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Tema: Winston Groom ~ Vinston Grum  (Pročitano 18711 puta)
09. Jul 2005, 06:26:21
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Apple iPhone 6s
Forrest Gump

Winston Groom

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« Poslednja izmena: 02. Avg 2005, 16:52:49 od Anea »
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Underpromise; overdeliver.

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Apple iPhone 6s
Forrest Gump
by Winston Groom

   For Jimbo Meador and George Radcliff—who have always made a point of being kind to Forrest and his friends.




   There is a pleasure sure in being mad which none but madmen know.

Dryden
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   Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you—it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.
   I been a idiot since I was born. My IQ is near 70, which qualifies me, so they say. Probly, tho, I’m closer to bein a imbecile or maybe even a moron, but personally, I’d rather think of mysef as like a halfwit, or somethin—an not no idiot—cause when people think of a idiot, more’n likely they be thinkin of one of them Mongolian idiots–the ones with they eyes too close together what look like Chinamen an drool a lot an play with theyselfs.
   Now I’m slow—I’ll grant you that, but I’m probly a lot brighter than folks think, cause what goes on in my mind is a sight different than what folks see. For instance, I can think things pretty good, but when I got to try sayin or writin them, it kinda come out like jello or somethin. I’ll show you what I mean.
   The other day, I’m walkin down the street an this man was out workin in his yard. He’d got hissef a bunch of shrubs to plant an he say to me, “Forrest, you wanna earn some money?” an I says, “Uh-huh,” an so he sets me to movin dirt. Damn near ten or twelve wheelbarrows of dirt, in the heat of the day, truckin it all over creation. When I’m thru he reach in his pocket for a dollar. What I shoulda done was raised Cain about the low wages, but instead, I took the damn dollar an all I could say was “thanks” or somethin dumb-soundin like that, an I went on down the street, waddin an unwaddin that dollar in my hand, feelin like a idiot.
   You see what I mean?
   Now I know somethin bout idiots. Probly the only thing I do know bout, but I done read up on em—all the way from that Doy-chee-eveskie guy’s idiot, to King Lear’s fool, an Faulkner’s idiot, Benjie, an even ole Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird–now he was a serious idiot. The one I like best tho is ole Lennie in Of Mice an Men. Mos of them writer fellers got it straight—cause their idiots always smarter than people give em credit for. Hell, I’d agree with that. Any idiot would. Hee Hee.
   When I was born, my mama name me Forrest, cause of General Nathan Bedford Forrest who fought in the Civil War. Mama always said we was kin to General Forrest’s fambly someways. An he was a great man, she say, cept’n he started up the Ku Klux Klan after the war was over an even my grandmama say they’s a bunch of no-goods. Which I would tend to agree with, cause down here, the Grand Exalted Pishposh, or whatever he calls hissef, he operate a gun store in town an once, when I was maybe twelve year ole, I were walkin by there and lookin in the winder an he got a big hangman’s noose strung up inside. When he seen me watchin, he done thowed it around his own neck an jerk it up like he was hanged an let his tongue stick out an all so’s to scare me. I done run off and hid in a parkin lot behin some cars til somebody call the police an they come an take me home to my mama. So whatever else ole General Forrest done, startin up that Klan thing was not a good idea—any idiot could tell you that. Nonetheless, that’s how I got my name.
   My mama is a real fine person. Everbody says that. My daddy, he got kilt just after I’s born, so I never known him. He worked down to the docks as a longshoreman an one day a crane was takin a big net load of bananas off one of them United Fruit Company boats an somethin broke an the bananas fell down on my daddy an squashed him flat as a pancake. One time I heard some men talkin bout the accident—say it was a helluva mess, half ton of all them bananas an my daddy squished underneath. I don’t care for bananas much myself, cept for banana puddin. I like that all right.
   My mama got a little pension from the United Fruit people an she took in boarders at our house, so we got by okay. When I was little, she kep me inside a lot, so as the other kids wouldn’t bother me. In the summer afternoons, when it was real hot, she used to put me down in the parlor an pull the shades so it was dark an cool an fix me a pitcher of limeade. Then she’d set there an talk to me, jus talk on an on bout nothin in particular, like a person’ll talk to a dog or cat, but I got used to it an liked it cause her voice made me feel real safe an nice.
   At first, when I’s growin up, she’d let me go out an play with everbody, but then she foun out they’s teasing me an all, an one day a boy hit me in the back with a stick wile they was chasin me an it raised some fearsome welt. After that, she tole me not to play with them boys anymore. I started tryin to play with the girls but that weren’t much better, cause they all run away from me.

   Mama thought it would be good for me to go to the public school cause maybe it would hep me to be like everbody else, but after I been there a little wile they come an told Mama I ought’n to be in there with everbody else. They let me finish out first grade tho. Sometimes I’d set there wile the teacher was talkin an I don’t know what was going on in my mind, but I’d start lookin out the winder at the birds an squirrels an things that was climbin an settin in a big ole oak tree outside, an then the teacher’d come over an fuss at me. Sometimes, I’d just get this real strange thing come over me an start shoutin an all, an then she’d make me go out an set on a bench in the hall. An the other kids, they’d never play with me or nothin, cept’n to chase me or get me to start hollerin so’s they could laugh at me—all cept Jenny Curran, who at least didn’t run away from me an sometimes she’d let me walk nex to her goin home after class.
   But the next year, they put me in another sort of school, an let me tell you, it was wierd. It was like they’d gone aroun collectin all the funny fellers they coud find an put em all together, rangin from my age an younger to big ole boys bout sixteen or seventeen. They was retards of all kinds an spasmos an kids that couldn’t even eat or go to the toilet by theyselfs. I was probly the best of the lot.
   They was one big fat boy, musta been fourteen or so, an he was afflicted with some kinda thing made him shake like he’s in the electric chair or somethin. Miss Margaret, our teacher, made me go in the bathroom with him when he had to go, so’s he wouldn’t do nothin wierd. He done it anyway, tho. I didn’t know no way of stoppin him, so I’d just lock mysef in one of the stalls and stay there till he’s thru, an walk him back to the class.
   I stayed in that school for about five or six years. It wadn’t all bad tho. They’d let us paint with our fingers an make little things, but mostly, it jus teachin us how to do stuff like tie up our shoes an not slobber food or get wild an yell an holler an thow shit aroun. They wadn’t no book learnin to speak of—cept to show us how to read street signs an things like the difference between the Men’s an the Ladies’ rooms. With all them serious nuts in there, it woulda been impossible to conduct anythin more’n that anyway. Also, I think it was for the purpose of keepin us out of everbody else’s hair. Who the hell wants a bunch of retards runnin aroun loose? Even I could understand that.
   When I got to be thirteen, some pretty unusual things begun to happen. First off, I started to grow. I grew six inches in six months, an my mama was all the time havin to let out my pants. Also, I commenced to grow out. By the time I was sixteen I was six foot six an weighed two hundrit forty-two pounds. I know that cause they took me in an weighed me. Said they jus couldn’t believe it.
   What happen nex caused a real change in my life. One day I’m strollin down the street on the way home from nut school, an a car stop longside of me. This guy call me over an axed my name. I tole him, an then he axed what school I go to, an how come he ain’t seen me aroun. When I tell him bout the nut school, he axed if I’d ever played football. I shook my head. I guess I mighta tole him I’d seen kids playin it, but they’d never let me play. But like I said, I ain’t too good at long conversation, an so I jus shook my head. That was about two weeks after school begun again.
   Three days or so later, they come an got me outta the nut school. My mama was there, an so was the guy in the car an two other people what look like goons—who I guess was present in case I was to start somethin. They took all the stuff outta my desk an put it in a brown paper bag an tole me to say goodbye to Miss Margaret, an alls of a sudden she commence to start cryin an give me a big ole hug. Then I got to say goodbye to all the other nuts, an they was droolin an spasmoin an beatin on the desks with they fists. An then I was gone.
   Mama rode up in the front seat with the guy an I set in back in between them goons, jus like police done in them ole movies when they took you “downtown.” Cept we didn’t go downtown. We went to the new highschool they had built. When we got there they took me inside to the principal’s office an Mama an me an the guy went in wile the two goons waited in the hall. The principal was an ole gray-haired man with a stain on his tie an baggy pants who look like he coulda come outta the nut school hissef. We all sat down an he begun splainin things an axein me questions, an I just nodded my head, but what they wanted was for me to play football. That much I figgered out on my own.

   Turns out the guy in the car was the football coach, name of Fellers. An that day I didn’t go to no class or nothin, but Coach Fellers, he took me back to the locker room an one of the goons rounded me up a football suit with all them pads an stuff an a real nice plastic helmet with a thing in front to keep my face from gettin squished in. The only thing was, they couldn’t find no shoes to fit me, so’s I had to use my sneakers till they could order the shoes.
   Coach Fellers an the goons got me dressed up in the football suit, an then they made me undress again, an then do it all over again, ten or twenty times, till I could do it by mysef. One thing I had trouble with for a wile was that jockstrap thing—cause I couldn’t see no real good reason for wearing it. Well, they tried splainin it to me, an then one of the goons says to the other that I’m a “dummy” or somethin like that, an I guess he thought I wouldn’t understand him, but I did, on account of I pay special attention to that kind of shit. Not that it hurt my feelins. Hell, I been called a sight worse than that. But I took notice of it, nonetheless.
   After a wile a bunch of kids started comin into the locker room an takin out they football stuff and gettin into it. Then we all went outside an Coach Fellers got everbody together an he stood me up in front of them an introduced me. He was sayin a bunch of shit that I wadn’t followin real close cause I was haf scared to death, on account of nobody had ever introduced me before to a bunch of strangers. But afterward some of the others come up an shook my hand an say they is glad I am here an all. Then Coach Fellers blowed a whistle, what like to make me leap outta my skin an everbody started jumpin around to get exercise.
   It’s a kind of long story what all happened nex, but anyway, I begun to play football. Coach Fellers an one of the goons hepped me out special since I didn’t know how to play. We had this thing where you sposed to block people an they were tryin to splain it all, but when we tried it a bunch of times everbody seemed to be gettin disgusted cause I couldn’t remember what I was sposed to do.
   Then they tried this other thing they call the defense, where they put three guys in front of me an I am sposed to get thru them an grap the guy with the football. The first part was easier, cause I could just shove the other guys’ heads down, but they were unhappy with the way I grapped the guy with the ball, an finally they made me go an tackle a big oak tree about fifteen or twenty times—to get the feel of it, I spose. But after a wile, when they figgered I had learnt somethin from the oak tree, they put me back with the three guys an the ball carrier an then got mad I didn’t jump on him real vicious-like after I moved the others out of the way. I took a lot of abuse that afternoon, but when we quit practicin I went in to see Coach Fellers an tole him I didn’t want to jump on the ball guy cause I was afraid of hurtin him. Coach, he say that it wouldn’t hurt him, cause he was in his football suit an was protected. The truth is, I wasn’t so much afraid of hurtin him as I was that he’d get mad at me an they’d start chasin me again if I wadn’t real nice to everbody. To make a long story short, it took me a wile to get the hang of it all.
   Meantime I got to go to class. In the nut school, we really didn’t have that much to do, but here they was far more serious about things. Somehow, they had worked it out so’s I had three homeroom classes where you jus set there an did whatever you wanted, an then three other classes where there was a lady who was teachin me how to read. Jus the two of us. She was real nice an pretty and more’n once or twice I had nasty thoughts about her. Miss Henderson was her name.

