Our Lady Of The Blues
Book I, Clip 2
Our Lady Of The Blues: Book I, Clip 2a. Posted 6/08/12
He even swam in the fountains in the yard afterwards, and though he did not get very wet, that night his eyes were moist at the thought that the best part of his life was at an end.
Thus Ordway describes the ‘happiest time of his life.’ So it was lived in the politest of societies. But there still came a time in his life when the ideals he had been taught as a child came into conflict with the ideals of an older broader corrupt society.
Cabot was asked whether he was moral to which he answered yes. He was then held under until he learned to answer ‘not more nor less than anyone else.’ In other words he descends to a lesser level of morality and he is corrupted by a lower standard. The question then becomes who determines the level of corruptness and how low do we go.
In American society at large the Judeo-Italian notion of criminality had been lowering the standards of society for six decades. American society had been unprepared to deal with the level of corruptness brought into American life by the immigrants. The country had neither laws nor attitudes to resist this incredible degree of criminality. Indeed, the politicians demanded that society turn a blind eye to this behavior lest Jews and Italians be offended.
Even the greatest crime buster in the history of the world, J. Edgar Hoover, Chief of the Federal Bureau Of Investigation, leader of the G-men, denied the existence of organized crime until after this period. The renowned crime fighter had built his reputation on defeating lone cowboy desperadoes like John Dillinger, Lester Gillis alias Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and the Barker Gang, but he did not have one single achievement against the urban Judeo-Italian gangs. Even the arrest of Lepke Buchalter of Murder, Inc., had been arranged by his fellow gangsters to get him out of the way.
In a couple of years the Kennedy family would employ Mafia muscle to swing the presidential election to themselves. Thus, in sixty years the vilest criminal elements had come to an accord with the US government. Further the US government would employ criminals in a plan to assassinate the man who had dispossessed the mob of their criminal enterprises- Fidel Castro.
Thus the descent into corruption from Ordway in 1921 to Kennedy in 1960 was incredible. Obviously at the time of this story the lowest elements of the underworld were determining the moral level of the United States. If it was OK for them, if the law would tolerate the murderous crimes of the underworld, then would the rest of the people of the country expect less for themselves? No.
While Ordway was of a very privileged class nevertheless Dewey Trueman and the majority of his shipmates had enjoyed a variation of Ordway’s life until his dunking. But now the adjustment the crew of the Teufelsdreck would have make to their dunking was much greater. The gangland focus was shifting from Havana to Las Vegas. Boomtimes in the desert with its gambling, prostitution and corruption would undermine morality in the fleet.
As Dewey lay with his back to his shipmates attempting to deal with the homosexuality and crime that he intuited aboard the ship his mind reeled. What was he to do? Could he let them duck him and come up saying he was no moral than they? Should he accept the conditions and ‘go with the flow’ which might cost him all of his self-esteem or resist, fight the corruption, and suffer the consequences of his ‘arrogance.’
Could he endure as someone who couldn’t respect himself? Dewey already suffered from low self-esteem inflicted on him in his childhood. It was recovering this self-esteem that was the central battle of his life. Rather than sacrifice his own identity on the altar of conformity, of ‘going with the flow’ in whatever direction that might lead he had better resist. Better to be battered shapeless than to knowingly assume the position. Thus, when he awoke the next morning his will was armored for a fight to the finish. He would attempt to sink no lower than had Ordway.
Mustered the next morning Dewey was given a work assignment. Life aboard ship began in earnest. Having just returned from an Asian tour of duty the ship was in deplorable condition. It appeared that no work had been done for at least six months. It was as though they were beginning from scratch. Yet the miracle was that this bunch of uncaring misfits would have the Teufelsdreck shipshape within ten days attributable to the genius of Navy organization.
Dewey was assigned to repair damage to the peeling numbers on the bow. He and an old hand, Lester Peebles, were assigned the task. Peebles was to be transferred shortly so there is no need to give his description except to say that he was short, weasel faced, slovenly and of low moral order.
Dewey, young and naïve, believed it was his duty to work as fast and as well as circumstances allowed. Peebles, who had been around, knew that one worked as slowly as possible and caused as many obstructions as possible. He knew that the standard was that a four hour job should take a minimum, a bare minimum of two days. He accurately reflected shipboard standards so it was also his job with a new man to condition him to reality.
You will see how brilliantly the Navy organized to overcome this inherent sabotage which could not be avoided. Central to the Navy’s success of course was that the work force could not walk off the job and quit. Without that coercion even the Navy must have failed.
The bow of the Teufelsdreck was about fifteen feet above the waterline thus one man would work over the side while the other tended him. The roles alternated after lunch. Dewey as new man was the first to go over. A wooden board called a stage was lowered over the side to stand on. At the lowest point the stage was only inches from the water. The bow curved out at the top so the stage was three or four feet away from the side at the bottom. There are several metal rings welded to the bow of a ship if you look closely. A smaller line passed through a loop, snugs the stage up close to the side to facilitate work.
Even so work is not easy. You have to hold onto a stage line with one hand and paint with the other while balancing on a wobbling board. It can be done however.
Dewey went over the side and slid down the stage line. He snugged up, examined the numbers up close and took his wire brush out of his back pocket to begin to scour the numbers clean.
Up to this point the process had consumed the whole morning so Dewey climbed back up the line to go to lunch.
Lunch over at one, it took Peebles till one-thirty-five to find his way back to the fo’csle. It took him another full forty-five minutes to get over the side. This was quite clearly a four or five day job. It took seven. Like Penelope unweaving the work of the day at night, Peebles managed to undo what Trueman had done so that Trueman had to do it over.
Over that period of time Peebles filled Dewey in on shipboard gossip. He preferred to speak to Dewey when Dewey was on the stage.
‘Yeah, Descartes is a pretty good old boy. He’s a man’s man.’
‘Isn’t that pronounced Day Cartes?”
‘Is it spelled Day Cartes? Peebles looked at Trueman suspiciously. Seemed pretty clear cut to Peebles, nor was his logic wrong.
‘Yeah, but it’s French, like Rene Des Cartes. I’ll bet he pronounces it Day Cartes himself.’
Peebles had dropped out school in the ninth grade. He had no way to even follow Dewey’s argument. He spelled the name out in his mind and could find no other pronunciation than DessCartes. He looked down hard at Dewey wondering how stupid or troublesome the guy would be.
‘Uh, doesn’t matter. You call it what you want and I’ll call it what I want.’ Peebles tried to regain his thought. ‘Anyway the Captain is an alright guy. He understand how to manage men.’
‘Right. How’s that?’
‘He doesn’t try to enforce silly rules. You know, if something important comes up and you can’t get back to the ship for two or three days he doesn’t even give you a Captain’s Mast. You don’t know Stan Casien but he’s been gone three weeks now.’
‘Three weeks? Isn’t that AWOL?’
‘Will be if he doesn’t come back. But, that’s just it, if he doesn’t come back then he must have a good reason. The Captain will understand that.’
‘Well, don’t you think he would have to be tried for desertion?’
‘Not if he’s got a good reason. You see, Captain De…the Captain would understand that. That’s why he’s a man’s man.’
In fact Capt. Descartes was not only tolerant he was lax. He so desired the esteem of the men that, in certain cases, he let them get away with so much and ran such a loose ship that he was about to be transferred to shore duty. When Stan Casien did return after more than a month AWOL Capt. Descartes scandalized the squadron by giving him only seven days restriction although, contrary to Peebles’ expectations, he did give Casien a Captain’s Mast.
The lenience of the sentence was such that discipline aboard the Teufelsdreck evaporated completely. The lack of order nearly drove Trueman mad.
‘You met Bent Cygnette yet?’ Peebles asked giving the stage line a twitch which sent the stage swinging wildly as Dewey overcompensated to regain his balance. His brush swiped wildly smearing the white of the number over the gray of the side.
