Quan Am (Kwan Yin) in Vietnam

Andi Holmes
in Việt Nam

Crime Fiction and Other Truths

I. Van Laningham
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart—and all human hearts.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn,
The Gulag Archipelago, 1974

Andi Holmes appears in most of these stories.
(listed in chronological order)
Working Girls Cafe “The Working Girls Go By” appeared as the lead story in Volume 1, Number 1 of Judas eZine, January 1, 2001.
(Judas later became 3rd Degree, but it is now defunct.)

Time:  17 March 1970
Place:  Vũng Tàu, Republic of Việt Nam
Concrete pier extending into the Saigon River “Down by the Sông Sàigòn” originally appeared in somewhat different form in Down These Dark Streets, edited by Thomas Deja, from CyberPulp, June 15, 2003.

Time:  16 August 1970
Place:  Củ Chi and Sàigòn, Republic of Việt Nam
Nine Dragon River Nine Dragon River, Part 1, “Delta Blues Again,” was the lead story in the Winter 2011-12 Issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  November, 1970
Place:  A short novel set in Shannon-Wright Base Camp, Vĩnh Long, Republic of Việt Nam
Pinterest board:  Photos of the Vĩnh Long area
Nine Dragon River Nine Dragon River, Part 2, “Sparrows,” appeared in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  November, 1970
Place:  A short novel set in Shannon-Wright Base Camp, Vĩnh Long, Republic of Việt Nam
Nine Dragon River Nine Dragon River, Part 3, “Escamillo,” appeared in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  November, 1970
Place:  A short novel set in Shannon-Wright Base Camp, Vĩnh Long, Republic of Việt Nam
Surrey Motel “Becalmed in Hell” originally appeared in the Winter 2008-2009 issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  September 1971
Place:  Ft. Monmouth Area, New Jersey
Detail of Kuniyoshi print “Pictures of the Floating World” originally appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  17 December 1974 and 5 June 1979
Place:  Chicago, IL
Note:  The Fasta Pasta restaurant mentioned has no relation to the Australian Fasta Pasta chain.
Winter “No Enemy but Winter” originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of Mysterical-E

Time:  February-March 1977
Place:  Chicago, IL
Howard Stop in Evanston, 7600N 1700W “Howard Line” originally appeared on the Radclyffe-writings email list as part of Author Challenge #4, October 12, 2005

Time:  14 February 1980
Place:  Chicago, IL
Howard Street Banners “Prologue to Finding Ginger is “Howard Line” rewritten with a different ending as a prologue to a novel-in-progress.

Time:  14 February 1980
Place:  Chicago, IL
A storefront that could be Irma’s “Hat Trick” originally appeared on the Radclyffe-writings email list in Author Challenge #5, March 11, 2006.  This is a Katie Cooley and Joy Mallon story, not an Andi story—but Andi is alluded to.

Time:  1 August 1980
Place:  A Central Illinois town
Bar sign in Saigon Glossary of terms used in the stories.
In Order of Publication
“The Working Girls Go By”1 January 2001
“Down by the Sông Sàigòn”15 June 2003
“Howard Line”October 12, 2005
“Prologue to Finding GingerOctober 12, 2005
“Hat Trick”March 11, 2006
“Pictures of the Floating World”Spring, 2007
“Becalmed in Hell”Winter 2008-9
“No Enemy but Winter”Summer, 2010
Nine Dragon River, Part 1, “Delta Blues Again”Winter 2011-12
Nine Dragon River, Part 2, “Sparrows,” and Part 3, “Escamillo”Spring/Summer 2012

My name is Andrea Kristín Holmes and I was born in 1947, middle child of Winston Holmes and Edith Sigurðsson.  Dad is a WWII Navy veteran who never said much about what he did during the war, except to say that he was aboard a ship that provided support during the invasion of Tarawa in 1943.  He’d planned to be career Navy, but in 1946, when they turned down his request to be stationed in the Gilbert Islands, he used his flat feet to obtain a medical discharge, and spent years trying to get back to the Equator-straddling island group, in the Pacific, near Indonesia. 

He never made it.

