Excerpts from my Novels and Works in Progress
THE FENDER - A Novel
The following is an excerpt from The Fender. It is the story of a Fender guitar and the family that owned it. It follows the path of two cousins as they go their separate ways. One's path leads to the Swift Boats in Vietnam and then to the LAPD, while the other's path takes him on an adventurous rock and roll tour.
THE RED HEADED, Dallas T. Peacock, had been assigned to another
Swift Boat that its crew affectionately called the Tin Can. They had
also been assigned to patrol the shoreline around Rach Gia Bay. The
Tin Can was skippered by Lieutenant Junior Grade, Amos Clark, who
had decided to get an early start and get to Rach Gia Bay, which was
just off the western coast of the Mekong Delta, while there was
enough daylight to board and search as many junks as possible before
“This is getting a little boring,” said Dallas. “How many of these
junks have we been on that don’t have anything on ‘em? Not even a
fish. That reminds me about the story of Simon Peter, the Big Fisherman,
in the book of Luke.
“Oh, no, not another one of your sermons,” whined Boatswain’s
Mate, Bobby Morgan.
“Peter was out fishin’ with his buddies all night and they didn’t
catch a single fish. Jesus walks up to ‘em on the beach while they was
watchin’ their nets and tells Peter to take that boat back out to the
deep water and toss his net back in,” continued Dallas without taking
a breath. “Peter says, they’d been out all night and didn’t get a bite,
however, he says “Okay Jesus, if you say so,” and he goes back out,
tosses his net and…bingo! He’s got more fish than he could shake a
stick at. Couldn’t even haul ‘em into the boat.”
“Preacher, what’s that got to do with anything?” asked Morgan.
“Well, if you give up your old ways, Bobby, and listen to the Lord,
and do what He has to say, your life will be blessed,” answered Dallas.
“I ain’t ready to give up my old ways just yet,” chimed Morgan.
“When I get back to Saigon I’m gonna find me one of them cute little
hoochie mamas and…”
“And catch some kind of sexually transmitted disease,” warned the
boat’s Radioman, Hector Gonzales. “You know, the kind where your
manhood just…falls off,” he laughed.
“Got somethin’ in the water!” yelled Lt. Clark. “Off the port bow.”
“What the heck is that?” asked Morgan as he scurried over to the
port side to get a better look through his binoculars.
Bobbing in the water between the Tin Can and shore was a crude
four by six-foot basket weaved bamboo raft. In the center of the raft
was a five foot long pole, which flew the Viet Cong flag.
“It’s got a V.C. flag on it, skipper,” advised Morgan.
“Gunner, keep your eyes peeled on the tree line along the shore,”
ordered Lt. Clark. “They might be trying to lure us in.”
Tyler “Gunner” Chitwood, a backwoods Georgia boy barely 18
years old, wheeled the .50 caliber machine gun around and scoured
the shoreline for the enemy. His right index finger caressed the
trigger ever so slightly, ready for anything that moved.
Lt. Clark maneuvered the Swift Boat close to the unmanned raft,
and then circled it several times. “This could be booby trapped,” he
said suspiciously. “Peacock, toss a couple of grenades in it!”
Dallas grabbed two hand grenades and made his way to the port
side of the boat. He pulled the pin, and then lobbed the grenade right
onto the deck of the small raft. The grenade exploded but did not
cause any visible damage to the small bamboo raft. He pulled the pin
on the second grenade and chucked it into the raft. Again, it exploded
but nothing happened. The raft continued to bob in the water and the
Viet Cong flag continued to defiantly wave.
“They’re taunting us with this friggin’ thing,” grumbled Lt. Clark.
“That’s what they’re doin’…taunting us with an enemy flag!”
“Pull alongside, Skipper, and I’ll snatch it off of there,” said Bobby
“Keep your eyes peeled, Gunner,” advised Lt. Clark as he drifted
alongside the makeshift raft, with the twin diesel engines idling on the
Tin Can. Gunner searched the shoreline, but nothing moved, and
there was no sign of the enemy or anyone for that matter.