‘Come on, Peebles, knock it off; you made me smear the paint.’
‘Yah. You’re pretty clumsy. Ha ha ha. Ah, just a little extra work that’s all. We’ve got plenty of time. You do understand that don’t you? We got all the time in the world. Keep your cool. Cygnette? Know him yet?’
‘No. Who is he?’
‘Gunner’s Mate. Seaman. Gonna be Third Class before too long though. Real tough nut, him and his sidekick, Kunkle.
‘Oh yeah? Real fighter, huh?’
‘Don’t say I said it ‘cause I don’t want no trouble but I kinda wonder about his reputation. I mean, you know, a lot of his fights are done this way. He and Kunkel go to a bar. Cygnette picks a fight, Kunkel goes outside first, Cygnette leads the guy he picked a fight with outside. Kunkel waits beside the door, then pops the guy as he comes out and then Cygnette lets him have a couple. Fight’s over.’
‘Not a fair fighter, huh?’
Let’s just say he likes to have the percentages on his side. A real follower of Casey Stengel. He’s a good puncher though. Good man. I don’t want to get in his way. I seen him once coming back from liberty. There’s this drunk sailor in a phone booth. Cygnette hauls him out and whales on him. I think he’s tough alright but all his fights I heard of are like that. Got everybody on board scared though.’
‘Oh Yeah. Bent Cygnette. Hmm. I’ll look for him.’
At the end of the seven days orders came for the Teufelsdreck to put to sea for gunnery practice. By this time the ship, although not shipshape had been pretty well cleaned up. As Dewey looked about it was possible to take some pride in the steel beast.
Gunnery practice was one of the highlights of shipboard life. Here was high fun on the high seas. When a ship had gunnery proficiency it was allowed to paint a large white E on the smokestack to announce to the fleet that a crackerjack crew was on board. If awarded your efficiency grade for two or three years in succession a hash mark was painted below the E for each year. The Teufelsdreck had a bare stack when it left port but on its return the old bucket was entitled to wear an E. Hashmarks would be awarded for the two successive years.
Exercises for the four ship squadron were held day by day so for four days the Teufelsdreck steamed out every morning to return every evening. The ship was reassigned from the Naval Station to the Buoys.
There was always a war going on in Dewey’s mind between the forces of Dark and Light. In other words he had a split personality or, in still more other words, he did not have an integrated personality. It is highly doubtful whether he was more or less disintegrated than those about him but as he was not interested in impressing them, as they were with each other, he did little to conceal his disorder.
He would have expressed matters in the light that he was exploring the parameters and trying to rectify the situation, in other words, integrate his personality. On the good ship, the Golden Vanity, everyone is his own prince thus Dewey’s shipmates tended to see themselves as the epitome of perfection while all others were wallowing in the slough of despond. Dewey understood that his will and actions were not correlated which he saw as a deficiency but at the same time he saw no one better off. His pride was offended when others treated him, as they did, as less than themselves. Or, perhaps, he was over sensitive and tended to project his deficiencies on others. He knew that his perception of reality was off center.
Patient virtue must suffer so he dismissed everyone else as irrelevant. Nevertheless his depression sat on him as the great Alaskan Depression swirls around that gulf and never leaves. His sunny days were merely a relaxation or shift in the depression. But even though always under a low pressure system he could see and appreciate the glorious light of the adjoining high pressure system.
Thus even as the Deck Force gathered on the fo’c’sle to cast off the lines, each member trying to increase his own stature by bringing the others down, Dewey contrasted their dark presence with the radiance of the glorious Southern California sunshine.
During the preceding week the Naval characters of the seven sailors had solidified. Tidwell was darker and more withdrawn than ever. Dennis La Frenniere had been thoroughly terrified into the character of Frenchy. He now spoke with a terrible French accent addressing everyone as Meeshur. Brand and Dant formed a close Damon and Pythias solidarity and bore up rather well with each other’s support. Kind of a little Memphis Mafia.
‘Cracker Jack’ Driscoll, who was a real cracker from Waycross, Georgia, while responding to Trueman’s cynicism was gradually realizing he had found a real home in the Navy. Driscoll had been thoroughly beaten down in his home town. He had been denied any prospects whatsoever, tormented at school, denied on the streets and belittled in his home. He had been forbidden to have aspirations. The only prospect before him had been degradation and inferiority. There would have been no way for him to rise from the bottom of the barrel had he stayed in Waycross.
Driscoll was a very good looking kid. His face was a cross between Clark Gable and Sam Ketcham. Six foot, exquisitely proportioned, his intelligence had it not been inhibited by his emotional turmoil would have been more than adequate. His will, while not paralyzed was so severely inhibited that the Navy appeared to him the only way to realize any dignity in life. For him the Navy was a giant step up.
His self-esteem and will had been so severely depressed that he never thought to seek a rating with quicker advancement possibilities and more dignity. He was a cracker and he could only have cracker ambitions. He would merely apply himself with deep intensity to being a Bo’sn’s Mate. The rating was closed but by superhuman effort, the good will of the Petty Officers and the manipulation of rules and regulations he would actually attain the rating of Third Class Bos’n’s Mate within two years. This was almost, heck, it was unheard of.
Our Lady Of The Blues: Vol I, Clip 2b
Trueman’s own malaise and rebelliousness had drawn the attention of the Petty Officers to him. Handled correctly he might have been as bright an addition to Deck as Driscoll. But Dieter and Parsons and Castrato were but ordinary deck types and responded to problems in ordinary ways. Driscoll was eager so they rewarded him appropriately in opposition to Trueman who was angry and rebellious so they sought to break him. Had they tried to understand him and bring him along they would have had a second jewel in their crown.
By attempting to break him, which it was vanity to attempt, they only aroused his ill-will. Trueman’s powers of will and resistance were only aroused by persecution. Trueman’s powers of will and resistance were greater than theirs of persecution. In addition he was not stupid. He was the brightest and the best on the Deck Force. He understood the futility of bashing your head against a brick wall thus his resistance would never be so open as to give them a legal hold on him.
Trueman’s resistance was to men and not to things. This was a trait he shared with Negro culture. Thus while others showed their disdain for authority by malingering and destroying property Trueman showed his by insulting authorities and doing quick good work and respecting the ship and its accoutrements.
Now, as the ship was casting off Dieter took the opportunity to harass Trueman by giving him peremptory and conflicting orders.
‘Trueman, come up to the forward bollocks.’
‘Aye, aye, Daddyo.’ By calling the Chief Daddyo, which was in no way so disrespectful as to warrant censure, Trueman craftily undermined Deiter’s authority and safely showed his contempt for him. Dieter, not being a fool, understood Trueman’s intent and method. At the same time he didn’t know what a Daddyo was. He was not only of a much earlier generation but the Navy insulated him from social change. He had no notion what made these younger men tick.
No sooner had Trueman taken a place by the forward lines than Dieter ordered him to go back to the aft lines and stand against the bulkhead of the boat deck.
‘Aye, aye, Catman.’ Dewey said cheerfully as he stepped back to the aft lines.
Dieter was as mystified by Catman as he had been by Daddyo. Lest he allow himself to be cursed surreptitiously he turned to Pardon.
‘What the hell is a Daddyo or Catman?’
Pardon mused for a minute before replying. He was naturally a kind hearted man who sought his repose in all things. He didn’t want any problems to get out of hand. Things got so messy and unpleasant when they did.
‘Ah, Chief, It’s just the way these kids talk nowadays. I don’t think it’s insulting. Actually, it’s kind of complimentary. I mean a Cat is a real cool guy that’s gone in every way, as they would say. So, really, Trueman is just being familiar. I don’t think he understands your position yet.’
‘Well, I think I can help him understand that, right now.’ Dieter said, trembling with rage lest even Pardon was putting him on. Nevertheless, the Chief was all-Navy so he behaved in an all-Navy way.
