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Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale

Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale

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Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale

216 pagine
2 ore
Jul 26, 2011


Lies come in three forms: lies that we told, lies told to us, and truths left untold. In Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale, retired oilman David Canfil is deeply impacted by all three kinds, as he confronts both terminal cancer and his own extraordinary wealth. A wounded warrior in the Viet Nam War, David was left with a missing leg and disfiguring shrapnel scars. A cutting-edge robotic prosthesis and a demanding career in Dallas have afforded him some measure of distraction from his inner suffering.
Keeping his cancer a secret, David organizes a reunion of his war buddies, and they visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. While visiting “The Wall”, a dramatic sequence of events propels the band of brothers to David's LearJet, which takes them to Hanoi, now called Ho Chi Minh City. Each man has his own personal quest: the quantum physicist, Kevin, hopes to reunite with his Vietnamese bride in Dalat, and the university professor, Macon, needs to defend his position on war and promote his new book. The homeless junkie, Dalton, must defy his demons, but the holistic healer, Pham, just simply wants to go home. David's dying wish is to find his dear love Maggie, the photojournalist whom he thought had died.
Their adventures in modern-day Vietnam range from spiritual epiphany to science fiction; including time travel and discovery of Buddhist enlightenment. The cosmic consequences of all the lies embroil everyone into a dangerous dilemma with an aging Catholic nun and a cowboy from West Texas.

Jul 26, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Vicki Smart Penhall is a truly engaging and readable author of short fiction novels. As a performing artist, she is an actor, comedian, director and a Texas singer/songwriter. She hails from Houston; was mostly educated at Texas Tech University, and holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Texas A&M University. As an educator, she has taught high school and college writing and theater, and regularly serves as an adjudicator for UIL academic and theater competitions.

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Anteprima del libro

Lies From The Past - Vicki Smart Penhall

Lies From The Past:

A Viet Nam Tale


Story by

Vicki Smart Penhall

Poetry and Photography by

Wm. Stephen Edwards

Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale

Penhall Publishing

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2011 by Vicki Smart Penhall

Poetry and Photography Copyright © 2011 by Wm. Stephen Edwards

Edited by Lindsay Penhall Haley

1. Fiction-General

2. Fiction-Poetry

3. Fiction- War and Military

This book is also available in print edition from several independent bookstores and online retailers, and from the author's website:

Discover other titles by Vicki Smart Penhall at

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



To our courageous troops,

both here and abroad.


Table of Contents



We Were Soldiers

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Hail to the Dead

Chapter Three

The Ceremony

Chapter Four

Discordant Basic Training

Chapter Five

Viet Verse # 1

Chapter Six

Raw Wrong

Chapter Seven

The Blow Severe

Chapter Eight

First Flying

Part Two: RETURN

Broken String

Chapter Nine

Grasping God

Chapter Ten

Watered Heaven

Chapter Eleven

David and Goliath

Chapter Twelve

Soul Rape

Chapter Thirteen

Goodbye ‘Nam

Chapter Fourteen


Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty



About the Author

About the Poet/Photographer

Connect with us online


This story was percolating in my head when I ran into my friend, Steve Edwards, poet and speech therapist for Austin ISD, at a college reunion. At the time I had a son who wanted to get an education and serve his country through a collegiate ROTC program.

As Steve was the only one of our group of friends at Texas Tech to respond to the draft and serve a tour of duty in Viet Nam, I engaged him in a conversation about what, if any, good comes from being a soldier at war. His responses were surprising, and led us to agree to collaborate on my story.

Steve would allow me free access to his wonderful canon of poetry that fit so powerfully between the chapters. He also gave me a compact disc of his service photos from which I took so much inspiration. I have included many of them.

We may not have answered the question that day about the relative value of military service; however, we addressed the issues and concerns that arise from making the unselfish choice to serve. Issues such as physical and mental damage, racial and cultural conflict, drug addiction, and horrific personal losses: those issues are addressed head-on within the lives of the characters in Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale.

The story is fiction. The setting is not strictly geographically accurate, but the places are real and the characters drawn from real people. Vietnam is a lush and beautiful country with as many climate zones and topographical features as the state of Texas, where our story begins.

Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale is not about the clash of political differences. It is not an indictment of leadership or lack thereof of any of the countries involved. The story is about the residual effects of the clash of cultures. Since both the forces in the East supporting North Vietnam and the Western allies of South Vietnam, U.S., France, and Australia were all virtuous, beautiful and meritorious cultures, the reactions and attractions were bound to be mutual.

Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale is a romance in the truest sense of the word: it concerns a man and a woman in a war-time setting requiring sacrifice on scales both massive and miniscule. The book may even be classified as science-fiction except the technologically advanced times we live in make the events plausible. The book is written from a male point of view with, at times, male language. The outcome of the story is both bitter and sweet, as is life

Lies From The Past: A Viet Nam Tale is ultimately about the outcome of lies, ones we tell, ones told to us, and truth omitted, which is a lie in itself. Truth or untruth depends on a number of variables including information and intent. Most of the time, veracity is a matter of choice. In this story, which begins in today’s time and modern places, lies told in the past have life-altering influences four decades in the making.

Back to top

Part One


We Were Soldiers

We were soldiers once, and young

But neither now

Death, death, die death

All our breath is borrowed

And I thought there would never be a moment

More weary than then

‘Til I carried this soul for a score and ten

Draped with the death of innocent men

Who died when I lived

Death, death, die death

It’s a terrible why

To feel guilty for each waking breath

Steve Edwards

Back to top

Chapter One

What is that pounding? Why won’t it stop?

The darkness was thick, organic and putrid, interrupted only by silent and blinding flashes of incoming mortar fire.

That’s weird. No sound. Except for that pounding, that relentless, fucking pounding.

"Hey, somebody stop that noise! How can we hear those gook bastards with all that goddamned pounding?"

A mortar rocket lit up the sky, and Corporal David Canfil gaped, not so much in horror as in wonderment, at the sight of dozens of Viet Cong soldiers, faces frozen in death masks, hanging in the palm trees like so many Christmas ornaments.

Shit. Who would string up their dead like that? This can’t be real. No fucking way.

Corp. Canfil ripped his eyes away from the macabre sight upon hearing the stealthy approach of one of his buddies.

Something odd about Simpson. Where is his weapon?

The approaching GI continued to inch forward into the almost stone silent madness.

"Kevin, is that you? Will somebody stop that motherfucking pounding?!"

The GI looked up at Canfil, but it wasn’t Kevin Simpson’s face. It was the gentle face of Maggie Attwood, war correspondent and love of his life, bizarrely out of place in this obscene tropical hellhole.

"Maggie! he screamed over the pounding, What the hell!?"

"I thought you might need a kiss," she called out sweetly, as if they were sitting on a sofa with a couple of root beers.

Maggie reached for her sidearm and produced, instead, a tube of lipstick, Paint-the-Town-Pink by Revlon. She smiled as she twisted up the tube and applied it to her pretty mouth.

"Maggie, what the fuck?" he shouted with sick dread and urgency.

She seemed to be oblivious to the bullets and bombs silently exploding around her as she leaned in to lavishly kiss David Canfil.

David watched in disbelief, with one eye open, as one of the Christmas ornament corpses snapped open its eyes, smiled, and casually, deliberately dropped a live hand grenade between them.

The pounding increased in volume as it slowed down in tempo, becoming distorted and surreal. The world around David and Maggie moved in slow motion. An incoming rocket took on the brilliant aspects of Fourth of July fireworks as it burst overhead. An exotic bird lifted off the ground, wings flapping way too slowly to launch, yet becoming airborne. David moved his eyes toward Maggie who looked curiously at the armed grenade, then tenderly at him, with those eyes.

"No!" he commanded as if saying that would somehow make it not happen.

The enemy grenade burst into fire, fragments, and body parts, blowing David and Maggie in opposite directions.

Suddenly the pounding made sense as David woke up again on a Thursday morning in the next millennium from that ever-recurring nightmare to the sound of his own thundering, heaving breath.

For once, sixty- year- old David Canfil was glad to be alone. He did not need witnesses to the wave of agony that washed over him as he shook off sleep. After forty years of that same horrific nightmare, David marveled at how fresh and intense the pain still was. He stared at the ceiling above his bed, still gasping for breath and trying to slow his heart rate. It was a practiced routine made more and more difficult by his increasing age and deteriorating health.