Morgan reached out and attempted to pull the flag from its pole,
but was unable to do so. In a frustrated, last ditch effort he reached
out as far as he could and was able to grasp the pole and pull it toward
him. Suddenly, an explosion occurred that sent Morgan flying head
over heels into the water. The blast was so strong that Gunner was
also blown overboard and Lt. Clark was trapped in the twisted debris
of the pilothouse. The Tin Can’s hull was ripped wide open and it was
The violent explosion had sent Preacher careening across the
deck and slamming into the boat’s pilothouse, breaking his left
forearm and putting a four-inch-long gash on his forehead. He lay
motionless on the deck dazed and disoriented. Suddenly, he was
drawn to the fact that the boat was sinking when a wave broke
across the deck and splashed his face. It was then he heard the calls
for help by his trapped Lieutenant. Preacher staggered to his feet
and sloshed his way aft, grabbed the life raft and flung it in the
direction of Bobby Morgan who had just surfaced and was treading
water. The Swift Boat’s deck was awash and only the top of the
cabin was visible above the waves. Partially blinded by the blood that
streamed into his left eye, he squeezed into the twisted compartment
and saw Lt. Clark’s head barely above water, the lieutenant gasped
for breath as the water continued to rise. Preacher dove under the
water and observed that both of Clark’s leg were pinned in the
wreckage. He pulled on the twisted metal, but was only able to free
one of his legs before having to surface for a breath of air. Once
again, he dove down and yanked on the debris, finally freeing
Clark’s other leg he pulled him out on the flooded compartment and
to the surface. Morgan had maneuvered the life raft over the now
sunken boat, and helped pull the crippled and bleeding lieutenant on
“Where’s Gunner?” yelled Preacher as he frantically searched the
“I haven’t seen him,” replied Morgan. “I can’t find Gonzales either.”
“We got to get this raft away from the boat and the shore,” winced
“Got to get a tourniquet on that leg of your’s, Lieutenant,” advised
Morgan. “You’re losing a lot of blood,” he added as he removed his
belt and fastened it tightly around Clark’s right thigh.
The Tin Can had completely disappeared beneath the waves. The
only thing left was the tiny life raft and three crewmen. Suddenly, the
crack of a sniper’s rifle echoed from the mango trees along the shoreline.
The three survivors were under attack.
“Get this raft farther away from shore,” ordered the lieutenant.
Morgan paddled frantically. Preacher, who was still in the water,
pushed the raft with one hand and kicked his feet hard and steady
until the raft had moved farther out into the Bay. The sniper’s bullets
seemed to fall short of their mark, and splashed harmlessly in the
“Anybody get a radio? Weapons?” groaned Lt. Clark.
“No, sir,” replied Morgan. “I could go back, dive down to the boat
and see if I could recover…”
“No. I can’t risk losing another man,” interrupted Clark. “Here,
help Peacock on board.”
“Come on, Preacher. Give me your hand,” stated Morgan as he
pulled Preacher onto the raft.
“I think my left arm’s broken,” stated Preacher.
“You got a big cut on your head, too,” said Morgan.
“I’m worried about the Lieutenant,” stated Morgan. “He’s lost a lot
of blood, and if we don’t get some help for him soon…”
Swift Boat 7, dubbed Lucky 7 by its skipper, Lt. Brady Magana, had
just started patrolling the waters of Rach Gia Bay when they heard the
loud explosion that had sank the Tin Can.
“Head in the direction of that explosion,” ordered Lt. Magana. “I
don’t know what that was, but it was big.”
“Aye, aye, Lieutenant,” replied Boatswain’s Mate Ted Higgins who
was at the helm. He turned the boat hard to starboard, and the twin
diesel engines roared to life. They headed full speed ahead toward the
sound of the explosion.
“Richardson!” yelled Lt. Magana. “Get those machine guns ready!”
Terrell doubled checked his ammo and swung the machine gun in
the direction of the shoreline. “Aye, aye, Lieutenant,” he replied loudly.
“I be the baddest mutha on the planet,” he added in a whisper.
“Brewster, keep your binoculars trained toward shore,” ordered
the Lieutenant as he pointed in the direction they were headed. “Roca,
keep your eyes peeled for other boats. We don’t want anybody
sneaking up on us.”
“Aye, aye, Lieutenant,” Joey and I said in unison as our hearts
pounded and our adrenaline flowed.
In the distance, dark clouds had formed over the three small
mountains that were known as the Three Sisters. A stiff breeze blew
across the water that caused white caps to appear, and the ocean
became choppy. The Lucky 7 and its crew continued full speed ahead,
and skimmed over the water like a stone tossed across a pond. It’s
crew on alert, ready for anything.
