None of the Jarheads knew why the young girl was called "Frenchie".
It was quite possibly because of her mixed blood heritage. In Indochina, or, for that matter, in Asia generally that was "the kiss of death" in social and family circles.
She was too old to be the offspring of the late arriving Americans, so it was logical to assume the young Eurasian girl was the result of an amorous French soldier's long forgotten moment of pleasure. The very fact that Frenchie was just as comfortable in the language of diplomacy as she was in her own Central Vietnamese dialect gave credence to this supposition.
The workers of the land in her grandmother's village saw her existence as an unfortunate accident of no importance.
Despite her admittedly hopeless circumstances, Frenchie was blessed with a gift of superior intelligence and striking beauty. This blessing seemed a curse in disguise to young Frenchie and acted as a definite disadvantage in her role as an impoverished girl child with no familial roots and no social prospects stuck in the middle of a dangerous war zone.
It was rumored amongst the local villagers that Frenchie's mother had been imprisoned by the Central Government because of her close personal association with a Communist General. The truth mattered very little and rumors were accepted as fact by ignorant ears.
The bottom line on Frenchie's future was the bleak options of a lifetime of unrewarded drudgery or the mental and physical exploitation of joy-girl slavery.
Only her face and figure would determine her fate.
She knew it.
Everyone knew it.
Her problem was she refused to accept it.
Due to her absentee mother's questionable liaisons, the young Vietnamese girl became known in the area as "Frenchie, the V.C. girl"
Poor Frenchie at the tender age of 13 had never seen a real live Communist. At least, she didn't think she did. She was devious enough to surmise several of her most vocal critics were a little too vehement in their denunciations. Her suspicions were sufficiently aroused to sense an ulterior motive to their repeated accusations and protestations of their own loyalty to the Regime in Saigon.
Frenchie, in her own logical manner, was able to equate the constant suggestion of her non-existent political deviancy as an attack on her absent mother, her unknown father, and her questionable right to existence.
Understandably, V.C Frenchie became what everyone thought her be all along – A Vietnamese Communist sympathizer.
It was no more an unusual circumstance than to be expected in the storm of confusion that was Indochina in the 1960s.
Ice was Frenchie's livelihood.
The Americans never asked where it came from. They only knew she was dependable. The fact that she never tried to cheat them impressed them the most. Honesty was a virtue difficult to find in the helter skelter chaos of war torn Vietnam.
Of course, you could not drink the ice unless you wanted to acquaint your internal organs with several unidentified parasites waiting to squeeze all the fluids from your body.
The luxury was in cooling down the cans of soda and beer savored by the hordes of thirsty warriors needing more familiar refreshments. The infusion of chilled liquids was much sought after in the oppressive tropical heat.
Thus, Frenchie performed a valuable service for the Americans and supported herself and her aging grandmother at the same time. Her primary problem was that as she learned more and more English, her ability to argue against the Regime and the foreigners in her country led her customers to reach the same conclusion her fellow villagers had already made.
Frenchie was most definitely a V.C.
Now, Frenchie really did not know what a communist was supposed to do. All she knew was that there were good people and there were bad people. There were good people from the North and bad people from the North. There were good people from Saigon and bad people from Saigon. These days, it seemed like there were a great deal more bad people than good people.
Frenchie knew she was different than the other people in the village but she did not really feel that she was different. She knew she liked to argue with the Americans and the arguments often became heated but she deep inside liked them and felt they at least treated her with respect and not as an object of shame.
When she argued, she used the skills of her new found English language to win a point and when that failed, she reverted back into a combination of French and Vietnamese. She was certain she could have convinced her listeners of the correctness of her thinking if only they could understand her.
Saturday morning was just another day.
Very few of the Americans knew or even cared what day of the week it was. The Marines only counted the days as milestones of their own personal calendar. To some, it was Day 10, to others, it was Day 110 on that all important countdown to their final day of escape. They thought of the "Yellowbird" waiting to take off to that final journey back to the "Land of the Big PX".
The Vietnamese had no frame of reference for the concept of "Saturday". Each day was like another. They viewed days as simply as "Day to wash clothes" or "Day to drain field" or even "Day to go to the market". Each day had its origin in centuries of repetitive order. The calendar was more of the lunar cycle or distance from a particular "Feast" day or day of celebration.
Thus, Saturday was just another day. Another 24 hour cycle of life that ground relentlessly on into an uncertain future.
In the real world, which was just about everywhere in the world except Vietnam, people did normal things. They went out to pick up a newspaper, to rake up falling leaves, any one of a myriad of activities that would constitute normal existence.
This day was special to Frenchie. Today was her birthday. She was 14 years old this fine Saturday morning.
Yet, she didn't feel older. Nothing had changed.
The weight of the ice on her back was the still the same. The hole in her shoe was still the same size. Her belly still growled because she had no breakfast again.
Frenchie passed the huge M48 tank sitting squat and impotent in its defensive position. It was so big and so powerful and still it made such an inviting and so vulnerable of a target to the shadowy anti-government forces. The combat-wise leathernecks sprawled concentrically outside the metal giant waiting for daylight to reveal their field of fire.