Drafted (2016)-Chapter Four

Drafted (2016)-Chapter Four

I had lost my appetite. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like someone had shoved my hand into a wall socket while I stood knee deep in water. My mind raced in a thousand directions. What happened to my student deferment? How far is Canada? Had I just soiled my underwear? I wiped the gravy off my notice and stuck it in my pocket.

“Well, this is wrong,” my father said, “You have a student deferment. Tomorrow I want you to march right down to that draft board and straighten them out.”

“I’ll try,” I said. “But what happens if they won’t listen?” Nobody had an answer. Getting up from the table, I began pacing back and forth. Why me?

I decided to drive over to John Winston, my best buddy, and fellow lifeguard to commiserate my situation. When I got there, John, who is about my height with sandy hair and brown eyes, was sitting on his front porch drinking a beer. I plopped down in an adjacent chair.

Noting my frown, he asked, “What’s up?”

“I just got my draft notice.”

“You’re kidding. I thought you had a student deferment?”

“I did. The draft board says my school certification didn’t arrive in time.”

“Oh man, that happened to Dave Harrington, and he got sent straight to ‘Nam.”

I hesitated to ask. “Did he make it?”

“Nah, he got wasted by the Viet Cong somewhere near Da Nang. You wanna beer?”

We sat there drinking for a few minutes without speaking.

Finally, John suggested, “Some guys are going to Canada.”

“I don’t know, man.”

John said, “You don’t believe in this war, do you?”

“No…but isn’t it our duty as citizens to serve?”

“Hey, I think a person would have to be crazy to put himself in harm’s way just because LBJ wants to improve the economy.”

“Yeah, it’s not that I’m afraid to go…I just don’t understand why we are over there.”

John smiled. “So screw the government and take up hockey in Canada.”

“I can’t see abandoning America. What are my other options?”

“You got any physical defects?”

“I’m blind as a bat without my contacts.”

“Nope, that doesn’t count. Uncle Sam wants you up close and personal, so you won’t miss the little devils when you shoot them. You like girls, right?”

I puffed out my chest. “Damn straight.”

“Are you sure? Because they kick you out if you’re queer.”

“Check with Karen, if you don’t believe me.”

“Okay, how about you knock up your girlfriend and marry her.”

I shook my head. “…and ruin both our lives? No, thanks.”

John thought for a moment. “Can you say it’s against your beliefs to kill another human being?”

“That idea has possibilities. Maybe my minister would write me a letter.”

“Forget about it.” John laughed. “Pastor Tom hates you. Remember when he threw you out of the church, because you questioned him, in front of the entire congregation, about having to be Christian in order to be truly happy.”

“I just observed there are millions of Buddhists and Muslims in the world, and that some of them had to be happy–then he turned purple, started sputtering and calling me the anti-Christ.”

John chuckled. “Yeah, I thought he was going to have a heart attack.”

“Maybe I’m worrying for nothing and this is all a mistake.”

John said, “Local Draft Board 13? I don’t think so.”

We were getting nowhere fast and I had to get to work, so I finished my second beer in the car, threw the empty in the boot, and put the pedal to the metal. But even the joy of flying in my Corvette through the night on a winding, country road couldn’t help me get my mind off that draft notice.

Normally working at WBLY-FM, a middle-of-the-road radio station based in Springfield, gave me a chance to relax after a hectic day at the beach. All the other employees go home at five p.m., so I have the place to myself. All I have to do is intro the records, rip and read the news from the Associated Press teleprinter on the half-hour, and write down the transmitter readings in the daily log. But tonight, I just couldn’t concentrate. Maybe they sent the notice to the wrong Eli Jones. It’s a common name.

At 10:00 p.m. on the dot, Karen walked through the back door, wearing flops, tan shorts, and a thin white top with no bra.

“Are you happy to see me or just cold?” I joked, after observing her headlights on high beam.

“Happy to see you, of course, darling.” She sat down on my lap and her eyes got real big. “It feels like you were expecting me as well.”

