Fusner gently shook my shoulder. I inhaled sharply, suddenly realizing he’d been doing it for a while, but the depth of sleep I’d gone into would not allow me to think that I was in the A Shau Valley of South Vietnam commanding Marines in combat. I awoke slowly, no panicked jerk like I’d heard so much about at home, from guys supposedly returning from the shit and flinching at backfires that never occurred anymore in my sixty’s world. Maybe the uncontrolled jerk would come over time, and I wondered about that. I yawned and breathed deeply again, stretching my arms out until the pain of my leech wounds forced me to pull them back in. The wounds hurt in a nasty surface way. Not deep enough to keep me from functioning, but deep enough so that I was never without them at the very edge of my consciousness. I wondered if Morphine worked as a topical. Maybe I could just slather some on and the pain would go away, although I didn’t really believe it. Pain is what the A Shau dished out, and if you missed the breakfast of leech wounds then lunch would be served with something truly hurtful and more permanent.

“Puff is going to come down and make four pylon-turn passes, at your command, sir,” Fusner said, speaking quietly, his head bent down so his mouth could be close to my ear. “We don’t have much time. I let you sleep as long as the Gunny would allow. But you have to decide where Puff will lay down its fire. Here or there?”