Concealing his anger as best he could he descended on Trueman. Assuming a standard authoritarian pose he placed his right foot on a bollock, placed his elbow on his knee, placed his left hand in his right and addressed Trueman thusly: ‘Listen, Trueman. It’s like this, you can call me Chief or Chief Dieter in any combination you choose and I will respond. But, don’t ever call me Sir, I’m not an officer, and also, unless you are looking for trouble, don’t ever call me Daddyo or Catman. Am I clear?’
‘Oh sure Chief Dieter, I just though you were a real cool cat gone in every way but if you’re not, you’re not. If I was wrong I admit it. I apologize. I’m big that way. Please accept my apologies, Chief Dieter.’
Dieter sensed that there must have been half a dozen taunts in Trueman’s brief respectful reply but if so he would have had to sacrifice his dignity to reach them. You don’t get to be a Chief by being caught out so easily. Dieter nodded sagely and retired.
The lines cast off, the squadron steamed slowly West in the bay turning North to steam past the Broadway Piers into the channel. There were four ships in the squadron. In addition ot the Teufelsdreck their was the USS Deviant, DE 667, The USS Purverse, DE 668 and the USS Desade, DE 669. The Deviant was the flagship with the Commodore aboard.
The four ships made a beautiful sight as they steamed past the buoys with their big Tenders. Then they moved into the narrow channel that separated the mainland from North Island. The channel was barely wide enough to let two Destroyers pass each other. A constant topic of conversation in the fleet was that all an enemy had to do to trap the fleet in San Diego harbor was to sink a barge athwart the channel. Probably would have worked; the channel was not very deep either. Aircraft Carriers couldn’t enter the Bay.
Out of the channel the squadron turned West and made for the open sea. It was a day of days. The weather was, of course, perfect and the sea was nearly as smooth as glass. There were no little choppy wavelets disfiguring the great flat swells. At times the bottom was clearly visible.
About thirty miles out the ships hove to waiting for the targets. The Deviant was the first to fire as a concession to the Commodore. Nothing ever happens on schedule in the Navy so it was about three before the drone and sleds showed up and the klaxon for battle stations was sounded.
Dewey, who had been introduced to that marvelous institution, the Watch, was on Port lookout when the alarm went off. Now, when the alarm goes, you literally drop everything and race to your battle station. If your pain brush was in mid-stroke you actually dropped the brush on the deck and took off.
Dewey, not realizing this, was standing around waiting to be relieved when the Officer of the Day admonished him.
‘To your battle station, Sailor.’
‘Uh, well, I’m waiting to be relieved Sir, don’t want to abandon my post.’
‘You are standing in someone else’s battle station, Sailor. Don’t wait to be relieved. Get to your battle station.’
From his position on the bridge Dewey could see everyone else’s response so he dropped his glasses, scurried down the ladder to the boat deck running aft into the gun tub of the forties to which he had been assigned. The containers holding the Mae Wests and helmet had already been broken open. A set found its way into his hands.
Donning his helmet and cinching his Mae West was fairly exciting stuff straight out of the comic books, Don Winslow and all that. When all were properly attired they all stood looking at each other. As the Deviant was up, there was time to distribute the tasks. One half of the crew was new to the forties. The necessity for drill in the Navy never ceases. The constant changes in personnel always means tasks have to be reviewed.
The forties required ten men. One to elevate and lower the barrels, one to rotate the platform, four loaders and four ammunition handlers. The guns were manned by Deck and Gunnery combined. The Gunners naturally took the most prestigious tasks but then it was their job, they were entitled to them.
Bent Cygnette took the task of elevater while his sidekick, Art Kunkel, rotated the platform. Two Gunners and two Deck were loaders while four Deck were handlers. Dewey was a handler.
The loaders stood on the platform and rammed the shells into the breach. The shells came in a clip of four. The handler passed a clip up to the loader who dropped it into the hopper. Only the first clip had to be rammed, that is pushed down into the breach. After that firing was automatic.
The clips were kept four to a canister, The canisters lined the side of the tub. The handlers grabbed a clip and passed it up. The expended casings were ejected out on the deck of the tub. Thus, after a hundred rounds or so had been fired off, the roll of the ship combined with a flooring of round casings made the task exacting to say the least.
Tasks assigned and explained, nomenclature cleared up, the crew settled down to watch the Deviant in action. All DEs are named after enlisted heroes. Thus one ship was named the Sullivans after the famous brothers who all went down to Davy Jones locker together. No histories were extant of the four remarkably named men, Teufelsdreck, Deviant, Purvurse or Desade. It’s probably just as well. They were probably four of the biggest foul-ups in the fleet.
The squadron was put into sort of a line as the Deviant prepared to exercise its guns. The forties were always exercised first and then the threes.
‘There it is.’ Someone shouted as they spotted the drone. The drone was an unmanned airplane that towed a sleeve the size of a fighter plane. The gunners were expected to put a few holes in the sleeve. After the run the sleeve was pulled in and the holes, if any, counted.
The firing began by the crew of the Deviant’s forties underscored once again the need for constant drill. The drone flew by. The gunner depressed the barrels as far as they go instead of elevating them. The sea was spattered by forty millimeter shells. Another couple inches and the gunner might have sunk his own ship. They were not in a straight line; the Teufelsdreck was ahead of and turned at an angle to the Deviant. All of a sudden it seemed possible that the Deviant could just as well have opened up on the Teuf.
Everyone swallowed hard as they realized that gunnery practice could be serious. The Deviant wasn’t going to get an E for Excellence for that barrage. The sled was brought up for practice with the threes. A sled was a barge with a tall sail on it. The idea was to hit either the barge or put a shell through the sail. The sled is pulled by a harbor tug on a very long leader.
Boy, you know, when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. The Deviant’s three inchers opened up on the tug by mistake. Fortunately for the tug the Deviant’s three inch gunners weren’t any better than those on the forties. Nevertheless the tug boat crew returned to port properly relieved and several pounds lighter.
In addition the entire crew of the Teufelsdreck were so amused they couldn’t stop laughing all the way back to port.
The Deviant, being the flagship, had the honor of tying up to the buoys first which was a tedious job. The other three ships nested next to her with the Teufelsdreck on the outside. For reasons that were never clear the Teufelsdreck was considered the bad boy of the squadron.
What made it the bad boy was unknown. The ship and personnel obtained the only E in the squadron and held it for three successive terms. The seamanship of the crew was better than the rest. For whatever their faults the two captains of the Teufelsdreck were better commanders than the others. The Chiefs were sharper, the crew was more effective. They were no worse at inspection than the other crews. Maybe the officers, crew and ship looked too good and did things too well. Whatever the reason the ship and crew were kept at a distance. Of course, most of the crew were bad boys, unorthodox, rebellious; things happened on the Teufelsdreck that didn’t happen elsewhere. Serious things.
Exercises were finished late in the day. The cruise back into the harbor would end about seven when liberty would be declared. Hence dinner was pushed forward a little bit while the crew cleaned up preparatory to donning their dress blues.
Dewey had not been ashore since coming aboard. He hadn’t wanted to combine the stress of acclimating himself to shipboard life while undergoing the additional stress of finding his way through a strange city. This night he decided he would to look San Diego over.
Although standing naked before twenty-five or thirty men was repugnant to him, he was determined to stay as clean as possible. He, therefore, swallowed his pride and trooped up each night for his shower. Not all men did, some were conspicuous by their absence; some managed on the Saturday night rotation. One could always be sure of seeing mostly the same group of men each night.
Conspicuous by his presence was always the queer Storekeeper, Paul Duber, who made showers the social event of his day. He, with a couple others could always be seen lounging on the fore side of the showers, the line forming to the aft. While in reporting these things everything is stark and clear, at the time Paul’s presence was not understood by everyone nor with shipboard tolerance was there any reason to be overly critical. This night as all night’s he stood leering in penis and ass heaven wisecracking and making knowing comments.