   About the only class I liked was lunch, but I guess you couldn’t call that a class. At the nut school, my mama would fix me a sambwich an a cookie an a piece of fruit—cept no bananas—an I’d take it to school with me. But in this school they was a cafeteria with nine or ten different things to eat an I’d have trouble makin up my mind what I wanted. I think somebody must of said somethin, cause after a week or so Coach Fellers come up to me an say to just go ahead an eat all I wanted cause it been “taken care of.” Hot damn!
   Guess who should be in my homeroom class but Jenny Curran. She come up to me in the hall an say she remember me from first grade. She was all growed up now, with pretty black hair an she was long-legged an had a beautiful face, an they was other things too, I dare not mention.
   The football was not goin exactly to the likin of Coach Fellers. He seemed displeased a lot an was always shoutin at people. He shouted at me too. They tried to figger out some way for me to just stay put an keep other folks from grappin our guy carryin the ball, but that didn’t work cept when they ran the ball right up the middle of the line. Coach was not too happy with my tacklin neither, an let me tell you, I spent a lot of time at that oak tree. But I just couldn’t get to where I would thow mysef at the ball guy like they wanted me to do. Somethin kep me from it.
   Then one day a event happen that changed all that too. In the cafeteria I had started gettin my food and goin over to set nex to Jenny Curran. I wouldn’t say nothin, but she was jus bout the only person in the school I knew halfways, an it felt good setting there with her. Most of the time she didn’t pay me no attention, an talked with other people. At first I’d been settin with some of the football players, but they acted like I was invisible or somethin. At least Jenny Curran acted like I was there. But after a wile of this, I started to notice this other guy was there a lot too, an he starts makin wisecracks bout me. Sayin shit like “How’s Dumbo?” an all. And this gone on for a week or two, an I was sayin nothin, but finally I says—I can’t hardly believe I said it even now—but I says, “I ain’t no Dumbo,” an the guy jus looked at me an starts laughin. An Jenny Curran, she say to the guy to keep quiet, but he takes a carton of milk an pours it in my lap an I jump up an run out cause it scares me.
   A day or so later, that guy come up to me in the hall an says he’s gonna “get” me. All day I was afraid terribily, an later that afternoon, when I was leaving to go to the gym, there he is, with a bunch of his friends. I tried to go the other way, but he come up to me an start pushin me on the shoulders. An he’s sayin all kinds of bad things, callin me a “stupo” an all, an then he hit me in the stomach. It didn’t hurt so much, but I was startin to cry and I turned an begun to run, an heard him behind me an the others was runnin after me too. I jus run as fast as I could toward the gym, across the practice football field an suddenly I seen Coach Fellers, settin up in the bleachers watchin me. The guys who was chasin me stop and go away, an Coach Fellers, he has got this real peculiar look on his face, an tell me to get suited up right away. A wile later, he come in the locker room with these plays drawn on a piece of paper—three of them—an say for me to memorize them best I can.
   That afternoon at the football practice, he line everbody up in two teams an suddenly the quarterback give me the ball an I’m sposed to run outside the right end of the line to the goalpost. When they all start chasin me, I run fast as I can—it was seven or eight of them before they could drag me down. Coach Fellers is mighty happy; jumpin up and down an yellin an slappin everbody on the back. We’d run a lot of races before, to see how fast we could run, but I get a lot faster when I’m bein chased, I guess. What idiot wouldn’t?
   Anyway, I become a lot more popular after that, an the other guys on the team started bein nicer to me. We had our first game an I was scared to death, but they give me the ball an I run over the goal line two or three times an people never been kinder to me after that. That highschool certainly begun to change things in my life. It even got to where I liked to run with the football, cept it was mostly that they made me run aroun the sides cause I still couldn’t get to where I liked to just run over people like you do in the middle. One of the goons comments that I am the largest highschool halfback in the entire world. I do not think he mean it as a compliment.
   Otherwise, I was learnin to read a lot better with Miss Henderson. She give me Tom Sawyer an two other books I can’t remember, an I took them home an read em all, but then she give me a test where I don’t do so hot. But I sure enjoyed them books.
   After a wile, I went back to settin nex to Jenny Curran in the cafeteria, an there weren’t no more trouble for a long time, but then one day in the springtime I was walkin home from school and who should appear but the boy that poured that milk in my lap an chased me that day. He got hissef a stick an start callin me things like “moron” and “stupo.”
   Some other people was watchin an then along comes Jenny Curran, an I’m bout to take off again—but then, for no reason I know, I jus didn’t do it. That feller take his stick an poke me in the stomach with it, an I says to mysef, the hell with this, an I grapped a holt to his arm an with my other hand I knock him upside the head an that was the end of that, more or less.
   That night my mama get a phone call from the boy’s parents, say if I lay a han on their son again they is goin to call the authorities an have me “put away.” I tried to splain it to my mama an she say she understand, but I could tell she was worried. She tell me that since I am so huge now, I got to watch mysef, cause I might hurt somebody. An I nodded an promised her I wouldn’t hurt nobody else. That night when I lyin in bed I heard her cryin to hersef in her room.
   But what that did for me, knockin that boy upside the head, put a definate new light on my football playin. Next day, I axed Coach Fellers to let me run the ball straight on and he say okay, an I run over maybe four or five guys till I’m in the clear an they all had to start chasin me again. That year I made the All State Football team. I couldn’t hardly believe it. My mama give me two pair of socks an a new shirt on my birthday. An she done saved up an bought me a new suit that I wore to get the All State Football award. First suit I ever had. Mama tied my tie for me an off I went.
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Apple iPhone 6s
2

   The All State Football Banquet was to be helt in a little town called Flomaton, what Coach Fellers described as a “switch up the railroad tracks.” We was put on a bus—they was five or six of us from this area who won the prize—an we was trucked up there. It was a hour or two before we arrived, an the bus didn’t have no toilet, an I had drank two Slurpees fore we lef, so when we get to Flomaton, I really got to go bad.
   The thing was helt at the Flomaton Highschool auditorium, an when we git inside, me and some of the others find the toilet. Somehow, tho, when I go to unzip my pants, the zipper is stuck in my shirttail an won’t come down. After a bit of this, a nice little guy from a rival school goes out and finds Coach Fellers an he come in with the two goons an they be tryin to get my pants open. One of the goons say the only way to git it down is jus rip it apart. At this, Coach Fellers put his hans on his hips an say, “I spose you expect me to send this boy out there with his fly unzipped an his thing hangin out—now what kind of a impression do you think that would make?” Then he turn to me an say, “Forrest, you jus got to keep a lid on it till this thing’s over, an then we get it open for you—okay?” An I nod, cause I don’t know what else to do, but I figgerin I be in for a long evenin.
   When we get out to the auditorium there’s a million people all settin there at tables, smilin an clappin as we come out. We is put up at a big long table on the stage in front of everbody an my worst fears was realized about the long evenin. Seem like ever soul in the room got up to make a speech—even the waiters an janitor. I wished my mama coulda been there, cause she’d of hepped me, but she back at home in bed with the grippe. Finally it come time to get handed our prizes, which was little gold-colored footballs, an when our names was called we was sposed to go up to the microphone an take the prize an say “thank you,” an they also tole us if anybody has anythin else he wants to say, to keep it short on account of we want to be gettin out of there before the turn of the century.
   Most everbody had got they prize an said “thank you,” an then it come my turn. Somebody on the microphone call out “Forrest Gump,” which, if I hadn’t tole you before, is my last name, an I stand up an go over an they han me the prize. I lean over to the mike an say, “Thank you,” an everbody starts to cheer an clap an stand up in they seats. I spose somebody tole them aforehan I’m some kind of idiot, an they makin a special effort to be nice. But I’m so surprised by all this, I don’t know what to do, so I jus kep standin there. Then everbody hush up, an the man at the mike he lean over and axe me if I got anythin else I want to say. So I says, “I got to pee.”
   Everbody in the audience didn’t say nothin for a few moments, an jus started lookin funny at each other, an then they begun a sort of low mumblin, an Coach Fellers come up an grap me by the arm and haul me back to my seat. Rest of the night he be glarin at me, but after the banquet is over, Coach an the goons done take me back to the bathroom an rip open my pants an I done peed a bucket!
   “Gump,” Coach say after I am finished, “you sure got a way with words.”

   Now nex year wadn’t too eventful, cept somebody put out the word that a idiot got hissef on the All State Football team an a bunch of letters start comin in from all round the country. Mama collect them all and start keepin a scrapbook. One day a package come from New Yawk City that contain a official baseball signed by the entire New Yawk Yankees baseball team. It was the best thing ever happen to me! I treasure that ball like a goldbrick, till one day when I was tossin it aroun in the yard, a big ole dog come up an grap it outta the air an chewed it up. Things like that always happenin to me.
   One day Coach Fellers call me in an take me into the principal’s office. They was a man there from up to the University who shook my han an axe me whether I ever thought bout playin football in college. He say they been “watchin” me. I shook my head, cause I hadn’t.
   Everbody seemed to be in awe of this man, bowin an scrapin an callin him “Mister Bryant.” But he say for me to call him “Bear,” which I thought was a funny name, cept he do look similar to a bear in some respects. Coach Fellers point out that I am not the brightest person, but the Bear, he say that is plenty true of most of his players, an that he figgers to get me special hep in my studies. A week later they give me a test with all sorts of screwy questions the like of which I am not familiar with. After a wile I get bored and stop takin the test.
   Two days afterward, the Bear come back again and I get hauled into the principal’s office by Coach Fellers. Bear lookin distressed, but he still bein nice; he axe me have I done tried my best on that test. I nod my head, but the principal be rollin his eyes, an the Bear say, “Well, this is unfortunate then, cause the score appears to indicate that this boy is a idiot.”
   The principal be noddin his head now, an Coach Fellers is standin there with his hands in his pockets lookin sour. It seem to be the end of my college football prospects.

   The fact that I were too dumb to play college football did not seem to impress the United States Army none. It were my last year at highschool an in the springtime everbody else graduated. They let me set up on the stage tho, an even give me a black robe to put on, an when it come time, the principal announce they was gonna give me a “special” diploma. I got up to go to the microphone an the two goons stan up an go with me—I spose so’s I don’t make no remarks like I did at the All State Football thing. My mama is down in the front row cryin and wringin her hans an I really feel good, like I actually done accomplish somethin.
   But when we git back home, I finally realize why she bawlin an carryin on—they was a letter come from the Army say I got to report to the local daft board or somesuch. I didn’t know what the deal was, but my mama did—it was 1968 an they was all sorts of shit fixin to hoppen.
   Mama give me a letter from the school principal to han to the daft-board people, but somehow I lost it on the way there. It was a loony scene. They was a big colored guy in a Army suit yellin at people an dividin them up into bunches. We was all standin there and he come up an shout, “All right, I want half of you to go over there an half of you to go over here, an the other half of you to stay put!” Everbody millin aroun an lookin bewildered an even I could figger out this guy’s a moron.
   They took me in a room and line us up an tell us to remove our clothes. I ain’t much for that, but everbody else done it an so I did too. They lookin at us everplace—eyes, noses, mouths, ears—even our private parts. At one point they tell me, “Bend over,” an when I do, somebody jam his finger up my ass.
   That’s it!
   I turn an grapped that bastid an knock him upside the head. They was suddenly a big commotion an a bunch of people run up an jump on top of me. However, I am used to that treatment. I thowed them off an run out the door. When I get home an tell my mama what happen, she all upset, but she say, “Don’t worry, Forrest—everthin gonna be okay.”
   It ain’t. Next week, a van pull up at our house and a number of men in Army suits an shiny black helmets come up to the door be axin for me. I’m hidin up in my room, but Mama come up an say they jus wanta give me a ride back down to the daft board. All the way there, they be watchin me real close, like I’m some kinda maniac.
   They was a door that lead to a big office where there’s a older man all dressed up in a shiny uniform an he eyein me pretty careful too. They set me down an shove another test in front of me, an wile it’s one hell of a lot easier than the college football test, it still ain’t no piece of cake.
   When I’m done, they take me to another room where they’s four or five guys settin at a long table what start axin me questions an passin around what looked like the test I took. Then they all git into a huddle and when they finish one of em sign a paper an han it to me. When I take it home, Mama read it an begin pullin at her hair an weepin an praisin the Lord, cause it say I am “Temporarily Deferred,” on account of I am a numbnuts.

   Somethin else occurred durin that week that was a major event in my life. There was this lady boarder livin with us that worked down to the telephone company as a operator. Miss French was her name. She was a real nice lady, what kep mostly to hersef, but one night when it was terribily hot, an they was thunderstorms, she stuck her head out the door to her room as I was walkin by an say, “Forrest, I just got a box of nice divinity this afternoon—would you like a piece?”
   An I say “yes,” an she bring me into her room an there on the dresser is the divinity. She give me a piece of it, then she axe if I want another, an she points for me to set down on the bed. I must of ate ten or fifteen pieces of the divinity an lightnin was flashin outside an thunder an the curtains was blowin an Miss French kinda pushes me an makes me lie back on the bed. She commences to start strokin me in a personal way. “Jus keep your eyes closed,” she say, “an everthing will be all right.” Nex thing you know there is somethin happenin that had not happen before. I cannot say what it was, because I was keepin my eyes closed, an also because my mama woulda kilt me, but let me tell you this—it give me an entirely new outlook on things for the future.
   The problem was that wile Miss French was a nice kind lady, the things that she done to me that night was the kinds of things I’d have preferred to have done to me by Jenny Curran. An yet, there was no way I could see to even begin gettin that accomplished cause what with the way I am, it is not so easy to ask anyone for a date. That is to put it mildly.
   But on account of my new experience, I got up the courage to axe my mama what to do about Jenny, tho I certainly didn’t say nothin bout me an Miss French. Mama said she’ll take care of it for me, an she call up Jenny Curran’s mama an splain the situation to her, an the nex evenin, lo an behole, who should appear at our door but Jenny Curran hersef!
   She is all dressed up in a white dress an a pink flower in her hair an she look like nothin I have ever dreamt of. She come inside an Mama took her to the parlor an give her a ice-cream float an call for me to come down from my room, where I had run to as soon as I seen Jenny Curran comin up the walk. I’d of rather had five thousand people chasin me than to come out of my room jus then, but Mama come up an take me by the han an lead me down an give me a ice-cream float too. That made it better.
   Mama said we can go to the movies an she give Jenny three dollars as we walk out of the house. Jenny ain’t never been nicer, talkin an laughin an I am noddin an grinnin like a idiot. The movie was jus four or five blocks from our house, an Jenny went up an got some tickets an we went in an set down. She axed me if I want some popcorn an when she come back from gettin it, the picture done started.
   It is a movie about two people, a man an a lady called Bonnie an Clyde that robbed banks an they was some interestin other people in it also. But it was a lot of killin an shootin an shit like that, too. It seemed to me funny that folks would be shootin an killin one another that way, so’s I laughed a lot when that went on, an whenever I did, Jenny Curran seemed to squnch down in her seat a lot. Halfway thru the movie, she was almost squnched down to the floor. I suddenly saw this an figgered she had somehow felled out of her seat, so I reached over an grapped her by the shoulder to lif her up again.
   As I did this, I heard somethin tear, an I look down an Jenny Curran’s dress is ripped completely open an everthing is hangin out. I took my other han to try to cover her up, but she start makin noises an flail about wild-like, an me, I’m tryin to hole onto her so’s she don’t fall down again or come undone an there’s people around us lookin back tryin to see what all the commotion is about. Suddenly a fellow come down the aisle an shine a bright light right on Jenny an me, but bein exposed an all, she commenced to shriek an wail an then she jump up an run out of the show.
   Nex thing I know, two men come an tell me to get up an I follow them to a office. A few minutes later, four policemen arrive an axe me to come with them. They show me to a police car an two get in front an two get in back with me, jus like it was with Coach Fellers’ goons, cept’n this time we do go “downtown,” an they escort me to a room an jab my fingers onto a pad an I get my picture taken an they thowed me in jail. It was a horrible experience. I was worried all the time bout Jenny, but after a bit my mama showed up an come in wipin her eyes with a handkerchief an twistin her fingers an I knowed I’m in the doghouse again.
   There was some kind of ceremony a few days later down to the courthouse. My mama dressed me in my suit an took me there, an we met a nice man with a moustache carrying a big purse who tole the judge a bunch of things an then some other people, includin my mama, say some other shit an finally it was my turn.
   The man with the moustache took me by the arm so’s I’d stand up, an the judge axed me how all this done happen? I couldn’t figger out what to say, so I jus shrugged my shoulders an then he axes if there’s anything else I want to add, an so I says, “I got to pee,” cause we’d been settin there almost haf a day an I’m about to bust! The judge, he lean forward from behind his big ole desk an peer at me like I am a Marsman or somethin. Then the feller with the moustache speaks up and followin this the judge tells him to take me to the toilet, which he does. I look back as we leavin the room an see po ole Mama holdin her head an daubin at her eyes with the handkerchief.
   Anyhow, when I get back, the judge be scratchin his chin an he say the whole deal is “very peculiar,” but that he think I ought to go in the Army or somethin which might hep straighten me out. My mama inform him that the United States Army won’t have me, account of I am a idiot, but that this very mornin a letter done come from up to the University sayin that if I will play football for them, I can go to school there scot free.
   The judge say that sounds kinda peculiar too, but it’s okay with him so long as I get my big ass out of town.
   The nex mornin I am all packed up an Mama, she take me to the bus station an put me on the bus. I is lookin out the winder an there is Mama, cryin an wipin her eyes with her handkerchief. That is gettin to be a scene I know too well. It is stamped permanant into my memory. Anyhow, they started up the bus, an away I went
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   When we git up to the university, coach Bryant he come out to the gym where we all settin in our shorts and sweatshirts an begin makin a speech. It bout the same kind of speech Coach Fellers would make, cept even a simpleton like mysef could tell this man mean bidness! His speech short an sweet, an conclude with the statement that the last man on the bus to the practice field will get a ride there not on the bus, but on Coach Bryant’s shoe instead. Yessiree. We do not doubt his word, an stack ourselfs into the bus like flapjacks.
   All this was durin the month of August, which in the state of Alabama is somewhat hotter than it is elsewhere. That is to say, that if you put a egg on top of your football helmet it would be fried sunnyside up in about ten seconds. Of course nobody ever try that on account of it might get Coach Bryant angry. That was the one thing nobody wish to do, because life was almost intolerable as it was.
   Coach Bryant have his own goons to show me around. They take me to where I is gonna stay, which is a nice brick building on the campus that somebody says is called the “Ape Dorm.” Them goons escort me over there in a car an lead me upstairs to my room. Unfortunately, what might of looked nice from the outside was not true for the inside. At first, it appear that nobody had lived in this building for a long time, they was so much dirt an shit aroun, an most of the doors had been torn off they hinges an bashed in, an most of the winders are busted out too.
   A few of the fellers is lyin on they cots inside, wearin very little cause it about 110 degrees hot in there, an flies an things be hummin an buzzin. In the hall they is a big stack of newspapers, which at first I afraid they gonna make us read, it being college an all, but soon I learn they are for puttin down on the floor so’s you don’t have to step on all the dirt an shit when you walk aroun.
   The goons take me to my room an say they be hopin to find my roomate there, whose name is Curtis somebody, but he nowhere to be foun. So they get my stuff unpacked an show me where the bathroom is, which look worse than what you might expect to find at a one-pump gasoline station, an they be on they way. But before they go, one of the goons say Curtis an me should get on fine cause both of us have about as much brains as a eggplant. I look real hard at the goon what said that, cause I be tired of hearin all that shit, but he tell me to drop down and give him fifty pushups. After that, I just be doin what I’m tole.

