Our Lady Of The Blues
Elyse, fearing that her cover might be blown suddenly exploded.
‘You need a search warrant before you can break into a person’s house. This is a country governed by good English law. You can’t just break into a respectable person’s house like this. Show us your stinking search warrant.’
‘We don’t have one.’
Elyse rushed at the leader hitting him in the chest with her hands. ‘You…you get out of here. This is my house. Don’t you dare come back without a search warrant.’
‘We’re leaving, but you Yanks better be alert. We’re going to be looking for you. Come on boys.’ The intruders turned and left as Elyse and Craddock tried to straighten the door in the frame.
‘The idea, breaking in here without a warrant. I’m sorry fellas but I guess that ruins the evening for other things. Here let me make you some coffee and sandwiches while you recover. You’ve had quite a shock. The idea of those police.’
‘Aw, those guys weren’t cops.’ Dewey snarled thoroughly displeased with his performance.
‘How do you know, Dewey?’ Deasy asked.
‘Aw, they just didn’t move with the authority that cops have. They didn’t talk right. They didn’t have ‘no stinking badges’ or other cop gear. Those were just nosy guys from around here. Probably these girl’s neighbors. Did you recognize any of them?’
‘I? No. I’ve never seen any of them before.’ Elyse lied.
‘You’ve got a phone. Let’s call the station and see if they sent some plainclothesmen down to your house.’
‘Hmm. Well, it’s all over and it’s too late now. Better let it drop.’
‘You’ve got a broken door.’
‘Oh well, we can fix that. Why don’t you boys leave now. We’re so sorry things didn’t work out. We so wanted them to.’
The boys would never catch on but for weeks prior to the visit the women and men of Koalaville had discussed the impending visit. They knew that the sailors would be expecting a very nice time with the Australian girls. They also knew that many girls would do anything to snag an American husband. They wanted to save Australia’s honor by preventing that as much as possible. Their plan had been to foil at least four Yanks and teach them a lesson for their alleged presumption.
The whole thing from the trip to the theatre to the Budgie boys to the break in had all been planned. Phase two was about to be launched.
The girls commiserated with the boys until the clock showed 12:01 then Elyse said. ‘Well the evenings ruined. It’s past twelve and we all have to get to work tomorrow. It’s been lovely boys, we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives. But you’ll have to leave now. Bye.’ She said pushing them toward the door.
‘Well, how are we going to get back?’ Craddock asked. ‘Can you call us a taxi so we can get back to the bus lines?’
‘Oh!’ Said Elyse as though the thought had just occurred to her. ‘Taxis don’t come out here after twelve and besides the public transportation ceases at midnight too.’
‘Well, could you drive us back?’
No, so sorry, I’d be late for work. Bye Bye now.’
Dewey stifled a nervous laugh.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘I don’t know but it just occurred to me that this whole thing was impossible.’
‘No matter how you cut it we’ll be late getting back. AWOL down under, you know. Even if the bus lines were running and they had kept us till two we couldn’t get back in time.’
They had been walking back down the park. They reached the square where the taxi stand was. As might be anticipated there was no taxi. Neither could they raise the taxi company on the phone.
‘What do we do now?’
‘Start walking, I guess.’
‘What good will that do?’ Craddock asked. ‘We might as well sit here and wait for morning.’ He added dully.
‘I don’t know what good that will do but if we stand around here nothing will change but the hour. We’ll still be standing here when muster’s called.’
After more discussion the boys walked off down the road to Brisbane.
‘Boy, I sure do like this place.’ Dewey reflected. ‘ I can’t imagine why they would want to leave to go to the States. I just like the way they do everything.’
‘How long do you think it will take to walk back?’
‘When I was a kid in high school I used to have a girlfriend who lived five miles away in the country. If I walked at top speed I could make it in an hour. So at five miles an hour it would take us about twelve hours. We aren’t moving even half that fast so it would take us a whole day.’ Dewey plotted.
‘The buses start running at five or six, don’t you think?’
‘Yeah. So by then we’ll have gone maybe six miles and we’ll still be over the hill. Might as well jump ship and settle down here.’
‘Fat chance of that. So now what?’
‘Let’s sing.’ Craddock cried, breaking out into song.
‘Quiet down, Craddock. The neighbors might call the cops. They’d have to give us a ride though, don’t you think?’
Here, I’ll teach you: ‘Solidarity Forever.’
They did a few choruses of Solidarity Forever.
‘OK. That was good. Now here’s one that’s really good: Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.’
Craddock was slipping into one of his proselytizing Wobbly moods. He felt personally responsible for the situation which, indeed, he was. His solution was not practical but then the Wobblies never were.
‘The IWW got a whole songbook written by Joe Hill and Ralph Chaplin. Joe Hill was a real hero. His real name was Joseph Hilstrom. He was a Swede. He was murdered in Utah by the police. They said he was guilty of armed robbery but he wasn’t. He just had his gun out while he was in the store. They convicted him anyway and shot him by firing squad.’
‘Hallelujah, I’m A Bum?’ Dewey said startled.
‘Yeah, here’s how it goes.’
‘I’m not going to sing that.’ Dewey stated bluntly offended by the lyrics.
‘Come on, it’s great. Show your solidarity. The Wobblies were all bindle stiffs working from place to place. They were all real people.’
‘Bums aren’t real people, not anymore than real working people.’ Dewey rejoined.
His reaction was identical to the reaction of the 1912 Socialist Convention when the Wobblies were thrown out of the Party for singing the song. The Socialist Party was composed of a wing of immigrant Jews and the IWW. When the Wobbly leader, Big Bill Haywood, proposed they all join in for a couple choruses of Hallelujah, I’m A Bum they said no and the respectable Jews voted the Wobblies out.
Dewey would have understood their reaction had he known. He had no intention of being picked up by the police while walking down the middle of the Brisbane street at two-thirty in the morning singing ‘Hallelujah, I’m A Bum.’
Already angry at Craddock for various very good reasons he began to doubt Dart’s smug superior knowing Wobbly attitude.
They had come up to the next main intersection where there were a couple stores and another taxi phone.
‘Maybe this one will work.’ Dart said apologetically.
‘Great. We still don’t know the taxi number.’ Deasy grumbled.
‘Hey, look over there. It’s a taxi, just sitting there.’
‘Across the corner, under that tree.’
‘I can’t see it.’
‘Yeah? Well, it’s there. I’ll go over and see if he’ll drive us in.’
Dewey approached the cab.
‘Hello, Mate. What’re you boys doing way out here at this hour?’
‘Long story. We have to get back to the ship. You’re our only hope. Can you drive us in?’
‘Don’t know, Mate. Little bit out of my territory. Over fifty miles, you know.’
‘Yeah, but it’s a good fare. Better than sitting here all night for nothing.’
‘Call your mates over and we’ll see what we can work out.’
The boys ran over at Dewey’s call.
‘You see, Mates, if I drive you into town I’ll have to come back empty because I don’t have a license to operate in Brisbane. It’ll cost me a lot of gas. Are you getting my point?’
‘Give the bindle stiff your pitch about solidarity forever, Dart.’
Dart took Dewey seriously: ‘We’re working stiffs just like you, pal. You know, we have to stick together. Solidarity, Mate.’
‘Solidarity is all very well Mate but it don’t put beans on my table. I can take you boys into town but you’ll have to pay fare back as well. If you can do that I’ll do it.’
Fifty miles is a pretty good taxi fare that would exhaust Dewey’s resources. All the way back to the ship Dewey was thinking of all those Lonnie Donegan records he could have had for the price of this taxi fare.
The cab pulled up to the ship just as muster was being read. Dewey gave Dart some money and began to walk away. ‘Dewey it’s going to be a little more. We’ll need another few dollars.’
