فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

The White House

I was at the hospital for two months. After the first few weeks my leg was getting better, and one day I went down into the little town, to the fish market. I bought some shrimps, and one of the cooks at the hospital cooked them for me. Two days later, I went back to the fish market and talked to a man who was selling shrimps.

‘Where do you get them?’ I asked him.

He immediately started talking fast in a language that I couldn’t understand, but he took me somewhere - past all the boats and the beach. There he took a net and put it in the water. When he took it out again, it was full of shrimps!

Every day for the next few weeks, I went with Mr Chi (that was his name) and watched him while he worked. He showed me how to catch shrimps with the net, and it was so easy that an idiot was able to do it!

Which I did!

Then one day I got back to the hospital and a Colonel Gooch said, ‘Gump, we’re going back to America together! You’re going to see the President of the United States, and he’s going to give you a medal because you were very brave.’


There were about two thousand people waiting for us at San Francisco airport when we got off the plane! What a surprise! A lot of them had beards and long hair. I thought perhaps they were there to welcome us, but I was wrong. They were shouting unpleasant things, and then somebody threw a tomato at Colonel Gooch and it hit him in the face. He tried to clean it off and not look angry, but I didn’t want to wait for them to start throwing things at me! No sir! I started running.

The people ran after me - all two thousand of them! - but they couldn’t catch me. I ran all round the airport, and then I ran into a toilet and locked the door. I waited in there for almost an hour before I came out again.

I went to look for Colonel Gooch, and I found him in the middle of a group of policemen. He was looking very worried until he saw me.

‘Come on, Gump!’ he said. ‘The plane for Washington is waiting for us.’

The army sent a car to meet us at Washington airport, and we drove to a really nice hotel. After we put our suitcases in our rooms, the Colonel asked me to go out to a bar with him for a drink.

‘People are different here,’ he told me. ‘They aren’t like the people in California.’

He was wrong.

When we got there, he bought me a beer, and he was telling me about the President and my medal when something happened. A pretty girl came up to our table, and the Colonel thought she was a waitress.

‘Get us two more drinks, please,’ he said.

She looked at him and said, ‘I won’t get you anything - not as much as a glass of warm river-water, you pig!’ Then she looked at me and said, ‘And how many babies have you killed today, you big ape?’

Well, after that we went back to the hotel.


Next morning we got up early and went to the White House, where the President lives. It’s a really pretty house with a big garden.

A lot of army people were there, and they immediately started shaking my hand and telling me that I was a brave man and that they were pleased to meet me.

The President was a great big old man who talked like somebody from Texas, and there were a lot of people standing round him in the flower garden.

Then an army man started to read something, and everybody listened. Everybody but me, because I was hungry and wanted some breakfast. At last the army man finished reading, and then the President came up and gave me the medal. After that, he began to shake my hand.

I was just thinking of getting out of there and having some breakfast when the President said, ‘Boy, is that your stomach making that noise?’ So I said, ‘Yes,’ and the President said, ‘Well, come on, boy, let’s go and get something to eat!’ And I followed him into the house, and a waiter got us some breakfast.

The President asked me a lot of questions about Vietnam and the army, but I just said, ‘Yes, it’s OK’ or shook my head to say no, and after several minutes of this we were both silent.

‘Do you want to watch TV?’ the President asked suddenly.

So me and the President of America watched TV while I ate my breakfast!

Later, when we were back in the garden, the President said, ‘You were hurt, weren’t you, boy? Well, look at this…’ And he pulled up his shirt and showed me the place on his stomach where he was hurt once. ‘Where were you hurt?’ he asked me.

So I pulled down my trousers, turned round and showed him.

Well, lots of newspaper men started taking photographs before Colonel Gooch could run across and pull me away!

That afternoon, back at the hotel, he came to my room shouting and throwing newspapers on to the bed. And there I was, on the front page, with my trousers down!

‘Gump, you idiot!’ shouted Colonel Gooch.

‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘That’s what I am. But I just try to do the right thing.’

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