Fair Winds (A Novel)

ISBN: 9781515168102

(2015) Amazon

Fair Winds

Eddie J. Girdner


Chapter One: Temporary Insainity

Chapter Two: The Redneck

Chapter Three: Brutality

Chapter Four: The Grinder

Chapter Five: Marching Party

Chapter Six: Father

Chapter Seven: Captain’s Mast

Chapter Eight: Sherry

Chapter Nine: Punjab

Chapter Ten: Simla

Chapter Eleven: Ringo Bar

Chapter Twelve: Naples

Chapter Thirteen: Underway

Chapter Fourteen: Reggio Calabria

Chapter Fifteen: Bicycle Man

Chapter Sixteen: Coming to America

Chapter Seventeen: Navy Cop

Chapter Eighteen: Virginia Beach

Chapter Nineteen: Mayport

Chapter Twenty: Oklahoma, OK

Chapter Twenty-One: Francis

Chapter Twenty-Two: Incompatible

Chapter Twenty-Three: Gitmo

Chapter Twenty-Four: Haiti

Chapter Twenty-Five: Chillicothe

Chapter Twenty-Six: Morning Glory

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Newport

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Key West

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Old Home Place

Chapter Thirty: Northwest Passage

Chapter Thirty-One: Purple Mountain Majesty

Chapter Thirty-Two: Good Samaritan

Chapter Thirty-Three: Fuck-Up Division

Chapter Thirty-Four: Istanbul

Chapter Thirty-Five: Freedom

Chapter One: Temporary Insanity

It was a warm spring day in April. The air was full of promise for new and challenging ventures. After three years spent in small Missouri towns, Earnest Seeker was ready to get out into the wider world once again. He finished his last classes at the high school. He said goodbye to the principal and the other teachers and thanked them for their friendship, help and support. Tomorrow he would be off for the big adventure.

He knew it was crazy in a way. Was he insane? Some people looked at him as if that was the case when he told them about his plans. He had been married less than two years. Now his wife was seven months pregnant. And he was embarking on a wild adventure to the other side of the country and maybe the world and would have to leave her behind. Feelings of doubt and guilt crept into his soul. He wondered if what he was doing was right. On the other hand, there was the feeling of hope, adventure and escape from the deadening boring life that he had begun to sink into. He would not succumb to the idiocy of rural life.

He and his young wife loaded the last of their possessions into his small car and headed for his parent’s house forty miles away. The days had become long, so there was still daylight after they arrived.

His elderly parents were also suspicious of his intentions.

He walked around the old home place, as if taking a last look. He would not be seeing it for a while. The damp spring air was comforting. The grass had grown up along with spring weeds. The aroma of spring blossoms filled the air. He loved the place after a fashion, but could not fathom staying there any length of time. He felt the urge to get out into the larger world.

He made love to his wife in the evening. It was not clear exactly what her thoughts were. It did not really matter. He knew that he had to do it anyway. His mind was made up. It was salve for his restless soul.

There was hardly any packing to do. He was to leave with just the clothes on his back, essentially. He would take only a tooth brush, a bar of soap, and a razor, some basic toilet items. He would be off in the afternoon. The Navy recruiter had arranged pick him up in the local town some twenty miles away and drive him to Kansas City where he would stay overnight. The next day he would sign away the next precious years of his young life.

The following morning, he walked in the pasture north of the house with his father. The cow his father had given him was about to have a calf. In the afternoon, she would lie down and die shortly after giving birth. Was it a bad omen?

At Trenton, he said goodbye to his parents and wife and joined the others in the car for the city. It was less than a three-hour ride. Uneventful. He had little to say to the two other guys and anyway they would rather smoke than talk, it seemed. There was not much to say anyway.

They were left off at a motel in the suburbs where they would be picked up the next morning for the trip to the Armed Forces Examining and Entering Station. Earnest Seeker was now alone. In a way, it was a relief. He had always felt alright being on his own. In a way, he was a natural born loner. He sometimes liked friends and would have to get used to being around a lot of men while in the new life he was about to enter in the United States Navy, but for now, it was comforting to just be on his own.

He watched a little TV but there was nothing he wanted to see. So he went down to the package store below and bought a six-pack of Coors beer. It was cool and light and would get him through the evening. He could drown his doubts and loneliness in the buzz of the alcohol. The promise of adventure outweighed his feelings if doubt. Existentially, he would take whatever came. He was on the roller coaster and his future was out of his hands. Or about to be, once he signed his name to that piece of paper that would commit him for six long years.

The next morning the Navy guys came right at eight o’clock. He was picked up in a small bus that had several other victims headed for the same venue. At AFEES, it was the same routine again. They were run through for the physical examination, which he had taken only a month or so before. A distasteful and crude exercise for Earnest. The last thing he wanted to do was to line up with a row of hairy nude guys, bend over, and pull his cheeks apart for a Navy doctor to look up his anus.

After a tasteless lunch, they were ushered into a room and given a lecture at the end of which they would be asked to sign the papers ushering them into the armed forces of the United States of America. They would no longer be the owners of their own lives. They would be owned by the Government. They would have to raise their right hands and be sworn in. They were warned that this was a serious juncture. Once they had signed and taken the oath, there was no turning back. They would be trapped. If they decided to back out after this point, the military would fight like a son-of-a-bitch to prevent them from leaving at any cost. They would then be owned, virtual slaves, to the most powerful country in the world.

It was at this point that he had his most serious doubts. Indeed, who could know what would be the result? It was the case that hundreds died every year as a result of taking this oath. Indeed, hundreds took their own life as a result of what had happened to them as members of the Armed Forces. It was truly an existential moment. To think too deeply about the repercussions would make one go mad. It was also a moment of temporary insanity, necessarily so, as there could be no serious consideration of such an act as rational. Rational, it was not.

On the other hand, it was like getting on a wild roller coaster. There would be ups and downs, wild rides and spills and no one could really know what it felt like unless they actually did it. What the hell?

Whatever was to happen, it would put an end of the dull life in rural Missouri that seemed to be the alternative. He resigned himself to the gallows, signed the papers and took the oath. It was finished. He was now a member of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Earnest, along with some twenty others heading to boot camp, were told to wait. Around five in the afternoon, Seeker was put in charge of three other recruits who would be travelling with him to the boot camp in San Diego. They were given their plane tickets and taken to the airport in a small bus.

It was a hopscotch trip across the country, switching planes in Denver, Las Vegas, Orange County and finally landing in San Diego. It was adventure, and to that extent he was enjoying it. After all, he loved to travel.

It was after ten in the evening when the plane landed in foggy San Diego. Earnest Seeker collected his three charges and headed out of the airport. They had no luggage to collect, just a small carry-on bag they had brought, according to instructions. The night was cool, damp, in the California pea soup. A little ways from the airport exit, there it was. Earnest spotted a rather broken down bus, like a school bus, except that it was painted Navy blue. It was just like the old school buses he had ridden when in High school. This was the vehicle that would take them to NTC, the Naval Training Center which was nearby.

Earnest politely asked the driver if it was the right bus. The driver was quite young, but fat and out of shape with a large girth. He was slouching lazily in the driver’s seat looking at the porno pictures in a Hustler magazine which he had stolen from a recruit earlier in the evening.

Not even taking his eyes off the nudes in the porno magazine, he growled at them in a hostile tone. “Get in, motherfuckers, and shut the fuck up. No talking. You’re in the military now.”

It wasn’t obvious, so why not ask? Why the growling? What a bore, Earnest thought. He needed to know if this was the right bus and how the hell could he know since he didn’t come here to catch it every day. It was depressing, but surely things would be looking up.

A few other recruits straggled in from evening planes that were landing. They got the same dressing down from the prick of a driver. He eyed them, watching to see if they had something that he could steal, such as another porno magazine.

Eventually, he started up the old crate and cruised around the exit road. It was a short trip around to the main gate of the Naval Training Base that was attached to a training center for the Marine Corps. Near the perimeter of a drill field he stopped in front of a two story barracks. There were already a crowd of recent recruits who had arrived in civilian clothes.

Get the fuck out, you swingin dicks,” the driver barked, trying to look authoritative. It struck Earnest as rather childish. His job obviously did not require a very high level of intelligence.

Move it, move your asses,” he barked. “You cocksuckers. Your gonna be fucked here tomorrow.”

Earnest and the other three recruits scampered off the bus and away from the demented fool who had pulled out his Hustler again. It was all a macho act. He probably has a shriveled dick, Earnest figured, and wishes he was one of the marines who was muscular and getting some pussy in their small town.

An enlisted petty officer met the new arrivals.

OK, cocksuckers, pussies, fall in behind.” It was Friday evening, so they would have to sit around until Monday when their processing for a training company would take place. Earnest thought he would kill time by reading the book which he had brought, The Godfather.

All fuck books, comics, reading materials, hand it over,” he growled. The red-neck petty officer took his only book, leaving him with nothing to read. They were shown the rack where they were to sleep on the upper floor.

After that, Earnest went down and out of the barracks. The others were wandering around. There was a sort of large lounge room, where some recruits were sitting around. A broken down TV set was running and some books about the Navy with pictures of Navy ships lay around. There was loud crude talk and some fights were going on. There was nowhere to escape. Looking around, he saw that half the chairs were broken.

It was soon time for lights out. Earnest slipped out of his clothes and turned into his rack. There were double decks and he had the lower one. Tired from the trip, he lay awake for some time, still feeling the motions of the planes he had been on. He would have to get used to flying again. It had been a while. He was in for it. There was no getting out and now he would take whatever came along. No choice. Nevertheless, he had enjoyed the flights. It was an adventure, although not all pleasant.

Morning came quickly. Four o’clock to be exact. The bare furnished and ugly barracks room was suddenly flooded with an intense bright light that pained even him at his relatively young age. Then he heard it, the most vulgar rant of gutter language he had ever heard from a human mouth.

You dick sucking motherfuckers. You pussies. You cunts. Drop your fucking cocks. Grab your socks. Out of them racks and on your feet. Move it, shitheads. You have two minutes to get your fucking asses out, motherfuckers. Hit the deck and fall in. You civie scum. I’ll ream you a new asshole if you are not down on the grinder in sixty seconds.”

Earnest was appalled at the incredible crudeness of the assault. What the fuck was that? What could be the purpose of it? An attempt at terrorizing the fresh young recruits with a blue streak of sewer vulgarity? It was so far over the top that he could not really take it seriously. Maybe it was beginning to appear that he was not really Navy material. It was too easy for him, somewhat older and having been to the university, to really take it seriously. It was not even a good comedy.

Nevertheless, he moved quickly. Getting his civilian clothes on while he got his eyes open in the early hour, he rushed down the ladder. On the edge of the grinder the straggly recruits were starting to form up in ranks, four deep. A petty officer was barking at them, calling them worms. They had not yet learned to stand stock still at attention, so this would be their designation for the next three weeks. The whole section of the Training Center was called “Worm Island.”

Once formed up, they were marched across the asphalt drill field, referred to as the grinder, to the mess hall. Even though it was early in the morning, Earnest was hungry, hungry as fuck.

They were ordered to halt behind ranks of other recruits in front of them. Even though there was no shortage of room, outside the mess hall, the petty officer kept harassing them continuously to move it up. “Move it up. Move it up in there, you pussies, you civie scum. Nut to butt. Nut to butt. Don’t bend over. I’ll ream you a new asshole, you pussies.”

Seeker began to wonder what the fuck he had gotten himself into. Something as simple as going to eat breakfast was being made into an excuse to terrorize them. What was the purpose of such crude brutality? In fact, the real terrorization and dehumanization would not begin for another two days. But the petty officers enjoyed playing with the fresh young recruits, since they were the lowest caste with no rank at all. They were the only souls lower on the totem pole, the chain of command, than them. They were equivalent to outcasts in India, Earnest reflected.

Slowly but surely, the mass of civie bodies poured into the mess hall where they grabbed a tray and a plastic fork. As they moved along the line, the mess hall items were thrust at them in a crude fashion by the cooks behind the counter. Most of them were black women. A paper plate with a pile of scrambled eggs, actually egg powder, some strips of fatty bacon, a couple of pieces of buttered toast and a small packet of milk.

They were given five minutes to gulp the food down and ordered back in the ranks to wait for the order to march. Then they were marched back to the barracks across the asphalt grinder in the cold air. Half way there, they were ordered to halt. The petty officer ordered them to show him what they had in their pockets. If anything came out that he particularly liked, he would order them to turn it over to him. The only thing he was not taking was their money. They were still in civilian clothes, after all.

Back at the barracks, Earnest tried to entertain himself in the large room with the dirty broken down chairs. He had no desire to carry on a conversation with the others, being older than them. There was nothing interesting they could discuss, anyway. He would have to wait it out and see what would come when the real shit started to hit the fan on Monday morning.

Chapter Two: The Redneck

There were two days to kill. Earnest’s book that he had brought to read had been stolen by the petty officer the first night. He could not even use his mind to the extent of reading a novel.

It happened the next day, Saturday, shortly after lunch. He was killing time with some of the other recruits in the sunshine in front of the barracks. Suddenly, a gray Navy van appeared and stopped near where they were standing. A small built petty officer jumped out and started to assert himself by harassing the recruits. He reminded Earnest of those small animals that puff themselves up to look larger and fearsome to an enemy. He was wearing Navy dungarees, the work uniform, and there were two stripes on his sleeve. His face was rough and withered from over-smoking with a crooked mouth. He pulled out a pack of Camels and lit a cigarette. He was a second class boatswains mate, an E-5 enlisted man.

Taylor looked around apparently for an opportunity to harass someone just for the hell of it. Having suffered in life, he enjoyed making others suffer. It gave him a false feeling of efficacy. Earnest was minding his own business, trying to blend into the woodwork and not be noticed. But it was not to be. His attempt was futile. When one is an ignorant redneck the fact shows up clearly on one’s face. It is a clear mark of class. Surveying the recruits, Taylor saw that there was something that did not set right. Something was out of place in the picture that met his eyes. The scene did not seem normal for him. Somehow, Earnest stood out in spite of himself. The exercise for the next eight weeks would be one of breaking down the egos of the recruits. For those with no university education, which was practically one-hundred percent, it was a relatively easy task. They had never had to think. Earnest, on the other hand, had a radically different bearing, no matter how much he tried to hide it. The mark of intelligence on his face came across as a real threat to the cocky little petty officer from the South. It was the part of the country, after all, that hated educated persons the most. It was as if he could read Earnest’s mind and see that Seeker saw right through his phony strutting around. Earnest seemed to even be enjoying it. It was that educated look that he sometimes saw on the face of officers. It suddenly turned Taylor red with hatred.

Taylor momentarily seemed to not know what to do. He had come here to harass some dumb shits from a small town somewhere in the sticks. He took a step toward Earnest threateningly. Earnest looked at him in a relaxed manner as if he had met the ignorant son of a bitch in a bar and was ready to treat him to a beer.

Then he suddenly realized the nature of the situation. The little guy was there to see what he was made out of. If it was anything other than stupidity and ignorance, then Earnest would be in a world of shit. The other problem was that Seeker, at twenty-eight years old, was a good seven or eight years older than most recruits. Earnest realized that he would have to act out a lie that he was stupid, even more stupid than the redneck standing in front of him. It was something completely new that had never happened to him before. How could he instantaneously erase five years of university education?

You, what ah you doin heya? What’s ya nayum? Why dja join the Navy, recroot?” the petty officer asked in a deep southern accent. What could Earnest say? What did he have to say to save his ass from this stupid redneck Taylor? He would be expected to say a certain thing, that is, tell a lie, even though the redneck would know it was a lie. It would get him by, if it was the right lie. After all, a redneck’s life was based on lies that he at least partially believed in.

Earnest realized that he had to act stupid to save his ass from this little asshole. Fleeting ideas floated through Seeker’s head. The real reasons for joining would make absolutely no sense to this little dick head. He could not say that he was sick of high school teaching and that it was a way to get out and see some of the world. What would such an idea mean to a southern redneck?

Earnest suddenly realized that he had to call the dick head “sir.” Sir, that’s all. Just sir. It went totally against his nature. He saw Taylor’s fists curling up at his sides and a twisted look of hatred on his face. Would the son of a bitch be so foolish as to actually hit him? Probably, Earnest figured. Violence was a way of life in his part of the country and sometimes in the Navy. He didn’t want to take the chance.

I wanted to do something for my country,” Earnest squeaked, lamely, sounding like an idiot and feeling like an absolute fool. Taylor knew that Earnest was full of shit. But wasn’t everybody? He enjoyed humiliating him. But he wasn’t fooling Earnest who saw through the charade.

What avya been doin? Ya too ole to be a recroot.”

Earnest was really up shit creek now. What could he say? The truth might clearly get him killed.

I was in the university, Sir,” Seeker came clean.

He saw a sneer spread across Taylor’s weathered face.

A colluj bowa,” he mocked. “Mothahfuck, I could see it on ya shit eatin face, ya goddamm fuckin pinko fagut. Ya look like a mothahfuckin cock-suckin offsah.” Earnest was afraid Taylor was going to hit him now for sure now.

Ann whadja do aftah that, coluj bowa?” the dick head spit out.

The Peace Corps, Sir,” Earnest squeaked.

What ina fuck izat?” came from the little tight screwed up face.

I went to India, Sir,” Earnest moaned, now with an audible tremble in his voice.

Hearing the name of a foreign country was like waving a red flag at a bull. Taylor’s face was red now, but he was over his head. He seemed to realize that harassing Earnest was not as much fun as he had anticipated.

Ya a fuckin commanist from a comanist countrah and now ya wanna jine my Navy, mothahfucker? Ah otta ream you a new asshole, you fuckin traitaah. Geta fuck off my quartah deck, ya pinko fagut.”

There was no way that Earnest could tell Taylor that India was not a communist country. What the hell? But Taylor had had enough. His stupid little act had fallen through. He was getting out of his element.

Ah otta write cha up and getcha sen ta the brig,” Taylor barked. But now he had accomplished his purpose. He had forced Earnest to quiver in front of him, not him, actually, but the brutal system of military barbarism, the perverted values that he represented. Never mind, that Seeker had just been putting on an act. It greased Taylor’s sorry ego.

Taylor looked around. The other recruits were quiet too. Would he now jump onto them?

Taylor seemed satisfied at having played his game. But meeting a guy with brains and intellect was a rather disorienting experience. He would have to let it go. Earnest had the brains of an officer but the lifer Taylor, had never been allowed to fraternize with an officer. He was out of his element.

He regretted not having jumped on one of the young recruits from a small town. That would have been more down his alley.

Taylor had to let it go. He stepped back into the gray Navy truck and screeched away. It had not turned out exactly as he had wished. Now he would probably go the enlisted club and get drunk on the cheap happy-hour beer. He would try to fuck another sailor’s wife in the evening, while her husband was away on a Westpac cruise. He knew where she lived and had her phone number. She was a little fat, but she was pussy.

Earnest felt like a fool. But he had done what he had to do. He had played stupid and saved himself from the petty officer’s ignorance.

When he had the time to reflect on it, Earnest took it to heart. He realized that he was way over-qualified for the rank he would have as an enlisted man. His designated duty was to act and be stupid, subordinated to the officer class, whose members generally had less education and experience than him. This meant that merely his presence was going to be a threat to both officers and enlisted alike. He would have to learn how to act dumb. But he could make friends and have some buddies to run around with. He would have running mates to steam with, to get drunk and laid from time to time. He would pretend to go along with their values to the extent necessary.

