IT WAS THE VC SCOUT we were supposed to be rousting. He would be a message to the rest of his company. We took position and 'Bama Sam took off the tape and cracked a grenade like popping the top off a beer bottle. "Off with the safety, Normy. One shell shocked gook, coming up!" The pinecone dropped right outside the opening of the hut and bounced in an elegant arc, disappearing for a silent second. A lovely lie. I was prepared to fire at the mouth if he made it out. If he didn't, I would take out the wall with strafing.

But the pitch of the cry that followed the blast made us both wince. In memory it's comic, a Laurel and Hardy caricature of surprise.

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