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Thursday, August 8, 2013

(“Oh great Googamooga, can’t ya hear me talkin to ya, just a ball of confusion”)…Temptations

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

"THE MIGRANT"
Chapter Eight

Oceanside, Calif. February, 1968…Camp Pendleton

Staff Sergeant Percy Marquette shook his head slowly as he watched his graduating class of spanking new Marines toss their caps, brake ranks and rush to meet family and friends for an afternoon of celebrating and inebriating. His latest platoon of ‘newbies’ was raw at best, and worse still, no way were these kids ready for what they were in for. And what they were in for, was patiently waiting for them, just a 13-hour plane ride from sunny southern California. Most of these boys would nap quietly the entire flight. But they were about to lose their innocence with regard to humanity, and none of them would ever sleep quite as soundly after their tour, he knew this to be true. Nobody knew that better than Sgt. Marquette, nobody.

He had barely escaped the madness himself following two tours ‘in country.’ The Lord or more accurately fate (Percy no longer believed in God, just in uncertainty) had stepped in when his mother passed on. The whole thing actually saved his life he remembered. The trip home, the time with family and friends had broken the spell he had fallen under. The ‘death spell’ that consumes some warriors by siphoning off all ties with their humanness, their soul if you will, as they became ‘one’ with their own precision, with their training, kill or be killed. It was a blood lust from which some men, boys really, never recovered.

“Hey Gunny, come with us on liberty to Diego ese,” hollered Pfc Arturo 'Junior’ Martinez. He was standing with a small crowd of ‘homeboys’ from his east LA neighborhood. Percy took notice of how the group sort of wore their own kind of uniforms, colorful plaid Pendleton shirts worn un-tucked, bandanas, an occasional hairnet and dozens of tattoos depicting Jesus, crucifixes, spider webs, and topless women.

“You go on ahead ‘meat’ knock yourselves out!”

“But, hey now, y’all be sure that your little butts are back in my barracks by 1600 hours come this Monday,” Sgt. Marquette shouted back!

“Your bad ass Uncle in the east has plans for each of you sorry cherries!”

Percy snapped to a quick attention and shot the lot of them a crisp salute, turning on his heels sharply, heading for his Quonset hut and the peaceful serenity of his desk and the air conditioner. He still had a stack of graduation certificates to sign, stamp, and run over to Division.

“Aye Aye, Gunnery Sergeant,” Junior shouted, returning the salute while running as fast as he could in reverse trying to catch up with his crew and keep from being left behind. Percy stopped, turned and placed his hands on his hips, watching all of them climb into a steady stream of Chevy’s. There were Impalas, Monte Carlos, Chevelle SS’s, and a couple of chopped ‘56 and ’57 wagons as well. He stood there and watched as they peeled out, laying rubber through the lot on their way out. He made a mental note to hold Junior personally responsible for this little break in the UCMJ (uniform code of military justice).

“Why am I always getting all the ‘beaners’,” he asked himself out loud? Percy wasn't a prejudiced man or a racist by any means he simply used the same term the boots used whenever they referred to one another. At least it was the only English term that he recognized. His last three classes consisted of primarily Hispanics, with an occasional white boy tossed in for seasoning. There never were many ‘brothers’ at this camp, but hey, they were pretty close to Orange County (the OC), home of the ‘mouse’ and his amusement house, where you weren’t likely to see a colored man within ten yards of Miss Snow’s lily-white behind. Still, professionally speaking he wished the brass would integrate the boots stateside rather than throw them together in the field. That never worked out very well. Better to work out the race issues here than there while under fire he thought.

“Ah the hell with it,” he said under his breath, and started back towards his office.

As he walked, he pulled out the letter from his shirt pocket and opened it again. Re-reading the orders, he saw that they hadn’t changed since this morning, surrendering to the fact that he would be serving a third tour, shipping out with this latest batch of ‘sweet peas’ in the coming days. Fucking ‘Charlie’ had really stirred things up with all that ‘TET’ shit a couple of weeks ago. They were still pulling bodies off the wire at the firebase near Khe Sanh. And it was more of the same in Saigon and Hue and a hundred other towns, villages, hamlets, and forward bases from Da Nang to the DMZ. It hadn’t been much of a military victory for the dinks so far, they were losing good men by the thousands as KIA’s.

