SCARWAF
by Jim Foreman


CHAPTER FIVE


      
I had decided that since I was in the Army, I would give it my best shot. I was in for fifteen months and might as well make the best of it. I set out to be sharper than any of the officers and the sergeants, which wasn't all that difficult in most cases. Most of them were south Chicago hoodlums who tried to carry on their slovenly ways in the service. Most of them lived in only slightly better conditions than Obert.
       I kept my area in the barracks spotless, all my clothes neat and properly arranged. I shined my shoes to a mirror finish and ironed creases in all my uniforms. I was the first one in formation every morning, placing myself at the front and took the lead on everything we did. I did what I was told to the best of my ability and never complained. It wasn't long before I began to notice that the sergeants gave the worst jobs to others and usually sent me off on the easiest ones. I also endured a considerable amount of criticism from the other men, mostly because I was making them look bad.
       We were frantically trying to get ready for the usual Saturday morning inspection when Obert walked into the barracks after his stay in the hospital. He flopped down on his bunk, looked around and said, "I'll get you fuckers for what you did to me. You tried to kill me. The doctors said that I nearly died from shock."
       "Geez Filpot, we didn't mean to do you any harm, just trying to clean you up a bit," said Billy Bob.
       "Bullshit," said Obert. "Foreman was probably behind the whole thing. He has always thought that he was a lot better'n me. I ought to beat hell out of him right here and now."
       "Actually, Foreman is probably the best friend that you have around here," said Red. "While you were in the hospital, he kept your area neat and clean so it would pass inspection and keep you out of trouble. Fact is, you'd better get your ass off that bunk and tighten it up because the old man will be through here in a few minutes for inspection."
       During the time that Obert was in the hospital, recovering from the effects of the forced bath, the 1903rd had received large numbers of men from draft centers all over the nation. We also received several brand new Butter-Bar, Second Lieutenants, fresh from ROTC programs at various colleges. Although one would think that, having been in the ROTC, they would have received some basic military training. The sad truth was that few of them knew much more about the military than did the draftees. Our particular 90 day wonder was Lt. High, who matched his name by being almost seven feet tall. With each step of his stork-like legs, he could cover a full four feet of ground.
       Lt. High came to us from the North Dakota State Teacher's Normal at Fargo where he was attending college on a basketball scholarship, hoping he would be picked up by one of the pro teams when he graduated. His alternate aim was to become a high school basketball coach. About all that is necessary to become a high school coach is to be smart enough to know the game and dumb enough to think that what you're doing matters. I really doubt that either of these two aspirations would ever come to pass because he ranked about even with Obert in the intelligence department.
       Since Lt. High had spent most of his college time on the basketball court, about all that he had learned about things military while in the ROTC, was how to march. With his long legs, covering ground was as natural to him as breathing. We would have to gallop along at a fast trot just to keep up with him as he led us off into the Ozark hills on his famous ten mile marches. His ideas of how to build physical fitness went back to those of his coaches; drive a person into the ground and then push him some more.

       Lt. High tried to make up for his lack of knowledge and ability by going overboard on military discipline. He required everyone who was talking to him to stand at attention and demanded a salute each time that he met anyone of lower rank. While he was simply an ROTC 90 day wonder, he had turned into a Regular Army asshole once he got on active duty.
       One day, while we were gasping for breath after returning from one of Lt. High's little exercises in exhaustion, Red Ryder spoke up, "I'd like to bust that long-legged SOB right in the nose."
       "Fat chance," said Billy Bob. "First off, you can't reach high enough to hit that tall bastard in the nose and second, he'd take your head off if you tried."
       "I'll bet fifty bucks that I poke him in the nose one of these days," replied Red. "Not only will I bust his honker, but I'll lay another fifty that he won't do anything about it when I do."
       "I got a twenty dollar bill to put on that first bet," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "He'll go through you like grease through a goose, but it will be worth twenty just to see him get hit."
       "Put me down for ten," added Lester, "But how are we going to know that you really hit him and got away with it?"
       "I'll pick the time and place, and there won't be any question as to what happened. All of you will be there when I paste him." Red had his hundred dollars covered within a matter of minutes.
       A few days later, we were huddled around Lt. High while he was giving a demonstration of some sort. Suddenly, Red Ryder let out a yell, leaped as high as he could and belted the Lieutenant square on the nose. Blood spurted from the Lieutenant's nose as he staggered back in surprise. The Lieutenant shook his head to clear the cobwebs, doubled up his fists and drew back to let Ryder have it. Red cried out, "Jeez, Lieutenant, I'm sorry. You see, I'm goosy as hell and can't help swinging when someone grabs me in the ass."
       "Well, the next time that you feel a goose coming on, stay the hell away from me," said Lt. High as he wiped his bloody nose.
       "Damn, I love to bug officers," said Red Ryder that night in the barracks, as he collected his bets.

