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Starry Night Starry, Starry Night
By Teresa A. Spencer

(The song "Vincent" was written, copywrited, and sung by Don McLean in 1971. Copywrite 2000 by Teresa A. Spencer. For Dirk, I have written this short story, in celebration on his 55th birthday.)

1973

Second Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck stared sadly through the door at his friend inside. Captain HM Murdock, his best friend and surrogate big brother, had finally snapped mentally. And none of them, even Hannibal, had been able to stop it.

It was the first time that Face had seen Murdock in over a week. Murdock had only been transferred from a Veterans Hospital down in Texas a few days ago. But it was only now that Face had worked up enough nerve to see his friend.

A single tear ran down the young mans cheek, and he tried to fight the other tears that threatened to roll down his handsome face. \\How could we let this happen?\\ he asked himself. \\What did we do wrong? Dear God, what did HE do wrong? He doesn't deserve this!\\

Face wanted to rage at the injustice of it all. He was angry, angrier then he could remember ever being. He was angry with Hannibal, for not being able to get them out of that VC camp sooner then he did. He was angry with BA for not breaking Chao's neck when he had the chance. Then he remembered that BA had been chained up, and forced to watch when Chao ordered his men to torture both Murdock and and Face. He was angry with himself, for not being able to help his friend. He was angry with God for not hearing their prayers, or the victims' screams for mercy before their voices were silenced forever. He was angry with the US Army, for convicting them of a crime that they didn't commit.

And he was angry with Murdock, for not being strong enough to fight anymore. And that was the worst thing of all. He was angry with Murdock, because it felt like he had been abandoned. Again. It was bad enough getting abandoned by your country. But now, Face felt abandoned by the only man that was like a brother to him.

Unable to take the vacant stare in Murdock's brown eyes anymore, Face hurried out of the VA, to the car that he had borrowed from a friend at the orphanage. He quickly got in, locked the door, and buried his face in his arms as he started to sob. Huge sobs wracked his slender body, being torn out of him like The Almighty God Himself had reached down Face's throat and was ripping them out in giant handfuls. And Face was unable to stop them. So, he sobbed out his grief, cursing God for allowing this to happen to Murdock and him. At the same time,he was praying to that same God to help his friend and to help him deal with his own problems.

When Face had finally stopped crying, he gulped for air like he had almost drowned, his throat raw from the tears. He desperately wanted to be held, to feel strong comforting arms around him, making the pain of loss go away. He had lost quite a few people in his twenty-two-and a half years. From his mother, whom he barely remembered, to the only woman he had loved, Leslie Becktall, who had walked out on him without saying a word. He had also lost various priests and nuns, who succumbed to age. But this loss, the loss of Murdock, was tearing the young man up. And it was Murdock who would wrap his arms around Face, making the younger man feel safe and secure. Now that safety net was gone. Murdock was locked up in a mental hospital in restraints, because if unrestrained he could attempt suicide again.

It had been Face that found Murdock, lying in a puddle of his own blood after slashing his wrist. He had left a note to Face with only three words. "I am Sorry." Nothing else. No good-bye, no I love you kid, and no explanation on why he wanted to take his own life. Nothing. Luckily, Face had found him in time, and put in a frantic call to Hannibal while holding a pressure bandage on Murdock's bloody wrist. As soon as Hannibal and BA had got there to take care of Murdock, Face crawled into a corner and threw up. Then started to shake. And that's how Hannibal and BA found Face a few hours later, after they got Murdock to the hospital. "Why?" He kept asking Hannibal. "Why?" And for the first time that he had known Hannibal, the Colonel didn't have an answer.

Face sighed heavily, trying to get ahold of his emotions. He knew that Hannibal was waiting for him, and for his report on Murdock's condition. After all, it wouldn't do to get caught here, outside a Veterans Hospital that was being patrolled by the US Army. After all, Face was a fugitive now. But, Face couldn't get himself to start the car and go meet his commanding officer. He felt that he was abandoning Murdock, and Murdock needed him now.

