Category Archives: Fiction

My Debut Novel Published in Paperback!

A legless veteran and his Vietnamese girlfriend embark on a cross-country journey through the dark heart of mid-1980s America to exact revenge on the loathsome Monsanto Corporation, whose Agent Orange decimated both their lives.

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From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas; from the urban-industrial hideout of vegan militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys and the liberation of their chained, abused pit bull. . . Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next, swaying between the hilarious and the hideous. Its humor is darker than the Marlboro Man’s coffee (and his lung cancer). A wildly twisted novel, but also one with undeniable heart and compassion. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit. You’ve likely never read anything quite like it.
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“The eco-warriors next door embark on a lightning round of vigilante justice. Orange Rain is what happens when the Monkey Wrench Gang goes Death Wish and moves from the scrubland to the streets. Literature that incites.” -Peter Young, former ALF prisoner, chief editor at Animal Liberation Frontline

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-A-Revenge-Novel/dp/0990360717/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407356480&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

Thanks to my wonderful, egalitarian, vegan-owned, Eco-conscious publisher Trebol Press for taking this on! www.TrebolPress.com

“Orange Rain is not a politically correct novel—which is why it is so appealing . . . [the main] character has a clear revenge mission he never wavers from. Revenge is exacted on more than one oppressor, including two different rapists . . . [It’s] the type of book that could never be published by a mainstream publisher, as they would be too afraid to touch the taboo subjects it contains. Jan Smitowicz’s first novel . . . is fast-moving, fun to read, and isn’t the same old tired thing we see coming from traditional publishers.” -Kimberly Steele, author of Forever Fifteen and other novels

“A compelling, fast-paced adventure through some of society’s most intriguing subcultures . . . filled with incisive political commentary. This timely and important novel is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of the planet, or simply looking for a good read.” -Camille Marino, former political prisoner, founder of Negotiation is Over and Eleventh Hour for Animals

“An exciting new author with a new voice to bring to the world of fiction. The literary world is in desperate need of more writers like him.” Veronica Rosas, playwright

*FREE PROMO!* My Revenge Novel “Orange Rain”, Now Revised and Including Bonus Materials!

Orange Rain has been revamped: now professionally edited, with a new cover and bonus materials at the end!

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To celebrate this, I’m offering the book for FREE DOWNLOAD starting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1 and ending Saturday, April 5, 2014!! After that, it will be available for the 50% reduced price of $2.99 for another five days!
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Click here to download ORANGE RAIN from Amazon.

 

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Max Wright is homicidally enraged with people who wrecked his life—people he has never met or even seen. The Vietnam War left him poisoned and cancer-ridden from the spraying of Agent Orange, legless, and addicted to heroin, forced to sell drugs to support his habit and suppress his pain. Now he’s kicked heroin, and burns for revenge on the loathsome corporation that manufactured Agent Orange.

With his Vietnamese ex-prostitute girlfriend Mai Linh, Max hitchhikes across mid-1980s America. Destination: Florida, where a university medical clinic is performing cutting-edge prosthetic leg implants. Only when he is able-bodied, Max reasons, can he attempt an attack on the corporation that ravaged his body, and decimated Mai Linh’s life. Hot on Max and Mai’s trail is Victor Wattana, the “Oriental Massage Parlor” owner whose money they stole and penis they snapped in half following a rape attempt.

From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas, from the urban-industrial hideout of militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys, Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next. It sways between the hilarious and the hideous, exploring myriad dark places in America where the two intersect. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific cruelty and suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit.

 

NOTE: If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app and read it on your phone or computer!

A Huey helicopter unleashing the “orange rain” on Vietnam.

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT ORANGE RAIN:

Jan Smitowicz is the Hunter S. Thompson for a new generation, and ‘Orange Rain’ is every inch the mind-bending ride you would expect from such an author. I guarantee you’ve never come across a novel like this before. The pace is fast and the the language is both inventive and obscene . . . If you long for a world where despicable behavior has immediate and devastating consequences, Mr. Smitowicz has your order up.”
-A.F.

“I’m always up for a plot in which the little guy fights back against the big guy. And you can’t get bigger than Monsanto. Go, Max!…Rapists getting beaten. Poisoners getting poisoned. Dogs getting liberated. That kind of justice is always so cathartic. I don’t read enough of it.”  -J.C.

Orange Rain is fast-paced and exciting . . . a tale of pure beauty.”
-M.N.