‘That’s it, Dart. You can make up the rest out of solidarity because you screwed up so bad. I got us back for muster and that’s all I can afford to give.’
Dewey felt like a fool standing at muster in his dress blues but he at least had made it. There was no harm done as liberty began again after muster was called.
He had another day of liberty but was now dead broke. He cleaned up hanging around till lunch was over then decided to walk around downtown which was all he could afford to do.
He was in a troubled state of mind. His thoughts were confused and jumbled, thoroughly undifferentiated; the kind of numb musing one does when overwhelmed by reality.
Regret and anger characterized his mood. He was thoroughly tired of Craddock and his self-serving ‘Solidarity’ attitude. He regretted losing his virginity over a toothless, pregnant waste of a woman. He also felt guilty for not having kept his date with Stella.
As going over with others seemed unrewarding compared to doing what he wanted he was walking along alone looking in store windows when a sharp tap on the shoulder jolted him back to awareness. A hand with a note reached around while a voice in his right ear said: ‘From Stella Maris.’
His attention directed to the note by the time he looked around the bearer was indistinguishable in the crowd.
Dewey opened the note which read:
I am so sorry I missed you last night. I so wanted to give you my pussy. Come to the address below right now and I will spread for you.
True love and kisses,
Your Stella Maris.
Dewey almost burst out laughing as a first reaction. He clearly saw that the note had been written by a man. But then by some alchemical reaction his hopes were revived. He had thought she was rather low class the other evening. Possibly a low class broad might express herself in that way. Possibly. Then it became more of a probability and finally a fact.
There was a little map drawn out that quite remarkably began from almost the spot on which Dewey had been standing. Well, that wasn’t impossible was it?
Dewey began walking slowly in the indicated directions. The way led back toward the mooring turning left and paralleling the river. Dewey expected to see houses so he was disconcerted to find himself in an industrial warehouse area. He was vaguely aware of a figure in uniform hanging back in the shadows trying to stay out of sight. The figure was, of course, the ubiquitous Teal Kanary, the same as who had handed him the note. Il est partout.
The situation portended evil but as Dewey had escaped all Challenges unscathed he allowed his curiosity to get the better of him. Wary, he stood across the street studying the building. A dim light shone inside but there was no indication of activity. He got some idea of the layout then crossed over. Above the entrance was a faded sign: Th. Crapper & Sons. They must have crapped out a few months back. He opened the door and stepped inside.
He had barely cleared the threshold when the door slammed menacingly behind him. In the dim light he could see five or six men standing or sitting holding lengths of rubber hose as well as the man behind him who had slammed the door shut.
Before the leader had gotten through his: ‘Well, Mate, so you couldn’t volunteer compassion for your brothers…’ Dewey had spotted the row of industrial style windows standing open on the right wall levered from the top.
He automatically took the four running steps to them vaulting out over the window sill. Having defenestrated himself he hit the ground running. He raced through back yards and over fields in a wild dash for the river. Impelled by the haunting fears of childhood more than from the actual fear of pursuit, he ran for all he was worth bounding and leaping trying more to shake his past than the queers. He came out a couple hundred yards up river from the Teufelsdreck.
There was no reason for him to look back; his past was still with him but the queers had never gotten off their behinds. Kanary had slithered into the building behind him to watch his degradation. The room was still. The men were sitting looking at him.
‘Where is he?’
‘Defenestrated himself, he did.’
‘What?’ Kanary asked puzzled by the word.
‘Out the window, Mate. But you’ll do.’
It wasn’t anything Kanary hadn’t done before but the six of them weren’t anything he intended to do. Hoist by his own petard Kanary knelt before the first. As he did his astral self floated up and hovered over the scene with tears in its eyes. ‘Oh, poor, poor, Teal.’ It lamented.
Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself
His personality still split in two Kanary stood on the port wing of the boat deck watching the scene prior to the departure of the Teufelsdreck. Teal was under considerable mental stress. His mind had not yet begun to assimilate his deed of the preceding evening. It lay like a layer of green slime across the top of his brain slowly bleeding down to be transformed into the purest Teal Kanary in his subconcious but beside it lay the encysted fixation that he was foul. Thus the dichotomies in Kanary’s character grew out of his own misdeeds. A grim reality lay beside his fantasy self.
The indignity he had been subjected to had been much more than he could handle. After Trueman had defenestrated himself and Kanary had appeared the aroused homosexuals had compelled Kanary to ‘do a nice thing’ for them in succession. Thus not only had Trueman escaped the fate intended for him but Kanary was compelled to do what he was saying Trueman had done at the skating rink.
Peeping through the keyholes down on his bended knees had splintered Kanary’s personality. He had separated his mind from his body. His astral self floated up and away where he hovered with crossed arms watching himself suck off the homos. Poor, poor Teal, indeed.
In the succeeding several days he would alter the image so that he would see himself watching Trueman as he had originally planned. Nor would anything shake his story; it became true in his mind. He could probably have passed a lie detector test on the subject. He would have been totally convincing in a court of law. He was convinced he had ‘witnessed’ the scene.
Trueman who had been below decks was called up to witness what was meant to be his humiliation. Stella Maris had come down to the ship amidst the other girls to bid adieu to her beau, Cornell Roberts. He was not all that eager to bid adieu to Stella. He had hoped to avoid the situation, but others pushed him forward hoping to irritate Trueman.
Dewey too had his reasons to suppress bad memories. The scene of the previous evening which had done him no discredit was already gone from his conscious mind encysted below. In connection with the scenes in Koalaville, where he knew he had been had, the homos had been more than he could bear. The memory would only survive in a dream of an inexplicable dark row of buildings and a dream scene consolidated with other memories in which he was being interrogated by Mafia chieftains. The flight across the backyards, once again consolidated, would form staple dream fare for decades until the fixations were exorcised. Combined with the failure to keep his date with Stella the events oppressed his mind making him behave in a ridiculous manner.
Rather than dismissing the fact that she was at the ship, after all she was equally the predator, he snuck up behind the gas belching smokestatck pretending to hide behind it while he and Kanary watched the scene from different vantage points. Both men were overwhelmed by fears.
The stresses apparent on Dewey’s face far exceeded the actual happenings. They instead reflected the hurts and humiliations of nearly two decades.
His own anxieties were matched by those of the girls who had made their useless sacrifices to obtain the impossible dream of screwing their way to America. As they tried their best to project true love the screaming anxiety of their fears tinted their expressions emerging from behind the lowing voices grim.
Roberts even though he had had his way with Stella was strangely withdrawn and reserved, anxiety showing where none should have been. Someone pointed out Dewey behind the smokestack to Stella who pooh poohed him saying that she had found her man now.
‘How’s that make you feel, Trueman.’
Trueman didn’t hear through the shrieking howling waves of hysteria being beamed down as it seemed in heavy shock waves from super clusters deep in space and galaxies nearer. Waves of shooting stars seemed to crash into his mind scattering his senses far beyond his reach.
He could see himself screaming in answer, howling back at the malignant fates that had strapped him to this torture rack called life. An enormous howl of despair formed in his belly which he was able to stifle in his throat before discrediting himself forever.
Then came the call to muster for casting off. Kanary, his mind in turmoil, returned to the Yeoman’s Shack while Trueman joined Deck on the fo’c’sle. As the lines were drawn in Stella studiously ignored him, much to his relief, while she waved to Roberts saying sternly: ‘Remember. Remember.’ There was nothing on Roberts’ face that said he wanted to remember, quite the reverse.
The other three ships sailed past the Teufelsdreck which with the disgrace inherent in the Black Sheep dropped down the river to the sea a respectful five miles or so behind its brethren.
South Of The Law.