Duber spotted Trueman when he entered the line. He stood waiting for him. Most everyone in line stood around self-consciously trying not to appear that way. The indignity of it tore at their minds as well as at Dewey’s. Dewey never could suffer in silence; he had to spout off. He had to visit his own humiliation on someone else.
One of the great masters of complacency was a Fireman by the name of Ragnar Ock. This man was, or had been in civilian life, a body builder. He was a very fine specimen of the art, although a trifle short at 5’ 8” and a bit too square. But he was not overbuilt. He was quite perfect.
Like all body builders he reveled in his appearance; indeed, why would one go to all that bother if one didn’t? Also like all body builders he was exceedingly mild in manner. No intellect but a very pleasant guy.
While most men held their towel in the middle drooping from the right hand like a rag, half stooping to conceal their embarrassment, Ragnar stood erect and tall with a far away dreamy unconcerned look in his eyes. Unlike the others he very neatly draped his folded towel over his right forearm which he held level like a waiter taking orders. His soap dish lay in an upright palm at the end of his straight wrist. Well, you know, it was a very legitimates solution to the problem.
Dewey found it indescribably funny. His own shame and torment was visited on the docile, mild mannered Ragnar Ock. Dewey was offended both by the man’s build and his towel. Neither could be attacked directly. Indeed, discretion was of the essence. Dewey didn’t transgress the bounds but he trotted right down on the line.
Dewey hated to be spoken to as he stood there with his dong hanging out be he didn’t hesitate to speak to Ragnar Ock.
‘You must be a body builder.’ Dewey stated with perhaps more admiration than he acknowledged to himself. After all, Dewey had read the Charles Atlas ads in comic books for years. He was a skinny little kid who got sand kicked in his face on the beach. He had even sent for Atlas’ body building kit. Ragnar had achieved what Dewey secretly yearned for, Trueman didn’t think anymore of him for that. Envy. One of the few times in Dewey’s life.
Our Lady Of The Blues: Vol. I, Clip 2c
‘Yes.’ Ragnar replied with becoming modesty, flattered by the attention. ‘I work out, or did, in Los Angeles.’
‘Oh, wow! Muscle Beach?’
‘I’ve been there, but I don’t hang out there. I have to work for a living so I’m afraid I haven’t been able to develop myself to that extent. Also I want only to look strong and trim. I don’t want those huge muscles.’
‘Well, you look huge enough.’ Dewey said, once gain his admiration getting the best of him.
‘Thank you.’ Ragnar replied with an appreciative blush.
‘How are you going to maintain yourself aboard ship?’ Dewey asked with feigned innocence.
‘Oh, I go ashore and work out at the gym every night I have liberty.’
‘Well, yeah, but when we go out to sea that’ll be hard to do. What then?’
‘I guess I won’t be able to work out then.’
‘No. Well, what happens when you don’t work out? Does everything just turn flabby and sag?’ Dewey asked with inexcusable cruelty.
That was a very unpleasant thought for Ragnar. It excited fears he tried hard to repress. His countenance clouded.
‘Well, I hope that won’t happen.’ He said miserably.
Throughout the conversation Dewey noticed that Ragnar spoke with a faint accent. He spoke slowly and deliberately but correctly but Dewey who had a keen ear picked up faint traces of a Swedish accent.
‘Uh, you speak very well, but it seems that you have just a trace of what? A Swedish accent?
Ragnar brightened up again. ‘Yes, I’m a Swedish citizen, but I’m living in Los Angeles.’
‘You’re a Swedish citizen? Why are you in the US Navy then? What jurisdiction does the US have over Swedish nationals.?’
‘Well, I was drafted so I had to go.’
That didn’t make any sense to Dewey nor did he think it likely. He was searching for a possible question when Ragnar volunteered: ‘Yes. I was drafted in Sweden too and had to do two years in the Army.’
Dewey was thunderstruck at the injustice of being drafted twice. It mattered little to him where else one might have been drafted; one disruption of one’s life was enough,; two tours was incomprehensible. Dewey stood actually trembling in sympathy with his mouth hanging open.
‘That’s not right.’ Finally escaped from his lips. ‘You oughta complain. Wow, I’ll help you. We’ll go see the Captain as soon as possible. It isn’t right you should have to go through this twice.’
‘No. Thank you. But it’s alright.’ Ragnar said with engaging forbearance.
‘No it’s not alright. It’s criminal. We’ll complain, get you out of here.’ Dewey exclaimed imagining that everyone would be as indignant as he was. He envisioned the whole crew petitioning the Captain.
‘No. It tell you it’s alright. It’s just the way things are. One has to accept these things, do as one is told.’
Heresy, heresy screamed through Dewey’s mind but Ragnar was so firm that Dewey had no choice but to desist. Still, he never had respect for the man again. The idea of accepting things without fighting against them was foreign to Dewey.
By this time he was at the head of the line where Paul Duber stood waiting for him. Duber stood with some two or three other men who hung out naked around the showers every night. Some three or four other regulars lounged in the wash room where some other men were shaving preparatory to going ashore.
Duber and his buddies had been quietly discussing the equipment of the various men as they did every night. They loved it. They were kind of like potheads who, while they are toqueing, run through mental catalogs of all the grass they’ve smoked comparing the virtues of each.
The Teufelsdreck had an exceptionally good looking crew. With the exception of a few old sods like Paul Duber, fat and out of shape, the men were young, slender and well proportioned. Some were sturdy, some Apolline, some lean and willowy like Dewey. Looked at from a homosexual perspective there was reason for Duber’s gravid mouth, inflamed lips and thick stiff tongue.
‘This is great stuff…’ Duber was saying for the umpteenth time. ‘…but you know I’m enraged there aren’t any big ones. They’re all smallish like on those Greek statues. I mean, where are those big honkers you read about?’
‘Well, they’re all flaccid.’ Peter Grinch, a Second Class Disbursing Clerk replied. ‘Ya can’t really tell about a dick unless they’re hard. I remember one really remarkable transformation…’
‘Pssst.. Here he is.’
Duber looked hard at Trueman. Duber thought Trueman had really violated etiquette on the previous occasion by disdainfully walking off. According to Duber’s rules men were required to engage in badinage with him in lieu of sex. If you can’t screw ‘em in the ass you get to screw ‘em some other way. Homo rules. The other two men had spoken up for themselves, only Trueman hadn’t. What was wrong with him?
Duber had felt humiliated and rejected. For Christ’s sake Trueman might just as well have come out and called him a queer, he thought. He now wished to visit his own failure on Trueman. Although Duber’s intentions at the head of the line were vaguely understood by most and clearly understood by a few, Duber could not be open in solicitation or could others openly censure him for perversion with out risking raising the ire of the Homo Mafia. There was an unwritten rule that homos were to be tolerated so long as they stayed closeted.
The homos kept up a constant pressure to be allowed to function more openly, while heteros kept up the pressure to make them contain their libidinous desires. A ship is a self-policing entity. Everything is kept in check by the knowledge of one’s own limitations. Fights were prevented only by mutual consent. Theft was rampant but would have to be flagrant to merit censure. To openly condemn homosexuality would be to incur the wrath of homosexuals. If you were outspoken things would happen to you. Letters might be withheld, packages smashed, laundry disappear, slander and backstabbing; all the things that went on anyway but organized and intensified. There was always tension and an uneasy truce. Woe to the wary straggler.
Thus while Duber wished to pick a fight with Trueman he couldn’t mention his real reason, that his homosexual sensitivity had been violated. He had to select a specious reason.
‘Ha…’ He snarled. ‘…so you’re the wise guy who’s so dumb he thinks that Capt. Desscartes pronounces his name Day Cartes. Huh? That you?’