It was going to be somewhat tricky. It was a useful lesson early on. His official job description clearly included the category of idiot. It was a lesson that would take him a long way and that he realized that he should never forget. No matter how clearly he saw through the fuck-ups of the Navy, he could not let on that he actually got it. The uneducated enlisted could point it out in an inarticulate way, but then, they did not count.

On Sunday evening he got rid of his moustache. He loved wearing a beard, but had given that up when he went for high school teaching. Now, he made the sacrifice and parted with the rest of his facial hair. He was in the United States Navy.

Chapter Three: Brutality

The serious brutality got underway on Monday morning. Abused again as dick heads, motherfuckers, assholes, pussies, cock suckers, and some other cute terms used by the lumpen classes, he scrambled down the ladder of the barracks to fall in. Earnest shivered in the early morning San Diego fog and cold on the April morning. After chow, the squadron was marched across the bridge by a petty officer to the other side of NTC, the Naval Training Center. At one point, they were ordered to halt in front of the small wooden buildings on the base.

Who can play in a musical instrument?” they were asked. One recruit came forward. He would be tried out to see if he was good for a Navy band unit. The rest of the squadron was ordered to march on.

The first stop was the Navy barber shop. Recruits were ordered to stand at parade rest awaiting their turn at being sheared. The depersonalization process was beginning. The deeper dehumanization would be carried forward in subsequent exercises.

Earnest was ushered in and sat in one of the three barber chairs. It took only a few seconds to buzz off his hair with a pair of clippers, set to the shortest possible length. He double timed it back to join the others who had just been sheared. He felt the morning cold more intensely with the absence of his hair.

When the last of the sheep had been shorn seriously and silently, they were ordered to march on in the cold early morning fog. They were marched to the Navy swimming pool and issued a pair of Navy swim trunks. They were told to suit up.

Everyone off the diving board,” came the order. “Up the ladder motherfuckers!” Earnest joined the line. This was the moment of truth. He knew that he could not swim at all. But it was off the deep end. He had taken a swimming class in the university, but never had the time to spend in the pool to actually learn to swim.

He climbed onto the diving board and took the leap off as another guy surfaced and swam away. Earnest splashed down and floundered in the cold water. An attendant at the side of the pool extended a long pole in his direction.

Do I havta pull ya fat ass outa there. Grab the pole, motherfucker,” he barked, gleeful to find another recruit that he could abuse. Here, Earnest was segregated with a few others who had flunked the swimming test. He was starting out his career in the Navy as a failure in more ways than one. He was branded with the designation “non-swimmer” and slated for the learner’s unit. They would have to learn a minimal amount of swimming before being sent to a new company. The non-swimmers were left back while the others proceeded with the morning routine.

A swimming instructor appeared. There were six in the non-swimmers group. It was a relief in a way. How much brutality could be administered in a swimming class? Besides, the instructor seemed more human. Strict but human. He could not teach them to swim through fear and brutality. The main objective was to teach them to swim around the pool on their back.

Earnest had done this before in swimming class, but had now lost the ability. The non-swimmers were ordered to double-time to the pool every morning. They would spend the day learning with a break for lunch at the Navy enlisted mess hall. It was actually enjoyable for Earnest, in spite of the stigma which attached to him.

After four days, he swam around the perimeter of the pool on his back. He had accomplished something. He was declared a “swimmer” and given a small card that said he had passed the swimming test. Of course, with such minimal skills, he would never have been able to survive in the ocean, but what did the military care? Even those who were far more competent swimmers might also perish in a heavy sea. It was good enough for government work. Good enough for the United States Navy.

The next morning, after chow in the early-morning San Diego fog, he was integrated into another company of some sixty recruits. He loved the California climate, the cool and fog. He had always wanted to live in California. It was rough, but he would make it. What the hell? There was nothing to lose. He was riding the train to wherever it would take him.

The new company was marched across the bridge to the other side of the base from Worm Island. The petty officer in charge marched them to the supply depot. This was the place where uniforms were issued. They were spread out in a formation in a large square of asphalt in front of the building and issued a green canvas sea bag. They were then marched through the building where they had to call out their sizes. Uniforms were tossed at them in a rather brutal manner.

Back on the asphalt square, they changed into the rough black heavy marching boots they had been issued. Earnest had asked for a size ten, to be sure to get them big enough. Most items would not be a good fit. This exercise took up the morning. The afternoon would be taken up with preparing and stenciling the items of uniform which had been issued.

The recruits were issued cardboard boxes. They were instructed to place all their civilian clothes, watches, rings, and any other paraphernalia in the box. They were then to seal it up and write their home address on the outside. Nothing at all would be left of their individual personal identity.

In a large room with high tables the length of the space they were given a stencil with their name and social security number cut out. Along the rough shelves there were brushes and pots of black and white paint. Item by item, they were given instructions about how to stencil every piece of the uniform. A petty officer barked the instructions in an often unintelligible manner. The recruits managed by looking at each other to see what the other person was doing. Some items would be fucked up, but they were rushed through the process as if they were on a critical mission where every second counted.

The stenciled items were then packed into their green canvas sea bags. Late in the afternoon, they were marched to the quarters where the new company would be formed up in the evening after chow.

It was around seven in the evening. The recruits were marched to the cavernous barracks room and shown their racks. They were double deck with a small locker beside them. They were instructed about how to fold and stow each item of their uniform in the Navy way. This was called getting their gear squared away.

After stowing their gear, they were ordered to stand at parade rest in front of their racks.

Presently, a group of three young enlisted petty officers appeared. It soon became obvious to Earnest that they had been drinking. They were, in fact, quite drunk. They were not there to lead and inspire, but to terrorize and abuse. It was a repeat performance of the charade that Earnest had been the victim of in front of the barracks a few days before. This time the appropriate recruits would be assaulted. The exercise was to go much further, being played out fully to its logical brutal conclusion.

Earnest was amused to see this sort of stupid shit starting up again. He feared that they were likely to do some actual physical harm to one if they took it upon themselves to do so. Being drunk, they would perhaps not be capable of controlling their emotions.

The three petty officers started their abuse, fortified with drink.

You fuckin pussies! Attenn chunn!” They started their rounds.

One of the petty officers stepped in front of a scrawny recruit from New Jersey.

Where ah yah from?”

Sir, New Jersey, Sir,” the frightened rabbit managed to get out, almost ready to start sobbing.

Why dja jine the Navy?”

Jesus, the same fucking questions,” Earnest thought. Had they trained them for this exercise of terror? It hadn’t quite worked on me as planned, he thought.

Earnest was amused at the crudity and brutality. He sensed that they were after brutality. He himself had barely escaped it. It seemed that they were itching for brutality, fortified with alcohol. Were they actually going to beat someone up? No one would be in a position to defend himself. That was for sure.

Earnest never imagined they would do such a thing when forming up the company. They went on picking on individual recruits, abusing them and asking stupid questions.

Why dja jine, mothafuckah?” Earnest was again asked. He made an equally stupid reply, the only possible way out. Luckily he was not singled out for a beating. Perhaps it was because he was older.

The worst abuse was being piled upon the easiest targets, the little scrawny guys. Some of them were from the city. Maybe there was a reason for going after the little guys, Earnest thought. They were not able to defend themselves. After abusing them and calling them pussies, they singled out three young guys and took them into the head near the center of the bulkhead. Everyone else stood quietly at attention.

Then it began. One could hear fists hitting flesh and then a dull thud as their young bodies collided with the bulkhead of the showers. Loud angry shouts and abuses. Pleas from the young recruits for mercy. Another assault. In a bit, the party returned to the large space. The young recruits were blooded and sobbing. The three thugs had beaten the shit out of them. It was organized assault and battery, pure and simple.

The party had accomplished their mission of terrorizing the recruits. At least this was what they believed. The members of the company were ordered into their racks with lights out. The drunken petty officers returned to the club to get even more shitfaced and look for a woman to screw.

Earnest was shaken by the event. He wondered what he had got himself into and how he could put up with such stuff for six years. Then his mind returned to think of home. He had to write a letter to his wife. He would tell her that everything was OK. He still hoped for the best. Surely, this was not the way things were supposed to work, even in an outfit such as the United States Navy.

Chapter Four: The Grinder

The next day, the three recruits who had been beaten up were missing. They had escaped from the barracks, gone to the sick bay and complained. Their ear drums had been damaged to the point that they could not hear everything going on around them. After being treated, they managed to slip off the base and go AWOL, absent without leave.

After early morning chow, the company was formed up on the grinder. The marching had started. Back and forth and round and round, mile after mile, as the booming speakers ground out John Phillip Souza’s marching music. It was inspiring in a way. It was also terrorizing. Another form of terrorism. The terrorism of the State. They were in the gulag.

For chow, they were marched to the mess hall and bunched “nut to butt, nut to butt,” given ten minutes to wolf their food down, and then double-timed back to fall-in. They now each had their particular place in the company formation.

After the first day, laundry was done in the evenings. They washed their own skivvies and other uniforms and spit-shined their marching boots. These activities took up most of the time until lights out. They were now allowed to write letters. Earnest wrote one to his wife every day on the Navy stationary they were provided. He was careful not to complain about anything. He said everything was going just fine.

After just one day, he knew that he was going to have a problem with blisters on his feet. The ill-fitting marching boots were doing a number on the back of his ankles and the bottoms and sides of his feet were becoming sore. Blisters began to form on his feet. When they burst, new ones came up on the same spot before the old ones could heal. His feet were hot and sore as hell. After a few days, the blisters began to transform themselves into calluses. His feet were slowly adapting to continuous marching.

After a couple of weeks on the grinder and middle of the night security watches, things began to settle down to routine. An older chief petty officer, an E-7, had taken over the company from the three drunken sailors. The troubleshooter sent to train the company was strict but decent, just wanting to put in his time and get along until his retirement. Earnest was making it. The fire watches in the middle of the night were hard after marching all day, however. He stumbled around in the dark in the barracks. And there were the bed-wetters. They had to be monitored all night and gotten up periodically. There was a clip board tied to their rack with a chart to keep track of them. They had to be sent to the head periodically.

One day he and another recruit were ordered out of the company and marched across the bridge to the other side of the base. Earnest didn’t know what all this was about. It turned out that it had to do with the first evening of brutality by the drunken sailors.

The AWOL recruits had been picked up by the police and sent back to the base. They were put on report to be sent to captain’s mast. They complained to the officers about being beaten up when their company was being formed up. One said that he had lost part of his ability to hear. Now the base officer had launched an investigation to see what really happened.

Recruit Seeker was shown a desk and given a pen and paper. He was told to write down what actually happened that evening when the company was formed up. Earnest decided to tell it like it was, completely, from beginning to end. He would not pull any punches. He was still angry about the incident and wanted to see those three guys punished. At least, they should be busted down in rank and fined for their assault on the recruits.

Earnest took his time and wrote it all down. He was actually using his mind for a change and expressing himself. He wrote several pages and signed his name to it. It made him feel good that he had the chance to do that. Maybe not everything was completely rotten in the Navy. It was a tiny thing, but important to get it off his chest. Not much would happen, he figured. The guys would receive some token punishment. Then it would all be swept under the carpet. Military life had to go on.

The marching went on, on the grinder. Now they marched on the other side of the base across from Worm Island.

Some days the company was marched to a building with classrooms. Here they were sat down to take a battery of psychological profile exams. Earnest was always amused at such tests, the same way he had been earlier when he had to take them during the training in the Peace Corps. One could easily see through the questions and understand what the question writer was driving at. It was relatively easy to lie as one worked their way through it. Of course, for certain rates in the Navy, a screwed up score might fit one better for the task.

After three weeks on the grinder, the company was transferred to a new barracks on the other side of the bridge. They had left Worm Island, but Earnest would have to return almost daily for errands.

In the new quarters there was more space.

Since Earnest had been a high school teacher, he was put in charge of teaching the answers to a set of questions in a Navy manual. Such questions appeared as “What is the purpose of the Navy?” The cooked answer was “to keep the world’s sea lanes open.” And so on. They were stupid loaded questions with shit-eating lies for answers that completely missed the point. But hardly anyone other than him saw that it was crude propaganda. That would have been dangerous. Even the chiefs had obviously never thought about it. They had never questioned it.

The marching went on. The massive mess hall was even more crowded here than the one on Worm Island.

Sometimes the company was herded into a classroom to see a presentation on firefighting aboard ships or another topic. At the end of the presentation, a questionnaire was distributed to the recruits to check their grasp of the material. Each question had four choices. As the questions were read, the instructor would tap with his pointer to indicate the correct answer. For example, two taps for “B” and three taps for “C”. As a former teacher, Earnest thought that it was unethical, as well as being ludicrous. The instructors were concerned to make it look like they were doing a great job.

In a few days the so-called Service Week began. This was nothing but a scheme to exploit the shit out of the recruit’s labor and there was not a goddam thing that they could do about it. Earnest was assigned to the mess hall for duty. He was happy with that. It would be light work, he thought. Light work for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week straight. After that, he would be replaced by someone else.

The work started at zero four hundred in the morning. One would work for three hours before being given a break for breakfast. Earnest worked in the bakery transferring pastries, sweets, pies, and doughnuts from hundreds of large trays to plates for serving. It was an assembly line process for thousands of sailors on the base and he was the sole one doing it for the massive mess hall. He worked all day on his feet in exhausting work in a hot area. It was instructive.

Clearly, under a slave system, this is how it would be, sucking every last ounce of energy and strength from the worker every single day for seven days a week. It would be an exhausting seven days of work from four in the morning until eight in the evening. There would just be time for a shower before falling into the rack. He would be rousted out before four the next morning to begin another sixteen hour shift. At twenty-eight, he was already too old for such exploitation. He resented it to some degree. On the other hand, he was largely left alone to do his work. Thousands of squares of pies, cakes, and doughnuts to distribute on plates and trays stacked on racks for the thousands of recruits and sailors on the base. The evenings were taken up with the making of doughnuts in a large machine for morning. He would then double-time back to the barracks. He had to go everywhere on base in double-time, regardless of how tired he was.

This regimen was actually good for his health. He lost the last of his teaching fat that had built up during his service week. After this, he was given new duty away from the company, although he was still officially attached to the company.

Chapter Five: The Marching Party

Earnest was not sure why he had been temporarily detached from the company. He thought it could have had something to do with his marching ability. He was sure that he was deficient in this enterprise of square-bashing. Somehow he just could not make himself into that much of a mechanical robot. On graduation day, the companies would be required to march on demonstration in front of the governor of the state of California. Ronald Reagan, the Governor was to be there to witness the spectacle.

Earnest, along with three other guys from other companies, were assigned to duty in the back space of a small wooden building at the edge of the grinder. This was his first assignment to a fuck-up unit. It would not be his last. He would establish a record of being assigned to fuck up units. It was not a bad place to be, in some ways, out of the mainstream.

Earnest realized that he was the only serious person among the four. The others were mentally devious in various ways. One was a spoiled little prick from a suburb of LA. Another was a thin black guy who was restless and talked nonsense. There was another who was also from LA. Their duty would be to distribute the dental appointments to various units around the base. They were to deliver them by bicycle. Fortunately, it could not all be done through double-timing as the base was huge.

Frequently, almost daily, he would be required to truck over to Worm Island on the bike. It was not very easy for him to salute officers while riding this way.

He had started to get mail. He urged his young wife to write him all the news and in general to be a friend and provide psychological support while he was going through the stress of boot camp. The letters were not so frequent but heavenly when they arrived. It was a bitter disappointment if mail call went down in the evening and he did not receive a letter.

Now he started to be paid a portion of his pay. He could cash the checks at the Navy exchange. He was allowed to visit the PX from time to time, which was a small shop near the grinder. While in the store one day, he decided to buy a pipe and some tobacco. As it turned out, this was a mistake. But he thought it would make life a little more civilized to have a few personal items.

It was a lonely existence and he felt terribly cut off from his young wife. He yearned to get off the base and out into the wider world again. He missed his wife badly. Now she was eight months pregnant and he began to be concerned about her. He loved her and wanted to be with her. Her letters were a comfort. She wrote him, but not as often as he would like.

One Sunday he decided to go to the service conducted by the chaplain, mainly out of boredom. He was feeling terribly lonely. It must have struck a tender chord in him. It was not the religion, but the music, a Beatles song, “Let it Be,” that had made him sad. He had liked the song when he was with his wife and it brought back memories of happier times together. The song brought tears of loneliness to his eyes. It was still a few weeks before the boot camp of eight weeks would end and he would get a chance to go back to Missouri on leave.

The small space now where he spent most of his days gave him a chance to rest up from the hard work in the bakery. It was easy duty, as far as that went, except when he had to run the appointment slips around the base.

One day he got the word that his company would be going to the fire-fighting school, which was some distance from the base. It would be a one-day exercise. Earnest was required to go with the company for the training, since everyone had to be certified that they had gone through the fire-fighting school. That day, he went with the company. They were taken by bus to an area north of San Diego where the fire-fighting school was set up.

It was difficult, lugging the heavy fire hoses around and trying to control them with the high pressure water surging through them. He was young enough, however, that he found it interesting. He didn’t know if it was very realistic. The shells of the artificial cement buildings would burn with roaring flames. They would blast them with a thick jet of water and foam to quell the fire.

At noon, there was a box lunch, which tasted delicious after the strenuous exercise. It was doing him good. Appropriately the school was near a dam and lake which provided the water.

The next day, he went back to the small office from where the dental appointments were distributed. One of the guys who worked there, the small prick from LA, had made up some stories about him and told the chief petty officer in charge of the unit. Apparently the guys were sore about having to deliver the dental appointments which were assigned to Earnest in his absence. Although he had done nothing wrong, Earnest was ordered to go on a “marching party.” He did not deserve to be punished. In fact, he had done exactly what he was supposed to do.

A marching party was a form of punishment through heavy exercise. An hour of strenuous exercise beginning at midnight, with some thirty to forty others on the grinder, was conducted nightly. They were formed up and given a piece, a heavy gun. The victims were forced to do pushups, sit-ups, side straddle hops, and other exercises until they were absolutely exhausted. The hour also deprived them of needed sleep. This was far worse than the night fire-watches or the bed-wetter’s watch.

Earnest arrived before midnight on the grinder. Others were gathering. A little later, a couple of petty officers arrived and began the abuse, putting them through the exercises. Being older than the other recruits, it was hard, but Earnest took it as a challenge and was determined to show that he could survive it. If one was seen to be sluffing off, then they would be forced to do even more exercises.

Earnest did not sluff off but was not as capable of doing the heavy exercises as some of the younger recruits. He was exhausted at the end of the hour. It rankled to be punished because the small prick had told a lie, saying that he had not done his duty. What the fuck? But he was not going to make a big deal out of it. He would let it go. The guy was a prick, not worth bothering with in his view. He just put up with him. Earnest figured that he was better than being a rat-fink like him.

