DEMISE: An American Tragedy
By: John M Del Vecchio
A story of the 1990s; to be released by Warriors Publishing Group September 2020.
The following scene is from the chapter titled Seneca Falls Indian Casino, Heartwood; Saturday 22 October, 9:18 p.m. We are now well into the evening. Our group has left the casino and moved their gaming to a private club where the food is better and the drinks stronger.
In this scene: Mitch Williams and Nick Panuzio, both Vietnam veterans, along with their non-vet brothers Vern Williams and Johnny Panuzio, and other non-vet friends, have been playing poker. Mitch’s 18-year-old son, a high school senior, was shot and killed six weeks earlier. The crime has yet to be solved. This is Mitch’s first night out since. His brother and friends had wanted to keep the evening light and let him relax, but with drinks flowing and nerves raw the conversation has, at times, been contentious.
“’A.” Mitch flicked his hand as if he were Rocco. “I don’t know.” His voice was thick, tired. “These things, when you read them in the papers, they remind me of Nam.”
“Vietnam?!” Brian disparaged.
“I know what ya mean,” Nick said.
“Yeah,” Mitch said. “I don’t mean what happened there. I mean how we approached what happened there. This is like Vietnam all over again. Like a domestic Vietnam.”
“What the fuck you talkin about?” LeRoy sneered. “Nobody here’s killin eighteen-year-olds.”
Johnny glanced at Mitch. Mitch kept his head down. Vernon was about to say something but Johnny nudged Vern’s leg with his knee. Vern bit his lip.
“That’s not what he means.” Nick banged his cards down on the table, added, “Jerk!”
“Well, what the fuck does he mean?” LeRoy shot back. “Asshole!”
“Gentlemen!” Large Larry interrupted. “House Rules…”
“He means,” Nick blurted, “the coverage of issues is lopsided. Despite the rhetoric, there’s little knowledge. It’s all partisan, not practical. Right?” Nick looked at Mitch. Mitch barely nodded. Nick continued. “There’s no will to deal with the real problem because the real problem’s been obscured by political bullshit. You can’t solve a problem if you can’t see it.”
“Who put a quarter in you?” LeRoy tried to break the tension, guffawed at his own joke.
“These two guys were there.” Johnny indicated Mitch and Nick.
LeRoy smirked. “Smokin dope.” He guffawed. “Rape, pillage, and plunder. I seen Platoon four times…”
“Fuck you!” Mitch pushed away from the table, paused, shot up. “Johnny,” he said, “I gotta take a leak. Then I’m hittin the road.”
“Yeah,” Johnny began. Before he could say more, LeRoy’s renewed guffaw drowned him out. The men at the other table sensed trouble, hunkered closer together.
“Imagine…” Mitch focused in on LeRoy, bent forward, stared at his eyes. Mitch’s voice was thick, controlled anger. “Imagine a TV program. A cop show. One like that one with Don Johnson. Imagine that it’s edited to show the police apprehending people, breaking down doors, killing people. Now imagine they edited it, too, to cut out all the scenes where these criminals that Johnson’s after — cut out all the scenes where they do their nasty crimes, their standard TV list — extortion, torture, murder of innocents, rape. Imagine a show that gave you no antecedents as to why the police were chasing the criminals. What do you think your opinion of the police would be?”
LeRoy leaned forward. “Same as now. A bunch a Nazi control freaks.”
Mitch leaned in further, became more intense. “Except when they’re stoppin some guy from killing your kid.” The words came like high-pressure magma spewing onto the table.
“That’s different.” LeRoy shrank back. Suddenly he seemed afraid that Mitch was going to jump him. He wanted out of the topic.
“Gentlemen!” Large Larry huffed.
Mitch continued erupting. “That police example is what happened between America, its veterans, and the goddamn press. You’re the viewer; we’re the police; they’re the editors. We destroyed homes. We shot people. We killed people. That they were communist soldiers became like saying, ‘Don Johnson killed some person because he was a used-car salesman.’ Consider this, asshole! Two-point-two million Asians were killed by the communists after we withdrew. How do you think you’d feel about the police if the salesman was shown to be a brutal rapist, a murderer, a molester of children, a crack dealer who extorted cruel payment from his addicts, forced them to decapitate their nonaddicted brothers — like the communists forced their neophytes to do to their own families if they didn’t join up? You’d probably see the police as heroes, wouldn’t you? You’d see their violence as justified. Wouldn’t you?”
About the Author: John M. Del Vecchio is the author of four books, including two bestsellers with approximately 1.4 million copies sold, as well as hundreds of articles. He graduated from Lafayette College in 1969, was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1970, where he served as a combat correspondent in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). In 1971, he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for heroism in ground combat.