But, I guess I shouldn't complain. In all fairness, my family does come to visit from time to time. So does Haley's Comet. It's only been a few months since my grandson needed braces on his teeth, evidently the consequence of an altercation at school. Cicely and Charles brought the little shaver to see me… I’m trying my best to remember his name, but it escapes me right now… Mike… Myles… Mason… I forget. I’ve seen the lad two- maybe three times, now, and I still can’t remember his name. Personally, I thought the ring through his nose was a bit overstated, but I did like the tattoo on his neck proclaiming Satan Rules! Besides, four thousand bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, I don’t think, and I really don’t need the money. In fact, I wish they’d take it all… then they’d throw me out of here and maybe I find my way to southern California or Mexico. At least down there, I could listen to the ocean go out and come back in.
I blame all this on Dave Fisher. He’s the no-account disloyal son-of-a-bitch who got me into this mess. On November 24th of 1967, as we sat at the Grapevine Lounge in Garden Grove, California, drinking mai-tai’s or Cuba Libra’s or some such concoctions, we made a tontine. It was my last night in the U.S., and Dave had flown from Denver to Los Angeles to spend a week with me before my unit shipped out to Vietnam.
Of course, vanity has its price, but I was the one who paid it for him. David Hugh Fisher was the slowest individual who ever drew breath. This became doubly frustrating because he had a car and I didn’t. So, we double-dated a lot. If we were going to the drive-in movies, I’d tell Dave to pick me up at 6 p.m. Then, I’d tell my date that we’d be by to get her at 8 p.m. When Dave finally got around to picking me up at 8:15, we’d only be a half-hour late to pick up my date at 8:30… if Dave felt like really hustling.
We lost contact not too long after I went in-country, but that wasn’t his fault, either. I’d told him not to bother writing, I probably wouldn’t get half the letters, anyway, and I knew it made him uncomfortable. Dave was not one to wear his heart on his sleeve… it might detract from his fashion ensemble, or indicate that he was in some way soft, and this couldn’t be allowed to happen. I thought about him often, though… wished I had him manning a door gun or crewing my Huey. Sometimes just a hand on my shoulder made all the difference when making a difficult landing in an unsecured drop zone or looking back into the aft section to see what was taking so long as they loaded stretchers or body bags. In a combat zone, a helicopter is a vulnerable piece of equipment; essential for deployment of troops, re-supply of supplies and personnel, and removal of wounded and dead. A few minutes could, and often did, become eternity. Truthfully, during the twenty months I spent in Southeast Asia, our tontine was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t want to waste my time thinking about eventualities that would never come to pass.
The asshole loved Phoenix. Approximately thirty hours or so after Ted Dickerson, Dave and I loaded up Dave’s ’69 El Camino, armed with enough marijuana, mescaline, white crosses, blotter acid, peyote, mushrooms and Budweiser to endure a trip from Denver to Arizona, we arrived in the Valley of the Sun. It was October of 1971, and by now, Dave and I had both married and divorced our wives, and decided that the winters in Colorado were more hassle than fun. Ted was necessary only because he had friends in Phoenix who’d put us up for awhile, and, lest I forget to mention, he was our source for the drug of the day.
Mostly, he kept to himself, as was his nature. Relationships were difficult for Dave, because they required him to schedule his routine, thereby inhibiting his flight capabilities. It was easier and cheaper to fly solo. Many times, I witnessed his lack of constraint and “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” approach to life as I struggled to support my wife and family, and secretly, God forgive me, I envied him. I also think he sensed this, because invariably as he hugged my family and me as we left after a barbecue or birthday party, he’d whisper in my ear, reminding me how lucky I am.
When they escorted me into the room, I asked Karen a few questions as I gazed moronically at the cadaver lying on the litter. It wasn’t really a bed, or at least not any type of bed I’d want to lie in. Few machines were present other than a simple heart monitor and the IV stand that dripped glucose into the huge veins protruding from his arm. The ventilator had been introduced into a tracheotomy position in his neck and at first, I didn’t recognize him. One glance down at his articulate fingers, though, and there could be no doubt. This was Dave, or whatever semblance of him that remained.
“That’s the sad part, Bob… he could stay like this for years. His heart and lungs are healthy, it’s just his brain that has quit functioning… he left no Living Will or DNR orders.”
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego California, Section AA, Seats 32 and 33, Super Bowl XXXII, January 25, 1998, Denver Broncos vs Green Bay Packers.