The Things They Carried Chapter 3, Spin
Sometimes the war can almost seem sweet or fun. Azar gives a young Vietnamese boy a candy bar. Mitchell Sanders picks lice from his body and mails them to his draft board (which sent him to war) in Ohio. "On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put a fancy spin on it, you could make it dance." Chapter 3, pg. 32 Some of the men play checkers: it gives them a reassuring sense of order. In the game, there is always a winner and a loser.
Tim is forty-three now, and he is a writer. He cannot forget the deaths of his friends, like Kiowa or Curt Lemon. But the war is not all horrible. Sometimes they would ask Ted Lavender how the war was that day, and if he was high, he would say, "Mellow, man. We got ourselves a nice mellow war today." Chapter 3, pg. 33 Tim remembers the time they hired an old Vietnamese man to guide them through a mine-infested area. There were mines everywhere, but no one got hurt, and everyone grew to love the old man, who also liked them. The war is also boring though, despite all the dangers. Tim feels guilty that he is still writing about it--his daughter Kathleen tells him he should write about ponies--but Tim knows he has to write about his own life. He tells the story of a soldier who goes AWOL (absent without leave). The soldier has a wonderful time with a Red Cross nurse, but after a while he goes back to the war, even more ready to fight than before. His friends ask him what happened, and he says, "All that peace, man, it felt so good it hurt. I want to hurt it back." Chapter 3, pg. 35 Tim heard the story from Mitchell Sanders, who was probably making most of it up. But nevertheless, it is true, because Tim knows exactly how the man in the story feels.
Tim remembers many fragments of stories from Vietnam: Norman Bowker wishing his father didn't want him to get medals so badly, or Kiowa teaching the others a rain dance, or Azar blowing up Lavender's adopted puppy. Tim also remembers even smaller fragments: the moon above the rice paddies, or Henry Dobbins singing, a hand grenade, a young dead man, and Kiowa telling Tim he had had no other choice. Tim thinks that stories link the past and the future. They help you understand who you are and where you're going.