"I remember calling the defenses against you our senior year," the major says. "It was the second half and neither one of us had scored. I had" a five-four on, and I just happened to look at the bench and Coach Roland Dale is signaling for a split six, with stunts. I had to change the defense, and when I stunted I went right out of the play. I watched you go 45 yards for a touchdown through the hole I'da been in. Coach Dale says, 'Neal, you've done a great job calling signals up to now. Don't ever look to the bench again.' "
As the days go by, the major gets a chance to renew old pleasures, except now there are wonderful new twists. For the first time he takes his son shooting on a friend's six-acre estate. Their aim is erratic but their happiness is immense. The next morning he gets up at 5 a.m. and drives 50 miles in the rain to Lake Verret to fish. The new luxury there is a trolling motor with a foot pedal, and a boat with a carpeted deck, and by the time the clouds break he and a friend have caught 21 bass up the sloughs and bayous. On the way home the major stops in Napoleonville to see another POW who has been released, an old friend named Glenn Daigle. But the sun is out, and Glenn Daigle is off playing golf.
According to priority, Opal Two was the 92nd American prisoner of war to be released by the North Vietnamese. As the release date drew near, the guards at the Hanoi Hilton, some of whom had been his most persistent tormentors, grew increasingly friendly. One suggested that since they were going to be friends now, maybe he would visit Opal Two in the United States. The guard said he would like to study a trade there.
The irony of the suggestion was not lost on Opal Two. Three weeks after his return to the U.S., Opal Two underwent surgery on his injured left hand. The operation required two hours and was pronounced successful. If all went well, he would be flying again by early fall.
"I've been lucky," Opal Two said. "I've been lucky all my life."