The quick run into Brisbane from Samoa had thrown the schedule out of whack by seven to ten days. So rather than sail up the coast of Australia into the Coral Sea the squadron backtracked fifteen hundred miles or so to spend three days in Fiji. Now trying to lose time the ships proceeded at a liesurely pace.
The mood of the Commodore had worsened rather than improved. The injuries to the two sailors of the Teufelsdreck turned out to be much worse than anyone imagined. After three days to clean them up a little in Brisbane a Navy transport had flown down to take them back to the States.
The parents of the men were understandably upset. Fortunately for the Navy the men had been so traumatized that they suffered amnesia being unable to tell what had happened to them. The Admiralty was not pleased. The fear that the parents would sue the Navy increased its anxiety. There was the scent of scandal in the air. The Teufelsdreck was placed in a limbo until the situation cleared.
Thus while the other three ships proceeded to Suva and delightful liberty the Teufelsdreck was assigned to an abandoned wharf halfway around the island.
The bulldozer and chain saw had not yet come to Fiji so the primeval jungle still stood foreboding and impenetrable. The Teufelsdreck sailed up to this deserted spot to moor at an old half rotted wharf without potable water but with the giant rats of Viti-Levu in abundance.
While the Commodore might have been upset by the results of the festivities crossing the equator Duber and Erect were oblivious of their criminal deeds or their possible consequences. The two felt no guilt, indeed, they didn’t know what guilt was.
It was probably just as well that the Teuf wasn’t allowed in Suva because Duber’s mind was now possessed. During the nights on the way to Fiji Duber had regaled the homos gathered in After Steering with his vision of life South of the Line.
He truly suspended reality. He had seen the old movies of South Sea life as portrayed in movies like Lord Jim and Raffles of Singapore as well as various John Wayne epics. From them he derived the notion that white men were all very hard drinkers in the tropics. Because simple English galoots had carved empires out of these jungles in most unscrupulous ways he believed that there was no Law South of the Line. A white man could do exactly as he pleased with impunity and without regard to the natives. He preached this each night in After Steering so that the homos were eager to reach Fiji so they could begin to smash it up. John Wayne again.
The scene that presented itself when they arrived was straight out of the movies. It could have been a set for John Wayne, or the Duke as he was fondly known, maybe it had once been. The ratty wharf had just the right aura. Not only had bulldozers not arrived in Fiji but concrete had missed it also. A dirt floored area beside the dock led to a single track road that diappeared into the dense jungle that struggled to reclaim the road.
A number of Fijian men had come down to the dock for the excitement. They were clad in the native costume. Bare chested they wore a wollen blanket around their waists reaching to mid-calf secured by a wide leather belt. The blanket was folded square to form a straight skirt. Under the blanket the men wore pants of one sort or another.
The reason for the pants was that when the missionaries came they were horrified to find the men wearing skirts. They shamefacedly told them that men wore pants. They didn’t say that men didn’t wear skirts so the Fijians put on pants under their skirts and let it go at that.
As soon as the ship was secured the Captain granted liberty or, at least, permission to go ashore as there was no place to go except up that jungle road.
The liberty uniform as always overseas was dress blues. No matter how hot it was the men were not allowed to change into more comfortable whites, so the men began filing ashore uncomfortably hot in their dress blues.
Kanary had been the first ashore. There he approached the Fijians who were standing around. The men of Fiji are wiry little black men, not as dark or shiny as the Negro but still black. Kanary spoke to them while waiting for Trueman to appear then he pointed him out and told the Fijians that Trueman wanted to kill all black savages. The Fijians were just as gullible as the Samoans.
Truman stepped into the trap. Coming ashore he joked to Parsons and Deasy about the skirt-pant combination. He made the mistake of pointing and laughing at the same time. The Fijians were convinced that Kanary had spoken the truth. They began to jeer at Trueman which caused him no little surprise.
As Trueman came up to Kanary standing at the entrance to the jungle road the nasty little homo sneered: ‘Isn’t it funny that wherever you go everyone takes an instant dislike to you?’
The evil twit then ran ahead a few steps before Trueman could reply. In this manner he hoped that Trueman would pursue him up to road so as to appear that Kanary was trying to get away from him. In his twisted homo way he wanted to make it appear that Trueman wanted him rather than vice versa.
Disappointed that Trueman didn’t chase after him he went ahead to catch up with Duber and Erect who were racing ahead to indulge themselves in some delicious lawlessness.
The reaction of the Fijians did give Trueman pause as he had seen Kanary talking to them and pointing at him. Still he didn’t fully understand why he had been singled out.
All such thoughts were driven away as the raw vitality of rampant nature drew his wonder. He marveled at the dense undergrowth which was so profuse as to be impossible.
‘Wow!’ He said to Deasy and Parsons. ‘You could take three steps off this road and never find your way back. Stranded in the jungle, for sure.’
‘Oh no, I think it would take more than three steps.’ The very literally minded Deasy remarked giving Dewey a look that expressed wonder at his simplicity.
Trueman prepared a line of chat, thought better of it then let the matter drop. About a mile on through the jungle they emerged into a large clearing in the middle of which stood a white wood frame ‘hotel.’
Dewey had to laugh. If you were going to build a hotel where there was no chance of business this place was a choice of genius.
‘How much business do you think they get Deasy?’
‘Don’t know, but they’ll get a lot tonight. Hey Trueman, I think you should know this. They say they’re going to kick your ass straight up and down tonight.’
‘Oh yeah? Not very likely.’ Dewey said with feigned bravado.
But while he thought about it rather than enter right away he walked over to the edge of the clearing a hundred yards above the hotel to take in the whole setting. He reasoned that the bar was a small place for over a hundred fifty sweating men. He didn’t have to be told the men would drink themselves into oblivion. If they did that anything could happen but nothing he wanted to be involved in whether anyone tried to kick his ass or not.
Deasy who had followed after him asked what they were doing out on the edge. Dewey liked Deasy OK but he was amazed by the other’s lack of interest in anything.
‘Well, hey, Mike I was just kind of scouting the land, see what it looks like. If we’d done that in Brisbane we wouldn’t have been so silly as to be sixty miles from the ship with no way back. It’s not like I’m not sore at Craddock about that.’
‘We were lucky to get back. It was a good thing Dart spotted that cab; you got laid didn’t you?’
Dewey merely snorted angered at the former clause, incensed that he had been demoted from ‘hero’ while Dart had appropriated his place. He had no wish to dignify the latter with an answer.
‘You going in?’
‘I don’t think so Mike. All you can do is drink and I don’t drink.’
‘You aren’t afraid they’re going to kick your ass are you? If you don’t go in they’ll think you’re chicken.’
‘Think I’m chicken, hell. Those guys just talk big but after Shellback initiation those same guys have shown they’re dangerous. Baxter and Basehart will probably never walk again. Here, they’ll probably riot and break up the place. I don’t want to be involved in that.’
‘Oh sure, Trueman. I understand. I’m going to have some drinks though; there’s no age limit South of the Line.’
‘See you later then.’
As Dewey came down the road emerging from the jungle the Fijians were waiting for him. Somehow they had learned his name.
‘Hey, Dewey Trueman, you nigger.’ They jeered as they bandished large knives while making threatening advances toward him. They were a little tentative staying to one side but still blocking his way.
Had Dewey tried to run he wouldn’t have gotten more than two steps so he had no choice but to brave it out. He was defenseless against the knives. He thought quite seriously his moment had come as he edged carefully toward the gangway shouting out: ‘Hey, what’s the matter with you guys?’
They shouted some more abuse at him in Fijian which Dewey couldn’t understand but got the meaning anyway.
Doubling a fist that would have been useless against the knives but showed resolve, Dewey kept edging toward the gangway. Had he shown fear and bolted thereby giving them permission to chase him they would have finished him in an instant.
