Iron Skirts-for Phnom Penh (Story No: 11, To: “Voices Out of Saigon”)

Mr. Morgan Carter, otherwise known as Staff Sergeant Carter, and still with the nick name was called Serge, was of Irish decent, and lived along the Levee, in St. Paul, Minnesota, until they tore it down in 1960, and then he and his family moved towards what the city called, the North End, and he joined the Army. Thus, he was now retired, it is May of 1980, and he’s been retired for only a few months now, and has taken a vacation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia of all places. He has seen most of the sights, in particular, the Grand Stupa in Phnom Penh, which he thought was impressive. And now he is walking along the banks of the Mekong River that runs along side the city.

Zuxin’s Aunt (Tuyen Hoang, sister to Naomi Hoang, Zuxin’s mother not married, lives in Phnom Penh, with her brother, Sun, where Ming still lives, as Zuxin has married none other than the rich man called, Mr. Jong, who once lived by the Tan Su Nut airbase in Saigon; and who had bought Zuxin’s home, and owns several boutiques himself, second husband to Zuxin).

In any case, Ming is out in the river with Tuyen and Sun, trying to catch fish, with a handsome looking wide and large net. Sun throws it out, and it sinks, and Tuyen lifts one side sun the other, and Ming is nearby to assist when called upon.

Morgan Carter II, is walking down along the bank of the river, the Mekong, daydreaming, his hotel is nearby, he was at the Russian Market, and did some more sight seeing, it is his second day, yesterday he went to the Stupa, and this new day, he sees three people fishing, one looks a tinge tall, taller that is than the other two, and he remembers Ming being tall, the girl that worked in the mess hall back ten-years ago-slim, pretty, long black hair, an eye catcher, he remembers her from the 611th Ordinance Company, in Cam Ranh Bay.

Sun points to Morgan who is walking towards them with a cowboy hat on, you can’t miss him, the only Irish American in town, the Midwestern boy is as white as rice, with light bluish-green eyes. He looks to Ming as a man in his late 30s. The city is not all that safe, Pol Pot is in the jungle with his terrorists, and has control of most everything in Cambodia, so she wonders is this fellow lost, or crazy; she expresses that anyhow on her face.

Most of the young men in the city are to her co
nsidered criminals with a form of desecration, if not self destruction, and going no place in life. (Sun starts to pull in his net, it has sank to the bottom of the river, and he is bringing it up and out, he feels some weight to it, so he knows he’s got a few fish in it, he rushes over to his sister to close the net, so the fish do not escape, she has now let a few wiggle their way to freedom, and for the curious, one can see them fighting over the loss, in the background, for Ming is walking forward to see who the person is.)

Now Ming and Morgan see each other clearer, and know who one another are without guessing, and they walk faster, smiles tell each other they are aware; she remembers him, he was at the Ordnance Company in Cam Ranh, for a year, and returned there several times when he was on his way elsewhere, he never was a compete stranger for yes, between 1966 through 1971.

“Is it really you Serge?” cries Ming.

“Call me Morgan; I’m a retired sergeant now Ming, no long a Staff Sergeant, just a plain tourist here.”

The wind from the Mekong is setting in, you can hear it.

“Come, we’ll go see Zuxin, she’s married now, married a rich man who lived down by Vang, down by Ton Sun Nhut Air Base, owns a few dress shops in Saigon, and they have a home here, and she owns a dress shop here in Phnom Penh also.”

For some odd reason they both start laughing, as if the stress of seeing each other had melted, and now they where at ease with one another, cordial, tranquil within a few minutes.

Says Morgan with an up beat, and excited to be seeing Ming, he always had an eye for her anyhow, “She can wait, I’d rather visit with you. What the heck you been doing all these years? Kind of a rhetorical question, only need to know you’re ok, really ok.”

“Morgan, let’s-you and I just sit on the bank here, the sun will be going down in a half hour.”

And Morton does. And they talk, sitting on that weedy and slightly wet bank, on a shroud, then she takes off her cloths, and goes swimming, gets into the water up to just past her breasts, “Come in Morton,” she calls.

He joins her, makes no attempt to touch her. Her reaction from previous experiences seems to have faded into oblivion, as if the wrong she was done, was paid for in full, and all her soul wiped clean, to the point of it not even being able to remember what she had to endure in Saigon, as if it never happened. Innocence resides in her bones, her thighs, it is how she became, the knightly figure for the strong woman , the one who would inherit the new age, the age of Aquarius on earth: she is ahead of her times; or perhaps one of a kind. The past invalidated, squashed, packed in and stepped on like a tomato, that turned into ketchup. Hence, give to the next man waiting, let him seduce me, if that is what he needs to appease his desires, his cravings, to pacify his inners, I am a woman, and then let us go on with life, and fight the everyday fires, I am thirty years old, too old to be fighting man and the beast inside of him, and trying to survive in-between for food, and cloths, and all the necessities of life. Give me peace, I will pay the price, even if my skirts get heave as iron (this is what she told her second self, the one in the back room of her mind, the one she talked to-now and then, the one, only she knew about, and kept her, her secret, the only other friend she ever had besides her, was God himself).