   I went to sleep on my cot after spreadin a sheet over it to cover up the dirt, an was havin a dream bout settin down in the parlor with my mama like we use to do when it was hot, an she’d fix me a limeade an talk to me hour after hour—an then suddenly the door of the room done crashed in flat an scare me haf to death! A feller be standin there in the doorway with a wild look on his face, eyes all bugged out, no teeth in front, nose look like a yeller squash an his hair standin straight up like he done stuck his thing in a light-socket. I figger this be Curtis.
   He come inside the room like he expectin somebody to pounce on him, lookin from side to side, an walk right over the door that he just caved in. Curtis ain’t very tall, but he look like an icebox otherwise. First thing he axe me is where I’m from. When I say Mobile, he say that is a “candyass” town, an informs me he’s from Opp, where they make peanut butter, an if I don’t like it, he gonna open up a jar hissef an butter my butt with it! That were the extent of our conversation for a day or so.
   That afternoon at football practice it be about ten thousan degrees hot on the field, an all Coach Bryant’s goons runnin roun scowlin an yellin at us an makin us exercise. My tongue hangin down like it was a necktie or somethin, but I tryin to do the right thing. Finally they divides up everbody an puts me with backs an we start to run pass patterns.
   Now before I come up to the University, they done sent me a package which contain about a million different football plays, an I done axed Coach Fellers what I’m spose to do with it an he jus shake his head sadly an say not to try to do nothin—jus to wait till I get to the University an let them figger somethin out.
   I wish I had not taken Coach Fellers’ advice now, cause when I run out for my first pass I done turned the wrong way an the head goon come rushin up hollerin an shoutin at me an when he stop shoutin he axed me don’t I study the plays they send me? When I says, “Uh, uh,” he commence to jump up an down an flail his arms like hornets is upon him, an when he calm down he tell me to go run five laps aroun the field wile he consult with Coach Bryant bout me.
   Coach Bryant be settin up in a great big tower lookin down on us like the Great Gawd Bud, I’m runnin the laps and watchin the goon clime up there, an when he get to the top an say his piece, Coach Bryant crane his neck forward an I feel his eyes burnin hot on my big stupid ass. Suddenly a voice come over a megaphone for everbody to hear, say, “Forrest Gump, report to the coachin tower,” an I seen Coach Bryant an the goon climin down. All the time I be runnin over there I am wishin I were runnin backwards instead.
   But imagine my surprise when I see Coach Bryant smilin. He motion me over to some bleachers an we set down an he axed me again if I’d not learnt them plays they send me. I begin to splain what Coach Fellers had tole me, but Coach Bryant he stop me an say for me to git back in the line an start catchin passes, an then I tole him somethin else I guess he didn’t want to hear, which was that I had never even caught a pass at highschool, cause they figgered it hard enough to get me to remember where our own goaline is, let alone runnin aroun tryin to grap the ball outta the air too.
   At this news, Coach Bryant get a real odd squint in his eyes, an he look off in the distance, as if he was lookin all the way to the moon or somethin. Then he tell the goon to go fetch a football an when the football come, Coach Bryant hissef tell me to run out a little ways an turn aroun. When I do, he thowed the football at me. I see it comin almost like slow-motion but it bounce off my fingers an fall on the ground. Coach Bryant be noddin his head up an down like he should of figgered this out earlier, but somehow I get the idea he is not pleased.

   From the time I’m little, ever time I do somethin wrong, my mama, she’d say, “Forrest, you got to be careful, cause they gonna put you away.” I was so scairt of bein put in this “away” place I’d always try to be better, but I’m damned if there’s a worst place they could of sent me than this Ape Dorm thing I’m livin in.
   People be doin shit they wouldn’t of tolerated even in the nut school—rippin out the toilets, for instance, so’s you’d go to the bathroom an wouldn’t fine nothin but a hole in the floor to shit in, an they’d have heaved the toilet out the winder onto the top of somebody’s car drivin past. One night some big ole goofball what played in the line got out a rifle an commence to shoot out all the winders in somebody’s fraternity house across the street. The campus cops come rushin over, but the feller drop a big outboard motor he found someplace out the winder onto the top of the cop car. Coach Bryant make him run a bunch of extra laps for doing that.
   Curtis an me ain’t gettin along so hot, an I never been so lonely. I miss my mama, an wanta go back home. Trouble with Curtis is, I don’t understand him. Everthing he say got so many cusswords in it, time I get to figgerin out what they are, I miss his point. Most of the time, I gather his point is that he ain’t happy bout somethin.
   Curtis had a car an he used to give me a ride to practice, but one day I go to meet him an he cussin an growlin an bent over a big drain grate in the street. Seems he’s got a flat tire an when he go to change it he put the lug nuts in his hubcap and accidentally knock em down into the drain. We fixin to be late to practice which was not real good to do, so’s I say to Curtis, “Why don’t you take one lug nut off each of them three other tires an that way you will have three nuts on each tire, which ought to be enough to get us to practice?”
   Curtis stop cussin for a moment an look up at me an say, “You supposed to be a idiot, how you figure that out?” An I say, “Maybe I am a idiot, but at least I ain’t stupid,” an at this, Curtis jump up an commence chasin me with the tire tool, callin me ever terrible thing he can think up, an that pretty much ruin our relationship.
   After that, I decide I got to find another place to stay, so when we git off from practice I gone down into the basement of the Ape Dorm an spen the rest of the night there. It wadn’t no dirtier than the upstairs rooms an there was an electric lightbulb. Nex day I moved my cot down there an from then on, it was where I lived.
   Meantime, school is done started an they got to figger out what to do with me. They was a guy with the atheletic department that seemed to do nothin but figger out how to get dummos to where they could pass a class. Some of the classes was sposed to be easy, such as Physical Education, an they enroll me in that. But also I have got to take one English course an one science or math, an there is no gettin aroun that. What I learnt later was that there was certain teachers that would give a football player a sort of break, meanin that they’d appreciate he is consumed with playin football an cannot spend much of his time on school. They was one of these teachers in the science department, but unfortunately, the only class he taught was somethin called “Intermediate Light,” which was apparently for graduate physics majors or something. But they put me in there anyhow, even though I didn’t know physics from phys-ed.
   I was not so lucky in English. They apparently did not have no sympathetic people over in that department, so’s they tole me just to go ahead an take the class an fail it, an they’d figger out somethin else later.
   In Intermediate Light, they provide me with a textbook that weigh five pounds an look like a Chinaman wrote it. But ever night I take it down to the basement an set on my cot under the lightbulb, an after a wile, for some peculiar reason, it begun to make sense. What did not make sense was why we was sposed to be doin it in the first place, but figgerin out them equations was easy as pie. Professor Hooks was my teacher’s name, an after the first test, he axed me to come to his office after class. He say, “Forrest, I want you to tell me the truth, did somebody provide you the answers to these questions?” An I shake my head, an then he han me a sheet of paper with a problem written on it and says for me to set down an figger it out. When I’m thru, Professor Hooks look at what I done an shake his head an say, “Greatgodamighty.”
   English class was another deal entirely. The teacher is a Mister Boone, an he a very stern person who talk a lot. At the end of the first day, he say for us to set down that night an write a short autobiography of ourselfs for him. It’s jus bout the most difficult thing I ever try to do, but I stay up most of the night, thinkin an writin, an I just say whatever come to mine on account of they tole me to fail the class anyhow.
   A few days later, Mister Boone start handin back our papers an he criticism an makin fun of everbody’s autobiography. Then he come to what I done, an I figger I’m in the doghouse for sure. But he hold up my paper an start readin it out loud to everbody an he commences laughin an everbody else is too. I had tole bout bein in the nut school, an playin football for Coach Fellers an goin to the All State Football banquet, an about the daft board, an Jenny Curran an the movie an all. When he’s thru, Mr. Boone, he say, “Now here is originality! Here is what I want,” an everbody turn an look at me, an he says, “Mister Gump, you ought to think about gettin into the creative writing department—how did you think this up?” An I says, “I got to pee.”
   Mister Boone kinda jump back for a secont, an then he bust out laughin an so does everbody else, an he says, “Mister Gump, you are a very amusing feller.”
   An so I am surprised again.

   The first football game was on a Saturday a few weeks later. Most of the time practice had been pretty bad, till Coach Bryant figgered out what to do with me, which was bout what Coach Fellers had done at highschool. They jus give me the ball an let me run. I run good that day, an score four touchdowns, an we whip the University of Georgia 35 to 3 an everbody slappin me on the back till it hurt. After I get cleaned up I phoned my mama an she done listened to the game over the radio an is so happy she can bust! That night, everbody goin to parties an shit, but nobody axed me to any, so I go on down to the basement. I’m there a wile when I hear this kind of music comin from someplace upstairs and it’s real pretty-like, an, I don’t know why, but I went on up there to find out what it was.
   There was this guy, Bubba, settin in his room playin a mouth organ. He’d broke his foot in practice an couldn’t play an didn’t have nowhere to go either. He let me set on a cot an listen to him, we didn’t talk or nothing, he jus settin on one cot an me on the other, an he’s playing his harmonica. An after bout a hour I axed him if I could try it an he says, “Okay.” Little did I know that it would change my life forever.
   After I’d played aroun on the thing for a wile, I got to where’s I could play pretty good, an Bubba was goin crazy, sayin he’s never heard such good shit. After it got late, Bubba says for me to take the harmonica with me, an I did, an played it a long time, till I got sleepy and went to bed.
   Next day, Sunday, I went to take the harmonica back to Bubba but he say for me to keep it, cause he got another one, an I was real happy, an went for a walk an set down under a tree an played all day long, till I run out of things to play.
   It was late in the afternoon, an the sun was almost gone when I begun to walk back to the Ape Dorm. I was goin across the Quadrangle when suddenly I hear this girl’s voice shout out, “Forrest!”
   I turn aroun an who should be behin me but Jenny Curran.
   She has a big smile on her face and she come up and took me by the han, an says she saw me play football yesterday and how good I was an all. It turns out she ain’t mad or anythin bout what happen in the movie, an says it ain’t my fault, it was jus one of them things. She axe if I want to have a Co’Cola with her.
   It was too nice to believe, settin there with Jenny Curran, an she say she takin classes in music an drama an that she plannin on bein a actress or a singer. She also playin in a little band that do folk music stuff, an tells me they gonna be at the Student Union buildin tomorrow night an for me to come by. Let me tell you, I can hardly wait
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   Now there is a secret thing that coach Bryant an them done figgered out, an nobody sposed to mention it, even to ourselfs. They been teachin me how to catch a football pass. Ever day after practice I been workin with two goons an a quarterback, runnin out an catchin passes, runnin out an catchin passes, till I’m so exhausted my tongue hangin down to my navel. But I gettin to where I can catch em, an Coach Bryant, he say this gonna be our “secret weapon”—like a “Adam Bomb,” or somethin, cause after a wile them other teams gonna figger out they ain’t thowin me the ball an will not be watchin for it.
   “Then,” Coach Bryant say, “we is gonna turn your big ass loose—six foot six, two hundrit forty pounds—an run the hundrit yards in 9.5 seconds flat. It is gonna be a sight!”
   Bubba an me is real good friends by now, an he heped me learn some new songs on the harmonica. Sometimes he come down to the basement and we set aroun an play along together, but Bubba say I am far better than he ever will be. I got to tell you, that if it weren’t for that harmonica music, I might of jus packed up an gone home, but it made me feel so good, I can hardly describe it. Sort of like my whole body is the harmonica an the music give me goosebumps when I play it. Mostly the trick is in the tongue, lips, fingers and how you move your neck. I think perhaps runnin after all them passes has caused my tongue to hang out longer, which is a hell of a note, so to speak.
   Nex Friday, I git all slicked up an Bubba lend me some hair tonic an shavin lotion an I go on over to the Student Union building. They is a big crowd there an sure enough, Jenny Curran an three or four other people is up on stage. Jenny is wearin a long dress an playin the guitar, an somebody else has a banjo an there is a guy with a bull fiddle, pluckin it with his fingers.
   They sound real good, an Jenny seen me back in the crowd, an smiles an points with her eyes for me to come up an set in the front. It is just beautiful, settin there on the floor listenin an watchin Jenny Curran. I was kinda thinkin that later, I would buy some divinity an see if she wanted some too.
   They had played for an hour or so, an everbody seemed happy an feelin good. They was playin Joan Baez music, an Bob Dylan an Peter, Paul an Mary. I was lying back with my eyes closed, listenin, an all of a sudden, I ain’t sure what happen, but I had pulled out my harmonica an was jus playin along with them.
   It was the strangest thing. Jenny was singin “Blowin in the Wind” an when I begun to play, she stopped for a secont, an the banjo player, he stopped too, an they get this very suprised looks on they faces, an then Jenny give a big grin an she commence to pick up the song again, an the banjo player, he stop an give me a chance to ride my harmonica for a wile, an everbody in the crowd begun to clap an cheer when I was done. Jenny come down from the stage after that an the band take a break an she say, “Forrest, what in the world? Where you learn to play that thing?” Anyhow, after that, Jenny got me to play with their band. It was ever Friday, an when there wasn’t an out of town game, I made twenty-five bucks a night. It were jus like heaven till I foun out Jenny Curran been screwin the banjo player.