That reminds me…

David reached for his cell phone and punched the speed dial to his company, Canfil Petroleum Enterprises. He laughed ruefully as he thought how profoundly sad it was that #1 on his cell phone speed dial was his company VP and that there was no #2.

Yeah, Fred, it’s me. Better get yourself a fresh cup of coffee, I have some news.

But not too much information…

David held the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he glanced almost passively at the oncology report on his nightstand. He quickly snapped on his cutting edge robotic leg prosthesis and stood up. Fred Sontag, the company’s vice-president and comptroller, returned to the distant phone line as telegraphed by David Canfil’s warm facial expression.

Yeah, Fred, remember that discussion we had about you running the company when I decide to call it quits? Well, that day has arrived, my friend… Yes, Fred, today.

Back to top

Chapter Two

Nobody was more methodical in his daily routine than the CEO of CPE. On a typical day, David Canfil was up by five o’clock and out the door by six. Breakfast consisted of black coffee and toast with peach preserves, a habit formed growing up on a West Texas family farm where picking peaches in the orchard was just one of many demanding chores.

Breakfast was accompanied by a systematic and comprehensive reading of the Dallas Morning News and The Wall Street Journal. He especially looked for items concerning the world oil markets and the Dallas Cowboys. He left his Los Colinas condo, which was a stone’s throw from his company building, at the appointed time and immaculately groomed.

Entering the monolithic steel doors of his office by 6:15 A.M., David liked being the first one in the building. It pre-empted the dozens of warm and compassionate hellos by the staff. David was not smug, anti-social, or in the least self-conscious about his missing limb. He avoided the friendly greetings because they jarred him from his thoughts, his head teeming with ideas, inventions, and business stratagem. Some of his many employees believed he never left the seven-story office building, that he lived in the top floor suite that housed a private gym (the generous company gym was on the sixth floor), a small one-bedroom apartment, and a hydroponic vegetable and herb garden.

On the seventh and top floor of David’s building, a private and technically advanced office space was nestled within a tropical indoor garden, and customarily, it was there that David first landed in the morning. Normally, the quiet man would read and respond to his most pressing email by eight o’clock, and by nine he would have read them all. It was then time to eat bacon, rice, and yogurt, and run the tread mill for thirty minutes in advance of his gym workout—well, in truth it was physical therapy but his masculine sense of self would not let him call it that.

David’s physical therapist, Pham Mihn lived in the seventh- floor apartment. He also tended both the herbal and the floral gardens. Pham was a small, muscular Vietnamese man with several advanced degrees in botany and physiology abbreviated behind his name. David knew he had been blessed by the long friendship and healing hands of Dr. Mihn. The daily physical therapy sessions were always painful. Scar tissue is ruthless in its nightly renewal, and Dr. Mihn was equally unyielding in his quest to keep David’s partially diminished muscle tissue healthy and pliable enough to utilize the most sophisticated robotic apparatus available.

The arduous PT session was followed by fifteen minutes of dry heat in a cedar-lined sauna. David’s mind would drift inevitably to his tour of duty in Viet Nam. The rain and humidity were foreign to the farm boy from Lubbock, Texas. Sitting in the comfortable warmth of the sauna, he recalled his Army uniform, wet from rain the day before, still wet the next morning and the morning after that. David had vowed, after returning from Nam, that he would never deliberately expose himself to stifling humidity again. Ever.

David, it is time, the gentle voice of Dr. Mihn would rouse David from his troubled thoughts before it was on with his demanding business day.

On a typical day.


But this was not a typical day, and things in his life and business were not at all normal. The usual working lunches, meetings and appointments until five o’clock, followed by planning and strategy meetings with Fred that lasted late into the evening were wiped off his schedule today. This day, this morning, everything was different. Priorities were adjusted; routines were halted; and all because of cancer, The Big Casino.

One year, the doctor had said, maybe more, maybe less. Certainly, it is time to put one’s affairs in order, call the family, and so forth.

David had smiled ironically at that suggestion since he had no family, both parents dead, no siblings, no wives, ex-wives, or children. Not even lovers or sweethearts. After he returned when oil was found on the family farm, gold-diggers had tried to warm up to his money but were, in the end, repelled by his maimed and war-torn body.

Thus, on that

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