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Crackers! by Cynthia Kadohata

Crackers! by Cynthia Kadohata

Author:Cynthia Kadohata
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers


Sixteen

RICK STARED AT THE JUNGLE beneath him and wondered whether they had already crossed into Cambodia. Camel’s face was impassive. It was an honor to be chosen to accompany Camel—at least, that’s what U-Haul had told him. Rick had mentioned to the sarge that rumor he’d heard about how Special Forces soldiers ate their own soles when they ran out of food. In response U-Haul had basically told him he was so stupid, it was unimaginable that he’d graduated kindergarten. And yet Sarge had recommended him for this gig.

Rick hoped this rescue plan wasn’t dinky dau. That was supposedly Vietnamese for “nuts.” Sometimes a commanding officer came up with a plan that was dinky dau. There had been cases Rick had heard of where a unit refused to follow their C.O. if the plan was bad. But these guys seemed to know what they were doing.

They kept going west. Camel hadn’t told Rick precisely where they were going, but Rick didn’t know much about Cambodia anyway. In fact, he realized he didn’t know much about anything. But he finally had to ask. “Where we going?” he shouted out.

“A hamlet called Phumi Krasang in Kampong Province,” Camel shouted back.

Rick had never heard of it. The jungle thinned out as the helicopter began to drop down, and Rick’s mouth went dry. It was still daylight so the plan, which called for insertion at dusk, was out the window. He tried to lick his mouth moist, but he didn’t seem to have any saliva. His heart was pounding so hard that he could literally hear it over the noise of the chopper. He glanced casually at the other guys. They seemed perfectly calm, like they were just flying to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk.

The chopper didn’t touch down, just hovered for a moment. Rick did exactly what they’d done in practice: jump down and rush out with Cracker and take cover behind some bushes. There was jungle but nothing too heavy. More like the woods outside of his town back home. Rick had put on his own and Cracker’s STABO harnesses before they got on the helicopter, because everyone had to be ready to extract immediately, just in case something went wrong. In fact, they had to be ready to extract immediately even if everything went right. Rick would be working Cracker off leash for this mission. Rick turned to Camel, who nodded at him. Rick said with quiet urgency, “Search, Cracker.”

Cracker padded forward just a few feet before she sat down. It turned out to be some kind of booby trap hung from a tree. They all walked around it in the same order as in practice. First Cracker. Then Rick, one of the Montagnards, Camel, Vukovich, Madman, and the other Yard. At one point Rick waited for Camel and whispered, “Aren’t we coming back in this direction? Shouldn’t we flag the booby traps somehow? What if a friendly blows them?”

Camel said softly, “We’ll remember where they are. Besides, there aren’t gonna be any friendlies around here.



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