Oh yeah, I couldn’t have been readier. My life was in the toilet, but Karen still could make me horny. I shook my head…and tried to temporarily ignore the hot woman sitting so close and smelling so delicious.  “Karen, I’ve got some bad news…”

“Don’t tell me…you’re pregnant.”

“I got my draft notice today.”

She pulled back. “What?”

“Something got screwed up with my student deferment.”

“You can’t go.”

“What choice do I have? I don’t want people thinking I’m a coward.”

“One out of every 13 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam comes home in a bag. Do you want to die for some unknown political agenda?”

“I’m 19. Death is not in my immediate plans.”

She kissed me on the forehead. “Then you have to do whatever’s necessary to stay alive.”

I slipped on a Dave Brubeck album, tried to put Vietnam out of my head, and instead focus on Karen. We only paused making out long enough for me to flip the L.P. on the turntable and then continued to fiddle about until my shift ended at midnight. I shut down the equipment, turned off the lights, and locked the door behind us.

Karen loves to dance, so we jumped into my car, and headed to a club we liked in Huber Heights.

“Can I help with your stick shift?” Karen offered on the way.

“No thanks,” I shook my head. “The little general is still recovering from our session in the studio.”

I flipped on the radio and we sang along to My Baby Does the Hanky Panky.

We arrived at the Diamond Club around one in the morning. The place was packed because the beer is cheap, they have a great house band and no cover charge. We showed our IDs, and since I’m 19, the guy at the door marked my hand with a red symbol. Karen, who had just turned twenty-one, got a blue stamp.

We found a table, sat down, and started reviewing my options. To her credit, Karen didn’t run out of the room when I suggested marriage. We also discussed me claiming to be a homosexual.

Karen pondered. “Hmmm…that could work…if I dress you in the right clothes.”

“Are you kidding?” I shouted over the band, “Nobody’s going to believe I’m gay.” Of course, the band stopped playing right before the “I’m gay” part. Upon hearing my loud confession, everyone stopped and stared in my direction. One guy even gave me a thumbs up.

We continued discussing my options, dancing, and drinking until closing. I took Karen home, thanked her for her help, and after a proper goodnight kiss, headed for Silver Lake. If it got real late, I’d often crash at the beach, allowing me a few extra minutes sleep in the morning. Tonight was one of those nights. I finally drifted off sometime after three a.m., overcome with swirling images of Karen running naked through the jungle while bombs fell from the sky.

#

The next day I went to see my physician, Doc Brown, the first person on my list. After a quick stop to give the lab a blood sample, I proceeded to the examination room, which still held a lingering hint of his Old Spice aftershave. I undressed and put on the blue cloth dressing gown with the big slit down the back, which provided both natural air conditioning, and an occasional peek-a-boo view of my naked posterior.

After a few minutes wait, Dr. Brown entered and checked me over from head to foot. Exam concluded, he said, “We’ll have to wait for the blood tests to be sure, but I’d say you have nothing to be concerned about.”

“You must have missed something Doc because I haven’t felt well for the last couple of days. I’ve had violent stomach cramps, boils under my arms, and dark patches all over my body.”

“Oh?” He appeared surprised. “I don’t see anything now.”

“Well, it comes and goes. Do you recognize the symptoms?”

“It sounds like Black Death.”

“Oh no,” I put my hand over my mouth and start to weep. “Looks like I only have a few weeks to live. You have to tell my draft board I can’t go.”

“Now I understand the sudden need for a physical. You don’t have the plague. It died out in the 12th century. Do you take me for a fool?”

“I’ll take you dancing if you’ll write an excuse to my draft board.” Before he could reply, I walked over to the skeleton hanging in the corner, “You know, Doc, you’re not looking too healthy yourself. Have you lost weight?”

The real Dr. Brown stood with his arms crossed, looking not the least bit amused. “Oh, I believe you’re crazy, but I won’t write any letter…you…you, draft dodger. I can’t stand any man who won’t proudly serve his country. Now get the hell out of my office!”

While Dr. Brown searched for something heavy to throw, I ran toward the exit. “Remember they can draft doctors up to the age of 50!” I escaped to the safety of the waiting room, just before hearing a loud crash against the other side of the door.