Things returned to normal. He would have liked to salvage some of the wasted time by reading, but that would not be a good idea when one was on duty in the Navy. So he gave up the idea. There were only a couple of porno-girly magazines in the gray metal Navy desk. And those did not help. He was forced to listen to the idle and inane talk from the other three guys. He sometimes pleased himself by quietly smoking his pipe. While he was not aware of it, this was about to get him into even more trouble. Sometimes one could not escape from trouble, regardless of what they did.

Chapter Six: The Father

One day when Earnest was out delivering dental appointments on the base, the skinny black recruit brought some marijuana and smoked it in Earnest’s pipe. Earnest had stored his pipe and tobacco in one of the drawers of the metal Navy desk. Sometimes he enjoyed lighting up and puffing on the sweet aromatic tobacco. It soothed his nerves and made life a little more civilized.

Another day, Earnest was called away during the morning to serve as a guinea pig in a psychological experiment that was being conducted in a building next to the grinder. Where better to find willing human subjects than among young Naval recruits going through boot camp? There was nothing going on with them which they could resist. So they had to do whatever they were told.

When he arrived inside the building, the attendant asked him to sit in a big black chair. He was connected with a series of wires attached to his head, arms and chest. Earnest suspected that the idea was to measure his brain waves in response to questions which were being asked. He was relieved that it was not one of those experiments that delivered a jolt of electricity when he made the wrong response. His reactions were being recorded. Earnest found the procedure interesting as he had studied about such experiments in social psychology courses in the university. What the experiment was for, he was not told.

Finally, a Friday, the day of graduation arrived. Earnest had survived it. It was in the middle of June. Several companies of recruits were completing basic training that day. They would graduate from that hell popularly referred to as boot camp. Earnest would not be performing with the company, having proved his inability to march beyond the shadow of a doubt. Well, at least I am not a fucking robot, he thought to himself. So there is some consolation in being a patent failure in the enterprise of square-bashing. I have proved that I am still human.

Instead, Earnest was assigned the duty of being a guard at the entrances to the spectator stands. As the ceremony was about to begin and the stands filled up with civilians, he saw a limousine pull up a short distance away. Men in suits jumped out and held the door open. The Governor of the State of California, Ronald Reagan, emerged in a dark blue suit and approached the stands in the center of the delegation. The men approached and entered the stands at the entrance where Earnest stood at attention. He was tempted to salute as the Governor passed by. He came close enough to touch if Earnest had reached out his hand. But he knew that would not be the proper protocol. Indeed it might get him written up for insulting a high official. It was the first time he had seen such an important figure up close. Earnest was just an insignificant cardboard prop, a fucking prole, to the big wigs who now occupied the place of honor in front of the stands. Seeker had no idea that Ronald Reagan would be elected President of the United States some eight years later.

The companies marched, going through their paces in front of the civilians and the dignitaries. John Philip Souza’s music blared from powerful loud speakers, sometimes distorted by the wind, as the sailors to be marched around the asphalt. Earnest was forced to stand at attention, stock still, only managing to get fleeting glimpses of the ceremonies which were going on in front of the stands.

Mercifully, the ceremony was not long. A commander appeared and praised the institution of the Navy in its efficacy to train the recruits to precision in a short eight weeks and prepare them to carry on the sacred enterprise of making the world safe for democracy. The big man, the Governor, disappeared before the end of the ceremony, having graced the occasion with his appearance. Fleeing, no doubt, to grace yet another venue with his invaluable presence.

The ceremony over, the company was given liberty for the weekend. In the event, recruits took a taxi and went to down-town San Diego, along the main drag of the city. They were at liberty to get themselves drunk and laid, but it would not be a good idea to get thrown in the can. It was a treat to get off the base but they were required to go over in their Navy Uniforms.

The next day, in the barracks, Earnest was served with a report against him. He found that he had been written up. At first, he couldn’t figure out how he had been put on report. He was being accused of possessing marijuana and smoking it on base. The substance had been discovered in the desk drawer in the small office where he had worked. He had left his pipe and tobacco there. When they disappeared, Earnest assumed that someone had stolen them. That was no big deal.

As it turned out, the skinny black recruit had stuffed his pipe with marijuana and smoked it. It was full of marijuana when discovered by one of the officers. Now Earnest was accused of smoking it in his pipe. He would be taken to a captain’s mast. This was a Navy kangaroo court where an officer reviewed the charges and decided if one was guilty and what punishment they should be given. In Earnest’s case, there was no proof. Obviously, no one had seen him smoking marijuana. It would have been exceedingly stupid of him to do so in that office. The evidence was purely circumstantial, but how could one expect justice in the United States military? One could never be sure in such a case. After all, it was a kangaroo court, not a real court. Whatever the officer decided, if he was fair or not, he could just stick it to him if he wanted to. It would be a couple of weeks before he would have to go to the mast.

But first, he would enjoy some liberty and then have a few days leave back in Missouri. He went over with a couple of other guys from his company. They got a taxi to down town. The driver let them out near the old harbor where a historical sailing ship was moored. The first thing Earnest noticed was that women were walking around. Young nice-looking women. It struck him, as he had only seen men for the last eight weeks.

It was something one had to get used to in the military, always being with swinging dicks. It surely contributed to the rampant phenomenon of ass-grabbing among sailors on board Navy ships who needed to take out some of their sexual frustration on each other.

Earnest walked down town with the other guys along the main street. The area was becoming quite seedy, with the worst places in the back and side streets, especially near the harbor. There were small seedy bars in these lanes. They were run down and dirty. Some places were showing porn flicks. Along the main street, there were massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and hippie poster shops, catering to both the military and hippie tastes. In some cases, they were pretty much the same thing. The old guys in the military now moaned that the military was becoming just like civilian life, with too much freedom.

Some of the guys wanted to go to a massage parlor and get laid. They stepped into a couple of places where a young woman in a mini-skirt with long tanned legs tried to entice them to enjoy a “massage.” For fifty dollars they could have a massage. Earnest declined, but one of the other guys went for it. Twenty minutes of bliss with a young skirt after a hellish eight weeks of boot camp.

The other guy went in for a tattoo in one of the many places along the street. For Earnest most of the images were rather redneck, militant, and grotesque. He did not want that shit on his arms or body. And to put it there permanently seemed quite foolish to him. Suppose one changed their mind or simply got tired of seeing the son of a bitchin image. To tattoo the name of a woman on one’s body seemed even more foolish. Was anything that permanent in life?

He would save his money for something better, even though he had now been paid and had money in his pocket. He had his family back home in mind. Earnest quickly tired of the seedy shops, although he would like to have a couple of the posters which he saw in the hippie shops. Clearly there was a contradiction to being in the military with his values. They went back to the base late in the evening after enjoying the liberty and some leisure.

His leave would begin after the weekend. Being released in the morning, he headed to the airport with a couple of other guys. They would fly standby on military discount fares. A couple of the guys were also heading for Denver. They could only fly if there was a seat available after the plane was loaded.

Earnest liked the arrangement. It was great being able to fly at a half the normal fare. He could also have a drink on the plane, although he had to fly in his uniform lacking any civilian clothes. There was no problem getting on a plane to Denver right away. There he would take his chances for Kansas City.

Earnest enjoyed the taste of a cold Micheleob beer shortly after the plane took off, with some honey nuts to sweeten the taste.

Jesus fucking Christ, he thought. This is not such a bad life after all. I am not stuck in a small one-horse hick town. I am travelling, having some adventure, and have some future possibilities for adventure and travel, who knows where.

At Denver, there was no problem getting the short hop to Kansas City. He waited around until the plane was filled. Would he be going? Then the attendant waved him on the flight. After another beer over the wheat fields of Kansas, the plane came down in Kansas City. It was only a short hour’s hop. It was breezy in mid-afternoon with white fleecy thunder clouds. He was enjoying the travel once again. He would have a week of leave, before winging his way back to San Diego.

His arrival was timed just right. He had notified his parents that he would be arriving in the afternoon. They met him at the airport, along with his young, very pregnant, wife. They would be back to the farm in another three hours.

Leaving the airport, he cuddled in the back seat of the car with his wife. He was still in love with her and had missed her terribly. His father drove to a McDonald’s restaurant a few miles from the airport. He felt a little silly as he chowed down on the McDonald’s food in his Navy uniform. Then they were on the road up to the farm.

The next week, his first child was born, a girl. When his wife started feeling pains, he took her to the hospital in the evening. He stayed with her until quite late. The nurse seemed concerned, not that her womb was so swollen. This was normal, but that the skin was so tight, like a drum. It seemed like Lakshmi, his young wife, was not large enough to carry the baby. Earnest had to leave for the evening, but was back fairly early the next morning. Nothing yet had happened. He spent the day keeping his wife company and waiting.

Then they took her into the delivery room in the afternoon. He was not allowed to go in and see the birth in this small town hospital. Shortly after that the nurse came and told him that his wife had given birth to a girl. It was a relief that everything had gone alright. The Korean doctor had delivered a healthy baby girl. After a couple of days, they decided to name her Terrie Neil.

Earnest was happy to be a father, but he realized that he had no desire to be tied down to one place as a family man. It seemed that he was taking a rather casual approach to the whole notion of marriage, family life, and raising a child. But perhaps it was not that. He just did not understand why one could not do both at the same time. He would have some adventure and also have a family. Perhaps it could be, but of course, it would be easier for a man than for a woman.

It should have been clear that he did not have all his ducks in a row. He was old enough to know better. It would not be long before he would have to wise up to the reality.

Chapter Seven: Captain’s Mast

Another week and he would fly back to the Navy base in California. They brought the baby home after two days. In the afternoon, a big storm came up suddenly. Earnest thought there might be a tornado. A black cloud swiftly moved in from the west. The sky was tinged with a green color, which was never a good sign. The wind hit in strong lashing gusts and heavy rain. The top was blown out of the big old walnut tree in the front yard that was more than a hundred years old. The broken limbs came down on the roof of the house. It punched a hole through the roof and pierced into the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms. Some smaller limbs fell on his small car parked nearby, but with little damage. Earnest was glad that they had escaped with relatively slight damage. There was only the problem of repairing the roof.

His week of reprieve over, Earnest donned his summer white dress uniform and flew back to California. He felt a little odd flying in a military uniform, but the hard exercise and discipline had done him good. He had lost his lazy teaching fat and was in much better physical shape. He travelled light, taking only his small black Navy duffel bag with a change of civilian clothes.

Back on the base, he was assigned to electronics school. He had been selected to train as a sonar technician. Had he known it, he could have asked to be sent to officer’s school and be commissioned as an officer. There were few enlisted men who had graduated from a university. Perhaps the Navy would have rejected him due to his Peace Corps background. In any event, he was satisfied to stay an enlisted man. He would be in California for another year and could bring his young wife out after a few weeks. After that, he hoped to be sent to a duty station somewhere overseas. That would suit him just fine. The pay was not great, but it was sufficient for his needs.

After a week in the electronics school, the captain’s mast came up. He had been breezing through the electronics exercises on his own as the material was easy. It was just elementary stuff to him after majoring in math and physics and he was enjoying it. It was child’s play. He worked hard and had a good relation with the chief petty officer at the school.

When the mast was coming up, the chief asked him about the marijuana. Earnest was a good student. Hardly anyone could breeze through the exercises the way he had. Certainly no one who had not been to the university could do it.

Earnest told the chief what happened. He told him that he had nothing to do with the marijuana. Apparently some of those other guys had smuggled in some pot and smoked it in his pipe. He said that he never smoked marijuana. He had tried it a time or two, but generally, he did not. He had never smoked it seriously. The chief believed him. He would take him to the mast and vouch for him.

The mast was held after lunch the next day. Earnest went with the chief petty officer. The officer was seated in a chair. Earnest was brought to stand before him as in a miniature court. Earnest saw that the other guys who worked in the office were also there waiting to go before the officer. They too had been written up.

Earnest decided that he was not going to rat on them. He did not actually know what had gone on. He didn’t know who had brought the marijuana for a fact. He remembered seeing the small bag of marijuana in the desk drawer but didn’t think much of it at the time. He would never accuse them, but would defend himself as innocent. It all depended upon whether the officer believed him or not. He knew that he had to convince him. He had to make him believe that he was innocent, even if it meant kowtowing to some extent.

It was surely a stroke of bad luck, Earnest felt, to be starting his career in the Navy with a black mark on his record. How many smoked marijuana in the American military? The numbers must be vast. And this was certainly so among those who had served in Vietnam.

Earnest waited his turn to answer the questions and testify. Then he was called. He went up and stood in front of the officer next to the chief. When he was asked, he told what had happened.

I had nothing to do with it,” Earnest said, earnestly. “I had a pipe and some tobacco in a drawer in a desk and took a smoke from time to time. Apparently someone brought some marijuana and stuffed it in my pipe and smoked it. I am not a smoker of marijuana. I have finished a degree at the university and have been a high-school teacher. I would never bring marijuana to smoke in Navy boot camp. I don’t even know what it is like to smoke it.”

The last statement was a little white lie, as he had actually tried it a few times and would not mind to try again, but for purposes of the hearing, he would make the strongest case.

Then the officer asked the chief about Earnest.

He is a good student and doing very well in electronics school,” the chief said. “He is doing very good work and I believe that he is honest about what happened.”

So that was it. Earnest had made such a strong plea for his innocence that it seemed that he had convinced the officer. Earnest felt like he had poured out his feelings completely, for better or worse, baring his soul. It was the best he could do and it had been somewhat painful having to grovel in front of the Navy officer. Now he was ready for whatever the decision would be.

Apparently the officer believed Earnest, as the charges against him were dropped. Nothing was put into his record. Earnest was somewhat angry that these guys, whoever they were, had gotten him into trouble. He figured it was likely the skinny black guy who did it. Why did they have to use his pipe to smoke their marijuana? That made it look like Earnest was the guilty one.

Before leaving, Earnest talked to the other guys.

Look, I don’t care what you do,” he said. “But you shouldn’t have put me in trouble this way.” He never found out if the other guys were punished. He would not like to see them put into difficulty either just for a little pot. He just wanted to be done with it and get it out of his hair. He hoped that it would not be on his record, but maybe now it was there anyway. He wanted to be clear of it.

There would come a time, to be sure, when he did not care what the Navy thought of him, but that time had not yet come. Now he just wanted to get along successfully with no problems.

Earnest now had some good pay coming. There had not been much to spend money on, in any event. Now he thought that he could have a rather decent and normal life, even while in the Navy. He was waiting for the time when he could bring his wife and the baby with him to California. He would find an apartment off the base to rent. He would need a few days to fly back to Missouri and drive them out to California in his car. Then life would be somewhat normal, as long as he was in San Diego and going through the Navy schools. That would be almost another year.

By the next month, Earnest managed to arrange it. He breezed through and finished the electronics school. Now he would be assigned to a sonar school at another nearby base.

It was then that he made a stupid mistake. Being heroic and adventuresome, he was about to bite off more than he could chew. He decided to sign up for submarine duty. When his orders came, he saw that he was slated to go to a submarine sonar school in Key West, Florida. He thought about this seriously. He had heard sailors talking about the training that one had to go through to serve on a submarine. They said that one had to escape through a long tunnel under the water and make it to the surface. Earnest began to wonder if he wanted to be deep down in the sea for long periods of time. The boat could possibly blow up at any unexpected time. Jesus Christ, he thought, I want to be a goddam hero and go onto a submarine for years and I can’t even fucking swim. Now that is stupid!

Those were the thoughts that were hitting him. What did it mean? And he would really rather stay in California than to head for hot humid Florida.

He talked to the chief and told him that he had decided against sub duty. He submitted a chit and got his orders were changed to surface sonar school, anti-submarine warfare school, which was in San Diego. He would be trained to operate sonar on a surface ship, such as on a destroyer. Today these ships were being refitted and designated as fast frigates. Fast did not mean very fast. They had a top speed of thirty knots, but would never actually sail that fast except in a trial.

His orders were changed. Now he was ordered to be stationed at the Naval anti-submarine warfare school in San Diego. It was attached to the Naval Training Center. Having scuttled the sub duty, Earnest was relieved. What I am doing is having a sort of adventure, he thought, and being able to live in California while doing some travelling. He decided that he would try to enjoy the coming year in the sonar school and have somewhat of a family life as well. He was combining Navy life with family life. For how long he would be able to do it, he had no idea.

Chapter Eight: Sherry

Earnest Seeker cashed his check at the Navy Credit Union. His leave to bring his wife and daughter to California had come. He bought some gifts for his wife down town. After that, he was off to the airport for a quick trip to Missouri. It would be nice being back with his wife. They would soon be off on an adventure with the six-week old baby along.

At the airport, the attendant waved him onto the plane as he again travelled stand-by for half price. There were only a couple of seats left. He took the first one, an aisle seat half-way back. It was next to a nice-looking woman in her forties. He found a spot for his bag in the overhead and settled back.

She was friendly and asked him how he was.

Not bad, feeling like travelling. How about you?”

Me too,” she said. My name is Sherry. Rhymes with cherry.”

No shit!” Earnest thought. “Cherry sounds right.”

Nice to meet you. I wish these seats were bigger.”

That’s how they cram us in nowadays,” Sherry said. “Plane travel sucks.”

Earnest could see her two beautiful breasts crammed into a green bra inside her blouse.

It sure does,” he said, as he thought of sucking those beautiful babies. That was something that would not suck, for sure.

I guess we’ll just have to put up with each other. My name is Earnest. I could move back to that other seat, if you would like more room.”

Oh no, glad to have the company,” she said. “You can entertain me.”

And you can entertain me,” he said, wishing for some real entertainment that could not be done in these seats.

She looked at his hair and thought he must be in the service.

What do you do?” she asked.

I thought you might be able to tell,” he said. “I’m in the Navy now, although not exactly a sailor since I have not yet been on a ship.”

That’s great,” she lied. “But you don’t seem to fit the type. You seem like a lovely young man, not some bonehead Popeye.”

I try,” he lied. “And what about you?”

Represent a company,” she said. “I like it for the travel. And meeting new people. I am back and forth to the West Coast.”

It is nice to meet you, Sherry,” he said, not lying.

The plane had been pushed back from the gate and was warming up to taxi to the runway.

We’ll be off soon,” Earnest said.

Twenty minutes later, the plane levelled out over Death Valley and drinks were served.

Sherry bought him a whiskey. Then there was a light meal. They mellowed out with California wine.

Shit,” it’s not bad once into the flight.” Earnest said. “I actually wish this was a long flight to somewhere decent, maybe London or Paris. And you would be the ideal travelling companion. I wouldn’t get stuck next to a bore like happens sometimes on long flights.”

I wouldn’t mind either,” she said. “I like international travel. Wish the flights were not so long.”

They asked for more wine. Then Sherry wanted to go to the restroom.
“Don’t get up,” she said. “I will step over you, if you don’t mind.”

She moved across his legs, her gorgeous derriere touching his face as she did. Earnest’s hand touched her leg giving him an electric tingling feeling in his balls.

When she returned, Earnest moved over and gave her the aisle seat. The wine greased their conversation. They worked on the small bottles of wine that went down smoothly. Earnest told her what a grind boot camp was. She sympathized. Earnest heard the pilot cutting back the engines. The plane dropped a few meters.

Shit, all this is going to end too soon, he thought. She will be gone for good, and I was enjoying it.

I think we are coming.” Sherry said.

Almost,” Earnest said. He was almost coming thinking of her plump breasts and that beautiful ass wrapped in that tight fitting red skirt.

