(((Read Kindle))) ☠ The Things They Carried ⇬ PDF eBook or Kindle ePUB free

I first bought The Things They Carried at the Bruised Apple, a used bookstore and coffee shop in downtown Peekskill, New York, back in 1991 when I was fifteen years old By the time I graduated from high school a few years later I d read it so often that the pages, already brittle, were nearly worn through, entire sections underlined in pencil Loaned out and lost to a college crush years ago, a dear friend bought me a replacement copy awhile back signed to me by Tim O Brien himself This new co I first bought The Things They Carried at the Bruised Apple, a used bookstore and coffee shop in downtown Peekskill, New York, back in 1991 when I was fifteen years old By the time I graduated from high school a few years later I d read it so often that the pages, already brittle, were nearly worn through, entire sections underlined in pencil Loaned out and lost to a college crush years ago, a dear friend bought me a replacement copy awhile back signed to me by Tim O Brien himself This new copy is not quite as loveworn, but still it is cherished.The beauty of this book lies not necessarily in the war stories at its center, but rather in the undulating, overlapping entanglements that are people s lives, in the act of using storytelling as a means of recapturing our histories, bringing the many facets of our so often fragmented selves forward into the present day The lyrical poetry of O Brien s writing combined with the brutality of Vietnam imagery is truly a shock, traumatizing yet powerfully beautiful in its way, and the force of language itself is a revelation.As O Brien writes, The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head (((Read Kindle))) ⇨ The Things They Carried ⇩ In , Tim O Brien s Going After Cacciato a novel about the Vietnam War won the National Book Award In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O Brien s unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later These connected stories are about young men in their late teens and early twenties doing their best to carry the weight of a brutal war on their shoulders, along with dozens of pounds of field kit and weaponry They carry so much weight it is hard to even imagine how they could walk the miles they did, crossing rivers, muddy streams, up hills and down into valleys, somehow placing one foot in front of the other while their eyes and ears scan for danger.The equipment is not all they carry Some c These connected stories are about young men in their late teens and early twenties doing their best to carry the weight of a brutal war on their shoulders, along with dozens of pounds of field kit and weaponry They carry so much weight it is hard to even imagine how they could walk the miles they did, crossing rivers, muddy streams, up hills and down into valleys, somehow placing one foot in front of the other while their eyes and ears scan for danger.The equipment is not all they carry Some carry guilt, some carry cowardice, some carry aggression, some carry courage, some carry fear, some carry righteousness, some carry hatred, and some carry doubt Of all the feelings they carry, the weight of futility has to be the hardest to bear Maybe futility isn t the right word They carry with them the knowledge that where they are and what they are doing is all the choice they have Short of doing damage to themselves to be airlifted out of there, they all carry the weight of being stuck.These stories don t stop with the horror and macabre humour of being part of a platoon of young men in war There is also a story about what one of them experienced after the war His need to talk about it and his inability to do so His recognition that he needs purposeful work versus his doubt that any such thing exists any.Tim O Brien s writing is exceptional With one sentence he can cut to the heart of an event Occasionally he uses repetition of a scene or sequence that made me feel I was there, living it, then re living the shock of it, trying to find the sense in it.This book does not go into the politics of war and does not mention the hawks sitting behind huge desks with lovely scenery outside their windows, busy directing traffic regardless of what the cost in human lives may be So, I won t go into it, either.This book is about being in the thick of the traffic driving blind in a night so dark there is no difference between eyes open and eyes closed It is about not knowing if you have enough gas, if a tire will blow, if the vehicle will overheat, if it will be blown up into the trees or bogged down and sunk in a field of sewage It is about being one of many little vehicles with two legs and heavy burdens to carry and not knowing if you will ever see home again This was a Traveling Sisters Group read with Brenda, Diane, JanB, Marialyce, and Nikki This was a great choice for a Group read and discussion and I enjoyed it a lot Forreviews of this book as well as many others, visit the Sisters blog at About 20 connected short stories from an author who has become the main literary spokesperson for the story of Americans