#

After waiting nearly an hour, the receptionist gave me the high sign to enter Rabbi Cohen’s chamber. He invited me to sit down. “I understand you are a conscientious objector. Is that correct?”

“Yes, your worship.” I intoned. “I can’t bring myself to shoot our poor helpless Viet Cong brothers, who never did me any harm.”

“Are you a member of our synagogue?”

“No, your holiness, but I have a lot of Jewish friends.”

He looked somewhat surprised. “You’re not Jewish?”

“No, but I could get circumcised if it would help–what do you call it–a bisque? Oh, and I could start wearing one of those funny round hats.”

“That won’t be necessary, Eli.” The Rabbi chuckled. “And by the way, ritual circumcision is called Bris Milah. What religion are you, assuming you do attend somewhere?”

“I’m Methodist by nature.”

“So why doesn’t your minister write the letter?”

“Pastor Tom and I have different religious philosophies. He’s asked me not to set foot on church grounds again, or he’ll have me shot. Obviously, he’s not a conscientious objector.”

“Well Eli, you’re not Jewish. I don’t know you from a cake of soap and have no clue if you are against violence. Why should I write you a letter?”

“Can you do it on faith? Please, I’ll look terrible in green.”

“Sorry, I think not.” He started to leave but turned back. “Just out of curiosity, how many others have you asked?”

“Besides you?” I counted in my head, “Five–three ministers and two priests.”

The rabbi smiled. “Besides, even if they accept you as a conscientious objector, you can still be drafted. Think about it. You’re on the front lines and bullets are flying all around, do you want to be carrying a medic’s bag or a rifle?”

I sighed. “You’re right,” and started to leave. “But, I’m not giving up yet.”

“Good for you, Eli, and best of luck.”

“Thanks for the advice. Say, do you know where I could find a Buddhist monk?”

#

The day arrived for me to review my case with the draft board. I picked out my best suit and tie, practiced my arguments, and then headed toward Springfield and my moment of truth. A clerk told me to wait on a long wooden bench in the hallway, so I took a seat next to several other draftees. I figured the kid with the dark glasses and white cane had a valid case, and it appeared promising for the guy with a wife and two kids, even if they were a rent-a-family. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

A clerk called out my name and held the door open for me to go inside. I swallowed hard, stood up, and entered the dark, foreboding chamber. I could barely make out the five guys sitting behind a table on the far side of the room. It reminded me of a TV show where the testifying mob witness is shrouded in shadows and his voice disguised, so he can’t be identified and later whacked.

A deep, gravelly voice rang out, “Eli J. Jones?”

“Yes, sir?”

He instructed me to stand behind a yellow line painted on the floor about 12 feet away from the board. “What additional testimony or evidence do you wish to present concerning your 1A status…you whiner.”

I could swear this guy called me a whiner, but I cleared my throat and began. “Well sir, I’ve been a full-time student at Ohio State for the past two years with a “B” average. My tuition’s paid for this fall, and I have a letter from OSU verifying my attendance.” I handed a copy to an outstretched hand. “I’m entitled to an exemption.”

“What is your major?” A friendlier voice asked.

“I’m studying radio and television production. One of my summer jobs is right here in Springfield at WBLY-FM.”

“Pussy station and pussy major,” the gravelly voice muttered again.

“Excuse me, is that a question?”

“…And you’re deaf as well.”

No one spoke for a moment, and then all at once, the five shapes started shuffling papers and muttering. There appeared to be a serious disagreement among the board members. The gravelly voice leader whispered loudly to the other members, “Our quota has been raised again. We can’t let any of this cannon fodder get away.”

“But, Willie, he has a valid educational deferment.” I heard a loud slap and watched the last speaker, along with his chair, fall over backward. The man moaned and started to sit up, but his head hit the floor with a thud when struck a second blow.

His attacker, the gravelly-voiced one they had just called Willie, addressed me, his voice dripping with venom. “Tough luck, Nancy boy, your 1A status stays. Report to the Springfield Induction Center at nine in the morning on September 25th, you’re going to be a soldier. NEXT!”