Gee,” it would be nice to see you again,” she ventured. She pulled her card out of her small purse.

Sherry Walker, Consultant, Aquarius Sun Systems,” the card read. There were addresses in Denver and San Diego and telephone numbers.

Give me a call, sometime” she said. “Would the Navy let you have lunch with me?”

Fuck the Navy,” Earnest said. “Who are they to tell me who I can have lunch with?”

Well, I wasn’t sure. But I like your attitude,” she said. “I think you will survive, not taking it very serious. But I am serious about the lunch.”

She bent over toward him. He was looking down one of the most beautiful cleavages he had ever seen. If that tender white flesh puffing up was not delicious to eat, then nothing would be.

Yes, I suggest a liquid lunch,” he said. “With some cold California Zinfandel.”

A man after my own heart,” Sherry swooned.

The plane was just inches from the runway. It suddenly hit him.

Shit, he thought. I have met this unbelievable woman that seems hot for me, and I am going back to Missouri to get my wife and child. I must be out of my fucking mind. Someone up there is playing tricks on me.

In the airport, they parted. She gave him a lovely little peck on the cheek. Then he saw her delicious broad ass wiggling away from him as she left a blister on his sorry heart.

He was not so lucky on the leg to Kansas City. There was a big man next to him who read the sports pages of the paper all the way. He must have known everything about every player’s balls by the time they arrived, Earnest thought. He was thinking more about his own balls and wished he could have dallied more with Sherrie. That would have done his own a world of good.

By evening, he was back with his wife. They made love. The bliss of marriage. He wondered how different it would be with Sherry. Why was it so much more exciting fucking someone else’s wife? Why was that feature wired into a man’s software. Or was it hardware?

The next day he got the car gassed up and running. He changed the oil. They loaded a few things into the car and took off for San Diego. Lilac was the nickname of the baby. She was hardly a problem as long as there was milk for her and she was healthy. The trip was quick and fun for two youths, rather foolish and ready to rush into the future.

Sherry and her beautiful breasts came into his thoughts more than once as he drove and drooled down the long flat road across Kansas and Oklahoma. He wondered if he would ever see her again.

After five-hundred miles, they found a downscale older motel in the Texas panhandle. The next day it was on across New Mexico and Arizona. It was late at night when they stopped at a motel in the southern part of the state. His eyes were getting bloodshot from the desert winds in that fucking little Volkswagen. Just impossible to keep up with the sleek powerful cars and big trucks. He let them all go on around. He needed sleep. He popped the last Coors from the cooler and nodded off at once. His wife and the baby snoozed next to him.

From there, it was a straight shot across southern California to San Diego. Lilac had come most of the way sleeping on the floor of the small car. That was the coolest place.

They had a breakfast at McDonalds and bought milk for the baby. Earnest got a bag of ice from the 7-11 for the cooler and buried some drinks. No beer this time as he would be hitting the Navy base. They got back on the road. The long drives had almost eaten up the long route. Now the small car hummed along the interstate taking them to San Diego by noon after crossing the hot desert fairly early. He had to appreciate that simple German technology. Thanks to Adolf Hitler. At least he had done one good thing.

They rolled into the city and down toward the beach. Earnest got them a room in the motel on the Naval Air Station up to the north of San Diego at Miramar. It was a nice place to stay and rest up, even though he could not feel completely comfortable on a military base. The California air was cool among the beautiful palms. Once settled in the room, he bought a newspaper and began the search for an apartment. There were plenty available. It was just a matter of having the money. He couldn’t waste time.

The best prospect, it seemed, was a place in the east suburb near El Cajon and San Diego State University. He saw the ad for the apartment complex in the paper and drove there the same afternoon. He would have to drive the distance to the base, but he would be away from sailors. The manager, a middle aged woman, told him that an apartment was available. He took a look at it, a one-bedroom affair on the second floor. He rented it at once. Earnest forked over the money for the deposit and the first month’s rent. She gave him the keys and told him that he could move in the next day. Everything would be ready, but he had to take care of the deposits for the utilities by the end of the week.

Earnest had to report to the Navy school the next day, leaving his wife and child at the motel. After work, he rushed to the motel. They loaded up their things and headed for east San Diego. It was their first apartment in California and heavenly. Earnest was happy. He thought that he was making it, getting there. He was not so sure about his wife. Of course, he believed she would be happier in California than Missouri, but it was clear that she was getting the itch to go back to India. She was homesick for Punjab.

Here, there was a nice city to visit and the beaches. Earnest was sure that they were going to enjoy living in California. For him, it was a heavenly place, even though it was just a rather down-scale apartment complex that milked rent from young couples who could not afford to buy a house. But now they had a place to live in California and it was affordable on his Navy income. It was not a lot, but he had managed to get them out of Missouri and to the west coast, California.

It was not to last forever. In February his young wife left to go back to India. Earnest bought the ticket for her and the baby and sent her off with some money to live on. It was about to break Earnest’s heart to see her go off with Lilac. He knew that he was going to be terribly lonely, but he would come and visit her as soon as he had finished the sonar school in June. It had come down to the inevitable crunch.

Earnest took them up to LA on the weekend and stayed in a motel. They made love one last time. On Sunday, he took them to LAX and bid farewell to them. They would stop off in Missouri to see his parents on the way. He was not aware until later that his wife had seriously considered leaving the baby with a friend in Missouri and going back to India solo. This did not happen however. Was that woman really serious about taking the baby? He would never know. He would have to wait for a letter from India to know how they were getting along. There was no telephone in the village. There was a lack of communication and a slow life in rural Punjab.

In the lonely apartment, he was terribly depressed. He wanted to be a faithful family man. But how the fuck was that going to be possible? He had not taken an oath to be a celibate. One might do it in a church as a priest, but not likely in the Navy. Not for long. Not the way the human male species was wired.

No, he would not think of Sherry. No not that. Not that shit. He didn’t want to get into that. Besides, she was an older woman. But what an ass. Oh God, what an ass. She was still cute, actually.

He thought of Sherry. The more he tried to get her out of his mind, the more he thought about her. Sherry with those big beautiful breasts. With eyes that would melt steel, even at her age. Those legs. He remembered the feel. They were warm. And that ass. My God. That ass. What an ass. The shape was just gorgeous. What a nice name, Sherry. He would like to taste her Sherry. He thought of that juicy cherry dripping with her plentiful juices. She was only slightly past her prime. She still needed a man.

He still had her card hidden away in his wallet, he remembered. He got his wallet, now rather depleted of cash, and found her card. There it was. Sure as shit. He wondered where she was now. Laying some businessman or a client for an advantageous sale? Fuck it. Life is too short. A man has to get it when he can.

There were two numbers on the card. He tried the San Diego one first. There was no answer. Then he dialed the one in Denver. Someone picked up the phone.

Hello?” He heard her voice.

Hi Sherry, this is Earnest. Remember me?”

She seemed momentarily at a loss. “Earnest?”

Oh, Earnest, yes Earnest, is that you? Oh, I thought about you. I wondered about you, where you were. Maybe on a ship somewhere.”

Still in San Diego,” he said. “And lonesome. Old lonesome me. I am here by myself. I think I told you that I was married. You know how it is in the service. Hard to stay together. Now my wife has winged it back to her home in India just last weekend. And I am here all alone.”

Oh, I see,” she said. “What do you do for female companionship in that case?” she asked. “It must be hard being in the service. You must be climbing the walls.”

Yes, sometimes,” Earnest said. “I thought of you and wondered what you were doing. I thought of giving you a call.”

In Denver right now,” she said. “But I will be coming out for a week starting next Monday. I am in and out in this job.”

Earnest thought of being in and out of her if he could meet her again. In and out. He liked that.

Yes, life is like that. I would be nice to see you again when you are here,” Earnest said, stating the obvious.

Oh you dear,” she said. “I wondered if I would ever see you again. Sailors are seldom seen, after the first time, that is. You were a lovely companion. A darling of a man. I would love to. I can’t think of you as a sailor.”

I can’t either,” Earnest admitted.

I know a great place to go too,” she said. “Don’t worry about anything. This one will go on my expense account. I will put you down as a potential client. Do you like crabs?”

Yes and no,” he said. “I don’t like to have them, but eating them is great. And I wouldn’t mind being your client.”

Oh no, I wouldn’t give you crabs,” she said, “except to eat. If I gave you crabs, you would sue me.”

No, I wouldn’t do that,” Earnest said. “Anyway, meeting you again would be worth it, crabs and all.”

He heard her laughing.

Call me on Monday evening,” she said. “I will pick you up.”

Oh Jesus, what a woman, he thought. I need to get paid again soon, he thought. I am going to need some money if I hook up with this bitch. I have to spring for part of it.

After the expense of sending his family to India, Earnest was somewhat strapped for cash. He decided that he could save a little money by leaving the apartment and moving into the barracks on the Navy base. He had decided to shift back to a room in the barracks with a roommate at the end of the month. Perhaps, it was better than living alone in the lonely apartment. Just as well live at the base, he thought, even though it was boring. What the hell?

But for the time being, maybe he might just need the flat. It was furnished. There was a bed and he was hoping he would not be sleeping alone there every evening.

Sherry picked him up at his apartment complex on Monday evening. He had saved up for her over the weekend. She roared up in a small new red Mercedes convertible. Earnest slipped in beside her in one of the genuine leather bucket seats. She quickly held him and gave him a kiss on his cheek. She looked good enough to eat, especially the breasts that he saw snuggling tightly in her green dress.

She is just maybe fifteen years older than me, he thought. She probably likes to get away from her husband for some younger man. As an older woman, she appreciates a man more and knows how to please him.

Earnest was in good shape after the Navy training. She had gone for him, it seemed.

The short dress she was wearing had ridden up as she drove to show her long tanned legs. They were nice, fleshy, just right for her age. It seemed to Earnest that he might just reach over and touch her in that enticing gap with ease. He felt himself growing thick as they sailed down the boulevard toward the freeway.

In twenty minutes, they reached the bay and she parked outside one of the fish places in the marina. They ordered lobster. The wine was delicious and plentiful. Some expense account, Earnest thought. He was living pretty high now.

After getting the bill, she held him hostage. She had paid.

I have to show you something tonight,” she said. “I know you’ll enjoy seeing it.”

Fuck an A,” he thought. There were several things he would enjoy seeing if she was ready to show them to him.

She roared up the hot little red Mercedes and caught the ramp up over the bay to Coronado Island. There was a great view of the Island and city in the background as they cruised across the high arch of the bridge. The smooth running machine purred down the ramp and came into the boulevard. The Island was dotted with tall old graceful palms. She pulled up in a reserved spot at a beautiful old historical hotel. At the very top was an exquisite pent house with a panorama view of the whole island.

They ascended in the elevator. She pulled him close and gave him a kiss. She was warm. The place was plush inside. One could not be seen from the outside, even though the lights of the city were spectacular. She put on some music and broke out some wine.

Well, here we are,” she said. “Honey, I am glad you are here. Now give me a hand.”

She showed him the zip in the back of her dress. “Would you do this,”

honey.” Earnest zipped her dress down her back all the way. It stopped midway down her derriere. His fingers touched her pink lace panties. He sensed her lingering lilac scent. She stepped out of the tight green dress.

I want to see you with your clothes off, Honey,” she said, as she opened her bra and tossed it aside. He looked straight at her delicious vibrant breasts as he slipped off his shirt and got rid of his jeans. There was a big bulge in his shorts. He stripped them off. His thick tool pointed skyward throbbing in lust. He came to Sherry and took her in his arms. Slipping his hands into her panties, he filled them with her soft flesh.

She was soft as melted butter inside. He lifted her and held her as she clung to him with her legs. He pleasured her that way, tasting her warm lips.

Sherry, Sherry, darling, “I want you. I want you so good.”

Earnest, you feel so good,” she said. “You are a lovely man. I want you. I want you inside me.”

Earnest gently let her down to the floor on the thick Persian carpet. He churned her mellow mature meat from above as he feasted on her big full breasts. She was about to come.

Earnest shifted to his back and let her mount him. He sucked the flavor of her taught nipples into his throat. Those beautiful big mangoes were finally his. He had to divert his attention from time to time to keep from coming at once.

God, Earnest, honey, you do me so good. If I had a man like you, I would never leave you. I am married but I like to fuck. I like to fuck new young men sometimes. I need it. You are what I need. Just what I need. Honey.” She started to make noises as she felt the pleasure.

Earnest pounded her hard from below.

Oh yes, Earnest, oh yes, oh God, yes, I want you.”

Earnest gave it up and felt his pent-up load starting to burst with his deep, driving orgasm. His muscle spasms kept coming till he was spent.

At the graduation ceremony two months later, the commander wished the sailors “fair winds and following seas.” That sounded good to Earnest, but somehow he suspected that life was not always going to be that easy.

Chapter Nine: Punjab

Punjab in late June was boring and hot as hell. But that was where Earnest wanted to be. It seemed that he had been given the litmus test for idiots and it had come up positive.

It was a quick trip across to Missouri where he would leave his car. He stayed the first night in Arizona, horny as hell. He wanted the girl at the registration desk at the Motel 8 like shit and took a while to get to sleep from his pounding hard-on. He couldn’t stop thinking of her. But he was pumped up and ready for adventure.

He headed out early the next morning and drove all day. By late evening, he was making good time rolling on toward the corn fields of the Midwest. He wanted to keep moving and moving and never stop. Feeling fine, after some coffee, he drove on through the night. When the sun came up, he was almost across Kansas. He saw the big golden ball rise above the horizon as he peered down miles and miles of telephone poles along the seemingly infinite straight Kansas road. He pushed on and crossed over into Missouri. By noon, he had reached the old home place.

It was good to be back home again for sure. The grass was green and plush after the summer rains. The fields were rich and green with summer crops. He slept loving the old familiar sound of the rain pelting down on the roof.

He had a couple of days before he would be heading out for the other side of the world. He would take a one month leave in India before reporting to his ship in Athens as a sonar technician, third class.

It was a quick flight to New York in the early afternoon. In the early evening, he got the TWA flight to Athens. Arriving in the morning, he stowed his sea bag at the airport and took a Middle Eastern Airlines plane to Beirut in the afternoon. There he had a couple of hours stop over.

He loved the atmosphere of the Middle East. He would like to go into the city, but there was not time. At the airport, he loved all those cheap news magazines in Arabic which he could not read. Pictures of belly dancers were spread through them showing big lovely breasts and enticing legs. It was a contradiction, perhaps, in such a conservative part of the world. On the other hand, it was less hypocritical than the West. It was a part of Middle Eastern culture. Men liked pussy and made no bones about it. And anyway, God is merciful.

He bought a few of the rags just for the hell of it. They were souvenirs of his trip. He liked the local food at the airport too.

He caught the evening Pan Am flight to Delhi. After a short sleep, he woke up and looked down on the sandy expanse of Rajasthan. In the early morning daylight, he spotted the lake and palace and the hills of Udaipur. He had seen it years ago. He remembered sitting on the terrace of the palace and drinking British tea with a friend.

After half an hour, the Pan Am plane glided down to Palam Airport in Delhi. The heat was tremendous even at this early morning hour. It was a blast furnace, the loo withering everything in its path. Earnest was ready for it. After his passport had been stamped, he retrieved his one suitcase, changed some money, and looked for the rickety old bus that ran down to Connaught place.

No luck. It was no longer running, a victim of the taxi mafia. Not only had they slashed the tires. When that did not work, they had torched the bus and put it out of commission. No one was going to get over on the Delhi taxi mafia. They are worse than Greeks, Earnest thought. Then he remembered that that was where he was heading after his leave. What the hell? No country could be perfect.

He was forced to take a taxi. The rip-offs, he thought. They would not go for less than forty to fifty rupees. He gritted his teeth and bore it, asking the driver to take him to the New Delhi Railway station. He settled back, happy as a pig in shit to be back in the filth and heat and confusion of India. The waves of heat and scent bathed him in their essence. He reveled in the familiar feeling. The smell of spice from the street venders tickled his nose. That smell. Only in India. This was heaven. This was hell. His face dripped with perspiration even as the hot wind seared through the taxi window with an odd cooling effect.

The station seemed practically unattainable from the mass of confusion, auto rickshaws, taxis, autos, trucks, pedestrians, vendors, a white bull, black buffaloes, and beggars in the streets. It was, in principle, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy or disorder never decreases but only increases. Entropy measured the “mixedupness” of a system as the scientists put it. A perfect description of Indian streets, Earnest reflected. Miraculously the taxi driver blasted a path for the aging Hindustan Ambassador through the sheer power of the noise from the horn. The waters of the Jordan parted and they rolled through the waves of vendors, pedestrians, bicycles and rickshaws. They had reached the station.

Earnest paid up. The fare was reasonable in terms of dollars.

The station was a mass of confusion as ever. He made his way through the maze of travelers, who had camped out in every available space. Some were cooking their lunch, making chapattis. He would go the hard way, the mass way, the Indian way. Third fucking class. He was fucked again.

Earnest Seeker waited in the long que, which was hardly a line. Just a mass of turbaned peasants bunched like sand trying to pour through an hourglass. He eventually made it being forced to resort to elbow power to deter those determined to worm their way in front of him. He was a gentleman, but this was India. He had no choice. He bought a third-class ticket to Jhalandur on the flying (so-called) mail. Platform ten. “Hurry up. It will leave in fifteen minutes” the ticket seller barked.

Earnest rushed out to the platforms. Up the high cement steps and across to platform ten. The heat was incredible. Exhausting. Wilting. Debilitating. The cars were already packed with peasants from Punjab and Haryana. They had filled every available space with large suitcases, metal boxes, gunny bags of grain, bundles of sugar cane, whatever. Small toddlers climbed over their mothers, pissing, and sometimes shitting on the floor. A few stragglers were managing to get on board by forcing their wiry bodies through the open windows of the cars.

There were no seats left by this late time just before movement. A large turbaned sadougie spotted Earnest and rescued him from the chaos, helping him up into a car and clearing a space on the floor for him to stand. Another crazy fucking American or German, they were probably thinking, Earnest figured. But one would not be able to get a first class ticket at once. If one did, one would have to pay double, half of it in bribe to the conductor. So Earnest would just rough it. Once on board, he would arrive, providing the train did.

The Indians would wonder why someone as rich as an American would endure such misery as the Indians were born to suffer. Indeed, they had no choice. He could almost sit on his suitcase. The sardar joked with him in English and found out that he knew some Punjabi. The train finally lunged forward, in a series of jerks, and settled down to a slow exit from the station through years of accumulating human defecation collected along the tracks, between walls loaded down with drying dung cakes. Shit. Everybody and everything had to shit. And all that shit in this country appeared in plain sight, whether from man, woman, or beast. It was the bona fide land of shit. Then why the fuck did he love it so? Another inexplicable contradiction. The dialectical unity of opposites. Anakant logic. Something along that line. A magical mystery tour through the enchanting kingdom of shit. Logic failed. Which might explain why the country seemed so mystical.

Leaving a city was a trip up shit alley, if not shit creek. But then, he was probably up shit creek too, come to think of it, he thought. In a few short weeks, he would be tossing on a Navy destroy in the sea. Maybe puking his guts out as a boot among the seasoned salts. Well, at least it would be the beautiful blue Mediterranean. He would get a taste of being a real sailor. But now he was going to spend the next month as a land lubber in Punjab. Not quite as bad as being a Multani who never left their home in Punjab.

