The sentries could tell who was performing just by the kind of laughter.
The laughter was like a comic fingerprint. On the night that Barney slipped in his first joke about the colonel, the sentries could hear the hooting until the afterburners kicked in on the Fs. The planes were taking off for a bombing run somewhere near Cambodia. Someone was in desperate trouble up there.
The sentries could see the needles of light shooting down the runway. When the flame blossomed from the afterburners they knew it would take the count of three for the noise to reach them across the distance. It s like stereo, thought one of the sentries, a nineteen-year-old from the hill country of Georgia. The Air Force coming from one side and the comedians from the other.
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Sometimes he was grateful for the noise. It made the terrible silence of the night go away. There were nights when he had spent hours being alone and afraid in the obsidian blackness that grew more evil by its quietness.
They were out there. He knew it.
Singing and Laughing Against Fascism » Performing the Jewish Archive
They had killed other sentries. The occasional bursts of gunfire from distant outposts were the only sounds he would hear until the first wedge of light appeared in the eastern sky.
But in this night, the nineteen-year-old from Georgia, did not care if there was any noise. He was providing his own. From his transistor radio jangled the sounds of another world. He eased back in his flak jacket, grinning for no reason as the Rolling Stones shouted I Can t Get No Satisfaction and then the Supremes urged him not to throw his love away while the Beatles told him of Eleanor Rigby.
Originally published by Doubleday. Bien Hoa airbase, outside Saigon, wasn't a very funny place, but Barney's job had one advantage: he always played to a packed house. The soldiers flocked to his shows, and the war-zone comedian coaxed his battle-weary audiences first into chuckles and then into guffaws of healing laughter with material drawn from the lunacy around them: the little old VC with the single-shot rifle taking potshots at the jets, the international "peacekeeping" mission, the Vietnamese "car wash" racket, the numbing routine of army life, the officers One officer in particular: Colonel Isaacs, the blood-and-guts commander of the base, a driven man whose soldiers pay the price of his obsessions.
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Barney often ridiculed his authority from in front of the footlights, and afterhours he wooed the colonel's woman, Donna, a beautiful singer with a secret. So far, he had gone unpunished So far, he had gone unpunished The audience went wild.
"I'm friends with 25 letters of the alphabet. I don't know why"
But at this point in the eve- ning they usually went wild over almost anything And so Colonel Bogey races across the flatness like a tide seeking shore. It is louder than even the laughter and the strange yelling that comes from the Club and is momentarily lost in the unearthly whine of the F-lOOs as they return from bombing whatever it is that has to be bombed.
Colonel Bogey washes over the lone sentries and rushes on into the darkness that lies beyond the perimeter.