I ignored the yellow line, rushed the table and grabbed him by the throat. “You can’t draft me…you old fart.”

Willie screamed, “Get this crazy son-of-a-bitch off me!”

Two burly guards grabbed my arms and started dragging me out of the room backward while I continued to rave. “You cheated me, you bastard, and I won’t let you get away with it!”

Willie blew me a raspberry and gave me the finger. The board member next to him put his hands over his ears; another covered his eyes; the third put his hand to his mouth.

Back in the hallway, after being tossed from the chambers, I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together. The waiting draftees stared at me, and I could see the hope quickly fade from their eyes (except for the blind guy). But, I resolved not to panic. Somehow, I would fight this injustice.

2nd-edition-2016

DRAFTED (2016) – Chapter Three

DRAFTED (2016) – Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Hi, Eli here. After finishing my shift at Silver Lake, I changed into street clothes and hopped into my ‘61 candy-apple red Corvette convertible—the one with the white scoops on the side that all my friends covet. Gunning the 315 horsepower fuel-injected engine a few times, I peeled out, spewing gravel everywhere, the back end fishtailing twice before the Michelin tires grabbed hold. With the radio blasting Paperback Writer, I headed home to grab some supper before going to my second summer job at radio station WBLY-FM.

My parent’s house is located on SR571, a mile past New Carlisle’s westernmost welcome/come again sign. My hometown, a typical Ohio village, features a city manager, two gas stations, four churches, and a few locally-owned stores, like Strome’s barbershop. On the state map, it barely earns a small dot with an official population figure of less than 5,000. Most of the dads who live here drive to nearby Dayton or Springfield for work while the moms stay home to keep house and raise the kids. We only have one elementary school, junior high, and senior high in town, and yet the school board still has to bus students in from ten miles away in every direction to fill up the classrooms.

There aren’t a lot of things in the summertime for a young man to do in New Carlisle, besides Silver Lake. Although we do have the Frostop, a local drive-in restaurant serving the best foot-long hot dogs in a four-county area, especially when smothered with mustard, relish, and onions, and accompanied by a foam-topped root beer in a frosty mug. Guys like to hang out there to watch the female carhops, in their short red skirts, roller-skating back and forth to the rock and roll beat of top 40 radio station WING blasting from the large Frostop mounted speakers.

There are no nightclubs in New Carlisle because the town is “dry.” The closest drinking establishment, the “Boom-Boom Room,” is located in the Midway Bowling Lanes, about five miles south of town. This tiny watering hole became famous in November of 1965, when a local high school English teacher, Miss French, became very intoxicated one evening, and then atop one of the lounge tables proceeded to do a provocative striptease to the loud applause of the Thursday night men’s league.

Nothing in a small town remains a secret long, so when the students found out about Miss French’s impromptu performance, they nicknamed her Boom-Boom. Needless to say, once the teasing starts, kids never let up, so Miss French left town soon after the incident and moved to Las Vegas. (We found out later she kept Boom-Boom as her professional name and had a very successful career there).

Every fall New Carlisle has a big affair called the “Potato Festival” to celebrate the town’s largest local crop. There’s a parade lead by the high school band, a few small floats pulled by tractors, and the Shriners march in funny hats. The town also elects a queen and her court, although I’m not sure if being voted “Miss Spud” is an honor or not.

They close down three blocks of Main Street for the festival so vendors can erect their canvas and wood-framed booths to sell curly, deep-fried potatoes, or amazing kitchen tools that slice and dice, or offer games of chance to win a whistle, yo-yo, or stuffed animal. Personally, I like the Jaycees’ dunk booth best. There’s no prize, but if you hit the big red bullseye with one of the three-for-a-dollar softballs, then your favorite cheerleader, teacher or coach gets dropped into a big tub of cold water.

Main Street, by the way, is also State Route 69. The Ohio Highway Department doesn’t realize the significant secondary market value of the large signs they place every two to three miles along this famous road. After a little midnight requisition with a flashlight and a pair of pliers, I can sell these signs at $25 each to my fellow OSU students for their dorm and fraternity walls. And the best thing about this moneymaking endeavor is…no matter how many signs I acquire, the state keeps replacing them. Technically, this could be considered stealing, but I try not to dwell on it.

