Rerun: Bufes (2)

Here’s the scene from Last of the Annamese I promised yesterday. Early in the book, Ike and Chuck, housemates in Saigon, are entertaining a visiting U.S. Marine colonel. Also present is Molly, the nurse known for her irreverence and rangy language.

After dinner, the guests adjourned to the living room for brandy. Molly sat next to the colonel, munched chocolates served by Oanh [the Vietnamese servant], and asked for an ice cube in her snifter. Chuck gave her one without comment, but [Colonel] Macintosh laughed.

“Sorry,” she said to the colonel, “but if it’s worth snorting, it’s worth snorting on the rocks.”

Macintosh eyed the ceramic elephants—one green, one purple—supporting the glass top of the cocktail table. “I see a lot of these. Are they a Saigon special?”

“We call them bufes—big ugly fucking elephants.” Molly ignored Ike’s wince. “Yeah, you can pick them up on Tu Do for a few thousand pee [GI slang for piaster].” She held her glass to Chuck. “Would you?”

End of quote.

My bufes are prominently displayed in my new house. They get as much comment today as they did 45 years ago.

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