فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

Vietnam

After I left the idiot school, people were always shouting at me - Coach Fellers, Coach Bryant, and then the people in the army. But I have to say this: the people in the army shouted louder and longer than anybody!

Fort Benning was in Georgia. After about a hundred hours on a bus, me and a lot of other new young soldiers arrived there. The place where I had to live was just a bit better than the rooms at the university, but the food was not. It was terrible.

Then, and in the months to come, I just had to do the things that I was told to do. They taught me how to shoot guns, throw hand grenades, and move along the ground on my stomach.

One day, the cook was ill, and somebody said, ‘Gump, you’re going to be the cook today.’

‘What am I going to cook?’ I said. ‘How do I cook?’

‘It’s easy,’ said one of the men. ‘Just put everything that you see in the food cupboard into a big pot and cook it.’

‘Maybe it won’t taste very good,’ I said.

‘Nothing does in this place!’ he said. He was right.

Well, I got tins of tomatoes, some rice, apples, potatoes, and everything that I could find. ‘What am I going to cook it in?’ I asked one of the men.

There are some pots in the cupboard,’ he said. But the pots were only small.

‘You’ve got to find something,’ one of the other men said.

‘What about this?’ I asked. There was a big metal thing about six feet tall and five feet round, sitting in the corner.

‘That’s the boiler. You can’t cook anything in that.’

‘Why not?’ I asked. ‘It’s hot. It’s got water in it.’

But the men had other things to do. ‘Do what you like,’ they said.

So I used the boiler.

I put everything in it, and after about an hour you could smell the cooking. It smelled OK. Then the men came back and everybody was waiting for their dinner.

‘Hurry up with that food, Gump! We’re hungry!’ they shouted.

Suddenly, the boiler began to shake and make noises - and then it blew up!

It blew the food all over us - me, and all the men who were sitting at the tables.

‘Gump!’ they screamed. ‘You’re an idiot!’

But I already knew that.


After a year, we went to Vietnam to fight in the war. One evening we went to have a shower. The ‘showers’ were just a long hole in the ground for us to stand in, while somebody threw water over us. We were standing in it, when suddenly there was a strange noise.

Then the ground began to blow up all round us!

We threw ourselves on to the floor of the shower hole, and somebody started screaming. It was some of our men on the far side of the hole, and there was blood all over them. Then everything went quiet again, and after a minute or two the rest of us climbed up out of the hole.

The enemy soldiers tried to blow us up for the next five nights, then it stopped. But it was time for us to move up north to help some of our other men in the jungle.

We went in helicopters, and there was smoke coming up out of the jungle when we got there. The enemy started shooting at us before we got on the ground, and they blew up one of our helicopters. It was terrible! People on fire, and nothing that we could do. It was almost night before we found our other soldiers in the jungle.

And who do you think one of them was? It was Bubba!

Well, in between the shooting, Bubba told me about himself. His foot got too bad to play football, and he had to leave the university. But his foot wasn’t too bad for the army to get him - and here he was.

‘What happened to Jenny Curran?’ I asked.

‘She left school and went off with a group of people who were against the war,’ he said.

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