The angle of the dangle


The fruit of The José Obregon Show, as Willy came to think of it, arrived in three waves. First, the wounded and gutshot pigs, waterbuffalo, villagers, and members of a long range reconnaissance patrol that had paused to rest in the jungle outside the base where they were decimated by the Mad Minute. Members of this wave were either killed, treated without anesthetics, or shipped to Okinawa, depending. Willy used the Plow to bury the presumed dead.

A few days later, he scooped out mass graves for the half-cooked, scorched, baked, charred, and incinerated snakes, pigs, birds, frogs, toads, lizards, deer, hawks, spiders, rats, and children, who crawled to the base after the napalming or were found festering close to the perimeter.

The third wave was composed of all things harmfully affected by 2-4-dichloro-phenoxyacetic acid, being the moving creatures that hath life, fowl that may fly in the open firmament of heaven, beasts of earth, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth. All these Willy buried in the ungreen and unherb bearing earth with his Rome Plow.

Which kept him away from Uncle Ho and Chuck Morris for a while, just fine. One 4am on perimeter duty he asked Dwight (Willy distrusted anyone living) what a Crossover Man might be. Dwight said he thought it was either a man who dressed in women’s clothes or a guy who’d had a sex-change operation, like Christine Whatsisname, but didn’t know if it applied to a woman who was surgically a man. None of those sounded like the kind of Crossover Man even the drunkest Concept Interpretator might invent. Willy needed high-octane scotch and respect.

Ho’s Hooch, to no one’s surprise, had not been touched, though it lay well within the machinegunned, burned, and poisoned zone. The moneychangers, prostitutes, villagers, tradesmen, garbage-hunting juveniles, maids, cooks, and cleaners had all for some reason disappeared, which the GI’s chalked up to perverse ingratitude, forcing them to wash their own underwear and drink more. Uncle Ho had added two phrases to his English lexicon: Happy New Year! and Come the right moment, a pawn can bring you victory. Otherwise, all was as it had been, ice and Johnnie Walker Red in perpetuity.

No point in fiddlefaddling, as Uncle Dunc would say. Willy walked over to Chuck Morris, who may not have moved since their last conversation, pulled a crate up to his spool and asked him what this Crossover shit was all about.

Chuck pulled out a nose hair. Willy suppressed the impulse to pull out one of his own.

“It is your karma that you are the Crossover Man,” said Chuck. “Karma rules. Here’s the sticky.”

“The straight sticky.” Willy warmed to the incoming truth.

“What other sticky is there?” Chuck pulled a blank-on-one-side, typed-on-the-other cocktail napkin toward him.

“What is the point,” he said, dotting a point on the napkin with his pen, “when you cease to lose and begin to win a war?”

“Are we losing?”

“Of course we’re losing. You wouldn’t be here if we weren’t losing. If we’d won already, you wouldn’t be here now.”

“Is not-winning the same as losing?”

“You’re not so dumb, Willy.”

“Why does everybody tell me that?”

“You’re working class. Smart proletarians astonish the middle class. They think they’re middle class because they’re smart, when it’s the other way around.”

“You’re not so dumb either.”

“Which doesn’t surprise you at all. Here’s the point.” He pointed to the point, which was still where it was, on the napkin. “The point of this point is the Crossover Point. That’s when we start winning.”

Willy found if he stared at the point hard enough from a certain distance it disappeared.

“Let us put this point in context.” Chuck drew intersecting vertical and horizontal lines below and to the left of the dot.


     “Call the bottom line Time,” said Chuck. “And the vertical line, let’s call it Numbers of Enemy Soldiers. Ok?”

“Ok let’s,” said Willy.

crossover point



“The enemy, left to his own devices, infiltrates, recruits, causes to appear, we don’t care how, say 300 soldiers per Qtr.”


“Why’s the line go through the little dot?” asked Willy.

“Getting there. We, Los Good Guys, fail to enter the fray until, say, the beginning of the 2nd Qtr.” He drew a second line.


“And we begin to kill Los Bad Guys at a rate of 150 per Qtr. At the end of the 2nd Qtr we have killed?”

