Our Lady Of The Blues:
From Gaia To Maia
The White mess cooks who knew that Tyrone had spit on it intervened in Trueman’s favor enraging Tyrone further. He didn’t consider them protecting a fellow sailor from the perfidy of another but as White people sticking together against Blacks.
The White mess cooks were not prepared to carry on warfare with the Blacks. So, as they lived in the same compartment, they were soon sabotaged into acquiescence. It will be remembered that Black athletes terrorized Whites off sports teams to make way for Black brothers. The same rules applied in Supply. While there was intense Black solidarity there was no White solidarity so that the whole corps of Blacks were always acting as a unit against a White individual. The White’s hands were tied because any objections or retaliations he might make would be classed as bigotry by the other Whites and aggression by the Blacks. So the Whites were easily intimidated. For obvious reasons Trueman was abandoned to Tyrone Jackson.
Tyrone now protected from interference from the White mess cooks ratcheted up his rage against Trueman. Dewey, under assault from other quarters at the same time chose to ignore Tyrone the best he could. He endured it all.
But this particular morning, a day out from Manila, Bocuse served fried eggs for breakfast. This was a rare event. Fried eggs were much relished by the crew as almost the only truly edible food Bocuse served. As Trueman came down the line Tyrone threw the eggs intended for him on the floor at his feet.
‘You seemed to have missed the tray. Toss another couple eggs on there.’
‘Those are your eggs on the floor. Lick ’em up.’
This action was so egregious that the White mess cooks chose to interfere. Every one looked at Tyrone in reproach.
Trueman had had enough of Tyrone’s insolence. In his own rage he demanded: ‘Hey, you give me another couple eggs.’
‘Fuck you you Honky motherfucker. Eat ’em off the floor; it’s what you deserve.’
‘Why you dirty bastard. I said give me eggs.’
Tyrone held up a two pronged fork stabbing at Trueman saying: ‘Come and get ’em, motherfucker, c’mon. C’mon.’
Trueman turned his steel tray flat shoving it against the fork. Tyrone backed up a couple paces behind the steam tray saying: ‘Come and get it you motherfuckin’ Peckerwood.’
Trueman would have had to leap the steam tray or run around the end, in either case he was vulnerable. He threw the tray at Tyrone edgewise catching him full in the throat.
Just as the situation was set to explode Bocuse came racing down the ladder shouting: ‘Eggs for everyone, everyone can have as many eggs as they want.’
‘Grabbing another tray Trueman shouted at Tyrone: ‘Put another couple eggs on there.’
Tyrone had had a breather enough to realize the jeopardy in which he had placed himself. Still, rather than wait on Trueman directly he served extra eggs to the White sailors who took advantage of Trueman’s imbroglio to get extra eggs first. Then still clutching his throat the threw a couple eggs in Trueman’s direction which luckily landed on his tray.
So, poor Captain Ratches narrowly escaped the disgrace of having a race riot on his ship as well as possibly another dead man to account for. For the Captain the cruise was turning into a descent into the maelstrom.
As Tyrone could no longer be trusted the Black Caucus was required to furnish a different mess cook. Ironically Tyrone was censured by the Blacks for needlessly provoking a confrontation while Trueman was censured by the Whites for the same reason. The censure angered Trueman who considered himself the innocent victim of Black prejudice to the very core of his soul. His sympathy for the Black cause was all but destroyed.
Costello took this occasion to try to recover some of his lost cachet: ‘I can’t help believing there’s more to this than you’re letting on Trueman.’
‘I haven’t let on anything Costello, and I haven’t done anything to that son-of-a-bitch.’
‘I heard you call him a fucking nigger in the mess hall, Trueman.’
‘You heard no such thing, you liar, I never even mentioned race.’
I distinctly heard you call him a fucking nigger, Trueman.’
‘You did not, Costello.’ Blaise Pardon interjected. ‘Trueman made no mention of race. He called him a bastard.’
‘Then he called him a Black bastard and even if he didn’t he should have been more respectful of his race and let the incident slide.’
‘Oh, shove it up your ass, Costello. You’re not only a liar but a hypocrite. I guess you’ve forgotten how you clotheslined Stuvall when he wanted to play basketball with you. You wouldn’t even let a Black guy on the court, so eat it.’
‘Ha. Your memory is just a little short. It didn’t happen that way at all.’
‘We’ll see about that.’ Costello retorted.
‘Sure we will.’
But the ill will borne Trueman by the Subic Wild Bunch was turned to account in the dispute. It was generally asserted aboard ship that Trueman had called Tyrone a nigger and that precipitated Tyrone’s response.
Clear Silver Waters
The Blacks within the Caucus tried their best to calm Tyrone down. They succeeded only by main force. Tyrone was kept out of the mess hall while Trueman was there.
The crush of events was such that the incident was all but forgotten by Trueman by the next day which, by the way, was a glorious tropical day on some of the calmest waters imaginable as the Teufelsdreck approached that great sand bank in the middle of the Pacific. A great desert of sand lay submerged four feet beneath the water.
As it was treacherous navigation the Commodore sent the other three ships around the end while directing Ratches to find his way through. Currents flowing through the bank had created deep crevices fifteen to twenty feet deep and perhaps fifty to a hundred feet wide. As the currents flowed perpetually the channels were permanent although constantly shifting right or left, but they could be and were charted. The going was still treacherous because the channels were sinuous making sharp changes in direction left or right. You had to navigate by sight.
Just as when the Commodore had sent the Teufelsdreck through the heart of the typhoon hoping it would sink he now hoped that Ratches would ground the ship. The resultant uproar would so discredit Ratches as a Captain that he would be forced to leave the Navy.
But the Commodore had the wrong man. Captain Ratches was a superb and fearless navigator. It was probably as much luck as anything that had brought the sub killer through the typhoon but in lesser hands than Ratches perhaps luck would not have been with the Bucket T.
The Captain radiated calm assurance to the other officers who were quite terrified. The crew itself had little confidence the Captain could bring them through. Trueman could have cared less. If the ship grounded in four feet of water it would just be one more big adventure.
The ship inched its way through the charted channel. Verlaine was every bit as good on the helm as the Captain was at navigating. Even though generally where the channel should have been the chart could not be relied upon implicitly as a shift of only fifty or a hundred feet could mean disaster.
The water was perfectly clear and calm so that one could see exactly where one was going. The great Captain was a picture of concentration as he studied the channel from the bridge giving minute changes of direction and speed. Not infrequently the ship had to be jockeyed back and forth to get around tight bends. The course of the ship was never steady for more than two or three hundred yards.
Dewey spent the time midships leaning over the lines amazed at water only four feet deep in the middle of the ocean. He didn’t notice Roberts, Costello, Duber and Kanary gathering behind him.
‘What do you find so interesting?’ Duber asked with breathless sexual repression.
‘Well…take a look at that. Nothing but beige sand as far as the eye can see. No sea weed, no fish, no nothin’, just sand forever and ever.’
‘Hmm. Yes. Trueman, you remember Erect? Why don’t we just throw you over where you can examine this sand more closely?’
There was a hint of tentative motion on the part of the four to move toward Trueman. A sign of fear would have been a motion of consent. Consent is nearly always required before crimes of this nature are committed.
As he often did, or always did actually, in difficult or dangerous situations Trueman sublimated the threat pretending it didn’t exist. Quite often if you don’t treat a threat as existing it actually doesn’t exist. Consciously he treated it as a joke laughing gaily.