I stay at home in the summer because of the free room, board, and laundry service, plus it’s close to my job at Silver Lake. The downside is sharing a bedroom with my pesky kid brother, and trying to sleep without air conditioning, because Ohio can get really hot and humid, especially in August.

Pulling into the driveway, I grab the mail and leap up the steps to our white, one-story ranch house that sits on a big corner lot just down the highway from Charlie’s Carryout. Our door is never locked because there’s no real crime in New Carlisle—just the occasional youth mischief, as Policeman Sam likes to call it.

“I’m home.” I hollered to no one in particular and tossed the mail on the kitchen table. Mom appeared in the hallway arch. “You’re just in time for supper. I made your favorite—homemade chicken and noodles.”

I sat down, and like magic, my brother and sister appeared, drawn no doubt by the good kitchen smells. In unison, they say, “Let’s eat.” Mother replied, “Not until your father gets home.” We didn’t have long to wait before dad pulled into the driveway at exactly 5:30 p.m.—the same time he got home from work every day. He was so consistent; you could set your watch by his arrival time.

My mother is five-foot-one with dark hair, a round face, and a constant smile. You can tell from her profile that she enjoys her own cooking. My father, on the other hand, is just the opposite, skinny and well over six-feet tall. Mother says he looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, but I can’t see it.

My brother and sister are younger than me. We were born exactly seven years apart, so we often teased mother about having the seven-year itch—you know, like the movie with Marilyn Monroe? She always gets embarrassed and then scurries into the kitchen to bake some cookies.

Sitting down around our large old-fashioned wooden kitchen table (it could seat twelve guests at Thanksgiving), we started stuffing our faces with thick slabs of noodles, in heavy brown gravy, overflowing with big chunks of white chicken. Mom made all of the noodles by hand, usually, the day before, rolling out the dough and cutting it into twelve-inch long, quarter-inch wide strips that she hung on a rack to dry until ready to cook.

Deep into our second helping, dad picked up the mail I had brought in earlier and started sorting through it. “Bill, bill, advertisement, bill…wait, Eli, there’s something here for you.” He paused, and then handed me the letter, “It’s from the U.S. Selective Service.”

“Probably just a confirmation of my student status for fall…I hope.” My voice cracked and I let slip a nervous laugh. Palms sweaty, I fumbled with the envelope, finally giving up neatness and ripping off the end. I pulled out the letter and read, “Greetings from Uncle Sam.” My heart stopped. Never very good at poker, mom saw my concern and asked. “What is it?”

Dropping the letter into my plate of homemade chicken and noodles, I announced, “I’ve been drafted.”

2nd-edition-2016

Drafted by Rich Allan 2nd Edition 2016

Drafted by Rich Allan 2nd Edition 2016

Releasing my book a chapter at a time on my blog…here’s chapter two:

Chapter Two

Draft board number thirteen consisted of five World War I veterans, each man sixty-five years of age or older. They sat on folding metal chairs around a large rectangular table staring at the task in front of them; to review a large stack of blue folders containing the particulars on every 18-to-35-year-old male registered in their assigned geographic area who had not yet been drafted or volunteered. The board members, dressed alike in baggy blue slacks, mothball-smelling cardigans, and dusty brown shoes each resembling a slightly different version of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, scowled as they prepared to pour over the information and determine each potential draftee’s fate.

Willie, chairman of the board, whose crusty face, sunken eyes, and bald pate resembled a skull on a pirate’s flag, called the weekly meeting to order. “I’ve got another memo from Washington. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara needs more soldiers in Vietnam and our quota has doubled. As you go through your reviews today, make sure we don’t miss anybody. I have also passed out the new policy on marriage—it is no longer an exemption unless there is a child. For my money, it doesn’t count if the woman is only pregnant.”

One concerned draft board member spoke up. “But Willie, we can’t do more than we already have—everybody around here hates us.”

“Humbug,” said Willie. “It’s our job to provide the manpower for this war.”

