Drafted (2017)- Chapter Eight

Drafted (2017)- Chapter Eight

The bright overhead lights, combined with Wolinski yelling in my ear, rudely woke me. “Get your lazy ass out of bed. This isn’t summer camp. Every swinging dick shit, shower, shave, and be outside in uniform in ten minutes.”

Ten minutes? I can’t get one eye open in ten minutes. “What the hell time is it?”

“Oh-six-hundred hours, college puke–practically mid-morning,” Sarge said. “Now get going!”

I rolled out of bed, narrowly missing getting my head crushed by Steve leaping from the top bunk at the same time. As the other recruits raced toward the bathroom with toilet kit and towel in hand, I started groping in my footlocker for my prescription lenses.

“What are you looking for?” Steve asked.

“Help me find my sunglasses.”

“Sunglasses? Are you crazy? It’s pitch black outside.”

“I can’t put my contacts in yet. My eyes are still bloodshot from yesterday.”

By the time I found my glasses and reached the head, the ten available sinks were already filled with recruits shaving, or spitting out toothpaste. The open shower area featured another dozen bare-ass boys scrubbing under streaming nozzles. The rest of the gang were taking a leak at the six-foot long open trough or making poo in the white porcelain stalls. Steve and I waited for an opening.

We didn’t make it in ten minutes. “Nice of you to join us,” yelled Wolinski. Then he spotted my sunglasses. “What are you…some kind of goddamn celebrity?”

“Yeah, I’m Greta Garbo. These are prescription.” I yawned and pulled out the eye doctor’s note. “Here’s an officer’s excuse.”

“You just look for ways to piss me off, don’t you? I’m going to make your life so miserable…”

“Shucks, Sarge, you don’t have to treat me special. I am already blessed by the mere warmth of your presence.”

“Shut up, Jones.”

The sun still hadn’t come up yet. I could barely make out all the soldiers standing around a parade ground where Sarge had called our platoon to a halt. A distant shadow in the center of the open area shouted “Battalion!”

A second, closer figure, hollered, “Company!”

Wolinski followed with “Platoon!”

Then the first shadow man yelled again, “Atten-hut.”

With that command, 180 soldiers snapped to attention. This required a leap of faith on our part because we had to assume that “Atten-hut” and “Attention” were the same word. We repeated the process, but this time, the commander said, “Hand Salute,” as they hoisted the American flag.

Each soldier raised his right hand to his baseball cap brim. After twenty seconds of silence, we heard a needle skip, at earsplitting volume, work its way across a record; and then repetitively thump, thump, thump when it reached the inside ring. “Damn it,” cursed our unseen disc jockey through the four bullhorn speakers mounted on poles surrounding the parade ground. He tried again. The needle hit the groove and a bugle blared out the strains of reveille amidst the pops and crackles of a well-worn recording.

At the conclusion of the music, shadow man yelled “Two.” Two what I wondered, but dropped my salute with the others. Wolinski told us “At Ease” and showed us how to stand with our feet shoulder width apart and our hands behind our backs–one hand holding the opposite wrist.

This is at ease? I reminisced. No, at ease is leaning back in my lifeguard chair with the warm sun on my body, checking out the babes, and watching a colorful butterfly flap his wings while perched on my big toe. Sarge’s voice brought me back to reality.

“Tomorrow you will receive your final platoon assignments, and begin basic infantry training. Some of you will stay with me. Others will be assigned to different barracks. You jokers have any questions?”

“I’m going to miss you, Sarge,” I said.

“Oh no, Jones…I made sure you were assigned to my platoon.”

Lucky me, I thought, as Wolinski escorted us once again to chow.

When everyone finished eating, Sarge marched us to a building that resembled a high school gymnasium. “At ease,” grumbled Wolinski, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em…and don’t forget to field strip your butts.”

“Oh, I like the sound of that,” said one soldier.

“Who is that guy?” Steve asked.

“Not sure, but I suggest not dropping the soap in the shower when he’s around.”

We entered the gym and joined a lengthy green military conga line that terminated at a gauntlet of medical corpsmen, three on a side, each holding a pneumatic needle gun with a small glass vial of medicine sitting on top. The corpsmen looked really bored doing 200 guys without a break, one right after another. I prayed they were changing the needle often, or it would be very dull by our turn.

Thirty minutes later, we were told to take off our fatigue shirt and roll up our T-shirt sleeves on both sides–like the hoods used to do in high school. I watched one man jerk when he felt the gun, causing the needle to punch a series of holes across his arm and leave a trail of blood in its wake. Ugh!

I have been never too keen on getting shots. Once as a kid, during a free polio vaccination, a nurse hit a muscle and broke the needle off in my arm. It happened at the Clark County health clinic in 110-degree heat with no air conditioning. I’m standing there in pain while the staff frantically looked for something to pull it out. A janitor finally produced a pair of pliers and removed the three-inch sliver of metal, followed by a spurt of blood. I made it to the top of the stairs before fainting dead away.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one appearing woozy today. A dozen cots had been set up on the far side of the gym and a lovely group of Army nurses attended several prone soldiers.