Dewey kept edging toward the safety of the ship. Carlovic was the Petty Officer of the Watch. The hubbub caught his attention. When he saw the knives he realized the seriousness of the situation. No one likes irregularities to happen on their watch. It’s always more trouble than it’s worth. Carlovic was already upset because the ship had earned unfavorable treatment because of Duber and Erect. He didn’t want the Teufelsdreck to acquire any more notoriety not to mention that he didn’t like the sight of blood.
Leaning out on the lines he pointed at the Fijians demanding they desist in his most authoritative if shaky tone. They ignored him menacing Dewey further. Their intent was clear. Shaking at the responsibility Carlovic began to unholster his .45 fully intending to shoot. This gave the Fijians pause.
While their attention was distracted Dewey took three or four quick, but not hasty, steps that put him between the ship and the Fijians. He could now walk casually aboard as though unconcerned with them which he did. His cool was intact.
‘Thanks Carlovics. I owe you one.’
‘It wasn’t for you, Trueman. This is the US Navy.’
‘OK. I owe the US Navy one. Thanks, anyway.’
Trueman dropped below. Neither he nor the Watch could explain the attitude of the Fijians. That’s because as always the key was missing. The psychology of the murderous Teal Kanary was the key.
After Brisbane Trueman began to assume greater importance to him. In fact, he had become Kanary’s ‘impure’ alter ego. Kanary’s experience with the queers in Crapper’s warehouse had encysted impurity in his mind further conflicting with his notion of purity nestling beside it. Kanary remained ‘pure’ in his conscious mind because he could project his subconscious impurity on the person of Trueman but the projection was still part of him but a part he could hate as though it were not. Since he had objectified his impurity in the person of Trueman he thought that if Trueman were killed his sense of impurity would be severed from him. He was mistaken of course, but Trueman was still in jeopardy.
Lonely At The Top
The Commodore wished to have a strategy meeting so no sooner had the ship docked than a boat arrived to carry Ratches on a two hour ride to Suva. It was a small not overly clean boat so Ratches had to stand the whole journey so as not to soil his dress whites. The Commodore was a devious man, he had ways. At least Ratches arrived with his uniform clean and pressed. He looked good crossing the gangway to the Desade.
The Commodore was not in a good mood. He had his four captains there. He meant to roast Ratches before the other three.
The officers stood around to chat with their drinks in their hands as the Commodore began.
‘It looks like we may have a problem with those men of yours who were injured.’
‘How’s that, Commodore?’
‘Well, it may create a public relations problem for the Navy. After some preliminary patching they were flown back to Oakland for hospitalization at Oak Knoll. Neither of their parents will consent to their being treated by Navy doctors. They insist on their being treated by private doctors even though the Navy has some of the best medicos in the world. I don’t understand it. Needless to say the Navy can hardly refuse to pay for private care although we’re going to try.
Preliminary reports indicate those boys are crippled for life. Fine savage this Erect fellow. Seems the bones were fusing on the long trip into Brisbane so now everything has to be broken again to square the corners. Parents are hopping mad; blame the Navy even though the Navy is innocent. Luckily the kids had memory lapses. Can’t remember anything. It’s quite possible the parents will sue. Not our fault but that Erect fellow was solely to blame.
So long as they don’t sue everything will be straight but if they do sue then this Erect fellow will be a liability. Do you follow me?’
Ratches sat mute for a while looking into the bottom of his glass. Then he said: ‘Yes, I think I do.’
‘Good. What the hell is going on over on your ship anyway? Not only this Erect fellow but you had some fellow wanted to turn a suicide nozzle on the Pollywogs? My god!’
Ratches wiped his jaw. ‘That would be Yeoman Kanary. Well, I don’t know how you can blame me for that, Commodore. I stopped him. The Kanary fellow appears to be the spoiled rotten son of some high school teachers. He brought them to the ship to introduce them to me one day. They were both precious sorts very confident in their ideas and full of themselves. Gave me some pointers on how to run the ship. Very confidently self-important as though they were only disguised as school teachers but were in reality earth shakers. As I understood it they are some sort of followers of Freud. They have taught this boy that he should always express his emotions. He thinks that inhibitions and repression are bad, leading to complexes. That’s what he told Morford anyway.
I don’t know how he reconciles killing people with being uninhibited. He must realize that the Navy will inhibit his freedom if he murders someone.’
‘They don’t think that far anymore.’ Darwin Danielson of the Deviant interjected. ‘The whole generation has always known too much prosperity. They weren’t honed in the tough school of the Depression like we were. New fangled ideas like this Freud stuff are undermining the Christian ideals of this country. These kids don’t think of anyone else. Kind of a me first generation. Me first and only.
Things are changing too fast for me, I don’t like it. Next few years the Navy won’t even have fighting men anymore.’
‘Missiles. All this rocketry is changing things. Already they’ve removed the twenties. Forties are useless against jets. All our anti-aircraft is outmoded. They’ve already got ships armed only with rockets on the drawing boards. Pretty soon it won’t be men against men but machines against machines. All they’ll need men for is to push the buttons; hell, they can get girls to do that. Hell, it might even get to the point where they send out ships without crews; everything done by remote control. I’ve already got twenty-two in; I’m out at twenty-five.’
‘Seems far-fetched Dar. Huh. Women aboard ships.’ The Commodore said. ‘But speaking of change, how are your Negroes getting along Gabe?’
‘That’s another thing.’ Danielson kept on. ‘This has always been a white man’s Navy. Old Harry may have thought we were going to jump when he issued that executive order but we showed him. Hard to resist an old soldier like Ike though. Even so it’ll ruin the Navy.’
‘Thanks for your thoughts, Dar. Now, Gabe, you were saying?’
‘Well, we haven’t had any trouble yet. The Negroes are pretty paranoid. They’ve barricaded themselves into part of Supply and secured certain other areas to themselves exclusively that creates some tension among the Whites but no trouble so far.’
No trouble? Ratches could have used some lessons in Freudian psychology.
‘Believe it or not the Negroes haven’t been ashore since Pearl. As I understand it they have no intention of going ashore until we get back to Pearl. Scared to death of how they might be received in what they call these ‘White ass countries.’
‘I love the Navy…’ the Commodore began to pontificate when there was a knock on the door. The Desade’s Operations officer handed the Commodore a message.
‘Hmmm. Seems like your boys are out of control again, Gabe.’
Ratches drew in his breath. ‘How’s that Commodore?’
‘Seems like a bunch of ’em tore down Harry’s Bar. The owner’s mad as hell. Better get back there, Gabe, and straighten ’em out. We don’t want any more trouble from your command. Remember what I said about this Erect fellow.’
Somewhat less steady on his pins, for they had been drinking steadily, Ratches got back in the dirty boat. When he arrived back at the Teufelsdreck his uniform was not so neat.
Boys Will Be Boys
There was really no reason for Ratches to rush back because at 2:00 in the morning when he arrived the lights were out, the damage had been done. It was, of course, irreversible.
The Wild Bunch had gotten right down to serious drinking as soon as they entered the bar. Dusty Ways, the owner, was ecstatic because he knew a bonanza when he saw one. The question isn’t why the riot happened so much as why it didn’t get started earlier than it did.
Thus began one of the most unpleasant aspects of the tour. Not the rioting but the aftermaths. Not the aftermath of the rioting but the consquences of the heavy drinking.
Above decks the weather was delightful but below decks the heat was horrendous. With heat comes perspiriation, with perspiration comes dank foul odors. Bad enough in any circumstances they were horrendous in Fiji because as the Commodore’s devious mind knew there was no potable water at this rotting wharf.
That meant the the ship depended on its tanks; the evaporators were inoperable when the ship was still. That meant no showers for three days. The Commodore was a subtle man in his punishments.
