“To Hell in a Handbasket” by Alan Catlin

Alan Catlin


At the recruiting office
they asked him straight out if
he was interested in becoming
“A Rocket Technician.”
He thought about it for a full
ten seconds, liked the sound
of “A Rocket Technician, huh!?
Sure, sign me up.” Learned
Lesson Numero Uno of enlisted
life: Always inquire what these
things mean before committing
yourself. Found out his job was
loading rockets onto gunships
and once they were secure,
he was to assume his primary
job function as a side-hatch
gunner, firing support on missions.
Early on he heard the co-pilot take some
incoming, turned to look and caught
a round in the area where his right
eye used to be. If he hadn’t turned
just then he would have caught that
round square in the temple and have
become a dead rocket technician/
side-gunner. He went over to Nam
mostly crazy, came back all the way
crazy and a whole lot more. Said, “My
duty was like going to hell in a hand-
basket,” and looking at him now, you
figured, once he reached his destination,
there was no coming back.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004

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