Tom Lee Books
Jimmy Capri was anxious. Doctor Maureen “Mo” Lally had coerced him into presenting their paper at a military medical meeting in Hanoi. He feared that returning to Vietnam would unmask the PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, he had suffered from his initial tour in Vietnam. He had managed to submerge the PTSD for over thirty-five years. The memories that had lain dormant did surface, including the details of his love affair with a beautiful French-Vietnamese nurse, Mai Nguyen. What he didn’t anticipate from his short stay in Vietnam, was a new love.
Doctor James R Capri, a trauma surgeon near the end of a long career, had started his surgical profession with a year-long tour at First Marines First Medical Battalion in Da Nang during the “Vietnam Conflict” in 1969. He adapted quickly, never doubting his worth to the injured marines and soldiers. The one duty he hated was pronouncing young men dead for decedent affairs. It haunted him for months after he returned from duty in Vietnam despite psychiatric help, with nightmares of one particular dead Marine. His tour in Vietnam was a long year away from his wife and two sons. Curiosity and daring-do led him on risky jaunts with the Marines, trips to help the Vietnamese people and even their animals and smack into Mai. He fell deeply in love with her. It grew serious toward the end of his tour of duty. He had to make a decision, return to his family or abandon everything for Mai. Now back in Vietnam, he faces a similar dilemma.
Doctor Maureen Lally, an attractive thirty-six year old anesthesiologist with a public health degree, spends much of her free time doing humanitarian work around the world. Her trips and expertise have made her friends with many of the military physicians who, like her, participate in humanitarian missions. The military medical meeting is an excuse to get to Vietnam and meet with these friends. Jimmy’s work with the Civilian-Military training partnership is the vehicle, the necessary paper to present at the Asian Pacific Military Medical meeting in Hanoi. Mo’s friendly approach and special treatment put a strong pull on Jimmy’s heart.
During his first tour in Vietnam Mai pursues Jimmy after he saves her brother’s life. At first it is simply gratitude, but her attraction crescendos into much more. Jimmy is haunted by an almost perfect woman, dedicated, smart and loving, and desperately trying to get to America. At the end of his year-long tour he boards the aircraft for home without looking back, but he has never been completely sure if leaving Mai behind was the right thing to do. Perhaps, PTSD was his punishment.
On his return to Vietnam, Jimmy is met by Mo who hustles his tired body through check-in, meeting registration, lunch and final planning for their paper presentation. He spends time recovering from his long trip and jet-lag.
Their adventures lead them to the interesting and famous “one-dish,” Cha Ca La Vong restaurant. They only serve one kind of fish cooked at your table. Jimmy learns that it is one of the 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die. At the opening ceremony of the Conference the next morning, Jimmy sees a Vietnamese dancer that looks like she might be an aging Mai. That afternoon Jimmy and Mo visit the Viện Bỏng Quốc Gia Việt Nam (200 bed Hanoi Burn Center). Jimmy provokes Mo before the evening reception, but their relationship is restored including an implied invitation to Mo’s room. Jimmy declines, but accepts an invitation for a lobster dinner after his presentation the following day. Jimmy begins to fall in love with Mo.
Back at the conference Jimmy’s presentation has a few projector glitches that Jimmy is able to correct with aplomb. Mo’s amazed. The talk then goes incredibly well. That evening they head for a lobster house in the center of Hanoi where their waiter encourages them to drink “lobster juice.” He drains the vile putrid juice out of the lobster by killing it, table side, and mixes the juice with vodka. Yuk! Subsequent Fumé Blanc and lobster change the gastronomic experience and the mood.
Back at the hotel Jimmy follows Mo to her room and is invited in. Quandary. Should he do what is in his heart or let his mind rationalize not spending the night with Mo. He chooses his own room and finds peace with his decision.
The following day they take a Halong Harbor Tour. Mo asks to use Jimmy’s room to shower and change, but on return she gets a complimentary room that kills Jimmy’s plan for seduction.
Interspersed and woven into his visit to Hanoi, Jimmy has dreams, day-dreams and flashbacks. He has a flashback to his first day in-country in Da Nang in late July 1969 where he reanimated a dead Marine who had bled out from a gunshot injury to his penis and artery and vein in his thigh. In another dream Jimmy volunteered for a humanitarian mission, vaccinating Vietnamese children, and was overrun by the Viet Cong. Jimmy’s quick switch from doctor to combatant saves his life, corpsman Spettle’s and the Marines he’s with as well as many Vietnamese citizens. Jimmy flies back on a helicopter to First Marines First Med with the most severely injured patient where his direct admission to the operating room, aggressive resuscitation and skillful operation saves the dying youngster. He does a follow up visit on the fourteen year old youngster whom he had saved and meets the boy’s older sister, Mai. He finds her talented, multilingual, smart, single and grateful for saving her brother. Thus begins a series of meetings at WHO Children’s hospital where Mai and Jimmy help train nurses on wound dressings. Mai translates for him. He has encounters in her house after meals and at the beach.
In a restaurant after their day long trip to Halong Bay, Jimmy makes his final play for Mo, but she leaves for the airport. Later, there is a knock at his door.