Another member passed around the latest issue of Life magazine. “Look at this article. It says Local Draft Board Thirteen, in Springfield, Ohio, is the most feared and unreasonable draft board in the country. One picture shows a tearful young woman having her husband ripped from her grasp and shoved on an Army bus. Another photo shows a group of mothers picketing in front of the courthouse. One of the women is holding a sign that reads Draft the Draft Board.”

Willie sneered. “Shut up and quit whining. If these boys would volunteer like we did in WWII, this country wouldn’t need a draft.”

“But, it’s not the same, Willie. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor and had to defend our freedom. I don’t know why we are in Vietnam or what we are fighting for—even the South Vietnamese don’t want us there.”

“If you keep bitching, we won’t get anything done. Now get to work.”

The minor revolution squelched, Willie turned back to the task at hand. Flipping through the next folder in his stack, he began mumbling to himself. What a slacker. Just because daddy paid for his college education, he thinks he can avoid dying for his country. We’ll see about that. A large inkpad and three stamps sat in front of Willie: 1A, eligible for the draft; 3A, College Deferment; and 4F, not eligible, usually for a medical exception.

The small, dimly-lit room remained quiet most of the time, as the board members performed their reviews. The silence would be interrupted from time to time, whenever a member would slam down his stamp after he finished a case, causing an odd, rhythmic thumping noise, like a factory assembly line stamping out sheet metal parts for a new car. But if all five happened to slam down their stamps at the same time, it caused a minor boom, and the whole table would shake.

Willie, when he wasn’t hacking from thirty years of smoking, liked to read the name of the soon-to-be draftee out loud, right before he slammed down his 1A stamp. Then, if he got five 1As in a row, he would leap to his feet, do an enthusiastic victory dance, and cackle like a crazed chicken. Working on the next series of five draftees, he read, Barry James, 1A (slam); Sam Johnson, 1A (slam); Eli Jones, 1…Willie stopped in mid-slam. He raised the paper a little closer so he could read the fine print—Completed two years at Ohio State University, B average, registered full-time—status: educational deferment.

Willie’s lower lip protruded in a pout. He refused to let anyone slip through his fingers. Willie verified the quarterly school enrollment notification had arrived on time, but he knew how to fix that, as he had so many times in the past. Furtively glancing around, he pulled a black pen out of his briefcase, and carefully filled in the three, until to the untrained eye it looked exactly like an eight.

The other draft board members stared in his direction when Willie jumped up and shouted out with even more satisfaction than usual. “Eureka—I’ve got him! This letter arrived five days late.” He punctuated his announcement by spitting a wad of phlegm onto the cement floor that he had coughed up in his excitement.

Willie’s hand trembled at the realization of the power he held over these young lives. Grasping his favorite stamp, with his yellow-stained fingers, he smeared on a little extra ink and raised the large wooden weapon a tad higher than usual. With his hand tightly wrapped around the handle, he hesitated at the top of the arc, relishing this moment of triumph and then with all his strength plunged it downward, picking up speed, as the stamp, dripping red, raced toward the paper with a purpose. With a mighty slam, the raised rubber symbol hit its mark and Willie noted with some pride that he had shaken the table solo, as he announced, “Eli J. Jones, 1A!”

 

drafted_cover-4
https://www.amazon.com/Drafted-Richard-Jones-ebook/dp/B01M2BDY7F/ref=tmm_kin_title_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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

 

 

7 Wonders of the Ancient World (and other really old stuff)

7 Wonders of the Ancient World (and other really old stuff)

No, I wasn’t talking about myself, I was thinking about our journey to Egypt back in 1984. As 2016 comes to a close and I approach the “mature” age of 70, it seems like a long time on this earth (although somebody said 70 is the new 50….but if that were true 20-year-olds would not have been born yet).

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But the pyramids are over 5000 years old, built before the birth of Christ, before the dark ages or age of enlightenment, before pop tarts were invented. I’m talking really old!

Still one of my favorite trips, in one day I visited a Jewish temple founded by Abraham on the spot where Moses stood; a church where Mary hid with the baby Jesus to escape the Romans; and the Muslim great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque History came alive!