“You must read this, my peeps. You must relish the dark humor, the excitement, predicaments, the shredding of evil entities, the endings that make the world go ’round. I don’t care how the academics describe this book – I’m doing it my way: you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be singing from rooftops. Oh, yes you will!”
-A.L.

A rollicking adventure in which a search for legs and revenge leads to a cross-country trip jam-packed with thrills, chills, and seat-of-the-pants escapes…Exhilarating, thought-provoking, and relevant, Orange Rain is worth your time!”
-J.

“I loved this book! I literally couldn’t put it down. It explores some really serious topics (veterans and PTSD, chemicals and the environment, fat corporate America) in a fairly dark but wildly funny twisted way that engaged me from the first page.”
-R.S.

Check Out My Writing Blog!

Hey everyone, I’d love for you to check out my official website-blog for my writing! I do mainly fiction novels and narrative nonfiction, but I dabble in everything. High-concept, darkly funny, social-justice-oriented, wild, daring stuff. I’d love for you to check it out! Thanks =)

http://www.JanSmitowicz.com

Me with the 1,585-page Januscript of my handwritten-in-prison novel "The Liberators."

Me with the 1,585-page Januscript of my handwritten-in-prison novel “The Liberators.”

My Revenge-on-Monsanto Novel, FREE for a 5-Day Promotion!

My revenge-on-Monsanto-novel Orange Rain‘s Amazon page.

One of the primary reasons that I write is to raise awareness about social justice issues. That is why, starting tonight (July 10) at midnight P.S.T., and lasting through midnight P.S.T. July 15, my novel ORANGE RAIN will be available for **FREE download through Amazon Kindle!!** If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app and read it on your phone or computer!

orange rain 2

I am offering this free promotion in part to raise awareness about Monsanto and Agent Orange, in commemoration of the three year anniversary of multiple testimonies before the U.S. House of Representatives by members of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (Click on the group name to see a description) on the continuous toxic legacy left by America’s spraying during the war.

A Huey helicopter unleashing the "Orange Rain"

A Huey helicopter unleashing the “Orange Rain”

All I hope for in return is for you to do one or more of three things: 1) DOWNLOAD AND READ THIS BOOK, and increase your knowledge and awareness of the horrific nature of Agent Orange and Monsanto and the necessity of FIGHTING BACK against abusers 2) TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT IT / SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA 3) If you like the book, POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON, even if it’s just a quick paragraph about what you liked!

Here’s an interview with me on the Vegan Hedonists blog

Here are some things readers have said about Orange Rain:

“I’m always up for a plot in which the little guy fights back against the big guy. And you can’t get bigger than Monsanto. Go, Max!…Rapists getting beaten. Poisoners getting poisoned. Dogs getting liberated. That kind of justice is always so cathartic. I don’t read enough of it.” -J.C.

Orange Rain is fast-paced and excitinga tale of pure beauty.” -M.N.

“You must read this, my peeps. You must relish the dark humor, the excitement, predicaments, the shredding of evil entities, the endings that make the world go ’round. I don’t care how the academics describe this book – I’m doing it my way: you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be singing from rooftops. Oh, yes you will!” -A.L.

A rollicking adventure in which a search for legs and revenge leads to a cross-country trip jam-packed with thrills, chills, and seat-of-the-pants escapes…Exhilarating, thought-provoking, and relevant, Orange Rain is worth your time!” -J.

“I loved this book! I literally couldn’t put it down. It explores some really serious topics (veterans and PTSD, chemicals and the environment, fat corporate America) in a fairly dark but wildly funny twisted way that engaged me from the first page.” -R.S.

Fun/ny Interview With Me on Vegan Hedonists

RE: my new self-published novel Orange Rain:

http://veganhedonists.com/blogs/interview-vegan-author-jan-smitowicz

januscript

Read about/purchase my novel here:

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-ebook/dp/B00DEJT83Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373314364&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

July 4 Excerpt From my Novel

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-ebook/dp/B00DEJT83Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372960903&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

Quick context: One of the book’s three main characters, Andre, a mid-20s black man, is staging a Fourth of July protest outside the Alamo in San Antonio, TX. He stands by a banner he made and tied up to a fence that proclaims, FORGET THE ALAMO, bookended by two pictures: one of a Confederate Flag in flames, the other an American flag in flames. He gets on his megaphone to deliver his message to the hundreds of people milling around and waiting to get into the Alamo, and here we are (WARNING: racial slurs):

