This is a long story about a long story. Many years ago I was advised to call it a Novel
Illegally Sane 10
It was time for another pitcher. When Gene dropped it off he told Cody, “You’re the last guys here, I’m going to close at 11.” It was getting close to so Cody smiled, “Hey, if you want close now, you can Gene. I’ll lock up when we leave.” “Do I get paid up to 11?” “Yeah, I’ll call it your tip.” “Thanks Cody.” I smiled at Cody, “You must be a heck of good customer.” “I’m the post commander, John.”
Gene hung the closed sign on the door, dimmed the front lights and starting totaling out. Then Reed asked, “So what happened after your little blow out with Bowen?”
Well when I got back to the platoon I went to work for Sergeant Mitchell. Mitch was the kind of guy you had to learn to like and I liked him. He had a M10 flame thrower filler truck. Aside from flame throwers it could also be used to fill up and charge CS dispersers. Pat asked, “What’s a CS disperser?” “It’s actually just a flame thrower filled with tear gas, Pat.” Anyway, one night we got a mission to go down town and support the 508th. They were assigned to take a couple more blocks of rebel turf to widen the corridor. So we just set up in the middle of the street and started servicing dispersers.
We wore our masks and gloves during the mission and it was hot that night. With a mask on, it was really hot. When we finished the mission, Mitch told me to take the lead ¾ ton truck back. I drove a mile or two down the corridor with Richardson sitting next to me when he suddenly decided to take his mask off. Naturally the air was clean and sweet at first. After 20 seconds, Richardson smiled, “Hey Moran, take you’re mask off, it’s clear, man.” It was about and we were tired and really beat. Beat enough to forget one very important minor factor; there was still some CS on our clothes. The first breath of air was beautiful and fresh as the wind cooled my sweaty face. Suddenly a speck of CS hit my eye and set fire to it. Then I did the really dumb thing; I rubbed my eyes with my hands. At the same time Richardson’s nose started running and he was rubbing his eyes with both hands. I slowed down to a dead stop. I was blind and so was Richardson. I was blind okay, but I could still hear and the first thing I heard was the crack of bullet whiz past my head. Then I heard another one hit the fender. This was a problem okay, we couldn’t even return fire. It was one of most helpless feelings I ever had. Then a sweet familiar voice rang out, “Get this f…g truck moving, Moran.” It was Sergeant Mitchell standing on my running board. Then another shot hit the door by foot.Mitch yelled back to Haas; who was standing in the ring mount of the M10.”Will you do something about that f….g sniper Haas?” “Already got him, sarg.” Then he cut loose with two bursts from the Ma Deuce on the ring mount. After the bursts, the shooting stopped, Mitch yelled at me, now get this thing moving, Moran.” “I can’t drive sarg, I’m blind; I got CS in my eyes.” “Can you drive Richardson?” “I can’t see either sarg.” He quickly yanked to door opened and shoved me into Richardson and took the wheel. All he said on the way back was, “You f…g idiots…You f…g idiots. He was right, so we just kept our head hung low didn’t even think about responding.
After the mission there wasn’t much going on with the M10, so they assigned me to a Decon unit with Torres. The truck was designed to wash off fall out, chemicals or biological agents from the troops and their equipment should the need arise. Some genius also figured out that if you filled the truck with just plain old water, it could be used to give the troops hot showers too. So me and Torres would go out each morning and set up a shower point for one of the line units. In the afternoon we'd link up with Rivera and Vargas under the DuarteBridge and filled up the trucks for the next day. Then we'd hang out there until 5 and head back to San Isidro for chow.
During our ghost time under the bridge we came across this old woman who would do laundry, PDS. Pat asked, “PDS?” “Pay Day Stakes, that means when I get paid, you get paid.”
She was a nice old sort and always had a smile for us. Finally one day the CO told me and a couple of guys. “Pack up, you’re rotating back home Friday.” That sounded really good to me, but first I’d have to go downtown to see the old lady.
I told her through Vargas, that I was going home. I owed her 4 bucks and that was a lot of money to her, so I told her if she gave me her address I’d mail it to her. She was skeptical and upset; she had already been stiffed by a lot of GIs. “”Can’t you borrow the money from your friends and pay me?” I told her,”Mam, pay day is a week off and the whole 82nd couldn't put four bucks together.” Reluctantly she wrote down her name and address, but her final words were, “You no send me the money.”
When I got back to Bragg, three months had past since the night we took off. A large part of the division was still in The DOMREP, so as soon as I could I popped a week's leave and went home. Two things were different now, I was 18 and believe it or not, a combat veteran.
As you guys know, there is no feeling like home, even if it’s in the morning when you get there. Just walking through the neighborhood at night was a pleasure that was sorely missed.