But it was a real bitch for the big ‘Green machine’ as well. Those little folk had been at war for the past twenty years, between the Frenchies and us. And they had darn near tunneled under every square inch of the country. NVA General Giap’s plan was ambitious to say the least, involving tens of thousands in a simultaneous assault on as much of the South as they could reach. Where we used the air to rain death on as much of the North as possible, they used their tunnel system to appear and disappear from under our very noses in alarming numbers.

So even though the casualty figures were heavily in our favor, the fact that this event was playing out all in living rooms all over the USA on the evening news shows was having a severe effect on the supporters of the war effort. The peace movement was running at full speed and even the hard line hawks in Washington were starting to soften their stanch stands. There were rumors that Johnson might bow out of the presidential race in November. And the peaceniks were starting to trip over each other stepping up to the bully pulpit. Senator Eugene McCarthy was making a lot of noise saying all of the things that the hippies and radicals wanted to hear. But Percy’s money was on Bobby Kennedy as a dark horse, it just made sense to him. Hell, Dr. King seemed to be a good choice too, but no way was the country was ready for that much change!

Reaching his destination, Percy entered the hut, hung his cap on the rack inside the door, and walked over to the desk, flopping into his chair. Grabbing a clipboard full of certificates, he leaned back and put his feet up on an extended leaf. He glanced at the thick wad of papers and scowled, tossing the clipboard back onto the desktop, the loud thud resonating off the aluminum walls and ceiling.

“Damn it Gunny,” said a voice from the rear of the hut! Are you going to pout about those orders all the way to Monday?”

Lance Corporal, Lawrence A. Polen (the ‘A’ was for asshole if you asked anyone in Alpha Company) strode in from his bunk still in his stocking feet, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Corporal Polen was the polar opposite of his platoon Sergeant, a thin, pencil necked wiener that sounded as if he could double for Barnet Fife, the Deputy on the 'Andy Griffith television show. He had made his grade because he was the only one in the outfit that didn’t speak English as a second language, as well as mastering the military art of acronym-speak. In other words he was the poster child for BORING!

“That will be all the familiar talk from you Mister,” snapped Percy. He shot a menacing glare the corporal’s way causing him to swallow so hard it made his pronounced Adam’s apple waiver as if attached to a coiled spring.

“Uh, sorry Gunny, no offense,” Corporal Polen stammered.

“Put your jump boots back on son, and get me a cup of coffee!” Gunny ordered. He smiled as he watched his platoon Corporal trip over himself trying to set a land speed record for obedience.

“Shoot, why couldn’t all white boys jump through hoops like this? Too bad this power didn’t extend beyond the Corps,” Percy muttered under his breath.

Cpl. Polen returned with the coffee and waited for Gunny to take a sip and nod approvingly before he dared return to his rack to finish his nap. Sergeant Marquette walked over to the window and looked out into the compound. There was the usual abundance of activity that preceded a full-scale deployment. All the equipment and specialty personnel (artillery, supply, motor pool, etc…) would be shipping out from San Diego bound for Okinawa and then the Republic of Viet Nam. The bulk of the grunt personnel, the rifle companies that would spend the next 13 months humping through jungles and rice paddies would be bused to Los Angeles International Airport where they would cram onto converted commercial jets assigned to special military duty. Percy took a long sip from his cup of coffee, and closed his eyes, the setting sun warming his face as it shined through the window.

“Man,” he said softly to himself. “I’m gonna miss this candy ass’s coffee,” he said looking back over his shoulder at the form snoring on the cot at the back of the hut. He lifted his cup in a genuine gesture of gratitude and walked back to the pile of papers on his desk, time to get back to work.
The Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, California
 
The music was loud as usual at these kinds of places. Strip clubs worked the same everywhere. Sure, some were higher class, but in the end, the girls got naked, you got drunk and dry humped, the house got your money, and you left by yourself and the lie that you’d end up telling the guys back home, about your ‘from the pages of Penthouse’ night with three hot exotic dancers and one nasty little chimp! Junior Martinez was being carried out to his cousin Sal’s Impala by a couple guys from his outfit. He was pretty drunk, but he was a happy drunk, and giggling all the way to the car.


“Yo, ese, did you see me with that chick?”

