Dr. Randall K. Rogers

Why I Think I Can Understand What War Vets Think

I remember
a party
we teenagers
attacked a hippie
camper who had pitched his tent some ways away from our
teenage bonfire keg party
when I arrived the guy was bloody and on his knees, begging
Moss said to him like Billy Jack “I’m gonna drop this beer bottle
and kick you three times in the face before it hits the ground”
he got about two kicks in
as the guy fell over on his side
we were all standing around watching
the guy got kicked pretty bad
blood gushing from his face he then got up and ran
ran as fast as he could
in his underwear cuz they made him strip down
through the woods
left his tent and backpack all his belongings
bad part of his journey across America
coming across us
Ten Cole told Moss “What the fuck are you doing?”
“That’s uncool, man”
And Moss swung and smashed a Michelob bottle over Cole’s head
Then Cole wrestled Moss to the ground and proceeded to throttle
him with repeated punches to his face
bloodied him up pretty bad before Moss said he’s had enough and
Cole let him up
Later, when we were al sayin’ “right on! Cole!
thanks, man, that was cool.”
and we were calling out for the bloody camper to come back
after the rowdy element was gone back to the keg party
and bonfire, and we were trying to gather the guy’s scattered shit
Cole was streaming blood from a gaping wound in his head
“Shit,” Cole said. “The fucker hits hard” e gently fingered the
streaming gash in his head
“He hit you w a fucking beer bottle Cole”
we told him, but I think he was a little brained and he still didn’t
believe us
But man, he was our hero
Sort of small man he was
he bully group was made up of small people, too
I sort of imagined this bad group in high school
to be it like Quantrell’s Raiders in the Civil War
I had another run in with them, too, same group
one day coming to school
I always picked up Gary and took him to school with me
and we almost always smoked a joint on the way to school
one day we get there
find a place to park
and start walking toward the school
and we see a big crowd of people
a circle around something happening
so we go look
a freshman had whistled at one of these small thug’s girlfriends
so one of these small thugs, this time Reiner
when Gary and I got there the kid was on his knees
Reiner was holding him up by his hair
kid’s face was streaming blood
and Reiner was trying to kick his teeth out
I actually think he had booted in the kid’s front four
Gary and I couldn’t let this go on, we were seniors too
Most of the kids in the circle watching were younger, afraid of
these thugs
we were seniors and sort of bad men like the ruffians perpetrating
this crime
when I first arrived on the scene one of the younger kids did try
try to rush in and separate or restrain Reiner from killing the kid
but the other ruffians like the Hells Angles at Altamont grabbed
him and wouldn’t let him near the “fight” as they called “let them
fight”. The little killers kept every one from helping the blood faced
Then Gary and me arrived.
And we don’t fuck around.
we good guys
do a lot a drugs and alcohol
but no stranger to a fight
We not known to be fighters
but relish a good one
we used to practice fist fighting with ski gloves on with one
and Gary carried a big piece of wood with him
to get to the point, we intervened
we pulled an intervention
I’m small too
It was a joy fighting this group of five
Versus Gary and I
Gary made good use of the woodshop project
and my fists sting and cut cuz my hands is small and my punches
sharp and fast
They gave up and walked away after we bloodied ’em up a bit
then we helped the kid, he was in bad shape
Three months later I saw the camper
working at Big Boy restaurant of all places
as a bus boy
he said he had severe throat damage from the kicks
but it was getting better now
he said he had to say here and work to get enough money to pay
for the medical expenses resulting from the incident
As for Moss and Reiner
the leaders of this group of thugs, you know
they used to throw pool balls
across the basketball court into the stands of the opposing
especially when it was an inter-city rivalry game
they would go the red Indian projects neighborhood of town
with BB guns and shoot Indians
Moss finally went too far; he used brass-knuckles and sucker
the tuba player filing off the field after their halftime performance
knocked him out and broke his facial bones in six places
kid was in the hospital a week
Moss was expelled from school for that
But his rich Dad got him back in.
I sometimes wonder what these guys are doing now
and what they now think about their past actions
And I too think seeing what I saw
I can see how much worse this kind of shit would happen in
conditions such as US forces faced in
And I try to understand the Vets.
Of all wars,
including personal ones.


Poem published in “Floyd County Moonshine” Issue 7.2, Summer 2015, from Floyd, Virginia.

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