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Alan Hodgkinson

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After Incoming
by Alan Hodgkinson   

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Publisher:  Highbridge Press ISBN-10:  0970822030 Type: 


Copyright:  Nov 1 2001

Those AK-47 toting little men should have remained back in the Mekong Delta where Ron Oriel left them over two years ago. But like the shrapnel he still carries around in his left leg, too deeply embedded for doctors to remove, the war seems forever lodged in his mind. Even the peaceful setting of a forested backyard, he discovers at his garden wedding, contains the right ingredients to incubate vivid memories of those days in the jungle.

Divorced and unemployed, Oriel finds himself on the edge of a bridge staring into the abyss. In Vietnam, he nightly dreamed about that Silver Bird delivering him home alive and in one piece. What went wrong?

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Even with all the dope and alcohol flowing through his veins, the pain from his knee persisted to radiate through his leg. This was something that he was beginning to accept as part of his miserable fate. But the ambush of images were not something he had learned to live with. Such as the green tracers that began arching from a wood line that had materialized in the dim light of his bedroom. Bullets were splattering in the shallow paddy water around his position. He turned from firing at the enemy to slap another clip in his rifle, only to discover he was out of ammo.

Artillery flares rocking back and forth on their tiny parachutes, descended from high above the jungle. These flickering lights reflected in the glassy eyes of dead platoon members lying in the paddy mud next to him. They're the lucky ones, Oriel thought. He bolted upright from where he lay with his head propped against the paddy dike, not caring if this made him a better target. His only desire was escape.

Looking around, he drew a breath of relief at the familiarity of his surroundings. Of course, I'm only in my bedroom, safe at home, he assured himself. But this did not calm his trembling. They were the lucky ones, those guys who were killed, he had no doubt. At least they don't have to be tormented by this pain and these memories. It's like dying over and over again. He glanced to the clock. Syki should be home soon. The sooner the better.

Covered with sweat, Oriel kicked the sheets off. He laid back down and tried to return to sleep. It was quiet - too quiet. Turning sideways and curling up to get more comfortable did not help. He rose, fluffed his pillow and plopped his head back down.

When he was finally drifting back to sleep, Oriel heard a noise, like a bump. He became a one-man listening post. There were always sounds if you listened hard enough. The least audible ones were no less important than a loud explosion. Those little motherfuckers moved slowly, cautiously stepping over anything that might make the slightest snap or crunch in the quiet of the night, ducking behind tree trunks and clumps of nipapalm at every step, crawling on their bellies when there was nothing to conceal them. Indefatigable in their quest to breach the perimeter, it was a rare booby-trap and razor wire fortified berm they could not penetrate. At this they were magicians, warrior-magicians. Even the stealthiest of Apache could learn from these guys.

What's that? Oriel thought, at the sound of a soft clump. It could well be the sound of careful footsteps making a slight stumble while crossing the carpeted floor. He dared not move. Plop! Something came down hard on his stomach. Gasping out loud, he leapt from the mattress. Oriel stumbled backwards against the wall. He reached around in the dark, quickly finding the light switch at his side and flipped it on.

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Reader Reviews for "After Incoming"

Reviewed by david 2/14/2003
no welcome home, no parades, no honoring, greeted by boos and called baby killers. How does one internalize that and still answer to ones self knowing you did what asked, yet deeply angered within, without it shading every word, every feeling and relationships gone bad? They came home confused, broken, lied to, left to bleed alone, a society hoping they would just fade away. Here Alan writes about it all, nightmares, frustrations, broken hearts and broken bodies and broken minds all fighting a demon to become whole, minimal help, minimal caring by a society bent on denial of a war that left more than a series of names inscripted in stone, it left a country with a most bothersome wound that is slow to heal and it left many men with deep wounds that take lots of time and love to heal. Alan writes about such wounds and about such anger that only time and love will heal. The returning solders came back with more in their rucksack than they could reasonably be expected to carry for a lifetime. a great story of a man who struggles to find love and self.
Reviewed by Mason 6/16/2002
This is one of the best narratives of the "post-Vietnam" experience I've read. The story gives first hand insight into the gut-wrenching psychic and social difficulties Vets had to deal with when they came back from Viet Nam, yet it never turns into a self-pity story. It's also a great portrait of a period in time, effectively capturing the chaotic energy of the decade that followed the summer of Love, with all it's tenderness, flamboyance, and disillusionment. Even though Hodgkinson is willing to explore the dark pains of a soilder coming home from an unpopular war, the story -- unlike many others in the genre-- is ultimately uplifting. The memories and flashbacks of Oriel, the main character, bring the horror of the Vietnam battlefield vividly to life, yet his reclaimation of life after the war shows a way out of the "jungle." Ultimately, this is a story about human bonds such as friendship, family, and intimacy, and the ability of people to heal one another.
A great read.

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After Incoming

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