They came in low and hot, close to the trees
and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we
raced for the open doorways. This was always the worst for
us, we couldn't hear anything and our backs were turned to
the tree line.
The best you could hope for was a sign on the
face of the man in the doorway, leaning out waiting to help
with a tug or to lay down some lead.
Sometimes you could glance quickly at his
face and pick up a clue as to what was about to happen. We
would pitch ourselves in headfirst and tumble against the
scuffed riveted aluminum, grab for a handhold and will that
son-of-a-bitch into the air.
Sometimes the deck was slick with blood or
sometimes something had been left in the
shadows under the web seats, sometimes they landed in a
shallow river to wash them out.
Sometimes they were late,
sometimes...they were parked in some other LZ
with their rotors turning a lazy arc, a ghost crew strapped
in once too often, motionless, waiting for their own lift,
their own bags, once too often into the margins.
The getting on and the getting off were the
worst for us but this was all he knew, the man in the
doorway, he was always standing there in the noise,
watching, urging...swinging out with his gun, grabbing the
black plastic and heaving, leaning out and spitting,
spitting the taste away, as though it would go away...
They came in low and hot, close
to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked
forward and began to kick the boxes out, bouncing against
the skids, piling up on each other, food and water, and
bullets...a thousand pounds of C's, warm water and rounds,
7.62mm, half a ton of life and death.
And when the deck was clear, we
would pile the bags, swing them against their weight and
throw them through the doorway, his doorway, onto his deck
and nod and he'd speak into that little mic and they'd go
nose down and lift into their last flight, their last
Sometimes he'd raise a thumb or
perhaps a fist or sometimes just a sly, knowing smile,
knowing we were staying and he was going but also knowing
he'd be back, he'd be back in a blink, standing in the
swirling noise and the rotor wash, back to let us rush
through his door and skid across his deck and will that
son-of-a-bitch into the air.
came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their
tail in a flare, rocked forward, kicked out the boxes and
slipped the litter across the deck and sometimes he'd lean
down and hold the IV and brush the dirt off of a bloodless
face, or hold back the flailing arms and the tears, a
thumbs-up to the right seat and you're only minutes away
from the white sheets and the saws and the plasma.
They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped
their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we'd never hear
that sound again without feeling our stomachs go just a bit
weightless, listen just a bit closer for the gunfire and
look up for the man in the doorway.