   Unfortunately, it was not goin so good in English class. Mister Boone had called me in bout a week or so after he read my autobiography to the class and he say, “Mister Gump, I believe it is time for you to stop tryin to be amusin and start gettin serious.” He han me back an assignment I had writ on the poet Wordsworth.
   “The Romantic Period,” he say, “did not follow a bunch of ‘classic bullshit.’ Nor were the poets Pope and Dryden a couple of ‘turds.’ “
   He tell me to do the thing over again, an I’m beginnin to realize Mister Boone don’t understand I’m a idiot, but he was bout to find out.
   Meantime, somebody must of said somethin to somebody, cause one day my guidance counselor at the atheletic department call me in an tells me I’m excused from other classes an to report the next mornin to a Doctor Mills at the University Medical Center. Bright an early I go over there an Doctor Mills got a big stack of papers in front of him, lookin through them, an he tell me to sit down and start axin me questions. When he finished, he tell me to take off my clothes—all but my undershorts, which I breathed easier after hearin cause of what happen the last time with the Army doctors—an he commenced to studyin me real hard, lookin in my eyes an all, an bongin me on the kneecaps with a little rubber hammer.
   Afterward, Doctor Mills axed if I would mine comin back that afternoon an axed if I would bring my harmonica with me, cause he had heard bout it, an would I mine playin a tune for one of his medical classes? I said I would, although it seemed peculiar, even to somebody dumb as me.
   They was about a hundrit people in the medical class all wearin green aprons an takin notes. Doctor Mills put me up on the stage in a chair with a pitcher an a glass of water in front of me.
   He’s sayin a whole bunch of crap I don’t follow, but after a wile I get the feelin he’s talkin bout me.
   “Idiot savant,” he say loudly, an everbody be starin my way.
   “A person who cannot tie a necktie, who can barely lace up his shoes, who has the mental capacity of perhaps a six– to ten-year-old, and—in this case—the body of, well, an Adonis.” Doctor Mills be smilin at me in a way I don’t like, but I’m stuck, I guess.
   “But the mind,” he says, “the mind of the idiot savant has rare pockets of brilliance, so that Forrest here can solve advanced mathematical equations that would stump any of you, and he can pick up complex musical themes with the ease of Liszt or Beethoven. Idiot savant,” he says again, sweepin his han in my direction.
   I ain’t sure what I’m sposed to do, but he had said for me to play somethin, so I pull out the harmonica an start playin “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” Everbody settin there watchin me like I’m a bug or somethin, an when the song’s over they still jus settin there lookin at me—don’t even clap or nothin. I figgered they don’t like it, so I stood up an said, “Thanks,” an I lef. Shit on them people.

   They is only two more things the rest of that school term that was even halfway important. The first was when we won the National College Football Championship an went to the Orange Bowl, an the second was when I found out Jenny Curran was screwin the banjo player.
   It was the night we was sposed to play at a fraternity house party at the University. We had had a terribily hard practice that afternoon, an I was so thirsty I coulda drank out of the toilet like a dog. But they was this little stow five or six blocks from the Ape Dorm an after practice I walked on up there fixin to git me some limes and some sugar an fix me a limeade like my mama used to make for me. They is a ole cross-eyed woman behin the counter an she look at me like I’m a holdup man or somethin. I’m lookin for the limes an after a wile she says, “Kin I hep you?” an I says, “I want some limes,” an she tells me they ain’t got no limes. So I axed her if they got any lemons, cause I’s thinkin a lemonade would do, but they ain’t got none of them either, or oranges or nothin. It ain’t that kind of stow. I musta look aroun maybe an hour or mo, an the woman be gettin nervous, an finally she say, “Ain’t you gonna buy nothin?” so I get a can of peaches off the shef, an some sugar, thinkin if I can’t have anythin else I can maybe make me a peachade–or somethin, I bout dyin of thirst. When I git back to my basement I open the can with a knife an squash the peaches up inside one of my socks an strain it into a jar. Then I put in some water an sugar an get it stirred up, but I’ll tell you what—it don’t taste nothin like a limeade—matter of fact, it taste more than anythin else like hot socks.
   Anyhow, I sposed to be at the fraternity house at seven o’clock an when I get there some of the fellers is settin up the stuff an all, but Jenny and the banjo guy are nowhere to be found. I assed aroun for a wile, an then I went out to get mysef some fresh air in the parkin lot. I saw Jenny’s car, an thought maybe she just get here.
   All the winders in the car is steamed up, so’s you can’t see inside. Well, all of a sudden I think maybe she’s in there an can’t git out, an maybe gettin that exhaust poison or somethin, so I open the door an look in. When I do, the light come on.
   There she is, lying on the back seat, the top of her dress pulled down an the bottom pulled up. Banjo player there too, on top of her. Jenny seen me an start screamin an flailin jus like she done in the pitcher show, an it suddenly occur to me that maybe she bein molested, so’s I grapped the banjo player by his shirt, which was all he’s got on anyhow, an snatched his ass off her.
   Well, it did not take no idiot to figger out that I gone an done the wrong thing again. Jesus Christ, you can’t imagine such carryin on. He cussin me, she cussin me an tryin to git her dress pulled up an down, an finally Jenny say, “Oh Forrest—how could you!” an walk off. Banjo player pick up his banjo an leave too.
   Anyhow, after that, it were apparent I was not welcome to play in the little band no more, an I went on back to the basement. I still couldn’t understan exactly what had been goin on, but later that night Bubba seen my light on an he stop down an when I tell him bout the thing, he say, “Good grief, Forrest, them people was makin love!” Well, I reckon I might have figgered that out mysef, but to be honest, it was not somethin I wanted to know. Sometimes, however, a man got to look at the facts.
   It is probly a good thing I was kep busy playin football, cause it was such a awful feelin, realizin Jenny was doin that with the banjo player, an that she probly hadn’t even a thought bout me in that regard. But by this time we was undefeated the entire season an was goin to play for the National Championship at the Orange Bowl against them corn shuckers from Nebraska. It was always a big thing when we played a team from up North cause for sure they would have colored on their side, an that be a reason for a lot of consternation from some of the guys—like my ex-roomate Curtis, for example—altho I never worried bout it mysef, on account of most of the colored I ever met be nicer to me than white people.
   Anyhow, we gone on down to the Orange Bowl in Miami, an come game time, we is some kind of stirred up. Coach Bryant come in the locker room an don’t say much, cept that if we want to win, we got to play hard, or somesuch, an then we be out on the field an they kicked off to us. The ball come directly to me an I grap it outta the air an run straight into a pile of Nebraska corn shucker niggers an big ole white boys that weigh about 500 pounds apiece.
   It were that way the whole afternoon. At halftime, they was ahead 28 to 7 an we was a forelorn an sorry lot of guys. Coach Bryant come into the dressing room an he be shakin his head like he expected all along that we was goin to let him down. Then he start drawin on the chalk board and talkin to Snake, the quarterback, an some of the others, an then he call out my name an axe me to come with him into the hallway.
   “Forrest,” he says, “this shit has got to stop.” His face right up against mine, an I feel his breath hot on my cheeks. “Forrest,” he say, “all year long we been runnin them pass patterns to you in secret, an you been doin great. Now we is gonna do it against them Nebraska corn jackoffs this second half, an they will be so faked out, they jockstraps gonna be danglin roun they ankles. But it is up to you, boy—so go out there an run like a wild animal is after you.”
   I nod my head, an then it be time to get back on the field. Everbody be hollerin an cheerin, but I sort of feel they is a unfair burden on my shoulders. What the hell, tho—that’s jus the way it is sometimes.
   First play when we git the ball, Snake, the quarterback, say in the huddle, “Okay, we gonna run the Forrest Series now,” an he says to me, “You jus run out twenty yards an look back, an the ball be there.” An damn if it wadn’t! Score is 28 to 14 all of a sudden.
   We play real good after that, cept them Nebraska corn jerkoff niggers an big ole dumb white boys, they ain’t jus settin there observin the scene. They has got some tricks of they own—mainly like runnin all over us as if we was made of cardboard or somethin.
   But they is still somewhat suprised that I can catch the ball, an after I catch it four or five more times, an the score is 28 to 21, they begin to put two fellers to chasin after me. However, that leave Gwinn, the end, with nobody much to chase him aroun, an he catch Snake’s pass an put us on the fifteen yard line. Weasel, the place kicker, get a field goal an the score now be 28 to 24.
   On the sideline, Coach Bryant come up to me an say, “Forrest, you may be a shit-for-brains, but you has got to pull this thing out for us. I will personally see that you are made President of the United States or whatever else you want, if you can jus haul that football over the goal line one more time.” He pat me on the head then, like I was a dog, an back in the game I go.
   The Snake, he get caught behin the line right at the first play, an the clock is runnin out fast. On the second play, he try to fake em out by handin me the ball, sted of thowin it, but bout two tons of Nebraska corn jackoff beef, black an white, fall on top of me right away. I lying there, flat on my back, thinkin what it must of been like when that netload of bananas fall on my daddy, an then I gone back in the huddle again.
   “Forrest,” Snake says, “I gonna fake a pass to Gwinn, but I am gonna thow the ball to you, so I want you to run down there to the cornerback an then turn right an the ball be right there.” Snake’s eyes are wild as a tiger’s. I nod my head, an do as I am tole.
   Sure enough, Snake heaves the ball into my hans an I be tearin toward the middle of the field with the goalposts straight ahead. But all of a sudden a giant man come flyin into me and slow me down, an then all the Nebraska corn jerkoff niggers an big ole dumb white boys in the world start grappin an gougin an stompin on me an I fall down. Damn! We ain’t got but a few yards to go fore winnin the game. When I git off my back, I see Snake got everbody line up already for the last play, on accounta we got no more time-outs. Soon as I git to my place, he calls for the snap an I run out, but he suddenly thowed the ball bout 20 feet over my head, outta bounds on purpose—to stop the clock I guess, which only has 2 or 3 seconts lef on it.
   Unfortunately tho, Snake done got confused about things, I spose he’s thinkin it third down an we got one more play lef, but in fact it were forth down, an so we lose the ball an also, of course, we lose the game. It sound like somethin I woulda done.
   Anyhow, it was extra sad for me, cause I kinda figgered Jenny Curran was probly watchin the game an maybe if I done got the ball and win the game, she try to forgive me for doin what I done to her. But that were not to be. Coach Bryant were mighty unhappy over what happen, but he suck it up an say, “Well, boys, there’s always nex year.”
   Cept for me, that is. That was not to be either.
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   After the Orange Bowl, the Atheletic Department get my grades for the first term, an it ain’t long before Coach Bryant send for me to come to his office. When I get there, he lookin bleak.
   “Forrest,” he say, “I can understan how you flunked remedial English, but it will mystify me to the end of my days how you managed to get an A in something called Intermediate Light, an then an F in phys-ed class—when you is jus been named the Most Valuable College Back in the Southeastern Conference!”
   It was a long story that I did not want to bore Coach Bryant with, but why in hell do I need to know the distance between goalposts on a soccer field anyway? Well, Coach Bryant lookin at me with a terrible sad expression on his face. “Forrest,” he say, “I regret awfully havin to tell you this, but you is done flunked out of school, an there is nothin I can do.”
   I jus stood there, twistin my hands, till it suddenly come to me what he is sayin—I ain’t gonna get to play no more football. I got to leave the University. Maybe I never see any of the other guys no more. Maybe I never see Jenny Curran no more either. I got to move outta my basement, an I won’t get to take Advanced Light nex term, like Professor Hooks have said I would. I didn’t realize it, but tears begun comin to my eyes. I ain’t sayin nothin. I jus standin there, head hangin down.
   Then Coach, he stand up hissef, an come over to me an he put his arm aroun me.
   He say, “Forrest, it okay, son. When you first come here, I expect somethin like this would happen. But I tole em then, I said, just give me that boy for one season—that is all I ask. Well, Forrest, we has had ourselfs one hell of a season. That is for sure. An it certainly weren’t your fault that Snake thowed the ball out of bounds on forth down….”
   I look up then, an they is little tears in Coach’s eyes, too, an he is lookin at me real hard.
   “Forrest,” he say, “there has never been nobody like you ever played ball at this school, an there won’t be never again. You was very fine.”
   Then Coach go over an stand lookin out the winder, an he say, “Good luck, boy—now git your big dumb ass outta here.”
   An so I had to leave the University.
   I gone back an pack up my shit in the basement. Bubba come down an he done brought two beers an give one to me. I ain’t never drank a beer, but I can see how a feller could acquire a taste for it.
   Bubba walk with me outside the Ape Dorm, an lo an behole, who should be standin there but the entire football team.
   They is very quiet, an Snake, he come up an shake my han an say, “Forrest, I am very sorry about that pass, okay?” An I says, “Sure Snake, okay.” An then they all come up, one by one, an shake my han, even ole Curtis, who is wearin a body brace from his neck down on accounta bashin down one door too many in the Ape Dorm.
   Bubba say he’d hep me carry my shit down to the bus depot, but I say I’d rather go alone. “Keep in touch,” he say. Anyhow, on the way to the bus station, I pass by the Student Union store, but it ain’t Friday night, an Jenny Curran’s band is not playin, so I say, the hell with it, an catch the bus on home.

