Coming Home from the War
Phillip I. Elkins © 2006
Coming Back Home Ain’t All Its Cracked Up To Be
(People have been asking me to read my stories again on my radio show, “LA Sounds” on KZFR.org 7:30-10:00 every Thursday night) which I may do some other time, meanwhile I’ll post some of it here. This is the cleaned up version. The original version is on Amazon under the same name)
Saturday we dove over to Watts in my car and couldn’t find parking nearby so we parked several blocks away from the park where the Watts Community Music Festival was being held. As I was parking my car I noticed a group of black people sitting on a porch of the house I was parking in front of.
“Hey, don’t worry; we’ll keep an eye on your car. Go ahead and enjoy the festival.” A big guy sitting on the porch said.
“Okay, thank you.” I answered as we got out and I noticed the guys checking out Marissa in her short mini skirt and little tank top getting out of the car.
“Hey, sweet lookin’ lady you got there. Hey, look bro, you wanna trade?” a guy on the porch asked as he checked out Marissa and pointed to a girl sitting next to him.
“What?” I asked.
“You want to switch? Come on up here and check out one of these ladies. They like white boys.” He answered as he stood up and began walking toward us with a big old shit eating grin.
“I’ll take your old lady. She’s lookin’ good, baby!”
“Ah, I’ll have to talk to my girlfriend about that.” I answered nervously as we quickly walked away.
“Yeah, those black guys like what they see here.” Marissa said as she laughed and looked herself up and down with a big smile on her face.
Needless to say I felt less than confident that my car would be there when — and if — we ever got back from the festival.
As we walked the streets of Watts I noticed everybody’s eyes following us. I didn’t see many other white people around. Maybe a few brown people but mostly we were deep in the heart of town where you don’t see anybody other than black people.
As we walked to the park I tried to act comfortable like I was back home with my homies or back in Vietnam with the brothers but I did feel pretty out of place.
I kept thinking I saw Johnson, my captain who was with me in Bien Hoa. I’d look carefully at his face and almost say: “Hey, Johnson!” but it was never him.
We checked out the scene and ate some BBQ ribs and drank a couple beers and grooved to the music blasting in the hot sun.
After a while I began to relax and began dancing with Marissa. By the time the Temptations came on it was getting dark and the pot was being passed around. I noticed a few other brown and white people in the crowd. Marissa was talking to a couple of people who were being friendly. She seemed to enjoy being checked out and basically ignoring me. I was beginning to feel like I wanted to get back to see if my car was still there when suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder and said: “Hi, Drummer Boy.” As she gave me a big hug.
“How come you never called me?”
“Oh, hi Rainbow. How you doing?” I asked as I held onto her and felt like sneaking out of there and making out with her like we did at the love in.
“Been fine. Good music, huh?”
“Oh, yeah, great music. Want to get a drink?” I asked as I tried to get away from Marissa.
“Sure.” Rainbow answered.
We walked several feet away to get some lemonade when Sioux and Luke came up to say hello.
“Hey, guys, how you been?”
“Good. What you been up to?” Sioux asked as Luke just basically looked bored and ready to leave. He lit a cigarette and looked away yawning.
“So, how you been?” Rainbow asked again.
“Yeah, I’ve been fine. I couldn’t remember your phone number or I would have called.” I said as I noticed Marissa looking around.
“Give it to me now before they decide to tear gas this place too.” I added as we all laughed at the fond memory of the love-in at Griffith Park.
Rainbow opened her purse and wrote down her phone number and stuck it in my shirt pocket. “Don’t lose it this time. I want to see you again.”
“You will, I promise you that.” I answered as I noticed Marissa looking around for me and I tried to nudge us away in the other direction.
“Look I’d better get going but it’s good to see you.” I said afraid that Marissa might see us and blow the whole thing worse than the cops did at Griffith Park. I hugged the girls and walked away in the opposite direction of where I last saw Marissa.
“Don’t be a stranger Sioux said as she came up to me, gave me an open mouth kiss and stuck her phone number in my shirt pocket next to Rainbow’s.”
“I won’t be.” I said as I hugged her and forced myself to leave before it was too late as I forced myself to walk away as fast as I could.
“Phil! Phil!” Marissa yelled as I walked in the other direction. “Hey, man, why you ignoring me?!” She yelled again.
I turned around and acted dumb as I said: “Oh, there you are. I was looking for you.”
“You’re lyin’! You knew I was looking for you! And who are those girls you were talking to?”
“Huh? Girls? What girls?” I played dumb.
“Yeah, what girls. I saw you and you know I saw you trying to hide from me. Those girls over there looking as us. That somebody you’re working on, trying to get with? Want some white girls now?”