Now, the drinkers aboard ship, which excluded all but six men, were much given to excess, expecially here in the South Seas where there was no Law. As is well known the human body can handle only so much alcohol before it rebels. The first night in Fiji there was mass rebellion.
Trueman was sweltering in his bunk going over the well worn copy of ‘On The Road’ for the second time when Proud Costello came reeling through the hatch. The intrepid Costello realizing that the Bunch was becoming overheated, capable of almost anything, had fled the scene before the crime was committed. He wasn’t ‘that’ drunk but he was only a whisker short.
Perhaps the stifling heat hit him hard as he passed through engineering or the subtle movement of the ship upset his equilibrium but as he reeled through the hatch tripping on the lip he shot out a projectile of vomit that carried almost to the end of Groddeck’s bunk fourteen feet away. Overwhelmed by his nausea he staggered to his knees clutching Groddeck’s bunk with Groddeck in it and vomiting all over a four foot area which included a fair portion of Groddeck’s bunk as well as a couple lineal feet of Groddeck, fortunately for Costello, the lower part.
Staggering to his feet literally soaked in his own vomit he found his way to his bunk into which he tripped and fell. The stink drove Trueman wild while Groddeck was transported. While not so blotto that he was unconscious Costello was still not blotto enough to accept responsiblity. In between incoherent sounds he denied doing it. Even with Trueman and Groddeck standing over him reviling him Costello could not be shamed into admitting it, let alone cleaning it up.
Totally enraged Groddeck rolled Costello out on the deck snatching his mattress cover while throwing his own vomit drenched mattress over Costello’s face. Not having the energy to get up or even throw the mattress cover off Costello lay ther sobbing: ‘I didn’t do it, Mamma, I didn’t do it.’
Shortly after the stench of the other returning warriors of the world’s most powerful Navy filled the compartment, they having been ejected by Dusty Ways. Stumbling and howling Rogerts managed to unload a couple schooners of beer on his shoes as he struggled to remember how to climb into his bunk, clothes and all. Completely disgusted Trueman grabbed his blanket to take a place beneath the Hedgehogs to get what repose he could.
The next morning Roberts, who had been strangely subdued and humble since Brisbane, cleaned up his mess with no demur. Costello on the other hand stoutly denied that a man of his stature could do such a thing. He was unable to withstand the enraged Groddeck or deny the laughingly sarcastic Trueman. He didn’t so much admit it as to give in. Both Trueman and Groddeck earned his resentment.
Meanwhile the Captain was up at the hotel talking to Dusty Ways, an old South Seas hand, about the damage caused by the wayward sailors of the little subkiller, Teufelsdreck.
Dusty was what is called a man’s man. He was the stuff of legend that Duber had read about. He was forever on the run from civilization. He would be fortunate enough to die before the Fiji chain saw massacre cut away the primeval jungle surrounding his hotel in a single day.
Dusty wasn’t hurt or offended by the riot. He liked the wild ways of boys on a rampage; he’d been cackling and laughing as the riot ensued but the codger expected them to pay for it. As he hoped and knew the Bunch would rampage he had nipped the riot before any excessive damage was done and then exaggerated its extent by maybe two or three hundred per cent or maybe, four. He wasn’t greedy but then he didn’t get too many opportunities next to that rotting wharf.
Dusty looked the Captain in the eyes and opined that he could fix his place up for three thousand American dollars. His opinion allowed him a twenty-five hundred dollar profit but, what the hell, everybody has to pay for their entertainment including the Wild Bunch of the Teufelsdreck.
Ratches raided that tin box for the three thousand which he turned over to Dusty who slapped him on the back with a jovial: ‘No harm done that can’t be fixed, Cap. Still,’ He said. ‘It used to better before the war.’
As things had worked out with no prejudice to the Navy Ratches was content to apportion the damage to the malefactors of little wealth without Captain’s Masts. Ratches was always too lenient in the wrong places because the Wild Bunch read his motives incorrectly.
The riot actually established a spirit of conviviality between Dusty Ways and the men of the Teufelsdreck. The stay turned out to be a high spot in the tour for the Wild Bunch.
As there was nothing to do but drink in this spot passed over by the wand of time the men found ways of entertaining themselves or just lounged around.
All this time the Black sailors in Supply stayed in their sweltering quarters venturing out but rarely. They thought that the White boys or peckerwoods as they alternately called them were constantly discussing ‘niggers’, furiously plotting all sorts of crimes against them. In fact anyone who didn’t like them kept his mouth shut as they were never discussed except in sympathetic terms, at least openly. However there was a slight discrepancy in what the Whites thought they should do and the feeling they masked in their minds.
No one had been more altruistically sympathetic than Proud Costello. To hear him talk he was the Black Man’s best friend. He was offered an opportunity to show his true feelings.
The locale was terrific for a pick up basketball game. The ship had a ball so Costello and a few others Jerry rigged a hoop to a tree and started a game. Costello of course thought he was the star of the ship. His prestige was such that the others allowed him to think it.
He and the boys whooped it up loud enough that the sounds of hoop introjected themselves into the mess hall where the Black boys sat chatting it up.
Stoval Stuval went up to take a look. Peeping out the wing hatch he saw Costello and friends engaged in a sprightly game. Stoval loved round ball.
Stuval was the most ungainly of men. He had gotten all the features of his species which cartoonists caricature. He was tall and uncoordinated. Skinny to a fault he had one of those long heads with the broadest of noses, thick lips and an overhanging set of uppers, high rear end and he was goofy acting.
Whether Costello would let one of the more graceful Blacks play will never be known but he refused to let Stoval play.
Stoval begged but Costello rudely, very rudely, ordered him off the court. Costello would have accused anyone else of being prejudiced but he persisted although he didn’t use any racial epithets.
Stuval would not take no for an answer but slipped onto the court and slid into the game. Costello was really exasperated. For a while he didn’t know what to do but the answer came to him. He fed Stuval the ball and then edged back so the Black could drive to the basket.
Stuval stepped into it. As he went up to shoot Costello brought a forearm back agains his Adam’s Apple and clotheslined him. Stuval hit the dirt full length on his back gasping for air.
The eyes of the Black faces peeking from the wing hatch bulged out. All their fears seemed realized.
Stoval Stuval gaspingly tried to get to his feet bleating out: ‘You only done that to me ’cause I’se Black.’
‘Didn’t have anything to do with it. I just told you I didn’t want you in my game.’
‘Naw. Being Black had nothing to do with it Costello. You only did that because he was showing you up. Haw, haw.’ A jeering voice called from one of the sailors lounging around leaning against the bulkhead of the boat deck.
‘Hey Costello, I like to see a guy without prejudice. Boy, I can see why you hate them bigots.’
‘Shut up, Trueman, or I’ll come over there and give you some of the same.’
‘Uh huh. Is that before or after you clean up your puke?’ Trueman replied giving him the horselaugh.
Costello was properly chastised especially as Trueman’s horse laugh was greeted with several knowing snickers from the lounging hands. Costello’s sense of shame had been touched. He wanted to hide but contented himself with a threatening gape of the mouth and shake of the head as he went back to ‘his’ game.
Stoval Stuval limped below to the sympathy of his fellow Blacks.
And so the stay ended and the Teufelsdreck put to sea to begin what may have been the most blessedly delightful segment of the voyage.
Guadalcanal, Bougainville And The Coral Sea
All hands or, at least those who showered on a regular basis which, fortunately, was the majority, waited anxiously for the evaporators to be fired up to do their work. The tanks filled, the able bodied men rushed to the showers.
The ship began a cruise through the main battle grounds of the Pacific War. These were the places that the advance of the Japs was stopped. The way led above the Coral Sea through the New Hebrides to the Solomons with its detested Guadalcanal then up to Bougainville the scene of Joe McCarthy’s South Sea adventures.