‘Yeah, that would be great wouldn’t it? Four feet of water. I could stand there head and shoulders out of water.’ Then as he also frequently did he dissimulated, although subconsciously, calling attention to himself much as he did when he spoke into the earphones when threatened with a beating while crossing the equator. ‘Then I’d be like a little mountain jack on a Swiss mountaintop yodeling: Oh yoo hoo. Oh yoo hoo. Captain I’m overboard.’
He laughingly went through this routine loud enough for it to be heard on the bridge. He was lucky once again in that Frenchey was on starboard watch. Frenchey correctly read the intent of the four sailors opposite as indicated by their body language.
He called Ratches over.
‘What’s going on there, Sailor?’
‘Oh nothing Captain. I’m sorry, we were just joking around. Sorry, Sir.’
Ratches grunted and returned to the wheel.
Duber and Roberts forced a chuckle as the four sailors broke up each going his separate way.
A few hours later they emerged from the sandbanks. Ratches was aglow with his big adventure. The Commodore had inadvertently glorified him. Ratches had fodder for innumerable dinner conversations.
How the crew of the Teufelsdreck combined supreme competence with its nether incompetence is one of the strangest stories ever told.
Having seen the shallowest spot in the ocean Trueman was now eager to stand over the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench. At eleven thousand thirty-three feet it was the deepest spot on the face of the earth.
Trueman had to appeal to Captain Ratches to make him aware when the ship was over the Deep. Ratches was always pleased when a sailor showed interest in the mysteries of the sea so as the ship neared Guam he instructed Morford to inform Trueman they were over the Deep.
Even though a Reserve Officer Morford had enough discipline not to go against his Captain’s wishes. Finding Trueman standing amidships to starboard he said in passing with a voice oozing in contempt: ‘You’re over the Challenger Deep, Trueman.’
Fortunately for Trueman he wasn’t being lied to so that as he bounced on the balls of his feet so as to feel the eleven thousand feet beneath him he actually was over the Challenger Deep.
Roberts in total disgust said: ‘Geezus, Trueman how can you get excited over something you can’t even see?’
‘I just know it, Roberts. It’s true. I can say I have stood over the deepest place in any ocean.’
‘Aw, who’d want to? You’re so dumb, Trueman. Everybody on ship thinks you’re weird.’
”Aw, comin’ from you that’s a compliment, Roberts. I didn’t think you liked me.’
‘Like you! Fuck you, Trueman.’
‘Oh, that’s a sign of affection you’ll never know, Roberts.’
An Island In The Sun
The Marianas are the outer arch of islands off the Asian mainland. Guam is the bottom island with a string of islands including Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima leading up toward Japan. It is also the largest of the islands. That makes it larger than minuscule.
At the time it was one of the most remote places in the world. With latter day prosperity in Japan huge hotels were built as the island became one of the playgrounds of the Japanese, as has, incidentally, Saipan.
The island well deserves to be a playground as the climate is wonderful. The spot is well within the tropics on a parallel with Manila and Saigon.
The Naval Base was at the South end of the island while the beaches were at the North end.
Guam was acquired by the Americans in the Spanish-American War of 1898 so as the ship docked the ambiance was one of a remote American outpost.
The ship’s radio was tuned to Guam’s only radio station where an expatriate American from Memphis, Tennessee held forth as an exile from the wayward ways of mainland radio. It was not clear to anyone where he got his ideas since no one had ever heard of his concept of radio before but he seemed to think it had once been the norm.
He seemed to be convinced that at some time in radio’s rather short past DJs had programmed the songs of a show rather than just playing the top 40 tunes of the day. Thus he arranged his songs around themes or to tell a story. In may ways he was a precursor of the FM radio of the late sixties and the seventies. He had a good ear combined with good musical sensibilities so he was by no means unpopular on the Teufelsdreck.
The ship was scheduled to be in Guam until the end of March when it was to return to San Diego with a glorious seven day layover in Honolulu.
Light maintenance was still the order of the day as this was still considered vacation time which indeed it was. There was not a great deal to do on Guam but sun and swim…and drink.
The pressure from the Wild Bunch on Dewey was so intense that he considered it dangerous to leave the base. In fact it would have been dangerous. After they had failed to toss him over in the sandbanks Duber and his fellows had sat in after steering wondering what to do. It was generally thought that he would have to die before the ship returned or their opportunity would be lost.
They thought they had two options in Guam: either to get him in a bar and take his head off in a brawl or get him in swimming where he could be drowned.
As it became clear to them that it wouldn’t be possible in Guam they fixed their attentions on Hawaii where if nothing else they thought they could entice him to Diamond Head and dispatch him there in whatever way they could. But, he was not to return to the States alive.
Dewey knew that there were some aboard who wished him ill. Even though he suppressed knowledge of their ill will he still tried to stay out of harm’s way which meant he refused to leave the base.
Had he gone to the North Shore he feared drowning; short of that he knew he could be drawn into fights if he went into bars. He didn’t relish the thought of missing teeth.
Ashore his nemesis was the gay Kanary. The Yeoman directed his working hours to keeping track of Trueman’s movements.
Guam had been stoutly defended by the Japanese. As in Samoa they had honeycombed the cliff sides with caves. As he felt he had been cheated out of seeing the caves in Samoa Dewey was determined to see those on Guam.
They were officially off limits. A line of barbed wire along the road barricaded the caves. Barbed wire isn’t going to hold any red blooded American boy back so along with Parsons and Deasy Trueman made plans to climb up just before dark.
The ever present Kanary asked Deasy and Parsons where they were going. Having been told, Kanary then contacted the Shore Patrol to tell them that some sailors would be visiting the caves that evening. He meant to thwart any pleasures Trueman could devise for himself.
Trueman and his two companions crossed the barbed wire at nightfall with matches and lighters in hand. There was a nearly vertical ascent up the cliff face which they hadn’t counted on.
‘How the hell could they get up to these caves in a hurry after the shelling started?’ Trueman grumbled as he pulled himself up.
They were shortly in the caves. They were more a place of refuge than offense. The caves were like giant worm holes designed for men five feet in height. They were dug several feet back into the hillside then looped down the length of the hill with an opening every fifty feet or so. Clever as moles the Japanese were. Thirteen years after the close of the war the caves were empty. Any souvenirs left by the Japanese had disappeared long before.
Disappointed but impressed the men were sitting in a tube discussing the war while pretending to wait out a bombardment when a voice came up to them through a bullhorn.
‘This is the Shore Patrol. You are in a restricted area. Come down now.’
‘Aw, geez, Trueman, we better go down now.’
‘Baloney. Those guys couldn’t possibly know we’re here. You don’t really believe they were driving around deserted roads and spotted a cigarette lighter up here do you? Why and how could they?’
‘Come on down. We know you’re up there. There’s no problem. You’re in an area where there might be land mines. We are trying to save you from yourselves.’
‘Baloney. Why would any Japs be stupid enough to put land mines in their own refuge?’
‘Well, we better go down.’
‘Baloney. They can’t possible see us so how could they know we’re here?
‘We’re coming up to get you.’
‘They’re coming up.’
‘They’re bluffing. Let ’em try. We’ll scoot down four openings and they won’t even catch our smell. Those Japs weren’t stupid when they designed these caves.’
‘Alright, you fellas, alright. But if anything happens to you we’re not responsible.’
‘No, but you’re still insane.’ Trueman muttered under his breath.
‘Maybe we should have gone down.’ Parsons said.
‘No.’ Deasy said simply.
