[ the triangle ]

by trooper macniven

I am not an ARVN soldier. ARVN are not soldiers. I am a Liberation Fighter, and I fight for my country against the Americans who rape our women and murder our children. I am Nguyen, commander of the men here. We are a POW camp garrison. The Americans patrol in our area and die, by our rifles or by our hands. We are in command of this area. The Iron Triangle.

The very words send a chill of fear through the GIs in our area. They panic if they must come into our ground. This is our hunting area. We take Capitalist pigs and we make good on our promise to Ho Chi Minh that they will suffer as we have suffered at the hands of Americans.

We have three American soldiers from a forward firebase they call 'Ladybird'. So far all they will give us is name, rank, and serial number. We have tried interrogating them separately and together. All we know is who they are.

One is a earth-colored African-American named Marcus Taylor. He has been in the tunnels before. That much we know about him. I was in the tunnels with him. He escaped because our doctor would not kill him. The traitor.

Another is a big Sergeant, Clayton Ezekiel Anderson. He has the look of what the Americans call a 'lifer'. In Viet Nam, we would call him a loyalist. He fights for his country because he believes they are right. He will not crack easily.

The third is a lieutenant. Sergeant Anderson seems fond of him. Myron Goldman. The boy is beautiful, really. It will be a shame to mar his looks with our ministrations. What must be done must be done, though.

All we know of them is that they are tight-lipped. They will not crack no matter what we do. If it must come to drastic measures, we will save Goldman for last. We will not kill them.

The interrogation huts are the place they are being taken now. I cross their paths, glad to see they are all together. This session will be fun.

My men string them up by their wrists. I imagine that it is painful, but these men show no signs of pain. Indeed, their faces are like stone. A brief look of hurt flashes in Goldman's eyes, but it is gone. Taylor and Anderson just stare straight ahead. They will die before they tell us anything. Stone. That is all they are.

Tonight's interrogation will start with Lieutenant Goldman.

"Lieutenant Goldman. You have not re-thought your decision to tell us anything. You would be safer to, you know. Once you give us the information that we want, we will spare you from the interrogations. So let us start." I snap my fingers and a bayonet is placed in my hand. "How many men are in your platoon?"

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA104-" A vicious slap takes him across the face before he can finish his number.

"How many men?" Again he spits out name, rank, and serial number.

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA10498." The bayonet finds Taylor's chest, scoring a line down the center of it. The black hisses quietly, but shows no other sign of feeling the tip of the blade. He will not let his lieutenant tell them anything. He will die before Goldman says anything. So will Anderson. For that matter, Goldman himself will commit suicide rather than tell us anything.

"How many men are on your firebase?" Before he can finish his rank, one of my men punches him hard in the stomach. But tonight Taylor is my objective for torture. I tell my men this in my native language, then switch back to English for my prisoners.

"Don't tell those gooks anything, LT!" Taylor says. "I'll die first!" It is the most he has spoken in our presence since he arrived here. Everyone hears the power in his voice, and the promise that he will die before his lieutenant will tell us anything.
Goldman stares straight ahead.

"Perhaps I have been too harsh. You will all be left here overnight to think on your mistakes of the last few days. We will talk again in the morning." I order my men to leave them where they are and to guard the door. They will guard it well, for if the prisoners escape, the guards will be executed where they stand. I do not miss twice.
I come back in the morning, a smile on my face. My prisoners have been left in their ties all night. Now they will learn what torture really is. I have brought a little girl with me, from one of the villes who support ARVN and Americans.

"Well, Lieutenant Goldman, have you re-thought your decision?" I ask. My voice is almost pleasant.

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA10498." He spits it out like a curse. I order one of my men to bring in the little girl.

"She will die a slow death if you do not tell us what we want to know," I warn. I don't see Taylor swing his bound feet, but I feel them as they connect solidly with my back.
I turn to look at him. He is four inches lower than his companions. Four inches lower than his companions and he is touching the ground. Flat-footed. I know this cannot be good. His fingers are free. He is free. Laced fingers act like a club as he hits one of my men. It takes three of them to get him under control and reasonably calm again.
The girl pleads with us not to kill her. She will do anything. Again I ask how many men.

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA-" The villager takes a hit in the side of the face.

"Sergeant Anderson?" I ask. I know I am wasting my time.

"Sergeant Clayton Ezek-" Another hit.

"My men would prefer to rape her, Sergeant. I will let them. If you talk, she will be spared." It is an empty promise, and he knows it.

"Sergeant..." Her shirt is ripped. "...Clayton..." Her pants are ripped. "...Ezekiel Anderson." She is tossed to the floor, like a rag doll.

"Taylor," I say, giving her one last chance to avoid what is coming.

