October 24, 2006
Paige Turner once said, “Chas Elliot and his wife, Grace, in Robert Stone’s
Helping are much like Richard Steel in Phan Huy Dong’s The Billion Dollar Skeleton.
All three are obsessed by their desires to hang onto the past and wreak havoc in the
present because they cannot accept their inability to control their lives.”
Chas Elliot, his
wife Grace, and Richard Steel deceive, badger, and use others in an attempt to achieve
their desires and sustain the control they wish to demonstrate.
Chas Elliot, an alcoholic Vietnam War veteran and social worker, is struggling to
sustain his control over his alcohol intake and his memories. Chas is also trying to
overcome his days as a soldier, and forget the bloody images of razor wire and
decapitation embedded in his memory. Chas’ violent mentality is a result of his time on
the battlefield, which is triggered by alcohol. He joins Alcoholics Anonymous, and
managed to be sober for 15 months, but loses control and suffers a relapse after talking to
a patient, Blankenship.
Blankenship visits his social worker, Chas, to discuss a vivid dream he has of
Vietnam. At first Chas dismisses his claims to a dream about a situation Blankenship
never experienced, but eventually allows him to elaborate. In the dream, he is looking up
at a black, smoke-filled sky, feeling scared, and with the bizarre impression of “floating
in rubber”. This image reminds Chas of his days in Vietnam, where he experienced these
feelings first-hand. Chas then suffers a brief yet intense attack of rage when he
remembers that Blankenship has never been to Vietnam, nor is he old enough to have