‘They’d have arrested us and at the least driven us back to the ship where we’d have to explain why the Shore Patrol brought us back.’
‘Right. Our reputations would have been smeared.’ Deasy mused.
‘The only way they could have known we were here is if someone told them. Who could that be?’ Trueman asked.
‘Oh, I bet I know.’ Parson blurted.
‘Kanary. He asked us what we were going to do.’
‘Sure. That meddling little prick is behind half the trouble aboard ship. He was the one who sicced that Tyrone guy on you.’ Deasy said aware of the proximate cause but unaware of the real cause.
‘You apparently had some disagreement with Tyrone. Kanary’s been telling him it’s because you hate niggers- his word, not mine.’
‘Hah! Where’s he get that?’
‘He doesn’t need to get it he can make it up. He’s on your case Trueman. Look out for him.’
‘Can’t imagine what he’s got against me.’ And Trueman was telling the truth. Because of the manner in which he had been emasculated in the second grade he had a tendency to identify with the aggressor. Thus no matter what the aggressor did to him it was as though he had done it to someone else.
Thus now and for some years, even decades to come, Trueman would be a sitting duck for his enemies.
‘Might as well get out of here. We’ve seen what there is to be seen.’
Lookin’ For Someone To Love
After the attempt to discredit Trueman at the caves Kanary was at a loss for some way to interfere with him. When at a loss create a situation. In this instance Bifrons Morford came to the Yeoman’s aid.
They were sitting around jawing when Bifrons made a suggestion as a joke but the idea took on plausibility as they talked. Off the East of the base was the married officers housing. The enlisted men were sexually diminished in their role as subordinates to the officers, in other words, they were emasculated to that degree. They compensated by believing that they were much more sexually potent than the effete officers who suffered from too much education which the sailors believed diminished sexual drive. It therefore followed that the officer’s wives being themselve very nearly sexually deprived while at the same time having extraordinary sexual needs were eager for the virility of the enlisted men who could outscrew any ten officers and that included Admirals.
It was generally believed that all an enlisted man had to do was show up in married officer’s quarters and the depraved wives would snatch him off the street to grace their beds.
It was a stretch, quite a stretch to think some woman was going to snatch Dewey off the streets but Bifrons and Teal decided it would discredit Trueman if he were seen prowling the married officer’s quarters.
Kanary therefore told Trueman of the quarters of which Trueman was ignorant and how the women would drag him indoors.
Trueman had never really met any sex crazed woman in his life although he was sure they did exist but his curiosity was such that he decided to go look at the quarters. In the back of his mind he thought that there might be some slight justification to the rumors. In the back of his mind he remembered a Kipling story along the same lines.
Now, Trueman had been struggling on the subliminal level with the contrast between the rights of officers and enlisted men quite seriously since his encounter with P.J. O’Rourke in Hong Kong. The depth of the injury caused him by O’Rourke was severe enough for him to begin to mortally hate officers.
So, while no officer’s wife plucked him from the street he was deeply offended at the difference between the way officers lived and the way enlisted men were treated.
Traveling East across the Base he entered a really lovely area of shaded single family dwellings on picturesque curving streets. The driveways were graced with cars of which he had seen very few since leaving the US. He did see some women who scurried indoors at his sight but they were of the Donna Reed cultivated matron sort.
He contrasted them and their situation with what he had seen of enlisted men’s quarters in Guam. Since the incident with Tyrone in mess hall he’d had trouble with his laundry. While Distell Washington had lived up to his end of the bargain up to this time, after the mess hall incident Distell began to mess with Dewey’s laundry, so Dewey chose to use the coin fed washing machines at the end of the enlisted men’s housing.
The contrast couldn’t have been sharper. The enlisted men lived in project style housing on ill kept dusty streets. No shady trees lined those streets. Their women were slovenly foul mouthed slatterns. It may be argued that they came from such conditions and the Navy merely perpetuated them, but there was no way a woman or family lacking all privacy could rise above the general leveling quality of the lowest common denominator, and we’re talking low.
Thus Dewey saw decent quarters provided the officers and slum tenements provided the enlisted men. As an enlisted man he could see his future stretching out before him if he chose to reenlist. He had nothing but contempt for an organization that condemned its Pride to such miserable conditions.
He was considering this with a dark mien when he was approached by Lt. (j.g.) Bifrons Morford: ‘You know you could be court martialed for that, Trueman.’
‘Court martialed for what?’ Trueman asked, refusing to sir the detested Morford when there was no one around to be a witness.
‘For assaulting officer’s wives.’
‘Look, if you don’t have anything better to accuse me of Morford, fuck off.’
‘You mean Mr. Morford, Sailor, and I can have you court martialed for your vulgarity.’
‘All you need’s a witness Morford and you don’t have one. So, shove it up your ass. We’re not in your bunk area now.’
‘What I’m telling you sailor is you could be court martialed for being in the married officer’s quarters.’
‘You’re full of it. There are no signs saying enlisted men and dogs keep out and the area isn’t restricted. So as usual Morford you’re blowing enough gas to inflate a balloon. If you want to charge me with anything, go ahead.’
‘I’m letting you off this time, Sailor, but don’t think it’ll always be this way. I’m watching you.’
‘I’m shaking in my boots.’
Machine Gun Costello
There was really nothing for the ship to do in Guam so as the dock space was needed for other ships from time to time the Teufelsdreck was sent to sea for two or three, maybe five days at a time.
These were wonderful idle days. The ship often trolled at one or two knots allowing the fishermen to catch many varieties. The ship idled for swimming parties. In an effort to keep the men employed the Captain broke out the ship’s submachine gun. Costello had somehow become the lead Gunner after Ratman, Ratfield must have been transferred, I notice he hasn’t been in the story lately. Costello somehow managed to shove Cygnette, the other Third Class, aside.
As he had lowered himself beneath Trueman in his own eyes he was desperate to prove he was the better man. Rather than taking a chance of having Trueman outperform him he put out the word that Trueman was not to shoot.
Trueman got the word so rather than crowd around hoping for a chance he would be denied he feigned indifference. He went up to the fo’c’sle to study the horizon.
As he strolled up he heard the sound of a strumming guitar and someone who sounded like Burl Ives singing. On the fo’c’sle he found the First Louie, Poopy Princing, sitting in the 20 MM mount singing ‘Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.’ in Ives style. This was an appropriate song for Poopy who was having a hard time of it on board.
Poopy, like many had signed on with NROTC to help pay his way through college. It’s just that Poopy wasn’t officer material, nor is that meant as a reproach, it was just true. Poopy was not born to command nor did he want to. He was part of the egalitarian folk movement so prevalent on campus that preached that all men were equal; nor born equal but of a parity. Unlike the lip service given the concept by others Poopy actually practiced it. Not only that but Poopy was a Botany major which all the enlisted men considered a joke.
Princing was new aboard ship. In the way of the constantly changing crew no one could have told you with authority where or when he had come aboard but he had been put aboard just as the ship sailed out of San Diego. As fate would have it he replaced the previous First Lieutenant which is to say he was in charge of First Division not that he had primacy amongst the Louies.
First Division, generally speaking, was the wildest group of men on board. They were all undisciplined and not amenable to it. This ranged from the truculent bullyism of Bent Cygnette to the sullen resistance of Frenchey.
Poopy, as his name indicates was not considered the kind of ramrod who could run First. He was a nice affable little mama’s boy. He was only five-five with downy pink cheeks and dreamy eyes. Quite in opposition to Ratches’ dictum to have nothing to do with the enlisted men Poopy wanted to be buddies with everyone. He didn’t understand the necessary distance between the officers and the enlisted.