"Private First Class Mar-" The pants of one of my men reach the floor. "-cus Taylor." She screams as Quang enters her. "RA45890." They will tell us nothing. They watch in silence as the girl is raped, and they do nothing.

"We will spread the news that you had a chance to save her from this and you didn't. No one will support the Americans now. Leave this country, get out of this war. It will be the kindest thing you can do." They are not paying attention. I slap Taylor to get the Americans to listen.


"We will get you out of our country. You will go home defeated." Quang is done and hands the screaming girl to another guard. They shove the naked girl towards Taylor, but he does nothing. She cannot be more than ten. I know they will do everything in their power to stop another girl from suffering the same treatment.


They come and get us. If we knew the guy's name, we'd probably taunt him with it. Taylor's good at that. He can make just about anythin' sound bad.

Course, that's Taylor's talent. I can think I've heard it all, but I just gotta talk to Taylor to know that I ain't heard nothin' yet.

The bastards are draggin' us to the interrogation hut. Goddamn, it's hard to stay on my feet! I can't be gettin' that weak.

"Have you re-thought your decision not to tell us anything, Lieutenant Goldman?" God, they're gonna beat the kid.

I'm protective of my guys. I naturally try to protect them from anythin' that might hurt them. But I wasn't doin' my job and now I'm here with the LT and Taylor.

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA104...." Good boy. Don't tell them anythin'. Name, rank, and serial, that's it. Good. Hang on, LT. We'll get out of this.

Like my thoughts can really reach the boy.

The gook snaps his fingers and a bayonet is handed to him. What are they gonna do? They wouldn't kill him, he's too valuable!

Zeke! Zeke! Get a hold of yourself! He's a by-the-book type. He don't wanna listen to you. He's just a kid. He's my kid. My LT.

"How many men in your platoon?"

"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA10498." The bayonet- my bayonet!- scores a line down Taylor's chest. He hisses but doesn't scream. He'll have some tales for a family some day.

Short-timer shouldn't even be here. He's got a girl back home, three weeks and a wake-up, and he's stuck tied to beam in a hootch. It ain't right. The kid should be back home.

They leave. Well, he leaves, anyway. He leaves us tied where we dangle, never mind the fact that I gotta piss so bad I can taste it. The guards outside don't even move other than to be relieved of their shifts. God, they're disciplined.

He comes back in the mornin'. There's a little girl with him. She's barely older than my Katie. She's a local girl. We saw her in an American-supporting ville just last week. What are they gonna do to her? I don't wanta think about it.


"Second Lieutenant Myron Goldman. RA10498." LT fires it out, like it's leavin' a bad taste in his mouth. One of them brings in the girl.

"She will die a slow death if you do not tell us what we want to know, Lieutenant," the gook says. It ain't right! She's just a kid! She's still a baby!

The gook don't see Taylor's feet, but he jerks forward as those clubs Taylor calls his feet connect with his back. I wondered all last night what in hell he was doing. Know I know. He's free. Sort of. He's not getting his arms stretched anymore. The best he can do is a sack race style hop.

"Second" A slap to her little face, her frightened face. "Lieutenant"

"Sergeant Anderson?" he asks.

"Sergeant Clayton Ezek-" Another hit.

"My men would prefer to rape her, Sergeant. I will let them. If you talk, she will be spared."
God! I can't do this. I have to do this. I'm not gonna crack, not gonna sell my boys out. No sir, no way.

"Sergeant..." Her shirt gets ripped. "...Clayton..." Her pants. "...Ezekiel Anderson." She's tossed to the floor like she's one of Katie's dolls. I want to scream at them, want to take her in my arms and shield her from everything. I look at her and I see my little girl, and I want to get them.

"Taylor?" he asks.

"Private First Class Mar-" A gook's pajama bottoms hit the dirt. "-cus Taylor." A punch. "RA45890." The girl screams as the gook enters her. He might be small in height, but he's got a lot of muscle on that little body. He's too big for her. She's half his size, if that.
We're all forced to watch, but it don't work. I'm bitin' my tongue to keep my mouth shut, hopin' the pain will keep me sane. I'm not seein' this! I'm not!
She's just a baby still. The guy in her gets up, and she screams as another one takes his place. Her eyes are flyin' all over the place, and I feel guilty, so guilty, that I couldn't stop it. I should have talked. But I didn't and now this poor, innocent girl is paying for it. It wasn't her fault to begin with.

"We will spread the news that you had a chance to save her from this and you didn't. No one will support the Americans now. Leave this country, get out of this war. It will be the kindest thing you can do." We don't listen. He slaps Taylor to get our attention.