in the Vietnam War The book is highly rated on GR 4.1 with almost a quarter million ratings How often do you see the front pages with 40 blurbs praising the work from every recognized source you can think of from the NT Times which listed it as a Book of the Century and The Wall Street Journal to Booklist and Publishers Weekly.The author warns us that he is an unreliabl About 20 connected short stories from an author who has become the main literary spokesperson for the story of Americans in the Vietnam War The book is highly rated on GR 4.1 with almost a quarter million ratings How often do you see the front pages with 40 blurbs praising the work from every recognized source you can think of from the NT Times which listed it as a Book of the Century and The Wall Street Journal to Booklist and Publishers Weekly.The author warns us that he is an unreliable narrator He frequently talks to the reader and writes that this or that story may or may not be true It s as if we are in the war zone and guys are telling us stories of things they heard The time frame ranges from before the war to twenty years after Several stories are only two or three pages The title story, first in the book, tells us how much we can tell about the personalities of the men in the field by the extra items they carry with them at all times love letters a Bible dope condoms a dried human thumb a slingshot a weapon of last resort a rabbit s foot vitamins tanning lotion a girlfriend s pantyhose around the neck In How to Tell a True War Story, the author sets the tone If a story seems moral, do not believe it If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie There is no rectitude whatsoever There is no virtue I should forget it But the thing about remembering is that you don t forget In On the Rainy River, the author spends a week at a deserted summer camp in far northern Minnesota He works for an elderly man, trying to work up the courage to flee to Canada to avoid the draft I was a coward I went to the war Of a medic who worked on a base where wounded were flown in by helicopter to be stabilized before being flown again to a real hospital It was gory work, Rat said, but predictable Amputations, mostly legs and feet.For a medic, though, it was ideal duty, and Rat counted himself lucky Notes looks at the toll on men after they returned home One man lives with his parents and drives the several miles around a lake in his hometown for hours every night The thing is he wrote, there s no place to go Not just in this lousy little town In general My life, I mean It s almost like I got killed over in Nam A young man s mother writes to the author telling him of her son s, his friend s, suicide He d been playing pick up basketball at the Y after two hours he went off for a drink of water he used a jump rope his friends found him hanging from a water pipe There was no suicide note, no message of any kind Norman was a quiet boy, his mother wrote, and I don t suppose he wanted to bother anybody Powerful writing The author is also famous for his other books about the Vietnam War, including Going After Cacciato, which was made into a movie Many of the stories in Carried were made into episodes of a TV series This is Us Top photo from Britannica.comA Vietnam landscape in Cao Bang province from dailymail.co.ukThe author from pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com Awestruck may be the best way to describe how I felt upon reading this book the first time So how did I feel upon reading it the second time I just want to bow at Tim O Brien s feet while muttering a Wayne s World style I m not worthy, I m not worthy Using non linear narrative and stringing together seemingly unrelated stories into one ultimately cohesive work, O Brien achieves something that traditional narrative never could his work reflects the emotional truth of what it was like to be Awestruck may be the best way to describe how I felt upon reading this book the first time So how did I feel upon reading it the second time I just want to bow at Tim O Brien s feet while muttering a Wayne s World style I m not worthy, I m not worthy Using non linear narrative and stringing together seemingly unrelated stories into one ultimately cohesive work, O Brien achieves something that traditional narrative never could his work reflects the emotional truth of what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam and to be a veteran still living with memories that, when triggered, seem as real and visceral as if they were happening in the present This is memoir, metafiction, magical realism, and a whole grab bag of other literary genres rolled into one O Brien himself admits that we as readers may not know which of the stories are happening truth what objectively happened and which of the stories are story truth stories that may not have happened but because they strike the right emotional chord arevalid than what really happened However, the reader should not feel manipulated by this storytelling technique as it seeks to forge a connection between those who were there and those who were not it does not seek to tell