After an hour, he gets on the bullhorn and begins shouting his message to the masses milling around in front of the Alamo, to passersby, and to those waiting in line to be spoon-fed information on the “heroic” acts of Davy Crocket and James Bowie as they fought off the armies of General Santa Anna, the tour guides likely making only passing mention—if any at all—that these “brave” frontiersmen were slave-sustainers illegally occupying Mexican land. “Do ya’ll even know what you’re celebrating?” Andre cries. The volume’s turned up to 6. His voice booms out and reverberates off the scaly walls of the famous building. “You’re celebrating the legacy of black enslavement.” He pauses for dramatic effect. “That’s right.” He briefly relates the story of Mexico and Texas’s land dispute. Andre figures the following: If your idea of a (holi)day well spent is waiting in line for several hours to be led on a bland tour of the Alamo, you probably have the approximate attention span of a six-year-old with severe ADD. And the sophistication of an equally-aged retarded kid. So he’s gotta speak in short sound bites.
“Shut yer gahdamn mouth!” an obese man yells as he passes, Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand. Seems the police are ignoring public drinking laws for the day. That’s about the extent of freedom for the masses of Americans—lemme get shitfaced (on the drugs deemed legal, that is), and don’t bother us with the oppression of somebody else. The freedom of idleness and apathy.
“Shut up!” another man shouts. “This is the Fourth of Juh-ly.” As if that alone were justification to silence all criticism and dissent, no matter how legitimate.
“Yes, it is the Fourth—that’s the point! This country was built on land stolen from American Indians and Mexicans,” Andre megaphones, trying to keep his voice steady in the ugly face of mounting animosity. People lined up outside the Alamo have begun shouting as well. Expletives come hurling at him like golf balls at a driving range. “And on the backs of African slaves. This country you’re celebrating would not exist were it not for genocide and enslavement! Why are you celebrating the Alamo, a symbol of slavery?”
“Fuck off!” a middle-aged woman in a pretty blue dress snarls, stomping up to Andre. “People are just trying to enjoy the holiday, take your Communist bullshit somewhere else.”
Andre stares at her for several moments, this attractive, respectable-looking woman, stunned by her aggression. Finally he says, “Ever heard of the First Amendment?”
“You’re taking advantage of the freedoms of the country you claim to hate. You’re a hypocrite!”
Andre rolls his eyes, shakes his head with a guttural scoff. Why do people have to be so goddamn stupid? “I’m not talking about this country’s legal, pseudo-form of freedom. I’m talking about the simple human right to freedom of speech. I don’t need a law telling me I can say whatever the fuck I want, just like I don’t need a law telling me I’m a human being, rather than just three-fifths of one.”
“Fuck you,” someone shouts in the distance, “and your sign. Go back to California, nigger.”
“Go to commie Russia and see how far you get with your lofty ideals,” the woman in the blue dress says. “See if they respect your ‘human rights’!”
“No, I think I’ll stay here,” Andre says. “This is where I was born, this is where I grew up, and this is my home—because my ancestors were torn away from their homes and shipped over here stuffed in boxes to build this fucking country. Now I’m not gonna speak to you anymore. Please drop dead, you fucking miserable cunt.” He raises the megaphone back to his mouth and looks away from her slack-jawed face.

Short Excerpt From My Novel

My novel Orange Rain is now available on Amazon Kindle, or with the free Kindle app on your iPhone or Android, for just $5! Here’s the page:

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-ebook/dp/B00DEJT83Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372109912&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

Check out this short excerpt to whet your appetite. The three main characters–Mai Linh, a Vietnamese former prostitute and Agent Orange victim, Max, a legless Vietnam veteran and also an Agent Orange victim, and Andre, an ebullient young black man, have just stolen 2 ounces of cocaine from a frat house in El Paso, Texas; the coke dealers have just discovered the drugs on Andre and are planning to lynch him in their back yard…

