Saturday, January 5, 2013
It's a saint Looie, bud
"Another day," I said throwing my cap across the room. It was a large one, that room. Across one wooden panelled wall we had boards straddling concrete blocks. The bottom shelves harbored books but those waist high held our pride and joy. A stereo hi-fi with two inches of LP albums suspended above the turntable on the spindle. Our collection of platters was huge with pop music and jazz. The music played from the moment we arrived at the apartment until bedtime arrived in a drunken haze. "Yeah. The school just brought in the next batch of WC students. Got some doozies this time." Ed was an instructor at the Weapons Controller School on this Air Base in the Florida panhandle. Sun and surf awaited the off duty personell every day. His days usually lasted eight hours like any other job. Mine, as a graduate of those classes, was with an elite squadron and lasted as long as my mission. Each day I would check the mission schedule on the board as I walked to the community room and coffee. My name was usually beside one of them. "Hey, Croucher. See you got an early one." It was one of my fellow officers apprising me of my time behind the scope. "Yeah. Makes for a good day when they are early." He nodded while offering the coffee just made. "Where's your cup?" "On my peg. Thanks," I said as he poured some into my brown stained cup. "After it's over I'll be heading to the O club. I didn't see your name up so wanna join me for lunch." "I would but I hear the beach calling me. After I finish this I'm heading out. Maybe tomorrow." He raised his cup then drank it down. "Lucky stiff. Meetin' somebody?" The sand was always crowded with beach bunnies looking to hook up with an officer from the base. There was never a dearth of tanned bodies stuffed into tiny bikinis. It was always a pleasure to soak those lovelies into these peepers on sunny days. I especially loved the white bikinis which enhanced those trim tanned bodies. But I digress. "You could skip the O club and meet me out there. Your mission should be over by 10," said my fellow ogler. "Naah. Not today. Gotta pick up some stuff." It was my day to get groceries which was hardly a reason not to head for the sand. But we were low on Bud and that was more necessary. My mission was scheduled for eight so I wandered into the dark room and selected my scope. It was on the third the dais. Unaccustomed to the dark I tripped but caught myself. "Hey everyone! It's Clumsy Carp! How you doin' Croucher. You really gotta get used to walking in the dark." It was one of the captains enjoying his moment over a looey. "Yessir, Captain. I'll have to work on that." "I have you scheduled for a two on one tomorrow. You might need to brush up on your tactics. It's going to be graded." "Two on one? Are you sure, sir? I could use more practice with one on one I think." "Nonsense. You've shown marked improvement. I want to see how your quick wit handles the extra challenge." "Yes sir," I said thinking he was daft because I was nowhere near ready for that. I knew now I'd be up all night. Not only would I have to study but I'd need to lubricate my nerves with that Bud. I sat down and placed the earphones on. There was chatter on the line and I broke in to check with my pilot. The number one job in the Air Force is the pilot and his mission. The number two position? We were told it was the Weapons Controller. That was me, a new trainee, sitting in front of a round screen with a sweep of light making its way around the circle. Once every thirty seconds or so it completed its travel leaving behind blips of light which was evidence of a plane in the area my scope covered. "Stand by," came the command. "Your pilot is late... again." "Roger that. How's my voice?" "Coming in five by." "Roger." "OK. Your air jockey is climbing into his plane now." "Understood." After a few minutes my pilot checked in. "Read you five by five. Contact me when you reach angels five." I sat drumming my fingers against the desk as I waited. Ten minutes passed. Outside I could hear the roar of an engine passing over the building diminish as he climbed to altitude. "Angels five," came the scratchy voice. "Coming in three by. Switching to channel four." "Roger that. On four." "Coming in five square. Turn to a heading of ninety-eight and climb to angels seven. Bogey approaching angels five from two seven oh." "Looking." "Ten miles at two five oh." "No joy." "Eight miles. Two four oh." "I have joy. In pursuit." I guided him toward his target. "Locked. And away." "It's a hit. Return to base." "That's a roger." "Good hunting." I turned him over to ground control and lifted my earphones. Dropping them in front of the scope I left the dais. But not without tripping once more. "Clumsy Carp," I heard behind me. A chuckle followed. "OK you guys. I'm off. See you tomorrow." "Hey, Croucher, we need a fourth over here." "You know I don't play cards guys. If I did you'd