“Man, that chica was all over PFC me Holmes, Horale!” Junior said, drooling just a little on himself as well as his buddy’s arm.

“Shit Junior, can you keep your spit to yourself, you drunken wetback,” shouted PFC Wesley Hightower.

“Hey, fuck you white boy, cut Junior some slack man,” hollered PFC Angel Gonzalez from the other side of their drunken buddy as they carried him to his cousin Sal's car.

“Hey, hey, he don’t mean nothin by it Angel,” Junior said, slurring the words so much they didn’t sound like either English or Spanish, just a sort of ‘Spanglish’ gibberish.

“Oh man, he’s gonna puke,” sighed Hightower getting out of the way just as Junior heaved all over his cousin’s fine wheels.

“AYIEE, my RIDE, watch my RIDE mensa, ah chingaso, mira this mess homey,” screeched Junior’s cousin. Sal walked over and kicked his tire, and then kicked at Junior as well, who was sitting on the curb with his escorts on either side propping him up. He wiped his face on Hightower’s blouse and started laughing hysterically.

“God Damn It Junior, this is not funny, do you read me asshole,” Hightower shouted, jumping to his feet and letting his drunken friend tip over into the gutter, still laughing.

“Come on man, get up,” Angel said, lifting his buddy by the shoulders.

Junior stood up and attempted to straighten his tie only to discover that it was missing. He had a vague recollection of a girl working it off of him during a lap dance. Who then proceeded to amaze his group with her ability to stand the thin side of the tie straight up in her fist, and then take several inches of it into her mouth, then backing off slowly leaving it in tack and shimmering in the dim light of the bar. It was an amazing feat of skill that they all appreciated to the tune of twenty bucks and one standard issue dress tie. The tie would cost Junior much more in blood, sweat and tears once Gunny got wind of the episode, and he always did. Sgt. Percy knew everything, eventually, that’s why the boots called him Sherlock when he wasn’t looking.

“Just get him in back dudes, I driving you all back to LA, this party is OVER,” said Sal disgustedly!

“Come on man, RAPIDO cavacho!” he hollered at Hightower.

“Alright, don’t get your panties in a bunch Pedro,” Hightower replied, all Mexican’s were named Pedro as far as he was concerned, once a redneck always a redneck. Wesley and Angel worked Junior into the back seat and then crawled in on either side.

“Junior, I swear, if you puke in my car I’ll shoot you myself!” Sal said pulling a short barreled .38 revolver from under the seat and waiving it over his shoulder He watched the three of them in the rearview mirror to make sure they were getting the message loud and clear. Junior nodded and snickered quietly in a semi state of consciousness.

“Don’t worry Sal, we’ll keep him quiet,” Angel said from the back.

“Yeah, well you better dude, or I’ll shoot you too!” Sal replied. He fired up the motor and started to pull away when another Marine ran up to the car. He wasn’t drunk like most of the others and Sal recognized him as his sister-in-law Theresa's cousin.

“Hey ese, you trying to get wounded here and miss the party in Nam,” Sal said sarcastically?

“Sorry, can I ride back with you to LA, my family is coming to see me tomorrow from Fresno before we ship out?" the young Marine asked.

“Get in fool, before someone else gets the same idea, this ain't no bus man, come on we’re outta here!”

“I’m in, let’s go Joe,” the Marine said smiling. Sal stepped on the gas and they moved quickly away from the Gaslamp district just as the Shore Patrol was arriving up to clean house.

“That was a close one,” said Hightower from the back.

“Oh man, Junior really stinks homey! Crack open the windows and let in some fresh air,” Angel and Sal pleaded in unison. They all cranked down the glass as fast as they could, sucking in lungs full of the clean, crisp ocean air as fast as they could.

“Whew, fuchie capesta,” Sal said holding his nose from behind the wheel.

“We’ll need to stop at a filling station before we get to LA and hose this chongo off,” he continued.

“Works for me,” chimed in Hightower, pushing Junior’s head off his shoulder and over to Angel’s side of the car.

“Hey man, what’s with that,” Angel protested.

“Look, he’s one of you guys, I don’t want a lap full of frijoles half way to LA, OK?”

“Fuck you Hightower,” Angel shot back.

