Shadow Show

by Richard Shand

Outdoor movies were a popular form of recreation for Americans and Vietnamese alike at one the villages we were stationed in. (They could also be dangerous for the crowd of soldiers made a tempting target to enemy mortar platoons.) This is a fictionalized account based on my observations of one such show.

The shadow show flickered in variegated colours in the thin screen. Small brown faces peered from folds on the finge of the darkness, a brief smile or widened eyes.

"What do you think is the impact of these movies on the Vietnamese children?" Lt. Keynes threw a handful of popcorn into his mouth.

" I dunno," the exec replied. "They probably don't know what the hell is happening." He was a big, broad southerner, with arms as thick as tree trunks.

"They know all right. Why the hell do you think we see them playing cowboys and indians?" Keynes stretched out his feet. "Just suppose they start reforming their values around what they learn from these movies. I mean you can already to Saigon now, or any sizeable village for that matter, and what do you see? Young men wearing cowboy hats, sunglasses, smoking cigarettes. Young women wearing short skirts, lipstick. Now the kids. The States must be like a different planet to them."

The exec shrugged. He was trying to catch the dialogue where Doctor Andrews was trying to guess the identity of his ESP assailant. "Well, now. Just think. Supppose the only thing we showed them was Disney cartoons?" He made a chuckling noise in his throat. "You want some?" The exec held out a packet of peanuts.

"No thanks." Keyes was lighting his pipe. "Jesus, goddamned Mickey Mouse cartoons." As he stoked the pipe, he watched the villain use his psychokinetic powers to make a ferris wheel spin wildly. Keyes didn't notice the kids leaving, melting silently back into the darkness from which they had come.