regret it." "Tomorrow, buddy. I hear you got a two on one." "Yeah, not looking forward to that." "You'll do fine." "Uh huh," I mumbled heading out the door. The blue sky greeted me with warmth and the kiss of the sun. My MG was sitting where I left it. I took down the top which was a chore with that old machine but I didn't want to miss a chance to ride with the wind rushing through my brown locks. I stored the top in the trunk and jumped in. It cranked and I roared off. The beach sounded good, especially on a beautiful day like this one. Then, again, they were all beautiful days in this paradise. What a lucky duck to be assigned here right out of OTC. I couldn't have gotten a better assignment. I changed my mind about the beach and got out my list as I parked in front of the BX. "Good morning, Major," I said saluting the gold clover in passing. A lazy return fell from his cap as he mosied on by. It was a less strict protocol here than OTC in San Antonio for which I was glad. The BX was crowded as I walked in and grabbed a cart. I folded my cap into my belt and wheeled the cart to the beer section. I piled four cases into the cart. On the way to checkout I grabbed a few bags of chips. The girl smiled as I loaded the Budweiser onto the conveyer belt. "Party tonight?" she asked. "If you want it to be." I smiled and she grinned back. "Maybe another time?" "Always antoher time, honey." I paid and used the cart to take the beer to the car. I stacked the cases into the seat. I headed toward the apartment and away from the base and the beach. My spot was open below the apartment which was on the second floor. Picking up two cases I ran up the stairs then back down to grab the other two. With chips piled atop the beer I ran up the stairs a second time. I removed the cans from the cases and stacked them in the fridge behind the cold ones. When I finished I grabbed the church key and popped one of the cold ones open. "Care for one?" I asked my roomate. "Yeah, pop one for me. Gotta finish this wall." "Here, stack this one," I said tossing him my empty. I reached in for my second. He took the can and added glue to the bottom. The wall on the right as we entered the apartment was "wallpapered" with Budweiser cans. We'd started making this wall about three days before. It stood a quarter of the way to the ceiling. We were proud of our sculpture. "Most of them are St Looie Bud, too." My room mate was a connoiseur of Bud. His palette could distinguish one from another. There were four cities that had plants to produce this beer. He could tell which city produced the one we sipped from cans. His decision was that St Louis Bud was the primo brew. He always checked the can before buying to insure he had the best. I had forgotten to check that day. "You bought an inferior beer here, buddy. It is not St Looie." He had opened the fridge and inspected one of the warm cans. I checked the can in my hand. Since it was cold he had purchased it the day before and sure enough it was a St Looie. "Scheiss! I forgot to look. Your Bud taste buds are too refined for me. I hope one day to be just as discriminating but for now I will down one of these inferior beers and you can add this to the wall," I said tossing the empty his way. And so went the night until the wall of cans reached the ceiling. Well, actually it didn't reach the ceiling because the floor was uneven and the cans became top heavy leaning until they crashed onto the dining table. It was midnight when this happened and it brought a knocking on the door. "(hic) Yesth," I said swinging the door open. There were two fuzzy people standing before me. "Are you guys alright? Were heard a crash." "UH huh. Would you ladies care to enter our abode?" I stammered out. "No thanks, Rick. I was just worried someone was hurt. Maybe another day when you are sober." I squinted in her direction. "Mary? Is that you? Do you have a twin sister?" I was pawing the air in front of me. "Uh, no. I think you might have had a little too much to drink." "Never hap'n cap'n." "Well, I think so since I'm the only person standing here and you see two of me." "All the more beauty to behold, my dear," I said it with a flourish bending at the waist and promptly falling half out the door. She helped me up. "You should really go to bed, Rick." "Lead the way, my lovely lady." "I don't think so. Not tonight. Ed help him to his room." Ed was bent double laughing. Seeing his room mate on the floor half in and half out the door was entertainment for him. "And miss out on this?" "Don't you guys have to be at work in the morning?" "Yeah, we'll make it. Not to worry." He grabbed me and pushed me toward my room. "Go to bed, Croucher." With that I stumbled into my room listening to our neighbor telling Ed to turn the music down or off. Seems she and her roomies couldn't get to sleep either. Something about the vibrations in the wall from the hi-fi. I chuckled as I fell into the bed and into a near coma.