When the ship passed Guadalcanal the Old Salts lined the rails speaking in private hushed tones not meant for the profane ears of the new generation. Indeed, what could they do but interrupt the thoughts of the Old Salts with stupid even if well meant questions. Arms pointed here and there making sweeping rising and diving motions that were more expressive to watchers than words. Dieter and Oiler and Davis the three Chiefs stood in dress blues under the tropical sun while Blaise Pardon and Ratman as First Classes stood by them.
Their shining faces gazed into the distant past of ’43, ’44 and ’45 as they relived those hazardous days when they were heroes. They had all been Tin Can sailors even then. The life expectancy of a Destroyer Escort in combat was something like sixty minutes. They were expendable. They were there to give their lives to protect the Cruisers, the big Battle Wagons and the monarchs of the fleet, the Aircraft Carriers. It was the DEs’ and DDs’ job to intercept the torpedoes meant for what were called the Capital Ships.
Those old boys had been in Harm’s Way. It was man to man in those days not machine to machine. Those guys had been in the thick of it and lived to tell it.
‘Boy, those guys deserve a lot of credit for what they did.’ Parsons said admiringly, gazing at Guadalcanal to starboard.
‘Yeah, and look at them now.’ Trueman sneered. ‘What you did isn’t nearly as important as what you do.’
The ship glided through those azure gleaming calm waters at a slow pace still trying to lose time to get back on schedule. Azure seas and crystaline blue skies studded with white cream puff clouds drifting yet standing still holding a golden moment of time in a bottle while the jungle islands resplendently green slid by as they awaited the arrival of the chain saw.
The splendor was lost on the working class souls of Dewey’s shipmates. They were more of the chain saw mentality. Only he and Frenchey seemed to appreciate this place in the islands that time had momentarily forgot.
‘You know what I really like, Frenchey?’ Dewey asked in the semi-private hushed tones employed by the Old Salts.
‘That thees is a small sheep, not ze gian aircraft carriere.’
‘How did you know? Yes. Here we are midships just six feet above the waterline. It’s almost like standing on the water. It makes you feel like one with all this. You know, on a carrier you’d be fifty feet off the waterline, an artificial island, but everything would be manmade and hard, even steelier than this. All the bustle and roar, no solitude.’
‘Oui, Meeshur Dewey and it seem we can walk right off thees sheep into zat jungle. Do you know what thees island ees called, Meeshur Dewey?’
‘I overheard Pardon saying that there is New Britain. Over on the other side is New Ireland. We already passed Bougainville.’ Dewey said just to feel the names roll off his tongue. ‘McCarthy was stationed there.’
‘McCarthy? He ees bad man.’
‘No, he wasn’t a bad man, Frenchey, he just didn’t know how to keep the Commies from bringing him down. Let’s go over to the other side, better yet let’s go back to the fantail where we can watch both islands and the straits.’
‘Why not to the fo’c’sle?’
‘Good enough, let’s go.’
And so these fantastic days were passed each more marvelous than the last. On two occasions the Captain brought the ship to a halt so the crew could swim in the deep ocean water while the fisherman aboard threw their lines over aft.
There’s a certain thrill to jumping from the side of a ship into the open ocean, climbing a rope up the side and jumping off again. The men were delirious. For many these scenes were the highlights of the trip.
The fishermen brought up exotic varieties not least of which was the incredible Blowfish. these strange fish inflate like a balloon when facing their enemies, sharp spines erecting on their skin. They were amazing to watch as they puffed up and rolled around the deck.
The days were wonderful but the nights were torture. Above decks the weather was wonderful but below decks the heat was unbearable. The Captain refused to let the crew sleep on deck for fear someone might be chucked over the side in the dark. His fears were more than justifiable. The crew of the Teufelsdreck were little more than savages.
But intelligent ones. Someone rigged up a system where all the hatches but one and the after hatch were closed. This created a forced draft that sent a near gale force wind coursing aft and out the after hatch. However if the forward hatch were closed the change in pressure would cause the ship to explode. With Peter Erect and Kanary in mind the Captain did not know what other madmen were aboard who just might close the hatch. The practice was forbidden.
Thus this lovely four thousand mile stretch came to an end when the Teufelsdreck reached port at the little island of Palau.
Palau was merely a refueling stop after the long four thousand mile cruise from Fiji. The island had little to offer. The harbor was filled with myriad schools of exotic fish. The water was becoming fouled but was nowhere near the cesspool of Pearl.
Somewhere in the Solomons, possibly as the ship passed Bougainville, Kanary’s experience at the Th. Crapper And Sons warehouse resolved itself in his mind. To transfer his resp0nsibility from his shoulders he began to relate to the Operations people that he had witnessed Trueman’s outrageous behavior, not his own. This startling news was accepted by most if not all. No one bothered to question how it was that Kanary was present to act as witness.
This excited his mates because not only were women hard to find on Palau but it is a great deal easier to get a queer to service you than a woman. Queers may even pay you. With high hopes, then, three of Operations that Dewey knew only at sight invited him over. Palau was a dead place for excitement. Knowing not what else to do they merely followed Trueman who chose this time to go looking for coconuts. Palau did abound in coconuts and Trueman found and ate more than was necessary for his system to handle. Beware of too much fresh coconut; it’s a hurting burning feeling.
Kanary’s stories gave them the idea that Trueman was virtually out of control. In the pursuit of coconuts they found themselves in a native cemetery. Cemeteries excite sexual desire. Don’t ask me. Numbers of trysts are held in such places. The boys now became sexually anxious.
‘Come on, Trueman.’
‘This is far enough.’
‘I don’t follow you.’
‘You know, for Christ’s sake. We can do it here.’
Trueman caught their drift. Not knowing why they expected him to turn it up he could only assume they were all queer. The public toilet in Brisbane all over again.
‘You guys that way?’
‘No. We’re not that way. You like to blow, don’t you?’
‘Fuck you. Where’d you get that idea?’
‘Aw, c’mon Trueman. Christ, don’t be so coy. It’s alright with us.’
‘I’m sure it’s alright with you fags but it’s not alright with me. I’ll be going back to the ship alone. I don’t want you queers following me.’
Dewey was deeply hurt, offended to the depths of his being. Like most hysterics he internalized the situation searching for what seen in him would lead these guys to believe he would do such a thing. He was unaware of external factors, although Kanary’s two stories would generally be believed aboard ship and acted on again and again, Trueman never learned the cause.
The following day the mail caught up with them. The Navy in many ways was a marvel of organization. The masterminds in Washington who plotted the whereabouts of each and every ship in so many fleets also made sure that the mail reached each ship at places along its course. Palau was selected as such a spot. All the mail collected along the way from the US to Hawaii to Australia now found its way to its final destination- the eager hands of the crew of the Teufelsdreck.
The mail from Australia was the most welcome. Those sailors who had scored now found letters eagerly demanding their attention.
Parsons who had been in the part with Stella Maris came dancing back to First to crow to Trueman: ‘Look at this, Trueman. She sent a pair of panties to remind me. Ha. Ha. What do you think of that? Did yours send her panties to you?’
‘Naw, she wasn’t wearing any. Didn’t have any to send.’
Other sailors read out passages of their letters. Merriment was the order of the day when Roberts was seen looking very green with his letter from Stella Maris in his hands.
‘Got any panties there.’ Parsons roared.
‘No, Roberts said, choking back a sob. ‘She says she filed charges against me for rape.’
‘Rape? That’s not so.’
‘I know.’ Roberts said, brushing away a tear. ‘But she said she wanted me to marry her and go to the States, now that we’d done it we were as good as married.’ I didn’t promise to marry her so she filed charges for rape. She says she’ll drop the charges if I promise to marry her.’
