, but hardly what you might call one of a kind.
Some wondered how Butch wound up in the hospital that Friday night Seacil was born. Truth is, he had rushed Yolanda to the hospital, and then to calm his butterflies, had rushed right out to enjoy a beer or three with a couple of World War II buddies he knew would be hanging out at Coal Yard Charlie’s down by the tracks. He walked in the bar wearing baggy pants and work boots, his untucked shirttail flapping in back as he walked. His brushcut was slicked down almost flat with fresh hair cream.
During his fourth beer, a knife fight broke out between two mean-lookin’ women. Butch, being a self-proclaimed ladies man, stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and wound up staggering out of the bar wearing nothing below his shirt except a whole bunch of blood. The knife that got him was so sharp it had cut clear up from the inside of his right thigh, to and through his narrow web belt and across the button at the top of his fly, dropping his pants and skivvies down around his ankles. His big Revere Copper & Brass belt buckle clunked loud as a door knocker against the concrete, calling everyone’s attention to the fact that he wasn’t wearing anything below the waist, although they probably would have noticed anyway since his thighs and buttocks displayed several strategically placed tattoos of naked women. It would have actually been funny had he not hit the pavement so darn near dead.
Butch started flashbacking immediately, thinking it was D-Day or something, flailing his arms at shadows and yelling “Krauts in the wire, Krauts in the wire,” at the tops of his lungs. The paramedics had to shoot him up good with a tranquilizer before they could get him settled and into the ambulance. Butch swore he’d kill them all as soon as he got back from the rear, “ever muther one a ya,” as he put it.
Yolanda figured that without a father any smarter than Butch, life was gonna be tough on the little tike so she wanted Seacil to learn early on how to take care of himself. She understood the importance of names, and knew the other boys would laugh and call him Sissy Seacil or something similar. She hoped to force him to fight back tooth ‘n nail. Seacil cowered in fear, instead, and by fifth grade had established himself as pretty much scared of his own shadow, so much so that he sometimes took to throwing up when facing fear. The kids laughed and called him Seasick all through grade school. Yolanda didn’t exactly boost his self-confidence by sending him mixed signals, sometimes swattin’ him upside the head, sometimes mothering him to death.
“I’m gonna swat you upside the head,” she’d say, “you don’t gitcher ass over here!”
“But Yolanda, I’m in a hurry.”
“Don’t talk back to me thataway,” and she’d cuff him upside the head.
“Yolanda,” he’d whine, holding his ear, “you’ll be sorry you did that. I’ll get you someday.”
“Oh come here, Seacil,” she’d coax, “you’re such a pain,” and she’d smother him up with a broad sweep of her arms and hold him there pressed against the cleavage of her big chest until Seacil thought he would somehow have to scream himself free or pass out from the odor of day-old sweat mixed with stale perfume. He’d have to scream himself silly, is what usually happened, the muffled vibrations sending sexual signals coursing through Yolanda’s body until the sweat beaded up on her forehead and ran down her face like tears.
To Yolanda, the apron strings between herself and Seacil were a logical replacement for the umbilical cord that should never have been severed in the first place. Butch sensed this and was angry, for it reduced him to number two male in his own home, so his anger found expression in such abusive phrases as calling Seacil a worthless sack of shit at every opportunity.
“You’re a worthless sack a shit, boy, just like your mother. You’ll never amount to a goddam thing, probably just some low-life queer.”
“Don’t say that, Dad, I’d never say anything like that about you.”
2) Excerpts From THE SECOND TOUR, by Terry Rizzuti
From throughout the novel:
Hill 602 took three lives the first time. Took Tommy Baker’s lower jaw too. I couldn’t look him in the eyes that saw so clearly through all of us to the horror we saw in his mangled face. No teeth bestowed upon him the look of a man made wizened with age.
It was a round between the eyes, I think, because as I yelled in his face, it disappeared, replaced with a blood geyser and the sound of a .41 millimeter. His legs slid apart slowly at first, then crumbled in the true Cartesian split.