I peered through my binoculars and for a moment I thought he
saw something in the distance rise and fall between the waves. I knew
that the Tin Can had set out early and could be in the vicinity, but
there was no sign of the Swift Boat. This object was way too small to be a
boat, I thought. Perhaps, it was my imagination?
“See anything, Brewster?” queried Lt. Magana as he searched the
Bay through his binoculars.
“I thought I saw something two or three hundred yards over
there…,” I replied as I pointed in the direction we were headed.
“There! There it is! It looks like a life raft, sir. Three people on board,”
“We don’t know what or who they are, so everybody…be on the
alert. Full speed ahead, Higgins,” ordered Lt. Magana. “Get ready,
Terrell Richardson looked down the barrel of the machine gun and
now had the life raft in his sights, his finger on the trigger. “Aye, aye,
sir,” he responded.
“Hold it! Hold on!” I shouted.
“It’s Dallas Peacock and two others from the Tin Can,” yelled Joey.
“I’d know that red head of his anywhere.”
“Bring her about,” ordered Lt. Magana. “Easy. Careful, Higgins.”
Boatswain’s Mate Higgins cut the engines on the Swift Boat and
attempted to bring it alongside the life raft, however, the waves were
greater now making the rescue extremely more difficult and dangerous.
To make matters worse, the storm was now directly on us and we
were caught in a torrential downpour.
“Toss ‘em a line, Roca,” yelled the Lieutenant over a loud clap of
Joey tossed a line right into the outstretched arms of Boatswain’s
Mate, Bobby Morgan, who tied it off on the life raft to keep it from
drifting away from the Swift Boat.
“Toss me another line,” yelled Morgan. “Lieutenant Clark’s hurt
real bad. We got to get him to the hospital in Rach Gia right away.”
“Rach Gia? I don’t think we can get him there in time, with this
storm!” yelled Lt. Magana.
“And, I don’t even know if a helicopter can fly in this stuff.
Higgins, get on the radio and see if we can get a med-evac helo here
Morgan pulled the other line tight, and looped it around Dallas
Peacock’s upper body.
“Hang on, Preacher,” ordered Morgan. “They’re gonna pull you up
Preacher was pulled up onto the deck of the Lucky 7 by Joey and I.
“My left arm’s broken, and my head…hurts,” stated Preacher. “Lt.
Clark is hurt really bad. Lost a lot of blood. Got to get him to…”
Preacher didn’t finish the sentence and passed out on the deck.
“We got to get Lt. Clark on board,” I stated. “The rafts taking on
water and it’s going to sink.”
Joey and I, with the assistance from Boatswain’s Mate, Morgan,
were able to get an unconscious Lt. Clark onto the deck of the Swift
Boat. Morgan then pulled himself up and collapsed with exhaustion
on the deck in the pouring rain.
“What happened to the Tin Can?” asked Lt. Magana.
“I think it was a mine,” answered Morgan as he sat up with his
back resting against the cabin.
“A mine? You hit a mine?” queried a bewildered Lt. Magana.
“We lost Gonzales and…”
“You hit a mine?”
“Gunner. We lost Gunner too,” said Morgan.
“We heard an explosion,” I said.
“Yes, it was a raft, with a Viet Cong flag…booby trapped with a
mine. Sunk us. Went down fast. Lost Gonzales and little Gunner. He
was just a kid,” rambled Morgan as he put his head in his hands and
started to sob.
The sound of an Army helicopter drowned out any further
conversation. It hovered above the Swift Boat, but it was having a
hard time due to the inclement weather conditions. Finally, after
numerous attempts, they were able to haul the injured lieutenant on
board the helicopter. On the helo, medics replaced the tourniquet on
Lt. Clark’s leg and administered some morphine for the pain. Before
taking off the pilot radioed Lt. Magana and apologized for not being
able to fly out the injured Dallas Peacock, but because of the storm
and the darkness of night it made it too dangerous.
Lt. Magana relieved Morgan at the helm. “Morgan, help those that
are injured into the cabin and get them some blankets. We are headin’
for Rach Gia as fast as this baby can go!” Magana pushed the throttle
to the hilt, and the Lucky 7 was at full speed, bouncing across the
waves in a matter of seconds.