The most important thing that happened in Oklahoma City was that we received, and then carried across 20 states, a box of 60 knives, most of which were sharp and deadly, some of which were illegal. The most interesting thing that happened in Oklahoma City was this:
Coach Carter sits us down at night. We've eaten, we've showered, we've washed the stink and dirt of our past lives from our shoulders. Coach Carter says to Jack, he says, "Lots of people will try to tell you lots of things. When I was on the base--I was still a kid, still a teenager, but I would hang out with my older brothers, who were already signed up--they used to tell us, and I mean the CO's used to tell us, that the Huks were bad guys. Now the Huks were the army, the, uh, the military part of the Philippino Communist Party. And they'd tell us, don't you go wandering out there in the woods, because the Huks will grab you and take you off and you won't be seen no more. And sometimes that was true, but what you find out is there's more to anyone than what your CO will tell you.
"There was this one night when I was out runnin with the older boys and we found ourselves in this one bar where the American servicemen would hang out. And one of them, an airman, he took a liking to one of the Philippino girls. They were at the bar and talkin close and whisperin and kissin a little, and one of the boys who worked there--one of the Philippino boys--he started getting real mad, because he liked to figure that this was his girl. And she told him flat out, told him, 'No I'm not,' and that was good enough for her and good enough for the airman, but it wasn't good enough for this boy. He raised a fuss, pointin and yellin at these two, but as he was in a American bar, he didn't do much else. He wandered off and we figured that was that.
"We wound up later at this other bar--that was how we'd do it, and you know how it goes, we go from one bar to the next--and it was more of a, you know, a native bar. It wasn't tense or nothin, but you know, the scales were tipped a bit. And this airman is there and he's still kissin on this girl, and this cook shows up, this boy from the last bar. And this boy shows up again--we were all sitting at the back of this bar, and the boy he comes walking in from the front. He picks up a bottle, just a half-full bottle of beer from someone else's table, and he's walking from the front of the bar to the back, and at every table he passes he's giving that bottle a smack. He takes two steps, and whack-whack, he tries to break the bottle. He takes two steps, and whack-whack, he tries to break the bottle. Now I'm watchin this, but the airman and the girl, they don't see nothin yet. And I figure I'll say something when he gets close enough, but meanwhile I'm just kinda freaked out, because this guy's still comin, takin two steps, and whack-whack, he's still tryin to break this bottle. And then he's just about there to our table, and I'm just thinkin I'll have to say somethin, and the boy just happens to be passin by this table where a Marine is sitting and talking to his girl. And this boy lifts up his bottle to whack it on the table, and this is the one where it's going to break, you can just feel it, and the Marine reaches out without even looking up, just reaches out and takes the bottle right out of this boy's hand, and sits it down on the far side of him, and this boy don't even notice, he's still walking. And the Marine keeps on talkin to his girl, and this boy takes two more steps, and then he's standing right there in front of us, only he's by hisself and he's got no bottle and the lot of us stand up, the airman and my two brothers and me.
"And this airman's man. So we push this boy out of the bar, the four of us and this girl watchin, and we got this boy surrouned in the street. And the airman's just about to pound on him while we're watchin on when we're hit in the eyes by these headlights, and it's these MP's, shown up right out of the blue and about saved this boy's life. They ask if everything's okay, and we say sure, and this boy runs off and we go back to our beers, and I have a feelin that this is going to get ugly before it gets better.
"So we decide to go to this third bar. We split up in different cabs and the guy driving ours is Pham--he's a Huk, he and his twin brother are both Huks, but they're good guys. We'd run into them from time to time and talk and be friendly. So they're driving me and my brother to the next bar and we tell Pham about this boy who's been following us around. And we tell Pham, and we're a little drunk by now, we tell Pham that this guy might be trouble, and without us even asking a thing about it, Pham tells us that he'll take care of it. Well, we don't think much more about it and we get to this new bar--it's darker and drunker than the rest, and things are a little tense from the get go. So we're there, me and my brothers and the airman and the airman's girl, and sure enough, the boy shows up a few minutes later. And he's staring us down and the airman's about had it and he shouts at this boy, 'all right, we're gonna do it now or we're not gonna do it at all,' and the boy says they're gonna do it now. So the two of them head out the door, and then one by one my brothers and me see these other guys walk out the door behind them, these Philippino guys, one after the other, like ten, fifteen guys. So we don't even say a word, we just know we gotta go out there or our airman's gonna get it bad. We figure he's still gonna get it bad, as many of them went after him, but at least we'd get it bad right beside him. So we go out there, the three of us, and we're all pushed up ahead and into this circle of mad as hell Philippinos. They got us surrounded and we're back to back to back to back, and they're yellin at us about takin their women and all this shit, and they're gettin out knives and bricks and all that, and I'm just thinkin, hoo boy, this one is going to be bad. But we walked right into it, so we're going to take it, but we're gonna take some of them out with us.
"And then we hear this hootin and hollerin from behind us, and to the side of us, and from down this side alley comes Pham in his taxi. And he cuts his lights off and he's got about ten guys crammed into this little car of his. And then another taxi comes from the other side, filled with another ten guys, and then from all the other alleys and sidestreets these guys come runnin, I mean there's about thirty or forty goddamn guys that comin runnin out, and they're all Pham's friends, and they're all goddamn Huks! And all these boys who were surroundin us, just scatter. I mean they are gone.
"Except the boy who started this trouble in the first place. The airman's got a hold of his collar, and Pham comes up to us and slaps us all on the back and shakes our hands, and boy we were so glad to see him. And we tell Pham this was the son of a bitch causin us so much grief, and Pham puts him in the back of his taxi cab and him and his friends all drive off. Me and my brothers and our airman figure this was as good a time as any to head on back to the base. And that boy who was followin us around, and causin us all that trouble? After he got drove off by Pham in his taxi cab? We never saw, heard, or smelled of him again.
"We never asked Pham about it. But what it goes to show you is this--sometimes the Huks were all right."
NEXT: Cowboy Hats, Regular Fries, and I Think They Thought We Were Gay.