I didn’t wear my uniform at home anymore. I had been in long enough for the novelty to wear off. Besides anyone who didn't know what I was doing these days could just look at my crew cut for the story.
I hit a couple of the old bars and looked up some old friends. Shockingly, all of my old friends now had shoulder length hair and wore sunglasses day and night. My buddy Richey was now in Korea. He got orders the day I departed for the DOMREP. So I wasn’t sharing leave with him this time around. We wrote, but we weren't going to be seeing each other for at least another 15 months. I looked up his family of course and gave them my respects.
His kid sister Mary had filled out and was starting to look pretty good to me. She had just turned 16, but remember; I was only 17 a couple of months earlier. She filled me in on the Beatles, the Stones, bell bottoms and the whole happening that was breaking out back then. The bad news was; Bob had lost his job at the movie theater.
It started with a good job prospect at Grumman. He had three interviews with a V.P. and two different top executives. They loved him and the job involved Russian translation and $30,000 a year. That was big money than. They were just waiting on a security clearance to come in. He felt whatever the problem was; the passage of two years would have cured it by now. He still felt he was being watched, but he thought that was a good thing, because he wasn’t doing anything. Then the hammer came down when he got a call from the V.P. “I am sorry Bob, but we selected a more qualified candidate for the job. But we’ll keep your resume on file and call you if anything else comes up."
That was the straw that broke his back and put him over the edge. Now everywhere he looked there were CIA, FBI and Army Intelligence agents in every shadowed. There were no restrictions, even dogs and cats might be wired.
It didn’t take very long for it to filter into his job at the movie theater. It seemed there was a priest who was a regular patron and Bob had noticed him on many occasions. One night Bob approached him as he was watching the movie. “I can’t believe how low you people can sink.” The priest was stunned, “Excuse me?” “You know what I mean, disguising yourself as a priest. Do you really think you are fooling anyone?” The priest was dumbfounded and replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying?” “You’re an FBI agent; you don’t think I’ve seen you watching me?” Bob’s voice was loud enough to start drawing shushes from the audience. “I want you to leave here and leave me alone.” “Can’t I just watch the end of the picture first?” Then the manager appeared on the scene. “What’s the problem here Bob?” “This man is not a priest, he’s an FBI agent.” The manager’s eyes crossed and he smiled, “Okay, Bob, why don’t we take this up in my office.” The priest started to rise and the manager put his hand on his shoulder and smiled, “Enjoy the picture Father.” Bob explained himself in the manger’s office as the manager just sat there with his mouth wide open. When Bob was finished, the manager stood up and said, “Bob, you’re fired and get yourself some help.”
Bob told me about the incident over the kitchen table at two in the morning. I had just come home from an evening of cocktails and I totally lost my cool. “Enough Bob, you’ve got to get off your ass and get yourself a real job. There ain’t nobody following you.” “That’s what you think, John.” “Bob, clear your damn head, man. Why would the FBI have 24 hour surveillance on a movie theater usher?” “You think I’m crazy, don’t you, John?” “To be honest, Bob, that thought has been entering my head a lot lately.” “How about if I prove it to you.” “And how the hell are you going that?” “I’m going to take a walk over to Sammy’s newsstand at the junction. Wait two minutes and the follow me, then we’ll see whose nuts.”
Two minutes later I walked out the back door. It was a foggy night and the street lights where glowing in the mist. I walked up the block to the corner and made a left turn and proceeded on Ave I. The avenue was lined with trees and there wasn’t another soul in sight. I could see Bob about a block and half a head of me and started to follow him. I got about twenty five feet, when I saw a guy learning on a parked car looking towards my brother. He turned to me as I approached with a startled look on his face. He seemed to be about 30 and was wearing jeans with a BrooklynCollege team jacket. He had short preppy hair and a half day’s stumble on his chin. He quickly popped off the car and asked me for a light. I said, “Yeah, sure, and flipped my Zippo and looked into his eyes. I couldn't help but notice that he was holding a full book of matches in wind cupped his hands. He just said thanks and calmly walked away in the opposite direction.
I started walking again, with my sights trained on Bob. Sure enough, he was being followed okay. I could tell because the idiot following him kept ducking behind the trees. Then I stepped out into Ave I and saw a slow moving gray car that keep hitting its breaks every ten seconds. It was too sloppy for the FBI, so I figured may be it was the local cops. Puzzling as it was, it was too comical to worry about.
However, my street smarts also told me something else. The guy whose cigarette I lit wasn’t FBI either, but he was someone okay. I looked back and watched him as he vanished in the distance. Yeah, he was someone okay.
I had seen enough so I just turned around and went home. Ten minutes later, Bob popped by in and smiled, “Well?” All I could say was, “What the hell are you up to man?”