what happened, but to make you feel what it was like to be there The book is nothing short of a masterpiece Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder It s time to be blunt I m forty three years old, true, and I m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier Almost everything else is invented I want you to feel what I felt I want you to know why story truth is truer sometimes than happening truth Tim O Brien, The Things They Carried Tim O Brien s The Things They Carried has sat on my bookshelf for years Maybe since high school, meaning that it has sat on various shelves, in various rooms, in It s time to be blunt I m forty three years old, true, and I m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier Almost everything else is invented I want you to feel what I felt I want you to know why story truth is truer sometimes than happening truth Tim O Brien, The Things They Carried Tim O Brien s The Things They Carried has sat on my bookshelf for years Maybe since high school, meaning that it has sat on various shelves, in various rooms, in various states, for almost twenty years I have no excuse for this No good excuse, anyway The other day, one of my grossly overloaded bookcases collapsed While sifting through the debris, I found a copy of the novelization of the movie Independence Day Yes, that movie The one with Randy Quaid acting crazy Not only did I have it, but I remembered reading it But not The Things They Carried Until now Spurred on by Ken Burns The Vietnam War, which features O Brien as a contributor, I finally tore through this thin volume It s barely worth mentioning, since it is one of the most well known, if not the most well known war novels of all time, but The Things They Carried is an interlocking series of short stories Many of the stories appeared at different times and in different venues, but they are meant to go together, flowing one from the next Each story informs, amplifies, and sometimes even critiques the others All the stories revolve around the men of Alpha Company This is a fictional unit, but O Brien toys with the idea of truth and fiction a great deal This begins before the book even starts, when O Brien dedicates The Things They Carried to Alpha That might be the most surprising thing to me I expected this to be a hardcore look at Vietnam Instead, it is a powerful piece of metafiction that happens to be set in Vietnam The Things They Carried started off pretty much as expected The book opens with the famous eponymous story detailing what the men of Alpha Company carried into war, from firearms and clays to love letters and charms It is good stuff, yet not entirely unique I used to read a good deal of Vietnam war fiction, and most of it springs from the platoon or company level, following small groups of disparate men in the jungle For awhile, I recognized O Brien s novel as something that had been done before, even if its sensitivity was different Partway through the novel, O Brien moves in an unexpected direction He begins interjectingof himself into his tales He caps this off by telling two stories in succession, the latter story explaining that the former had been fictionalized, that names had been changed, that events had been elided At first, O Brien s manipulation of the artificiality of the novel as a form took me out of things Good fiction forces you to suspend your disbelief But when you point out literary tropes, it s no longer possible to harbor that suspension Eventually, though, O Brien s technique started to pay off It hit me that his musings on his own inventions and story making decisions gave his tales an unexpected authenticity I began to believe, wholeheartedly, in an underlying realness, despite the fact that everything including O Brien s meta commentary is fictional Of course, none of this literary experimentation would mean a thing if it lacked substance The Things They Carried packs a lot of memorable moments into less than 250 paperback pages There is a darkly hilarious sequence in which a soldier at a thinly regulated medical detachment invites his girlfriend in from stateside to spend time with him in country The premise is gonzo, and only gets better as the girlfriend begins going full Kurtz She starts visiting nearby villages, hangs out with the Green Berets, and eventually starts going out on patrol and participating in ambushes.Another section, haunting and mournful, sees the O Brien character deciding whether to run to Canada in order to avoid Vietnam He drives up to the Rainy River, where he spends a week with an old man at an otherwise empty resort The old man takes him fishing, right next to the international border I remember staring at the old man, then at my hands, then at Canada The shoreline was dense with brush and timber I could see tiny red berries in the bushes I could see a squirrel up on one of the birch trees, a big crow looking at me from a boulder along the river That close twenty yards and I could see the delicate latticework of the leaves, the texture of the soil, the browned needles beneath the pines, the configurations of geology and