Mai stops in her tracks, frozen by the surreal violence of the scene. She takes in all of it in a few quick sweeps. Three men drag Andre’s limp body toward an oak tree at the edge of the yard. Andre’s nose and mouth and University of Texas sweater are bloodied; he’s dazed. His limbs droop. He’s still stunned from the Taser shock. A fourth young man is hanging a thick length of rope, tied into a noose, from one of the oak’s thicker branches.
All four white men stop, staring at the back porch. Max sits there, pointing his gun at them. “Why don’t you stop for a second,” Max calls, “and think about just what the fuck you’re doing.”
Mai is frightened by the wild-eyed look on Max’s face. She’s seen him angry, many, many times, especially on this trip, but now it far surpasses all else. It is a murderous rage, perhaps mitigated only through bloodshed.
Greg flings away Andre’s arm in disgust. He reaches behind his back and pulls out a .45—a real handgun. “We’re gonna do whatever the fuck we want, you burnout cripple.”
Max laughs, and there is actually humor in it. “You’re 35 feet away, son. Really think you can hit me with that?”
A moment of uncertainty, hesitation. “Better than your little toy.”
“It’s the man holding the weapon that counts. You go down to your little shooting range with your big caliber handgun and act like you’re the shit. Well this ain’t a motherfuckin range. This is live fire, little boy, and I bet what’s left of my limbs that you have exactly dick-all of experience when it comes to live combat. I killed gooks a lot younger than me, when I was a lot younger than you, from a lot farther away than this. Go ahead and touch my friend again–go ahead! I’ll put a fucking bullet between your eyes.”

MY NOVEL PUBLISHED!

Spraying the "Orange Rain"

Spraying the “Orange Rain”

I am so incredibly elated to announce that I have e-published my novel Orange Rain!! Teaser “back cover” info below. It is available for Amazon Kindle, but even if you don’t have one, you can download the free Kindle app for your iPhone or Android and purchase it that way.

This is a highly political novel. Whatever little money I make is by far secondary to my desire to get the book out there, to have it be read, to have the ideas spread. Here’s a description of it:

Max Wright is homicidally enraged with the people who wrecked his life—people he has never met or even seen. The Vietnam War left him poisoned and cancer-ridden from the spraying of Agent Orange, legless, and addicted to heroin, forced to sell drugs to support his habit and suppress his pain. Now he’s kicked heroin, and burns for revenge on the loathsome corporation that manufactured Agent Orange.

With his Vietnamese ex-prostitute girlfriend, Mai Linh, Max hitchhikes across mid-1980s America. Destination: Florida, where a university medical clinic is performing cutting-edge prosthetic leg implants. Only when he is able-bodied, Max reasons, can he attempt an attack on the corporation that ravaged his body, and decimated Mai Linh’s family and life. Hot on Max and Mai’s trail is Victor Lim, the “Oriental Massage Parlor” owner whose money they stole and penis they snapped in half following a rape attempt.

From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas, from the urban-industrial hideout of militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys, Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next. It sways between hilarity and horror, and explores the dark places in America where the two intersect. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific cruelty and suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit.

Orange Rain is rife with humor darker than the Marlboro Man’s coffee (and his lung cancer). It is like no other book you’ve ever read.

This novel is truly a wild ride–strap yourself in 😉 Please check it out! Please purchase if it sounds interesting! Please share with friends/family/local clergy!

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-ebook/dp/B00DEJT83Y/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371280838&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Orange+Rain+Jan+Smitowicz

Occupy Monsanto!

It is Occupy Monsanto and International Action Against Biohazard Week.  So in honor of that, I decided to post a (relatively short) excerpt from my fourth novel, called Orange Rain, which is about a legless Vietnam veteran and his Vietnamese prostitute girlfriend’s journey across mid-80s America to get revenge on Monsanto for the havoc its manufacturing of Agent Orange wreaked on their lives.

Deformity in a Vietnamese villager caused by the spraying of Monsanto’s Agent Orange; deformities are staggeringly common, even several generations later.

Agent Orange–a 50-50 mixture of the chemicals 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T–is actually clear; it’s named after the orange 55-gallon barrels in which it was sent to Southeast Asia.

A quick bit of context so this passage makes sense:  Max Wright is the legless veteran, Andre is a young black musician, their friend and traveling companion, and Mai Linh Tranh is the Vietnamese woman who is telling her story in this passage.  They’ve been traveling east from the west coast for over a week together now, headed for Florida, trying to gather enough money together for a $15,000 cutting-edge prosthetic leg implant for Max; only when he’s able-bodied, he reasons, can he exact appropriate revenge on Monsanto.  This is fiction, but it may as well not be–the things of which Mai speaks happened to countless people throughout the vile Vietnam War and America’s horrific, chemical warfare targeted directly on civilians.  Here is my excerpt:

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In the lilting, powerful manner of those who have faced the dark macabre heart of modern life head-on and survived—barely—Mai tells her story.