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We were lucky enough to not only see the great pyramid of Giza, but also Karnak, Valley of the Kings, and formidable Abu Simbel (Ramses II), saved from the Aswan Dam when they blocked the Nile river.

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As we all look forward to the promise of a new year, it’s good to reflect on how far we have come (including that awful sophomore photo in your high school annual).

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Richard Allan Jones is a Musician, Actor, and Author of the comic adventure, “Drafted,” the second edition just released on Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Drafted-Richard-Jones-ebook/dp/B01M2BDY7F.

 

Wildlife

I love photographing animals. They almost always take a good picture, unlike a few humans I know…and they hardly ever sue you for an invasion of privacy. Anyway, since many of you enjoyed my blog & photos on Yellowstone, I thought I’d share some random favorites from over the years.

— Richard Allan Jones, traveler, actor, musician, & author of “Drafted” and “Identity Check.”

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#Wildfire

#Wildfire

They start small then grow and grow until thousand of acres are consumed, homes and businesses threatened or destroyed, animals displaced, ash and smoke drift for miles coating everything in sight. The names change, #sand fire, #sage fire, and the latest in southern California, #blue cut fire, but the results are all the same.

Five years of severe drought, tinder like underbrush lie in wait for that unwanted spark that start the cycle all over again. Dry lightning, car accident, campfire not properly extinguished, and sadly, even arsonist can be the cause that send weary firefighters back into action, planes and helicopters, flying continuous overhead dropping water and fire retardants, trying to keep the blaze from consuming forest, property and even lives.

To most of my readers, the fires in the west are a mere blip on their radar, as most of the country deals with other problems like record rainfall and flooding. But here, when three of these wildfires fires happen within a month and come that close, the threat becomes oh, so real.

Living in Los Angeles County for the last eight years, the smart thing to do would be to prepare for wildfires or earthquakes or mudslides or other natural disasters that happen much more often than we would like. But we, like others I suspect, rationalize that it could never happen to us, so we let it go.

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But this series of fires got my attention when I could see the flames in the hills behind our house, I could see the smoke so thick it turned day into night, and watch the ash from all those destroyed trees fall like dirty snowflakes on our roof. You keep the TV on 24 hours a day, watching the reports on how many more acres had burned, what percentage of the fire has been contained, what neighborhoods are being evacuated, how many MPH is the wind blowing and in what direction and wondering if the forecasted high temperature for the day will once again go over 100 degrees, making the forest even drier and conditions for the firefighters worse than Dante’s Inferno.

As the fire burns close by and the wind is blowing your direction, you suddenly realize that your family might be the next one requested to evacuate your home, having to abandon everything you can’t pack into your car (or two cars if you are lucky), with the very real possibility it might not be there when they let you come back. Prioritizing family and pets is easy, but 60 plus years of collecting things gets harder after that…what stuff can’t be replaced?

What about all those travel photos or shots of your mom and dad who are no longer around…paintings on the wall…important papers, like marriage license, birth certificate, adoption papers, passports….computers/phones…your favorite guitar…enough clothes & toiletries to last for 2, 3, 4, or 5 days…your DVD/Blu Ray collection…baby clothes you have saved…theater/movie programs…your original Star Wars collectibles…books…the list grows and you have already mentally filled both cars and three U-haul trucks.

Here’s the kicker, you may only get a few hours notice to gather all that stuff you want to try and save…likely even less if the flames leap the fire breaks. Some folks only had enough time to get out with family & pets and the clothes on their back.

Fortunately, the closest fire to us blew the other way. Others have not been so lucky. What’s the lesson? Keep a bag of clothes & small items packed & ready to go during fire season if you are in a frequent red zone area. Buy a fire proof safe for important papers. Watch the news for the next #fire…and pray for rain in southern California.

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Richard Allan Jones is an author, actor, musician living the dream in Los Angeles. His novels, Drafted and Identity Check, are available at amazon.com. His 60s classic rock band, Revolution Road.LA, and his acting career can be followed on Facebook.