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Number Ten

by Richard Haxton

“Seventeen.” “Two hundred and fifty-nine.” When I was in the army stationed in Southeast Asia this is what I’d hear on a program that came on for a few minutes every morning on Air Force radio. I asked my friend “what is that?” He said, “it’s better if I just show you.” So we got a taxi and rode out of town to a newly constructed asphalt road that led straight into the heart of the jungle. We came to a 10 foot tall hurricane fence and a big gate. The guard waved us past. Behind the gate was the main drag of what looked like an Old West cowboy town movie set with saloons along each side of the street. He said, “Choose one.” So we walked into one. Inside there was a rock band playing full tilt and a lot of women sitting around dressed in short skirts and low-cut blouses. One walked up to me and said, “you want to dance G.I.?” On her blouse was a plastic button with a number. My friend said, “ask her about the number.” I said, “what’s that number for?” She said, “you no hear my number on radio. I number one. I number one.” I said, “no. No. What are the numbers on the radio?” She said, “number 10, number 10 no good, medic check for VD every week. I number one.” My friend said, “Just another perk. Your tax dollars at work.”.