“Yeah, fuck you gordo,” Sal added, waiving the .38 again and raising his eyebrows rapidly in the rear-view mirror for Hightower to see, he did. The car was quiet all the way to Long Beach when Angel said, “Horale, ese, I got to take a leak, you know?”

“Yeah, OK,” Sal said yawning. He pulled over to the shoulder on the 405 near Lakewood Avenue. Angel squeezed out from the back as Sal leaned forward in his seat.

“Be right back dude,” Angel said rapping the roof of the car as he ran into the ice plants to relieve himself. Sal flicked his zippo and lit up a cigarette, his face illuminated in the firelight for a moment. He took a long drag and exhaled the smoke out the open window.

“Hey, white boy, is my cousin still breathing back there or what?”

“Yeah, he’s cool.”

Sal looked over at his passenger seated next to him. The young Marine was fast asleep leaning against the door, his head propped up on the window. He reached over and poked him lightly in the arm.

“Hey, Mitchell, wake up man, you need to peeP” he asked.

Pfc Mitchell Rojas stirred and opened his eyes. “Where are we man?”

“Dude, we’re on the freeway beautifying America, got anything you want to contribute?” Sal teased, talking as his cigarette dangled from his mouth.

“No, I’m OK for now,” Mitchell said sleepily.

He was tired from the late hour and not the late partying. That wasn’t his style, he had always saved all of his money for his family, just like when he would boost in the summers. He missed his wife and child he even missed his job at the Checkerboard Square feed company in Fresno. Mitchell had worked hard to become a real member of this nation, and had studied and studied to become a citizen. So he did not think twice about answering the call to arms when his draft notice came Christmas last. It would be his honor to serve. His family was so proud, so very proud. He truly believed that all things were gifts from God, and that the ones you do not understand, especially the ones that you don’t understand, were blessings.

And while he did not fully understand the politics of his new country’s need for his sacrifice, it was enough to know that they were counting on him, that God was counting on him. His faith had always been strong, but more so after the miracle seven years ago in the melon fields. He had stopped questioning God’s will, His guidance of his life, and embraced the challenges, changes, and people that were brought in and out of his life. There was so much peace to be had by turning his life over to his Lord. He didn’t have the language skills to explain it, but he had the ability to show it by virtue of the way that he lived his life. Lead by example that was what his personal ministry was all about. What Mitchell witnessed seven years ago when that little girl laid healing hands on his infant son Miguel, returning him to the living was the true power of unconditional love. Her gift was his reward for a life spent keeping the faith.

“Hey Hightower, where do you think they’ll send us in the Nam?” he asked, turning around in his seat to face his buddy.

“I don’t know man, all I know is we fly outta LA sometime next week, and land in someplace called Da Nang, from there who knows.”

“You think we’ll stay together as a unit?” Mitchell asked, anxious for Hightower to agree.

“Man, you ask too many questions,” the big man from Texas said, waiving his hand at Mitchell as if dismissing him.

“I heard that we might see action from the get go,” said Angel as he climbed back into the car.

“Shut up Angel, you don’t know shit man, none of us do,” Hightower shot back.

“Eat me Hightower, we’re Marines, you know that they’re gonna send us somewhere hot, that’s the drill ain’t it,” Angel said looking out the window as Sal pulled back onto the freeway.

“Shut up ALL of ya, I’m trying to think dry thoughts down here,” said a weak voice from the floorboards in the back.

Man, I gotta take a whiz,” Junior said, starting to giggle again as he rejoined the living for a few moments of clarity.

“God Damn It JUNIOR,” Sal said whipping back onto the shoulder and turning to aim the pistol at his cousin. Mitchell shoved open the door and Hightower jumped out pulling Junior with him as Sal fired a couple of rounds into the upholstery to show everyone that he was serious.

“Get over into those pucker bushes boy and do your nasty business before the law dogs get here and bust us!” Hightower barked at Junior.

Junior stumbled towards the ice plants trying to pull open his pants to relieve himself, laughing uncontrollably as he weaved in the dark towards the ice plants. Angel and Hightower ran after him, helped him drop his drawers and held him upright while he did his business. They opted to let him dress himself, leaning against the car watching the comedy. Twenty minutes later they were back on the road to Los Angeles, to spend one last weekend with family and loved ones before their journey into hell.