Dewey said nothing but gave Roberts a grateful look for taking Stella off his hands. He still harbored a grudge against Craddock but he was now almost ready to seek him out and thank him.
‘Wow! That could have been you, Dewey.’ Parsons said said laying a sympathetic hand on Trueman’s shoulder.
‘Yeah, could have been.’ Dewey said as Shakey Jake entered the compartment to tell Roberts: ‘Captain wants to see you forward, Roberts.’
Roberts got up mechanically and submissively followed Brook forward.
‘I received this notice from the Fleet which says you’ve been accused of raping this girl in Brisbane. What’s your side of it, Sailor?’
Cornell Roberts was crestfallen. Stella Maris had been the worst nightmare of his young life. In the States he would have been a goner but the Navy tends to look after its own. Still, the experience of Stella had depressed Roberts.
‘No sir, it’s not true. That’s not it. She wanted to do it but then she said that since she had given me what I wanted now I had to give her what she wanted. She called it a fair exchange. I had to marry her and take her back to the States. I said no way. I mean, see, she wasn’t even that good. She barely spread her legs; I couldn’t even get it all the way in. I wasn’t going to marry her and take her back to the States for that. I was getting the short end of the deal.’
Ratches turned away to conceal a smile.
‘See here, Sir…’ Roberts held out his letter. ‘…she even says if I marry her and take her back to the States she’ll drop charges.’
‘May I keep this letter Sailor? It might come in handy to exonerate you.’
‘Sure, Captain. I don’t want it. I’m not going to marry her though, I don’t care what.’
‘Let me handle this. Go about your business now. Don’t worry about this too much.’
‘I hope not, Sir. She wasn’t even worth it.’
The New Wild Bunch Sails Into Subic Bay
Having sailed from Palau the Teufelsdreck entered the Philippine Archepelago. The ship slipped through the narrow Eastern portal into this amazing wonderland of hundreds if not thousands of islands sprinkled over a length of a thousand miles.
The sea was so thickly studded that the Captain had to reduce speed to five knots as he guided in on a zig-zag course. Some islands were relatively large, some were tiny islets a stones throw across. All were thickly covered in dense jungle.
Dewey stared in open mouthed wonder as the ship dreamily glided over the brilliantly blue waters beneath a brilliantly blue sky contrasting with the brilliant green of the jungles. Everything was brilliant, even the brilliantly colored fish that darted to and fro in the shallow waters.
Dewey gasped as they entered a narrow channel between two islets. The bottom was clearly visible just beneath the ship. The prow almost seemed to push the islets aside like the Argo to make its way through. Leafy boughs overarched the ship.
It was one of those moments you hope will last forever.
But, alas, Dewey drifted up deck approaching a knot of talking sailors- Paul Duber, Peter Erect, Cornell Roberts and Teal Kanary.
‘Yeah, Subic is the last place in the world where a man can be a man.’ Paul Duber was saying.
‘Sure is. You can get drunk, fight, raise hell and smash the place up and they don’t care. Hell, they like it like that.’ Peter Erect added.
‘You know why?’ Teal Kanary giggled. ‘Because they know they’re going to make so much money off us it doesn’t matter how much we destroy. They can replace everything for nothing. Life is cheap in Subic. I can’t wait. Freedom at last. True liberation.’
‘I just want to get drunk.’ Roberts nearly moaned.
Dewey came drifting up vibrant with wonder.
‘Hear that Trueman? We get to Subic you can kiss your ass goodbye.’ Duber sneered. ‘Subic’s not for shithooks like you.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Trueman retorted. ‘This is the place, huh? This is where you guys all get together and kick my ass, hey? When I see you guys coming I will call up the reserves. What’s in Subic anyway?’
‘It’s just the wildest, hairiest place in the world, that’s all. Last place left where a man can be a man.’
‘I didn’t think there was a place on earth where you could be a man, Erect. After crossing the line I thought everyone knew you were an animal.’
‘Keep it up, Trueman, keep it up.
‘I don’t have as much trouble doing it as you probably do.’ Trueman sneered.
Trueman walked on wondering how in this seeming paradise men could care to continue to hate everything that moved except themselves. Still, as the ship glided through the myriad islands a sort of spell fell as a lassitude on the sailors.
Somewhere along the way the squadron had broken up, each ship going its own way fulfilling whatever known or unknown function the Navy had for it. Thus the Teufelsdreck entered Subic Bay alone.
Subic is on the other side of the Bataan Peninsula from Manila Bay. This was the site of the famous Bataan Death March. The Old Salts were not to be seen during the stay. They went off on memorial trips.
Subic had the rusticity that could lead you to believe that it was the last uncivilized outpost in the world. The kind of place where the French Foreign Legion, which had lost its reputation for invincibility at Dien Bien Phu, might hold its conventions, or, indeed serve as a hideout for Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. A lot of the cowboys on board certainly thought it was.
But the desperadoes and criminals who formed the Foreign Legion who supposedly fought with such abandon because they had nothing to lose had also lost their mystique in the jungles of Viet Nam. All the Dirty Dozens were no more than that. Dirty.
Ah, but you know , as the saying going around ship had it: ‘The jungle though beautiful from a distance contains deadly terrors inside.’
His anger unabated the Commodore refused to allow the Teufelsdreck to moor in the port. Instead they were sent to another out of the way pier without potable water.
The Teufelsdreck swung around to tie up at a pier alongside the bank. Another pier ran out into the water aft of the Teuf. Deck had not honored the people of Subic by lining up at parade rest on the bow in undresswhites but slunk in in a desultory manner in dungarees. As the soon as the ship docked liberty was announced.
Subic had a real Huck Finn quality to it. The dirt roads were just as they should be. A green sprawl flowed from the bank toward the town which lay behind a rise a mile away. It was just a short walk to the bars. The cowboys streamed off the ship like some of Charlie Siringo’s trail drivers hell bent for leather into the last place on earth where a man could be man. Fortunately for Captain Ratches these cowboys did not have six shooters, could have been real bad.
Dewey elected to stay on board. He assumed that even if he didn’t get his ass kicked for him as promised he would have to at least spend his time fighting especially as the boys were going to get really liquored up.
Not enough of a cowboy to enjoy fighting for fighting’s sake he did the obvious. One advantage was that with nearly everyone off the ship he could relax. As said the Negroes stayed on board although they stayed invisible lounging around their ghetto in the sweltering Supply Compartment. Supply was in the front of the ship, the Blacks were not going to ride in the back. Theirs was a special case because if they went ashore they might have to fight their way there and back. Who knows how the Philippinos felt about them. After all MacArthur’s boys had been all white. In a way the Blacks were prisoners of circumstance.
Trueman went up to the bowsprit to lean against the lines trying to catch a breeze while viewing the tropical panorama before him. He had a premonition that the cowboys were heading for trouble.
After a while Dart Craddock, who had duty drifted up to join him.
‘Word’s out that you’re too chicken to go ashore for fear you’ll get your ass kicked.’
‘No kidding? You know I don’t drink, Craddock. What else is there to do here?’ Dewey evaded giving all the good reasons he had for staying aboard so as to avoid mentioning a real reason.
‘Well, I only tell you what they say.’
‘Do I care what dummy’s say? Look down there Craddock, what do you see?’
Craddock looked into the water, did a double take, then looked up saying: ‘Oh my god.’
‘Right, Craddock. Have you ever seen the like? Look at that. There must be hundreds of fish in colors you or I never knew they came in. Just check that out. Isn’t that something that looks better than the inside of a barroom? Isn’t this weather better than the inside of a stinking cantina?’ Trueman was going now. It sounded better and better. Almost the whole truth.