After a couple of hours, he managed to squeeze into one of the hard wooden seats. It was heavenly. Students rode this way, but he was getting a little old for it. Now, in the tepid heat, he was falling asleep from the overnighter from Beirut. That trip had taken its toll. He had not slept in a bed since leaving Missouri. Now it was hard to keep his eyes open in this Punjab heat. His head kept dropping to his chest. Then awaking with a start. Yes, his bag was still there. He had to be on guard. Always on guard in a land of scarcity.

At stations along the way, he could hand his couple of rupees through the window and get a cold drink of Limca. Sometimes he had to gulp it down to give the bottle back to the soda wallah before the train picked up speed. This was the only way to keep one’s body from dehydration in the fierce heat. He would not risk drinking the water and there was no such thing as bottled water.

The train bore on through the searing afternoon, the heat reaching forty-five degrees centigrade. There was no food service in third class. The breakfast on the PanAm Plane had long ago been digested. He needed nourishment. There was mass confusion everywhere in this country and it was going on inside the car. But now, it seemed that half the passengers had keeled over and slept in the heat. The only thing to do was to wait it out. The wheat had been harvested and the monsoon had not yet come. Not much activity in the fields along the tracks as peasants waited for the July monsoon.

The train made Jhalandur Station by late afternoon.

Earnest had written to his wife about his arrival. He wondered if anyone would come to meet him. Probably not, he figured. Exiting the car with his one bag, he surveyed the front of the station. An army of rickshaw wallas had amassed in front of the steps ready to pounce on any unsuspecting passenger. The mad rush was on. The auto rickshaw wallas joined in the competition. Tongas and tempus waited a little further on, ready to head to the outskirts and villages. A couple of buses were waiting.

Surveying the confused battle field, Earnest concluded downheartedly, that they were not there. They had not appeared. Young women who resembled his wife from the back or side continued to catch his eye, only to be some stranger. The resemblance between human individuals, the interchangeability was remarkable in this continuum of protoplasm called the human race. Human or inhuman? Again, the unity of opposites. He could just as well have married one of the dozens of these young females that now thronged their way through the station. It was all accidental, brownian motion of human molecules who bounced off each other in the volatile nature of human society. Any one of these thousands might just as well have been the one that he yearned to see, that he longed for, that he had rushed half-way around the world to find. It was a mirage, dissipating before his eyes. Seeker rushed on in his search for what, he knew not. Surely, she was still at the village for some reason, a good one. She would not bother to come to search for him there.

God does not play dice with the universe, Einstein had said. But this seemed pretty fucking close to Earnest. What was the chance that a small-town guy from a small town in Missouri would be looking for his lost wife at a train station in north India? Fuck it. They were not there. He would have to make it to the village alone.

The old cycle rickshaw was a slow ride to the bus station at the west of the city. It was from here that one caught the bus to Kapurthala. He paid the poor humping guy, more than the normal rate. What the fuck was a couple of dollars more or less to him? He got on the bus for the thirty kilometer ride to the town. He was exhausted, but more awake now that he was this close to his destination. Closer to his “home” on the opposite side of the earth.

Arriving at the bus stop in Kapurthala, he had to get to the village of Sheikhupur, another five kilometers. He would have to take another rickshaw, always a difficulty, being a Westerner like him. Paying the double rate, would hardly satisfy the puller. Worse, it would irritate his relatives, as the rickshaw wallas would then try to demand more money from them in future.

There was no need to bargain. They would just say “Yo Jinna Morga,” Pay whatever you want to. Except that they were not going to accept it until they were offered as much as they wanted. What the hell? It was ten rupees from the gora and two for the locals. It was only two dollars anyway. He had to get to the village.

The rickshaw wallah let him off at the old Kali Temple. The area had been swept clean in front of the temple and under the large old peepal tree but the street oozed a black stinking muck from the clogged drains in the middle of the brick lane. He turned a corner into a main street of the village. It was the second house on the right, he remembered. He knocked with the metal knocker on the door.

He heard the chain rattle inside. His wife’s older sister opened the door and greeted him with a Namaste and hands folded together. She smiled slightly.

Where is Laksmi?” he asked in Punjabi.

Gone to Jhalundur,” was the reply. But they had gone for shopping rather than to meet him at the station. They had some other business to attend to.

After an hour his wife arrived back in the village with her younger sister and the baby, Lilac. It was a nice reunion, but she did not show much emotion or even joy that he had come. In Punjab, of necessity, there was an absence of demonstration of affection.

It was simply too hot to make love, even if there had been sufficient privacy. Nevertheless, when everyone had gone to bed and the night had cooled near midnight, he would come to her. After coming so far, he was hot to make love to her. But he would have to wait. He needed sleep, but there was little chance in the confusion of an Indian household. His wife suggested that he rest in the upper room. The women set about preparing food.

It was almost time for the monsoon rains, but the weather had not yet broken. Every day, the temperature was reaching forty-five Celsius or more. It had even gone to forty-eight for a couple of days. This cooling respite was still a couple of weeks away. Nevertheless, his soul was refreshed. He was home, after a fashion.

On the other hand, it was pretty clear that his mother-in-law did not really approve of him. He was not only a foreigner, but an outcaste, in any event. She could not even legitimately drink water from his hand and here he was living in her house. It is better to travel than to arrive, he remembered.

But now he had arrived. Now he would have to endure the boredom of the village life. It was not a bed of roses. After all, this was the first time that he had actually lived with a woman in India in her home. This was going to be much less romantic than meeting secretly in the middle of the night for some hanky-panky with a young village piece. This was the grindstone that was life in an Indian village.

Chapter Ten: Simla

Earnest had arrived in late June, the hottest time of the year. In a few days, the northern monsoon arrived following a terrific dust storm. Telephone lines were blown down in the roads, trees uprooted, and brick walls blown over. Dead birds were scattered under the trees blown out by the fierce storm. The cloudburst on the first night of the monsoon left large puddles of muddy water along the roads and flooded fields and houses.

Earnest had managed, with difficulty, to make love to his wife in the household the first night he arrived. It was near midnight. Others had gone to bed. He hoped they were sleeping. He sneaked to his wife’s mungie. There was not room for two people, side by side on the small cot. She did not seem terribly interested at first. Perhaps not sure about the situation. But Earnest was determined.

When he kissed her, he found that she was hot for him. She had missed the warm waves of pleasure that he gave her. She wouldn’t let him go till he took her for a second time. This time it was better. He crept back to his own mungie and slept like a rock.

In Punjab, the season of love was in the winter, not the summer heat and monsoon seasons. The Indian village house was not exactly designed for creature comforts. There was no latrine. Earnest found it difficult to go the fields. He had never adapted himself to that. The only other alternative was to shit and piss on the roof of the building between two bricks and cover the shit with ashes. Once a day, the sweeper would come and collect the human feces.

There was no difficulty shitting. The difficulty was not shitting when diarrhea hit one. This was always, unless one’s body was acclimatized to the brutal heat and food. One needed paregoric or better yet, a cork. Shitting on the roof in the morning sun, Earnest studied the white, blue, brown and clear pieces of broken glass embedded in the cement walls to deter thieves. It would certainly be effective in ripping one’s tender flesh, he thought. What would it do to his tender cock and balls that now dangled over the bricks baking in the hot sun?

He tried to find a place in the dwelling to sit quietly and read or write, but it was practically impossible. Perspiration trickled off his hands and arms almost in a stream. This made the paper wet. This sort of family life, he could not put up with for very long. There were practically no privacy and no creature comforts. Village women shouted from house to house in shrill tones. Sometimes a fight would ensue and sharp tongues would keep lashing each other for hours. There was no respite from the misery of a Punjabi village.

During the days, the flies would descend in groves. When darkness fell, one had to fight the mosquitos. Earnest had brought quinine to take but this did nothing to keep the mosquitos from eating his tender juicy flesh alive. There were small salamanders called killys which clung to the walls and ceilings and sometimes fell down on one’s bed in the night.

There was the constant kitchen work, the cooking of food and the making of tea that was made with a large amount of sugar and milk. This was done in the most primitive way. Cooking was done mostly on a small mud stove located in the cement courtyard under the stairs. Wood was too expensive to use to any great extent, so most of the cooking was done with cow dung patties. They burned slow but made thick smoke and a pungent odor. When the meal was over, the pots and pans had to be cleaned with ashes under the hand pump in the corner. A peasant woman came to do this daily.

To take a bath, one had to leave on their shorts and sit under the hand pump. It was harder for the women, for lack of privacy. Having a foreigner in the house just made things that much more difficult. Earnest felt sorry about his rude intrusion. What could he do? It would not be polite to stay in a hotel.

To escape the boredom of the village and leave her mother and sisters in peace, they planned an excursion to the hill station of Simla. It was the most popular of the north India hill stations for Indian tourists.

For Earnest and Lakshmi getting out of the village was no very easy task. Carrying Lilac, they had to walk out to the road to catch a tonga, a rickshaw, or bus. Usually the only option was a tonga but one was not always available. Sometimes a rickshaw would be waiting at the village.

There were large piles of rotting refuse along the small village roads. One batch was being loaded into a wagon emitting a powerfully pungent smell as Earnest and Lakshmi walked out of the village. Out near the road was a leather factory. The smell of the bone pile at the side of the factory permeated the countryside with its strong odor. An Akali dressed in bright yellow and blue outfit, with brown bare legs, marched up the road, carrying a long sharp spear. Fighting imaginary battles against the Moghul rulers or the British or both. It was like a strange film. Someone out of space and time.

They found a rickshaw and bargained with the driver to take them to the bus stand in Kapurthala. The recent rains had made the sides of the metaled road slick with mud and slime. The sides were rough and jagged and sometimes dropped off abruptly. The poor helpless driver struggled with the load of two adults, baggage and a child, but found it impossible to stay on the narrow strip of asphalt. When a massive truck roared down the road, driven by a crazed sadougie, the small fragile rickshaw was blown off the road to the side. Sliding off the hard surface, the flimsy wheel of the machine collapsed, buckled under the weight of the load. Earnest and his wife were dumped onto the side of the road.

Earnest paid the poor guy anyway, wondering if he would be in trouble with the machine’s owner. Luckily a tonga came along and they were able to get a ride, crammed into the small back of the two wheeled carriage. It seemed to Earnest that the small weak horse was about to collapse at any time. The driver beat her mercilessly with his whip and cursed her, threatening to fuck her mother and sister. He piled on other crude Punjabi curses.

They approached the town. The smell of roasting ears of fresh corn filled the air. Small boys sold it on the side to the road for twenty paise. He remembered eating these tasty burned chullys. He wouldn’t mind having one now. The horse carriage entered the narrow streets of the town. There were vegetable and fruit sellers with piles of yellow and green mangoes, guava, apples, bananas, and leechis. Fly-blown dhabas along the street cooked spicy goat, potato, lentils, rice, and made chapatis. A news stand sold the day’s news in Punjabi, English, Urdu and Hindi. Small boys played marbles on the cobblestone streets. The streets were crowded with bicycles, rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles, Hindustan Ambassador cars, buses, trucks, human draft animals moving carts from factory to factory with enormous loads on carts.

Pedestrians spat beetle juice and smoked beedis and cheap cigarettes. Past white and yellow temples and gurdwaras. The streets lined with filthy clogged drains. Sweet shops appeared, the wares blackened with flies. The strong smell of incense and temple bells filled the air. Past a cinema, with gaudy colorful posters of the latest Hindi films the large wheels jogged. Films were getting more racy by the month, with films like “Bobby.”

Tonga horses stood on the sides of the street at the stand with piles of green clover. A herd of water buffaloes was being driven down the street, the animals sporting grotesquely curved horns and big bulging eyes.

They reach the bus station and scrambled for a ticket for Jhalandur in the jumble of peasants bunched in front of a dirty, small window with iron bars. Earnest shoved in his twenty rupee note and got the two small paper tickets from the conductor. He dug into his small fake leather pouch and fished out some change. Earnest did not bother to count it. By this time the heat was suffocating and Earnest’s clothes were becoming wet, even though clouds could be seen on the horizon. In the monsoon, the clouds could open up and drench one at any time in the middle of the day. Small boys peddled their wares, shouting loudly, sometimes in one’s ear. They carried platters of fresh coconut and slices of small thin cucumbers spiced with red pepper. Others hawked salty baked lentils in pages torn from school exercise books. They squeezed juice from lemons on them for flavor. There were platters of locally grown bananas, and types of soft drinks. Earnest remembered the sweet taste of cold milk badam, sweet milk with almonds. It was delicious. There were types of locally made sodas in tiny shops in the dirty congested back streets, sometimes rose flavored. There were factory brands too such as Limca. Coca Cola had been kicked out of the country.

They were unlucky as the old rickety bus broke down two kilometers from the station. It was not unusual. Earnest remembered one time when the gear shift lever of a Punjab Roadways bus had come completely off in the driver’s hand on a trip from Chandigarh. Earnest and Lakshmi got down their luggage down from the top of the dead bus and tried to flag down the next available one from the mud-splattered side of the road. The other passengers were doing the same.

In spite of being full, the next bus crammed them all in, packed tighter than sardines.

Passengers were curious about seeing a gora, a westerner with a Punjabi woman, and having a child with them. It was clearly mind boggling to their narrow socially conservative minds. Passengers asked questions to Lakshmi. Who is this gora? They wanted to know.

What is your caste?” Indeed, that was the essential question.

I don’t have any caste,” she told them. They look puzzled. Why was she hiding it? Everybody had caste in India, even if they were outcastes, which was, after all, just another caste below all the other castes. Even Moslems and Christians had caste. A westerner like Earnest was an outcaste. Flat out outcaste.

Then they tried another approach.

What is your name?” Just another way of asking “what is your caste?”

One’s name would generally give it away.

Earnest learned things he did not know about India by being with an Indian woman. Lakshmi learned things about her own society by being with a western man. In both cases, the reality was depressing, disturbing in an incredibly conservative society. Rather demoralizing. How could one live with everyone looking down on one as a freak, a social outlaw, thumbing one’s nose at the sacred laws of Manu. What kind of Indian was she? She was disgracing her family and the country.

Where was the admiration for someone doing something courageous? In India, marriage was something that was arranged according to the traditional prejudices and rules of the society. Love was not to be a serious consideration. Most marriages were not “love marriages” and most love relationships were not marriageable. Love and marriage were two totally different things.

At Jhalander, they get the bus to Chandigarh. The bus cruised down the Grand Trunk Road blowing off everything in its path right and left. Bicycle riders fled to the side of the road. Only bullock carts could not be moved.

They arrived in the early afternoon. They found a comfortable downscale hotel for the night. Glad to be out of the village, they went to Green’s Restaurant for dinner. Earnest liked the atmosphere and was ready for spicy Punjabi Chicken. He couldn’t pass up a big bottle of cold Golden Eagle beer. It hit the spot after the searing heat. He felt normal, except for being a complete oddball socially in Indian society. He clearly did not fit in, either in the West or the East.

It was not easy finding clean and healthy milk for the baby, who by now had diarrhea. This started to be a problem in the buses. Earnest wondered just when the runny Delhi Belly disease would hit him. The incubation period for Indian microbes was around a week and he was now getting to that stage. Water seeks its own level.

In the privacy of the hotel room, they made love. Earnest was hoping for a more romantic setting once they were settled in the hill station. A sort of second honey-moon now back with his young Punjabi wife.

When the baby was sleeping, Earnest slipped out of his clothes and embraced Lakshmi. He coaxed her out of her Punjabi dress and kissed the tops of her plump brown breasts. She let him open her bra. Her soft breasts felt delicious on his face. He wanted to press his stiff staff to them that was now throbbing intensely. Her brown nipples stood up erect as he ate them. She had not yet jettisoned her pajamas. She was not quick to demonstrate her sexual desire.

Earnest coaxed her to slip her pajamas off. He felt the jangling silver chain around her ankles that he always found sexy. He ran his tongue up and down her fleshy brown legs, tasting her flesh. He flicked his tongue next to her panties. Now he wanted pussy. She was his sweet wife. His sweet Lakshmi. His sweet little piece of brown Punjabi candy. With her long thick hair down to her ass, she was a sexy woman. She was the fleshy brown delight that he had longed for when she had gone. She had a mystique that he loved that western women, regardless of how good the pussy, just did not have.

He tasted her lips passionately again. He suddenly slipped her panties off. She didn’t resist, but was still cool. He slipped them off her feet and tossed them aside. He took her gently from the side. It had been a while for both where they could make love in comfort. He stoked the fire, but somehow the flames did not flare up as in the old days. It was as if she was holding something back. She had gone part of the way, but now hesitated. Did she still really love him, or just kept him on the string for an income and a ticket out of the misery of India, when the time came. Was she having her cake and eating it too?

The next day, they got a rickshaw to the bus stand. An elaborately decorated bus was loading up for Simla. Lakshmi got the tickets. It was sometimes easier for a woman to buck the crowd. Loaded to the gills, the driver pulled out for the Shivalik Hills. The road ran past the old Royal Gardens, the Panjore Gardens. Earnest remembered a pleasant day there with a friend from the village. The old bus began to wind and grind its way up to the hills. The passengers were swaying first to the left and then to the right, clinging to the seat in front of them. The road ascended gradually to the seven-thousand feet level above steep cliffs. The scenery became magnificent as the bus wound its way higher. Lush green and hazy blue hills appeared in the distance. It was refreshing after the scorching June heat and sun in the plains of flat Punjab.

Small mountain villages appeared along the road. Small boys sold peaches, apricots, and grapes when the bus stopped. Biharis, mountain men, were repairing the sides of the road from the recent rains. The loose glass windows of the bus rattled in their frames. There was scarcely room for the bus to turn on the sharp hairpin turns. Passing trucks almost pushed the bus off the road to the edge of the cliff. Sometimes the trip became frightening with the steep hillsides. Buses did plunge down from time to time. Earnest had read of so many such accidents in the Tribune.

Peasant women succumbed to motion sickness. Windows come down and heads were thrust out to empty their stomachs.

Finally they arrived at the bus station in Simla around one o’clock in the afternoon. Licensed porters descended on the crowd with their official token hanging on a chain. One had to walk up a steep path to get to the tourist area of upper Simla where the hotels were located. Porters were waiting to carry up the baggage of tourists.

Hungry from the trip, Earnest and Lakshmi headed for a small dhaba near the bus station. Earnest ordered chicken curry and rice. Lakshmi had lentils and rice. A small boy brought a stack of warm chapattis wrapped in a cloth. It was good spicy appetizing food in the mountain air. They asked for milk for the baby but could not be sure if it was good. Their stomachs full and refreshed, they felt like making the push up the steep hill. They were sure to find a comfortable hotel.

Outside the dhaba, they hired a ragged porter who had been bugging them for work and now jumped at the opportunity. He refused to give a price, just saying “You can give me what you want.” They soon discovered that it was a very long way to walk up to where the hotels were located. Earnest carried Lilac up part of the way, while the porter took the baggage. When Earnest started to tire along the way, the porter took the baby too on his shoulder. Lakshmi and Earnest were quickly out of breath in the high, thin air but had to keep trudging up the steep lane.