The music was loud as usual at these kinds of places. Strip clubs worked the same everywhere. Sure, some were higher class, but in the end, the girls got naked, you got drunk and dry humped, the house got your money, and you left by yourself and the lie that you’d end up telling the guys back home, about your ‘from the pages of Penthouse’ night with three hot exotic dancers and one nasty little chimp! Junior Martinez was being carried out to his cousin Sal’s Impala by a couple guys from his outfit. He was pretty drunk, but he was a happy drunk, and giggling all the way to the car.

“Yo, ese, did you see me with that chick?”

“Man, that chica was all over PFC me Holmes, Horale!” Junior said, drooling just a little on himself as well as his buddy’s arm.

“Shit Junior, can you keep your spit to yourself, you drunken wetback,” shouted PFC Wesley Hightower.

“Hey, fuck you white boy, cut Junior some slack man,” hollered PFC Angel Gonzalez from the other side of their drunken buddy as they carried him to his cousin Sal's car.

“Hey, hey, he don’t mean nothin by it Angel,” Junior said, slurring the words so much they didn’t sound like either English or Spanish, just a sort of ‘Spanglish’ gibberish.

“Oh man, he’s gonna puke,” sighed Hightower getting out of the way just as Junior heaved all over his cousin’s fine wheels.

“AYIEE, my RIDE, watch my RIDE mensa, ah chingaso, mira this mess homey,” screeched Junior’s cousin. Sal walked over and kicked his tire, and then kicked at Junior as well, who was sitting on the curb with his escorts on either side propping him up. He wiped his face on Hightower’s blouse and started laughing hysterically.

“God Damn It Junior, this is not funny, do you read me asshole,” Hightower shouted, jumping to his feet and letting his drunken friend tip over into the gutter, still laughing.

“Come on man, get up,” Angel said, lifting his buddy by the shoulders.

Junior stood up and attempted to straighten his tie only to discover that it was missing. He had a vague recollection of a girl working it off of him during a lap dance. Who then proceeded to amaze his group with her ability to stand the thin side of the tie straight up in her fist, and then take several inches of it into her mouth, then backing off slowly leaving it in tack and shimmering in the dim light of the bar. It was an amazing feat of skill that they all appreciated to the tune of twenty bucks and one standard issue dress tie. The tie would cost Junior much more in blood, sweat and tears once Gunny got wind of the episode, and he always did. Sgt. Percy knew everything, eventually, that’s why the boots called him Sherlock when he wasn’t looking.

“Just get him in back dudes, I driving you all back to LA, this party is OVER,” said Sal disgustedly!

“Come on man, RAPIDO cavacho!” he hollered at Hightower.

“Alright, don’t get your panties in a bunch Pedro,” Hightower replied, all Mexican’s were named Pedro as far as he was concerned, once a redneck always a redneck. Wesley and Angel worked Junior into the back seat and then crawled in on either side.

“Junior, I swear, if you puke in my car I’ll shoot you myself!” Sal said pulling a short barreled .38 revolver from under the seat and waiving it over his shoulder He watched the three of them in the rearview mirror to make sure they were getting the message loud and clear. Junior nodded and snickered quietly in a semi state of consciousness.

“Don’t worry Sal, we’ll keep him quiet,” Angel said from the back.

“Yeah, well you better dude, or I’ll shoot you too!” Sal replied. He fired up the motor and started to pull away when another Marine ran up to the car. He wasn’t drunk like most of the others and Sal recognized him as his sister-in-law Theresa's cousin.

“Hey ese, you trying to get wounded here and miss the party in Nam,” Sal said sarcastically?

“Sorry, can I ride back with you to LA, my family is coming to see me tomorrow from Fresno before we ship out?" the young Marine asked.

“Get in fool, before someone else gets the same idea, this ain't no bus man, come on we’re outta here!”

“I’m in, let’s go Joe,” the Marine said smiling. Sal stepped on the gas and they moved quickly away from the Gaslamp district just as the Shore Patrol was arriving up to clean house.

“That was a close one,” said Hightower from the back.

“Oh man, Junior really stinks homey! Crack open the windows and let in some fresh air,” Angel and Sal pleaded in unison. They all cranked down the glass as fast as they could, sucking in lungs full of the clean, crisp ocean air as fast as they could.

