That night was long an uncomfortable. We couldn't fly our airplanes, so's they got to shell us most of the evenin for free. They was a little saddle between two ridges, an they was on one ridge an we on the other, an down in the saddle was where the dispute were takin place - tho what anybody would want with that piece of mud an dirt, I do not know. However, Sergeant Kranz have said to us time an again that we was not brought over here to understand what is goin on, only to do what we is tole.
Pretty soon, Sergeant Kranz come up an start tellin us what to do. He says we has got to move the machine gun about fifty meters aroun to the lef of a big ole tree stickin up in the middle of the saddle, an fine a good safe place to put it so's we is not all blowed away. From what I can see an hear, anyplace, includin where we presently are, is not safe, but to go down in that saddle is goddamn absurd. However, I am tryin to do the right thing.
Me an Bones, the machine gunner, an Doyle, another ammo bearer, an two other guys crawl out of our holes an start to moving down the little slope. Halfway down, the gooks see us an commence to shootin with they own machine gun. Fore anything bad happens, tho, we has scrambled down the slope an into the jungle. I cannot remember how far a meter is exactly, but it almost the same as a yard, so when we get near the big tree, I say to Doyle, "Maybe we better move lef," an he look at me real hard-like, an growl, "Shut you ass, Forrest, they is gooks here." Sure nuf, they was six or eight gooks squattin under the big ole tree, havin they lunch. Doyle take a han grenade an pull the pin an sort of lob it into the air toward the tree. It blowed up fore it hit the groun an they is all sorts of wild chatterin from where the gooks is - then Bones open up with the machine gun an me an the two other guys heave in a couple more han grenades for good measure. All of that gone down in just a minute or so, an when it come quiet again, we be on our way.
We foun a place to put the gun an stayed there till it got dark - an all night long, too, but nothin happen. We could hear all sorts of shit goin on everplace else, but we be lef to ourselfs. Sunup come, an we hungry an tired, but there we is. Then a runner come from Sergeant Kranz who say Charlie Company is goin to start movin into the saddle soon as our airplanes have totally wiped out the gooks there, which is to be in a few minutes. Sure enough, the planes come an drop they shit an everthin get exploded an wipe out all the gooks.
We can see Charlie Company movin off the ridge line, comin down into the saddle, but no sooner does they get over the edge of the ridge an start strugglin along the slope, than all the weapons in the world commence to shootin at Charlie Company an droppin mortars an all, an it is terrible confusion. From where we is, we cannot see any gooks, on account of the jungle is thick as bonfire brush, but somebody sure be in there shootin at Charlie Company. Maybe it the Dutch - or even the Norwegians - who knows?
Bones, the machine gunner, lookin extremely nervous durin all this, on accounta he's already figgered out that the shootin is comin from in front of us, meanin that the gooks is in between us an our own position. In other words, we is out here alone. Sooner or later, he says, if the gooks do not overrun Charlie Company, they will come back this way, an if they find us here, they will not like it one bit. Point is, we got to move our asses.
We get our shit together an begin to work back towards the ridge, but as we do, Doyle suddenly look down off our right to the bottom of the saddle an he see an entire busload of new gooks, armed to the teeth, movin up the hill towards Charlie Company. Best thing we coulda done then was to try an make friends with em an forget all this other shit, but that were not in the cards. So we jus hunkered down in some big ole shrubs an waited till they got to the top of the hill. Then Bones let loose with the machine gun and he must of kilt ten or fifteen of them gooks right off. Doyle an me an the other two guys is thowin grenades, an things is goin our way until Bones runs out of ammo an need a fresh belt. I feed one in for him, but just as he bout to sqeeze the trigger, a gook bullet hit him square in the head an blowed it inside out. He lyin on the ground, han still holdin to the gun for dear life, which he does not have any more of now.
Oh God, it were awful - an gettin worst. No tellin what them gooks would of done if they caught us. I call out to Doyle to come here, but they is no answer. I jerk the machine gun from po ole Bones' fingers an squirm over to Doyle, but he an the two other guys layin there shot. They dead, but Doyle still breathin, so's I grap him up an thow him over my shoulder like a flour sack an start runnin thru the brush towards Charlie Company, cause I scared outta my wits. I runnin for maybe twenty yards an bullets wizzin all aroun me from behin, an I figger I be shot in the ass for sure. But then I crash thru a canebreak an come upon a area with low grass an to my surprise it is filled with gooks, lyin down, lookin the other way, an shootin at Charlie Company - I guess.