Along the way, hawkers began to pitch hotels to them. It was difficult to resist them and impossible to dissuade their persistence. At the first hotel, which looked fine, there was no vacancy. They climbed higher to another hotel, now almost exhausted. This was the Ashoka Hotel on the Mall. They approached the clerk at the desk, a small impertinent wiry man who acted as if he did not really want to rent a room to the mixed couple that he saw in front of him. Whey they asked the price, he said fifty rupees.

Then he began to ask Lakshmi questions about Earnest.

Does your friend have a valid visa?”

Of course,” she said. “Why wouldn’t he?”

Then he asked Earnest,

Do you have your passport?”

Of course,” Earnest said. “I couldn’t travel in India without it.”

Do you have the forms showing that you changed foreign currency?”

No, why should I?” Earnest said. “I did not even get a receipt because I do not intend to change any rupees back to dollars when I leave. I will spend it all in India or leave it with my wife. I have never been asked to show such a receipt at a hotel in India. Why am I supposed to have that to stay in a hotel?”

What about your wife’s passport?” he asked Earnest.

She is an Indian citizen,” Earnest said. “Why does she need a passport to stay in a hotel in her own country? Her passport is an Indian passport.”

Haven’t you been living abroad?” he asked Laksmi?

Sure,” she said. “But what has it got to do with my staying in a hotel in my own country?”

Because a citizen of India who has gotten a passport and gone abroad is no longer a citizen of India and must have a passport when travelling in India,” he declared.

That’s Hogwash,” Earnest declared. “One does not lose their citizenship by living in a foreign country. She is an Indian citizen, just like I assume you are.”

At this point Lakshmi became angry at the stupid little fool and cursed him out in Punjabi. It was the perfect language for it.”

You are a just jealous you son of an owl,” she said. “You sister fucker, motherfucker. You son of a pig. I will report you to the police. We never wanted to stay in this fucking Ashoka Hotel anyway.”

The little son of a bitch pretended to be hurt, as if he had done his best to help, but his efforts were in vain.

Earnest was wondering if he was thinking “I’ll be damned if I let a gora, a westerner from America stay in this hotel with an Indian woman.”

His absurd inquiries had perhaps been one way to get rid of the couple and their child.

Lakshmi and Earnest quickly left the hotel with Lilac and the porter.

What the fuck kind of investigation was that?” Earnest asked Lakshmi. “It was like an inquisition and we were going to be burned at the stake for travelling together and stay in the same hotel room.”

They cannot stomach seeing an Indian woman with a foreigner,” Lakshmi said. “That’s what is wrong with people like that. I hate this country sometimes.”

Further up, they found a small hotel, the Ridgeview, that was not too expensive at twenty rupees. The clerk charged them something extra, perhaps because they were a mixed couple but it didn’t matter. They registered with none of the stupid hassle at the Ashoka Hotel and settled in the room.

Simla, the hill station glorified in Indian films, was where Indians put on their best clothes and paraded up and down the mall. They flooded out of all the small hotels in the evenings for the parade. The street was somewhat quaint and picturesque. There was still some of the old British flavor along the main street and historical buildings above the town.

The smaller hill stations like Palampur and Dharmsala are better in my view, Earnest thought. He had enjoyed the relative uncrowded atmosphere there. But he was happy to see what Simla was like for once.

For three days, Lakshmi and Earnest walked around the town and parks and made pictures. The main difficulty was finding the right milk and food for Lilac and keeping the baby healthy. There were some rather miserable aspects to the trip, in terms of finding healthy milk and keeping her from getting sick.

On the second day, Earnest had to buy some medicine for his diarrhea. There was no hot water in the hotel for showers, so one had to wash with cold water. After three days, it was enough. They were concerned about the baby. They headed back for Chandigarh and stayed in the same hotel again. After the cold air of the hill station, the heat of the plains actually felt good. The only cooling balm came when the skies opened up and divulged a heavy monsoon downpour that drenched everything. Punjab was heaven. Punjab was hell.

Chapter Eleven: Ringo Bar

The plane glided down into Beirut airport from Delhi shortly before noon. Earnest had caught it very early in the morning. He bought a ticket for Athens on the Middle East Airlines plane that went at three o’clock in the afternoon. He waited in the airport, now being flooded with women in various types of Islamic coverings from the surrounding countries. It was mostly the older women who appeared in Islamic dress. Many of the men looked as Western as anyone else.

Athens was just a short hop across the Eastern Mediterranean. The planes with a green cedar tree on their tail looked rather run-down and old.

The MEA plane sitting in the sun on the apron had grown hot and stuffy inside. It began to load up now with ex-pat Greeks who had been living in exile in Lebanon to escape the repercussions of the Greek military junta. The Greek Government had collapsed a few days before and the military resigned. This collapse was brought about due to the Turkish landing in Cyprus.

When the pilot and crew arrived, the old plane was cranked up and taxied out to the runway as the engines were warmed up. Finally, the refreshing cool air began to flow from the overhead air vents to help cool off the old bird that had been baking in the fiercely hot sun.

Half an hour after taking off, the plane banked over the island of Rhodes at the edge of the Turkish coast. The passengers, mostly Greek exiles, strained to see the Island below from the port side of the plane as the pilot banked. There were cheers to see a patch of the homeland as they pointed to the small island below. The mainland of Turkey was off the starboard side.

In another half hour, the plane would glide down into the Athens airport next to the beach in Glyfada.

Earnest’s sea-bag had been stowed in the airport luggage hold for over a month. The attendant, thinking it must be a mistake, charged him for three days instead of the 34 days it had lain there. It was a little lucky break. The sun was blazing hot in Athens but the skies were a bright, clear blue. Earnest emerged from the terminal with his big green bag and looked out on the small white cement buildings and rejoiced that he was here at last. What a beautiful country. How refreshing after all the filth and trash, ugliness and cowshit of a Punjabi village. He was going to enjoy the shit out of this, he thought.

Earnest took one of the gray Greek taxis which sometimes doubled as family cars here in Athens. The Navy headquarters was in Delta Faleron just up the road from the airport. The civilian who worked there, a Greek American, was just about to leave. He signed Earnest in from his leave. He told him that his ship, a destroyer, was out of port, no one knew where. He then gave him a ride to the small Seville Hotel along the main road in Glyfada. This was where the transients waiting for their ships were being housed. It was clean and lovely.

This is fine, Earnest thought. Stationed overseas at last. He was sure that he was going to like Athens. He already loved the atmosphere. He was given a room with a balcony. He would have the room by himself for a couple of days before a roommate showed up. He was just another transient headed for a duty post.

Earnest’s ship, a destroyer, was stationed some fifteen miles up the coast at Elefsis. It was the site of the Elefsina rites in Ancient Greece. Since the ship was now out of port, he would wait. There were six American ships stationed there. They tied up to a pier. The Navy had asked for permission to station the ships in the port down from Syntagma Square, the old port of Piraeus. The Greek Government did not want them there and had sent them out of the town to Elefsis. Now they were running into opposition even further up the coast.

Nearby was a cement factory where limestone was being mined out of the ancient hills, defacing their beauty forever and fouling the air with pollution.

Earnest went down to the lounge and drank a cold Coke. That really hit the spot in the dry heat of Athens. He was excited. There were several small restaurants near the hotel where one could eat Greek food. The middle aged women looked nice. They dressed nicely in European style. The younger women in shorts were cute, but Earnest was not sure what their thoughts about sailors were.

Further down in the town were falafel stands. After muster in the morning to count heads, the transients were released on liberty for the day. Can’t beat that, Earnest thought. It was simple catching a city bus right in front of the hotel. Many of them ran down to central Athens. The Navy would now pay him for being a tourist as his ship remained lost.

He did not strike up a conversation with the other transients at once. He preferred independence as a sort of loner for the time being. He wanted to get out and feel the place. He would absorb Greek heat, the sun, and scents of the pines along the seashore. He wanted to feel the sea breezes on his face. The fisherman arrived back with their catches and sold fish along the beach. He would walk the streets down in front of the Parliament Building. He would sample the beer and eat falafel.

The ground between the patches of pines was brown and dry, incredibly dry. No rain had fallen for months. Earnest drank in the smells of the city. The black exhaust that shot up from the stacks of the aging red and blue buses was filthy but glorious. He loved it. He wanted to study the attractive young Greek girls and women in skin-tight jeans and miniskirts. Their skimpy tops showed a lot of cleavage. Those lovely brown beauties made him salivate. The women on the beach with bulbous tanned breasts and long legs looked delicious.

He walked up from the hotel at eight o’clock in the evening along the small side road. The sun was sinking across the water in the west. He was attracted to one of the night spots, a drinking hole that doubled as a brothel, as they all did along this strip. It was just across from the airport and the US Air base. There were many such places up and down the strip that catered to sailors, airmen, and travelers. They served the Arabs who flew into the airport from the surrounding dry sex-starved countries on the Mediterranean Saheel.

Earnest saw the flashing red and green neon sign, now beginning to shine as the sun sank into the sea. The Ringo Bar. He saw the letters in an arc above the entrance, that was always open. “RINGO BAR” in flashing letters.

Earnest was curious about the place. Just a sort of small taverna, it seemed. There was a juke box and a small dance floor with booths along both sides. At the front was a bar, with stools. A bartender and a couple of young Greek women were at the bar. When he went in, it was almost empty. He had arrived early.

Earnest had come to only drink a few beers and mellow out. He would quench his thirst after the searing heat of the day. It would be a nice antidote to the conservative peasant atmosphere of a village in Punjab.

He took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. The juke box played a Beatles song. The Greek Amstel beer tasted delicious. There were some other Greek brands of beer that he would sample. A couple of Arabs drifted in, having arrived from Libya to take advantage of the freedom to drink beer and go to bed with a woman.

He saw how the girls tried to hustle the guys. It was a set routine, which he had not experienced before. The girls would come close and feel the guy and touch his legs. She would press her body close to him. She would then ask him to buy her a drink. This would be three or four dollars a shot. That way, she started to make inroads into his pocketbook.

If the guy was willing to go for that, she would stay with him and get more affectionate after the second drink. Then at one point, she would ask if he wanted to go with her. There was a hotel just across the small side road where arrangements were in place. It was on a ground floor with a side entrance. The local cops knew what was going on and looked out for the Ringo and its customers.

If the guy went for the deal, she would take him through the curtain to the back room. There were more small booths here. The guy then had to buy a bottle of Champaign. Finally, the money would be collected for the trick. Then he would hustle with the girl across the street to the hotel. The police were fully aware of the operation. Otherwise it could not have been done so smoothly.

Earnest watched it happening. He saw a few sailors and others go for the deal every night. After a few nights, he decided to go for it. There was actually nothing to lose. It was sixty dollars or so. What the hell? Buying a piece of ass in a relatively small country on the periphery of Europe was normal. This was the birth fucking place of democracy, so-called. This would be his first experience with a prostitute. He was green as hell in that enterprise, a hick from the sticks. He was entering into the profession of being a sailor, after all.

When she touched his leg, he had already begun to swell. She was a fully developed woman. Nice ass. Beautiful breasts. Nearing thirty. She already had a child. Now Titaia was working as a prostitute. She was attractive and Earnest fell easily for her, although he realized it was just a game and a commercial deal. He was game. He would go along and play. Money was easy on his Navy salary. What was he doing for it anyway? He could afford to have some fun and blow some of it.

True, he didn’t appreciate the rip of buying the Champaign. This was just a sly way of getting more money out of the clients. They talked. She kissed him and feigned affection. That part over, she hustled him across the street to the room. There was a bed, a bathroom with a shower. It was simple. They took their clothes off and fucked. That’s all there was to it. Earnest liked her. He attempted to make love to her lovingly, like he did when he made love to his wife. For her, she was not interested. It was clear that it was just a job. A business deal. Mechanical. It left a lot to be desired. There was no mutual lust such as when he made love to Sherry. When Sherry delighted and reveled in enjoying his cock. That was so delicious with a married woman. So beautiful to take one’s passion and lust to the pinnacle and please a woman.

When Earnest lingered inside her, as if he was seeking something real, real love, she asked him to hurry it up and finish. There must have been time limits. She was doing piece work and getting paid by the piece, the volume of work. It was like a fast-food operation after all. Buns and all. She was on the job, a worker on the assembly line. He was just another dildo to be turned out in the shop.

Earnest lingered as long as he could, then gave in and went ahead and finished. She was not interest in love or sex either, except that it was now a livelihood.

He took a shower and then they hustled back across the street to the Ringo. Earnest, in spite of the circumstances, was not disappointed. He liked it and certainly had no regrets. Now he had a better idea of what happened in the deal. Stupidly, he made the mistake of imagining that he was in love with her. He was still green. Actually, he was just in love with making love to a young women. Titaia in this case. It was only a relatively short time after he was married. It helped to escape the hum drum of married life. It was something a man needed. Especially a married man. Still, he had mixed feelings. He sort of felt like he might be throwing his marriage away. On the other hand, he took it as somewhat of an accomplishment. He felt somehow that it made him more of a man, at least more of a normal man. It was normal to have actually bought a piece of ass. He no longer felt like a wimp that would hesitate to go in for such an act. His manhood was somehow verified by his military status and sinning. It gave him greater confidence in himself.

He was reminded of those country preachers who use to lie to the congregations in churches about how wild a life they had had and how many women they had fucked. The whole idea was to turn the men in the pews green with envy, wishing that they could have been as big a sinner as him. In that way, the preacher would build up his status, and drive home how much he had given up when he decided to change his ways and become a Christian. It was a patent fraud. Now becoming a normal sinner, after such a fucked up religious childhood, was something Earnest could be proud of.

Chapter Twelve: Naples

Earnest was happy he had gone through with it. On the other hand, he realized that it was no big deal. He would not do it often. For the girls, what suited them best, from a professional standpoint, was the old “wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” That was fine with them. He was actually of a more romantic bent. He was susceptible to that filthy old disease called love when he met a new woman.

Buying a piece of ass left a lot to be desired in being heroic in life. He decided that he would either get a real relationship with a girl or just go with the beer. He realized that the trick mode was not really for him.

Foolish as he was, he had asked Titaia to meet him the next day at Delta Faleron. There was a parking lot down by the Navy office on the bay. He was hoping to see her again in late afternoon.

He was lucky. Lucky that his ship was out at sea. Every morning he would go down for muster at the small Seville hotel, eat breakfast, and then be free for the day. He would sometimes catch the bus down to Syntagma Square in front of the wide Parliament Building. There were many small bufes selling cold sweet lemon soda. He loved the atmosphere. The young women he saw on the streets were often attractive. He went up to the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon. It was still standing, even if only partially intact. It was a treat to see these ancient sites that he had studied about in history. He walked the streets taking pictures.

One day, a group of the transients were ordered in the morning to a working party. Earnest was among them and they were taken to unload a truck. They finished before noon. It was light work. Earnest went to a small falafel place for a cold beer down the street with some of the guys. It was an easy life, being a casual tourist and getting paid for it at the same time. Maybe he was not as stupid as he had thought to sign up for the Navy. It was sort of working out now and he was enjoying his life. He was having fun in a foreign setting.

In the morning of the day that he was to meet Titaia the transients in the hotel were given a notice to be on standby. They should ready to move out at first notice. Shit. This would blow his plans, he thought. It was an all-day wait. Earnest loaded up his things in his sea bag and waited. When the call came, he took his bag down to the small bus waiting in front of the hotel. It was late afternoon. They would be bused to the airport and flown out to Naples. In his uniform, Earnest waited in the bus with the other sailors. They waited in the July heat and waited and waited. The old hurry up and wait routine had caught up with them.

About half past five, the whole thing was called off and they were ordered off the bus. It was back to their rooms in the hotel. Earnest threw his sea bag in the room and rushed down to catch a bus to Delta Faleron. Would he be too late? He had told Tataia that he would meet her there at six. But when he arrived, he was already late. He did not know, would never know, if she had come to wait for him. However, it had destroyed his hopes. He comforted himself by thinking that she would never have bothered to come in any event. He was just being sentimental and kidding himself. He had to grow up in this business. No need to act stupid like a romantic.

He would have liked to meet her on the outside, but it was not to be. Chances were that she already had a boyfriend, maybe even a husband. He did not know.

Another great adventure was about to begin.

Two days later, on a Sunday morning, bright and early, the transients were ordered out of the hotel and into the bus. They were driven to the air base next to the airport and given breakfast at the mess hall. Earnest liked the food and ate well. There was an aging C-130 Hercules cargo plane waiting on the apron.

They were ordered out to the plane. There was web seating along the sides of the cavernous hull. They were handed a box lunch. There were jokes about the “stewardesses” on the airline and the food. It was not a very comfortable way to ride. All of the loud sounds of the craft could be heard inside as the pilot and crew prepared the plane.

The old lumbering bird slowly down the runway, picked up speed and clawed its way into the sky. It was the first time Earnest had flown on such a place. There were a couple of small port holes on either side of the plane, but one could see nothing outside from the low web seating. The plane’s propellers made a loud rumbling noise so it was hard to communicate inside. In a couple of hours, the plane came down in Naples. This was turning into another adventure.

Out of the plane, the transients were bused to the Mediterranean Hotel not far from the piers where the Navy ships docked. Down the street was the Navy shore patrol and United Service Organization. This was not a bad place, Earnest thought. And if they were going to be here he could see some of Naples. It was a great old city.

In the evening he went with a couple of the guys to eat pizza. The tables in the small local restaurants were set up with a bottle of house wine on every table. They ordered pizza and drank the wine. It was not long before he discovered that Italian pizza was nothing like American pizza. It was not as appetizing as he had expected and there were far fewer ingredients.

On the way back to the hotel, a gypsy street urchin managed to steal his watch while he was just being friendly. The back alleys were full of small shops that he liked to see. He didn’t realize till he was back at the hotel that his watch was gone. Then he kicked himself for wearing his watch outside on the street.

The next day, the news was in the papers about the assassination of the US Ambassador in Nicosia. This was Davies. Most of the guys were not even aware that there was anything taking place in Cyprus.

After three days in Naples and getting to know some of the streets and bars, the Navy loaded them up into another bus and took them to the airfield. There was a huge American C-5 A cargo plane on the apron. The powerful, even terrible, look of the plane was impressive to Earnest. After waiting most of the afternoon, they were loaded into another old C-130 and flown to Siganella in Sicily. They piled out on the hot tarmac. An old bus was waiting to take them to Augusta Bay where a Navy oiler ship was docked. This was the USS Waccimaw. A long gangplank led up to the high deck of the ship.

Earnest hoisted his heavy sea bag on his shoulder and climbed up the long ladder. They also had to carry Navy cots and mattresses and set them up on deck. This would be their quarters in the open air as the old oiler ship got underway around midnight. If a rain came up, they would have to seek shelter in a passageway of the ship.

Now the sun was slowly sinking. The call for chow went down. They went down to the mess decks for dinner. The found that the food was not bad. He relaxed on deck. It seemed very strange. It was an adventure. Darkness fell and the stars came out brightly.

Earnest had hit the cot when the oiler pulled in its lines and got underway around midnight. This was the first time Earnest had been underway as a sailor in the Navy since enlisting.