human history Twenty yards I could ve done it I could ve jumped and started swimming for my life Inside me, in my chest, I felt a terrible squeezing pressure Even now, as I write this, I can still feel the tightness And I want you to feel it the wind coming off the river, the waves, the silence, the wooded frontier You re at the bow of a boat on the Rainy River You re twenty one years old, you re scared, and there s a hard squeezing pressure in your chest The Things They Carried is filled with such moments of beauty, sadness, perceptiveness, and power It should be said, though, that it is a very narrow viewpoint into the Vietnam experience The fictionalized O Brien writes from the perspective of a well educated young white man, which makes him a familiar Virgil of Vietnam There is not much separating the O Brien narrator from Charlie Sheen s Taylor in Platoon, or Matthew Modine s Joker in Full Metal Jacket There is nothing inherently wrong with this, only that it limits the novel s breadth Topics you might expect, such as politics or race, are barely mentioned, if at all Really, there s not much for me to add, only repeat The Things They Carried is as good as advertised The biggest surprise is that it had as much to say about writing and story structure as it did about the most controversial war in United States history I ve read reviews of this seen this book pass me by at the library, but for some reason was always reluctant to read Why Maybe just hits a little to close to home, knew many of my friends brothers who served, some lived, some of course did not My own husband was in the Air Force at this time, not sent to Vietnam, and not yet my husband, still just a friend He did though unload the bodies of returning soldiers who did not make it through their service It was thankfully near the end of the w I ve read reviews of this seen this book pass me by at the library, but for some reason was always reluctant to read Why Maybe just hits a little to close to home, knew many of my friends brothers who served, some lived, some of course did not My own husband was in the Air Force at this time, not sent to Vietnam, and not yet my husband, still just a friend He did though unload the bodies of returning soldiers who did not make it through their service It was thankfully near the end of the war.Years have passed, and the Sisters group decided to read and discuss this, so I decided now was the time, it was now or never We had a great discussion, for some reason I was under the misapprehension that this was non fiction It is not though it is written as if it was, which caused a bit of confusion as to how we perceived what we were reading Was what we were reading true or not In fact the author discussed this in one of the stories, if it is not true but could have been true how does that change how one feels about the book That did bother me a bit.In the end I decided it didn t really matter because these stories in all their grimness, terrible situations, and yes occasionally humor, were an unfortunate and very unfair set of circumstances that these extremely young men found themselves shouldering It made their experiences personal, gave these soldiers names, and detailed all the guilt they felt when they survived, or made a wrong decision that cost lives A beyond terrible situation for me in their late teens or early twenties to have to handle All wars are terrible but the way these soldiers were treated when they returned was surely criminal At least as a nation, if we have learned nothing else, we have learned to treat our returning soldiers with the respect they deserve, and as the heroes they surely are It d be a bad idea to challenge Tim O Brien to a round of Truth Or Dare because he d find a way to pick Truth, launch into a story, recant it, then make you think he really chose Dare, but in the end, you ll be pretty sure he actually told you the Truth after all Maybe That s kind of the point about this account of his time Vietnam as an infantry soldier that warns us that war stories are tricky The ones that sound true are probably lies and the ones that seem outlandish probably have a health It d be a bad idea to challenge Tim O Brien to a round of Truth Or Dare because he d find a way to pick Truth, launch into a story, recant it, then make you think he really chose Dare, but in the end, you ll be pretty sure he actually told you the Truth after all Maybe That s kind of the point about this account of his time Vietnam as an infantry soldier that warns us that war stories are tricky The ones that sound true are probably lies and the ones that seem outlandish probably have a healthy dose of truth in them By telling us some fact and some fiction, then revealing which is which Allegedly , O Brien shows that sometimes a well told lie based on fact haspower than a real story accurately told Taken together, O Brien s stories make it clear that he spent the decades after the war mulling over the various things he took away from it This isn t the memoir of a guy who obtained some kind of closure by writing it, it s the story of the fear, doubt and confusion