Rootie! Rootie! Come closer Rootie.
I’m here, Benjie, I’m here, I said, clasping his hand on my arm.
Help me Rootie, my legs won’t move.
Aw Benjie, it’ll be okay Benj, I’ll give you mine.
Our voices turned to whispers and our countenances to shame. We left as murderers, our tails between our legs, but it would happen again, inevitably, and each will take his memories to the grave. Life’s a bitch — and then you die.
It was December, and I was thinking about how miserable Christmas was going to be. The air was cold, my teeth were chattering, the chow sucked. Chow? C-ration leftovers from World War II. The issue date on my box was 1944. This was 1966. We were smoking twenty-year-old cigarettes. Eatin’ meals older than we were.
A foreboding shiver skittered the length of my backside, suddenly, from the top of my shoulders to the base of my spine. Scared, I dropped to one knee followed by the seven others behind me and began surveying my senses. Couldn’t hardly see a thing. Only the rain made sound, splashing off wet leaves. The familiar but rank body odor rose from deep inside my flak jacket and hovered about lip level, a smell not unlike musty mothballs mixed with mentholated sweat. I took a deep breath, sucking in the combined faint odor of burning leaves and betel juice.
Her smile vanished, displaced by fear, more fear than she’d probably ever known in her life. It was my turn to smile then, and I took advantage of the power laughter has over weakness. The 26th Marines took heavy casualties at Khe Sanh during Tet in January 1968, and I wasn’t there to help them, but I’d be damned if I’d lose this war on the home front. I let out an evil laugh and stepped lively into the rain. It’s so easy to be a hero, I thought, when your weapons are loaded with blanks.
She was stomping her foot, prancing like a white mare. Her mouth was moving. She was saying something urgent, lots of something urgents. I could sense that much. But nothing seemed urgent anymore. You wanna know what it was like? I thought. Huh? I’ll tell you what it was like. Nam wasn’t real. Not when I was there. Now it’s real. Now I can think about things like why we were there, what we were trying to prove to ourselves, why we did some of the things we did. I have time now to sort back through it all: the dead, the dying, the barbarism, the atrocity, through everything I can remember to help make sense of it.
His name was John Blue and he had a chip on his shoulder — in fact, he once told me he’d rather fight than fuck. I believed him, yet there he was looking as though someone had stomped his ass bad. I couldn’t imagine that ever happening. Blue was a twenty-five-year-old full-blood reservation-raised Blackfoot who hated people, but for some reason liked me. All he said, practically without even stopping to say hello, was If you’re ever driving so drunk you see three bridges up ahead, don’t take the one in the middle.
Nine men’s not enough, said Wiskey, never looking up from cleaning the big gun. I looked at him curiously, wondering what motivated him to say that. C-More looked at him funny, too, and sensed he was losing control of the squad. Square away, he said. You dudes call yourselves Marines or Swabbies? We owe ‘em. We owe all the others, like JB and Bursar and Seldom and Benjie and Lugar. Remember Lugar, Rootie, remember man? They blew the back of his goddamn head off. Stuffed his balls in his mouth and then sewed it shut. Remember man? Them muthers hung him by the thumbs from a fuckin’ tree.
C-More screamed CHARGE suddenly and the whole squad moved out quickly, zigging and zagging and diving in holes and behind trees, spraying the area like fire fighters, chunks of lead and M-79 rounds exploding on impact. I leapt up too, then fell back down, jerked by Benjie’s tight hand on my arm. I looked at his swollen face, watched it turn ashen and then bluish purple as he held his breath fighting the pain and the inevitable, his whole head bloating out, then caving in quickly as his breath rushed out loud. Tears shot out my eyes I remember, rocking back on my heels looking straight up. Arrrrrrrr…… I clenched and screamed, but the wind swept the sounds to the mere decibels of silence.