   It was late at night when the bus got to Mobile. I had not tole my mama what had happened, cause I knew she’d be upset, so I walk on home, but they is a light on up in her room an when I get inside, they she is, crying and bawling jus like I remember. What had happen, she tell me, is that the United States Army has already heard bout me not makin my grades, an that very day a notice done come for me to report to the U.S. Army Induction Center. If I had known then what I know now, I would never had done it.
   My mama take me down there a few days later. She has packed me a box lunch in case I get hungry on the way to wherever we is going. They is about a hundrit guys standin aroun an four or five busses waiting. A big ole sergeant be hollerin an yellin at everbody, an Mama goes up to him an says, “I don’t see how you can take my boy—cause he’s a idiot,” but the sergeant jus look back at her an say, “Well, lady, what do you think all these other people is? Einsteins?” an he gone on back to hollerin an yellin. Pretty soon he yell at me, too, an I git on the bus an away we went.

   Ever since I lef the nut school people been shoutin at me—Coach Fellers, Coach Bryant an the goons, an now the people in the Army. But let me say this: them people in the Army yell longer an louder an nastier than anybody else. They is never happy. An furthermore, they do not complain that you is dumb or stupid like coaches do—they is more interested in your private parts or bowel movements, an so always precede they yellin with somethin like “dickhead” or “asshole.” Sometimes I wonder if Curtis had been in the Army before he went to play football.
   Anyhow, after about a hundrit hours on the bus we get to Fort Benning, Georgia, an all I’m thinkin is 35 to 3, the score when we whupped them Georgia Dogs. The conditions in the barracks is actually a little better than they was in the Ape Dorm, but the food is not—it is terrible, altho there is a lot of it.
   Other than that, it was just doin what they tole us an gettin yelled at in the months to come. They taught us to shoot guns, thow hand grenades an crawl aroun on our bellies. When we wadn’t doin that we was either runnin someplace or cleanin toilets an things. The one thing I remember from Fort Benning is that they didn’t seem to be nobody much smarter than I was, which was certainly a relief.
   Not too long after I arrive, I get put on KP, on account of I have accidentally shot a hole in the water tower when we was down at the rifle range. When I get to the kitchen, it seems the cook is took sick or somethin, an somebody point to me an say, “Gump, you is gonna be the cook today.”
   “What I’m gonna cook?” I axed. “I ain’t never cooked before.”
   “Who cares,” somebody say. “This ain’t the Sans Souci, y’know.”
   “Why don’t you make a stew?” somebody else say. “It’s easier.”
   “What of?” I axed.
   “Look in the icebox an the pantry,” the feller say. “Just thow in everthin you see an boil it up.”
   “What if it don’t taste good?” I axed.
   “Who gives a shit. You ever eat anythin around here that did?”
   In this, he is correct.
   Well, I commenced to get everthin I could from the iceboxes an the pantry. They was cans of tomatos an beans an peaches an bacon an rice an bags of flour an sacks of potatoes an I don’t know what all else. I gathered it all together an say to one of the guys, “What I’m gonna cook it in?”
   “They is some pots in the closet,” he say, but when I looked in the closet, they is jus small pots, an certainly not large enough to cook a stew for two hundrit men in the company.
   “Why don’t you axe the lieutenant?” somebody say.
   “He’s out in the field on maneuvers,” come the reply.
   “I don’t know,” say one feller, “but when them guys get back here today, they gonna be damn hungry, so you better think of somethin.”
   “What about this?” I axed. They was an enormous iron thing bout six feet high an five feet aroun settin in the corner.
   “That? That’s the goddamn steam boiler. You can’t cook nothin in there.”
   “How come,” I say.
   “Well, I dunno. I jus wouldn do it if I was you.”
   “It’s hot. It’s got water in it,” I says.
   “Do what you want,” somebody say, “we got other shit to do.”
   An so I used the steam boiler. I opened all the cans an peeled all the potatoes an thowed in whatever meat I could find an onions an carrots an poured in ten or twenty bottles of catsup an mustard an all. After bout a hour, you could begin to smell the stew cookin.
   “How’s the dinner comin?” somebody axed after a wile.
   “I’ll go taste it,” I say.
   I unfastened the lid to the boiler an there it was, you could see all the shit bubblin an boilin up, an ever so often a onion or a potato woud come to the top an float aroun.
   “Let me taste it,” a feller axed. He took a tin cup an dip out some stew.
   “Say, this shit ain’t near done yet,” he says. “You better turn up the heat. Them fellers’ll be here any minute.”
   So I turned up the heat on the boiler an sure enough, the company begun comin in from the field. You could hear them in the barracks takin showers an gettin dressed for the evenin meal, an it weren’t long afterward that they begun arrivin in the mess hall.
   But the stew still wadnt ready. I tasted it again an some things was still raw. Out in the mess hall they begun a kind of disgruntled mumblin that soon turned to chantin an so I turned the boiler up again.
   After a haf hour or so, they was beatin on the tables with they knives an forks like in a prison riot, an I knowed I had to do somethin fast, so I turned the boiler up high as it could go.
   I’m settin there watchin it, so nervous I didn’t know what to do, when all of a sudden the first sergeant come bustin thru the door.
   “What in hell is goin on here?” he axed. “Where is these men’s food?”
   “It is almost ready, Sergeant,” I say, an jus about then, the boiler commenced to rumble an shake. Steam begun to come out of the sides an one of the legs on the boiler tore loose from the floor.
   “What is that?” the sergeant axed. “Is you cookin somethin in that boiler! ”
   “That is the supper,” I says, an the sergeant got this real amazed look on his face, an a secont later, he got a real frightened look, like you might get jus before an automobile wreck, an then the boiler blew up.
   I am not exactly sure what happened nex. I do remember that it blowed the roof off the mess hall an blowed all the winders out an the doors too.
   It blowed the dishwasher guy right thru a wall, an the guy what was stackin plates jus took off up in the air, sort of like Rocket Man.
   Sergeant an me, we is miraculously spared somehow, like they say will happen when you are so close to a han grenade that you aren’t hurt by it. But somehow it blowed both our clothes off, cept for the big chef’s hat I was wearin at the time. An it blowed stew all over us, so’s we looked like—well, I don’t know what we looked like—but man, it was strange.
   Incredibly, it didn’t do nothin to all them guys settin out there in the mess hall neither. Jus lef em settin at they tables, covered with stew, actin kinda shell-shocked or somethin—but it sure did shut their asses up about when they food is gonna be ready.
   Suddenly the company commander come runnin into the buildin.
   “What was that!” he shouted. “What happen?” He look at the two of us, an then holler, “Sergeant Kranz, is that you?”
   “Gump—Boiler—Stew!” the sergeant say, an then he kind of git holt of hissef an grapped a meat cleaver off the wall.
   “Gump—Boiler—Stew!” he scream, an come after me with the cleaver. I done run out the door, an he be chasin me all over the parade grounds, an even thru the Officer’s Club an the Motorpool. I outrunned him tho, cause that is my specialty, but let me say this: they ain’t no question in my mind that I am up the creek for sure.

   One night, the next fall, the phone rung in the barracks an it was Bubba. He say they done dropped his atheletic scholarship cause his foot broke worst than they thought, an so he’s leavin school too. But he axed if I can git off to come up to Birmingham to watch the University play them geeks from Mississippi. But I am confined to quarters that Saturday, as I have been ever weekend since the stew blowed up and that’s nearly a year. Anyway, I cannot do it, so I listen to the game on the radio while I’m scrubbin out the latrine.
   The score is very close at the end of the third quarter, an Snake is having hissef a big day. It is 38 to 37 our way, but the geeks from Mississippi score a touchdown with only one minute to go. Suddenly, its forth down an no more time-outs for us. I prayin silently that Snake don’t do what he done at the Orange Bowl, which is to thow the ball out of bounds on fourth down an lose the game again, but that is exactly what he done.
   My heart sunk low, but suddenly they is all sorts of cheering so’s you can’t hear the radio announcer an when it is all quieted down, what happened was this: the Snake done faked an out of bounds pass on fourth down to stop the clock, but he actually give the ball to Curtis who run it in for the winning touchdown. That will give you some idea of jus how crafty Coach Bryant is. He done already figgered them geeks from Mississippi is so dumb they will assume we is stupid enough to make the same mistake twice.
   I’m real happy bout the game, but I’m wonderin if Jenny Curran is watchin, an if she is thinkin of me.
   As it turned out, it don’t matter anyhow, cause a month later we is shipped out. For nearly a year we has been trained like robots an are going to somewhere 10,000 miles away, an that is no exaggeration. We is going to Vietnam, but they says it is not nearly as bad as what we has gone thru this past year. As it turn out, tho, that is an exaggeration.

   We got there in February an was trucked on cattle cars from Qui Nhon on the South China Sea coast up to Pleiku in the highlands. It wadnt a bad ride an the scenery was nice an interestin, with banana trees an palms an rice paddies with little gooks plowin in them. Everbody on our side is real friendly, too, wavin at us an all.
   We could see Pleiku almost haf a day away on account of a humongus cloud of red dust that hovered over it. On its outskirts was sad little shanties that is worst than anythin I seen back in Alabama, with folks huddled neath cloth lean-to’s an they ain’t got no teeth an they children ain’t got no clothes an basically, they is beggars. When we get to the Brigade Headquarters an Firebase, it don’t look real bad either, cept for all that red dust. Ain’t nothin much going on that we can see, an the place is all neat an clean with tents stretched far as you can see in rows an the dirt an sand aroun them raked up nice an tidy. Don’t hardly look like a war going on at all. We might as well of been back at Fort Benning.
   Anyhow, they says it is real quiet cause it is the beginning of the gook new years—Tet, or somesuch—an they is a truce goin on. All of us is tremendously relieved, because we is frightened enough as it is. The peace and quiet, however, did not last very long.
   After we get squared away in our area, they tell us to go down to Brigade Showers an clean ourselfs. Brigade Showers is just a shallow pit in the groun where they has put three or four big water tank trucks an we tole to fold our uniforms up on the edge of the pit an then get down in there an they will squirt us with water.
   Even so, it ain’t haf bad, account of we been for nearly a week without a bath, an was beginnin to smell pretty ripe. We is assin aroun in the pit, gettin hosed down an all, an it is jus bout gettin dark, an all of a sudden there is this funny soun in the air an some jackoff who is squirting us with the hose holler, “Incomin,” and everbody on the edge of the pit vanish into thin air. We standin there butt neckid, lookin at each other, an then they is a big explosion close by an then another one, an everbody start shoutin and cussin an tryin to get to they clothes. Them incomin explosions fallin all aroun us, an somebody shoutin, “Hit the dirt!” which was kind of rediculous since we was all press so flat in the bottom of the pit by now we resemble worms rather than people.
   One of them explosions send a bunch of shit flyin into our pit an them boys on the far side get hit with it an start screamin an yellin an bleedin an grappin at theyselfs. It were all too apparent that the pit was not a safe place to be hidin. Sergeant Kranz suddenly appear over the edge of the pit, an he holler for all us to get the hell out of there an follow him. There is a little break between explosions an we haul ass out of the pit. I come over the top an look down an godamighty! Lyin there is four or five of the fellers who was squirtin the hose on us. They is hardly recognizable as people—all mangled up like they has been stuffed thru a cotton baler or somethin. I ain’t never seen nobody dead, an it is the most horrible and scary thing ever happen to me, afore or since!
   Sergeant Kranz motion for us to crawl after him, which we do. If you could of looked down on it from above, we must of made a sight! A hundrit fifty or so fellers all butt neckid squirmin along the groun in a long line.
   They was a bunch of foxholes dug in a row an Sergeant Kranz put three or four of us in each hole. But soon as we get in em, I realize I’d of almost rather stayed back in the pit. Them foxholes was filled waist stinkin deep with slimy ole water from the rain, an they was all sorts of frawgs an snakes and bugs crawlin an leapin an squirmin aroun in them.
   It went on the entire night, an we had to stay in them foxholes an didn’t get no supper. Jus afore dawn, the shellin eased up, an we was tole to haul our asses outta the foxholes an get our clothes an weapons an prepare for the attack.
   Since we was relatively new, they was really not much we could do—they didn’t even know where to put us, so they tole us to go guard the south perimeter, which is where the officers’ latrine was located. But it were nearly worse than the foxholes, account of one of the bombs has hit the latrine an blowed up about five hundrit pounds of officer shit all over the area.
   We had to stay there all that day, no breakfast, no lunch; an then at sundown they commenced shellin us again so we had to lie there in all that shit. My, my, it were repulsive.
   Finally somebody remember we might be gettin hungry, an had a bunch of c-ration cases brought over. I got the cold ham an eggs that was dated 1951 on the can. They was all kinds of rumors goin on. Somebody said the gooks was runnin over the town of Pleiku. Somebody else says the gooks got a atomic bomb an is just shellin us with mortars to soften us up. Somebody else says it ain’t the gooks shellin us at all, but Austrailians, or maybe the Dutch or the Norwegians. I figger it don’t matter who it is. Shit on rumors.
   Anyhow, after the first day, we begun tryin to make ourselfs a livable place on the south perimeter. We dug us foxholes an used the boards an tin from the officers’ latrine to make us little hooches. The attack never come tho, an we never saw no gooks to shoot at. I figger maybe they smart enough not to attack a shithouse anyway. Ever night for about three or four days they shellin us tho, an finally one mornin when the shellin stops, Major Balls, the battalion executive officer, come crawlin up to our company commander an say we has got to go up north to help out another brigade that is catchin hell in the jungle.
   After a wile, Lieutenant Hooper say for us to “saddle up,” an everbody stuffin as many c-rations an han grenades in his pockets as he can—which actually present sort of a dilemma, since you can’t eat a han grenade but you might nevertheless come to need it. Anyway, they load us on the heliocopters an off we flew.