Dewey was taken back by the man’s violence. He hardly thought that a difference of pronunciation was a cause for such vituperation. Dewey was unaware of Duber’s true motivation. He looked at Duber like he was crazy.
‘Well, pal, Descartes is French. The French philosopher Rene Des Cartes is pronounced Day Cartes so I see no reason that Capt. Descartes isn’t too.’
‘French philos…hey…you got a college education?’
‘No, but I’m not stupid either.’
‘Don’t go putting on airs with us, Trueman. You’re just like us. You ain’t got no college education so don’t go talkin’ over your head or we’ll put you in your place.’
‘It may be over yours but it’s not over mine. So I guess you’re already in your place.’ Dewey said with sullen resentment. He was supremely sensitive about his educational status. With or without a degree he considered himself the equal of any college graduate. If he hadn’t studied he at least considered himself as intelligent as anybody. He was not about to be censored by some queer buffoon.
‘Oh yeah? Well listen smart ass…’ Duber was now pushing his luck, not only with Trueman but the self-policing sentiment of the crew present began to take sides in Trueman’s favor. ‘…you didn’t happen to see the name of the ship just forward of us today, did you?’
‘You mean the Deviant?’ Dewey asked with unconscious humor. He hadn’t paid attention to which ship was in front of them.
‘No, I don’t mean the Deviant, Mr. College Professor. I mean the DESADE. I suppose you pronounce that Day Ade, huh? Well, that ship is the Des-ade. Anybody here will tell you that.’
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake.’ Dewey said stepping into a shower stall. ‘That’s not even comparable.’
‘Not comparable. Listen to this asshole talk. Not comparable. Nobody talks like that. You mean, it’s not the same.’
Duber appealed to the crewmen for their support with that statement. He was met by cold stares and stony silence. He had over stepped the bounds.
‘What do you think of that?’ He roared at his pals.
‘Aw, you’re right, but forget it Duber. The guy ain’t worth it.’
‘The guy ain’t worth it. That’s for sure.’ He roared in Dewey’s direction.
‘Go suck an orange.’ Dewey snapped stepping out of the shower.
‘Oranges ain’t his favorite.’ Came a laughing voice from the washroom.
Duber turned to look, In the interval the situation passed.
Cleaned up and anxious for liberty Dewey gathered on the foc’sle with the rest of the Deckapes to tie up alongside the Purverse. Fortunately for the crew of the Teufelsdreck the Commodore demanded preference for the Deviant and that vessel was given the more unpleasant task of securing the ship to the buoys. Lines had to be secured both fore and aft to prevent the nest from swinging around a single buoy.
The task of dropping fenders to keep the Teufelsdreck and Purvurse from bumping directly against each other and passing lines back and forth was easily accomplished. As they were at the buoys there was no reason for the Deviant to put up rat guards.
By the time Dewey changed into dress blues and got to the Quarterdeck the number of sailors going ashore was huge. The method of transport from ship to shore was by landing craft. If you’ve seen movies of Marines storming the beach of some tropical Japanese held island in WWII the craft was identical to that used by the Marines.
There was a large space for about thirty men to stand. The sides of the craft were six feet high to conceal the occupants from enemy fire. The landing craft were provided for both the Deviant and the Teufelsdreck so each outside ship transported the sailors of two ships.
There was no hope of crowding aboard the first craft and not much for the second. By the time the craft returned the third time to load the sun was very low on the horizon. It would a short liberty.
The ride took a short fifteen minutes as the blunt bow of the craft did not exactly cleave the waves. It was flat bottomed and stable.
The craft pulled into a slip at the Broadway Piers. Rather than fight to get up the ladder Dewey preferred to wait until everyone was out and he could get up at his leisure. As last man he bid farewell to the pilot turning to get his first glimpse of San Diego.
Stepping past the phone booths that were crowded with sailors anxious to make calls Dewey emerged into the fading light. In those days Highway 101 was the most fabled highway in America along with Route 66. Both highways figured large in the imaginations of American youth. Looking out Dewey emitted an amazed laugh. It seemed impossible but he was standing on the dead end corner of Highway 101 and Broadway. He might as well have received a five pound box of chocolates for his birthday.
The vision was one that completely went beyond his imagination. This was the actual location, the very spot that 101 began. You had to turn left off 101 and go down Broadway, right to head up to LA. Dewey turned to look up Highway 101. It was really a beautiful sight. In those days before maniacs with bulldozers sculpted and shaped the land to their insane specifications, in those days before concrete was used to fossilize their ideas and encase both nature and the human in rigid straight-jackets things were left more or less in their natural state. There was some room to move. Things were real and not totally artificial and phony. There is a space from the bay to the first range of hills of about a mile. This is all sandy. In those days the builders didn’t cut into the landscape to form the roadbed but just laid the bed on the land following the natural contours of rise and depression. Highway 101 with its sandy shoulders looking all natural, lovely and mysterious began its northward journey to the Canadian border. Dewey himself all new and young seeking mystery and adventure gazed up the road in open mouth wonder as though at a miracle.
‘It’s just a highway.’ A voice beside him said dispelling his enchantment with its lack of wonder.
‘I suppose so, but it’s still Highway 101 and this very spot we’re standing on right here is where it all begins.’
Dewey looked at the shoulder patch of the man who spoke to find he was from the Teufelsdreck. The insignia told him the man was an ET and his chevrons read Seaman. His face showed him to be decent and intelligent, if unimaginative. He was about 6’2”. He appeared OK to Dewey.
‘You’re an ET on the Teufelsdreck?’ He stated rather than asked.
‘Um hmm. I’m Dart Craddock. I was on the cruise to the East. You’re a new deckape, aren’t you?
‘Yeah, name’s Dewey Trueman. I’m from Michigan.’
‘Oh yeah? I’m from Idaho. Coeur D’ Alene. First time ashore?’
‘Yep. First Time.’
‘Welcome to San Diego. What a dump.’
‘Well, I don’t know. Just got here.’
‘You’re not going to like it.’ Craddock said as they began the walk down Sailor’s Row into town. ‘This place has got a bad name.’
‘Well, it looks alright.’ Dewey said complacently ignoring the offensive sailor dives lining lower Broadway. ‘If you’ve ever seen Philadelphia this can’t be all that bad.’
‘What were you doing in Philadelphia?’
‘Receiving Station. That’s where I was introduced to this bilge. Saddest day in my life, then it just keeps getting sadder.’
Craddock laughed. ‘I know what you mean. But at least it’s only a temporary contact with this crap.’
‘Temporary contact, permanent damage.’ Dewey retorted in a disgruntled but philosophically resigned manner.
Craddock was impressed with Trueman’s discourse. It must be remembered that Deck was the most despised division aboard ship. Even Wipers in the engine room borrowed some dignity from the machines they wiped but Deck’s chores were considered menial. The other ratings raided Deck for any men of promise. The ETs were already eyeing Tidwell. Craddock looked approvingly at Trueman.
Our Lady Of The Blues: Book I, Clip 2d
‘Philadelphia was that bad?’
‘Even worse. I don’t see what’s so bad about San Diego, weather’s a lot better than Philly. Doesn’t look so old and dirty.’
‘I guess I’m prejudiced for personal reasons. My grand pop was tortured here, almost murdered, just barely escaped with his life. Had scars he could show.’
‘Oh yeah. What’d he do rob a bank. Why was he tortured?’
‘No. He was an honest man. It was done for political reasons.’
Dewey was stunned. This surely couldn’t have happened in the American history he’d been told about, freedom of opinion and all that. Of course, childhood history never told of anything but the heroic exploits of the Revolution, War of 1812, Andrew Jackson and the Civil War. Oh right, let’s not forget Mad Anthony Wayne. Dewey had never been in a history class that got beyond the Civil War, wouldn’t have mattered if he had, some things are too embarrassing to mention. He’d read Huck Finn with its tarring and featherings but had only understood it through the eyes of a child and that was as close to the mention of torture he’d gotten.