However, he knew that he couldn't help Murdock now. Gritting his teeth, he turned on the engine, but, he couldn't make himself put the car into gear. It was then that Face heard it, the radio. On the way to the VA hospital, Face hadn't even realized that he had it on.

"And now, here is 'Vincent', by Don McLean," the disc jockey announced.

"Hmmm, haven't heard this one in a long time," Face said out loud. As he listened to the words of the song, tears came to his eyes. The words seemed to mirror what he was feeling right now.

Starry, Starry Night,
Paint your palate blue and gray.
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.

Shadows on the hills
sketch the trees and the daffodils.
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
in colors on the snowy linen lane.

Now I understand
what you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity.
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Face thought of Murdock, and how he tried to hang on to his sanity, especially in the VC camp. Because Murdock was a pilot, the North Vietnamese automatically singled him out as being a spy. He had been tortured on a daily basis, and his limp unconscious body had been brought back to the group and thrown onto the ground. Then, the VC would take Face away, and torture him. When he was brought back, he had always awoken to Murdock holding him tightly, as if Face was his lifejacket in the middle of an ocean.

Starry, Starry Night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze.
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.

Visions of a battlefield came to Face's mind. The fires from the bombs, and the smoke from the burned out villages that they had passed. Murdock could have dropped some of those bombs; he just didn't know. And the feeling of guilt that he could have caused such mass destruction was bound to tear the sensitive pilot apart. And the saying that it was war and that innocent people died in war wouldn't have been any comfort.

Face could still remember the sights and the smells. But what really stood out in Face's mind was the silence. It had been deafening, like the entire jungle had ceased to exist along with the village.

Colors changing hue,
Morning fields of amber gray.
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artists loving hand.
Now I understand what you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity.
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

After they had found survivors, Face watched the faces of the villagers whose town had been destroyed. He remembered the silent tears of the men, the wails of the women, the cries of the children, as friends, wives, children, and brothers and sisters bodies were dragged out of the rubble.

For they could not love you,
but still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry, night
you took your life as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent.
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

Things had happened very quickly after that. They had barely recovered from the prison camp when Morrison sent them to rob the bank of Hanoi. After they were caught, and Morrison killed, they were court marshaled and sent to prison. Face could still remember the cry of despair Murdock gave as his friends were led away. Face had looked up in time to see Ray Brenner grab Murdock, keeping him from them.

It had apparently become too much for the pilot. Like Vincent in the song, he loved with intensity. And when he heard that his friends had escaped, he had apparently tried to take his life for some reason. And also like Vincent in the song, this world was not meant for a beautiful soul such as Murdock's.

Starry, Starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls.
Frameless heads on nameless walls
with eyes that watch the world and can't forget.

Face sadly remembered visiting a museum, where photo's taken during the war were hung. Pictures of destroyed villages, a naked little girl running down a dirt road crying from the pain of her burned body.

Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in ragged cloths.

Face remembered every man dressed in rags that he saw over there.

A silver thorn, a bloody rose,
lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Face thought of the children that he saw, bloodied and still. The children who were supposed to grow up, but didn't have a chance.

Now I think I know
what you tried to say to me.
And how you suffered for your sanity
and how you tried to set them free.

They did not listen,
Their not listening still.
Perhaps, they never will.

The team had come home to be abandoned by their country. And Murdock, who had to listen to somebody calling him a baby killer, must have felt he lost everything. He had lost his friends, his team, his country, and his self-respect. So he must have decided to end his pain, and let go of the demons that haunted him. If Face hadn't remembered Murdock telling him of a favorite spot, near his mother's grave down in Texas, Murdock would have died. After Murdock had recoved physically from his wounds, his father had him transferred to the VA hospital in L.A.

Face turned his eyes Heavenward. It was now dark, and the stars overhead shone like diamonds. It was a starry night, like in Don McLean's song. "Please God, send Murdock somebody to listen. Please?"

Saying that, Face put the car in gear, and set out for his rendezvous with Hannibal and BA.

The next day, unbeknownst to Face, a man walked into the VA. "Hello, my name is Dr. Richer. I'm here to see Captain HM Murdock."

The End

 


Starry, Starry Night by Terri Spencer

 

 


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