   You could see the shit Third Brigade had stepped into even fore the heliocopters landed. They was all sorts of smoke an stuff risin up outta the jungle an huge chunks had been blown outta the groun. We had not even got to earth afore they commenced shootin at us. They blowed up one of our heliocopters in the air, an it was a dreadful sight, people set on fire an all, an nothin we could do.
   I am the machine gun ammo bearer, cause they figger I can carry a lot of shit on account of my size. Before we lef, a couple of other fellers axed if I would mind carryin some of their han grenades so’s they could carry more orations, an I agreed. It didn’t hurt me none. Also, Sergeant Kranz made me carry a ten-gallon water can that weighed about fifty pounds. Then jus fore we lef, Daniels, who carries the tri-pod for the machine gun, he gets the runs an he can’t go, so’s I got to tote the tri-pod too. When it all added up, I might as well of been toting aroun one a them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs as well. But this ain’t no football game.
   It is gettin to be dusk an we is tole to go up to a ridge an relieve Charlie Company which is either pinned down by the gooks or has got the gooks pinned down, dependin on whether you get your news from the Stars an Stripes or by just lookin aroun at what the hell is goin on.
   In any event, when we get up there, all sorts of crap is flyin aroun an they is about a dozen fellers badly hurt an moanin and cryin an they is so much noise from all quarters that nobody can hardly hear nothin. I be crouchin down real low an tryin to get all that ammo an the water can an the tri-pod plus all my own shit up to where Charlie Company is, an I’m strugglin past a slit trench when this guy down in it pipe up an say to the other, “Lookit that big Bozo—he look like the Frankenstein Monster or somethin,” and I’m bout to say somethin back, cause things seem bad enough already without nobody pokin fun at you—but then, I’ll be damned! The other guy in the slit trench suddenly jump up an cry out, “Forrest—Forrest Gump!”
   Lo an behole, it were Bubba.
   Briefly, what had happen was that even if Bubba’s foot was hurt too bad to play football, it were not bad enough to keep from gettin him sent halfway roun the earth on behalf of the United States Army. Anyhow, I drag my sorry butt an everthin else up to where I sposed to be, an after a wile Bubba come up there an in between the shellin (which stop ever time our airplanes appear) Bubba an me caught up with each other.
   He tells me he hear Jenny Curran done quit school an gone off with a bunch of war protesters or somethin. He also say that Curtis done beat up a campus policeman one day for givin him a parkin ticket, an was in the process of drop-kickin his official ass aroun the campus when the authorities show up an thowed a big net over Curtis an drug him off. Bubba say Coach Bryant make Curtis run fifty extra laps after practice as punishment.
   Good ole Curtis.
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Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
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Apple iPhone 6s
6

   That night was long an uncomfortable. We couldn’t fly our airplanes, so’s they got to shell us most of the evenin for free. They was a little saddle between two ridges, an they was on one ridge an we on the other, an down in the saddle was where the dispute were takin place—tho what anybody would want with that piece of mud an dirt, I do not know. However, Sergeant Kranz have said to us time an again that we was not brought over here to understand what is goin on, only to do what we is tole.
   Pretty soon, Sergeant Kranz come up an start tellin us what to do. He says we has got to move the machine gun about fifty meters aroun to the lef of a big ole tree stickin up in the middle of the saddle, an fine a good safe place to put it so’s we is not all blowed away. From what I can see an hear, anyplace, includin where we presently are, is not safe, but to go down in that saddle is goddamn absurd. However, I am tryin to do the right thing.
   Me an Bones, the machine gunner, an Doyle, another ammo bearer, an two other guys crawl out of our holes an start to moving down the little slope. Halfway down, the gooks see us an commence to shootin with they own machine gun. Fore anything bad happens, tho, we has scrambled down the slope an into the jungle. I cannot remember how far a meter is exactly, but it almost the same as a yard, so when we get near the big tree, I say to Doyle, “Maybe we better move lef,” an he look at me real hard-like, an growl, “Shut you ass, Forrest, they is gooks here.” Sure nuf, they was six or eight gooks squattin under the big ole tree, havin they lunch. Doyle take a han grenade an pull the pin an sort of lob it into the air toward the tree. It blowed up fore it hit the groun an they is all sorts of wild chatterin from where the gooks is—then Bones open up with the machine gun an me an the two other guys heave in a couple more han grenades for good measure. All of that gone down in just a minute or so, an when it come quiet again, we be on our way.
   We foun a place to put the gun an stayed there till it got dark—an all night long, too, but nothin happen. We could hear all sorts of shit goin on everplace else, but we be lef to ourselfs. Sunup come, an we hungry an tired, but there we is. Then a runner come from Sergeant Kranz who say Charlie Company is goin to start movin into the saddle soon as our airplanes have totally wiped out the gooks there, which is to be in a few minutes. Sure enough, the planes come an drop they shit an everthin get exploded an wipe out all the gooks.
   We can see Charlie Company movin off the ridge line, comin down into the saddle, but no sooner does they get over the edge of the ridge an start strugglin along the slope, than all the weapons in the world commence to shootin at Charlie Company an droppin mortars an all, an it is terrible confusion. From where we is, we cannot see any gooks, on account of the jungle is thick as bonfire brush, but somebody sure be in there shootin at Charlie Company. Maybe it the Dutch—or even the Norwegians—who knows?

   Bones, the machine gunner, lookin extremely nervous durin all this, on accounta he’s already figgered out that the shootin is comin from in front of us, meanin that the gooks is in between us an our own position. In other words, we is out here alone. Sooner or later, he says, if the gooks do not overrun Charlie Company, they will come back this way, an if they find us here, they will not like it one bit. Point is, we got to move our asses.
   We get our shit together an begin to work back towards the ridge, but as we do, Doyle suddenly look down off our right to the bottom of the saddle an he see an entire busload of new gooks, armed to the teeth, movin up the hill towards Charlie Company. Best thing we coulda done then was to try an make friends with em an forget all this other shit, but that were not in the cards. So we jus hunkered down in some big ole shrubs an waited till they got to the top of the hill. Then Bones let loose with the machine gun and he must of kilt ten or fifteen of them gooks right off. Doyle an me an the other two guys is thowin grenades, an things is goin our way until Bones runs out of ammo an need a fresh belt. I feed one in for him, but just as he bout to sqeeze the trigger, a gook bullet hit him square in the head an blowed it inside out. He lyin on the ground, han still holdin to the gun for dear life, which he does not have any more of now.
   Oh God, it were awful—an gettin worst. No tellin what them gooks would of done if they caught us. I call out to Doyle to come here, but they is no answer. I jerk the machine gun from po ole Bones’ fingers an squirm over to Doyle, but he an the two other guys layin there shot. They dead, but Doyle still breathin, so’s I grap him up an thow him over my shoulder like a flour sack an start runnin thru the brush towards Charlie Company, cause I scared outta my wits. I runnin for maybe twenty yards an bullets wizzin all aroun me from behin, an I figger I be shot in the ass for sure. But then I crash thru a canebreak an come upon a area with low grass an to my surprise it is filled with gooks, lyin down, lookin the other way, an shootin at Charlie Company—I guess.
   Now what do I do? I got gooks behin me, gooks in front of me an gooks right under my feet. I don’t know what else to do, so I charge up full speed an start to bellowin an howlin an all. I sort of lose my head, I guess, cause I don’t remember what happen nex cept I still be bellowin an hollerin loud as I can an runnin for dear life. Everthin were completely confused, an then all of a sudden I am in the middle of Charlie Company an everbody be slappin me on the back jus like I made a touchdown.
   It seem like I done frightened off the gooks an they hightail it back to wherever they live. I put down Doyle on the groun an the medics come an start fixin him up, an pretty soon the Charlie Company commander come up to me an start pumpin my han an tellin me what a good fellow I am. Then he say, “How in hell did you do that, Gump?” He be waitin for a answer, but I don’t know how I done it mysef, so I says, “I got to pee”—which I did. The company commander look at me real strange, an then look at Sergeant Kranz, who had also come up, an Sergeant Kranz say, “Oh, for Chrissakes Gump, come with me,” an he take me behin a tree.
   That night Bubba an me meet up an share a foxhole an eat our C-rations for supper. Afterward, I get out my harmonica Bubba had gave me an we play a few tunes. It sound real eerie, there in the jungle, playin “Oh Suzanna” an “Home on the Range.” Bubba got a little box of candy his mama have sent him—pralines an divinity—an we both ate some. An let me tell you this—that divinity sure brung back some memories.
   Later on, Sergeant Kranz come over an axe me where is the ten-gallon can of drinkin water. I tole him I done lef it out in the jungle when I was tryin to carry in Doyle an the machine gun. For a minute I think he gonna make me go back out there an get it, but he don’t. He jus nod, an say that since Doyle is hurt an Bones is kilt, now I got to be the machine gunner. I axe him who gonna carry the tri-pod an the ammo an all, an he say I got to do that too, cause nobody else lef to do it. Then Bubba say he’ll do it, if he can get transferred to our company. Sergeant Kranz think bout that for a minute, an then he say it can probly be arranged, since there is not enough lef of Charlie Company to clean a latrine anyway. An so it was, Bubba an me is together again.

   The weeks go by so slow I almost think time passin backwards. Up one hill, down the other. Sometimes they be gooks on the hills, sometimes not. Sergeant Kranz say everthing okay tho, cause actually we be marchin back to the United States. He say we gonna march outta Vietnam, thru Laos an then up across China an Russia, up to the North Pole an across the ice to Alaska where our mamas can come pick us up. Bubba says don’t pay no attention to him cause he’s a idiot.
   Things is very primative in the jungle—no place to shit, sleep on the groun like a animal, eat outta cans, no place to take a bath or nothin, clothes is all rottin off too. I get a letter once a week from my mama. She say everthing fine at home, but that the highschool ain’t won no more championships since I done lef. I write her back too, when I can, but what I’m gonna tell her that won’t start her to bawlin again? So I jus say we is havin a nice time an everbody treatin us fine. One thing I done tho, was I wrote a letter to Jenny Curran in care of my mama an axe if she can get Jenny’s folks to send it to her—wherever she is. But I ain’t heard nothin back.
   Meantime, Bubba an me, we has got us a plan for when we get outta the Army. We gonna go back home an get us a srimp boat an get in the srimpin bidness. Bubba come from Bayou La Batre, an work on srimp boats all his life. He say maybe we can get us a loan an we can take turns bein captain an all, an we can live on the boat an will have somethin to do. Bubba’s got it all figgered out. So many pounds of srimp to pay off the loan on the boat, so much to pay for gas, so much for what we eat an such, an all the rest is left for us to ass aroun with. I be picherin it in my head, standin at the wheel of the srimp boat—or even better, settin there on the back of the boat eatin srimp! But when I tell Bubba bout that, he say, “Goddamn, Forrest, your big ass’ll eat us outta house an home. We don’t be eatin none of the srimp afore we start makin a profit.” Okay, that make sense—it all right with me.
   It commenced rainin one day an did not stop for two months. We went thru ever different kind of rain they is, cep’n maybe sleet or hail. It was little tiny stingin rain sometimes, an big ole fat rain at others. It came sidewise an straight down an sometimes even seem to come up from the groun. Nevertheless, we was expected to do our shit, which was mainly walkin up an down the hills an stuff lookin for gooks.
   One day we foun them. They must of been holdin a gook convention or somethin, cause it seem like the same sort of deal as when you step on a anthill and they all come swarmin aroun. We cannot fly our planes in this kind of stuff either, so in about two minutes or so, we is back in trouble again.
   This time they has caught us with our pants down. We is crossin this rice paddy an all of a sudden from everwhere they start thowin shit at us. People is shoutin and screamin an gettin shot an somebody says, “Fall back!” Well, I pick up my machine gun an start running alongside everbody else for some palm trees which at least look like they might keep the rain offen us. We has formed a perimeter of sorts an is gettin ready to start preparin for another long night when I lookaroun for Bubba an he ain’t there.
   Somebody say Bubba was out in the rice paddy an he is hurt, an I say, “Goddamn,” an Sergeant Kranz, he hear me, an say, “Gump, you can’t go out there.” But shit on that—I leave the machine gun behind cause it jus be extra weight, an start pumpin hard for where I last seen Bubba. But halfway out I nearly step on a feller from 2nd platoon who is mighty hurt, an he look up at me with his han out, an so I think, shit, what can I do? so I grap him up an run back with him fast as I can. Bullets an stuff be flyin all over. It is somethin I simply cannot understand—why in hell is we doin all this, anyway? Playin football is one thing. But this, I do not know why. Goddamn.
   I brung that boy back an run out again an damn if I don’t come across somebody else. So I reach down to pick him up an bring him back, too, but when I do, his brains fall out on the paddy groun, cause the back of his head blowed off. Shit.
   So I drop his ass an kep on goin an sure enough, there is Bubba, who is been hit twice in the chest, an I say, “Bubba, it gonna be okay, you hear, cause we gotta get that srimp boat an all,” an I carry him back to where we is set up an layed him on the groun. When I catch my breath, I look down an my shirt all covered with blood an bluish yeller goo from where Bubba is hurt, an Bubba is lookin up at me, an he say, “Fuck it, Forrest, why this happen?” Well, what in hell am I gonna say?
   Then Bubba axe me, “Forrest, you play me a song on the harmonica?” So I get it out, an start playin somethin—I don’t even know what, an then Bubba say, “Forrest, would you please play ‘Way Down Upon the Swanee River’?” an I say, “Sure, Bubba.” I have to wipe off the mouthpiece, an then I start to play an there is still a terrible lot of shootin goin on, an I know I ought to be with my machine gun, but what the hell, I played that song.
   I hadn’t noticed it, but it had quit rainin an the sky done turned a awful pinkish color. It made everbody’s face look like death itsef, an for some reason, the gooks done quit shootin for a wile, an so had we. I played “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” over an over again, kneelin nex to Bubba wile the medic give him a shot an tend to him best he could. Bubba done grapped a holt to my leg an his eyes got all cloudy an that terrible pink sky seem to drain all the color in his face.
   He was tryin to say somethin, an so I bent over real close to hear what it was. But I never coud make it out. So I axed the medic, “You hear what he say?” An the medic say, “Home. He said, home.” Bubba, he died, an that’s all I got to say bout that.
   The rest of the night was the worst I have ever known. They was no way they could get any hep to us, since it begun stormin again. Them gooks was so close we could hear them talkin with each other, an at one point it was han to han fightin in the 1st platoon. At dawn, they call in a napalm airplane, but it drop the shit damn near right on top of us. Our own fellers be all singed an burnt up—come runnin out into the open, eyes big as biscuits, everbody cussin an sweatin an scared, woods set on fire, damn near put the rain out!
   Somewhere in all this, I got mysef shot, an, as luck would have it, I was hit in the ass. I can’t even remember it. We was all in awful shape. I don’t know what happened. Everthing all fouled up. I jus left the machine gun. I didn’t give a shit no more. I went to a place back of a tree an jus curl up an start cryin. Bubba gone, srimp boat gone; an he the only friend I ever had—cept maybe Jenny Curran, an I done mess that up too. Wadn’t for my mama, I might as well of jus died right there—of ole age or somethin, whatever—it didn’t matter.
   After a wile, they start landin some relief in heliocopters, and I guess the napalm bomb have frightened away the gooks. They must of figgered that if we was willing to do that to ourselfs, then what the hell would we of done to them?
   They takin the wounded outta there, when along come Sergeant Kranz, hair all singed off, clothes burnt up, looking like he jus got shot out of a cannon. He say, “Gump, you done real good yesterday, boy,” an then he axe me if I want a cigarette.
   I say I don’t smoke, an he nod. “Gump,” he says, “you are not the smartest feller I have ever had, but you is one hell of a soldier. I wish I had a hundrit like you.”
   He axe me if it hurt, an I say no, but that ain’t the truth. “Gump,” he say, “you is goin home, I guess you know that.”
   I axe him where is Bubba, an Sergeant Kranz look at me kind of funny. “He be along directly,” he says. I axed if I can ride on the same heliocopter with Bubba, an Sergeant Kranz say, no, Bubba got to go out last, cause he got kilt.
   They had stuck me with a big needle full of some kind of shit that made me feel better, but I remember, I reached up an grapped Sergeant Kranz by the arm, an I say, “I ain’t never axed no favors afore, but would you put Bubba on the heliocopter yoursef, an make sure he get there okay?”
   “Sure, Gump,” he say. “What the hell—we will even get him accommodations in first class.”
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Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
7