As Trueman strolled up Poopy very genially interrupted his song to say: ‘Well, hello Dewey.’ then resumed singing: Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.
Trueman was baffled by Princing. The man in a few short weeks had become the laughing stock of the ship. Enlisted men didn’t even go around addressing each other by first names. Yet, here was Poopy strolling around with a ‘Hey, Dewey; ho, Bob; Say, Mike.’ the man was either out of place or out of time or both.
Then too, Dewey, ever since his humiliation by PJ O’Rourke was seething with hatred for officers. He had all he could do to talk to them in a civil tone. Yet here was Poopy with a cheerful ‘Hi, Dewey’ singing his Jimmy crack corn song to him as an audience of one. As somthing of a Folkie himself Trueman, like other serious Folkies despised Burl Ives.
Princing strummed away as the machine gun began to pop away on the fantail. Ratches on the bridge was beside himself with rage at an officer singing to an enlisted man on the fo’c’sle and torn with envy at the men playing manhood games on the fantail in which he couldn’t participate. There’s just something about a Tommy gun.
Dewey very rudely did not return Princing’s salutation. Poopy, who was truly lost aboard ship, swallowed his pride and tried to explain: ‘I don’t see why we can’t be friends Dewey just because I’m an officer and you’re enlisted. We’re both in this together for gosh sakes. Why can’t we be pals; don’t let this Ensign bar put you off.’
Remembering his treatment by Lt. (JG) O’ Rourke in Hong Kong, for which it was impossible for him to make anyone understand his feelings, Trueman could not believe his ears. On the one hand he understood the need for distance between officers and men and on the other he knew that there could never be equality between this college trained officer and himself. The relationship would be too unequal, Trueman would always have to defer to Princing’s status while Poopy would always have to condescend to Dewey.
Ratches leaning out to catch the converstation heard and made a decision. The popping of the machine gun had stopped so Dewey still looking at Poopy as though he were a curiosity drifted back down aft without a word. Poopy was a worried man but he wouldn’t be worried long.
Trueman was met by Roberts midships port side who was looking for him seeking to triumph over him because he had fired the machine gun and Trueman hadn’t. Roberts was aglow with excitement. Assault weapons were unobtainable at the time except to cops and robbers.
‘Too bad you didn’t get to shoot the Tommy gun, Trueman.’ Roberts said as though from deep shock.
‘Quite an experience, hey?’ Trueman replied suppressing a yawn as though he considered firing the gun a bore.
‘Yeah.’ Here Roberts disappeared into the depths of his mind as he tried to recreate the exhilaration of for a brief moment having realized his ultimate manhood, a machine gun is manhood itself. ‘Yeah. I wasn’t ready. I had no idea it would have that kind of kick. The gun just kept jumping up after each shot til I was just about shooting at the sky. You probably couldn’t have even held onto the gun.’
‘Really? I…we’ll never know, will we? You know what I always say Roberts: Small toys for small boys. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Ta ta.’ Dewey walked nonchalantly away.
‘You’re just jealous. It’s just because we wouldn’t give you a chance.’
Dewey ignored him almost bursting out laughing at Costello who was coming forward carrying the machine gun with his legs rubbery from the experience, his face aglow with glassy eyes fixed on a distant vision.
‘A lot more fun than climbing a cargo net, hey Costello?’
Costello heard but couldn’t be disturbed from his reverie.
Room at a pier being available the Teufelsdreck returned to Guam.
Why Can’t We Be Friends
In his own way Poopy Princing had had a subversive effect on the ship. Many of the crew were sycophantic toward the officers in any circumstances but with Poopy’s example and the relaxed conditions of these halcyon days on Guam they pressed to fraternize with the officers. In some cases officers and enlisted men drank together.
The most popular officer aboard was the Exec., Sieggren. He was the very model of the attainable manly ideal. Although short and on the slight side he carried himself with great dignity. He had an amber colored full mustache just stopping short of curled ends which he wore with thorough going masculinity. He had this gruff thrusting manner speaking in a voice just low enough with officerial authority that rounded out a persona that begged, if not commanded, respect.
Certain of the sailors hung on him like belles at the ball on the college quarterback. Ratches although a distinguished seaman and masterly navigator had no concept of discipline. The men he abhorred while he couldn’t control the officers. Sieggren more or less did it for him.
There are no civilian clothes allowed aboard ship. This rule applies to officers as well as men. Indeed, an officer out of uniform loses all semblance of authority, something like the Chiefs in their undershorts. This concept should be clear to anyone in uniform. Nevertheless, in the balmy tropical vacation climate of Guam nearly everyone forgot who they were. These were the best times the Navy could offer.
Lt. Sieggren put the finishing touches on his toilet. Not long out of college and therefore favoring the collegiate style of 1954 when he graduated, he presented a natty figure both to himself and his admirers clustering around the Quarterdeck awaiting his appearance.
Carrying his tennis racket and a can of balls Sieggren stepped sprightly from the wing hatch. He had on white tennies, a very nicely pressed pair of white slacks, a blue Izod with its little alligator patch and a cotton sweater, which was something Dewey had never seen before, tied jauntily around his neck. The guy could have made an Arrow shirt ad but he no longer had the authority of an officer.
Now, Dewey though unaware of it was still smarting from his encounter in Hong Kong. He was in no mood to give any officer an inch. As Sieggren’s ‘girls’ pressed around him congratulating him on his appearance and begging to be allowed to go on liberty with him Trueman spotted the civilian outfit.
An imposing figure in the Navy’s uniform Sieggren lost all his majesty in his jaunty outfit, in fact, he looked like a stuffed shirt.
‘Those are civilian clothes, aren’t they, Lt. Sieggren?’ Trueman asked.
‘Your point?’ Came the haughty reply.
‘Well, the point is, Lieutenant, that Navy regulations forbid civilian clothes aboard ship. You’re breaking the rules leaving this ship in civvies.’
Sieggren blinked. The climate was just too perfect for even the Executive Officer to have thought about the rules. ‘I’m an officer, Sailor, I fail to see how I dress is any concern of yours.’
‘It’s just that I don’t see an officer Siggy. I just see a guy.’
Trueman was very nearly throwing caution to the winds by calling Sieggren, Siggy, but the subliminal image of his humiliation in Hong Kong hung before his eyes. He wasn’t going to let an officer get away with anything.
Sieggren was offended to the depths of his soul but he was not an unjust man. He wanted to reprimand Trueman but recognized the impropriety of an officer in civvies taking a man in uniform to task. He swallowed his pride tossing off an ‘I’ll attend to you later.’ as he stepped briskly but thoughtfully down the gangway. He never wore civvies off the ship again.
‘Man, you’re a real prick, Trueman.’ Gonzo Lewis said. ‘Lt. Sieggren’s a real guy.’
‘Oh yeah? A real guy, huh? Well, I’m not queer for officers like you are Friend.’ One hundred eighty-six men on board a large raft and Trueman didn’t know who Gonzo Lewis was so he had to call him Friend.
Walking past him he turned quickly to read the name stenciled on the sailor’s back. ‘Hmm, G. Lewis. Must be George.’
Back in First Dewey asked Roque Da Costa: ‘Who’s this George Lewis guy?
‘You must mean Gonzo Lewis. Don’t you remember him from mess cooking?’
‘Bunked over below Bocuse?’
‘Nope. Not at all.’
‘Nope. Staying aboard.’
‘Well, see ya later.’