‘Tortured? Nobody in America’s ever been tortured.’
‘You child, you. That’ what you know. If you were from Idaho you’d know better. You probably don’t know Coeur D’ Alene but we’re way up north on the Canadian border not far from Spokane. That’s across the State line in Washington.
We used to be a big mining area, you know, at the turn of the century, and those mine owners were cruel men, sons-of-bitches. They didn’t just want your labor for nothing, they wanted your blood for free.’
Craddock’s voice trembled as though he had actually lived through those times. All this had been so impressed on him by his grandfather that the memory was more real than anything that had happened to himself.
‘The men tried to organize, formed the Western Federation Of Miners, but the mine owners fought them with guns, goons and dynamite. When my grandfather and the men fought back with guns and dynamite the mine owners called in the Pinkertons and the State called in the Army.
Who they didn’t kill, they crushed. We had to go to work for them like slaves, just to survive. We had some good leaders like Big Bill Haywood and they got Governor Steunenberg who betrayed his own people. They arrested them but we got Bill Haywood off, too. They thought they had him good but they couldn’t find a jury in the State of Idaho that would convict them. Besides they didn’t really have any proof of who got Steunenberg anyway, they just wanted to hang the leaders of the WFM.
Then Big Bill formed the Wobblies. The IWW. The Industrial Workers Of The World. Ever heard of ‘em?’
‘Not unless they fought in the Civil War.’ Dewey joked. But finding his joke inappropriate, no doctrinaire has a sense of humor about his hobby horse, Dewey quickly covered: ‘No. This is all really new to me, Dart. I never heard of any of this before.’
‘Well, it’s all true. Anyway, when my granddad helped form the IWW that really scared the daylights out of all the bloodsuckers in the Northwest. West Coast. They slandered us terrible, told lie after lie. All we wanted was a fair wage and human dignity. Was that too much to ask? Hell yes, from them.
After doing every single thing they could do to destroy us finally in Spokane they told us to get off the streets, we weren’t allowed to even recruit members or tell our grievances. Well, we set up soap boxes anyway and harangued anyone who would listen. Then they started arresting us because we were speaking our minds. In America, the land of free speech, just for saying what we thought.
Well, Big Bill put out an APB and called in Wobblies from all over the country. We descended on Spokane by the thousands. They couldn’t arrest us fast enough. They had to improvise new jails. And we still kept coming, speaking and singing our minds.
Damn ‘em. In the middle of winter they turned off the heat in those jails and turned fire hoses on those men, and some of ‘em was women, people froze to death, murdered by the bastards, and lots more were completely broken in health, total wrecks, never the same again.
But, we won, damn ‘em, we won. They had to let us say what we wanted. That gave us courage, confidence, then we thought we could make ‘em back down on the entire West Coast. We did it some other places. But they treated us like enemies even though we were as good a citizens as themselves- better, like we was an invading army or something. They even made a pact in Portland that the police could brutalize us at will and no lawyer would represent us in court.
Well, some of us were miners and a lot us were migrant workers. In those days we harvested the crops but when no White man would suffer the indignities those SOBs put on us why they sent and got Mexicans who would, that’s why the crops are all harvested by braceros today.
Well, we came down to help out the harvesters and invaded Fresno. There was another terrible struggle there but we won that one too. The next place we were going to break was San Diego- Imperial Valley out here, you know. By that time they had enough experience with us and they were mean enough and criminal enough to take us on. Before the main guard got here some guys tried to speak right here on this street. Those guys were dragged off and beaten. Then others chained themselves to these lampposts right here with chains so they couldn’t be dragged off. They’d have been further ahead to let themselves be dragged off.
All the Wobblies rode the rods. That was the way they traveled. So they knew we’d be coming in on the freights. There was only one line into San Diego and that came down from LA. They knew exactly where we’d be. Well, the bulls let us board in LA, told them and they was waiting for us.’
Craddock’s emotions overcame him. He stopped in his tracks, his legs trembling beneath him. His voice broke but he recovered his emotions enough to check his sobbing. He continued his narrative but with a look in his eyes as if he had actually been there. Dewey was amazed at his apparent ability to relive events that happened to someone else and fifty years before.
‘Well, the guys came off the top, spilled out of the cars and slid of the rods boiling up from beneath the cars all confident and exuberant when they were met by an army of men with baseball bats and steel pipes. The San Diego bastards laid into them without restraint or mercy. There was nothing the Wobblies could do. If they defended themselves they would be arrested for resisting arrest. If they didn’t they’d be killed or worse. What could they do? They had to eat shit. They broke and ran, hightailed out of San Diego County and dept running until their legs collapsed under them.
Not everybody escaped. Some got caught my grandpa among them. They weren’t going to jail us because it cost too much money. Nearly broke Fresno to house and feed us. That’ why they gave up.
First they just beat the hell out of everybody with their bats then they took the men out in the fields where they had fires going. They were heating branding irons in the fire. They made the men strip then they branded a big red IWW right on their ass.’
‘If that wasn’t enough,’ Craddock’s voice went surly, ‘If that wasn’t enough then they tarred and feathered them. Put tar right over my grandpa’s burn. The they hit ‘em another couple times and told them to get the hell out of San Diego county.
They had to run barefoot and hurting for a long ways until they could slow to a walk. There was my grandpa with this big brand, naked under his tar and feathers, no clothes for when he got it off. He either doesn’t know what happened after or he won’t tell. He didn’t go insane but he might as well have. He was never the same forever after. He never got over it. Used to tell me about it all the time.’
‘You’re not kidding me? They actually branded him with a red hot iron like a cow? IWW, wow.’
‘Wow oh wow or double wow. I can’t hardly believe it. Right here in America? San Diego?’
‘That’s right. Everytime I hear them talk about the Nazis like they’re some kind of unique devils I just have to shake my head and wonder. The way I see it anybody who has the power to enforce his will on his enemies will do so and in whatever violent way appeals to his imagination. This is no innocent nation. I didn’t mean to rant to you but every time I even think of this place I get angry.’
‘O boy, no problem. I never knew these things before.’ Dewey said politely. He still didn’t know about these things. His prejudices formed by his schooling precluded such things ever happening in America. While he didn’t necessarily wish to call Craddock deluded he thought that he had probably been victimized by his granddad who undoubtedly told a good story. But Craddock had it right. That’s the way it happened.
‘Yeah, wow, well I guess we didn’t have any Wobblies in Michigan.’ Dewey said innocently.
‘Oh sure you did. Wobblies were all over the country. We were trying to organize industrial unions, you know, as opposed to the Craft Unions of the AFL. We wanted everybody in an industry to belong to the same union, then all the unions would syndicalism into one big union.’
‘Sounds like the CIO.’ Dewey mused. He was no union man and despised the CIO and UAW member. Walter Reuther.
‘Exactly. A Congress Of Industrial Organizations. When the Wobblies were destroyed in WWI people changed their tactics a little, changed the rhetoric and kept working. Then with Roosevelt and the Wagner Act we got the break we needed. With the government behind us changing the rules in our favor we were quickly able to bring the really big industrial organizations like auto and steel to their knees.’
‘Oh yeah? UAW. Those guys are all Commies aren’t they?’ Dewey said becoming suspicious of Craddock and his Wobbly tales.
‘No. No. They aren’t. the Communists are something entirely different. They’re a foreign organization trying to impose a foreign ideology. We’re Americans and we want American justice for the workers of the world.’
Dewey picked up on workers of the world and became wary of Craddock?’
‘You’re not Reds then? Huh?’
‘Well, they call us Reds but we’re not. You know how it is, they call everybody that won’t be industrial slaves Reds.’
‘Oh yeah.’ Dewey said, but still polite. He believed that all unions were controlled by Reds or Mafia. ‘So, how about IWW in Michigan?’