A loud, tall, skinny drink of water just ahead of me in line temporarily distracted my attention from the nurses. “This ain’t nothing to worry ’bout. Why my grandfather fought at the Alamo. Now there was a good fight. I’ve had wildcats scratch me worst then this while inspecting our oil wells. No little bitty shot can scare any Texan worth his salt. Bring it on. Hook ’em horns.” He extended his arms and fingers in a University of Texas pose.

One glance at old Tex’s round baby face and I could tell he was scared shitless, but to his credit, he never dropped his bravado. “Everything is going to be just fine. Trust me, boys.” Tex turned to the first medic and held a single bill aloft. “One hundred dollars for whoever does the best job.”

“Yes sir,” the corpsmen responded in unison and proceeded to ease him through the line, using regular needles instead of the guns. Of course, they switched right back after Tex went through. One guy almost shot me twice in the side of the head. You can’t blame them. A hundred bucks is nearly a whole month’s salary for a lot of soldiers.

Tex said, “See, not so bad.” Then his eyes rolled back and he fainted dead away. Fortunately, we caught him, before he dashed out his brains on the gym floor.

A nurse came over, knelt down, and felt Tex’s pulse. “Please pick him up and put him on that empty cot over there.”

“Where’s my hundred?” One of the corpsmen cried out.

“You’ll have to wait until he’s conscious,” I yelled back.

The nurse laughed. I asked her, “So, what’s your name?”

“Lieutenant Clark,” she said, “and thanks for helping.”

Lieutenant Clark was blond, about five-foot-five, with very shapely legs and dressed in a white nurse’s uniform and cap. She had small features, but full lips and a slightly upturned nose. I could easily be in love and couldn’t help staring as she applied a cold compress to Tex’s forehead.

“Why don’t you take a picture, it’ll last longer,” she smiled.

“I would if I had a camera, and then keep it next to my heart always,” I replied.

“Aren’t you the smooth talker? It couldn’t have been that long since you’ve been with a woman.”

“No, it hasn’t, but all others pale in comparison. Do you think I could visit you sometime and maybe share an ice cream cone, or a shower?”

She laughed again. “Maybe…after your hair grows back, cue ball.” She patted me where my hair used to be. Embarrassed, I started to respond but got interrupted when Tex opened his eyes and sat up.

“What happened?” Tex asked. “Everything went black.”

“You bit the dust, but this pretty little filly brought you back to life,” I said.

“How are you, soldier?” Sara asked.

“I’m just fine, ma’am,” Tex replied. “Let me give you a hundred for taking such exquisite care of me.”

“Not necessary…besides, these two gentlemen are the ones who kept you from cracking your skull open.”

Tex reached into his pocket and pulled out the biggest roll of hundred-dollar bills I had ever seen. “Well then, here’s a hundred for each of you too.”

“Why not,” said Steve, taking the bill offered. I did the same.

“There’s plenty more where that came from.” He extended his hand to me. “Howdy, I’m Pat Riley from Midlands, Texas, and the richest, orneriest, best lookin’, son-of-a-gun west of the Mississippi. You two guys are my new best friends.”

“Thanks, Tex,” I said. “Hope you don’t faint the first time Charlie takes a shot at you. He might miss and hit me.”

“Hell, I’m not going to Vietnam, boy. Senator Lucas got me in the Texas National Guard. I do my eight weeks here, one meeting a month, two weeks at camp each summer, and in five years, I’m a free man.”

“Son-of-a-bitch, why didn’t I think of that?” I related to Tex and Sarah my draft board story of woe.

“Look, partner,” proposed Tex, “If you keep me out of trouble for the rest of basic training, I’ll see what Senator Lucas can do for you.”

“Why would a Texas Senator help me?” I asked.

“If my daddy said so, Senator Lucas would run naked through the streets of Dallas crying, Save the Alamo.”

“Pat, I believe you’re right. We are going to be best friends.”

I said goodbye to Sara, with a promise to see her later, and then we went outside to wait for the others to finish. I suggested Tex use some of his cash to make sure he got assigned to Sergeant Wolinski so I could keep an eye on him. Tex said he’d make the arrangements with the Professor.

“Who’s that?” Steve asked.

Tex explained, “He’s our company clerk. He got the nickname because he holds a Ph.D. in English.”

“What the heck is he doing in the Army?” I asked.

Tex said, “That’s the good part of the story. The Professor had always been a mama’s boy–you know, thirty years old, a virgin, and still living at home. One day, his mom kicks him out and tells him, time to become a man. So, instead of moving into an apartment and getting laid, he has a brain fart and joins the Army. After he failed basic training three times straight, the Army assigned him permanently to Fort Dix as a clerk.”