The sight that greeted Da Costa’s eyes when he came back aboard that night was the norm for Guam. Fueled by their double pay the men drank themselves to death. Some could stagger over the gangway but some nearly had to crawl. It was amazing that they made it back to the ship at all.
Once aboard, the movement of the ship combined with the stifling heat below decks caused many a one to toss their cookies. Most often they were not in condition to clean up that night. Then thoroughly disoriented they couldn’t find their fingers in the dark so the lights went on. The more sober types were thus required to try to sleep in the retching and the stench with the lights on.
In that heat a foul aroma pervaded the quarters day and night. Only about half the men showered regularly. Most of the other half were on the Saturday night plan while there were some who had to be driven to the showers. Between the vomit and BO First was unlivable. If any of the men had been thinking of shipping over the stay at Guam dispelled that notion.
The situation with Poopy Princing had driven Captain Ratches to the point of distraction. The scene he had witnessed on the fo’c’sle between Dewey and Poopy and been the final straw. He had taken a hike over to administration where he had forcefuly presented a case for the dismissal of Poopy from the service. Not wishing to waste any time he had walked the papers through.
In Ratches eyes poor Poopy was a complete failure as an officer and a man. The Captain was kind in dismissing Princing. At high noon in the most dismal day of his life the uncomprehending Poopy crossed the gangway back into civilian life.
‘Poor bastard.’ Roberts said watching the Ensign cross over with bowed head and puppy eyes looking guiltily around him unsure of what he had done to deserve his fate.
‘Lucky bastard, you mean.’ Frenchey almost sobbed.
‘Tell me about it.’ Trueman groaned. ‘I’m at least as unfit for the service as he is; you don’t see them sending me home.’
‘Yeah, being an officer has its privileges.’ Da Costa said wistfully.
And so Poopy Princing left the Teufelsdreck unfit for service.
The ship put to sea for further exercises although there were no exercises to perform. At a loss for what to do with itself the subkiller cruised up past Tinian to cruise past Saipan and a circuit of Iwo Jima for those who remembered. For Chief Dieter this was his first and last return to the scene of his glory. He could be seen leaning on the lines of the fo’c’sle staring silently out over the now peaceful waters.
The ocean out there is dotted with cinder cones that pass for islands. Some of them make gazetteers; some of them are so inconsequential that they don’t. If they have names at all they are unrecorded native names which probably translate: Cinder Cone In The Middle Of The Ocean.
Desperate to keep the boys’ minds focused Ratches decided to let the lads storm one of these cinder cones.
The cone before which stopped must have been a replica of the Aegean island of Thera which some people think was the ancient Atlantis. Not very likely. This volcano, like Thera, was about a ten thousand foot mountain with six to seven thousand feet submerged. The cone was picture perfect with a shelf of land where the ash fell the thickest. A spiral of smoke rose conspicuously from the crater at the very top.
The inhabitants and their goats could be seen moving around at the fifteen hundred foot level on the precipitous verdant slopes.
Proud Costello was allowed to organize the landing party. This one was big fun and games that Trueman really wanted to be part of but when Costello pointed at him and said: You’re not going; this is for real men only.’ Trueman only laughed and made motions as though climbing a cargo net.
As this was supposed to simulate a real commando raid the ship’s rubber raft was broken out; the men were all issued M1s or Tommy guns (BAR men as in From Here To Eternity, you see.) and having been loaded into the raft with miens as serious as will ever be seen this side of real action, they set forth to storm the innocent inhabitants of this smoking volcano.
‘Amazing people can live on that.’ Mike Deasy said coming up to Trueman.
‘Yeah. Straight up and down like that they must all have one leg shorter than the other.’
‘You know, Darwinian theory: Creatures adapt to their environment. The bills of birds get longer or shorter depending on whether they’re pollen feeders or not. Bills get harder so they can adapt to a diet of nuts. It follows that legs could get shorter on one side to make walking easier, doesn’t it? Of course, once you got going counter clockwise you couldn’t ever go clockwise. Maybe some them go clockwise and some go counter clockwise and if so can the clockwise people intermarry with the counter clockwise people and if they did would some of their offspring have two short legs? Huh?’
Trueman thought this was a very humorous monologue. As he finished he stood looking at Deasy waiting for the applause. But the literal minded Deasy missed the joke.
‘People’s legs aren’t going to get shorter on one side, Trueman.’ He said as though addressing an idiot.
‘I suppose not.’ Trueman said. Seeing that line of musing at a dead end he decided to take another track.
‘Boy, I wouldn’t want to be on that volcano if it went off like Krakatoa.’
‘What does ‘went off like Krakatoa’ mean?’
‘I mean Krakatoa, you know, the volcano down by Java that exploded in about 1890 or so. Blew itself to smitereens, you know what a smitereen is, don’t you?’
Deasy nodded yes.
‘Good, because I don’t. It sent a dust cloud that went around the world three times before it started to thin out. Darn near started a new ice age.’
‘Who would blow it up?’
‘I don’t know. Not who. Natural causes: too much steam for its boiler. Things like that happen. How’d you like to be there when that happened?’
‘The Navy would get us off before it did.’ Deasy replied with a literal matter of fact solution.
‘I suppose you’re right. Well, try this. You remember Eniwetok and Bikini? Well, suppose the Army decided to use an H-Bomb on this island which looks like a pretty active volcano just to see what would happen if it blew the top off, you know, like exploding A-Bombs in space, maybe like, it would release a tremendous head of pent up magma which would come gushing forth in tremendous volume so that all these islands were connected up into one big island. Wouldn’t that be amusing?’
Trueman was ready to attempt another hypothesis of some magnitude when Deasy cut him short.
‘You know, Trueman, you say some of the damnedest things. It’s hard to follow you. It’s like that brainwashing thing you were talking about in Kowloon. There weren’t going to brainwash us. Sometimes you have to wonder about you.’
‘Uhhh, yeah. Well, you know, I was just speculating you know, talking to have a good time. It don’t mean nothing, just think of it as wind whistling through the rigging. I’ll see you later.’
Geez, Dewey thought, Just because you’ve got the water doesn’t mean you can find someone with a bucket. Might as well talk to yourself. Less boring.
He went back between the K-guns to watch alone. Presently he saw the rubber raft coming across the ripples. As the raft came alongside Trueman laughingly called down: ‘Wait a minute Costello, I’ll get the cargo net.’
‘Very funny, Trueman, very, very funny.’
‘I thought so.’ Dewey said to himself as he strolled away at least having defused the situation so he wouldn’t have to listen to Roberts tell him he wasn’t worthy to be included in a party of dolts.
Captain Ratches Gets His Jollies
Later that afternoon Trueman was on lookout on port watch. The ship was trolling slowly through glassy seas over a long low swell. Gazing down Trueman could see all the way to the bottom as the light rays slanted down through the water. Then to his surprise he saw a gigantic shark with its fin high above water come down from the bow. It seemed curious about the steel ship coming close and nosing the hull.
Having failed with Deasy earlier Trueman thought he might try a joke on Ratches.
‘Oh my god, Captain, object sighted in water at 280. Is it a shark or is it a submarine?’
It was a slow day so Trueman’s urgent tone jolted Ratches to life. He rushed to the side to look where Trueman was pointing.
‘That’s a shark.’ Ratches said quickly differentiating the monster from a submarine. ‘Stop the ship. Get me an M1.’
An M1 was hastily broken out for him.
‘Out of the way, Sailor.’ The Captain commanded Trueman.