She grew up in a small agricultural village in Phuoc Tuy province, a hundred miles southwest of Saigon.  Amid the great palm jungles.  The local economy was almost exclusively centered on growing rice, bananas, mangos, plantains, coconuts and jackfruit for Saigon and the surrounding cities, as well as export to France, which still had official colonial ties to the country until the mid-‘50s.  Mai grew up picking fruit.  She studied in the local school for children.  She read the work of Vietnamese poets, and the occasional literature from America and Europe translated into Vietnamese or French.  As a child, she learned both languages, that of home country and colonial power, simultaneously.

The village was small, quiet, peaceful.  It had a few hundred residents living in raised huts constructed of materials from the surrounding forests.  Dense forests of palm trees, fruit trees, thick brush, and ferns twice as tall as she, leaves larger than a grown man.  The children of the village explored and played in the forests.  Forests inhabited by monkeys, beautiful exotic birds, innumerable denizens.

Mai explains how she was raised to view the animals with kindness and reverence.  While much of Vietnam became industrialized after the World Wars and the French influence, a lot of its smaller hamlets retained a firm indigenous flavor, a strong connection to its past.  The forests and animals were viewed not as outside resources to exploit, but as an integral part of their community.

In the mid-‘60s, when the pall of widespread warfare between their northern brethren and America was falling over South Vietnam, Mai married a childhood friend.  His name was Tuc.  He too worked in the fruit plantations—climbing coconut trees with just his hands and feet and a rope wrapped around his waist, cutting down fruit with a machete.  Below, women came with baskets and collected the coconuts.  Tuc wrote poetry in the evenings.  After each night’s work he read it to her; she gave him feedback.

In 1966, the year America officially entered the conflict between North and South Vietnam, Tuc and Mai had their first child.  They named her Binh Luc.  The war had yet to touch their village with its heaviest hand.  Most of the villagers were Buddhist—morally opposed to all violence.  They’d heard of how the North Vietnamese Army occupied jungles throughout the south, how they hid from Americans, emerging to strike and then withdraw quickly back into its dense cover.  But their village was relatively close to Saigon, an American stronghold.  They simply wanted to be left alone, to go about their lives in peace until the regrettable conflict was over.

But it was not to be.  In early 1969, the North Vietnamese occupied the village, using it to provide food for one of their forest encampments, twenty kilometers away.  The villagers knew the NVA could be ruthless.  But to these particular people the North Vietnamese were largely humane–they knew the importance of steady decentralized food supplies.  They only killed people who resisted them.  If the villagers denied the NVA its food, they would be massacred.  But as a provider of resources to the enemy, they risked attracting the ire of American and South Vietnamese forces.  And so it was that Mai’s village was trapped in the middle, even though they’d never moved.

They stayed in place—the war came to them.

Some of the villagers spoke in small meetings, in hushed nervous voices, of fighting back.  They could knock off individual VC with their machetes.  Then take their guns and expand their ability to resist.  Others were just as vehemently opposed to the idea; both for pacifistic reasons, and for strategic ones.  Tuc wanted to fight.  America is the world’s superpower.  It was only a matter of time, he argued, before they found out what was going on.  Only by joining the fight did they stand a chance to be spared in the least from its distant technological brutality.  A consensus was never reached.

In the fall of 1969, Mai became pregnant with their second child.  It was unintentional, but they believed pregnancies should be carried to birth, even in such volatile times.  Before the end of the year, American Special Forces discovered that the village was providing an NVA encampment with large amounts of food.  Within a week, the jungles and rice paddies around the village started being sprayed with Agent Orange.

“Fuck!” Max cries.  He clenches his fists, shakes his head with gritted teeth.  “That’s why you were so upset when I was talking about it.”

Mai nods in quick slight motions.  She’s holding the tears and sorrow at bay–just barely.  She continues.  Wanting to finish as fast as possible now that she’s started.

This time, the spraying wasn’t solely to kill off the forest cover for enemy troops.  It was to poison and destroy their food supply.  Just like with the genocide of American Indians in the early to mid-19th century, when U.S. cavalries massacred entire herds of buffalo.  If you can’t kill the enemy directly, you can kill them just as effectively by destroying their ability to feed themselves.  Except this strategy, clinical and utterly detached from reality, neglected to consider the noncombatants caught in the middle.  But that was the attitude of most American decision-makers.  If you’re not with us, you’re with the enemy.  A common saying during the war:  “If he’s dead and he’s Vietnamese, he was VC.”

Health problems erupted in the village.  Outbreaks of chloracne—enormous pus-filled boils that could cover large areas of the body—were common.  Tuc began coughing almost constantly, and got so dizzy at times he’d have to sit down.  When she was three months pregnant, Mai had a miscarriage.

