Saturday, November 09, 2013

Overheard in a Bar

It was the sound of a Zippo being struck, then a sharp inhale ending in "pupf!" of two lips separating.

"Well, that's one I've needed for a while." said a woman.

"Oh yeah, you quit for a while?" asked a man.

I could've turned around to look, but why?  Something told me I didn't need to see their faces.  It was like they were both speaking into my ear.  They were young, out for a drink on a Friday night.  What did I need to see?  I could smell the smoke from her Camel. They were right behind me as I sat at one corner of the rectangular bar.  The place was beginning to jump, but they came through loud and clear even over Harry James on the juke box.

"Yes, right after Tim was killed I kinda gave up everything.  Eating, drinking.  Smoking.  I even told Sam to beat it."


"Didn't I tell you about him?  You sure?   Mmm- (puff) he was my supervisor on the line up in Richmond.  Movie star handsome!  Kind of looked like that guy who played the French doctor?  He had a limp but all the girls thought he was faking it so he could stay stateside and not get shipped overseas.  They all still wanted to get with him.  He must of known someone at Kaiser 'cause he got away with murder."

"Really.  Whaddya mean?  What'd he do?"

"Late everyday.  Use to chase after a couple of the Negro girls.  Use to goose Miranda Crosetti but no one did a damned thing about it.  She'd tell the division chief about it, who did it, you know?"


"So nothing!  He just told her to take one for the war effort.  Small price to pay for building Liberty ships to take our brave boys overseas to beat the Japs, and on and on.  Geez."

"Now, Miranda's the one with the nice-"

"Yeah, yeah yeah.  You men're ALL the same.  You ever think about anything else?

"Well, not since you and I-"

Laughter then a gentle slap.

"Keep your hands to yourself Buster Brown!"  She clearly said it with a smile.

"So he used to goose Miranda?  What stopped him?"

"She fired a rivetgun at his, you know, his-"

"Oh!  Oh no!  Oh, that musta hurt!  I almost feel sorry for him."

"Yeah, he spent a few days off after that.  We all cheered, even the division chief laughed at him."

"That's what I call taking one for the boys overseas."

Laughter.  Even I laughed.  Sam sounded like a real shitheel who deserved a rivetgun in his courting tackle.  Miranda sounded like a tough one.  I might like her.  Silence ensued, as I guessed they sipped their drinks.  I could imagine one looking at the other with a question in the eyes.

"Sam ask you out after that?"

"Yeah.  He called me a couple days after I got the news about Tim.  I feel a little sorry for him now.  How could he know?  Still, I told him to forget it."

"You tell him why?"

"No.  I couldn't speak much at all, nevermind actually talk about Tim.  Oh Fred, we shoulda got married before he shipped out."  Silence again.  I could feel the agony behind me, and I wanted to turn around but I didn't.  What could I tell her she hadn't already heard a hundred times from well-meaning busybodies?  She pulled herself together, though.  She was strong.

"I used to look at Daddy's atlas every time I went over for dinner.  Used to trace my finger from San Francisco out to Samoa, then out to Guadalcanal, then Cape Gloucester.  Daddy used to tell me stories about his voyages out there before the war, and how pretty the South seas are.  (puff!) I don't care if I never hear or see those names again."  Her voice shook as she said those last few words.   

More sniffling.  This was hard to hear.  Somehow, it was even harder to hear than the sound of Japanese bullets slamming into my squad mates at Alligator Creek.  This gal's anguish might be forever, whereas those poor kids were well away in a world without pain. 

"I'm so sorry-!  I just ca-, c-can't keep it in..." She gulped once then really let loose.  I could hear her muffled gasping and sobbing.  Poor kid.  I felt sick. 

"It's OK, Jenny.  Just let it go.  I'm here."  She was with the right guy.  He didn't say another word.  Somehow, as young as he was he knew he couldn't say a thing that would make it easier.   

Silence again, but tension too.  She'd stopped crying, but they hadn't moved.  I felt myself tense on my barstool, my hand wrapped tightly around my whisky glass.  I lit a Lucky Strike with a shaky hand.  That hand never shook when I held my '03 up to my cheek to draw a bead.  It was steady enough to shave the eyebrow off a fly at 500 yards with all hell breaking loose around me.  Now I couldn't hold it still to light my smoke.  I'd told myself I would quit when I got Stateside, but now I needed it.  Badly.  Something was coming. 


Blogger Don said...

Oh, that's good. Keep going.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

. . . ?

5:39 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Yes, Roy? It's nothing more than a scene that pooped into my brain one night recently. Thinking about Veteran's Day, and veterans of my parents generation. I felt like writing, but not about myself for once.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Very engaging. You should take it and see where it goes!

2:18 PM  

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