Then taking careful aim he began blazing away at the shark.
The small arms of the Teufelsdreck were not well cared for by the Gunner’s Mates as they were so seldom used. As Ratches fired away the clip rattled in the gun. At the third shot the clip flew from the gun doing more damage to the shark on the way down than the shots had.
Ratches who perhaps was under some strain by this strange tour of duty became rattled: ‘Oh, my god.’ He said shaking. ‘This gun is defective. Give it to the Gunner’s Mates and have them fix it.’
Returning to the bridge he gave orders for the ship to proceed. The shark drifted off.
The next day as Trueman was standing watch he overheard the Captain talking to the Commodore: ‘You should have been here yesterday. We had a shark so big alongside my lookout mistook it for a submarine.’
Either Dewey didn’t get the joke or else it was a good fish story.
Waking Morford Again
Trueman was at port lookout as 11:30 came up. Ensign Shaffer who was on watch ordered him to go to the wardroom to wake his relief, Morford.
‘I won’t do that, Sir.’
‘I ordered you to go wake my relief, Mr. Morford, Sailor.’
‘Yes, Sir. I can’t do that Sir.’
‘Are you refusing to obey an order, Sailor.’ Shaffer asked in horror and disbelief.
‘Not exactly, Sir. But I cannot be commanded to do anything that can only result in harming myself. For instance you cannot order me to cut off my hand and punish me for not doing it. Likewise you cannot order me to go get my head shoved up my ass which is what Lt. Morford said he would do to me if I ever tried to wake him again.’
No one ever knew where Trueman got these rules as no one had ever seen him reading the manual. Actually he just made them up because they seemed logical. Shaffer had never read the manual either so he couldn’t be sure. As he was deliberating about the matter Verlaine called him over where he explained some of the politics aboard ship.
Not molified at all Shaffer sent Brant, the starboard lookout down to wake Morford intending to abide by the results but he ordered Trueman to stand by fully intending to write him up for disobeying an order. Brant returned shortly.
Shaffer looked at him inquiringly: ‘Well?’
‘He said if I didn’t get out of there right away he’d tear my head off and stuff it up my ass.’
‘What!’ Shaffer said incredulously as he and Morford were two of the officerial Three Musketeers. He himself rushed down to wake Morford where he received the same reception.
‘You will not tear my head off and stuff it up my ass, Biff. Now get out of there and relieve me.’
Idle Days and Balmy Nights
Conway Wardell had been transferred aboard in Manila. He was placed aboard the Teufelsdreck for transport back to the US as he was under arrest on a manslaughter charge. He’d killed a man in a barroom brawl. This was not a particularly serious charge in the Navy nor should it have been. As it had happened Con Wardell had been provoked beyond his endurance in the traditional barroom manner, that is to say he acted in self-defense, by some loud mouthed latent homo attracted by his good looks. If you can’t screw a man then punching him out or getting your ass kicked by him is a good surrogate.
Wardell had one of those faces that predisposed you to like him. He was a gentle pleasant man both under or out of the influence of alcohol although the prosecution would succeed in asserting that he became a changed man under the influence.
Dewey was quite charmed by his appearance befriending him immediately in a manner that could have been seen unkindly as admiration of a homosexual nature. Under the shadow of legal charges and a feeling of guilt Wardell was reluctant to make friends that would be only of two months duration.
But Dewey very much nearly courted Con. Watching from a distance Bent Cygnette who had a crush on Dewey from day one became jealous. Although Bent had a reputation as a tough guy the reputation was of dubious validity. He was never personally involved himself.
Thus, while he would have liked to have beaten up Wardell to impress Trueman he was too canny a hand to attempt it. But as he was a canny type he knew how to get the job done by others.
Con was not restricted to ship but he was restricted to the base. There were a number of bars on Base: The Enlisted Men’s Club, the Officer’s Club, a couple of bars of no description and the Marine’s Canteen. Guam had a large contingent of Marines. These guys had been on the island from days up to two years. Two years on Guam is enough to send anybody up the wall.
Elbowing Trueman out of the way Bent made an effort to befriend Con in which he succeeded. He then proposed to Con that for a lark they go up to the Marine Canteen, insult them, and take on the whole lot. It is remarkable that a guy under the shadow of a manslaughter charge for nearly the same thing would agree to such a ridiculous proposal but Con did. Men in arms are strange fellows. What the hell, this was the Navy and South of the Line, if a man can’t be a man in the Navy South of the Line where can he be? I could tell stranger stories still but I’ve got Trueman’s story to tell.
Accordingly after having had a few drinks at the Enlisted Men’s Club Wardell and Cygnette set out for the Marine’s Canteen where they duly arrived. Now, even if you’re not looking for trouble Swabbies in a Jarhead canteen are just asking for it. The Marines, who are the result of the Navy’s psychotic search for a few ‘good’ men do not take to slovenly Navy types.
Wardell and Cygnette had no sooner seated themselves than a voice announced in stentorian tones: ‘Do I smell something funny?’
Cygnette quickly whispered to Wardell: ‘We’ll make our stand back to back on the grassy knoll outside.’ Then standing up he sneered: ‘Must be the finger you Jarheads just took out of your ass.’
Fifty Marine voices roared: ‘What?’
‘Marines suck cock.’ Cygnette shouted for good measure as he and Wardell retreated out the door as fifty Marines came pouring out after them.
Wardell in good faith took a stance on the grassy knoll but Cygnette without so much as a pause raced down the knoll and into the night.
The fifty Marines converged on the lone gallant figure of Conway Wardell.
The next day Con was sitting at breakfast when Trueman came down the ladder. Dewey stopped in amazement. Every square inch of Wardell’s face was shiny and distended with some areas beginning to turn black and blue. He hadn’t broken any bones but his whole body was bruised.
Con wasn’t speaking but Trueman got the story from elsewhere. The fifty Marines, or as many as could get to him had whaled on Wardell. As game as he had been Wardell had gone down in the first rush. He was fortunatue to not have been stomped to death.
A smug Bent Cygnette gave Dewey a look as though to say: ‘What do you think of him now?’
Drinks With Kerry Maclen
Kerry’s tatto of the woman with three asses had sealed his fate aboard the Teufelsdreck. It only remained for him to erect his own tombstone. Massive ill will had built up against him because of his contemptible criminal activities. His crime in Yokosuka was seconded by crimes in Hong Kong of which Dewey had no knowledge and completed in that criminal haunt in Manila. One can’t really assimilate events as they race by but given time for reflection things fall into place. Maclen’s detractors had had time in Guam to properly reflect on his actions. His name was mud. There only remained an excuse for the ill will to pass out. Maclen was now going to lay his gonads on the block.
By the end of February the only person aboard who would associated with him was Trueman. Dewey was so involved in his own plans and projections that he ignored everything that was said and done aboard ship. Besides he had to look out for his own behind.
Maclen suggested that they go up to one of the Base bars for an evening. Trueman wanted to broach a subject with Maclen so he agreed. As it was the day before payday the place was all but deserted. Except for Maclen and Trueman, an old bull of a First Class Oiler and a couple swabbies the fat bartender had no one to serve.
Trueman’s order of a coke immediately raised the ire of the old bull. He was close to a twenty year man, busted down twice and just risen again to First Class. He was sullen old drunk about to be turned out into a hostile world that would have no use for another sullen old drunk.
Maclen was drinking beer and he quickly consumed a six pack as Trueman laid out his plan while the juke box blared out, if not the current hits, at least more recent ones than Dewey was familiar with.
