A Rat’s Returnbyjthserra©
Edwin Mole turned his head and coughed as the dust swirled around him, settling in his uncombed hair and on his olive drab jacket. He waited as an elderly man carefully descended down the rusted metal steps. Looking down toward the man’s ragged sandals, Edwin could see the dirt roadway through the jagged holes in the treads. Small as he was, he would have to be careful climbing onto the bus.
He grabbed the man’s arm and helped him down the final step. “Cảm õn lắm,” the man said in a gravelly voice. Edwin wanted to respond, but couldn’t remember the words. He watched the thin gray strands of hair swirl in the wind as the man limped away.
“Từ Mỹ,nghĩa Mỹ,” he heard himself whisper to the man already lost in the dust. Edwin carefully climbed onto the bus and looked for a seat, realizing just how unprepared for this journey he truly was. The padding for the seats had been torn away long ago; the passengers wisely had brought pillows and blankets to pad the seats.
The bus lurched forward, throwing Edwin off balance. He quickly grabbed a seat with his right hand and swung into the seat behind it, clanging onto the hard steel supports. Arching his back in pain, he reached to the aisle and pulled his duffle bag, arranging it next to the window, then leaning against it, he had a bit of a back rest.
Edwin closed his eyes, remembering nearly thirty years ago, when he climbed off a bus and onto a troop carrier. The sounds and sights then were incredible, but what he remembered most was the smell. The burning, oily smell of burning jet fuel, it was pervasive. Once inside the truck and on the road inland, the burning fuel was replaced by the stink of sweat.
At 5’1” and, at that time, 120 pounds, Edwin had been selected to join a special unit. Heading into the country north of Saigon, he was on his way to become a Tunnel Rat. It would be one of the few times, his stature was an advantage, or so it seemed initially.
Within weeks he was crawling through the underground cities, carrying only a Smith & Wesson .38, a knife and a flashlight. He fought a war of darkness, dust, snakes, spiders, and countless VC hidden just beyond the next bend in the cave.
He learned to watch for the booby traps as he watched his friends get dragged out of the holes screaming in pain. He learned to listen for the VC around the corner as he tied a rope around a dead Sergeant and watched his body get pulled to daylight. And he learned to pray as he felt the ground around him quake with the heat and explosion of a bunker bomb.
The bus suddenly squeaked to a rough stop and as the dust billowed up and into the windows, Edwin looked out the front windshield. A truck had broken an axle on the rough road and dumped its load of chicken coops onto the roadway. Edwin joined a group of men as they pushed the truck onto the side of the road and rounded up the chicken coops. Several of the men returned to the bus carrying a dead chicken, Edwin just shook his head and climbed back in.
Edwin returned to his seat and looked out across the countryside. without the scars of war, he could see just how beautiful this ancient country was. Tall trees framed a flat landscape, where rice paddies were divided into grids. Farmers were bent over the water, planting the stalks with just a crude hand tool.
He remembered those same paddies, pocked with craters and strewn with debris. But he wasn’t returning to visit the battlefields, the cramped tunnels that tourists now walk through in amazement, aghast that these burrows could house as many as 10,000 people. Edwin was returning for Phan.
He had first met her on his last day in the tunnels, the day he was pulled screaming from the hole nearly eight months after he first crawled, shivering from fear into his first hole. He lasted longer than most, more than earning to wear the patch on his jacket, more than earning the motto “Non gratum anus rodentum - Not worth a rat’s ass.”
Once a Tunnel Rat snapped, they never went back into the tunnels again, they had served their time. Badly shaken from his last experience, Edwin had gone into town, to get drunk and perhaps laid. Most of the bars had rooms upstairs and women to go with them. He had pretty much left the hookers alone while he was here, but tonight he couldn’t be alone. He walked to the bar, drank four beers chased with some liquid that tasted like napalm and then told the bartender he needed a woman.
The bartender nodded to an opening curtained in hanging beads on the other side of the smoky room. Feeling the effects of the beer and whatever that liquid was, Edwin tried his best to walk the straight line to the room. Slowly spreading the beads apart, he stepped inside and stood, balancing precariously on his two feet.