“Whew, fuchie capesta,” Sal said holding his nose from behind the wheel.

“We’ll need to stop at a filling station before we get to LA and hose this chongo off,” he continued.

“Works for me,” chimed in Hightower, pushing Junior’s head off his shoulder and over to Angel’s side of the car.

“Hey man, what’s with that,” Angel protested.

“Look, he’s one of you guys, I don’t want a lap full of frijoles half way to LA, OK?”

“Fuck you Hightower,” Angel shot back.

“Yeah, fuck you gordo,” Sal added, waiving the .38 again and raising his eyebrows rapidly in the rear-view mirror for Hightower to see, he did. The car was quiet all the way to Long Beach when Angel said, “Horale, ese, I got to take a leak, you know?”

“Yeah, OK,” Sal said yawning. He pulled over to the shoulder on the 405 near Lakewood Avenue. Angel squeezed out from the back as Sal leaned forward in his seat.

“Be right back dude,” Angel said rapping the roof of the car as he ran into the ice plants to relieve himself. Sal flicked his zippo and lit up a cigarette, his face illuminated in the firelight for a moment. He took a long drag and exhaled the smoke out the open window.

“Hey, white boy, is my cousin still breathing back there or what?”

“Yeah, he’s cool.”

Sal looked over at his passenger seated next to him. The young Marine was fast asleep leaning against the door, his head propped up on the window. He reached over and poked him lightly in the arm.

“Hey, Mitchell, wake up man, you need to peeP” he asked.

Pfc Mitchell Rojas stirred and opened his eyes. “Where are we man?”

“Dude, we’re on the freeway beautifying America, got anything you want to contribute?” Sal teased, talking as his cigarette dangled from his mouth.

“No, I’m OK for now,” Mitchell said sleepily.

He was tired from the late hour and not the late partying. That wasn’t his style, he had always saved all of his money for his family, just like when he would boost in the summers. He missed his wife and child he even missed his job at the Checkerboard Square feed company in Fresno. Mitchell had worked hard to become a real member of this nation, and had studied and studied to become a citizen. So he did not think twice about answering the call to arms when his draft notice came Christmas last. It would be his honor to serve. His family was so proud, so very proud. He truly believed that all things were gifts from God, and that the ones you do not understand, especially the ones that you don’t understand, were blessings.

And while he did not fully understand the politics of his new country’s need for his sacrifice, it was enough to know that they were counting on him, that God was counting on him. His faith had always been strong, but more so after the miracle seven years ago in the melon fields. He had stopped questioning God’s will, His guidance of his life, and embraced the challenges, changes, and people that were brought in and out of his life. There was so much peace to be had by turning his life over to his Lord. He didn’t have the language skills to explain it, but he had the ability to show it by virtue of the way that he lived his life. Lead by example that was what his personal ministry was all about. What Mitchell witnessed seven years ago when that little girl laid healing hands on his infant son Miguel, returning him to the living was the true power of unconditional love. Her gift was his reward for a life spent keeping the faith.

“Hey Hightower, where do you think they’ll send us in the Nam?” he asked, turning around in his seat to face his buddy.

“I don’t know man, all I know is we fly outta LA sometime next week, and land in someplace called Da Nang, from there who knows.”

“You think we’ll stay together as a unit?” Mitchell asked, anxious for Hightower to agree.

“Man, you ask too many questions,” the big man from Texas said, waiving his hand at Mitchell as if dismissing him.

“I heard that we might see action from the get go,” said Angel as he climbed back into the car.

“Shut up Angel, you don’t know shit man, none of us do,” Hightower shot back.

“Eat me Hightower, we’re Marines, you know that they’re gonna send us somewhere hot, that’s the drill ain’t it,” Angel said looking out the window as Sal pulled back onto the freeway.

“Shut up ALL of ya, I’m trying to think dry thoughts down here,” said a weak voice from the floorboards in the back.

Man, I gotta take a whiz,” Junior said, starting to giggle again as he rejoined the living for a few moments of clarity.

“God Damn It JUNIOR,” Sal said whipping back onto the shoulder and turning to aim the pistol at his cousin. Mitchell shoved open the door and Hightower jumped out pulling Junior with him as Sal fired a couple of rounds into the upholstery to show everyone that he was serious.

