Trading Partners

This week Bill Lapham debuts at cavalcadeofstars. You’re welcome to kick back and read a while.

Trading Partners
By Bill Lapham

He remembered Saigon, but he had never set foot in Ho Chi Minh City. He remembered the bicycles and the dresses, the shops and the cafes. The men looked at him with the same contempt they had before and the women still seemed to plead for salvation with their eyes. The odors were the same, as were the short-lived plumes of steam that carried them aloft from the cooking fires. The heat was the same stifling soup he remembered from forty-five years ago (had it really been that long?) and he remembered having the same thought then as he had now, how could anybody live here? His shirt was soaked with sweat and he had just stepped outside his hotel.

It wasn’t noon yet, but that didn’t matter, he needed a drink. He walked in no predetermined direction thinking he would just float with the flow of pedestrians that day. He stood a full head taller than the people surrounding him and he felt self-conscious about it, nauseous even. Or was that the hangover from last night’s binge? His stride was naturally longer than theirs so he had to clip his gait which brought even more discomfort to his stomach. What he remembered before were people getting out of his way. They didn’t do that now; they had more confidence. Or was that defiance? No, there had always been the defiant look.

He was awash in a sea of people who had no memory of the war. To them it was a series of stories the old people kept buried in the mud bog of their lives. It was a generational ordeal the memory of which had died with its participants and witnesses, or, having endured with its survivors, been accommodated somehow, each in their own way. They were all getting older and this war, like all wars, was fading into more and more distant history.

He stopped walking but did not stop sweating. He thought: did the war actually happen? Wasn’t one side supposed to lose and the other supposed to win? Instead, both countries had survived. The people were still here, well, their replacements were anyway. What had the war been about? There had been so much violence, so much pain and death. Why? The soaked shirt he had brought from home said ‘Made in Vietnam’ on the label. Maybe that offered a clue, he thought as he entered the first air-conditioned bar of the day.


Bill is a retired submarine Chief of the Boat and a recent graduate of the MLS program at The University of Michigan, Rackham Grad School. He writes at Six Sentences, Thinking Ten and MudJob, to name a few.


About vision791

Pushcart nominee Jeanette Cheezum has been published on several online writing sites and in fifteen Anthology books and four poetry books. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Awarded The Helium Networks Premium Writer’s Badge, Bronze Creative Writing Award and a Marketplace Writers award. Recently she has published thirteen ebooks at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You may find a list of some of her work at
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13 Responses to Trading Partners

  1. Madam Z says:

    “What had the war been about?” Good question! My guess would be this: Old men’s egos sacrificing young men’s lives. Destroying a country and much of its population for its OIL. Idiots in Washington ignoring the voices of protest from the U.S. citizenry. Sacrificing everything so they wouldn’t have to say they “lost” the war.

    Kudos to you, Bill, for showing us that the country has recovered. I know many ‘Nam vets who have not recovered. Eventually all the survivors on both sides of that horrible conflict will be gone. I just hope that the lessons learned will live on.

  2. Gita says:

    The soaked shirt he had brought from home said ‘Made in Vietnam’ on the label. Maybe that offered a clue, he thought as he entered the first air-conditioned bar of the day. HELL YES THAT WAS A CLUE. Dubya Bush gave Vietnam “Favored Nation” trading status for textiles. Within two years, every dang textile mill in Alabama shut its doors and moved the looms to Vietnam leaving massive unemployment to the residents of many counties, many of them Vietnam Vets or their kids, by now. Now, of course, Alabama has retaliated with the most draconian, unconstitutional anti-foreigner immigration laws in the country. That war ain’t over. Only the shooting is over.
    This is an EXCELLENT piece, and I feel the heat and nausea emanating from the screen. Well done, COB.

    • Madam Z says:

      Excellent comments, Gita. Industry will go where the labor is cheap. Only when our labor force has been reduced to third-world status, will the jobs come back home.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good writing there.

  4. ed dean says:

    Well done COB!
    In answer to your question; commerce always wins, doesn’t it!

  5. Travis Smith says:

    Excellent piece Bill – the overlap of the narrator and the underlying message worked really well. The whole trade situation is one that it is hard to see any easy (or good) way out of them at this point…too many people making a lot of money that could care less who they screw over to increase their bottom line.

  6. boltoncarley says:

    your writing always makes me sweat with envy. a sad tale you tell, but tell it so well.

  7. Kristine_ES says:

    the story is full, whole. and the irony is something else.
    excellent as always, Bill.

  8. Joe Gensle says:

    My hackles rose and fell, here, Bill. Viet Nam is the trendy international travelers’ destination these days and that entirely creeps me out, an affront to those who fell in a country where atrocities were committed on our living, dying and dead. The alcohol, the perspiration, the “defiance…” and the ‘Made in Vietnam’ label. Brilliant, evocative writing.

  9. vision791 says:

    Bill, you have touched a nerve with this story. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the past, especially when so many have never forgotten.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Bill, this was a powerful read. It is nice to see you in this format.

  11. Nice little BAM at the end – that took the piece in another direction, specifically for the reader, who then attached their feelings personally with the story … and I think that’s what good writing is all about.
    Great piece.

  12. Sheila Deeth says:

    The sort of story that turns you around wherever you started from. Very good writing

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