   I was at the hospital at Danang for most of two months. So far as a hospital went, it were not much, but we slep on cots with mosquito nets, an they was wooden plank floors that was swep clean twice a day, which was more than you can say for the kind of livin I’d got used to.
   They was some people hurt far worst than I was in that hospital, let me tell you. Po ole boys with arms an legs an feet an hans an who knows what else missin. Boys what had been shot in they stomachs an chests an faces. At night the place sound like a torture chamber—them fellers be howlin and cryin an callin for they mamas.
   They was a guy nex to my cot name of Dan, who had been blowed up inside a tank. He was all burnt an had tubes goin in an out of him everplace, but I never heard him holler. He talk real low an quiet, an after a day or so, him an me got to be friends. Dan come from the state of Connecticut, an he were a teacher of history when they grapped him up an thowed him into the Army. But cause he was smart, they sent him to officer school an made him a lieutenant. Most of the lieutenants I knowed was bout as simple-minded as me, but Dan were different. He have his own philosophy bout why we was there, which was that we was doin maybe the wrong thing for the right reasons, or visa-versa, but whatever it is, we ain’t doin it right. Him bein a tank officer an all, he say it rediculous for us to be wagin a war in a place where we can’t hardly use our tanks on account of the land is mostly swamp or mountains. I tole him bout Bubba an all, an he nod his head very sadly an say they will be a lot more Bubbas to die afore this thing is over.
   After bout a week or so, they move me to another part of the hospital where everbody be put so’s they can get well, but ever day I gone back to the tensive care ward an set for a wile with Dan. Sometimes I played him a tune on my harmonica, which he like very much. My mama had sent me a package of Hershey bars which finally catch up to me at the hospital an I wanted to share them with Dan, cept he can’t eat nothin but what goin into him thru the tubes.
   I think that settin there talkin to Dan was a thing that had a great impression on my life. I know that bein a idiot an all, I ain’t sposed to have no philosophy of my own, but maybe it’s just because nobody never took the time to talk to me bout it. It were Dan’s philosophy that everythin that happen to us, or for that matter, to anythin anywhere, is controlled by natural laws that govern the universe. His views on the subject was extremely complicated, but the gist of what he say begun to change my whole outlook on things.
   All my own life, I ain’t understood shit about what was goin on. A thing jus happen, then somethin else happen, then somethin else, an so on, an haf the time nothin makin any sense. But Dan say it is all part of a scheme of some sort, an the best way we can get along is figger out how we fits into the scheme, an then try to stick to our place. Somehow knowin this, things get a good bit clearer for me.
   Anyhow, I’s gettin much better in the next weeks, an my ass heal up real nice. Doctor say I got a hide like a “rhinoceros” or somethin. They got a rec room at the hospital an since they wadn’t much else to do, I wandered over there one day an they was a couple of guys playin ping-pong. After a wile, I axed if I could play, an they let me. I lost the first couple of points, but after a wile, I beat both them fellers. “You shore is quick for such a big guy,” one of them say. I jus nod. I tried to play some ever day an got quite good, believe it or not.
   In the afternoons I’d go see Dan, but in the mornins I was on my own. They let me leave the hospital if I wanted, an they was a bus what took fellers like me into the town so’s we could walk aroun an buy some of the shit they sold in the gook shops in Danang. But I don’t need any of that, so I jus walk aroun, taking in the sights.
   They is a little market down by the waterfront where folks sells fish an srimp an stuff, an one day I went down there an bought me some srimp an one of the cooks at the hospital boil em for me an they sure was good. I wished ole Dan could of ate some. He say maybe if I squash em up they could put em down his tube. He say he gonna axe the nurse about it, but I know he jus kiddin.
   That night I be lyin on my cot thinkin of Bubba an how much he might of liked them srimp too, an about our srimp boat an all. Po ole Bubba. So the next day I axed Dan how is it that Bubba can get kilt, an what kind of haf-assed nature law would allow that. He think bout it for a wile, an say, “Well, I’ll tell you, Forrest, all of these laws are not specially pleasing to us. But they is laws nonetheless. Like when a tiger pounce on a monkey in the jungle—bad for the monkey, but good for the tiger. That is jus the way it is.”
   Couple of days later I gone on back to the fish market an they is a little gook sellin a big bag of srimp there. I axed him where he got them srimp, an he start jabberin away at me, count of he don’t understan English. Anyway, I make sign language like a Indian or somethin, an after a wile he catch on, an motion for me to follow him. I be kind of leary at first, but he smilin an all, an so’s I do.
   We must of walked a mile or so, past all the boats on the beach an everthin, but he don’t take me to a boat. It is a little place in a swamp by the water, kind of a pond or somethin, an he got wire nets laid down where the water from the China Sea come in at high tide. That sumbitch be growin srimp in there! He took a little net an scoop up some water an sure enough, ten or twelve srimp in it. He give me some in a little bag, an I give him a Hershey bar. He so happy he could shit.
   That night they is a movie outdoors near Field Force Headquarters an I go on over there, cep’n some fellers in the front row start a great big fight over somethin an somebody get hissef heaved through the screen an that be the end of the movie. So afterwards, I be layin on my cot, thinkin, an suddenly it come to me. I know what I gotta do when they let me out of the Army! I goin home an find me a little pond near the Gulf an raise me some srimp! So maybe I can’t get me a srimp boat now that Bubba is gone, but I sure can go up in one of them marshes an get me some wire nets an that’s what I’ll do. Bubba would of like that.
   Ever day for the next few weeks I go down in the mornin to the place where the little gook is growin his srimp. Mister Chi is his name. I jus set there an watched him an after a wile he showed me how he was doin it. He’d catched some baby srimps aroun the marshes in a little han net, an dump them in his pond. Then when the tide come in he thowed all sorts of shit in there—scraps and stuff, which cause little teensey slimy things to grow an the srimps eat them an get big an fat. It was so simple even a imbecile could do it.
   A few days later some muckity-mucks from Field Force Headquarters come over to the hospital all excited an say, “Private Gump, you is been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for extreme heroism, an is bein flown back to the U.S.A. day after tomorrow to be decorated by the President of the United States.” Now that was early in the mornin an I had jus been lyin there, thinkin about going to the bathroom, but here they are, expectin me to say somethin, I guess, an I’m bout to bust my britches. But this time I jus say, “Thanks,” an keep my big mouth shut. Perhaps it be in the natural scheme of things.

   Anyhow, after they is gone, I go on over to the tensive care ward to see Dan, but when I git there, his cot is empty, an the mattress all folded up an he is gone. I am so scant somethin has happen to him, an I run to fine the orderly, but he ain’t there either. I seen a nurse down the hall an I axed her, “What happen to Dan,” an she say he “gone.” An I say, “Gone where?” an she say, “I don’t know, it didn’t happen on my shif.” I foun the head nurse an axe her, an she say Dan been flown back to America on account of they can take better care of him there. I axed her if he is okay, an she say, “Yeah, if you can call two punctured lungs, a severed intestin, spinal separation, a missing foot, a truncated leg, an third degree burns over haf the body okay, then he is jus fine.” I thanked her, an went on my way.
   I didn’t play no ping-pong that afternoon, cause I was so worried bout Dan. It come to me that maybe he went an died, an nobody want to say so, cause of that bidness bout notifying nex of kin first, or somethin. Who knows? But I am down in the dumps, an go wanderin aroun by mysef, kickin rocks an tin cans an shit.
   When I finally get back to my ward, there is some mail lef on my bed for me that finally catch up with me here. My mama have sent a letter sayin that our house done caught on fire, an is totally burnt up, an there is no insurance or nothin an she is gonna have to go to the po house. She say the fire begun when Miss French had washed her cat an was dryin it with a hair dryer, an either the cat or the hair dryer caught afire, an that was that. From now on, she say, I am to send my letters to her in care of the “Little Sisters of the Po.” I figger there will be many tears in the years to come.
   They is another letter addressed to me which say, “Dear Mister Gump: You has been chosen to win a bran new Pontiac GTO, if only you will send back the enclosed card promising to buy a set of these wonderful encyclopedias an a updated yearbook every year for the rest of your life at a $75 per year.” I thowed that letter in the trash. What the hell would a idiot like me want with encyclopedias anyway, an besides, I can’t drive.
   But the third letter is personally writ to me an on the back of the envelope it say, “J. Curran, General Delivery, Cambridge, Mass.” My hans is shakin so bad, I can hardly open it.
   “Dear Forrest,” it say, “My mama has forwarded your letter to me that your mama gave to her, and I am so sorry to hear that you have to fight in that terrible immoral war.” She say she know how horrible it must be, with all the killin an maimin goin on an all. “It must tax your conscience to be involved, although I know you are being made to do it against your will.” She write that it must of been awful not to have no clean clothes an no fresh food, an all, but that she do not understand what I mean when I wrote about “havin to lie face-down in officer shit for two days.”
   “It is hard to believe,” she say, “that even they would make you do such a vulgar thing as that.” I think I could of explained that part a little better.
   Anyhow, Jenny say that “We are organizing large demonstrations against the fascist pigs in order to stop the terrible immoral war and let the people be heard.” She go on bout that for a page or so, an it all soundin sort of the same. But I read it very carefully anyway, for jus to see her hanwritin is enough to make my stomach turn flip-flops.
   “At least,” she say at the end, “you have met up with Bubba, and I know you are glad to have a friend in your misery.” She say to give Bubba her best, an add in a p.s. that she is earnin a little money by playin in a little musical band a couple of nights a week at a coffeehouse near the Harvard University, an if ever I get up that way to look her up. The group, she say, is called The Cracked Eggs. From then on, I be lookin for some excuse to get to Harvard University.
   That night I am packin up my shit to go back home to get my Medal of Honor an meet the President of the United States. However, I do not have nothin to pack cept my pajaymas an the toothbrush an razor they have gave me at the hospital, cause everthin else I own is back at the firebase at Pleiku. But there is this nice lieutenant colonel that has been sent over from Field Force, an he say, “Forgit all that shit, Gump—we is gonna have a bran new tailor-made uniform sewn up for you this very night by two dozen gooks in Saigon, on account of you cannot meet the President wearin your pajaymas.” The colonel say he is gonna accompany me all the way to Washington, an see to it that I have got a place to stay an food to eat an a ride to wherever we is going an also will tell me how to behave an all.
   Colonel Gooch is his name.
   That night I get into one last ping-pong match with a feller from the headquarters company of Field Force, who is sposed to be the best ping-pong player in the Army or somesuch as that. He is a little wiry feller who refuse to look me in the eye, an also, he bring his own paddle in a leather case. When I be whippin his ass he stop an say the ping-pong balls ain’t no good cause the humidity done ruint them. Then he pack up his paddle an go on home, which be okay with me, cause he lef the ping-pong balls he brung, an they could really use them at the hospital rec room.
   The morning I was to leave, a nurse come in an lef a envelope with my name written on it. I open it up, an it was a note from Dan, who is okay after all, an had this to say:

   Dear Forrest,
   I am sorry there was no time for us to see each other before I left. The doctors made their decision quickly, and before I knew it, I was being taken away, but I asked if I could stop long enough to write you this note, because you have been so kind to me while I was here.
   I sense, Forrest, that you are on the verge of something very significant in your life, some change, or event that will move you in a different direction, and you must seize the moment, and not let it pass. When I think back on it now, there is something in your eyes, some tiny flash of fire that comes now and then, mostly when you smile, and, on those infrequent occasions, I believe what I saw was almost a Genesis of our ability as humans to think, to create, to be.
   This war is not for you, old pal—nor me—and I am well out of it as I’m sure you will be in time. The crucial question is, what will you do? I don’t think you’re an idiot at all. Perhaps by the measure of tests or the judgment of fools, you might fall into some category or other, but deep down, Forrest, I have seen that glowing sparkle of curiosity burning deep in your mind. Take the tide, my friend, and as you are carried along, make it work for you, fight the shallows and the snags and never give in, never give up. You are a good fellow, Forrest, and you have a big heart.
   Your Pal,
   DAN

   I read over Dan’s letter ten or twenty times, an there is things in it I do not understand. I mean, I think I see what he is gettin at, but there is sentences an words that I cannot figger out. Next morning Colonel Gooch come in an say we got to go now, first to Saigon to get me the new uniform that done been sewn up by the twenty gooks last night, then right off to the United States an all that. I shown him Dan’s letter an axed him to tell me what exactly it means, an Colonel Gooch look it over an han it back an say, “Well, Gump, it is pretty plain to me he means that you had better the hell not fuck up when the President pins the medal on you.”
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   We be flyin high over the pacific ocean, an colonel Gooch is tellin me what a great hero I am going to be when we get back to the United States. He say people will turn out for parades an shit an I will not be able to buy mysef a drink or a meal on account of everbody else will be wantin to do it for me. He also say that the Army is gonna want me to go on a tour to drum up new enlistments an sell bonds an crap like that, an that I will be given the “royal treatment.” In this, he is correct.
   When we land at the airport at San Francisco, a big crowd is waiting for us to get off the plane. They is carryin signs an banners and all. Colonel Gooch look out the winder of the plane an say he is suprised not to see a brass band there to greet us. As it turn out, the people in the crowd is quite enough.
   First thing that happen when we come off the plane is the people in the crowd commence to chantin at us, an then somebody thowed a big tomato that hit Colonel Gooch in the face. After that, all hell break loose. They is some cops there, but the crowd busted thru an come runnin towards us shoutin an hollerin all kinds of nasty things, an they is about two thousan of them, wearing beards an shit, an it was the mos frightenin thing I have seen since we was back at the rice paddy where Bubba was kilt.
   Colonel Gooch is tryin to clean the tomato off his face an act dignified, but I figger, the hell with that, cause we is outnumbered a thousan to one, an ain’t got no weapons to boot. So I took off runnin.
   That crowd was sure as hell lookin for somethin to chase too, cause ever one of them start chasin me jus like they used to do when I was little, hollerin and shoutin and wavin they signs. I run damn near all over the airport runway, an back again an into the terminal, an it was even scarier than when them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs was chasin me aroun the Orange Bowl. Finally, I done run into the toilet an hid up on the seat with the door shut until I figger they have give up an gone on home. I must of been there an hour or so.
   When I come out I walked down to the lobby an there is Colonel Gooch surrounded by a platoon of M.P.’s an cops, an he is lookin very distressed till he seen me. “C’mon, Gump!” he say. “They is holdin a plane for us to get to Washington.”
   When we get on the plane to Washington they is a bunch of civilians on it too, an Colonel Gooch an me set in a seat up front. We has not even took off yet, before all the people aroun us get up an go set somewhere else in the back of the plane. I axed Colonel Gooch why that was, an he say it probly cause we smell funny or somethin. He say not to worry about it. He say things be better in Washington. I hope so, cause even a moron like me can figger out that so far, it is not like the colonel say it would be.
   When the plane get to Washington I am so excited I can bust! We can see the Washington Monument an the Capitol an all from out the winder an I have only saw picures of them things, but there they are, real as rain. The Army have sent a car to pick us up an we is taken to a real nice hotel, with elevators an stuff an people to lug your shit aroun for you. I have never been in a elevator before.
   After we get squared away in our rooms, Colonel Gooch come over an say we is goin out for a drink to this little bar he remembers where they is a lot of pretty girls, an he say it is a lot different here than in California on account of people in the East are civilized an shit. He is wrong again.
   We set down at a table an Colonel Gooch order me a beer an somethin for hissef an he begin tellin me how I got to act at the ceremony tomorrow when the President pin the medal on me.
   Bout halfway through his talk, a pretty girl come up to the table an Colonel Gooch look up an axe her to git us two more drinks cause I guess he think she is the waitress. But she look down an say, “I wouldn get you a glass of warm spit, you filthy cocksucker.” Then she turn to me an say, “How many babies have you kilt today, you big ape?”
   Well, we gone on back to the hotel after that, an ordered some beer from room service, an Colonel Gooch get to finish tellin me how to act tomorrow.

   Nex morning we up bright an early an walk on over to the White House where the President live. It is a real pretty house with a big lawn an all that look almost as big as city hall back in Mobile. A lot of Army people be there pumpin my han an tellin me what a fine feller I am, an then it is time to get the medal.
   The President is a great big ole guy who talk like he is from Texas or somethin an they has assembled a whole bunch of people some of which look like maids an cleanin men an such, but they is all out in this nice rose garden in the bright sunshine.
   An Army guy commence to readin some kind of bullshit an everbody be listenin up keen, cept for me, on account of I is starvin since we has not had our breakfast yet. Finally the Army guy is thru an then the President come up to me an take the medal out of a box an pin it on my chest. Then he shake my han an all these people start takin pichers an clappin an such as that.
   I figger it is over then, an we can get the hell out of there, but the President, he still standin there, lookin at me kind of funny. Finally he say, “Boy, is that your stomach that is growlin like that?”
   I glance over at Colonel Gooch but he jus roll his eyes up, an so I nod, an say, “Uh, huh,” an the President say, “Well, c’mon boy, lets go an git us somethin to eat!”
   I foller him inside an we go into a little roun room an the President tell a guy who is dressed up like a waiter to bring me some breakfast. It jus the two of us in there, an wile we is waitin for the breakfast he start axin me questions, such as do I know why we is fightin the gooks an all, an is they treatin us right in the Army. I jus nod my head an after a wile he stop axin me questions an they is this kind of silence an then he say, “Do you want to watch some television wile we is waitin for your food?”
   I nod my head again, an the President turn on a tv set behin his desk an we watch “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The President is most amused an say he watches it ever day an that I sort of remin him of Jethro. After breakfast, the President axe me if I want him to show me aroun the house, an I say, “Yeah,” an off we go. When we get outside, all them photographer fellers are followin us aroun an then the President decide to set down on a little bench an he say to me, “Boy, you was wounded, wasn’t you?” an I nod, an then he say, “Well, look at this,” an he pull up his shirt an show me a big ole scar on his stomach where he has had an operation of some kind, an he axe, “Where was you wounded?” an so I pull down my pants an show him. Well, all them photographer fellers rush up an start to take pichers, an several folks come runnin over an I am hustled away to where Colonel Gooch is waitin.
   That afternoon back at our hotel, Colonel Gooch suddenly come bustin into my room with a hanful of newspapers an boy is he mad. He begun hollerin an cussin at me an flung the papers down on my bed an there I am, on the front page, showin my big ass an the President is showin his scar. One of the papers has drawn a little black mask over my eyes so they can’t recognize me, like they do with dirty pitchers.
   The caption say, “President Johnson and War Hero Relaxing in the Rose Garden.”
   “Gump, you idiot!” Colonel Gooch say. “How could you do this to me? I am ruint. My career is probly finished!”
   “I dunno,” I says, “but I am tryin to do the right thing.”

   Anyhow, after that I be in the doghouse again, but they has not give up on me yet. The Army have decided that I will go on the recruitment tour to try to get fellers to sign up for the war, an Colonel Gooch has gotten somebody to write up a speech that they expect me to make. It is a long speech, an filled with such things as “In time of crisis, nothin is more honorable an patriotic than to serve your country in the Armed Forces,” an a whole bunch of shit like that. Trouble was, I could not never get the speech learnt. Oh, I could see all the words in my head okay, but when it come time to say it, everthin get all muddled up.
   Colonel Gooch is beside hissef. He make me stay up till almost midnight ever day, tryin to get the speech right, but finally he thowed up his hans an say, “I can see this is not gonna work.”
   Then he come up with a idea. “Gump,” he say, “here’s what we is gonna do. I am gonna cut this speech shorter, an so all you will have to do is say a few things. Let us try that.” Well, he cut it shorter an shorter an shorter, till he is finally satisfied that I can remember the speech an not look like a idiot. In the end, all I have got to say is “Join the Army an fight for your freedom.”
   Our first stop on the tour is a little college an they have got some reporters an photographers there, an we is in a big auditorium up on the stage. Colonel Gooch get up an he begin givin the speech I done sposed to have made. When he is thru, he say, “An now, we will have a few remarks from the latest Congressional Medal of Honor winner, P.F.C. Forrest Gump,” an he motion for me to come forward. Some people are clappin, an when they stop, I lean forward an say, “Join the Army an fight for your freedom.”
   I reckon they be expectin somethin more, but that’s all I been tole to say, so I jus stand there, everbody lookin at me, me lookin back at them. Then all of a sudden somebody in the front shout out, “What do you think of the war?” an I say the first thing that come into my mind, which is, “It is a bunch of shit.”
   Colonel Gooch come an grapped the microphone away from me an set me back down, but all the reporters be scribblin in they notebooks an the photographers be takin pichers, an everbody in the audience goin wild, jumpin up an down an cheerin. Colonel Gooch get me out of there pronto, an we be in the car drivin fast out of town, an the colonel ain’t sayin nothin to me, but he is talkin to hissef an laughin this weird, nutty little laugh.
   Next mornin we is in a hotel ready to give our second speech on the tour when the phone ring. It is for Colonel Gooch. Whoever on the other end of the line seem to be doin all the talkin, an the colonel is doin the listenin an sayin “Yessir” a whole lot, an ever so often he is glarin over at me. When he finally put the phone down, he be starin at his shoes an he say, “Well, Gump, now you has done it. The tour is canceled, I have been reassigned to a weather station in Iceland, an I do not know or care what is to become of your sorry ass.” I axed Colonel Gooch if we could get ourselfs a Co’Cola now, an he jus look at me for a minute, then start that talkin to hissef again an laughin that weird, nutty laugh.

   They sent me to Fort Dix after that, an assign me to the Steam Heat Company. All day an haf the night I be shovelin coal into the boilers that keep the barracks warm. The company commander is a kind of ole guy who don’t seem to give much of a damn bout nothin, an he say when I get there I has just got two more years left in the Army before I am discharged, an to keep my nose clean an everthin will be okay. An that is what I am tryin to do. I be thinkin a lot about my mama an bout Bubba an the little srimp bidness an Jenny Curran up at Harvard, an I am playin a little ping-pong on the side.
   One day next spring there is a notice that they is gonna have a post ping-pong tournament an the winner will get to go to Washington to play for the All Army championship. I signed mysef up an it was pretty easy to win on account of the only other guy that was any good had got his fingers blowed off in the war an kep droppin his paddle.
   Next week I am sent to Washington an the tournament is bein helt at Walter Reed Hospital, where all the wounded fellers can set an watch us play. I won pretty easy the first roun, an the secont too, but in the third, I have drawn a little bitty feller who puts all sorts of spin on the ball an I am havin a terrible time with him, an gettin my ass whipped. He is leadin me four games to two an it look like I am gonna lose, when all of a sudden I look over in the crowd an who should be settin there in a wheelchair but Lieutenant Dan from the hospital back at Danang!
   We have a little break between games an I go over to Dan an look down at him an he ain’t got no legs no more.
   “They had to take them off, Forrest,” he say, “but other than that, I am jus fine.”
   They have also taken off the bandages from his face, an he is terrible scarred an burnt from where his tank caught fire. Also, he still have a tube runnin into him from a bottle hooked onto a pole on his wheelchair.
   “They say they gonna leave that like it is,” Dan say. “They think it looks good on me.”
   Anyhow, he lean forward an look me in the eye, an say, “Forrest, I believe that you can do any damn thing you want to. I have been watchin you play, an you can beat this little guy because you play a hell of a game of ping-pong an it is your destiny to be the best.”
   I nod an it is time to go on back out there, an after that, I did not lose a single point, an I go on to the finals an win the whole tournament.
   I was there for about three days, an Dan an me got to spend some time together. I would roll him aroun in his wheelchair, sometimes out in the garden where he could get some sun, an at night I would play my harmonica for him like I did for Bubba. Mostly, he liked to talk bout things—all sorts of things—such as history and philosophy, an one day he is talkin bout Einstein’s theory of relativity, an what it mean in terms of the universe. Well, I got me a piece of paper an I drawed it out for him, the whole formula, cause it was somethin we had to do in the Intermediate Light class back at the University. He look at what I have done, an he say, “Forrest, you never cease to amaze me.”

   One day when I was back at Fort Dix shovelin coal in the Steam Heat Company, a feller from the Pentagon showed up with a chest full of medals an a big smile on his face, an he say, “P.F.C. Gump, it is my pleasure to inform you that you is been chosen as a member of the United States Ping-Pong Team to go to Red China an play the Chinese in ping-pong. This is a special honor, because for the first time in nearly twenty-five years our country is having anything to do with the Chinamen, an it is an event far more important than any damn ping-pong game. It is diplomacy, and the future of the human race might be at stake. Do you understand what I am saying?”
   I shrug my shoulders an nod my head, but somethin down in me sinkin fast. I am jus a po ole idiot, an now I have got the whole human race to look after.
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