The room had a number of tables and chairs in the middle, where several G.I.s sat drinking with women in miniskirts, hot pants and poofed up hair. If not for the clothing, it kind of reminded him of high school proms days, those silly hairdos. Around the perimeter of the room were more women lounging, some with men, some alone, on colorful sofas and lounges. All the women dressed the same… some had boots, one even wore thigh highs, but they all seemed the same.
If he really gave a damn, making a choice might have been difficult, but it just didn’t matter now. He noticed one, either wearing a blonde wig, or with recently dyed hair and started moving towards her, when, entering through an outside door stepped a small woman with straight black hair cascading over her shoulders down to her breasts.
She wasn’t dressed like the others; instead she wore a beautiful, multicolored Ao Dais. The silk glimmered in the light as she moved in an almost liquid procession into the room and over to the small bar. Unsure if she was one of the working girls or just in the room on an errand, Edwin simply stood and stared at her. He watched as she lifted a glass to her lips, too a small sip and returned the glass to the bar.
Noticing his attention, one of the girls shouted to her, “Phan, maybe you have a customer.” She then laughed, along with several other girls. Phan then slowly turned to her left to face Edwin. He stood mesmerized as he saw her delicate cheekbones, the lightest bronze skin, her dark brown eyes, and beautiful lips… but he started as she finished turning and faced him straight on.
On the right side of her face, her lips curled strangely up, joining at a thin scar that ran from her lips across her cheek and curled to the corner of her eye. Her right eyelid was only half open.
One of the girls taunted him, “Hey G.I., you want that pretty girl?”
Ignoring the taunt and subsequent laughter, Edwin walked, as steadily as he could until her faced her, just inches apart. He took his left hand and slowly traced her scar with his fingertips, starting at her eye, curving over her cheek and down to her mouth. He then drew his fingers to his mouth and kissed them.
A tear began to well in her left eye as he whispered, “Yes, I want this beautiful woman.”
They stood a moment longer as she figured out he wanted to go upstairs with her. She took his hand and led him up the stairs. He followed, watching her long gown seductively part, exposing a quick glimpse of her legs at each step. Edwin glanced back at the room and noticed nearly everyone was watching Phan and him climb the stairs. The girls no longer laughed.
Once inside the room he paused, wanting to ask her about her face, wanting to kiss her, and wanting more, all at the same time. Afraid to do any, Edwin just stood there looking at her as she disappeared into a small room. In a moment she returned wearing only bra and panties.
Out of her shoes, he noticed he was slightly taller than her. Without the Ao Dais, she was beautiful, but he missed the exotic shimmer of the silk around her. He walked over to her and kissed her, at first gently, lips to lips. Then he slid his tongue into her mouth. Not expecting such a kiss, she started to pull back and then yielded to him.
His hands came up to caress her breasts (ngu’c she later called them). They were very small and the bra slid up over them easily. Her nipples stood out, but became more erect as he took each in his mouth and sucked on them. He felt her breathing increase in intensity as he went from nipple to nipple. She arched her back pushing her ngu’c to him.
He slid his hands down her back and into her panties. He began kneading her buttocks when she reached around and took his hands. She whispered to him, “No, I must do you.” Taking his hand she led him to the bed, where he sat down.
Phan removed her bra, settled onto his lap and began unbuttoning his shirt. She ran her tongue along his shoulders and worked downward, eventually finding his nipples. He ran his hands through her hair as she toyed with his, now hard nipples. She continued as she reached down and began unfastening his pants, carefully wriggling off his lap.
As she stood, Edwin untied and unlaced his boots enough to remove them, then he stood up, taking off his pants, jockey shorts and socks. Standing in front of her, his small du’o’ng vat stood firm and rigid. She removed her panties, then reached and took his du’o’ng vat in her hands, lightly stroking it.
He reached to her pubis, slipping his fingers between her moi, gently parting them. Feeling her moisture he pressed further, finding the entrance to her vo boc. She gasped as he slid his fingers inside, pressing herself towards him. He continued stroking him for a moment, as he pressed his fingers deeper into her.
