by OPOVV, ©2018

(Sep. 22, 2018) — “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another exciting and informative show of our ongoing series of PTSD at ‘The Pulse of the Nation,’ the place of calm in a sea of squalls. What I’m trying to say is we’re a place of truth in a world of fake news; at least we like to think we are. Heck, at least we try, right? For you long-time viewers, I’m sure you noticed that we’re in the office of Professor Zorkophsky here at the university.”

“Please, Roving, call me ‘Zork’; there’s no need to be so formal.”

“Oh, sure, of course. How could I have forgotten? Anyway, Zork has asked to interview…”

“Correction: have a session; analyze this Vietnam Veteran and his imaginary dog.”

“Well, do I have news for you. And speaking of such, walking in the door are the Vietnam Veteran and the Talking Dog. How you guys doing?”

“The dog says we’re doing fine and I hope we’re not late. A squirrel distracted us, just out front, under that big oak tree. Hello, Professor Zork, how are you doin’?”

“What? So, there really is a dog; usually they’re imaginary (hint-hint).”

“The dog says to cool it, okay? This is how it works: the dog communicates to me through telepathy. For some unknown reason, I understand her; don’t ask me how.”

“How do you understand ‘dog talk’? And what’s your name?”

“I’m ‘Vietnam Veteran’; how do you do? And I just said I don’t know how it works but the dog talks to me and then I relay whatever she says; I’m just the go-between; the messenger, if you will.”


“Isn’t it, though? People think I’m nuts until, that is, they actually have a conversation with the dog, okay?”

“Who am I addressing?”

“Let’s make this easy: you’re looking at me and I’m looking at you, so I guess maybe we’re talking to one another. And when you talk to the dog the polite way would be to look at her while you’re talking to her, or is that too far, what, ‘off the wall’? What’s the correct psychiatric term for it?”

’Off the wall’ is close, but if you really want to nail it I’d just say, ‘Loony Tunes,’ and let it go at that.”

“Fine with us; whatever floats your boat.”

“You were in the Navy, isn’t that correct?”

“I was; not the dog.”

“So you went in as a normal guy and came out nuts?”

“No, I came out normal; it wasn’t until two years later that I started to have the nightmares.”

“What about?”

“The usual stuff, you know, the sound of a napalm canister going OOMPH! along with the accompanying noises and even the smells, so altogether it’s one heck of a way to wake up. But the worst of it was there was absolutely no control over it; none whatsoever, just like the real thing. Caught in a web with no way out, except waking up at three in the morning scared stiff, and I do mean scared because for that split second, that infestestimal amount of time between dreaming and waking, you have no idea if it’s real or just another nightmare; you just don’t know because there’s no time to think about it, not when you’re in danger, real and not make-believe danger*. The possibility of thinking it’s just a dream doesn’t arise; there’s no choice; you’re bereft of any and all semblance of the remotest possibility of free will. Does that make any sense?”

“Perfectly. Go on.”

“It’s that one micro-instant, as you come to your senses from sleep to awake, that you realize that you’re lying in a bed in the middle of a skirmish with bullets flying and bombs dropping and artillery firing TOTALLY DEFENSELESS, but, as I said, it takes time to come to your senses and it’s during that time, that micro-second, of not knowing where you are, what you’re doing and what’s the most expedient way out of the mess that you’re totally in, for real (you think; you believe) that it all hits you in less than a heartbeat, understand? It’s the not knowing that’s the killer.”

“And then?”

“Well, you’re already going a thousand miles a second, right? And then you step out of total chaos to wakefulness, where it’s quiet as a mouse but just an instant ago it was deafening. It’s dark – it’s 3:00 am – but a blink of an eye ago it was blinding with smoke so thick it made your eyes burn; there’s no smell, but a breath ago it was smoke that smelled of cordite or of burning flesh.”

“What are you thinking?”

“You’re not, and that’s the point. You don’t think when you’re fighting for your life: you react; you react by relying on your training and you move ahead and get the job done so you can kick back with a nice cool canteen of fresh water, or at least water than isn’t three-day-old stale. You don’t think of crisp clean fresh sheets, but you do think of catching some serious zzz’s.”


“Shut-eye; down-time; sleep.”


Photo credit:   Warner Pathé News – Public Domain https://archive.org/details/NewsMaga_4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2109071

“So there you are, sitting in bed; shaking; sweating; crying from the cordite and all the other smoke; add a good measure of bewilderment, nervousness, and out-and-out scared straight out of your wits, because it takes a certain amount of time to get it together; to come down to reality; to make your world the bed that you’re sitting on instead of the dirt that you were crawling through.”

“That bad.”

“That’s real. And I got something to say and I don’t give a hoot if you believe me or not, but one time, after waking from one of those nightmares, I had dirt in my mouth, I swear to God I did, and that’s all we want to say about it.”

“Where’s the dog fit in?”

“We just happened to meet, that’s all. Pure luck.”

“I see.”

“We don’t think you do, but that’s quite alright with us since we’re off to the dog park.”

“But what’s the cure?”

“I guess find a woman who doesn’t cheat, or a Talking Dog. Also, get hooked up with some people who have similar problems with getting back to an even keel. And now we’re out of here.  The dog says it’s been real.”

“And off they go. Well, Zork, what do you think of the pair?”

“Well, I liked the Talking Dog; I thought she made perfect sense. And I’m glad that I could’ve been helpful in some small way to help a Vet with PTSD.”

“That’s it? Not much, but thanks anyway and so, on behalf of the crew, I’ll be wishing you all a goodnight: Goodnight.

“Hey, Zork, burger time: my treat.”

[*make-believe danger: there were times, when things were really out of control, when I would ask myself, “Is this for real or am I dreaming?”]

All Along the Watchtower” (4:01)


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