‘Here’s how it is, Kerry.’
‘I’m calling myself Joe now.’
‘You’re calling yourself Joe? Who? What do you mean?’
‘My middle name’s Joseph so I’m entitled to be called Joe. I don’t want to be called Kerry anymore. Too childish. Joe is more manly.’
The pressures aboard ship had made Kerry flee his identity. Without making any changes in his manners or morals he thought he could flee his past by changing his name.
‘Oh yeah, and I pronounce my last name McLean now. Joe McLean not Kerry Maclen.’
‘Yeah, sure, uh, Joe, although I think Kerry is a heck of a lot better name than Joe. But, uh, Joe…here’s my plan. You see the only difference between us and the officers is that they’ve been to college. Other than that we’re just as good as they are. So, what I’m proposing is since we both get out at about the same time is that we get an apartment together and go to college. What d’ya think?’
‘That sounds great to me.’ McLean said who after six beers never heard anything that didn’t sound great.
Dewey’s attention was caught by a record on the juke box. ‘My god, listen to that, that’s incredible.’
‘Sure is.’ Joe McLean said complacently.
‘So what do you think. Apartments are too expensive alone so if we shared rent we could probably live pretty good, get part time jobs. What?’
‘Sounds fine. I’m for it.’
‘God, what is that record?’ Dewey said beside himself with the rhythm. He got up to see.
Locating the number he quickly ran through the index to find that the song was called ‘Raunchy’ by Bill Justis.
‘Wow, man! They must be really working up some great stuff back home. This is really incredible. I’ve never heard anything like it. I can’t wait to get back and see what else they’ve come up with.’
He was standing in front of the juke box doing a little dance when the old bull bellowed out: ‘If that fairy is going to shake that thing like that I’m going to put something up it.’
‘Hey, watch yourself, Jack.’ Dewey retorted indignantly.
‘You heard me.’ The old bull snorted who, as a veteran of innumerable bars made no aggressive moves but waited for his man to come to him.
‘What do you think of that guy, Ker…uh, Joe?’
‘You been on this rock as long as he has and even you begin to look good.’ McLean said with an ironic smile.
‘Yeh? I’ve had enough let’s go.’
‘OK. Just a minute, I want to get a couple beers to take with me.’
‘Walk down the road drinking beer? Naw, forget it.’
‘No. No. I got somethin’ I want to do.’
Toting two beers which could only be allowed out of the bar opened and drinking another one Joe walked back with Dewey down that picturesque dirt road in the warm tropical night. The Navy’s probably laid concrete now but then it was reminiscent of B’rer Rabbit, B’rer Fox and the Old South.
As they were walking McLean said: ‘I’m going to smuggle these cans aboard ship. Wanta help me?’
‘Alcohol’s not allowed aboard ship, Joe. All you’re going to do is get in trouble. You don’t have anything to hide them in besides they’re both open.’
‘I’ll just stuff the cans behind my belt like this, see. Nobody’ll be the wiser.’
Oh no. You just look like a pregnant woman who’s pissing her pants, that’s all. Give it up.’
‘No. It’ll be alright. My bud Hubie’s Petty Officer of the Watch, he won’t say anything. We work together; what can he say?’
‘I think you’ve got the wrong idea about Blake. He’s a real regulations guy. He’ll write you up for sure.’
‘No he won’t. You going to help me with one these or not?’
‘Hell no. I don’t drink and I’m not going to be written up for smuggling booze on board.’
‘Alright. Don’t then but remember you woudn’t help a bud.’ Joe said portentously finishing one beer and tossing the can away while he pushed the other full one down his pants where it bulged conspicuously.
Not too steady on his pins and drinking and lurching through the ruts McLean quickly saturated his uniform from his chest down to his socks.
‘Oh god Joe. You’ll never get away with it; throw it away.’
‘No. No. My good bud Hubie Petty Officer Of The Watch. I’m OK.’ Joe said as he tossed the empty can away in full view of the watch as he lurched toward the gangway.
‘Think about it, Kerry.’ Dewey hissed behind him.
‘Hi, Hubie, my bud, how’s watch goin’?’ McLean said attempting to lurch past.
‘Hey! Hold it a minute, Maclen. What’s that you got behind your belt? A beer?’
‘Shhh.’ McLean joked putting his finger to his lips or as close to them as he could get.
‘No beers allowed aboard ship, Maclen.’
‘Throw it over the side Joe.’ Dewey urged.
‘Hey, we’re buds, ain’t we Hubie?’
‘Not on my watch, Maclen. Nobody brings alcohol on board while I’m on watch.’
‘Throw it overboard Joe. For Christ’s sake, he’s giving you a chance.’
‘It’s OK Hubie. It’s me, your bud.’
‘I’m writing you up Maclen.’
‘Hey! Buds don’t write buds up.’ McLean complained drunkenly.
‘Get Lt. Sieggren, we’re writing Maclen up.’ Blake told Parsons who was on watch.
‘See you later Joe.’ Trueman said anxious to get away.
‘Where you going Trueman? I’m writing you up too.’
‘Writing me up, what for? I’m not carrying any beer.’
Dewey complied. ‘No beer, Blake. I’m clean. I’m leaving.’
‘You stay here.’
By this time Sieggren was hustling toward the Quarterdeck. McLean, obviously guilty, was vigorously protesting his innocence.
‘He’s with Maclen.’ Blake stoutly persisted pointing at Trueman.
‘Hey, Blake, that’s guilt by association. I thought you hated McCarthy and everything he stood for.’
‘This is different.’ Blake stated.
‘Always is when the shoes on the other foot.’ Dewey grinned.
‘You don’t have anything on you, Trueman?’ Sieggren asked.
‘Heck no. I don’t even drink.’
‘Well, go along then.’
‘Sure thing.’ Trueman said leaving McLean under his new name to his old fate.
And Then It Happened
The dawn came up like thunder inside McLean’s bursting head. The dam of ill will that had been building around him burst like a raging flood. The word of McLean’s stupidity had spread like wildfire aboard the restless ship. For a relatively minor if stupid crime McLean became the center of the tornado surrounded by raging winds. A man should never have a tattoo of woman with three asses put on his arm.
Even while the pitiful Joe McLean/Kerry Maclen was trying to organize his brain to withstand the storm of contempt bursting around him an even greater storm was bursting in the officer’s wardroom.
Although the whole of the Asian tour had been leading up to this point I am almost afraid to strain the reader’s credulity by reporting it. Mark Twain once said something to the effect that: Of course truth is stranger than fiction; the truth doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of credibility. Such is now the case. If the following weren’t true I would be ashamed of having concocted such an unbelievable mess.
‘Captain, Captain, there’s something dreadfully wrong.’ Ensign Grant Shaffer alarmingly informed the bedeviled Captain, Gabriel Ratches.
‘What’s the trouble, Grant?’ Ratches asked with raised eyebrows but fearing nothing more than some minor problem.
‘Well, Sir, today is payday and when I opened the box there wasn’t enough money to cover it.’ The incomprehensibility of it seemed to perplex Ensign Shaffer.
‘What?’ Asked Ratches incredulously fearful that he now had a robbery to account for to the Commodore. He should have been so lucky.
‘Well, Sir, there’s always been enough money in the box for whatever we wanted but today when I looked there’s only enough to pay about a third of the crew.’
‘How could that be?’
‘I don’t know Captain, but look for yourself. There’s always been enough before.’