"We will get you out of our country. You will go home defeated." The guy is done and he hands her to another guard. They shove the naked girl towards Taylor, but he does nothing. She can't be more than ten. We'll do anythin', almost, to stop another girl from goin' through the same thing.
They leave, and I know we're in deep now. They've left the girl, and they've left Taylor where he is.
She cries for her mama, and I know she's not too happy about what's been done to her.

"Easy, princess," Taylor soothes. "It'll be all right. They won't bother you again." As best as he can, he holds the little girl, still naked, in his arms. She blows her nose on the waistband of his pants, and I have to smile despite what just happened to her.
She gathers her ripped clothes and dresses. Taylor has politely averted his eyes.

"LT," I say, "we gotta get out of this place. When we go, though, we gotta take her with us."

"Anderson, this is no time to get sentimental," the boy says. Taylor turns on him.

"Sir," he says savagely. "I just promised her they wouldn't bother her again. I'm not breakin' that promise. Sir." I know they're about to get into a fight again, so I change the subject.

"Can you get your hands free, Taylor?" I ask.

"I'm on it," he replies. A few seconds later, he holds up his hands. I grin. Now all we gotta do is get out here.


Damn! Two weeks ago we were caught in the middle of the night on patrol. We were here one week before he had that girl raped.

One week since then and it's been hell. Of course, the most we've said to them has been name, rank, serial. I know Sarge sees his daughter every time he thinks of that girl. Myself, I don't have any kids so I wasn't really affected. I really feel sorry for her, though. I know that the LT blames himself for it, but it wasn't his fault.

They come. They haul out LT. He's too tired to move willin'ly. The bastards have kept us up for the last seven nights. Since I got loose and killed that guard. One more and I would have had our weapons, would have saved them. It's my fault. I know it is. I was beat bad, but not like the LT and Sarge. That little girl got killed. It was my fault. They punished her for somethin' I did.

Then it seems to kick in to LT what's goin' on and he starts fightin'. Hard. He struggles, takes one guy down with his head. Bites the hand over his mouth, lets out a scream of pure terror. Three guys get him on the ground, effectively knocking him out.

He comes to on the way into the interrogation hut. We hear him scream as they close what passes for the door.

"ZEEEEEKE! ZEKE, HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEE!" I look over and meet Zeke's eyes. It's my fault, I know. We hear the LT scream again, but this time, it's a scream of pleadin'.

I look at Sarge again. No! They can't-! They aren't-! They're not rapin' the LT! They aren't! But I know they are. Like I said, it's my fault. I can tell Sarge is prayin' for the kid. Prayin' he won't get hurt, prayin' he'll have the sense not to fight back. I know I fought back, and I hurt like hell now.

I want to block out Goldman's screams, but I can't. They fill my ears, seem to echo inside my skull.

A broken sob comes from one of the other cages. I know that the guy who's cryin' has been there before.

LT screams again, beggin' them to stop. He's really off in a bad way in there. They wanted him last. I know they took me first because I did somethin' to deserve it, in a sense. I killed a guard. Zeke was after me, just two days ago. They wanted Lt. Goldman to stew and worry about this; it was obvious.

Those screams are really gettin' to me, seem to be sayin' that it's all my fault.

"Sarge?" I ask. God, I'm scared for the LT. I can't believe it. Maybe he's an officer I actually don't mind. One of the good white boys, like Sarge.

"Yeah, Taylor?"

"Did you fight those sons of bitches? When they were rapin' you?" He nods. He did. They're makin' LT pay for it.

"The boy's tough, Taylor. Don't worry about him." He knows. He knows and it's all right. Then I lose it and I know it's not all right.

"It's my fault, Sarge," I say. "If I hadn't killed that guard, you wouldn't have had to put up with this. And they wouldn't be rapin' the LT if it weren't for me."

"Taylor. Listent to me. It's not your fault. If you're gonna take the blame, you ought to spread it around to me, too. I was the one not paying attention when we got nabbed. I was the one who told you to get your hands free. It's my fault too. So just let it go, short-timer. We're gonna get out of this, and we're gonna make them pay. The boy's tough, Taylor. He'll live. Trust me."

We wait in silence. It helps to know that Sarge blames himself for this too.

They toss LT in his nice little cage and haul me out. I'm not gonna go through that again. I kick, and hit, and elbow. I have bony elbows and long arms. One guy gets his hand over my mouth. Big mistake, man, I think, and tear out a chunk of flesh with my teeth.

They must think I'm too wild. It's really that coffee is too strong for some little paddy daddies like them, and I'm not called "Coffee" for no reason.