”Sides, look at those asshole cowboys who went over, are you really one of them?’ This was really sincere. ‘Those guys are nothing but losers. You might call them bindlestiffs but I just call them jerks.’
‘I think I have a lot in common with my working compadres…’ Craddock began.
At this this time the excitement began happening fast and furious.
As they watched Teal Kanary came over the rise on a bicycle. He was obviously loaded. The Yeoman had seen some old South Sea epic in which someone, probably John Wayne, had appropriated a bicycle conveniently laying about and ridden off the end of a pier into some bay. The image had captivated young Kanary’s mind so that he had always yearned to do it. Subic was the place.
In the movies one approriates a bike, in real life one steals it. That is just what Teal did. He’d had more than enough beer within a very short space of time to fuddle his intelligence. The fuddling was increased ten fold by the stifling tropical heat. Making a strategic retreat from the bar the rest of the boys were tearing down plank by plank he spotted a bicycle leaning against a post. He hopped on to the dismay of the owner and began peddling back to the Teuf and that pier running out into the water just aft of the ship.
Between a pitcher or two of beer and the brain swaddling heat he was definitely under the influence. Lost in his South Sea fantasy he was oblivious of the gentleman running behind him yelling: ‘Stop, thief.’
Topping the rise he began to accelerate for the down slope run. In the movie Big Bad John took his feet off the pedals and stuck them out to the side while wobbling in a romantic humorous way with this joyous expression on his face. ‘Freedom’ at last. Kanary got the joyous expression more or less right but he was too zapped to perform the athletics well. He was in the process of arranging his face into joyous when he lost control. His face went through several contortions from joyous to fear as he fought to gain control of the bike.
Now, in John Wayne’s movie there was no six by six inch beam laying across the end of the pier; in real life there was. Kanary had not taken this beam into consideration. In the movie John Wayne sailed off the end of the pier emerging with a big laugh and that great big grin of the big lug. He was the Duke.
In real life Teal Kanary slammed into the beam completely upsetting his chemical balance. The booze, the heat and the shock of the collision made very unpleasant reverberations through his mind and body. Brought to such an abrupt conclusion of his fantasy Kanary with a truly wobbling howl catapulted over the handlebars head over heels emitting a long stream of warm beer from the bottom of his soul. Kanary was a jungle joker.
He did a double gainer out over the water landing ten feet ahead of the bike. Disoriented by the collision, the warm tropical water did not help his disposition. Already sick from the beer and heat he went into a mild delirious shock.
He splashed and floundered. It was fairly clear that he would drown. Trueman’s hopes rose. He was truly disappointed when Parsons kicked off his shoes swimming over to rescue the struggling seaman.
Hauled out half dead he was met by the owner of the bicycle who did not let Kanary’s condition deter him. He punched and roared at Kanary demanding to know in some language whether Spanish, English, Tagalog or whatever who was going to pay for his bicycle.
Indeed, when they fished it out the front tire was blown, the rim was bent and the sprockets cracked.
Kanary was carried semi-conscious and half dead aboard ship. As he was crossing the gangway a new ruckus assaulted their eyes. The cowboys had been met by an armed citizenry just like in the Northfield shootout.
The twenty-five or so sailors in the gang were being marched along double time by a line of rifle toting Federales on either side of the column. Apparently the last place on earth where a man could be a man had been moved further South the day before the Teufelsdreck had entered port.
The sailors were a sorry sight. All of them were close to falling down drunk magnifying the comic aspects as the bedraggled lot fought to keep their feet as the Federales hustled them along. Dirty and fighting the lethargy of the beer and heat they were quite a sight.
Dewey and Dart who had watched in amazement as Kanary did his double gainer and then Dewey, at least, who viewed with great pleasure as they carried the inert Yeoman aboard could repress himself no longer. Laughing and jeering he grabbed the line to support himself rocking back and forth in joy.
‘Hey, what are you guys doing reenacting the Bataan Death March?’
Stumbling along the desperadoes didn’t have the strength or presence of mind to answer if they even heard Dewey in their distress.
‘There you go Dart. Are those guys the compadres you were talking about? Look at Duber out in front with his mouth hanging open in that disgusting fag way. Look at Roberts with mouth agape and eyes rolled back in his head hands held like a monkey barely able to keep his balance. Is that you, you working class compadre? Are you really one of those guys? You think I was afraid to go with them? Maybe, but if I was it wasn’t because I was afraid to get my ass kicked it was because I would have gotten my ass in a sling just like those guys. You’re lucky you had duty or you’d be one of them. How about it? You one of them, Dart?’
The question troubled Craddock. Confronted by the degrading spectacle his brain became troubled but loath to give up his fantasy in the face of reality he just made an inarticulate sound heading for the Quarterdeck for a first hand view.
Dewey had no such reservations; he turned back to the desperadoes: ‘Naw, you guys couldn’t be imitating it. The guy’s on the Death March looked alive on their feet, you guys look like the walking dead; maybe you’re lemmings making a rush to drown in the sea. Ha. Ha.’
The indignant Peace Officers herded the men up to the gangway where they crowded and fought each other to get across as the momentum of those behind crushed in on those in front. Erect missed the gangway completely. Grabbing desperately for the lines he slipped down the side of the ship into the tepid water.
Exhausted and sick from their mile run the sailors sprawled out on the Quarterdeck even falling over each other. Not a few were hanging over the side providing fodder for those multi-colored fish which seemed to love the vomit.
Much to the delight of Dewey, who had moved from the fo’c’sle to the boat deck directly overhead for a better view, one sailor disgorged his load directly on Erect’s head who was still struggling in the water.
Hubie Blake who was Petty Officer Of The Watch was doing a masterful job of appearing blase in the face of this pandemonium. He was tested to the limit when Roberts following who knows what psychological need crawled on his hands and knees and seizing Blake’s shoe in his hand barfed over shoe and hands both.
‘Hey, not on my shoe!’ Blake protested coming within a hair of losing his cool but recovering just in time. A grimace passed over his face as the warm vomit slid down his socks into his heel.
Standing just above Blake on the Boat Deck Trueman was less than cool. He was laughing uproariously dancing about he shouted down to Duber who was far beyond the reach of any human voice: ‘Hey, Duber. Want to come up here and kick my ass? Ha. Ha.’
Blake standing in his soggy sock looked up to give him a disparaging glance but it was no use; to see all his enemies including Kanary humiliating themselves at once was too once in a lifetime to forego one iota of pleasure.
El Jefe, without asking permission to come aboard stepped gingerly over the writhing bodies to demand with the utmost offended dignity to see the Capitan. As Ratches’ luck would have it, he was aboard. He came out of the wardroom to be met by this horrendous sight. He was just as cool as Blake however. Taking it all in at a glance his face set in concrete as he advanced toward El Jefe with equal dignity with his hand outsretched.
El Jefe was much gratified to be treated as an equal but he was no less adamant in his demands. The Teufelsdreck desperadoes had done some serious damage to the town. Many thousands of dollars worth of fun. El Jefe demanded to know who was going to pay. The bicycle owner was also putting in his petty cash claim.
The harassed Ratches invited El Jefe into the wardroom to sound the depth of the problem; this was a full fathom six situation, too. Captain Ratches assured the Jefe that the Teufelsdreck would be in port four days so there was plenty of time to work out the problem.
But El Jefe was no fool and wise to the ways of men and the Teufelsdreck sailors; he knew that if he wasn’t paid then and there the chances of being paid later were slim to none. He refused to budge until he had the money in his hand.
Ratches called Ensign Shaffer who was the Officer Of The Day. The little box of dynamite was raided to satisfy the Jefe who left enraged and disgusted to step over the destroyed sailors who had not yet gotten up from the deck. Erect had been hauled aboard where he stood dripping leaning sickly against the bulkhead.