“Unbelievable,” said Steve.

Wolinski had begun gathering his flock, so we bid Tex adios, and rejoined our platoon. After chow, we got fitted for our class “A” dress uniforms and issued our combat web harness complete with canteen, ammo pouch, compass, and rain poncho. Sarge next marched us to the Post Exchange (PX) to pick up a few personal supplies.

Later after lights out, Steve said, “You know, Eli, so far the Army isn’t so bad. We’re paid a salary, given three square meals a day, free housing, clothing and laundry service, and all we have to do is sit around or stand in line.”

“Yeah, just like prison. And someday soon, somebody, somewhere, will order you to kill another human being, before they kill you.”

Steve sighed, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that part.”

2nd-edition-2016

Drafted (2016)- Chapter Seven

The hissing of air brakes woke me. My wristwatch said five in the morning and my grumbling stomach yelled for food. I shook Steve, still racked out in the seat beside me.

“Come on sweetheart,” he said, with his eyes still closed. “Let’s cuddle a few minutes longer.”

I wanted to put my arm around him to see what he would do but decided instead to shake him again. Disoriented, Steve cracked opened one eye; very disappointed to see me instead of his girlfriend.

I said, “Good morning, Sunshine. According to the entry sign, this is beautiful Fort Dix, United States Combat Training Center and Home of the Ultimate Weapon. Wait, we can’t be at the right place–I’m a bleeder.”

We didn’t have long to ponder our fate because a scowling, darkly-tanned soldier, closely resembling a giant sequoia, with limbs and trunk as thick and strong, climbed on the bus. Our welcoming committee of one, wearing fatigues, a Smoky the Bear hat, and carrying a bullet-tipped swagger stick, stood at the front and loudly announced. “Ladies, this is basic infantry training and my name is Sergeant Wolinski. My job during the next eight weeks is to turn you pansy, out-of-shape, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, brain-dead civilians into a finely tuned, physically fit, fighting machine. Now I’m sure the last few hours have been rough and you’re confused, tired and hungry–am I right?”

We nodded–what an understanding man.

“I DON”T CARE!” Wolinski’s voice blew us back into our seats. “You’ve got two minutes to hustle your sorry butts off this bus, grab your gear, and fall into formation in front of that welcome sign. “NOW MOVE!”

A slight hesitation, then thirty guys tried to cram into the aisle and out the door at the same time. Wolinski stood at the exit, encouraging each man as he stepped off the bus, by screaming, “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”

Sarge would alternate his supportive words. “HAUL TAIL, YOU MAGGOT!” Or my personal favorite. “GET GOING, OR I’LL STICK MY BOOT SO FAR UP YOUR ASS IT WILL COME OUT YOUR NOSE!”

We scrambled off the bus, claimed our baggage from the civilian driver (who seemed very amused by all this), and somehow made it into a ragged-looking bunch–our best collective guess as to what constituted a formation. Wolinski continued his tirade. “Straighten up those lines. Stand at attention when I’m talking to you, eyes forward shoulders back and heels together. Count off by fours, starting with the front row, the first man on the left.”

When we finished, Wolinski went eyeball-to-eyeball with a tall, gangly recruit. “What’s your name, boy?”

“Jimmy Krackindowbrinsky.”

“Not now it isn’t. Anybody with more than 13 letters in their last name gets called Alphabet. Is that okay with you–Private Alphabet?”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

Wolinski worked his way down the line, yelling insults at each guy. He reached Steve. “What are you staring at boy? You find me attractive? You want to ask me out?”

“No,” said Steve.

“NO WHAT?” screamed Wolinski.

“NO WAY!” Steve screamed back.

“NO, Drill Sergeant,” corrected Wolinski.

“NO WAY, Drill Sergeant,” mimicked Steve.

“From now on every time I tell you clowns something, I want you to respond with either, yes, drill sergeant, or no, drill sergeant. Is that clear?”

I raised my hand. “So, which is it, Sarge?”

“Which is what?”

“Yes or no?”

“Yes or no…what?” He demanded.

“Exactly,”

“Yes or no, drill sergeant,” he repeated.

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

“Are you stupid?” Wolinski’s eyes bulged from the pressure.

“I’m not the one having trouble answering the question.”

“What question?”

“What question, drill sergeant–remember what you just told us.”

“I’m the drill sergeant, you idiot. I don’t have to say drill sergeant!”

“Well, that doesn’t seem fair.”

Wolinski grabbed me under my arms and lifted me until my feet no longer touched the ground. He hissed in my ear, “Look shit for brains, I hate a smartass. If you ever make fun of me again, I will bury you where they can’t find the body.” Sarge returned me to earth and barked out, “Pick up your gear. And thanks to Private…”

“Jones,” I volunteered.

“Thanks to Private Dickhead, you are going to run the final half mile to the barracks. Platoon left face. DOUBLE-TIME, MARCH!”

