I found her!

Found The Girl! Everything’s changed & all I can do is write on a pad with a 5¢ pencil stub. Can’t contact the world till Saturday. Still shaking.

Calculation - there’s 128 cubic feet of space for each guy in the cell, that’s a 4’x4’x8’ tube around our bodies. Relates to not having private conversations, which I was not having with Stew who was ranting on about Vietnam. “You peacenik freaks don’t know shit what we did. Special ops, experimental drugs.” I’m drawing him out from boredom. “We got a poison, one drop, one little drop on a gook’s skin, iced, boom, out. I’m not shitting you, Missouri. I used it, man. Secret ops.”

“What was the Mission District reject doing?” Slim can’t keep his mouth shut. “Digging invisible latrines?”

“Assassination, punk.”

“We’re just talking over here, Slim. Where was that, Stew?”

“Everywhere. Cambodia, Laos, the North.”

“North Vietnam?”

“North Carolina.” Wild Bill has to jump in.

“To do what?”

“Kill. NVA brass.”

“You were in the North, assassinating leaders? And you got out?”

“You don’t know shit, Missouri.”

“Ain’t Missouri don’t know shit.” (Wild Bill)

“When was this, Stew?”


“Stew, there wasn’t a real war on until the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In August 64.”

“See what I mean. You sit around smoking dope with your college pussies. We’re who started the Tonkin so-called fucking incident.”

“Missouri, you believe this shit?” (Slim)

“I’m just listening, man.” But I’m thinking, he claims to have started the war? Completely gone.

“Dickface,” (Stew to Slim) “at least I did something for my country. Wasn’t no second-rate burglar.”

Must have been the insult to burglars. Slim jumps in his face, “Shit-for-brains, I don’t believe for one second you were in Nam. I don’t cop to your silly ass rap about woooh! secret ops. I think you sat on Mission Street & 18th playing pocket-pool an drinking Drano an that’s why you have such little red pointy eyeballs.”

Stew offers to show him the Green Beret method of popping eyeballs out of his Mick sockets with his thumbs. Slim sings the Green Beret song in falsetto, complete with drumbeats. That’s when Stew rummages in his kit & comes up with the photo & hands it to me for proof.

I don’t see her, of course. I see Stew in his Green Beret uniform, spit & polish, all proud, no red pointy eyeballs, looking 10 years younger.

“So tell him, Missouri,” Stew says & I hear myself saying, “Yeah, yeah, Slim, he was a Green Beret all right, yeah, that’s yeah....” because NOW all I can see is the girl standing beside Stew. The Girl. The Girl. The Girl. Blond hair, green eyes, same damn peasant dress, or one like it. No doubt. Every synapse says THE GIRL.

“Is that your uh girlfriend?” I ask. Must be my tone of voice or my hand shaking. Stew gets paranoid.

“Why you wanna know? You wanna fuck her when you get out?”

“No, Stew. I just wanted to know how to congratulate you, you know, beautiful wife, girl friend.”

“That’s my sister, Missouri. You stay away from her.”

“Missouri’s gonna fuck your sister.”

“Slim,” I say, “shut up for once for me.” To Stew: “You look good, man. When was that?”


“You took a beating.”

“Yeah I’m a fucking Mission reject.”

“What’s her name?” soft as a priest in confession.


I move my fingers to hand him back the photo & Red, next cell over, sticks his hand through the bars into the corridor toward our cell & asks for toilet paper. Stew starts to hand it to him, a common courtesy. Slim stands in the way, “Motherfucker, don’t give him no paper.”

God damn I will. Punk you don’t. Two snakes in a cage. Everyone alert. Pop rolls over in his bunk. Bill & Woody freeze at the chess board, I slide toward my bunk which is above Slim’s. This is not about toilet paper. Hurt & hate out there in a roar. No exit for either of them; the paper gets passed or it doesn’t. Quick as a second-story cobra, Slim snatches the roll from Stew, taunts him with it, Stew has to follow the process out, knows no one will help him (not me, not me) & he can’t win. He pants like a bear, close to hysteria, eyes bloody & desperate.

Two cops come by with a prisoner. Slim sees them first, backs to a neutral position by his bunk, leaves Stew in the middle of the cell, the target.

Stew is heaving, shaking. “Officer! Officer. I’m asking you as a human being, take me out of this cell before I kill him. I swear, I swear to god I’ll kill him.”

Cops baffled: kill who? You been fighting? Who’s fighting?

“I’m gonna kill him.” Points to Slim.

The cops look nervous. They take him out. Put him in Cell 4 by himself.

I’ve got her photo. I know her first name, not her last. None of us on a last-name basis. Can’t talk to Stew. Can’t make a call. Saturday’s three days gone. My life's been altered by a speedfreak Green Beret assassin (I believe him! I do!) & a second-story nazi. Pressed Jennifer (my Jennifer)’s photo in the book with the wildernesses of animals men have not yet learned to hunt.