‘Hmm. OK, there was a splinter IWW in Detroit. You see, the big industrial car plants in Detroit were ideal for industrial unions so the IWW was very active in Detroit. You may not know this but Henry Ford only doubled wages to take the wind out of our sails. We were doing great in his plants until he did that.’
The idea boggled Dewey’s mind. ‘How’s that?’
‘Well, we were working hard to organize Detroit, and Ford too, and then old Ford doubled wages and really set us back temporarily. We taught him a lesson, though.’
Dewey had never heard anything like this and being anti-union he didn’t approve. Craddock’s Wobbly hard luck story was being undermined by what looked suspiciously Red to Dewey.
‘How’d you take care of him?’
‘Well, like I say, Ford was the first company the UAW tried to organize. That guy wasn’t going to tell us what to do, we were going to tell him what to do. But earlier, it took us a few years but by 1920 we had sown enough dissent in the workplace to make life damn hard for him, the old bugger, work slowdowns, sabotage, things of that sort. He dropped all that altruistic bull roar pretty quick. Trying to pass himself off as some kind of friend of mankind. We exposed him. After we got through with him he was just like anybody else. Turned him hard and erratic. Ruined his mind.’
‘Just a minute now. You implied that you were involved in that Commie march on Ford where they were going to occupy River Rouge and smash the machinery?’
‘I don’t know nothing about that.’ Craddock who had been very well informed a moment before backtracked.
‘Yeah, well, when that Commie Reuther and those rats marched on Ford, in 1935 or so, right?, they weren’t after worker rights they were on the way to take over the government. Those guys are always dumb enough to think that workers can rule the world, they’re so dumb they thought they’d start with River Rouge. Now, what do you say the Wobblies had to do with that?’
‘Well, we were fighting Communist influence. I told you they were foreign and we’re American.
Dewey had listened attentively. Craddock’s later statements undermined the sympathy he had created with his grand father’s misfortunes. Dewey had a difficult time separating the Wobblies from the Commies. Comparing the march on Ford with the invasion of San Diego he now thought that the San Diegans had acted in self-defense, although if what Craddock had said was true, with unnecessary violence. They had indeed repelled an invading army that meant them harm. Still, he was insufficiently informed of what Craddock was talking about. Rather than say anything more he nodded sagely, filing this information away in his mind for future reference.
‘Well, you certainly are well informed.’
‘Oh, with my granddad around I should be. He’s got quite a library of stuff and besides they hurt him so bad that he’s always pulling his pants down to look at that IWW brand. So what do you want to do?’
By this time they were all the way downtown across from the El Cortez Hotel. Everywhere you looked there was an ocean of blue with bobbing white caps.
‘Geez, I don’t know. What is there to do? I mean, I’m not old enough to drink. Are you?’
‘No. I’m just going to turn twenty. You’re still eighteen. Hmm. Well we could go to a movie.’
‘Yeah. I suppose we could always do that.’ Dewey said without enthusiasm. ‘What’s playing?’
The two of them walked up a side street to a decent if not first run theater.
‘Hi, hey, look. Brigette Bardot. She’s hot. What do you think?’
‘I don’t know. What’s the second feature? ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man.’ Looks like some kind of science fiction thing. Probably something mutated by atomic vapors. Sure, OK.’
‘Boy, that Bardot is something isn’t she?’
‘Yeah, something else, hot enough for me. Man that scene where she was in bed and tucked the sheets between all her private parts right up to her box! Wow! Not much of a movie otherwise. I really think it was immoral. The Incredible Shrinking Man was better. What a concept. The guy goes through a cloud of atomic vapor and it reverses his growth so that he starts shrinking.’
Our Lady Of the Blues, Book I, Clip 2e, posted 6/13/12
‘Aw, who’d ever believe that.; Craddock said with the lack of imagination that characterized those ideological enthusiasts even though what they believe is even more preposterous.
‘Yeah, but just imagine the guy’s anguish as he gets smaller and smaller and finally gets so small he just falls between the molecules of dirt and disappears to the center of gravity. What a trip, huh?’
‘Yeah, well, it just couldn’t happen, that’s all.’
‘Sure. It’s impossible, but you know it’s kind of like being put in the orphanage where you get pushed further and further back in society until you become so inconspicuous that nobody notices you and you just kind of disappear.’ Dewey said making a personal connection that was not very obvious to anyone else.
‘What? What are you talking about? I’ve never been in an orphanage.’
‘Maybe some one else has.’
‘Who? You? Have you been in an orphanage?’
‘Oh gosh, I don’t know. I’ve been so many places I have trouble remembering where I’ve been. Well, this is one exciting liberty. Hope they’re not all like this. I mean, I like movies, but…’
‘If you want some real excitement you can spend a night there.’ Craddock said laughingly pointing with his thumb at the YMCA, another ‘hotel’ on Broadway.
‘What? The Y? How do you spend a night there?’
‘That’s a hotel too. They’ve several floors of rooms.’
‘Oh yeah. Dollar and a half. ‘Course all the toilets are common and you don’t want to have to use one of those at night.’
‘Why not, how’s that?’
‘Nearly everyone that stays there is queer. After midnight they take over the halls and if you aren’t one of them you’ll get initiated real quick if you leave your room.’
‘Aw, you’re kidding me, that can’t happen.’ Dewey drawled. He began to doubt Craddock’s Wobbly stories now.
Arrived back at the Broadway Piers they had to wait an hour for the landing craft which they had missed by a minute before turning in to await another day on the firing range.
Casting off from alongside another ship was an unmitigated delight. As easy as a cream puff. The Teufelsdreck led the squadron out to sea, The Deviant bringing up the rear. The Commodore shepherded his flock after the Deviant’s humiliating performance on the preceding day.
The sea was choppier with medium swells as was the norm off San Diego. As they steamed out Dewey received the port watch again. Out at some distance, say ten miles, an aircraft carrier surrounded by its Destroyers was drilling its pilots on take off and landing. The planes were thrust off the bow by the catapults into the wind, circling and landing again. Dewy was breathlessly enthralled keeping his glasses glued to his eyes.
As he watched a pilot came across the bow on his return who seemed a little high to Trueman. Sure enough, the pilot missed the wire but rather than roaring off he just plopped down rolling toward the stern. Reaching the stern he just kept right on rolling and plummeted into the ocean, making Davy Jones richer by millions.
‘Wow, did you see that?’ Trueman asked the bridge in awed tones. ‘Did you see that?’ The guy missed the carrier and fell in to the ocean.’
Captain Descartes leaned over the divider separating the bridge from the lookouts.
‘What’s that you say, Port Lookout?’ He asked dryly.
Dewey became more restrained. Holding his glasses in his left hand he pointed in the direction of the carrier. ‘The pilot just missed his landing and fell in the ocean, plane and all.’
‘What carrier would that be, Lookout?’
‘What carrier? Why that one right over there.’
‘Right over there. As port lookout it is your duty to report any sightings you might make to the bridge. I don’t recall that we’ve had the pleasure of hearing you report any aircraft carriers to the bridge.’
‘Well,’ Dewey said in his naivete. ‘It’s right over there, anybody can see it.’
‘That isn’t the point, Sailor. I might be preoccupied or involved in something else consequently missing it. We all have our tasks here. In your present capacity yours is to watch and report to me. Mine is to receive not only your reports but those of everyone else, collate the information, make the requisite decisions and keep the ship on an even keel. That’s a pretty good system, don’t you think?’
‘Oh, yes Sir. I certainly do.’
‘Well then, Lookout, do your job.’
‘Well what, Sir?’
‘Report what you see.’
The Carrier was direct abeam so there was no need for Dewey to consult his compass but in his nervousness he preferred to read the numbers. ‘Uh, aircraft carrier and Destroyers at 270, distance, uh, two miles Captain.’
‘Thank-you Lookout, I noticed its presence some time ago but it is nice of you to call it to my attention. Be a little more prompt in the future.’