he still wrestled with decades later In order to convey that experience, he had to tell the reader some war stories and let us decide just how true they were See But wait way down belowand sometimes I can see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights I m young and happy I ll never die I m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy s life with a story.That s the last 71 words of Tim O Brien s The Things They Carried Timmy is Tim O Brien See But wait way down belowand sometimes I can see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights I m young and happy I ll never die I m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy s life with a story.That s the last 71 words of Tim O Brien s The Things They Carried Timmy is Tim O Brien or maybe Tim O Brien , or maybe both or neither Linda is a girl who he was in love with when he was nine years old maybe, unless she s made up But even if so, the story, the last one in the book, could be true Linda died of cancer a few months after Timmy fell in love with her How much of this story is true Does it matter Read on.I bet a ton of papers and reports have been written for high school and college English courses on this book It s so different from anything I ve read before I was not able to underline in the book as I read, because I read my daughter s copy of the book She probably read it in college She read it in college That s my story Whether it s true I don t know, but it should be.So, since I couldn t underline, I have nothing to base an analysis of the book on So that s a story I don t have to write.Asides, almostO Brien has become not only the premier writer on the American Vietnam experience, he has become something of a meta writer on the concept of truth in fiction The fact that this book has that stuff in it is why, against all my habits, after starting to read the book last night after dinner, I finished it before going to bed at 4 30 am There are only two other writers who generally lift me away from all other books I am reading and won t let me back to them until they put me down George Pelecanos and Patrick O Brian hmm O Brian, O Brien.In case you don t know, this is not a novel It s a collection of short stories It s novel like because most of the stories take place in Vietnam, within a platoon of men fighting there in the late 60s, and the same characters slide from one story to the next But the stories aren t in any particular time order, though the later stories in the book generally happen later than the earlier ones And some of the stories are less connected to the others.Who is Tim O Brien There are really two Tim O Briens here, a character and a writer, and they aren t the same.I didn t realize for a long time that the book s narrator, Tim O Brien , who is telling these stories is a fictional character He shares a lot of unlikely details with Tim O Brien the writer, who wrote the stories But they aren t the same Or at least we can t be sure where they are the same, and where they re distinct Actually, Tim O Brien sometimes talks about writing some of the stories but maybe that s the other Tim O Brien, the writer You do understand where all those English assignments come from, don t you Both the Tim O Briens grew up in Worthington Minnesota They both graduated from Macalester College in 1968 They both got drafted soon after college, they both served in Vietnam in 1969 70, they both were involved in combat for about a year They both came home and became writers But, did I mention thatthey aren t the sameGet your hands around that.How O Brien dances with the truth.This ambiguity about the O Briens is part of a larger ambiguity that O Brien let s just use the same name for both of them from now on writes talks about throughout the novel an ambiguity about what is true and what isn t There s even a story in the book about this How to Tell a True War Story O Brien says that if someone tells you a war story, You d feel cheated if it never happened Yet even if it did happen and maybe it did, anything s possible even then you know it can t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon that kind of truth Absolute occurrence is irrelevant A thing may happen and be a total lie another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth What he s implying is that a story about something that never happened can affect the listener, can impart to him a truth about an overall situation, reality , that is not imparted by a mere recounting of what actually happened O Brien is reported as once answering the question Can someone who s been in war teach us anything about war , by saying No All he can do is tell us stories about war Fiction and reality can blur and in war they can t not blur.The two stories that nailed Tim O Brien.There are two stories in the book which wend their way through multiple other stories, and ultimately illustrate the ambiguous nature of O Brien s reality The first one is the story of a Vietnamese he killed Or at least he may have killed The main description is in The Man I Killed Other stories that deal with it in depth are Ambush