They put me back in my cage, but not after they kick me a few times. Sure, break my ribs. See what I care. I've learned the only way to survive this country is to just stop feelin'. That don't mean I can't hate them. I'll kill them for what they did. I swear it. Those little dinks are going to pay for it. A quiet noise distracts me from my own rage. It's Zeke, talkin' to the LT.

"Myron," he says softly, "Myron! Myron, it's okay. It'll be okay. Promise you that." I know this damn butter bar don't believe him, but it's easier on all of us. The last time I counted, there were sixteen of us in this hell hole. There's gotta be less than that now, but I know the ones still alive are grateful for Sarge.

"It won't be okay, Anderson!" LT says violently. Myron? Myron?! He don't look like a Myron. Least, not like any Myron I've ever seen. Seems more like an Andrew or a Mike to me. Just reminds me of those two guys I met when I was in BCT. Oh, well.

"Myron," I say quietly. "This is my fault. I shouldn't have pissed them off. LT, you just hang on, all right?" Nothing. Damn officer's gonna shut down. He does that now and he'll crack. It's not right. Damn good officer, our LT. Anybody disrespects him and they get us in their face, now.

"LT?" Sarge asks. Myron's not responding. I know it's gonna be a while before he does. I started to shut myself off too, when they put me back in here last week. If anyone can help LT understand that it will be all right, it's Sarge. I hope.


I'm gonna kill these bastards for that girl. It's bad enough they raped her, did they have to do it to us, too? I don't understand it. We've suffered enough at their hands.
Taylor and Zeke have, anyway. I feel sorry for Taylor. A short-timer shouldn't be here, not in a hell-hole like this. I'm not going to let them take me, not without a fight. They want a piece of me, they're going to have to kill me first. From the way Taylor and Zeke look, I'll probably die.
Rough hands haul me out of my cage. I can see the ones that have been emptied of their occupants. Dead. Either at the hands of these bastards or from starvation and thirst.
Then it kicks in to me that they're taking me off for the same reasons as they took Zeke and Taylor. No way. I won't let them rape me. I start to fight.
I knock my forehead against one man's skull. He goes down and he stays down. They have to hit me in the jaw to get me to the hut. The matted door gets closed. I'm screaming for Zeke. I know he can't come, but I scream anyway.

"ZEEEEEEEKKE! HEELLLLLLLLLPPP MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!" Is that me wailing? It can't be. I'm a Goldman. I don't cry like a little kid. Anymore.
One of the gooks shoves a rag into my mouth, effectively gagging me. I can only breathe through my nose. That means I can't scream as one of them wrenches my fatigues down. I want to cry. I want to curl up in a fetal position and die. I want to crawl into a small hole and never come out.
The same guy says something to his buddies in his native language, making me long for Anderson, who could have told me what was being said.
The little man that has been to our interrogations steps up and lifts my head.

"Lieutenant Goldman. My men have asked that the gag be removed from your mouth. They want to hear you scream as they take you. I have agreed with their request. However, you can escape this by telling us the answers to the questions we have asked in the past two weeks. What will it be, Lieutenant?" He pulls the rag from my mouth. I suck in air greedily, hauling in lungfuls of the stuff like each one will be my last.

"Fuck you!" I snarl when I have enough breath to talk. "You never gave Taylor and Anderson that chance!"
Then one of them is there, pushing hard into me. I don't make a sound, just vow to kill him. The others taunt me as the guy behind me rips me apart inside.
Three more take a turn. I'm screaming in hatred and in pain by the time they're done. They will pay for this.
I don't know how they managed to make me feel worse than the I did when the first one raped me, but they did. I can't face Taylor and Anderson now. The walls I've worked so hard to build, following my mother's death and Nikki leaving me, have just had another layer added to them. I'll die before I let myself look at either of them, meet their eyes.
These bastards throw me back in my cage, laughing and spitting on me. Bitterly I think that I'm the best piece of ass they've had in a long time, maybe ever. They haul Taylor out, and I'm ready to kill them. But Taylor's not going through that again. He fights, elbowing, punching, and biting. Now I know how he survived those tunnels a few months ago. Now I know how he survived his tour. So far. They get him down, and they kick him. I can hear his ribs snapping as those Goodyear Go-Betweens hit him. Those little gooks can do some damage when they try.
They put Taylor back, and I start to withdraw into myself, knowing he's reasonably all right.

"Myron?" Zeke asks quietly. "Myron? It'll be okay, promise you that. It'll be all right." I lose it.

"It won't be all right, Anderson!" I snap. "It's not going to be all right! It's not all right!" I never meant to snap at Zeke. It just happened.
The only thing I can do now, the only thing we can do, is hope our captors buy the rice paddy. But I feel myself shutting down, and I let it happen.
You get close in the Army, you pay for it later. You shut down, you make it back alive.

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