I managed to pick up my suitcase, tennis racquet, guitar, and golf clubs just as all the guys faced the same direction at the same time. Sarge called cadence, shouting out a number each time our left foot hit the ground. We arrived shortly without losing anything or anybody, which I’ll bet disappointed Wolinski. Nobody threw up, but all the guys were wheezing, coughing, and bent over from the effort. “Single file, on my command, enter the building, pick out a bunk and locker and then remain standing next to it at attention. MOVE OUT!”

We scrambled up the steps and through a screen door into a two-level, wooden barracks painted white with a dark roof. The building measured about sixty-by-thirty feet with several windows on both sides. There were rows of steel bunk beds perpendicular to the walls with accompanying green wall and foot lockers. A six-foot wide aisle ran down the middle and lead to a large bathroom/shower unit at the end. Steve and I grabbed the first open bunks, just past a wooden post, and threw our gear down. Wolinski strutted in last, acting like the cock of the walk. “Everyone find a spot?”

“YES, DRILL SERGEANT!” We shouted with glee.

“Secure your gear in your locker, and then fall back outside for chow.”

I raised my hand. “My stuff won’t fit in this little footlocker…uh, drill sergeant.”

Wolinski glanced at my guitar, golf clubs, and tennis racquet. “Where in the hell do you think you are–a resort hotel?”

I scratched my head. “Why do people keep asking me that?”

“GET YOUR ASS OUTSIDE!” Wolinski bellowed.

I threw everything on the lower bunk and sprinted out the door.

Once assembled, we headed out, marching past several barracks identical to ours, until we arrived at the mess hall. The cook seemed nicer than the one at the induction center, and he even smiled at us once–out of pity, I’m sure. Our gourmet breakfast consisted of runny, clear, uncooked eggs, sunny side up, burnt toast, mostly raw, chewy bacon, and a warm glass of orange-tinted water flavored with powdered Tang. I picked up my plate and sniffed the food. “My eggs are staring at me.”

“Think of all the weight we’ll lose.” Steve offered.

I agreed. “Gandhi got more calories than this.”

After swallowing what we could stomach, Wolinski dragged us back outside.

“Okay boys, time for your first G.I. Joe haircut.” I cringed. A pair of scissors had not touched my beautiful shoulder-length mane in four years. We marched to the nearest barber pole. Sarge said, “Line up, single file on the sidewalk starting with Private Jones. He looked at me and laughed like the wicked witch of the west. “Be sure to tell them how you’d like it.”

With a heavy heart, I opened the screen door and sat down in the first barber chair. An enlisted man came out of the back, put a cotton sheet over my clothes, and produced a huge electric clipper–the size Australians use to shear sheep. “Just take a little off the sides,” I hopefully requested.

“No problem,” says the barber with a snicker, and then proceeds to cut a path down the middle of my head, within a centimeter of my scalp.

“Careful, you lout!” I cried.

“Sorry sir, let me even that out.” The brute then cut a similar path next to the first one, and so forth, until my entire head had been shaved to mere peach fuzz.

I cursed my assassin. “May a crazed guitarist twang your sister.”

As I exited, the platoon stared at my missing mane with their mouths agape. “Oh my God,” said one soldier, shading his eyes from the glare, “Is that a Yul Brenner cut?”

After each new recruit took his turn getting scalped, Wolinski marched us to our next destination–another white wooden building with a sign that read, “Supply Depot.” We lined up and entered the poorly lit structure that smelled strongly of mothballs. A disinterested clerk handed me an empty duffel bag that I was supposed to take to each station and fill with Army clothing. I didn’t have to worry about color coordination because everything came in olive drab. Apparently, fit didn’t matter either because each clerk would hand me whatever size lay on the closest shelf. No place for Beau Brummel in this man’s Army.

We marched back to our barracks, put our new duds away, and then headed for lunch. My spirits had slightly recovered from this morning’s shearing–even though my head had become several hat sizes smaller. At least now I wouldn’t have to waste any time brushing my hair. I rubbed my hand on top of my head and gave a long sigh. Bastards!

That afternoon we filled out more paperwork, got more military gear, and took more tests. At five p.m. we returned to the barracks carrying our latest issue, an olive drab blanket, white sheets, and a pillowcase. Having been mostly awake since yesterday and ridden more than 800 miles on a bus, I was more than ready for the day to end. Instead, Wolinski announces bed-making training.

Now, my mother tried unsuccessfully asked me to make my bed for several years, but Wolinski turned out to be a different kind of mother. He picked my lower bunk to demonstrate the Army way of folding hospital corners and pulling the sheets and blanket as tight as possible.

“Thanks, Sarge,” I said after he finished. “I’m so tired, I think I’ll skip dinner and go right to sleep.” I flopped down on the bunk and closed my eyes.

Wolinski screamed, “MOVE YOU YO-YO!”