Now what do I do? I got gooks behin me, gooks in front of me an gooks right under my feet. I don't know what else to do, so I charge up full speed an start to bellowin an howlin an all. I sort of lose my head, I guess, cause I don't remember what happen nex cept I still be bellowin an hollerin loud as I can an runnin for dear life. Everthin were completely confused, an then all of a sudden I am in the middle of Charlie Company an everbody be slappin me on the back jus like I made a touchdown.
It seem like I done frightened off the gooks an they hightail it back to wherever they live. I put down Doyle on the groun an the medics come an start fixin him up, an pretty soon the Charlie Company commander come up to me an start pumpin my han an tellin me what a good fellow I am. Then he say, "How in hell did you do that, Gump?" He be waitin for a answer, but I don't know how I done it mysef, so I says, "I got to pee" - which I did. The company commander look at me real strange, an then look at Sergeant Kranz, who had also come up, an Sergeant Kranz say, "Oh, for Chrissakes Gump, come with me," an he take me behin a tree.
That night Bubba an me meet up an share a foxhole an eat our C-rations for supper. Afterward, I get out my harmonica Bubba had gave me an we play a few tunes. It sound real eerie, there in the jungle, playin "Oh Suzanna" an "Home on the Range." Bubba got a little box of candy his mama have sent him - pralines an divinity - an we both ate some. An let me tell you this - that divinity sure brung back some memories.
Later on, Sergeant Kranz come over an axe me where is the ten-gallon can of drinkin water. I tole him I done lef it out in the jungle when I was tryin to carry in Doyle an the machine gun. For a minute I think he gonna make me go back out there an get it, but he don't. He jus nod, an say that since Doyle is hurt an Bones is kilt, now I got to be the machine gunner. I axe him who gonna carry the tri-pod an the ammo an all, an he say I got to do that too, cause nobody else lef to do it. Then Bubba say he'll do it, if he can get transferred to our company. Sergeant Kranz think bout that for a minute, an then he say it can probly be arranged, since there is not enough lef of Charlie Company to clean a latrine anyway. An so it was, Bubba an me is together again.
The weeks go by so slow I almost think time passin backwards. Up one hill, down the other. Sometimes they be gooks on the hills, sometimes not. Sergeant Kranz say everthing okay tho, cause actually we be marchin back to the United States. He say we gonna march outta Vietnam, thru Laos an then up across China an Russia, up to the North Pole an across the ice to Alaska where our mamas can come pick us up. Bubba says don't pay no attention to him cause he's a idiot.
Things is very primative in the jungle - no place to shit, sleep on the groun like a animal, eat outta cans, no place to take a bath or nothin, clothes is all rottin off too. I get a letter once a week from my mama. She say everthing fine at home, but that the highschool ain't won no more championships since I done lef. I write her back too, when I can, but what I'm gonna tell her that won't start her to bawlin again? So I jus say we is havin a nice time an everbody treatin us fine. One thing I done tho, was I wrote a letter to Jenny Curran in care of my mama an axe if she can get Jenny's folks to send it to her - wherever she is. But I ain't heard nothin back.
Meantime, Bubba an me, we has got us a plan for when we get outta the Army. We gonna go back home an get us a srimp boat an get in the srimpin bidness. Bubba come from Bayou La Batre, an work on srimp boats all his life. He say maybe we can get us a loan an we can take turns bein captain an all, an we can live on the boat an will have somethin to do. Bubba's got it all figgered out. So many pounds of srimp to pay off the loan on the boat, so much to pay for gas, so much for what we eat an such, an all the rest is left for us to ass aroun with. I be picherin it in my head, standin at the wheel of the srimp boat - or even better, settin there on the back of the boat eatin srimp! But when I tell Bubba bout that, he say, "Goddamn, Forrest, your big ass'll eat us outta house an home. We don't be eatin none of the srimp afore we start makin a profit." Okay, that make sense - it all right with me.
It commenced rainin one day an did not stop for two months. We went thru ever different kind of rain they is, cep'n maybe sleet or hail. It was little tiny stingin rain sometimes, an big ole fat rain at others. It came sidewise an straight down an sometimes even seem to come up from the groun. Nevertheless, we was expected to do our shit, which was mainly walkin up an down the hills an stuff lookin for gooks.
One day we foun them. They must of been holdin a gook convention or somethin, cause it seem like the same sort of deal as when you step on a anthill and they all come swarmin aroun. We cannot fly our planes in this kind of stuff either, so in about two minutes or so, we is back in trouble again.
This time they has caught us with our pants down. We is crossin this rice paddy an all of a sudden from everwhere they start thowin shit at us. People is shoutin and screamin an gettin shot an somebody says, "Fall back!" Well, I pick up my machine gun an start running alongside everbody else for some palm trees which at least look like they might keep the rain offen us. We has formed a perimeter of sorts an is gettin ready to start preparin for another long night when I lookaroun for Bubba an he ain't there.