and finally Good Form But the episode is also mentioned in several other stores.The second of these extended, and very ambiguous, tales is a story about the death of his closest friend in the platoon See Speaking of Courage, Notes, In the Field, and finally Field Trip These four stories could be analyzed from now to next Christmas without coming to a certain conclusion as to what actually happened, and what the two Tim O Briens had to do with any of it.The two stories that nailed me 2 Sweetheart of the Song Tra BongThe second of these stories was a mind blowing story called Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong Tim O Brien the character plays no part in it, except to introduce it view spoiler Vietnam was full of strange stories, some improbable, some well beyond that, but the stories that will last forever are those that swirl back and forth across the border between trivia and bedlam, the mad and the mundane This one keeps returning to me The actual story is told by one of the platoon characters, Rat it s about view spoiler an assignment that Rat previously had on a remote mountain top near a village ville It was sort of a Mash type assignment, where wounded would be brought in by local choppers for emergency and trauma care, then shipped out by chopper to rear areas Mostly they played volleyball and sat around, probably smoking weed No officers, no discipline One day they re shooting the shit, and someone says hey you know we could fly a broad in here A few weeks later, a tall, big boned blond steps out of the supply chopper one morning, and is introduced by their young medic as Mary Anne, his seventeen year old girlfriend from Cleveland Heights Senior High, by way of LA, Bangkok, and Saigon.Well, skipping a whole lot of the story, the girl takes to Nam like a bee to a flower She starts dressing like the guys, learns how to fire a rifle, goes down into the ville to check out the locals, and finally starts going out on patrols with six Greenies Berets that have their own little station in an enclosed area near the medic place thus sort of leaving her boy friend Again I m not going to go into the details, but view spoiler the story takes a very strange twist, and we find this seventeen year old morphing into a female Apocalypse Now style Brando character, wearing a necklace made out of human tongues and hanging out with the Greenies in their hootch view spoiler Across the room a dozen candles were burning on the floor near the open window The place seemed to echo with a weird deep wilderness sound tribal music bamboo flutes and drums and chimes But what hit you first was two kinds of smells There was a topmost scent of joss sticks and incense, like the fumes of some exotic smokehouse, but beneath the smoke lay a deeperpowerful stench Thick and numbing, like an animal s den, a mix of blood and scorched hair and excrement and the sweet sour odor of moldering flesh the stink of the kill On a post at the rear of the hooch was the decayed head of a large black leopard Off in the gloom a few dim figures lounged in hammocks The music came from a tape deck, but the high voice was Mary Anne s she stepped out of the shadows barefoot She wore her pink sweater and a white blouse and a cotton skirt.And that necklace.Well Rat draws the story out nicely, then finally ends it with view spoiler And then one morning, all alone, Mary Anne walked off into the mountains and did not come back But the story did not end there If you believed the Greenies, Rat said, Mary Anne was still somewhere out there in the dark Odd movements, odd shapes Late at night, when the Greenies were out on ambush, the whole rain forest seemed to stare in at them a watched feeling and a couple times they almost saw her sliding through the shadows Not quite, but almost She had crossed to the other side She was part of the land She was wearing her culottes, her pink sweater, and a necklace of human tongues She was dangerous She was ready for the kill hide spoiler hide spoiler hide spoiler hide spoiler hide spoiler Worth the price of admission, that one 1 On the Rainy RiverBut the first of the stories that nailed me, maybe not as flamboyant, not as good a movie script, was On the Rainy River I don t need to really tell this story Actually I do But only one spoiler two spoilers The introduction is simply This is one story I ve never told before view spoiler It s about Tim s and or Tim s summer of 68, after graduating from Macalester after receiving within a couple weeks a draft notice after working in a pig slaughterhouse in Worthington for several weeks anguishing over what he should do about this war that he doesn t believe in, that s he s being called to finally leaving a note to his parents, taking off, driving north up through Duluth, International Falls, then to the west along the Rainy River Just across from Canada Where he stops at a run down fishing resort called the Tip Top Lodge, and stays for a few days, the only customer of the eighty one year old owner, Elroy Berdahl.Elroy Berdahl The hero of my life the man saved me He offered exactly what I needed, without