Leaping up, I banged my head on the upper bunk and then stood in pain watching Sarge tear up his good work and throw it on the floor.

Sarge ordered, “Now, I want each one of you pecker-heads to make those beds so tight I can bounce a quarter on them…before you go to chow.”

“Who cares,” I cried. “I’ll sleep on the bare mattress.”

Wolinski shoved me against my wall locker. “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way. Got it numb nuts?”

“Got it,” I grumbled and began remaking my bed.

Steve whispered, “Boy, Eli, you sure know how to make friends.”

“I’m beginning to dislike this guy.”

“I’m betting he’s not too fond of you either.”

Skipping supper turned out not to be an option, but at least, Wolinski left us alone afterward. Steve and I brushed our teeth and were in bed before they gave the nine o’clock command for lights out.

Small patches of moonlight shone on the scrubbed wooden floor as I lay there trying to picture the gang at Silver Lake. I wondered. How in the blazes did I go from king of the world to bottom of the heap in less than 48 hours?

Steve peered down from the top bunk. “Homesick?”

“I miss Karen.”

“At least, you were getting laid. My girlfriend kept insisting on marriage before sex. For Christ sake, do you realize I could die a virgin?”

“Forget about dying. It’s only the first day.”

“I know we’ll have to go to ‘Nam. I’ve heard you’re damn lucky if you can make it six months in the bush without stepping on a mine or getting shot.”

I frowned. “Not everybody gets hurt, do they?”

“Don’t you pay attention to the news? The media takes great delight in describing painful ways soldiers are killed in Vietnam. The Viet Cong hide sharpened, shit-covered bamboo in deep pits, and if you don’t die from the puncture wounds, you die from the infection. They also hang bamboo stakes in trees hooked to a trip wire, so when released, it swings down and perforates your face.”

“Okay, I get the idea. You can croak a thousand different nasty ways. Thanks for eliminating my image of Karen in a bathing suit.”

“You weren’t going to flog the flagpole, were you? I could be seriously hurt if you shook me out of bed from this height.”

“Shut up you moron and go to sleep. I’ll bet morning comes real early around here.”

2nd-edition-2016

Drafted by Rich Allan 2nd Edition 2016

Drafted by Rich Allan 2nd Edition 2016

Thought I would share my recently completed 2nd edition of my comic adventure novel, “Drafted,” the semi-autobiographical story of Eli Jones, carefree college student drafted illegally into the Army during the life-threatening era of Vietnam. Over the next series of blogs, you can follow the story, but if you get impatient, you can always get it at the link at the bottom of this first installment.

drafted_cover-41

Chapter One

Inside the old wooden bathhouse, twelve-year-old Ricky and his best buddy, Jimmy, pressed their faces against an unpainted cement block wall, each straining for position. Eventually, everyone found out about the gap in the divider between the men and women’s dressing rooms. Rumor had it that late at night the owner’s son would chip away with an awl at the original settling crack to improve the view—and paid attendance—at Silver Lake Beach Club, the town’s favorite swimming hole.

Jimmy complained, “Move over, it’s my turn to watch.”

“There’s nothing to see yet,” said Ricky. “Wait, somebody’s coming…oh, my god, it’s Judy.”

Every red-blooded American teenager’s fantasy, Judy stood five-foot-two, with long blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a physical maturity beyond her sixteen years.

There were individual changing booths on the ladies’ side, each with a wooden bench, and a cloth curtain that could be drawn to preserve one’s modesty. Only two stalls were within range of the famous hole in the wall, so why Judy always chose a spot in plain sight, and never drew the curtain, is anybody’s guess. To the young voyeurs, her motivation didn’t really matter.

The boys stopped struggling and glued one eye each to the crack in rapt anticipation of the wonders they were about to see. Jimmy held his breath because he didn’t want to do anything that would make this lovely specter prematurely disappear.

Judy began to undo her blouse—one agonizing button at a time—until her massive white bra appeared. Ricky moaned and Jimmy clamped his hand over his friend’s mouth. If Judy heard anything, she didn’t seem to care. She smiled mischievously while reaching behind her back to unfasten the three clips that stood between the boys and heaven. In a second, the bra removed, her ample young breasts swung free.

But, the show had just begun. Judy then slid her short shorts down her long tan legs, all the way to her painted toenails. She had already stepped out of her sandals, so when her shorts completed their journey, Judy neatly flipped them into the numbered wire clothes basket.

One item remained—a light blue pair of cotton bikini briefs that gently clung to Judy’s hips. Drool formed at the corner of Jimmy’s mouth and his eyes assumed an Eddie Cantor-like stare.

As Judy’s briefs headed toward the cement floor, Jimmy sprang into manhood. Some of the world’s greatest achievements—John Glenn’s trip around the planet, night baseball, and the splitting of the atom—paled in comparison to Judy’s ability to make boys into men. She stood there for just a moment, in all her glory—then quickly pulled on her bikini and vanished from view.

