Portraits from the Shadow
by D. Thomas Minton
When Trung disembarked at LAX, the dead began whispering to him. In the underground tunnel
connecting the international terminal to the domestic one, the spirit of a young woman
whimpered from the murky shadows. He tried to console her, but only managed to attract the
attention of a uniformed man who told him to move along. In Denver, the ghost of an angry teen
hissed at him as he stepped off the rental car shuttle. All along the lonely road twisting up
through the forest of snow-capped pines, lost spirits glared at him from the edge of the blacktop.
America, like Vietnam, had a problem with ghosts.
Trung was thankful when he arrived at Hampton McElvy's cabin and found no spirits haunting
it. His fingers ached as he released the steering wheel and sat quietly, trying to collect himself.
He had traveled halfway around the world to speak with McElvy. What if the man couldn't help
him? Trung wasn't sure he could handle another disappointment.
He touched the pocket of his jacket. The crinkle of the paper within reassured him. Trung
dismissed thoughts of failure.
After several deep breaths, he climbed onto the porch and rapped quietly on the plank door. The
hinges creaked; an eye squinted out through the narrow crack.
"I don't give interviews anymore," McElvy said, his drawl sounding like John Wayne. To Trung,
every American sounded like John Wayne.
The door started to close.
"No interview," Trung said, putting his hand against the wood. He removed the yellowed
rectangle of newsprint from his pocket and held it up for McElvy to see.
"I don't talk about that anymore," McElvy said.
"Please, I came from Vietnam to speak to you."
The eye blinked at him.
"I am hopeful you can tell me about this man," Trung said. "He is my father."