The old oiler steamed slowly to the east. The night air was pleasant. The stars were twinkling. The Mediterranean Sea was smooth as glass in the summer night. He looked up into the infinity of space at the sparkling stars. Where the fuck was he headed? How had he gotten here? It was an alteration of consciousness without drugs. He thought of Sherry’s big round tanned breasts and felt himself swelling. He could use some of that comfort. He wondered what she was doing now. He should write, he remembered.

Earnest awoke at the crack of dawn. The sun was coming up over the smooth blue water. He looked out over the beautiful calm Mediterranean. There was no land in sight. He went forward and found the head. He enjoyed the relief of his morning swill. A beautiful comforting relief. “Piss on earth, God’s swill to men,” as Edward Abbey said. He felt fine, refreshed by the pleasant sleep in the open air. It was invigorating. When the call for chow went down at seven, he went down and relished a plentiful Navy breakfast of scrambled eggs made from powder, bacon, toast, jam and coffee. It was not bad. There was no work to do. He would wait for whatever came. He got his book from his sea bag to read.

He moved his cot close to the bulkhead out of the hot morning sun. Other sailors had also bivouacked here. It was an old copy of the Kama Sutra which he had brought along to read. He had picked it up in a small bookshop in Delhi a few weeks before. Then he read and dreamed, day dreamed of that young Greek pussy. He thought of Sherry. That Rocky Mountain pussy. He thought of making love to his wife. It was all pussy. There was nothing to do. He had the leisure to laze around and think of pussy. He was reading an ancient treatise on pussy. All at the expense of Uncle Sam. Somebody had to do it.

When he was tired of Kautillya’s classification of types of women and varieties of sexual union, sizes of cocks and pussies, and their various ramifications, he walked the space along the rails and watched the deep blue see, now smooth as glass in the summer sun.

In the afternoon, the oiler rendezvoused with the USS Little Rock, the USS Fisk, the USS Sampson, and the USS Vreland. A contingent of Marines worked out on the fantail of one ship. Earnest was glad that he was not on that ship. Why should one be gung ho, when in the Mediterranean paradise?

A couple of sailors were put across by high line, being suspended from lines in a specially made seat between the two ships as they sailed underway. Sailors were said to sometimes shit their pants in this operation. As a joke they were handed a roll of shit paper. It was perhaps not as treacherous as it appeared, going from the oiler to the tender or another ship. Mail and supplies were being transferred between ships.

Later in the afternoon, the oiler met up with a destroyer escort. Hoses were put across and the ship refueled. Some transients were put across again. This routine went on for a several days. Earnest thought it was probably good luck that the Waccimaw never met up with his ship, the USS Richard L. Page. Several transients remained on board. One evening a storm blew up on the sea bringing showers. Earnest was forced to move his cot under the superstructure to escape the cool rain.

The next Sunday, just a week from leaving Athens, the oiler met up with an aircraft carrier, the USS Forrestal. The remaining transients, including Earnest, were put into a helicopter and transferred to the carrier. Earnest enjoyed the short quick hop from the oiler to the deck of the carrier. The aircraft set them down gently on the plane deck. When the transients came on board, the first thing to happen was an inspection by the master at arms. They would not be allowed to bring any contraband. Earnest remembered that he had stowed a big pack of Indian bidis in his bag that he had brought from India. These were little cigarettes made of a rolled up tendu leaf with a little tobacco inside. But since they resembled a joint of marijuana, Earnest worried that he would get in trouble for having them. He was expecting that he might be written up and hauled up to another captain’s mast. The master at arms of the ship had never laid eyes on a pack of bidis, or even a single bidi, in his life. When Earnest emptied out his sea bag, he was completely dumbfounded by them.

What the fuck is this?” the big rough sailor asked, as if he had just discovered a kilo of heroine.

They are not what you think,” Earnest explained. “Just little cigarettes from India made of the leaves of a tree. They have a little tobacco inside them. Help yourself. Try one.”

The MAA was not buying it. “We’ll see about that,” he said, confiscating them. Earnest never found out if he discovered that they were pleasant to smoke.

Fuck, Earnest thought. There goes my precious bidis that I brought all the way from India. But he was sure that there was nothing contraband about them. The Navy could not possibly have a regulation about bidis. No one in the Navy even knew what they were. The Navy would never figure it out. If they looked that strange and hippie-like and looked like a joint of marijuana, then they could not be brought on board. They had no place in the Navy. So much for American freedom, Earnest thought.

Earnest was given a rack, some five decks below the carrier deck where the planes took off and landed. It turned out to be on the same level as the mess decks. This would prove to be convenient. He took a rest in his rack, an upper bunk in a rack three high and wrote up his notes. Then he wrote a sexy letter to Sherry. He would find the post office and mail it later in the day. A TV monitor in the space showed the planes taking off and landing on the deck above. Some planes brought in passengers and mail. Earnest could feel the vibrations of the ship as the planes took off and landed. There were some ten levels of the ship.

When it came time for chow, he discovered the mess decks. The ship was a floating city with more than five thousand souls on board, all male. The mess decks never closed. They were operating twenty-four hours a day to keep the massive crew of sailors fed.

Then Earnest discovered the library. It was a convenient and comfortable place for a transient to hide out. He would spend the best part of the week that he was on board reading there. He studied Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. This was not at all conducive to Navy life, except as an escape mechanism. It was a great way to kill time and avoid the operations and crew of the ship.

It was not so bad on this floating Navy base as long as he was a transient. He was rather enjoying it. One stormy evening, a couple of sailors were lost overboard. They were blown right off the carrier deck over the side and into the sea. Only one of them was ever found, although destroyers were called to scour the area. The sailor was simply lost at sea. It seemed to Earnest that no inordinate amount of effort was made to rescue the unfortunate sailor. Just another sucker who bit the dust, or rather water.

Earnest was, in any event, earning money and spending almost none. So maybe it was not such a bad idea to have signed up for the Navy. One morning the Master at Arms sent another petty officer around the ship to round up all the transients and send them to the barber shop for a good shearing. First things first. Earnest thought it was a rather fascistic thing to do, but he had to put up with it. What else could one expect?

He heard the PA system open. A loud voice of an enlisted man blared from hundreds of loud speakers around the ship.

Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms. Make a clean sweep down fore and aft.”

Then the voice gave way to country music. Then, the voice came again.

Now hear this, now hear this. The fantail is open.”

This was the signal to dump the massive pile of the ship’s trash into the sea. The US Navy was not into environmentalism. It all went overboard.

After a week, the Forrestal, better known in the Navy as the USS Forest Fire, anchored off Naples. Earnest had been brought right back to the same spot on earth where he had started some two weeks ago. He had not yet seen anything of his ship. It had been a long cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean. But he had heard a rumor that the USS Page was back in Athens. This information came down the grapevine.

There was a boat launch to take the remaining transients and others to shore. Earnest was given a bunk in the barracks in the Naples air base. He was back where he could enjoy the cold American beer. Just pump some money into the beer machine and a cold beer appeared. That was the American way. He went out on the town once again. Out there, the beer was brought by waiters, the European way.

After two days, the remaining transients were rounded up in the late afternoon and flown back to Athens on another Navy plane. This time it was an old propeller plane but there were seats and windows. The month long adventure of waiting for his ship was coming to an end. A young ensign going to his ship had been along all the way, but he had not talked to him. In fact, “fraternization” between enlisted men and officers was prohibited. They might have enjoyed talking to each other had it been allowed. Just perhaps a patronizing pat on the back would be allowed.

When they got to Athens, the ship’s minibus came and took them up the coast to Elefsis where the USS Richard L. Page (DEG-5) was stationed. The designation meant that it was a destroyer escort with guided missiles. There were two other US destroyers there. It was a rather bleak location, with just a Navy snack bar down the pier. To get to the city and the bars in Glyfada, one had to catch one of the private buses that ran several times a day for military personnel.

Earnest Seeker boarded the ship and was signed in. He was taken down to third division, the sonar technician’s space. He was assigned a rack for sleeping. Underneath the rack was a space to store his clothes and other things. Now this was the real thing. He would finally find out what it was like to be a sailor in the US Navy.

Chapter Thirteen: Underway

The first thing that struck Earnest about being stationed on a Navy ship was the boredom. Ones’ eyes were blinded by the bright lights of the compartment being switched on a six o’clock in the morning. The word was passed from the quarterdeck for sailors to “heave out and trice up.” The quaint and trite traditional phrases gave Earnest a pain deep in his gut. What the fuck was the use of saying it like it had been said in the British Navy centuries ago?

He soon familiarized himself with the sonar spaces of the ship. Indeed most of the ship, except the spaces which off limits to him. There were not a lot of places to go. Three times a day one would go down to the enlisted mess deck to eat. These times were sort of highlights. The days were spent going through check lists and doing preventive maintenance on the equipment. It was not encouraging to think that one was going to spend the next five years doing the same thing as this every day.

If one had the duty, then one had to stand watches, often in the middle of the night. One would get either the mid-watch, midnight to four, or the four to eight in the morning. In port this would entail standing on the quarterdeck for the four hours of the boring watch. One had to sweep and polish the passageways in front of the officer’s mess. The equipment would not be running unless one was underway. There was a lot of goofing off and being lazy among the sailors. There was a lot of grab assing and horsing around, out of sexual frustration. Earnest wished that he could use his time more productively. Part of the time might be used to read an informative book if it was allowed. But reading something serious was not treated in the same way as reading a comic book. One was not to do either during working hours. But reading a comic book was acceptable. Reading something serious was a clear threat. There was the fear that one was using his brain.

This meant that time off of the ship was important. There was no space for privacy on the ship. Even finding a quiet place for reading would be nearly impossible and one could not read during working hours. Most of the enlisted guys did not get past reading comic books or light detective novels. This kind of trash was ok.

He took a top bunk in a corner of third division. That gave him slightly more privacy in a small space with some twenty guys. There was one corner near the ladder with a small table the size of a card table where sailors played cards and shot the shit. The thing to do was to go over. Go over on the beach and come back shit-faced most of the time. There was a down side to this. If one stayed in the Navy long enough they were fairly sure to become an alcoholic. Many of the enlisted men, first class and higher rank, had reached that stage of human degradation.

Sometimes on a weekend, one could spend a night on the beach, providing one had a place to go. An alternative was to go to a small hotel and hole up for some privacy. Sometimes, rather than go back to the ship in the evening, Earnest would spend the night crawling through the watering holes in Glyfada and just barely make it back for muster the next morning. That was not frequent, however. He liked poking around in the old shops in Piraeus and walking on the back streets of the city.

It was also important to have a drinking buddy, a running mate or two to go over with. At first, he was somewhat of a loner and went places by himself around the city. This was partly because he was somewhat older than most of the sailors. The older ones had usually left the service and later returned and tended to be rather depraved, it seemed to Earnest. Those who had failed in life had fallen back into the Navy and were on their way to becoming lifers and alcoholics.

At the end of September, the Page got underway for the first cruise since Earnest had come aboard. This was the first time that he had sailed aboard a destroyer. The profile of the ship was long and narrow. This meant that its motion was greater than other ships when the seas were rough. There would be more pitch and roll as the ship cut through the waves. After a few years this might make a salt out of a sailor if one could put up with it. One could even get to like it, even though it was a quite dreadful time in some of the ferocious seas in the Mediterranean in the winter.

The ship sailed south past Athens and Piraeus toward the Peloponnese. It was now September. For the first hour of so there was a gently pitching motion and some rolling from side to side. Another hour and the ship began to hit the bigger waves out clear of the Greek mainland. Now the pitch became pronounced and the rolling tossed one into the bulkhead without warning as one tried to negotiate the passageways inside the ship. One had to learn to walk in rhythm with the ship, know when the ship was going to pitch sideways and when the deck would come up to meet one’s feet. One had to learn to walk with a gait like a sailor with feet apart and body motion in tune with the movements of the ship. The deck of the ship would rise in front of one, only to fall away quickly.

Earnest’s stomach soon began to experience nausea, the nauseas feeling that comes with the beginning of sea sickness. No, he was not a salt yet. He would not be, even at the end of his duty station in Greece, but he had fire in his gut to beat it, to get over it. When the seas were rough, the saltine crackers would be broken out on the mess decks. Eating them somehow helped to stabilize one’s stomach and keep back the feeling of sickness.

Some point would come when one could take it no longer and whatever one had eaten before getting underway would have to come up. If one was close enough, he could make it to a head and barf it up there. Someone could simply not hold it and one’s mouth would simply explode, spewing the puke over a clean bulkhead. The heads would start to become filthy as more sailors succumbed to the infirmity that had taken over the crew. A few of the older crew had stomachs like rocks. One was lucky if it was the head where one was barfing their guts out. They would not be the only one. At night many sailors tied a plastic barf bag on their rack to use in the night.

When the seas were exceptionally rough, not even the saltiest of the salts could stomach it. And one had to perform their duty, no matter what condition one was in. Chances were that Earnest would draw the first mid-watch after the ship was underway. In rough seas, the sonar transmitters would keep flipping off, going down. One would have to go down several decks to the sonar space and reset the transmitters. This was a distasteful duty when one was feeling sick as a dog. Or one might be designated to go down to the large space in the aft of the ship below the fantail and drop the bathythermograph, the BT. Earnest actually liked doing this, sending the probe down through the seas from an opening in the aft of the ship. There was a fine wire that sent a signal back to the ship as the BT plummeted through the layers of salt water. The temperature profile was recorded on a chart. Thousands of drops were being made by ships around the world every day so that the sea temperatures were being profiled. Knowledge of the sea temperatures at various depths was being accumulated.

Manning the sonar watch, watching the cathode ray display, was actually pleasant duty at sea, as long as one could just stay put. Boring as hell, but one could usually talk about something else. There was always strong black coffee to keep one awake in the darkened space. Generally, it would take a couple of days for one’s stomach to settle down and take the sea. After that one could hack it even if it meant eating less.

In rough seas, one heard the anchor chain tossed around in the hold the entire night. Third division compartment was just behind this hold. He never thought of the ship sinking. He put the possibility out of his mind. There were instructions about what to do in such a danger such as a fire or being hit with a torpedo. A list of directives were posted on the bulkheads. No one believed that they were not fully dispensable on such a small tin can with some 250 crew members. Sailors had written a final directive. “Bend over and kiss your sweet ass goodbye.” It was possibly the only one which applied.

All the down time on board the ship was a good time to catch up on writing letters. There was a small post office on board. Its main function was to allow sailors to send money orders back to their families rather than to drink it up in the foreign watering holes. Of course sometimes the mail would not go out for days, sometimes not before they got into a port. It was a rather primitive form of communication and very slow. The mail had to be transferred to a mail facility either at a port or to another ship to get sent back to the United States.

The ship would get mail bags sometimes from another ship or when in a port overseas. It seemed a real miracle that mail actually came and went but it was a life line for sailors with families, if they were faithful in sending money. It was not very safe to keep one’s pay in cash on board the ship as sometimes the lockers under one’s rack could be broken into. Sometimes one had no choice.

Earnest had a different sort of a problem with a wife and child in India. He could not just go down and buy a postal money order and send it to India. He had to find a bank on the beach where he could make a cashier’s check that could be cashed in India or send an international draft.

The ship headed for Naples for two days liberty. Earnest went over and enjoyed the city. The second day he drew shore patrol duty. So he had to go over in his uniform and form up at the headquarters next to the USO. He felt silly walking around like a cop on the beat with a heavy wooden stick in his belt. He knew that was not going to hit anybody with that, regardless of what happened.

After two days, the ship got underway for Barcelona, with a port call in Majorca on the way. Earnest went over with another guy from sonar division. In the back streets was a redneck bar that played American country music. Earnest found it interesting, but sordid. It catered to the sailors from the Navy ships. One sailor from first division was beaten up badly by members of his division and brought back to the ship on a stretcher before getting underway. Some of the crew had taken revenge while over on liberty.

Barcelona was a more attractive liberty port. The ship was moored near the old statue of Christopher Columbus. It was a short walk up to Las Rambles, the long mall where people came out for a stroll at any hour of the day. The sailors spread out in the city and drank beer. The back streets were full of small bars. The beer was quite cheap. Earnest loved the feel of the huge populous city. Spain was the best country he had yet visited.

He met a young girl, a student, in one of the small bars, and imagined that he was falling in love with her. He wanted to taste her lovely small white breasts. He was not out to get laid, but just having a good time. Sometimes he would get too wound up with too much beer, but he always could make it back to the ship.

On Sunday he went over with some other guys to steam, which meant drinking beer and navigating from one bar to another. There was a bull fight at one of the arenas in the city. They went inside and watched as several bulls were tormented and then slaughtered before the audience. Earnest had not been aware that the bulls were actually going to die right there in front of their eyes. Watching only one of them get run through with the long sword and bleed to death was enough for Earnest. He did not need to see more. How many would there be? It kept going on until they finally left. It was an insight into the local culture, but he could not really see it as heroic.

They then went to some of the small bars in the back streets to drink beer. This evening, he was with Gunner, another sailor from third division. He was a fun small guy to be with, from Ohio. The problem was that when he got drunk, he could not keep going. He would just slump over at some place and pass out, like one of the dying bulls in the arena.

Earnest hit another bar with Gunner. Some Spanish guy at the bar was buying them drinks. Earnest was drinking one drink after another of some kind of red stuff. It tasted sweet and good. Earnest was getting tighter and tighter. He had his camera with him and did not want to lose it.

Earnest headed back to the head. He pulled out his cock to take a piss. He looked around and the Spanish guy was there, ready to go after his cock. The he got the message of who the guy was. Earnest was not interested in meeting a gay. The scene was becoming more and more of a blur. Later, he could remember only part of it. Was that the place where he lost Gunner? Had he left with the guy? Who knows? Somehow Earnest had left the place. Somehow he had lost Gunner. Then he was in another bar. There was a nice-looking older woman who he could have made love to. She was with her daughter, a beautiful young thing, twentyish. Maybe she slowed him down. Gunner was already a gonner. Nowhere to be found. Earnest still had his camera, miraculously. The older woman and the young daughter then rescued him and took him to an all-night place. Here they served small cups of hot thick chocolate and a kind of bread sticks. Apparently it was a place where people came to sober up from a night of bar crawling. He was almost delirious. But he was having a heck of a good time. He asked the older woman if he could write to her. She didn’t give an address but told him to address it to her name and general delivery in Barcelona. She gave him a name.

They took him down to the harbor and left him at the place where the ship was moored. Daylight was about to arrive.

But Earnest was fucking crazy. He had not yet had enough. He was not ready to climb up the brow to the ship. That woman and her daughter were still in his mind. The name and GPO address they had given him. Were they real? Probably not. But they had taken care of him. He still wanted more. He was hungry for more as the morning light appeared. He knew that the ship would be getting underway at six in the morning. He wandered around the square and found the post office building. That was surely the place they meant. Why was he acting so fucking crazy?

Finally, he gave it up and went up onto the ship. He climbed up the brow and saluted the officer on deck. He had only time to go down to the compartment and change into his work dungarees before the ship prepared to get underway. He was still drunk as a skunk, a drunken sailor. He hustled back to the fantail to take care of his duties, handling the lines. It was painful. It was shit. It was wonderful. The night had been wonderful. Maybe it would have been more wonderful if he had gotten laid, but he had enjoyed the fuck out of the experience. He now needed to sleep, but could hack it. There would be plenty of time to sleep while underway.

