[ charlie's x-mas ]

by pfc kory

Marcus Taylor leaned against the wall of the orphanage and relaxed. The VC weren't coming back tonight. They'd wait till morning; ambush them on the road back to base. Weren't nothing to worry about till they loaded up in the morning. Marcus closed his eyes, smiling just a little as he played back the images of the children's faces as he and his buddies placed the gifts under the tree. He didn't get the chance to feel good about what he was doing in Nam very often, and he wanted to remember the moment.


Taylor tensed as he heard Lt. McKay greet the L-tee. He'd catch hell if they caught him dozing off. Marcus wasn't too worried about McKay - he wouldn't do nothing - but with the promotion board coming up soon, he couldn't afford to piss off Goldman. The L-tee was a decent guy, as officers went, but he wasn't gonna be too shy about recommending against Taylor's promotion if he didn't think Marcus was ready to be a Sergeant. Not so long ago Marcus wouldn't have cared if he ever made Sergeant, but he did now, so he edged deeper into the shadows. No way Goldman was gonna buy that he wasn't slacking if he popped out from the behind the wall right in front of him. Taylor figured his best bet was to wait and pray they moved the other way.

"McKay," Lt. Goldman acknowledged. "Heard from that new Donut Dolly that you gave up the Bob Hope Show for this. I'm impressed."

McKay grinned smugly, wishing they weren't alone. That wasn't a statement Goldman was likely to admit to later.

"Well, what can I say? When you've got a heart as big as mine...."

"You didn't really have seats?" Goldman accused, rolling his eyes at the pilot.

Johnny sheepishly shrugged.

"You at least get dinner out of it?" Myron asked, shaking his head disapprovingly.

"Hoping it'll get me a lot more than dinner," McKay responded, his smug grin resurfacing. Goldman frowned in response.

Taylor nearly laughed, but managed to stifle it in time to maintain his cover. Man! McKay was lucky he was an officer cause he could push the L-tee's button like nobody else. It was a good thing for Marcus that McKay irritated the L-tee so well, though, Taylor thought, watching his annoyed L-tee walk away from the other officer....and Taylor.

Marcus shoved himself away from the building and froze as he concentrated on the receding Lieutenants. His muscles, taut as an over-wound spring, ached for movement. He had to time this just right. If they turned just as he moved....Marcus spun around, his muscles reacting before even his brain had processed the sound. His M-16 flew up as his eyes found the moving shadow.

"Doong Lie! " Marcus shouted. "Doong yen!"

(Stop) (Don't Move!)

The shadow froze.

"Doong yen!" Marcus repeated forcefully as he concentrated on the shadow. It was small, could be kid. Was he armed? Couldn't tell.

"Yuh tie len!"

(Hands up!)

The shadow obeyed, raising his hands in the air. Didn't look like he was holding anything - too dark to be sure. Marcus took a step towards the figure.

The shadow turned away from him and ran. Marcus fired. The shadow dropped to the ground.

"Dear Jesus," Marcus prayed under his breath as he moved toward the still figure, "don't let it be a kid. Pleeeease don't let it be a kid."

When the shadow bolted, firing had been reflexive. His finger was already releasing the trigger before his brain could tell him not to fire. God! What if it was one of the orphans.

"Man oh man oh man. Please God, don't let it be a kid," Marcus repeated his prayer as he heard the commotion behind him.

The shot had echoed through the deathly still night like an artillery blast, rallying everyone towards it. Sister Bernadette was shouting at the children....please God, don't let it be a kid. The guys were coming up behind him. He could hear the L-tee shouting orders. Sarge's thudding boots were nearly on top of him, as he poked the motionless body with the barrel of his rifle. Nothing. Marcus slowly crouched by the body, gingerly flipping it just as Sarge shined the beam from his flashlight over Marcus's shoulder and onto the face. It was a kid. Taylor cursed.

"Nice job, Taylor!" Lt. Goldman commended as he came up behind Taylor's other shoulder.

Marcus looked up, shocked and confused. Nice job? It was a kid. What the hell did the L-tee mean "nice job"? Goldman crouched beside Taylor and began searching the body as Taylor continued to stare at him in disbelieve. He could feel Sarge tug at his collar.

"Good work, son. Now why don't you get back to your post," Sgt. Anderson suggested in low, soothing tones. "L-tee and I'll take care of this."

"Okay, Sarge," Marcus responded numbly.

As he rose slowly, he brain finally registered that the kid was VC. Marcus scanned the weapons the kid had stuffed into the sash wrapped tightly around the waist of his black pajamas. God! The kid had grenades! If he'd tossed one of those puppies towards Marcus, or worse, inside the orphanage.... Taylor stumbled back to his post. It was okay. He'd stopped that kid from hurting anybody. He'd done the right thing. Marcus repeated it to himself over and over as he stared at the body of the dead kid. The darkness surrounding the lifeless form began to dissolve into the weak light of dawn. Christmas morning had arrived.

Marcus watched his L-tee hustling out of Stringer's office. He'd been in there talking to the Colonel about the info he pulled off the VC kid. Marcus hoped it was good info. He studied his C.O.'s demeaner. Goldman was shaking his head and had a funny sort of smirk on his face.

"Hey, L-tee," Marcus greeted as Goldman passed by.

"Taylor," Goldman responded, stopping and turning toward the Spec 4. Those two words were more than Taylor had said to anyone since dawn. "How ya doing?"

"Fine, sir. ," Marcus answered. He could tell by the concern in his C.O. eyes that the L-tee knew he was still pretty shook up. Nothing to do but get over it, though, 'cept maybe... "Get anything off that kid, sir."

Lt. Goldman began to turn away, visibly hesitated, and then gazed back at the Spec 4.

"You did good, Taylor!" Goldman reassured. "The kid had a note on him. It explained that the VC just missed the Bob Hope Show yesterday - planted a bomb in the Brinks Hotel, but the timer on the bomb was faulty and it went off too early. Mr. Hope and his entourage arrived a few minutes after it went off," the L-tee explained. "Brass knew it was a VC bomb, but didn't realize till they got that note that Mr. Hope was the target. They're gonna tighten up the security."

Lt. Goldman shook his head disbeliefingly.


"They were delayed at the airport," Goldman stated flatly.


"There wasn't a faulty timer on the bomb. It went off exactly when it was supposed to, but the entourage was late. They were delayed at the airport."

Marcus gaped at his L-tee. The VC'd tried to kill Bob Hope. Man! That was low - even for Charlie. The regret he'd been feeling since dawn turned into anger as the full weight of what the L-tee was saying sunk in. GODDAMNIT! *THE VC HAD TRIED TO BLOW UP BOB HOPE! *

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