-Morgan is unsure what do, but his body functions aren’t, only his mind, and Ming can feel that. She has no friend to save her, like the last time (when she needed a friend and had none), but she knows, her friend in the back of her mind also knows, confirms, she is safe with Moraine, and he will protect her if need be, Morgan is a good ole soul; therefore, she will not refuse him, and she doesn’t. She faces him, while in the waters. He begins to smell her flesh, what he desires, what most men desire, asking nothing, but in his mind perhaps this freak chance is and can be, and was meant to be, a lasting romance, so he feels from his toes to his throat, and all those spaces in-between, this growing, and growing desire. She knows Morgan is a hard man, he has to be, he endured five-tours of duty in war, while in Vietnam. She will be safe with him, she knows, he is really quite gentle, she knows this also.

“Will you come and live with me?” he asks.

She is moved by his consideration and offer, it wouldn’t matter, and she is not after pity, but she does tell him about her ambition before she says yes, “I want to own some day a little, just a small dress shop, I’ve saved up $2500-dollars, a deal I made in Saigon, selling Zuxin’s house (she tells him this, so he doesn’t think less of her ambition).”

For some odd reason, it is clear to him why she is telling him all this, all this unnecesiary information, unless she had a deeper plan for him, perhaps them together, and he is close to forty, he is not all that young, but Ming knows he will be getting a military retirement, or is getting one, they, the solders, the so called lifer’s talked about it all the time at the 611th Ordnance Company in Cam Ranh Bay.

In all reality, she also tells herself: love is a decision, not just an emotion that needs to be fed like a cow. And it seems they have both accessed this. She also knows sat eighteen or twenty, such a decision if made much such a young mind would in most cases be immature, but at their ages, and their desires, it is not wise to wait if indeed it is made with an honest and mature mind, matter-of-fact, it is perhaps prudent, to not waist time.

“Well,” said Morgan, “I have $8,000-dollars saved, how about you and I getting that little dress shop together, and having a little apartment above it? We can endure this war, here in Cambodia, just like we did the last one, in Vietnam.”

No more words needed to be said on the subject, she shakes her head ‘yes,’ matter-of-fact; she shakes it until he has to grab her head and stop her shaking it.

She thinks (now staring into his bluish green eyes): life is not always so great, but if you can outwait the bad times, it comes in spurts, the good times will somehow reach you with an once of pure happiness. That the roads of life go up and down, and seldom are we in the valley of ecstasy, but there is a valley if you can make the journeys up and down the mountains, in search of it, most give-up somewhere in-between, and gripe about it up to the day of their funeral.

Ming would have seemed-to an onlooker-as an adult child; Morgan, at that very moment perhaps likewise: “Yes, yes,” says Morgan, “I seem to have been waiting for you all these years.”

That would have been considered the stupidest and most unclear statement he had eve made, had he not made it at that moment, at that specific time and location, and to Ming. He never made statements like that, it wasn’t him, and in consequence, it had to be as it was, a truthful statement, as truthful as one can make it, as truthful as one saying there must be a God, who else could have created all this.

Ming didn’t laugh, although Morgan after he said it, thought she might.

“I just had to get my act together, and then here you are, so simple, God makes things simple, somehow he does it, is beyond me, in all this earthly mess.”

You, the reader, nor I the writer, could not tell them this was not a magical God sent moment, they would have told me not to write it, to leave it out of this story, and so they swore within their hearts it was destiny, their fate to have met twice in their lives, both from oceans and masses of land apart, both meeting ten years later down the road, both meeting in a city ravished with war.

Today they are alive and well (Ming in her late fifties, Morgan in his late 60s), yes, they lived through hard times, older they are, but they have out waited the bad. Their last wish, is (when I talked to them last), was they hoped they both could die together, at the same instant, in the same place, at the same time, it would be a good elegy, they said, and if not, fine, they’d simply endure until they met the third time.

Ming’s Elegy

In the process of loving and learning
anything can happen, such as: no
peace or privacy, disgrace and shame
death- and witnessing of the dying,
the crying; those killed, and yet to be killed,
in the middle or beginning of their lives…

One minute of life left to go, few know
that minute and through all of it one has
only his or her body and soul; some doors
open, others locked, some suspiciously, some
not. Alone, then never alone, it’s how it is,
one day your life is slow, the next rapid.

At first you don’t think you can bear it all,
or only so much, then you can bear anything,
then it all doesn’t matter, it is like it never was,
happened, and those who do not remember die also…!

So the bragger stops bragging somewhere along
the line, -and then there is the hereafter
a reception, and you already know who you’ll
meet, and who will be missing, at least some.
Heaven fumigates all those who created stink
and tries to bring it through the back doors,
it’s not like earth, where you have to endure.