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_A. =0::= .-. 1,1;=. -. 0= r , a 5::”–. 1/;=-0-7. “. *II:=. -0=0=-0-.= -0….0-=_-0= -0:..-. -It –.. =IA-. -0.7.:’, 0= -0-= -0=0= –.. 0=0=0= -0=0==1/.-_,.._ /;:= II I II -‘i` A ..,., 11 Peaches and. Pound Cake II , 11 li ,q. li Fiction by “Price, you got any pound cake?” 11 Paul Burns “Nope.” 11 i1 The search for the pound cake was beginning to fill him with II 4 All movement had stopped. He didn’t know why or for how 4 fresh energy. Food was one of those small pleasures that had long. He never did. become greatly magnified against a background of physical dis h Was it late August or early September? He wasn’t sure. He comfort. The evening meal was the high point of his day. Often 1.\\ had long since abandoned any reference to the days of the he would pass time preparing and cooking the meal in his mind. 11 week. Even the hours served no purpose. There was only day He would carefully determine the order in which each item 11 ., light when he walked in the heat, and night when he took turns would be eaten, the number of spoonfuls he could probably get 11 staying awake. out of each can of rations and whether to use the scarce packets II II Without the rhythmic distraction of walking, he became more of sugar in after-dinner coffee or hot cocoa. This evening he aware of his body. Sweat was tickling his ears and temples, wanted pound cake and peaches. That would be his pleasure. II II collecting in his eyebrows, bursting saltily into his eyes. The “Hey Gentry! 11 -; skin on the bony part of his hips was raw and burning where the -, II sweat-soaked cloth of his trousers was rubbed by the downward “Yeah!” a voice answered from behind him. 1 i i pull of the equipment on his belt. A deep, subdued ache was in “You got any pound cake?” 11 his shoulders from the weight on his back. His legs were “Sure don’t!” 1 i drained and lifeless inanimate objects more weight to Further up the trail Frank could hear movement beginning II 11 carry. again. The people around him began rising slowly to their feet. Frank was lucky. His part of the column had stopped in the Using his rifle as a brace, he pulled himself up. The column 11 .4 II shade. The trail at this point ran along a treeline, a mixture of shuffled forward. It moved a little way down the trail and ti , bamboo and breadfruit trees arching over the trail, forming a stopped. There were muttered curses from the troops, angry at 0 cool, green cave. Men were sprawled out along the trail in posi having been roused from comfort only to stop again. 1 h tions of fatigue, as if struck down by some debilitating disease. Some of the figures ahead of him were beginning to squat or ! it Frank was sitting with his back propped against a tree. Milota sit in place. Should he chance it? If he sat down, the file would ll 4 was across the trail from him, his arms folded across his knees, almost certainly start moving again, and he would have to ex head resting on his arms. pend precious energy to pull himself to his feet. II “Milota. You got any pound cake?” No, he couldn’t afford to put forth that much effort with no -:. 11 “Yeah,” Milota answered without lifting his head. guarantee that he would be able to rest in return. He compro “I’ll trade you a pecan cake roll.” mised. He bent his knees slightly, quickly shrugged upwards, II “No thanks.” shifting his pack higher up. He then leaned over, placed his ll “Datenut pudding?” hands on his knees, and lowered his head. Now the weight on w his back was pulling in a different direction, letting fresh mus-. “Gimme a break, man.” cies do the work. 11 4 Frank realized he didn’t have much to offer. In his mind, he , Something was watching him. IIpictured the opened can of pound cake, the sugar crystals glistening on the cake’s surface. He Wpoured a mixture of thick syrup He turned his head to the left. W II and peach slices onto the pound cake, mixing everything to He was looking into two large, brown eyes. They stared at I, gether with chopping motions of his plastic spoon. He lifted an him, unblinking and calm. imaginary spoonful of the concoction into his mouth. He Goddam cow. 1111 chewed a few times, trying to feel the soft, spongy texture of the Someone had tied it in the shade along the trail. pound cake and taste the sweetness of the peach syrup. He swallowed a mouthful of tasteless saliva. He hated cows. Ii He could understand and accept all of the other creatures in II -.1 Pound cake and peaches. 11his environment: The Vietnamese adults were easy to under stand, constantly smiling and bowing their heads at him \(but he II That’s what he wanted this evening. li He had a can of peaches in his pack. Now he had to find . -, someone to trade with to get the pound cake. Time was getting fawning over the Americans, to somehow keep from losing their II short, though. It was late afternoon. Soon they would be getting rice crops, or having their women raped, or being killed by air II -. into positions for the night. Once they did and it got dark, he strikes, or whatever other disasters Americans were capable of 11 wouldn’t be able to move around and negotiate the trade. visiting upon them. He could understand that. To some extent, II li He looked up the trail. Price was lying on his back, the bulge he could sympathize. of his pack underneath causing his head to droop awkwardly The Vietnamese children were easy to understand; they A backward. His helmet lay under his head where he had let it seemed to have been singled out by nature for special attention II “I drop. His eyes were closed. 1 in the form of birth defects and tropical diseases. II The enemy were easy to understand; they were simply trying II Paul Burns served from 1965-68 as a Marine Corps infantry to kill him. And if anyone was suffering, it was the Viet Cong. man in Vietnam. He lives in Austin. II _ _ _ Having watched acres of jungle immolated by napalm, or the \\i. -, =”71=–7\(=x-.=.76=—ye=7-7\( –A=7\( 0= –0=z7e ,.. –/c.=;;=-0=-0 -r… -0_=_-/\(=:-/e –:–.-.A A–A=ve=_-A…. -=A.=—0=_-A.—-..:0=_–0==-0=_–0=..N, 10 FEBRUARY 27, 1981