Charles Stricklyn is dead. With him are Watson, Wiskey, and Murphy. Everyone asks “Why Rizzuti? Someone upstairs must like him. But why him?” I don’t know why but I’ve got to know. Something’s got to tell me. I say something cause nothing human can tell me. The guys all think I lead some kind of charmed life. They hang around me like I’m a lucky piece, a Saint Christopher medal or something. Can you believe that? People are dying all around me, and these dudes think I’m lucky. It’s raining outside this leaky tent; artillery is firing and enemy mortar rounds are splashing in the mud. Why don’t I take cover? Cause I don’t give a damn. I don’t give a damn about anything. It just don’t mean nothin’ no more.
I moved toward the front, one step at a time, slowly past staring eyes as frightened as my own, then froze solid again as Baker’s and mine locked in instantaneous telepathy. I looked away quickly, but not before registering one life-lasting color photo of his mutilated face, torn off from the nose down, shredded flesh oozing blood and saliva, dripping like melting cherry icicles, splattering off his flak jacket and boots, his eyes wild and glossy like someone speaking in tongues, his arms and shoulders limp, his hands wringing frantically at rosary beads, his sunken life’s essence hurling toward total completion — He knew it — I knew it — God knew it — everyone and everything abandoning him on this, the afternoon of his supreme and inevitable day.
McKlusky, plastered, was funnier than shit as usual. Six foot seven, about 240 pounds, he looked like a genetic throwback to more primitive times, the kind of guy who’d wipe his ass on a tree trunk if he didn’t have no toilet paper, just back right up to it and rub up and down on the bark.
She hadn’t looked back. I moved my eyes toward the window as their shadow passed by and then parted my lips. I opened my mouth to yell, to call her back, to tell her what Nam was like, but no sound came out, only a tremble and then a tear and then several tears and then convulsions followed by silence and that haunting single thought I’m alone again, I’ll always be alone. I know now it could never have worked out. I think I knew then I’d never see them again.
I’ve come so far. To have it all end my last two months seems so meaningless — so much in vain. I can’t die now; it doesn’t make sense; I’ve got too many things to do. And yet death looks so close. It’s staring us all in the face like so many clouds. I can’t stand it. Everybody else is so new. Half of them have never even been shot at. They’re all boots, boots! Do you know what that means? It means they’re all gonna be looking for me to tell them what to do, to show them. I can’t show them, not anymore. I can’t show them without becoming some sort of John Wayne. And yet if I don’t they’ll think I’m a coward. I’m not a coward, but it’s time to play safe. It’s time to come home, but they’re all so innocent. They haven’t even lost their baby fat yet. I can’t let them down. I just can’t.
It was important to us in Nam to always be men, to be brave no matter the cost. One of the most difficult things we faced was tight-rope walking that delicate ground between caution and cowardice. NOBODY wanted to be a coward, yet nearly everyone wanted to stay alive without having to be too brave either. It wasn’t enough to just keep going; courage couldn’t be found in the mere act of putting one foot in front of the other. Difficult as that was, we never really felt like we had any choice. And some things were just so intrinsically expected of you, like going out under fire after the dead or wounded; doing them didn’t make you a hero even though not doing them made you a coward.
Another problem was that fine line that separates fear from rage. Sometimes fear rose to such uncontrollable, such unbelievable levels, suppression and sublimation only succeeded in converting it to anger — anger at your own blindness for placing yourself in such a predicament in the first place; anger at your country’s Madison Avenue sales approach to the military lifestyle; anger at the gung-ho lifers who don’t give a shit about anything except their own career advancements; and anger at the Viet Cong for providing what seems at the time like the only legitimate means of dissipating that rage. By the time I was down to EIGHTY DAYS I lived seconds away from a breakdown I felt certain was coming.
Raven had his M-79 tucked up under his right arm like a shotgun. His .45 was in his left hand. He charged that .51 caliber nest Chesty Puller reincarnated, John Wayne himself, blooping and blasting and reloading one-handed like nobody and nothing I’d ever seen. His eyes were huge and bulging out like they’d pop any second, his mouth spread tight and wide, his teeth bared, his throat growling and gurgling and spitting and all the time alternately firing the .45 and the M-79.