       "Ten Hut!" shouted Sergeant Schultz as he stepped aside to allow Captain Sanders to enter and begin his inspection. Following in his footsteps like baby ducks were Lt. High and Sergeant Santino. Billy Bob stood at rigid attention as Captain Sanders checked his clothing hanging in the locker behind his bunk, then he flipped a quarter onto the blanket to test it. The quarter bounced twice. Billy Bob stood a full head taller than the Captain who had to tilt his head back to check the length of his hair.
       "Haircut OK, Brass OK, Uniform clean and pressed," said the Captain as he worked his way downward toward Billy Bob's feet. "Belt buckle shined, pants creased," and then he saw the green cowboy boots. "A week of KP will teach you to wear the proper boots for inspection."
       "But Captain, these are the only boots that I have to wear," said Billy Bob. "I wear size 14AAA and the supply sergeant can't seem to get any to fit me."
       Captain Sanders stared at the boots for a second and asked, "I've always wondered why cowboys wore boots with such pointed toes."
       "That's so we can kill roaches in corners," said Billy Bob.
       "Sure would hate to get kicked in the ass by one of them," said the Captain as he turned to Sergeant Santino. "Forget what I said about putting him on KP, but tell Sergeant Kowalski to get on the horn and find this man some boots."
       As the inspecting party worked its way from man to man down the other side of the barracks, I happen to look down at Red's dress shoes which were placed under the edge of his bunk. I noticed something which appeared to be a pair of pink panties stuck in the top of one of them. I nudged Red and pointed to them. Red quickly bent down and snatched up the panties. Red had a thing going with the cute little PX clerk named Susan, and I had heard him sneak her into the barracks last night after lights out when he thought everyone was asleep. Evidently she had been unable to find her panties when she left.
       Red looked around for some place to hide the panties and finding none which he could reach without moving from his spot, stuck his thumb into the elastic band around the top, stretched it out and shot them atop the heating duct which ran the length of the barracks.
       As the Captain was inspecting our side of the barracks, Lt. High occupied himself by running his hand along the top of the heating duct, searching for dust. Naturally, he found the panties which he held up and demanded, "Where did these come from?"
       "Probably been up there ever since the WAACS were here in 1945," answered Red.
       Lt. High looked at the offending panties for a few seconds, shrugged his shoulders and stuffed them into his pocket.
       When the Captain reached Obert, he took one look at the wrinkled and sagging blanket and said, "Laying on bunk after it was made. Put this man on KP for a week. Besides, a few days scrubbing pots and pans might sweat some of that blubber off him."
       "You can't make me take no bath 'cause the doctor said I didn't have to," said Obert.
       "And for back talk, there will be a week of guard duty after the KP," added the Captain.
       As the inspecting party was leaving the barracks, Schultz turned and said, "Ve iss behind on training, so youse vill report to the classroom after inspection and I vill giff a lesson on zee rocket launcher."
       "Damn," said Red. "I have a date to take Susan to a movie in Waynesville this afternoon. Now I'll have to break it and listen to that dumb kraut talk about bazookas."
       "You're damn lucky that the Lieutenant didn't sniff the crotch of those panties or he would never have bought that bullshit about them being up there since 1945," said Billy Bob.
        As the inspecting party made their way to the next barracks, Schultz went to the armory where he drew a bazooka, complete with a couple rounds of live ammunition to use in the demonstration.

       We gathered in the classroom where Schultz was standing at the front, trying to read the manual. "Youse takes this thing called the Pro-Ject-Tile and youse sticks it in the back end of this thing called the tube. Then youse takes these wires which are hanging out and youse winds them around these two little knobs. Youse do that to keep the Pro-Ject-Tile from falling out if youse has to tilt it up to shoot a tank off a hill." He demonstrated by attaching the wires to the terminals.
       "Or if you want to shoot a turkey out of a tree," whispered Lester, which produced a considerable amount of snickering.
       "At Ease!" Schultz ordered. "This class isn't funny and youse guys better pay attention."
       We supposed that the rocket in the launcher was like Schultz; a dummy for demonstration purposes only and of no particular danger to anyone. Even so, the whole thing was getting to be a bit ridiculous as it was obvious that the fat Sergeant knew nothing about the subject that he was trying to teach.
       Schultz continued, "Now, once that youse has the wires all tied up, youse put it on your shoulder like this. Inside this here handle, there is a thing called a magneedle which is hooked to this here trigger. When you pull the trigger, the magneedle flies out of the handle and goes around to the back end of the tube where it hits the Pro-Ject-Tile, which causes a spark that sets off the powder and the projectile shoots out and blows up a tank." At this point, everyone with any sort of mechanical ability or knowledge of firearms was rolling on the floor in laughter.
       Luckily, Schultz had the thing pointed toward a window when he pulled the trigger. A blast of flames shot from the back end of the tube when the thing fired, knocking down the podium and setting his instruction book on fire. The rocket crashed through the glass of the classroom window, roared across the street and through the window of the supply room, where it exploded with a deafening bang and a cloud of smoke as it demolished a file cabinet. Sergeant Kowalski emerged from a cloud of flames, ashes and smoke, screaming that Schultz was trying to kill him because he was Polish. Schultz was immediately restricted from teaching anything about firearms.
      "You know," said Billy Bob, that night in the barracks, "If we are going to learn anything which might keep us alive in combat, we'd better start teaching ourselves. This bunch of National Guard eight-balls don't know Shit from Shinola. They couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel."


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