We are all here because of strange, sometimes miraculous, coincidences.  I’m here because Dad fell in love at first sight with a pretty forbidding woman.  I’ve known for years that he’s not a very religious person, despite the fact that he married, and became, a missionary.  I don’t know what Momma saw in him, but then I have no idea what he saw in her, other than the obvious.  I’m not sure anyone ever knows what other people see in their mates. 

I know Dad was home on emergency leave; his father had just died, and as the oldest son, he was the one who had to come home from the Pacific Theatre and put the grandfather I never met to rest in some cemetery in San Francisco I’ve never seen.  A week before shipping back out, he walked into a chapel in the Mission district.  I know damn well he was drunk, but he won’t admit it, and who could blame him, given Momma’s feeling about alcohol.

I doubt that two people were ever more dissimilar.  Dad reads constantly; I almost never see him without a book at his side, and a different one every time, too, whereas Momma reads nothing but the Bible.  She’s convinced that words not there are Devil words.  So why she said yes when he asked her to marry him back in 1944 I’ll never know.  But she did, and my brother Dana was born early in 1945 to prove it.

Both my parents are tall; Dad is nearly six-and-a-half feet tall, Momma is five-eleven.  I’m six-one, not nearly as good-looking as either one.  Except for having no excess meat on her, Momma could easily appear as Valkyrie in a Wagner opera; she has the voice, the beauty and the strength.  Which she needed, when they went from being a Navy family to a missionary one.  Dana was born in the continental US, I was born in Luzon, and my younger brother, Josh—tallest in the family at six-nine—was born in Manila.  He’s also the only one of us to have Dad’s red hair.

My first language was Tagalog, my second Spanish, my third English.  When we moved to Yogyakarta when I was nine, I picked up Bahasa Indonesia fast enough that for months, I did most of the family’s shopping at the markets.  Yogya’s where I got the switchblade I still carry, Jakarta’s where I learned to use it.

In 1961, we moved to Quito, and I went to three years of high school there, at a place called the Alliance Academy, where I picked up a love for Shakespeare and a lot of Spanish Momma still doesn’t know I know.

In ’65, when my parents thought they were giving up the missionary life, we landed near Chicago in a hick town where I could insult everyone in four languages and never once be caught out.  I remember being asked, time and again, “Aren’t you glad to be back in civilization again?  With refrigerators, you know?  And indoor plumbing?”

I miss Asia, and I suppose that had much to do with enlisting, when the time came.  When I graduated in ’66, Momma and Dad decided they’d had enough of boring US life and, when their Church asked them to go to Brazil for three years, leapt at the opportunity.  I went to work for a mobile home park as a joat (Jack of All Trades) and lived with my Great-Aunt Drusilla Holmes, in Wheaton IL.

Aunt Dru was the first woman I ever knew who was a lesbian, at least the first one I knew for sure.  I lived with her for a year, working at the trailer park until I decided to go to college; I found a crummy apartment near Circle Campus and enrolled in the linguistics program in Fall Quarter, 1967.  When Dana was killed during the Tết Offensive, I began to drink seriously.  I had dabbled in drinking in high school, but it was nothing compared to what I did 1968. 

I couldn’t get his death out of my head.  I didn’t know why he was over there, I didn’t know why he died, I didn’t know why I was in school, I didn’t know—anything.  I took a course in fall quarter of 1968 that was supposed to tell me about ’Nam.  All it did was make my brain and my heart and my gut hurt; I drank more and more.  When I saw I was going to flunk out, I went down and enlisted.  It didn’t make any more sense than anything else in 1968.

Some of the guys I knew tried to drink so much before their physicals that they would be rejected for alcholism.  I was warned.  I sweated out the booze for a week before I went in for mine.  They took me, but it was ironic that the only skills I had the WACs valued were my secretarial ones.  I was sent to Washington to the Pentagon, where I was miserable, until Josh told me he was going to enlist.  Since the Army tries hard to keep family members from being sent to a war zone at the same time, I volunteered for Việt Nam.

They sent me.

If you want to know more, read the stories.

Stopping throuth red signal disobey must be killed


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Count by Muhammad Muquit
Notes on the Images

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