Suddenly, gaining her composure, she reached to his hand and pulled it away from her. She led him to the bathroom, where she turned on the water, took a bar of soap and washed his du’o’ng vat. He pressed himself forward, enjoying the sensation. She rinsed him off and took a small towel and dried him.
Back on the bed, she had him lay on his back. She took a small container from the bed table, and poured fragrant oil onto his erection. The oil was warm as she slowly spread it over him, stroking him. Once she was sure he was well oiled, she poured a bit more onto her fingers and reached around behind her.
She then whispered, “I am sorry, I cannot give you vo boc,” pointing between her legs, “instead it must be con lu’a.” She pointed to her ass as she finished the sentence.
“I have no choice. If you want vo boc, you must have another girl.”
“I want you, whatever I can have from you,” Edwin desperately whispered.
Phan moved over top of him, her feet on each side of him. Without leaning on him, she reached down and took his erection. She slowly lowered herself to the tip of his du’o’ng vat and carefully inserted it into her con lu’a. While he lay motionless, she lowered herself onto him, as he watched himself slip into her con lu’a.
The combination of the warm oil, her wonderful fragrance and the intense sensation he felt as he slipped inside her made him moan loudly. She smiled as she hovered just above his body, their only point of contact was his erection lodged deep inside her.
She began moving up and down, sliding to upwards until he felt himself nearly pinched out and then down, until he felt his full length deep inside her. She increased the intensity of the motion, moving in unison with him as he pressed his hips upward. As he felt himself nearing orgasm, he realized she still hovered, his only sensation of her was his du’o’ng vat and the warmth of her around it. He reached to her, grabbed her hips and pulled them down as he pressed up. Waves rolled over him as he came, shooting his sticky white deep in her con lu’a.
He collapsed on the bed, watching her hover above him, motionless as his erection slowly subsided, finally expelled from her. She immediately went to the sink and returned with a damp, warm towel. She gently cleaned his du’o’ng vat, careful not to over-stimulate it.
When finished, she returned the towel to the sink and returned to him. She laid down next to him, and looked into his eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Thank me? I should thank you.”
“No, I thank you for understanding about…”
Edwin stammered, “No… no, I liked what you did. It was, incredible. I have never felt that way.”
“I am sorry I could not,” she said pointing to her scar. “I am marked you see. I am owned by Hieu Thant. He marked me, and only he can have my vo boc.”
“It’s okay,” he replied.
Edwin suddenly opened his eyes as the bus suddenly stopped. Glancing out of his window he realized he was here. Grabbing his duffle bag he walked to the front of the bus. Glancing at the driver he shouted “Cảm õn lắm” over the noise of the engine. If the driver responded, he didn’t hear him since he was quickly headed out of the door.
He turned and immediately headed up the street, seeing her building in the distance. It had taken years to track her down, back to this very village… village hell, now it was a city. Now he was here, near where he and Phan had met that first time. Where they had met many other times as his tour wound down. Where he dreamed of returning in the hope she would no longer be indentured, no longer be owned by that man.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a white movement. He quickly glanced and saw a woman in a beautiful white Ao Dais. He looked again and realized who it was. She still wore her hair straight and long, a different style for a woman her age these days. The black hair was lightly streaked in gray, nowhere near as gray as Edwin’s hair was. Her face, though slightly wrinkled here or there, was unchanged from his memory of her.
She noticed the man looking at her and then asked, “Edwin?”
He smiled, saying nothing. He watched the tears tumble down her cheek as he stepped up to her, took his left hand and traced her scar. Beginning at the eye, he curved over her cheek and down to her mouth. The then held his fingers to his lips and kissed them. “Yes, I want this beautiful woman.”
She took his hand and led him up the hill. He followed, watching her long gown seductively part, exposing a quick glimpse of her legs at each step. Edwin glanced back down the street and noticed nearly everyone was watching Phan and him. He heard her whisper, “O’ nha.”
Edwin translated, “We are home.”