“Huh? Oh, those girls? Oh, yeah, they were just asking me if I knew where Compton High School was. They’re looking for a friend there.” I answered saying with the first thing could I thought of.
“Compton High School? You liar.’ You were hitting on them and they’re wondering who the heck I am. I ought to go talk to them and tell them what a jerk you are. Is that Sue?” Marissa said as she smiled and waved at them and said: “Hey, Sue; He’s a jerk. Don’t go out with him. He’s no good, Sue!”
The Girls looked back and waved goodbye as they walked away.
“There goes my chance to be with some nice, white, hippie chicks.” I thought to myself as I gave Marissa an angry look and said: “Look, you’re crazy. they just wanted directions and I was nice enough to try and help them out and probably gave them the wrong directions. What do you care anyway? You were busy ignoring me and flirting with someone over there anyway.”
“Hey Sue, he’s a jerk!” Marissa said as she pointed at me.”
They don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. They think you’re crazy and you know what? They’re right. You are crazy. They were just asking me directions.”
“They know what I’m talking about. You’re an jerk.” Marissa said as she gave me a look of hate.
After a minute of silence between us I asked: “So, you had enough of hanging with your friends here? You ready to get out of here and see if my car got stolen yet?” I said as I began walking in the other direction.
“Yeah, I’ve had enough of being here with you. Let’s get out of here. And you’re going in the wrong direction, you stupid jerk.”
I turned around and noticed Rainbow and Sioux were out of sight now and I hoped if we walked slowly enough we wouldn’t catch up with them and things would be cool.
“You’re a jerk!” Marissa said to my face as she looked at my shirt pocket and tried to grab the papers with the girls’ phone numbers on them.
“What the heck you doing? You’re crazy and you’re gonna tear my shirt!” I said as I pulled her hands off me.
At that, Marissa ripped my shirt open and scratched my chest while I fought to keep her from getting the papers with the phone numbers on them. “What the heck you doing, you crazy girl!?”
“You jivin’. I know you got their phone numbers. Let me see what you got in there!”
“Look, nutball. I’ve had it with you. Tearing up my shirt. Even if I had their numbers, no way I’d show you now, you crazy nutball! You’re gonna have to buy me a new shirt now.”
At that Marissa tried again to reach into my pocket but I fought her off. A minute later as she was looking in the other direction, I took the papers out of my shirt pocket and put them deep into my front pants pocket. A few minutes later when she noticed I wasn’t watching, she grabbed into my shirt pocket and ripped it open only to find it empty.
I acted like I couldn’t fight her off and said: “You are one crazy nutball. If I flirted around half as much as you do, you’d go crazy and freak out just like you did but you might actually have a good reason to and you might actually find something then. You owe me a shirt now, you crazy nut! I ought to look in your purse to see what you got in there. Who knows what you’re up to? Probably full of phone numbers.” I said as grabbed for her purse and I laughed thinking to myself that I’ve got to get away from this crazy girl and catch up with those hippie chicks as soon as possible.
We walked back to my car and I must admit I was very happy and a little surprised to see that my car was still there. As I opened the door to let Marissa in, the folks who were sitting on the front porch were there again but this time they were smoking and drinking and listening to some loud music blasting from a boom box. “Yo, white boy!” The guy who spoke to us before yelled.
“Hey, there you are. How you folks doing?” I called back as I went to get in the driver’s door.
“Yo, man, so you wanna trade old ladies? Come on, man, my old lady here knows all the tricks. She likes you and she’ll take real good care of you, man, make you real happy. Anything you want.” He said as he got up and waved us over.
“Ah, I don’t think my old lady’s ready for that.” I said as I got into the car and fired it up.
Marissa opened the window on the passenger side and yelled out: “Ah, this jerk’s afraid to do anything like that. He’s just chicken.” as she laughed.
I had to force myself to not turn the engine off and get out of the car and drag Marissa up there just to see what she might do but I guess I wasn’t sure what she might do and who the hell knew what they might do. So, yeah, maybe I was too chicken but somehow it just didn’t seem worth it to go up on the porch and find out.
As I pulled away Marissa yelled out: “See, he’s chicken.” And laughed as she gave me a look of disdain.
“Yeah, like you wanted to go up there and be with that guy. Heck, you’re more chicken than I am. That black girl looked pretty good.”
“You’re the chicken who drove off.” She said firmly.
It took all my strength to not turn around right then and drive back to the front porch where the people were sitting but the truth is they all looked pretty crazy and I’ve had enough craziness in my life for a while.
Then, as I turned on the radio, I remembered the phone numbers in my pocket and I realized that maybe I haven’t had quite enough craziness in my life just yet after all. I might need just a little bit more.