“Damn,” Ricky said, shaking his head in disbelief, “If I die tomorrow, I will have lived a full and satisfying life.” Jimmy nodded in agreement and wiped the spittle dripping from his chin.

#

From high above the water on the main lifeguard stand, Eli Jones watched Judy exit the bathhouse trailed closely behind by Ricky and Jimmy. He had to laugh at the puppy dog expression on the boys’ faces—no doubt a direct result of having recently seen Judy naked—like most of the young male population in New Carlisle, Ohio.

Turning his focus back to the swimming area, Eli leaned back in his wooden swivel chair, smeared some zinc oxide on his nose, and continued scanning the large roped off area of the lake. It was a typical summer weekday with several young kids yelling and splashing in the shallow water while their mothers soaked up the sun on the sandy beach.

One of the youngsters caught Eli’s attention as he made his way from shore to the deep water line by half swimming and half pushing off the bottom. Standing on his tiptoes, with water up to his chin, the boy eyed the closest deep-water raft, more than twenty yards away. Eli sat up and slid forward to the edge of his chair. Don’t do it, son, you’ll never make it.

But kids have more balls than brains, so the boy pushes off and starts flailing about like a wobbly windmill. He covered about half the distance to the raft before his strength gave out and his body transitioned from horizontal to vertical. That’s always the first sign. Kicking and splashing as hard as he could and barely keeping his head above water, Eli saw panic creep into his young eyes.

So, why not immediately jump in and rescue the child? Well, believe it or not, people had yelled at Eli in the past because they were embarrassed that they needed saving. What are you doing? I’m fine. How could you be so stupid?

Now sinking faster than the Titanic, the young man definitely needed assistance, so Eli blew a long blast on his whistle to let the other guards know a rescue was in progress. Taking off his sunglasses and white cotton jacket, Eli jumped into the water, not letting his head go under, so he could keep the victim in sight. Closing the gap in a matter of seconds, he grabbed the boy just as the youngster slipped below the surface. Totally exhausted, the victim put up no struggle. Many times in an effort to keep from drowning, swimmers will do anything to keep sucking in air—including kick, bite, scratch, or climb on top of his rescuers head.

Eli put the boy in a cross-chest carry and towed him back to the one and three-meter diving platform, where another guard helped lift the lad out of the water. The young man had stopped breathing, so Eli reached into his mouth, pulled out his tongue, and started CPR. After each breath, Eli turned to watch his chest rise and fall to make sure enough air was reaching the lungs. After a few seconds, the boy coughed, spit up some water and started to breathe. Eli made him lie there for a few minutes because training had taught him it’s easy to go into shock after a near drowning. When his pulse, color, and breathing returned to normal, he helped the boy sit up.

Eli smiled. “Welcome back.”

“My baby, my baby,” cried the boy’s mother, running along the wooden walkway that led to the diving platform and main guard stand; pushing her way through the crowd. The woman knelt and wrapped her arms around a still dazed and confused son. She turned to Eli, tears flowing. “I’m so sorry. I only took my eyes off him for a second.”

Eli wished he had a dollar for every time a mother had said that to him. “It’s okay, lady. Your boy is going to be just fine.” It’s true. It takes, at least, four minutes without oxygen before brain damage occurs. “Just make sure he stays in shallow water where he can touch…and sign him up for swim lessons.”

“I will. Thank you so much.” She kissed Eli on the cheek, and then ushered her boy back to the beach, scolding the poor kid all the way.

The rescue concluded, the infamous, barely covered Judy, part of the crowd who had gathered to watch, pressed up against him. “Eli, you can give me mouth-to-mouth anytime”

Now, it’s a crime in most states—except maybe West Virginia—to get involved with a girl that young, even if she is willing, so he politely declined.

She pouted and drew a smiley face on his still wet, naked chest. “…and why is it you never ask me out?”

“Because, young lady you are off-limits, and your father, Policeman Sam, would beat me up, arrest me, and then beat me up some more.”

Judy shrugged her lovely shoulders. “It’s your loss.” Flipping her hair, she walked away like a Ford model on a runway—pure poetry. With a twinge of regret, he watched her go.

#

Let me introduce myself. I’m Eli Jones. Most folks around here already know me. Not that I’m famous, it’s just that, well, it’s a small town and I am the head lifeguard at Silver Lake Beach Club. Picture a bronzed god sitting high above the crowd, chiseled features in profile, the wind in his hair, sweeping the horizon for signs of danger, ready to spring into action at the slightest hint of trouble. Adoring females reclining at my feet, awaiting a kind word and ready to do anything for my attention.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit. Girls don’t worship me. And unless I concentrate on sticking it out, my chin has a tendency to disappear. It’s a family trait. But, I do have bedroom eyes, shoulder-length hair, and a dark tan from sitting in the sun seven days a week.

