The slowly moving placard-wielders were getting closer to the snowy hospital entrance. Each step into-and-out-of the snow needed their visual concentration. When they were within 25-yards, the veil of wind-swept snow was no longer an impediment to their view. The barrier of hospital staff and patients appeared like a sudden vision. Pellagra reacted first and turned around to face his comrades.
“Stop. Form a line on me as the center. Everyone side-by-side.” Pellagra waved his sign back and forth to get everyone’s attention. They all stopped chanting the slogan and stared incredulously at the organized uniformed barrier of armed MPs and patients. The leader from the first bus high-stepped over to get next to Pellagra.
“Where’d the hell did they come from? There must be over 300 of them. There are only 85 of us.”
“So what. Most of them are patients. Look at those wheelchairs and crutches.” Norduk spoke before Pellagra could muster his thoughts. “We can take a shitload of them before they immobilize us.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Pellagra looked from Norduk to the bus leader. “We can’t touch the patients. Look, I count about 55 of those MPs and there are 80 of us.”
“You think that crowd is gonna just let us bust it up with the MP’s?” the bus man tapped his sap against his gloved palm.
“Look, our orders are to inflict casualties. In 2-to-3 hours Hanoi is going to launch an attack outside Saigon. There’s a large camp celebrating Christmas and the message to Nixon is that casualties will continue in Nam and in the U.S. until we pull out of the war. We have to produce casualties here. And now.”
“We’ll get creamed if those patients join the fight.” The bus man stared at the rows of patients.
“Hanoi will fix us if we don’t. We aren’t out to win the fight. We have to create a message–a message that casualties will now begin to occur on the home front.”
“Okay. I’ll go down the line and give each man their MP to face-off with.” He high-stepped his way up-and-down the line as Curly “Santa Claus” Norton brought the bull horn to his face.
“You men will disburse and exit to the gate you have breeched. You will be allowed to use the road to get back. You have 10-minutes to comply or you will be forcibly detained until civil authorities place you under arrest. Ten-minutes.” He looked up-and-down the picketers’ line.
“They’re gonna hit us Curly.” Grungel looked sideways from his rigid position to Norton.
“We know they don’t have guns or knives. That’s what Rogers reported. Correct?”
“Correct. But they have those small billy-clubs.”
“So what are we holdin’, for God’s sake? Use the butt of the rifles just like we planned. If any of them pulls a blade we bayonet them. But it must be self-defense. We’re letting the camera crews stay to capture the evidence to show we were provoked.” Norton brought the bull horn back into talking position.
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