Today is Mothers Day. I wish every mother a Blessed Day and hope you find peace and happiness with your children today. My mother has been dead for many years now. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and my father. They both lived to 82. I wish my Mother was around to read Raw Man since it is based on the letters I wrote to her from Vietnam. She saved them all and gave me the material to write this book. She loved to read. I think that is where I got my love of literature. So to honor her memory, today, I post an excerpt from my novel. I know she is smiling down at me and my sister Barbara today.
I arrived back at the USO and started using my camera. There was a line of guys waiting to use one of the three phones they had set up to call the States. I found my place in line and struck up a conversation with the fellow in front of me.
“You been in line long?”
“About an hour and twenty minutes. It’s not too bad today.”
Shit! What day was it? What time was it in Montebello, California? I thought about this for a few seconds and decided that whatever the time, my parents would be happy to hear from me, given the last letter I wrote to them told them I was in the hospital. They had no idea what was going on over here. I better call.
It was called a MARS station. I forget what the acronym stood for but it was a decent, cheap way to call the United States from Vietnam. I picked up the receiver and gave the operator the number I wanted to call and waited. Halfway around the world the phone rang in the bedroom of Art and Marina Rivera. It scared them to death, having a son in Vietnam fighting a war, and it crossed my mind that if they got a call at an odd hour in the morning they would be sure it was bad news. Someone picked up the phone on the second ring.
My eyes misted over as I heard her voice. This was Mother— the one the boys and men cried out to as they lay dying.
“Mom? It’s Fred.”
“Oh my God, mijo! How are you?” I could hear her calling out to my dad in the darkness, “Arthur! Arthur! It’s Fred!” I heard him stumble around and make his way to the other room to pick up the extension.
“Mijo. Where are you? Are you hurt?”
They were both on the phone now and I was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I’m fine. I’m at the USO in Saigon and they let me call home. Sorry to wake you but I had the chance to call and I took it. Don’t worry about me. I just hurt my back. I’ll be fine with a little rest.”
Memories of childhood swept through my mind and that quiet little suburb of Los Angeles seemed like heaven to me—right now out of reach, but with luck, I would one day be there again.
We talked for about five minutes. I don’t remember exactly what we said, but by the end of the phone call we had assured each other that we were all fine and in good spirits. We were looking forward to my homecoming in six months and that word, homecoming, finally became a reality that seemed obtainable.
Yes, I was halfway there.
We said goodbye, and as I hung up the phone, I realized that I was weeping. Could I finally drop my guard? Better not. Better to keep sharp till that day comes when I am sleeping in my own bed once again.