Somebody say Bubba was out in the rice paddy an he is hurt, an I say, "Goddamn," an Sergeant Kranz, he hear me, an say, "Gump, you can't go out there." But shit on that - I leave the machine gun behind cause it jus be extra weight, an start pumpin hard for where I last seen Bubba. But halfway out I nearly step on a feller from 2nd platoon who is mighty hurt, an he look up at me with his han out, an so I think, shit, what can I do? so I grap him up an run back with him fast as I can. Bullets an stuff be flyin all over. It is somethin I simply cannot understand - why in hell is we doin all this, anyway? Playin football is one thing. But this, I do not know why. Goddamn.
I brung that boy back an run out again an damn if I don't come across somebody else. So I reach down to pick him up an bring him back, too, but when I do, his brains fall out on the paddy groun, cause the back of his head blowed off. Shit.
So I drop his ass an kep on goin an sure enough, there is Bubba, who is been hit twice in the chest, an I say, "Bubba, it gonna be okay, you hear, cause we gotta get that srimp boat an all," an I carry him back to where we is set up an layed him on the groun. When I catch my breath, I look down an my shirt all covered with blood an bluish yeller goo from where Bubba is hurt, an Bubba is lookin up at me, an he say, "Fuck it, Forrest, why this happen?" Well, what in hell am I gonna say?
Then Bubba axe me, "Forrest, you play me a song on the harmonica?" So I get it out, an start playin somethin - I don't even know what, an then Bubba say, "Forrest, would you please play 'Way Down Upon the Swanee River'?" an I say, "Sure, Bubba." I have to wipe off the mouthpiece, an then I start to play an there is still a terrible lot of shootin goin on, an I know I ought to be with my machine gun, but what the hell, I played that song.
I hadn't noticed it, but it had quit rainin an the sky done turned a awful pinkish color. It made everbody's face look like death itsef, an for some reason, the gooks done quit shootin for a wile, an so had we. I played "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" over an over again, kneelin nex to Bubba wile the medic give him a shot an tend to him best he could. Bubba done grapped a holt to my leg an his eyes got all cloudy an that terrible pink sky seem to drain all the color in his face.
He was tryin to say somethin, an so I bent over real close to hear what it was. But I never coud make it out. So I axed the medic, "You hear what he say?" An the medic say, "Home. He said, home." Bubba, he died, an that's all I got to say bout that.
The rest of the night was the worst I have ever known. They was no way they could get any hep to us, since it begun stormin again. Them gooks was so close we could hear them talkin with each other, an at one point it was han to han fightin in the 1st platoon. At dawn, they call in a napalm airplane, but it drop the shit damn near right on top of us. Our own fellers be all singed an burnt up - come runnin out into the open, eyes big as biscuits, everbody cussin an sweatin an scared, woods set on fire, damn near put the rain out!
Somewhere in all this, I got mysef shot, an, as luck would have it, I was hit in the ass. I can't even remember it. We was all in awful shape. I don't know what happened. Everthing all fouled up. I jus left the machine gun. I didn't give a shit no more. I went to a place back of a tree an jus curl up an start cryin. Bubba gone, srimp boat gone; an he the only friend I ever had - cept maybe Jenny Curran, an I done mess that up too. Wadn't for my mama, I might as well of jus died right there - of ole age or somethin, whatever - it didn't matter.
After a wile, they start landin some relief in heliocopters, and I guess the napalm bomb have frightened away the gooks. They must of figgered that if we was willing to do that to ourselfs, then what the hell would we of done to them?
They takin the wounded outta there, when along come Sergeant Kranz, hair all singed off, clothes burnt up, looking like he jus got shot out of a cannon. He say, "Gump, you done real good yesterday, boy," an then he axe me if I want a cigarette.
I say I don't smoke, an he nod. "Gump," he says, "you are not the smartest feller I have ever had, but you is one hell of a soldier. I wish I had a hundrit like you."
He axe me if it hurt, an I say no, but that ain't the truth. "Gump," he say, "you is goin home, I guess you know that."
I axe him where is Bubba, an Sergeant Kranz look at me kind of funny. "He be along directly," he says. I axed if I can ride on the same heliocopter with Bubba, an Sergeant Kranz say, no, Bubba got to go out last, cause he got kilt.
They had stuck me with a big needle full of some kind of shit that made me feel better, but I remember, I reached up an grapped Sergeant Kranz by the arm, an I say, "I ain't never axed no favors afore, but would you put Bubba on the heliocopter yoursef, an make sure he get there okay?"
"Sure, Gump," he say. "What the hell - we will even get him accommodations in first class."