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Fish Eyes

By Pat Lisi


          Dawn had finally broken and the fighting was over.  Thank God for that; it had only lasted about 2 hours but it was fierce some.  There were dead people all over the hill.  8 of them were United States Marines.  One of them was Mike Wasserman, a quiet Mormon from Boise, Idaho whose only crime was to volunteer to go to Vietnam with the Marines and fight ‘communism’.  He and I were in the same platoon in boot camp.

          The first thing I noticed as soon as I knelt down facing his fighting position from the enemy’s point of view was Mike’s eyeglasses.  They were cleanly broken in half right where they had once fit on the bridge of his nose.  One of the lenses, I believe it was the right side, was splintered but still affixed to the Marine Corps issued frames.  I remembered the day back in boot camp when Mike and the rest of us got our 5-minute checkup with the Navy eye doctor back at MCRD, San Diego.  They no longer mattered.

          He was slouched over the M-60 machine gun that still smoldered somewhat from the rounds that poured through the barrel at the NVA soldiers who had so valiantly charged up at us in the darkness.  I could smell the oils Mike used to clean the weapon that had become seared to the metal.  Its fragrance always spoke of death.  Several dead NVA soldiers lye on the ground behind me, evidence of Mike’s marksmanship with the M-60.

          What struck me most were Mike’s eyes.  They were cold, still, and dead.  They did not beg or whimper or plead, they did not look worried or concerned nor did they appear to wonder about anything.  They weren’t calculating or anxious nor were they shocked, stunned or panicked.  They looked straight ahead but had no purpose or focus.  There was no meaning to the infinite gaze.  His eyes were not glossed-over or varnished by death; instead, they were grayer than any other color but cloudy, or maybe creamy is a better way to say it.  There was hardly a separation between pupil, cornea or lens.  His eyelids were open and the corners were intact.  But, there was no white nor red nor any other hue outside the gray scale. Mike’s eyes were simply … eyes.  No longer alive, no longer needing to see anything.  Without vitality or character there seemed little need for the rest of his body to be alive, either.  Mike’s eyes, if I had to describe them so that anyone can understand, most closely resembled those of a dead fish you would find along the shoreline of a lake.

  Yes, that’s it.  His eyes were like dead fish eyes.

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