“A hundred fifty,” Willy ventured. He was sitting in Mrs. Damien’s eighth grade math class drawing boobs in the white spaces in his math book, none the less stimulating for being generic.

“That’s no good, no good indeed, because?”

“Um, they still have some left.”

“Four hundred frigging fifty to be precise, and 750 the next Qtr. We sweat our butts killing 150 per, and they’re getting rich off it. You can understand Westy’s frustration. So we must enlarge our angle. ” He attached a little American flag to the American Kill Rate line, and placed four soldiers under it sweating to enlarge their angle.



“Our angle is now larger than their angle, and by the ineluctable truth of mathematics — which as you know is the language in which the universe is written, and allows us to contemplate absolute truths which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together — what will take place?”

Willy had transferred back to the Boob Department, where he was having a lot of fun.

“They must cross!” cried Chuck Morris.


“They must cross over! Barkeep, more booze.” Ho was already there, had already been there, was always there, two drinks in hand. “And where must they cross over?” Without waiting for Willy. “At the Crossover Point. Then and only then have we begun to kill more of them than they can replace, and by the genius of General William Westmoreland ...

Oh that’s who Westy was.

“... the man who introduced the Rome Plow into modern warfare, that is the moment we cease to lose and begin to win. Of course there’s a backlog, but once we pass the Crossover Point we not only kill those who infiltrate, we begin to kill the backlog until they are all dead and we have won.”

Willy studied the cocktail napkin, its added-to, revised, and layered diagram, turned it over. The document it was cut from concerned “residual CONUS-based active combat-ready ground forces.”

“Capacity to meet the possibility of widespread civil disorder in the United States,” it read, [corner of paper] “Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded” [edge of paper] “6/9 Marine Division/Wing Team” [corner of paper] “sufficient forces would still be available for civil disorder control inside the U.S.”

He turned it back. The American flag flew high above the enemy infiltration line. “Wasn’t this supposed to have to do with me?” he asked.

“Clean forgot. The more earth movers the more earth moved, the more fucking the more orgasms, the more killers the more killed. Comprende, smart workingclass guy from Redding, California?”

“Yah,” said Willy, who sometimes took German for Spanish, since more fake Nazi than Spanish was spoken on TV.

“More guys, more guys, volleyed and thundered.” Chuck shook with passion. “To raise the angle of the dangle five hundred thousand men is NOT enough. Six hundred thousand men, MORE than enough. In between there is a number, a specific number, let’s call it 546,782, when the line of killing intersects the line of life. That number is a man, the five hundred forty six thousand seven hundred and eightytooth man. The Crossover Man. General Westmoreland’s talisman, his lucky charm, his St. Christopher’s Medal, rabbit’s foot, his proof not only that we will win, but that we always have been winning, even when we weren’t.”

An azure simple look from Chuck that Willy understood with immaculate perception.

“Why me?”

One of those hamburgers had to be McDonald’s billionth. You were predestined. The Guy, the It Boy, the hinge, the — ”

“I haven’t killed anyone.”

“— Crossover Man. You don’t have to. You know what a metaphor is?”

“Used to.”

“You are one. And now, because of you—

Chuck cartwheeled his eyes.

“—we’re winning the war.”

Willy turned around. No one was there but Uncle Ho.

“Could be worse,” said Chuck, leering over Willy’s shoulder. “There are deaths worse than fate.”


“You could have been The Last Kid to Die in Vietnam. There will be one. No memorial for him. Someday there will be a last kid killed and his death will have meaning precisely because it was meaningless and every kid who would have been killed after him if he hadn’t been the last will be eternally grateful he wasn’t the Last Kid to Die in Vietnam because that would be a stupid meaningless death and every kid killed before the last kid will be posthumously grateful for not having died the meaningless death of the Last Kid Killed in Vietnam.”

He raised his arm to signal more drinks. Uncle Ho lowered his arm to the table and bowed to Willy in that Oriental way.

”Come the right moment, a pawn can bring you victory,” he said, and removed the glasses from the spool.