by W. H. Payne
Danny O'Connor sat on an upholstered barstool in the cool dimness and stirred his third seven and seven of the evening. The air conditioner droned and Johnny Cash was telling how he had fallen into a ring of fire and how it burned, burned, burned.
On the wall behind the bar hung crossed AK-47 assault rifles and beneath them a red and blue Viet Cong flag with a yellow star in the middle. Beneath that was mounted the long, black, wicked-looking barrel of a Soviet-built recoilless rifle.
Souvenirs of the never-ending war, thought Danny.
He fired up another Lucky and looked around at the other sergeants talking quietly in small groups at the tables scattered across the floor of the little Quonset hut. He thought of how much he liked the Sergeants Club.
In this, his second tour in Viet Nam, he had become well acquainted with the NCO clubs in the Da Nang area. On his first tour, as a grunt with the 1st Marine Division, he had rarely seen the inside of a club. Now that he was assigned to the Air Wing, swinging with the Wing, he had become a connoisseur.
He liked the Sergeants Club because it was cool. Not just the air-conditioning, all the clubs had that, but because it was quiet and calm. It was for E-5 Sergeants only, not for corporals and sergeants like the 4-5 clubs, which were big and noisy, or the 1-2-3 clubs for the lowest three enlisted ranks; privates, PFCs and lance corporals, which featured 18 year-olds puking into big plastic garbage cans and slipping on spilled beer. He wasn't a staff NCO, so he didn't get to go to the clubs for the senior sergeants and didn't want to anyway as they were filled with old guys in their thirties and forties.
No, he thought; give me the Sergeants Club every time. The best club in the 1st Marine Air Wing compound, except for the music. Danny preferred The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix, Janis, The Doors, and The Temptations, not necessarily in that order. The Sergeants Club musical selections ran more often to country and western. But Johnny Cash was okay.