It was nine A.M on a Monday morning. The first thing on my to-do list was to call a friend at the local VA hospital. He worked in the records department. I asked him to check up on this guy I met at a yard sale the Saturday before. This guy mentioned, in passing that he spent some time in Vietnam. He told me his name was Jason Roberts.
I just could not get out of my mind the soft spoken tone of his voice. His voice rasped from age. Still he spoke as one who had traveled and done more than most men.
Jason Roberts would be Willie Nelson, if Willie was six foot tall. His long graying hair was braided into a ponytail down to the middle of his back. His beard was also graying, but short and well trimmed His posture showed no signs of age. From his general appearance, I would guess he was in his mid to late fifties. Later I found out I was wrong. He was in his mid sixties.
Jason Roberts wore a Boise State t-shirt, faded jeans and Birkenstock sandals. He wore them as a fashion statement. For casual clothes I saw no wrinkle. I could not help but notice his shirt and jeans displayed ironed creases in all the right places.
That Saturday where I first met Jason Roberts will always be in my mind. It was at a yard sale. We were both eyeing a collection of old Army knives. He authoritatively corrected the seller, about the origin of a knife. The seller said, “It was taken off a dead Viet Cong soldier in 1968.”
Closely examining the knife, Jason looked up at the seller. “The Viet Cong never used this kind of knife. Look at the inscription on the blade near the hilt. That’s Chinese writing. The metal is cheap and would not last a day in the field. This knife was made in the early eighties for tourist visiting Hong Kong. It sold for not more than five US dollars.”
The seller’s face turned red with embarrassment. Sheepishly, the seller replied, “I’ll let you have the knife for $5”. At that point Roberts put the knife down and walked away in disgust.
I followed Roberts back to his classic old truck, a ‘72 El Camino. There we talked about old knives and what it was like in the 70′s. When he found out I had done some writing, he invited me up to his place the following Saturday for some of his homemade beer. I accepted. I was thinking he just might provide me with some material for a short story, at the very least.
I called my friend the following Monday morning to get some background about Jason Roberts. I had just sat down at my desk that Wednesday morning when my cell phone rang. I raised it to my ear. A screaming frantic voice came from the earpiece at me. “What the fucks are trying to do? You have got me in some real hot water!”
I recognized from the caller ID it was my friend at the VA. “Calm down Jacob,” were the first words that came out of my mouth. “What’s the matter?”
“This Ja..Ja…Jason Roberts you h..h..had me check out,” my friend was not calming down. Whatever had just happen really got him scared. Jacob starts stuttering when he is scared. “I j..j..just got a call from military intelligence. They want to know why I’d been looking into your Jason Roberts.”
“What did you tell them?” I asked.
“I told this guy I was just doing some research on Vietnam vets who live in Idaho.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me to forget about Roberts. Roberts is off limits to all inquires. Only doctors are allowed to make inquiries and then for medical reasons, only. If anyone else asks I’m to give this guy a call, right away. He gave me a number that goes directly to him”
“Can you give me his name and number?”
“No! Are you crazy! No way! They’ll throw me in jail, and throw away the key! You’re messing with some high, high level shit. The guy must be a real life James Bond. I would stay as far away from this guy as possible. You could get both of us in deep shit if not dead.”
After Jacob hung up, I sat back in my chair. Now I had more questions. My curiosity was starting to take over. From the Saturday meeting, at the yard sale, he seemed like a pretty level headed guy. The more I thought about it the more determined I was to taste some of Jason Roberts’s homemade brew.