With that, Max sits up and screams wordlessly and punches the back window of the van with a shuddering crack.  A white starburst fans out from the point of impact.  Andre swerves, jolted by the sudden noise.  He regains control and then pulls over to the side of the road.  He shuffles, crouching, to the back of the van and sits next to Max and Mai.  He takes her hand, rubs the back of it.  Turns to Max.  “Hey, it’s gonna be alright.  Don’t break my window.”  He holds his hand out to Max, too.  Max takes it.  Mai’s tears flow once more, but she forces herself to go on.

Dozens of other pregnant women in the village suffered the same fate.  Only four babies were carried to term during that period, and three of them were disfigured.  Two had cleft palates and missing and gnarled fingers.  The third was born with a back and shoulder deformity that hunched her over so far, she had to walk on her hands as well as her feet.  Like one of the primates in the surrounding jungles.

The villagers tried to plead with the Americans to stop, but they were all but invisible.  Finally a group of men in the village, including Tuc, decided they could no longer sit by passively while their wives and children and friends were chemically slaughtered.  Mai suggests that Tuc knew his sickness–the horrible chloracne that dotted and disfigured his beautiful face and body, and the chronic bronchitis–was a forebear of something much worse; that he sensed his own impending death, and had to do something concrete with the time he had left.  He promised to return.  But when they said goodbye, they acted like it was their last moment together.

A horrendous, nail-biting, nearly sleepless week later, only two of the fifteen villagers who ventured into the forest returned.  They were both badly injured, near death.

Tuc was not one of them.

The two survivors told the weeping villagers what happened.  They first came upon a group of five NVA a few kilometers from the village.  They attacked with their machetes.  With the element of surprise, they killed all five NVA, losing only two of their own.  It was the first time any of them had shed human blood.  But their goal was not to kill North Vietnamese.  It was to stop the spraying.  The villagers took the soldiers’ AK-47s, pistols, and half a dozen grenades, as well as physical evidence of their attack to show the Americans.

For three days, they tromped through the forest, following the path of Huey helicopters.  Eventually they came to a landing zone.  One of the villagers spoke passable English.  They pleaded with the Americans to stop spraying Agent Orange in and around their village.  The villagers even showed them pieces of bloody NVA clothing and told them about killing the group in the jungle, and how they didn’t want to be a part of the conflict; they just wanted their families to be safe.  The Americans threatened to shoot them if they didn’t leave.  Three of the villagers—all of whom had sick children or a wife that miscarried—snapped.  One of them threw a grenade into a helicopter, and the other two started shooting.  The helicopter exploded in a calamitous blast of heat and shrapnel.  Tuc took a piece of helicopter blade the size of their machetes in his thigh.  The Americans began shooting back.  The rest of the villagers, the unarmed ones, tried to escape into the jungle.  Most were gunned down by the Americans, even as they tried to surrender.

Tuc, limping badly and gushing blood, was in that group.

The spraying stopped several months later, only after pressure from citizen and scientist groups back in the states.  In the interim, Mai, still ripped apart from the death of Tuc, lost her five-year-old daughter as well.  Binh’s kidneys failed and she died slowly, painfully.  Modern medicine would have saved her.  But of course, without the modern technology that medicine was a part of, she wouldn’t have been sick in the first place.

Mai was shredded to pieces, in a daze of sorrow.  She lost her baby, her husband and lifetime friend, and her daughter, all in the space of a couple years.  As a War Widow she was eligible for a special, little-known American program.

Toward the end of the war, the Americans whisked her away to California, to Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County, as part of an alleged humanitarian project to help families shattered in Vietnam.  There, the refugees were trained in American culture by soldiers, given counseling for their grief, and released into this strange new world most of them hadn’t asked to be taken to.  Mai certainly didn’t want to be there.  She was confused, in a haze, alone…

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“During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 US gallons (75,700,000 l) of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia…”   -From the wikipedia page for “Agent Orange”

Here’s a three-part Chicago Tribune article about America’s continuing denial of Agent Orange’s toxic legacy in the form of cancer, rampant birth defects, etc.

Monsanto says their Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) like corn and soy and recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones (rGBH) are perfectly safe for human (and nonhumans who humans eat) consumption–YET GMOs ARE BANNED IN MONSANTO’S OWN CORPORATE CAFETERIA. Fishier than trout pussy, isn’t it?