After the end of the war, Jimmy Cross goes to visit Tim O’Brien at his home in Massachusetts. O’Brien comforts him by saying that he feels the same way about other things, and they switch from coffee to gin. They steer the conversation away from the more harsh memories and laugh about less upsetting recollections,such as the way Henry Dobbins used to carry his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck as a good-luck charm. Finally, by the end of the night, O’Brien thinks it’s safe to ask about Martha.
O’Brien describes when the Alpha Company enlists an old Vietnamese man whom they call a “poppa-san” to guide the platoon through the minefields on the Bataan Peninsula. Poppa-san could take the whole group through the minefields without stepping on any mines and killing everyone. When he is done, the troops are sad to leave their steadfast guide. Mitchell Sanders tells story of a man who went AWOL in order to sleep with a Red Cross nurse.
O’Brien says he has not told this story to his parents, siblings, or wife. He speaks of living with the shame of the story, whose events occurred during the summer of 1968. The day the draft notice is delivered, O’Brien thinks that he is too good to fight the war. Although his community pressures him to go, he resists deciding about whether to go to war or flee. In the middle of the summer, O’Brien begins thinking seriously about fleeing to Canada, eight hours north of Washington. On O’Brien’s last full day at the Tip Top Lodge, Elroy takes him fishing on the Rainy River.