Silver Lake is a great place to work. There’s a wide sandy beach, a huge swimming area, two deep water rafts, a giant slide, paved basketball court, two ping pong tables, a classic jukebox, snack bar, paddleboats, terrific fishing, a swing set, and several wooden picnic tables scattered amongst an extensive grove of tall shade trees. It’s a private club, so you have to join to swim there. But the fee is so reasonable that practically every local family belongs. In the summertime, if you weren’t working on one of the nearby farms, then you were hanging around at Silver Lake.

I’ve been working here for the past three years earning money for college. You don’t make a lot of dough, but there are extra benefits—like being surrounded every day by beautiful women in a minimum of clothing.

Karen, one of the new lifeguards, is a perfect example. Standing five-foot-four, with green eyes and sandy brown hair, I first met her at the spring guard interviews. When I told her about the required swimming test, she said, “Do you have a swimsuit I could borrow…and someplace to change?”

I took her to the guard shack, and with a straight face, tossed her an extra guard uniform–a paper-thin, one-piece, red Speedo. “The job is yours…if you can fill out this form.”

Karen smiled and without hesitation replied, “No problem. Do you want to watch or wait outside and be surprised?”

I had found my summer romance. We’ve been dating ever since, including some steamy sessions at the local drive-in theater, where we have yet to see a movie all the way through.

Once a day, I lead Karen and the rest of the lifeguard team on a mile swim across the lake and back—capped off by a free dive to the deepest spot in the swimming area. My fellow guards complain about going down forty feet because Silver Lake is a natural spring-fed lake with continuously flowing cool water that gets even colder once you drop below the thermocline.

I insist on this training because once I had to rescue a guy from those murky depths, who stood six-foot-three and weighed nearly two-twenty. He had gone beyond the deep-water line, got a cramp, doubled up, and sank like a torpedoed battleship. Picture the struggle I had trying to bring that incredible hulk back to the surface, especially when I couldn’t push off the soft muddy bottom. I managed, but only because I kept in shape with our daily swims.

Normally I only picked lifeguards who were excellent swimmers to cover the large swimming area. But one season, I spotted this guy named Hal in nearby Dayton at Gold’s Gym bench-pressing more than 300 pounds and he looked so good I decided to hire him without a swim test. Well, Hal did look outstanding sitting on the guard stand but had so developed his chest and shoulder muscles, his bulging arms had not touched his tiny waist in ten years. As a result, the man couldn’t swim a lick. After I found out, I didn’t have the heart to fire him, so we only used Hal in shallow water where he could wade to make a rescue. You’d be amazed at how many females tried to drown that year in less than five feet of water.

My stomach grumbled reminding me it was lunchtime. I grabbed Karen and we headed to the snack bar where I ordered my usual hamburger, fries and a Coke. Karen selected a cheese steak sandwich & an iced tea. Food in hand, we plopped down in the lifeguard break room and turned on the small TV. In living color, the channel two CBS noon news once again featured their daily coverage of the escalating war in Vietnam, up close and personal, with exploding napalm searing the earth, the rat-a-tat-tat of M-16s firing, helicopters wop-wop-whopping above and dead soldiers from both sides scattered around a rice paddy where they had fallen. Walter Cronkite reported the daily body count, followed by a close-up of LBJ, with his big nose and Texas drawl, justify the unpopular conflict by mumbling something about a domino theory, where if Vietnam fell; then in short order, the communists would take over America.

What a lot of crap, I thought. How could losing a civil war in Vietnam have anything to do with freedom in this country?

Ignoring the political propaganda, I turned to Karen, who sat munching away on my basket of ketchup-covered fries. “So…are you glad to be out of school for the summer?”

She said, “You bet. No studying, no exams, no term papers, just lots of sun, sex and suds.”

I grinned. “Must be why we get along so good.”

“Especially the sex part.” Karen patted me on the leg. “How about you? Do you miss school?”

“I love Ohio State. I can’t imagine any other time in my life when I will have this much fun.”

“What about taking exams?”

“No problem. I’m a good guesser and have perfected correctly answering true/false and multiple choice questions without studying. My life couldn’t be better.”

“Unless Uncle Sam decides to draft you.”

I winced. “Ouch, why did you bring that up?”

“Because you are ensconced in a ‘what me worry’ college cocoon—ignoring the world’s problems, as society crumbles all around you.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’ll bet you are real popular at parties.”

Karen continued to rave. “The innocence of the 50s is gone. We have rioting in our cities. Children go hungry. Factories pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. Young men are dying in Vietnam.”

“Hey, I’m aware. I even tried protesting once.”

“Really? What happened?”

“Fred, my sophomore college roommate used to complain about everything—from high tuition fees to not enough free campus parking spaces. We shared a cheap apartment just south of the university in a neighborhood that ranked a slight notch above an official Columbus slum—even rats refused to visit our place.