questions, without any words at all He took me in He was there at the critical time a silent, watchful presence view spoiler Tim lays it all on the table, all the things that were urging him to flee to Canada, all the things that were holding him back He tells us the readers, that is, not Elroy He and Elroy only make small talk, but as Tim realizes later, Elroy knows what s going on, yet never says anything The last day at the Lodge, Elroy takes him out fishing on a sunny, cold afternoon He turns the boat north, guns the motor, and steers all the way across the river, cutting the motor to drift twenty feet off the Canadian shore Baits his hook, says nothing, starts fishing Tim sits in the bow, looking at the forest, looking at an invisible boundary that, if crossed, will change his life forever.I think he meant to bring me up against the realities, to guide me across the river and to take me to the edge and to stand a kind of vigil as I chose a life for myself You re twenty one years old, you re scared, and there s a hard squeezing pressure in your chest.What would you do Would you jump Would you feel pity for yourself Would you think about your family and your childhood and your dreams and all you re leaving behind Would it hurt Would it feel like dying Would you cry, as I did He can t jump I did try It just wasn t possible I couldn t risk the embarrassment.He drives home The day was cloudy I passed through towns with familiar names, through the pine forests and down to the prairie, and then to Vietnam, where I was a soldier, and then home again I survived, but it s not a happy ending I was a coward I went to the war hide spoiler hide spoiler This story affected me deeply Of course I cried You have to know that it s early in the book, before I realized that Tim maybe wasn t Tim, and that the story was probably not actually true And although I now think its truth is not the truth of happening, it still is true, but its truth is the truth of story.For it could have been my story I was less than two years older than Tim Both my future wife and I had graduated from college in 66 She had graduated from Macalester for godsakes And I had received my draft notice just a few weeks after graduating, had even driven to Ft Holabird in Balti for my pre induction physical that summer I wasn t working in a slaughterhouse, but at the Dept of Health Education and Welfare HEW that summer, programming some primitive desk top computer with paper tape And then out of the blue, I can t even remember how it happened, I wound up going to a job interview at the Naval Research Laboratory, and was hired, and given a deferment That was the first really momentous occurrence in my life that taught me that I had no real control over my fate Things just happen.A couple years ago my wife and I went to our fiftieth HS reunion in the small town in Minnesota where we grew up I met a classmate who I hadn t known very well in school He was from the country, didn t go to my church, so we just didn t know each other real well, despite being in a class of only about a hundred He said that it was the first reunion he had come to The reason was, he had skipped to Canada when he was drafted But ever since, he had been too embarrassed to return to see his old classmates I told him that I was really glad he had come I m also pretty sure I said something to him like Joe, you were one of the brave ones At least I hope I did I think Tim would have said that But wait an Epilogue Here s where I ve decided to override the end of my prior narrative It s 13 August 2016 Today my wife and I drove to International Falls MN, just a side trip on the way to visit family three hours farther west Our motel turned out to be right on the south bank of the Rainy River I talked about Tim s story with her I took a camera, and we walked behind the motel and down a steep path to the river Across the water, Canada The river flowed from right to left, from Rainy Lake up to the northwest, 85 miles into Lake of the Woods its waters flowing from there, into the Winnipeg River, through Lake Winnipeg, out the Nelson River, finally into Hudson Bay To the west the sun was glaring off the rippling water Somewhere up that 85 miles was the fabled Tip Top Lodge, haunted by the ghosts of Elroy Berdahl and maybe Tim Tim O Brien I took a picture, thinking that so much glare would ruin it But no not at all It fact that bright sun, in the blue summer sky, seemed to lay down a white pathway on the river, somehow strangely getting wider as it moved into the distance perhaps wideningandas it moved farther and farther, mile upon mile, winding through the Lake of the Woods, on and on into Hudson Bay and somehow lighting all the possible twists and turns that a life could have taken from that moment when a young man sat in a boat twenty feet from Canada and cried Well, that s what I ve decided to say about this picture of the Rainy River Glad I took it And guess what Rereading the comments below, I discovered 35 that Fionnuala had alrady written this Epilogue, lacking only the photo to illustrate it Here I thought I d written something clever.