Based on the author's first-hand experience, Involuntary Tour is a fictional account of the Viet Nam War experiences of the soldiers of the U.S. Army Security Agency (ASA), an intelligence entity that no longer exists. It is the first volume in a trilogy.
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“Point Taken” from chapter 12 of Involuntary Tour, book I of The ASA Trilogy, page 200: Vietnam: November 1964)
Lieutenant Chaldano was holed up in the latrine when the two soldiers reported to the Orderly Room. They elected not to join him there, but awaited his pleasure in his official den.
When he returned and was duly seated, composed and officer-like, he addressed them jointly: “Ser—uhh . . . Gentlemen.” He knew immediately that was wrong, but he was begun. “I have a job. For one of you. Uhh, either . . . umm . . . one of you.”
“Yessir, you said. That would be, then, just one of us,” Brenner ventured.
“That is correct, Specialist mmm . . . Brenner?” Chaldano, with a fifty-percent chance of being right, had struck the gold.
“Yessir. Brenner.” The Spec-5 looked down, checking his name tag.
“And you are . . .” the lieutenant consulted a sheet of paper before him, “Val-da-pee-no, right?” He looked up with pleasant mien at the other soldier.
“No, señor, sir. Valdapeño.”
“Oh. Oh, of course. Doesn’t show the tilde on military records. Hmmm. Well, here’s the thing. I have a need for a squared-away soldier for a period on Friday. This week. You were both suggested . . . or either . . . to fill the bill. I have to decide which to use. Who to use. Whom to use.” He bobbed his head in time with the pronoun do-si-do; it made sense to him to choose for himself, and the two supplicants looked no worse than most enlisted men.
“What is this job, sir?” asked Brenner. “On Friday.”
The lieutenant shuffled the single paper back into a stack on the desk before answering. “We have a distinguished guest arriving here in the Third, Friday at ten-hundred hours. Brigadier General Easy, Deputy C.G. of A.S.A., will be visiting us, the first stop on his in-country tour.”
The men waited.
The lieutenant, feeling he had explained sufficiently, waited.
“And? . . .” Brenner prompted.
“Oh, and we need an enlisted assistant—call him an aide—to attend the general’s needs.”
Another wait, but that was it.
“The general’s . . . needs.” Brenner would have it spelled out. “You mean, handle his baggage, open doors for him, get him a drink? Shine his shoes? Fetch whores? What . . . sir?”
“Whatever the general needs, Specialist,” Chaldano snapped testily. “I’ll explain all that to the individual selected.” Neither man could swear the lieutenant uttered a harrumph! but the climate was right for it.
“Now, which of you is senior?”
“I am the señor, sir,” said Valdapeño.
“No, no,” the lieutenant exclaimed quickly. “The senior man. Who has been a Specialist Five longer?”
There was no response.
“All right, you’re both Spec-5, E-5s. Valdapeño, what’s your date of rank?”
“June the fifteenth, nineteen sixty-two.”
“How odd. Fifteen June, ’sixty-two.” He smiled at Valdapeño who smiled back.
“Uhh . . .” the lieutenant said, stumped for the moment. “Right. Both promoted on the same date. Interesting. So, time in service. Brenner, what’s your date of enlistment?”
“Twenty-six Feb, ’fifty-eight, sir.”
“February the twenty-sixth, nineteen fifty-eight,” Valdapeño echoed without waiting for the question, his brows arched at Brenner.
The officer’s gaze was one of amazement . His eyes shifted from one man to the other, then back, seeking at first some sign of playfulness; failing that, some obvious, distinguishing military factor between them. Nothing was apparent. “Well, date of birth’s got nothing to do with it, so we can’t use that. I doubt that G.C.T. scores . . .”
“I think we have the same scores, sir. It’s the weirdest thing . . .” Brenner began.
“Yes, but I am smarter than you, señor,” Valdapeño said, turning toward Brenner.
“Not according to the scores, you frigging wetback.”
“¡Es muy stupido!”
“Exactly what I’m saying.”
“Ey, behave you fuckin’ mouth. I can dreenk you under the console, señor Brenner.” His voice rose with choler.
The lieutenant’s eyes grew larger, his gaze flickering from one to the other.
“But I’m bigger and badder. I can whip your ass, Valentino.” Brenner’s demeanor notched up in aggressiveness.
“Ahh, your mama, she wears the combat boots.”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen. Let’s—”
“Yeah! Size ten, Beaner. So fucking what?”
“Brenner. Valdapeño. Stop this. Immediately!” The lieutenant rose to his feet, pointing a finger somewhere between them. He looked stricken.
“I will tell you this ‘what’—”
“Men. Knock it off!” The two leapt to rigid positions of attention, their boot heels loud in the office. With a brief flutter of hands, Chaldano dismissed them.
“Forget I called you in here. I’ll work this . . . I’ll get someone else.” He would not look back at them. “Go. Out. Back to white birch, both of you. Leave.”
Outside, as the two strode through the hot, white dust toward their Jeep, Brenner, his face screwed up in anguish, said, “It seemed the silly asshole would never grasp the obvious.”
“My initial concern. Wonder who his next chump will be.”
“Better go over his protocol guide, first.” Brenner glanced over at his companion and said, “When did you come in?”
“Shit, I don’t remember. Sometime in ‘sixty. ”
“Fuckin’ new guy.”