As incredible as it may seem the naive young financial officer thought that he had a bottomless box. How he could have thought that paying double wages to two thirds of the crew could have gone on forever without exhausting funds must be classified with unexplained phenomena like UFOs, ESP and the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart. But it was true: There was no money and Ensign Shaffer was genuinely astonished to find it so.
Captain Ratches blinked blankly at Ensign Shaffer a couple of times. Then the rumors he had been hearing and discredited as impossible became a nightmare reality. He stared out into eternity, put his right hand to his chin, tapped all the fingers of his left hand on the table and muttered: ‘Ponzi. Ponzi. Where have I heard that name before?’ He sighed a sigh that came from the opposite side of the precession of the equinoxes as he realized the magnitude of this new blot on his first command. He dismissed Shaffer not knowing what he had to do.
He sat down, took a few deep breaths, then called the base commander to explain his situation. Then he did what possibly no other Captain had ever done before, he was compelled to betray that most sacred compact between the Navy and its men. He got on the intercom and announced that today there would be no payday.
The news was met with the most incredible astonishment by the crew most of whom had already projected spending their pay plus the advance. Trueman gave a short laugh as an amused expression stole over his face: ‘So this is where it hits the fan.’ He smiled. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord but his children shall collect the rewards.
Not everyone was so quick. Proud Costello, apparently unaware of the implications of accepting double pay, began to complain loudly and bitterly.
‘I’m not in this man’s Navy just for the glory. I get paid too. If I don’t get my money today there’s going to be hell to pay.’
‘My day has come.’ Trueman said to himself as he jauntily stepped over to Costello: ‘Man, Costello, you better tone it down.’ He reprimanded with a big grin. ‘You owe them money they don’t owe you money. You’re on the way to the brig. They’re gonna take away your name and give you a brand new number. I wouldn’t irritate them too much if I were you. Picture yourself in stripes.’
‘Stripes? Going to the brig? What for?’ Costello asked slack jawed.
‘What for? Man, you’ve stolen a lot of money from the Navy with all those unrecorded advances you’ve taken. They’re going to lock your ass up, buddy.’ Trueman laughed and bubbled overjoyed at the thought of seeing his detractor marched off.
‘I didn’t do anything nobody else didn’t do. They’ll have to arrest us all.’ Really! Hadn’t Proud Costello merely been going with the flow?
‘Damn right. And they will too.’ Trueman giggled on. ‘Get ready for those stripes, Roberts.’
‘Hey! Ensign Shaffer’s an officer. He wouldn’t have let us do it if it wasn’t OK.’
‘Ah, the faith ye share with Berkeley Square be with you Proud Costello.’ Trueman laughingly quoted Kipling.
The reference was lost on Costello but events took their course anyway. True to tradition the Navy couldn’t admit that an officer could do wrong. Ensign Shaffer was quickly transferred the next day while his replacement passed him on the gangway.
During his routine audit Lt. (JG) Meigrane Vogt quickly discovered the cause of the shortage. The responsibility was placed squarely on the shoulders of the enlisted man, Second Class Disbursing Clerk Ponzi. The outrage at Ponzi of the accounting officer was seconded by that of Captain Ratches. Ponzi and the enlisted men would have to be punished. Ensign Shaffer was merely cashiered; sent home to mom.
The huge Captain’s Mast of Subic was now dwarfed as a hundred thirty-three men of the crew stood Captain’s Masts. They went up to the fo’c’sle in relays of twenty-five. The whole process took three days. All should have received brig time but as the removal of one hundred thirty-three sailors would have left the Teufelsdreck virtually unmanned forty-three were selected for the brig while the rest were ordered to make restitution while receiving restrictions back in the States.
The selection of the forty-three could not be equitable if indeed any selection could have been. The men were chosen on the basis of their expendability as well as the extent of their theft. Thus while both Third Class Gunner’s Mates were equally guilty Bent Cygnette was one of only two helmsmen aboard and could not be spared. Proud Costello, the best looking man in the Navy, had nothing going for him but his looks. But the real determining factor was the offence Ratches took at Costello’s use of the Captain’s Ladder of the Sheridan Le Fanu back in Subic. It’s the small sins that get you everytime.
Half of Gunnery and Deck were shipped off. Only enough of Operations and Supply were kept to man the watches four on and four off and keep the ship nominally functioning. The week long layover in Honolulu was indignantly withdrawn by the Commodore. If he had ever softened in his attitude toward Ratches and the ship his rage was now redoubled. The ship was ordered to make a run directly to San Diego at top speed.
The consequences would be many and severe continuing for some time. Kreskin with his forty pound stash of heroin in his locker was near panic. As with most criminal intellects he had learned the combinations of the locks of many others.
He was sitting on his locker biting his nails wondering whether he should attempt dumping the stuff in the harbor or to trust it to fellow criminals like McLean, Easy and Screw or just put it in someone else’s locker when Kanary told him significantly: ‘You’re staying.’ Heaving a sigh of relief Kreskin bobbed his head in acknowledgment that he would take care of Kanary.
As the only Yeoman aboard Kanary was spared brig time although his sense of purity was injured again as he received his second Captain’s Mast and first Court Martial. He was mentally able to slough the responsibility off on Ponzi although he would never blame Shaffer because of his homosexual love of authority. Once again Kanary’s subconscious was burdened.
Joe McLean and Hubie Blake were spared because as the only two Sonarmen aboard they were already standing four on and four off at sea.
And so it went. Luck not guilt determined your punishment.
Three days after Lt. (JG) Meigrane Vogt had discovered the cause of the shortage Captains Masts and Court Martials being completed the future convicts were assembled to be marched off to their new quarters. Trueman stood just aft of the gangway to watch.
The Sins Ye Commit Two By Two
Ye Must Pay For One By One
Ponzi as a career criminal with deep roots into the Italian underworld knew the ropes; he wasn’t worried. Dart Craddock walked the gangway with the fatality of a Wobbly who knows luck will never be with him, casting a sheepish glance at Trueman as he passed.
Dewey forgave Craddock the toothless, pregnant beauty he had foisted on him in Brisbane. This was the perfect revenge. Trueman had done nothing to cause it; he had even advised Craddock against taking the advances. Dewey considered the account squared. He shrugged his shoulders to indicate he didn’t think badly of Dart. The rich can always afford to be generous.
Trueman snorted to himself in derision as Roberts walked past head held high confident that he had only done what an officer had done. In his own eyes he saw himself as completely innocent all he had to fear now was the vindictiveness of Stella Maris who was still waiting.
Proud Costello was a different matter. Ever since he had demeaned himself before Trueman by using the Le Fanu’s Captain’s Ladder he had been trying to resurrect his own image compared to Dewey. He hadn’t let him fire the machine gun, he had kept him off the landing party and now as he saw Trueman watching his ultimate disgrace with a big grin on his face Costello went into a bigger panic.
Midway across the gangway as he watched Trueman grinning he came completely apart grabbing the line with both hands squealing: ‘No. No. If I have to go he has to go too. He can’t get off. I’m better than he is.’ Whining thus the best looking man in the navy tried to back off the gangway to stay aboard ship.
Trueman began laughing at him as the SPs pulled him along rapping his knuckles with their billys to get him to let go of the line.
‘No. No. He’s got to go too.’ Costello screamed completely unmanned as a rapidly expanding dark spot in the crotch of his blues appeared revealing the depth of his humiliation.
‘No. He doesn’t have to go, Costello. He didn’t take cash advances he didn’t intend to pay back. You did.’ Captain Ratches admonished.
Go to the tenth and last clip.