Descartes droll manner sent the bridge a tittering. They had a good laugh on Dewey but he learned his lesson. One might even say he learned it with a vengeance. Like so many things that happen to us we do not respond on the moment but the insult or indignity or whatever festers in our subconscious to erupt at a later date.
Dewey was beginning to relax in his task when the battle station klaxon sounded. He did not hesitate as he had the previous day but dropped his glasses, dropped down to the boat deck and scampered back to the forties.
The Purvurse was up today so the forties crew assumed their stations and lolled around the gun tub. Dewey was still excited by the jet dropping off the end of the carrier.
‘You should have seen it Frenchy.’ He excitedly exclaimed. ‘The pilot missed the wire and just rolled off the stern. The DDs immediately put out boats but it didn’t look like they found him. Wow, think of that, the guy kills himself and dumps millions of dollars worth of plane into the ocean and it’s only practice.’
‘Gosh, no kidding…’ Frenchy began.
‘Aw, that’s nothing.’ Happens all the time.’ Bent Cygnette sneered from his perch by the gunsight. He sat there legs crossed sneering down at the gun crew. He came across as a real obnoxious tough guy but in fact he wasn’t. He was a real marshmallow inside, which is not meant as an insult, so to conceal his own insecurity he adopted a tough guy persona to get by. He was very successful; everyone on the ship, officers and all, treated him with deference.
‘Baloney.’ Dewey retorted. ‘If it happened all the time there wouldn’t be that many planes on the carrier.’
‘Happens all the time.’ Cygnette reaffirmed indicating his displeasure at not being acceded to.
‘Oh yeah?’ Dewey challenged not wishing to be cheated of the wonder of the thing. ‘How many times have you seen it personally?’
‘Bull. How do you see it? You don’t stand lookout.’
‘Hey, listen Trueman, or whatever your name is, you may be new but you watch how you shoot off your mouth…’ Bent was beginning when he was interrupted by the sound of the Purverse’s forties erupting.
Eyes shot up to the clouds in search of the sleeve. The Purvurse was able to keep its shots out of the water but as it turned out the Deviant had better success hitting the water than the Purvurse hitting the sleeve.
The gunners of the Purvurse were sadly out of practice because the three inchers had even less luck with the sled. With two out of three ships out of the running a current of confidence ran through the gun crews that the Teufelsdreck would win that E.
‘You going over, Dewey?’ Frenchy asked.
‘I don’t know. Maybe. You going?’
‘You’re not going, Trueman.’ Al Spirin, an old hand, soon to be transferred, barked.
‘Oh yeah? Why not?’
‘Check the bulletin board, dunce, you’ve got the twelve to four.’
Dewey looked at Spirin coldly but thought he’d better check the board. The bulletin board was in the passageway in front of the head and across from the ship’s store. Rather than push past a line of naked men waiting for showers, Dewey exited by the after hatch using the outside deck to enter above the showers.
He stepped up to look at the watch list as the Yeoman, Teal Kanary, was posting information about the next day.
‘Darned if I don’t.’ Dewey reflected.
As he turned away his and Kanary’s eyes met. There was an audible crackle on both sides. Dewey saw ‘toady’ written all over Kanary while the latter read ‘nice ass.’ Neither spoke. Dewey brushed past Kanary to return below to clean up at his leisure, hop into his bunk and wait for his eleven-thirty wake-up call which came soon enough.
Yale Cataloge, a First Class Radarman was Petty Officer of the Watch. He was nearing the end of his first enlistment but satisfied with his lot he intended to ship over. He accordingly was assuming an Old Navy persona. Since he had signified his intentions he was admitted to the ranks of career men. He had adopted the knowing, condescending way of Old Navy.
The manner, done properly, was very attractive. Cataloge was a very decent guy, one might say he was born to the manner. As he was possibly only a hair away from being a Chief there was no need to befriend him but he and Trueman always had a very cordial relationship.
The other member of the watch was Dart Craddock who Dewey had met the previous evening. Craddock gave Trueman a good introduction to Cataloge so that the two got off on the right foot. In the course of the conversation Trueman asked who the Officer of the Day was.
‘Lieutenant Junior Grade Bifrons Morford is OD.’ Cataloge replied, his elaborate sarcastic introduction proclaiming his distaste for the officer.
‘Bifrons? His mother named him Bifrons?’ Dewey queried. He had already met Morford as he was the Operations officer. Morford had questioned him about a couple details of his record, as short as it was. The Yeoman’s Shack was under his supervision.
Well, I guess his mother was classically oriented.’ Cataloge said with a little smirk. ‘In Latin it means two faced. Suits him too.’
‘Just like the god Janus, face in front, face behind, no taking him by surprise.’
Cataloge raised his eyebrows. Knowledge of Janus might be considered useless knowledge in Deck and subject one to ridicule but such learning merited respect in the forward compartment.
As they were talking Dewey looked out over the bay to see the landing craft approaching. Alone, standing in the middle of the craft he saw Bifrons Morford. The Lieutenant had all the appearance of having had an extended tete a tete with Jack Daniels.
Dewey was shocked. ‘Isn’t that Lt. Morford there?’ He asked Yale Cataloge.
‘Yeah, sure is.’ Cataloge drawled back.
‘I thought you said he was OD.’
‘Well, that looks like he’s coming back with a little lubrication to me.’
‘The good Lieutenant explained to our predecessors that as there was no need for him aboard ship that he would be stepping ashore for a few minutes. A few minutes seems to have turned into a number of hours.’
‘He can’t do that, he’s on duty.’
Yale gave Dewey a long suffering look of the magus to the neophyte.
The craft maneuvered alongside. The Teufelsdreck didn’t have a captain’s ladder, the Teuf just suspended a metal ladder over the side. Morford had had such a long and friendly chat with JD that he missed his grasp tumbling back down into the craft. He managed to pull himself up on deck on his second attempt. Dewey and Dart moved over to tie up the craft but the pilot waved them off and immediately pulled away.
All three men of the watch were totally offended by Morford. None was more offended than Dewey who was quite puritanical in certain matters. None of the others were prepared to be quite as self-righteous as Dewey. They threw up a feeble half-hearted salute per regulations but Dewey stood judgmentally with is thumbs hitched in his guard belt. It is impossible to describe the look of hauteur that clutched his countenance.
Morford would have been much further ahead to have ignored the slight, he almost did, he had already turned to walk away when the affront to his dignity as an officer and drunken gentlemen penetrated his alcoholic haze.
‘Get your thumbs out of your belt, Sailor, and salute your officer who is come aboard.’
‘Ah, that’s alright, you won’t remember tomorrow.’ Now, according to Navy regulations there was no excuse for Dewey’s insolent and impertinent reply. However there were more than two witnesses to Morford’s patent breach of regulations not to mention his obvious drunkenness on duty. Considering himself to be of overpowering manhood Morford decided to brazen it a little further.
‘What’s that Sailor?’
Morford had transgressed all the bounds of responsibility in Dewey’s mind, as he had in fact, so Dewey was not inclined to give an inch.
‘I say when you go tilting at windmills it’s better to tilt them than to be tilted. Ha ha ha.’ The little laugh at the end did not dull the edge of the riposte.
Morford had felt the affront and now the unrepentant insolence of Trueman tore at his sense of dignity, such as a man in his condition could feel. A cold rage rose in it. JG Morford checked it in the nick of time; he was not so inebriated that he had lost his own sense of danger. He struggled to form a retort that would put Trueman in his place. He seized at the reference to Don Quixote. Like all the officers but in an exaggerated manner Morford thought all enlisted men were a different species from the officers. They allowed them only animal skills considering intellectual endeavors beyond them. Assuming Trueman had not read Don Quixote he said: ‘You bear a great resemblance to a certain half of Don Quixote’s fair mistress Rozinante.’