“Get over into those pucker bushes boy and do your nasty business before the law dogs get here and bust us!” Hightower barked at Junior.

Junior stumbled towards the ice plants trying to pull open his pants to relieve himself, laughing uncontrollably as he weaved in the dark towards the ice plants. Angel and Hightower ran after him, helped him drop his drawers and held him upright while he did his business. They opted to let him dress himself, leaning against the car watching the comedy. Twenty minutes later they were back on the road to Los Angeles, to spend one last weekend with family and loved ones before their journey into hell.

Oceanside, CaliforniaCamp Pendelton 

Sergeant Marquette looked at his Timex. It was 13:30 hours on this cloudy Monday afternoon. He decided that he would stroll over to the barracks in fifteen minutes or so for a nose count and a locker-box inspection. It always tickled him to see what kind of contraband the boots would try and sneak past him after a weekend of drinking and whoring. He had sent Corporal Polen over ahead of him get a lay of the land so to speak, OK, to spy to be precise. He knew that would spook the troops, and that it would cause them to relocate their little treasures (garter belts, panties, Playboy’s, and various other assorted pornography) to hastily chosen secondary locations. But there were only so many places to hide contraband in a Marine barracks, and Percy knew them ALL!


Looking out the window, he saw PFC’s Hightower and Gonzalez walking Junior Martinez rapidly toward the barracks. Junior was still drunk even after a weekend to sober up. Percy smiled broadly, “well at least this tour was gonna begin with a little comedy,” he muttered to himself. He placed his cap on his head and exited the hut, walking at a brisk pace to the barracks next door.

“ATTENTION ON DECK,” screeched Corporal Polen!

The platoon snapped to attention at the foot of their bunks, chests out, chins in, like good Marines. Gunny walked the line slowly, looking from one side of the aisle to the other, a slow sweep of the area. He stopped in front of PFC Martinez’s rack and turned to face him slowly. Junior was still looped from the weekend. And while his body was technically at attention, his eyes were definitely at ease, both of them so crossed it almost made Percy laugh out loud.

“Private Martinez,” Gunny asked sweetly.

“Are you in there somewhere son?”

Junior did not answer right away, he started to make some noises, but there were no actual words. Gunny looked to either side of his favorite ‘meat,’ settling on PFC Hightower, walking over to him and standing nose to nose. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY MARINE, MAGGOT,” Gunny screamed, spittle spattering all over Hightower’s face!

“Gunnery Sergeant, the Private had nothing to do with his condition, Gunnery Sergeant!”

“YOU CALL THIS NOTHING, LOOK AT THIS MESS!” Before Percy could take a verbal run at Angel as well, the uncomfortably silent barracks was filled with the sound of a tremendous stomach rumbling.

“Oh shit,” said PFC Gonzalez, breaking formation and lifting the lid to Junior’s locker box. Hightower was a millisecond behind his buddy as he spun Junior 180 degrees and bent him over the target, just in the nick of time. Percy watched in awe at the precision of this teamwork as Junior emptied his stomach contents onto all of the personal items in his sacred locker box.

“JESUS H. CHRIST! What kind of happy horseshit is this people?” shouted Sgt. Percy.

“I want this place spic and span in exactly 30 minutes, do you read me ladies!” screamed Gunny at the barracks in general.

“That's 30 MINUTES by my Timex,” he said holding up his arm and pointing to his wrist. Sgt. Marquette spun on his heel and stormed out of the barracks.

“Dismiss this train wreck,” he said to Corporal Polen as he passed him exiting the room.

“DISMISSED,” stammered Lance Corporal as he ran off to catch up with Gunny. Percy stopped to allow Polen catch up with him.

“You know something Larry, if those guys cover for each other half that well in the bush maybe we’ll bring better than half of them home.”

“Ahhhh, what do you mean we Gunny, my orders were for Camp Lejeune in North Carolina,” Polen said nervously, smiling weakly.

“Funny thing about orders Corporal, only the bad ones are written in concrete, only the bad ones boy.” Gunny put on his shades and changed direction heading for the commissary. He guessed he’d get a cold drink before going back and kicking Junior’s butt for GP. This was a nice distraction from the reality of shipping out. He might as well get some mileage out of these clowns before the truth sets in.

 


 

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