The Abramiad, Part Two: "The Long Afternoon" (excerpt)


“What we’re witnessing on the screen is without doubt a whimper in world historical terms, but it’s the bangingest whimper you’ll ever see and hear, and the object of the ruckus is one helicopter.  One last helicopter.  After all the years and airspace covered, all the Cobras, loaches, and slicks, all the skycranes and Chinooks, everything Bell has hammered out in their factories, assembly line magic and metal and airmobile fear and ordnance measured out in miles, now spent or wrecked beneath triple canopy, one puny helicopter slapped and rattled by slim hands and a tank-whipped wind from the North.

Finally America folds itself into a spider, rises, and fades into the sky.  A Hollywood director might leave us with a shimmering black dot shrinking in the heat-warped blue, but there are other claims on the attention of the news cameraman staying behind after the Marines have pulled out (leaving their hearts at the Rockpile and the Citadel.)  From the top of the stairway to nowhere, to the base of the empty embassy, to the skeletal gates affixed with an Ozymandian eagle-stamped seal, an ocean of Vietnamese.  This is how I see them, through American eyes still clouded despite ten, twenty, thirty years of engagement, embraces, threats, beatings given and received, none of it clarifying in the end.  An endless line of undistinguishable faces.  My ears tell a different story.  Or maybe the same story with a different effect.  The pleas, accusations, entreaties, denials, and demands, all the outraged voices, counterpointed by the thudding and final fade of the rotors, have risen again in the emptied air, are now melted into an unanswerable moan, melisma like an awl driven into my ear, the chorus of the abandoned.  Unanswerable.  But without an answer, a return ticket, that sound is a curse, in every sense, on the listener.

And then, on our end, it comes to a stop.  Sound and image cut off.  Fadeouts are for the movies.  Television news footage closes with a snap, and we’re back in the network studios high above uncollected Manhattan garbage and beyond the drift of tenement arson smoke.  A word from our sponsors and we’ll be back to talk to...whoever.”