Anyway, a card-carrying communist came to OSU to talk about why the U.S. military advisors should get out of Vietnam, but the school decided it went against policy to let the guy speak. Not that big of a deal to me, but Fred went nuts. “We are being denied our constitutional right to assemble.” Fred then proceeded to organize a sit-in at the OSU administration building and invited me to go along. I only went because I had heard girls got aroused at protest rallies, and you stood a good chance of getting laid.”

Karen smiled. “Why am I not surprised at your motivation?”

“May I continue?”

“Sorry.”

“About thirty of us arrived late in the day and marched through the seven-foot-high, bronzed entry doors into Derby Hall. We ascended the marble stairs to the large waiting room just outside of the bursar’s office and sat down in a big circle in the middle of the room. The campus cops were pretty cool about it. They just stood there with their arms folded watching us—with a little curiosity—wondering what we intended to do. The other students and office staff mostly ignored us, going about their business as usual. At five o’clock, the student dean announced, “We are closing. So if you want to leave, do it now.” It sounded good to me, so I got up to go.

But the suggestion did not appeal to Fred. He had everyone link arms and start chanting, “Hell no, we won’t go,” over and over again. The dean shrugged and left. But our merry band of the protesters kept chanting and swaying back and forth anyway. I hesitated, not sure what to do, and ended up getting locked in with the others.

So, there we were, no food, no lights, staring at each other in silence because thank God the chanting had stopped. Fred stood up, illuminated by his BIC lighter, and announced. “Thank you for your solidarity. We have scored a major victory here tonight, confirming the right of any individual to speak his piece, regardless of point of view. And since they have locked the bathrooms, we have an opportunity to hold the nation’s very first college campus shit-in.”

“That’s gross,” said Karen.

“I know. So after being trapped for fifteen long hours with several apprentice hippies and a smelly carpet, the campus police arrived, marched us back outside, and my protest experiment came to an end. I heard Fred ended up transferring to Berkley, and got arrested trying to blow up an Army recruiting station.”

Karen smiled. “You shouldn’t be discouraged after one bad experience. I’ll bet if enough students kept complaining about Vietnam, the Johnson administration would have to listen.”

“I don’t know…maybe. I sure as hell don’t want to go to Vietnam. Can you see me as a trained killer?”

Karen laughed. “No, I can’t.”

“Well, thanks to you, I plan to spend the rest of the day worrying about society’s ills and getting my ass shot off.”

“I’ll bet I can make you forget your troubles for a while.” Karen leaned over and planted a serious lip lock on me while her tongue checked out where my tonsils used to be. Finally coming up for air, she asked, “See you later tonight…about eleven o’clock?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” I thought about what Karen had said. True, the world wasn’t perfect, but I had money in my pocket, a beautiful girlfriend, and the sun was shining. What could go wrong?

*  *  *

https://www.amazon.com/Drafted-Richard-Jones-ebook/dp/B01M2BDY7F

 

 

New Year’s Eve 2015

baby03It’s hard to believe that we are are already 15 years into the 21st century. Where are the flying cars? And I’m not talking about drunk drivers on New Year’s Eve launching off bridges.flying car

Where is the utopian lifestyle of the Eloi (minus the Morlocks)? MorlocksWhy aren’t we vacationing on Mars this coming summer with the kids (I mean if Matt Damon can do it, why not the rest of us)?

martian_0 I realize most science fiction placed these changes as far in the future as 2525 (except for Kubrick who only stretched to 2001), but that is only 510 years away. Shouldn’t we be further along? What happened to our Star Wars future? No, wait…there’s the dark side, evil empire and Darth Vader…never mind. How about Tomorrowland? (Although even George Clooney couldn’t save that one). Star Wars cinematographer dies at 99

Instead, we seem to be trudging along with the same script of our father’s father’s father…War, hunger, poverty, disease, prejudice, crime, homelessness, political bickering, and so forth. The only difference is we do it faster today and it costs more.1951-xmas-ignorance-want

As 2015 comes slowly to a close, and we look forward (I think) to a new year and making personal resolutions that we won’t keep…lose weight, join a gym, read more books, not mention any members of the Kardashian family for six months…let’s try to put in a few for our fellow man (or woman), like the golden rule. For all of 2016, I will do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Or as Yoda would put it, “Unto others do I will as myself.”

I’m not a big fan of organized religion (look what that has done for us so far), but I am a huge supporter of a reasonable moral code. Most of us know how to tell right from wrong, so let’s all make an effort to put more checks in the “Right (Correct)” column  this next year and have a little better understanding about the other fellow’s situation. It’s individuals that make change, not organizations or governments. Circle-Of-People-Holding-Hands-Around-A-World-Flag-Globe

Now, let’s join hands in a really big circle and sing Kumbaya (no, seriously, take my hand and start singing!)

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Richard Allan Jones is the author of the comic adventure, “Drafted” and the upcoming political thriller, “Identity Check.”

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