In a little bit they were steaming. The great city receded behind the wake of the ship. Earnest went down the mess decks, still drowsy and hung over but happy. He ate a big breakfast. By that time the work day had started, but there was not a lot to do. Just stand watch when it came his turn. He had lost a night’s sleep. He would catch a few winks after lunch then catch up on his sleep in the late evening with the lights out providing he didn’t have the watch.

Earnest couldn’t forget that woman. It was more the older woman that he remembered, kind and motherly, perhaps. The young girl was not so engraved in his mind.

He had written to Sherry. Maybe she would come to Italy and see him at Christmas. They could have a nice time in one of the small hotels and go to small restaurants. He couldn’t forget the taste of her soft sweet lips.

Gunner was lost and never made it back to the ship. He was put down as AWOL. The next day a massage came that he had shown up at the American Consulate in Barcelona. He would catch the ship in the next liberty port, Valencia.

It seemed that Gunner did not know exactly what had happened to him that night. He claimed that he had been robbed and beaten up. Perhaps it was true. It saved his ass from being punished for missing ship’s movement. Nothing happened to Earnest, perhaps under the care of the older woman. It was good, but could have been better.

Chapter Fourteen: Reggio Calabria

It was nearly Christmas. The USS Page docked in the southern-most point on the boot of Italy. The Page was the only ship on the pier in the small town of Reggio Calabria. A Mediterranean winter had set in with cloudy skies and drizzling rain. It was somewhat miserable, but Earnest loved it. He loved walking the streets of Reggio, seeing the small bars and coffee shops. He loved going in and having a cappuccino. He loved buying the bootlegged cassette tapes from the sellers on the street.

Earnest didn’t know it, but he was about to fall in love again. This time it was a Maria, Maria Catanoso. She lived in a large traditional house in one of the streets just off the main street of the town. Her father, a medical doctor, had a small clinic on the first floor of the house. She was a young university lecturer in her early thirties.

Earnest met her quite accidently. A bright and clean young sailor on the ship named Peter was invited to a Christmas reception in her house. It was organized by members of the English club, who were studying English in their spare time. They liked meeting Americans and wanted to meet some of the sailors from the ship.

Earnest, as normally happened, had drawn shore patrol duty. The winter uniform consisted of a black wool shirt and pants. Their headquarters were up in an old building that housed the Carabinieri or military police. Strangely, the standard uniform reminded the Italians of Mussolini’s storm troopers. This was because of the black shirts. On the other hand, it was perfect for the chilly December evenings. Rather than sit around in the office, Earnest preferred to be out walking on the street. He did not intend to have to beat up anybody.

The night that Earnest was on Shore Patrol, Peter told him that there were some Italians who wanted to meet sailors from the ship. He went up to the reception. There was a large table with snacks and sweets and several types of drinks. It was forbidden to drink while on Shore Patrol, but he allowed himself the liberty of sampling one or two types of liqueur.

It was here that he met Maria. She was somewhat older than him, a beautiful woman. Maria was taken with him and he loved it. She made it a point. She invited him to come to their house for a lunch. It was very middle class. Very bourgeois. He drank the wine and enjoyed it immensely. She told him about her university lectures and travels to other parts of Italy. She was an educated and accomplished woman. Did she want to marry him? He thought it might be possible.

Earnest was quickly falling in love. The lunch was beautiful. She gave him ripe persimmons. He met her mother. They asked him about some English words, how to say them. They asked him about himself, his background. The family was not very rich, but comfortably middle class with plenty of money.

He came to her house from the ship when he got a chance. Late evening, she would drive him down to the ship in her small green Italian car. She gave him a kiss on his lips. Then he would lay down in his rack and dream of her. Italy was a nice country. A gentle and civilized country.

One Sunday he came to her house in late morning. She met him at the door. She was wearing a light cloth around her legs, a sort of covering of thin material. He could see her long shapely and beautiful legs inside. This turned him on. She invited him in. He embraced her and kissed her.

At New Years, he was invited to a party. There were many attractive Italian women. They all gave him kisses. He kissed more women in one night than he had ever kissed in his entire life. Then at another party, there were many young guys and young women. They listened to music and danced. But the young girls stayed with their friends and were not friendly to him. It was coming toward morning. He had drunk too much and was starting to feel ill.

Leaving the party, Earnest walked toward the harbor but then decided to go to Maria. He rang her door. In a little bit, she appeared in a robe. When she saw him, she let him in. He said that he had gone to a party, but had started feeling ill. Maria brought him in and showed him a bed where he could lay down. He felt better as he began to get warm. He was feeling tired from the night. He drifted off to sleep.

Earnest felt something warm beside him. He woke up and felt her body near him. She kissed him on the lips. She pressed her body closer and touched him. He felt her skin. She was naked. His hand touched her warm skin. She offered him her soft, beautiful breasts to kiss. He kissed her soft breast and then her hardened nipples. His cock stiffened. She pressed her hand to his cock, still inside his shorts. Her kisses became hotter.

Earnest entered her from the side. She was soft and beautifully warm. He made love to her for half an hour. She was a beautiful woman. He needed her comfort. She lingered with him. In late morning, she got up and brought him coffee and a roll. He could see her beautiful soft breasts inside her robe. He touched them and tasted them again. Suddenly, he wanted her again. He pulled her to him. She let him make love to her again, this time more passionately. It was deeply satisfying. He told her that he loved her. She held him and laughed for joy.

I have cured you,” she said, “My naughty boy, I have made you healthy again. You can be my son.”

After the New Year, the ship got underway for three weeks. When the Page returned they moored in Messina in Sicily. It was just across the channel from Reggio. Earnest was set on catching the ferry across to see Maria when he got the first chance.

At the first liberty call, Earnest took his bag and walked down the pier to where the ferries leave for Reggio. He bought a ticket and walked on board. The ferry filled up with small Italian cars and trucks. The boat got underway and headed south. Earnest was surprised, as he expected it to go north to the Italian mainland. It was only later that he looked at the map and saw that Reggio was actually to the south of Messina.

When the ferry docked in Reggio, Earnest took a bus to Maria’s place, via Juilio number 45. She gave him a hug and a kiss and brought him into the house. Did she want him to propose to her for marriage? It was not until later that he thought that he missed his chance to marry a beautiful Italian woman. Later she wrote to him. “I never thought that I would marry until I met you.”

Chapter Fifteen: Bicycle Man

He was a sort of a stunt man with a Christian name, John. Earnest’s wife’s relationship with him was completely unknown to Earnest. She had met him when she moved to Chandigarh. They soon became lovers. His stunt was to ride a bicycle around a circle shaped arena for three days at a time.

Lakshmi wrote to Earnest saying that she had the opportunity to buy some land in the city. It was the new capital city of Punjab. The land could be used as lots for houses. Earnest did not have the money but decided that he should borrow it from the Navy Federal Credit Union if they would loan it to him. It would be a sacrifice, but he would do it. He could pay it back through a monthly allotment from his pay. He would, of course, have to keep the purpose of the loan secret from the credit union. The land should quickly increase in value.

It was the biggest loan he had ever taken, but he felt bold, like he was doing something that would pay off in the future. What could he tell the credit union about the purpose of the loan?

Earnest had applied for a loan once before and had been turned down when he told them that he needed the money to send to his wife. He decided that if he applied for another loan, he would simply say that he needed it for a holiday. That way it was likely to be easily approved.

Earnest went to the Credit Union and borrowed two thousand dollars. He sent it to India by wire transfer. He assumed that she had gotten the money and that she would buy the land. Unfortunately, she was not very good about informing him about such things as whether she received the money that he sent. He would wait for months before her letters arrived.

It was not until he was out of the Navy that he asked about the land. She had told him nothing about it.

He was shocked to find out that she had never bought the land. Instead, she said that she had used it to buy a motor bike. But Earnest later thought that some of it must have gone to her friend and lover, John. Motorbikes were not that expensive.

It was never explained to him specifically, but she returned with several pictures of her friend John cycling around a big circle arena with spectators. The pictures were made in some town in Rajasthan, quite far from Punjab. On his shoulders was Earnest’s daughter of three. His wife Lakshmi was standing on the side of the arena.

Then he saw a letter that came from him to the US. It was obviously a love letter asking if there was some way that he could come to the US to put on a bicycle show there.

Then when Lakshmi was taking a writing course in the university, she wrote a story about John. In the story, he was jealous of her and suspected that someone else was making love to her. She had asked Earnest read the story and tell her what he thought about it. Earnest simply told her that it was a nice story. But he wondered why she had given him the story to read unless she wanted to let him know something about her life in India. All that had been destroyed when he had asked her to come back to the US. He then wondered if he had actually done her a favor.

Earnest did not actually hold it against her. He would be understanding, except that he was somewhat surprised at it. She seemed to be telling him that she would fuck around with someone else and to hell with him if he didn’t like it.

And clearly, some of his money was going to her friend Sudarshan, who was helping her get the visa to come to the US when she first came. It should not have been that difficult, he thought.

From Chandigarh, John and Lakshmi took the bus to Jaipur. It was a long ride. A full day to Delhi. There they stayed with a friend. It was not easy to shack up with other than one’s wife in the hotels in Delhi.

The next day they lingered, resting up. The third day, they caught the bus from Delhi. It was late October. It was nice weather in the desert country. John performed in a large square of the city, Lakshmi and Lilac participating.

They had to pay to have the arena put up. There was a perimeter with a rope boundary to keep the spectators away. They had signs made and there was a small entry fee. Notices were put up around the city about the performance. Venders of sweets and nuts prepared to set up on the sidelines. The show was launched at eleven in the morning.

The challenge was to ride the cycle for three full days, never stopping. A full 72 hours of non-stop cycling. This would be an interesting attraction in India. It was just a matter of sitting on the cycle as it practically pedaled itself. As he rode, John performed tricks to attract attention.

The audience was made up mostly of young men. Young school girls also came by, giggling at the boys and buying some snacks from the venders. There was one selling salty karati dal and squeezing lemon on it. He piled on the salt with his fingers. Another seller was popping corn in a small metal box over a fire. Another vender had small bars of homemade ice cream. Music from a Hindi film was blaring continuously. John took the small child on his shoulders and performed, making the chubby child laugh and squeal for the audience. It all went on for three days. He never once fell from the cycle. He was able to get enough rest even as he continued to spin round and round the circle.

On the third day, it was over. A city official appeared for a ceremony. Many wreaths of flowers were placed round John’s neck. Then they placed smaller ones around the child and Lakshmi too. Their pictures would appear in the local newspaper the next day.

John counted the money that they had made and slept. The next morning, he made passionate love to Lakshmi while the child slept.

It was at exactly the time that Earnest was manning a sonar screen somewhere in the Mediterranean. He imagined that his wife was going to school, being a student. In some ways, she was a professional student going to school continuously for many years. It was sometimes difficult for Earnest to remember when she had not been a student.

Back in Chandigarh, Lakshmi practiced on her sitar. Unfortunately it was a complex instrument to play and took a dedication that she was not willing to give. For her, it was more of a leisure occupation.

It was good that she had a lover. Earnest was guilty in abandoning her in those years to avoid buckling down to family life. It was probably good that he had a lover from time to time too. It helped to keep both of them sane.

Chapter Sixteen: Coming to America

In spite of the mild sunny climate, days in Greece could be quite cold. The bright sunshine was warming in the daytime but temperatures were chilly at night. Earnest loved roaming the back streets of old Athens and taking pictures. It was a very traditional country and quite socially conservative. However, he found the Greek women on the streets stylish and sexy. He stole a picture of young attractive ones when he could. Even the fleshy middle aged ones looked attractive. They produced wild fantasies in his mind.

One weekend he took a camping trip to the north to Meteora with some other guys from the ship. It was good getting out and seeing some of the countryside and small towns. The sailors bought salami, cheese, bread and wine from the small markets to eat in the evening.

Meteora was famous for its ancient monasteries situated precariously on the tops of rock cliffs. The occupants had to be lifted to the most inaccessible ones in rope baskets. On a Sunday, they visited one of the huge monasteries on the top of a mountain. Earnest loved the wild pomegranate trees growing along the small roads when they stopped along the road.

Athens was lovely during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It was so much different from the US, where commercialization rules everything. Signs of the holiday appeared only a few days before Christmas. People simply went out and shopped for the holidays in the sunny markets along the street buying food and a few small gifts.

Earnest loved wandering the old shops in Piraeus and buying bootlegged cassette tapes and other small curiosities. He even found some tapes of Hindi film songs as there were many Indians living in Athens. It was a lovely time in the year.

One night he got a room in a small hotel near the harbor for a night to get away from the ship and dreamed of having a woman. But he was generally happy in his solitude. He had decided that resorting to a hooker for sex was not worth it.

It was shortly after this, that he had to say good-bye to his lovely adventure in Greece. The Page was being transferred back to the US to undergo more than a year in the shipyards in Philadelphia.

On a cool sunny afternoon in January, the ship got underway from Elefsis for the last time. Handling lines on the fantail, Earnest felt sad to be leaving the place and would have liked to stay. He was tempted to shift to another ship and stay in the country, but thought it better to take his chances and stay with the ship. He said goodbye to the green hills beyond the bay.

The next two weeks in transit turned into a sort of holiday cruise. Earnest enjoyed the travel, even though he was downhearted to be going back into the belly of the beast. Part of his reason for joining the Navy was to get away from America and enjoy life overseas.

After a couple of days in Naples, the ship reached Valencia for a liberty call. Earnest had come to like Spain best of all the countries they visited. He went with friends and took the local buses. They drank beer in small bars.

A week later, the ship made a liberty call in Lisbon. The old city struck Earnest as unspoiled by modernization. One could even still see horse carts on the streets bring fresh produce to the small markets. Earnest wandered the streets until he was exhausted.

Along with his friend Bagley, he explored the old bookstores in a section of the city. The city was still a paradise for taking many pictures. The city appeared old and conservative with most people in formal European dress, compared with the US. Only the young women appeared to be somewhat modern. He considered it would be an interesting place to live if he just had the chance.

His appetite for seeing India again was only whetted when the ship made a liberty call in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. He went with some other sailors and found a hotel. In February, the beach was warm and full of tourists. They bought bread, cheese and wine from the small shops. It was pleasant to sit in the sun and watch the European women in their bikinis and take pictures. The young women looked delicious in the hot sun. He felt that he was missing out on the fun not having a chance to meet them.

Earnest discovered that the shops in the town were mainly owned and run by Indians from Bombay. He had to go into an Indian restaurant and enjoy the taste of Indian food. He wanted like fuck to split off from the Navy and get back to India, but how could he do that? There were so many pleasant places in the world to live. He sat down in a pleasant park on the green grass in the town and thought it out. The situation seemed to be quite hopeless until he could get another three years of Navy life out of his hair and be free again.

Getting underway from Grand Canary Island, the ship transited slowly across the Atlantic to Puerto Rico in the sunny winter weather. There was little to do on board, as most of the electronic equipment on board was shut down to save fuel. It was a rare time when one was free to read during working hours. After a week, the ship pulled into the beautiful old harbor of San Juan.

The last of the beauty and warm summer sun was here in San Juan. It had been a leisurely transit across the Atlantic. Sailors lay on the deck and sunbathed. But they were soon to be faced with the cold climate of North America.

In Puerto Rico, Earnest went over with some of the sailors and began to steam. This just meant drinking beer, which was normal for a sailor. The town was too used to drunken sailors for the women to be friendly, so one had to go with the beer. Dreading the prospect of being back in the belly of the beast, America, Earnest downed the cold beers, philosophically. Again, he wished that he could stay in this lovely island. The streets were thick with cute young Puerto Rican girls in miniskirts. Most were much too young. Those lovely legs looked good enough to eat. He ate up several rolls of film shooting slides of them to no avail.

By the late evening he had steamed to the point of getting quite drunk. He was having a good time. He would blow it out before entering the belly of the beast. It seemed that most of the sailors just wanted to get back to America. First off the boat, they flooded into the local McDonalds to catch up on the bad fast food that they had been missing in Greece. For Earnest, it was the opposite. Earnest thought it was sad. Most sailors had no appreciation for foreign cultures. The last thing he wanted to do was to go back to the streets of America.

There were large expensive hotels along the beach for the rich and those on tours. He went to the beach with some sailors late in the evening. The sand was still warm and the water inviting. Earnest shed his clothes, after drinking, and frolicked in the warm sand. If the police had been around he might have been hauled into the clink. After all, this was just a little colony of America.

He knew they were soon going to be in a much more cold and bleak place in the winter in the US. It would not be possible to frolic in the sand this way. This was producing dread in Earnest’s mind.

There would be no visits to foreign ports for more than a year once the ship was back in America and in the Navy yards in Philadelphia for a complete overhaul.

Back on the ship, Earnest found his mail piled up on his rack, which had been waiting for the ship to arrive. Here was finally a welcome letter from his wife.

The ship soon got underway from San Juan. Three days later, they were entering the frigid winter air off the coast of New Jersey. The ship docked for offloading the weapons on the ship. This took a day. Earnest had duty. He put on his warmest clothes and struggled to keep warm standing watch on the quarterdeck in the cold wind coming from the northwest. The skies were gray and cloudy. Cold rain pummeled down and then turned to sleet and snow. This was not at all like Greece or the Canaries or San Juan. That was heaven. Not at all. America was hell. Where was his beautiful Mediterranean sun?

What is this shit? He thought. This is not exactly what I bargained for. He thought of Kipling. “Ship me somewhere east of Suez.” He longed to be back in the tropics. Specifically he longed for India. Things did not get better when the ship got underway for Philadelphia. After a couple days, the ship docked at the Navy base at the foot of Broad Street. Here they were next to a big American city, but Earnest really wanted no part of it. The atmosphere was gray and bleak. At least, he would get to know something about the East Coast.

The ship had to be cleared out to go into dry-dock. The sailors collected their things in their sea-bags and were transferred to live on a floating barracks for more than a year while the ship was going through a major overhaul.

Earnest packed up his things in his sea-bag and collected his few books. The floating barracks was a terrible old rust bucket. It was like living in a slum, he thought. It was an old floating slum dwelling. How could he put up with it? It depressed him to see where he was going to be living.

There was hardly anything to do on this floating prison, so sailors were sometimes transferred to some additional duty on the base. Earnest was slated for some time in the Shore Patrol office. He had no desire to be a cop, but some of these guys did. Then he would be sent for a month as a part of the supply team cataloging parts for the ship.

He had requested to be transferred off the Page to an overseas duty station, but all his requests had been turned down. Such transfers were usually granted only under the condition that a sailor signed up for more years of duty. He had no idea of doing that. The Navy had other fish to fry so ignored his requests.

It was not a complete loss. When he had the time, he could take a few days leave and fly back to Missouri to get his car. Back in Philadelphia, it would be a chance to explore the area and go to the big apple, New York, from time to time. Being a sailor was the downside, but he would put up with it. Most of all, he needed a woman, but that was perhaps out of the question for the time being.

Chapter Seventeen: Navy Cop

After six months in the Mediterranean, Earnest was now in Philadelphia. The ship would be in dry dock for a major overhaul for more than a year. The sailors were transferred to a floating barracks at the base. It was an old worthless floating barracks from World War II. It provided a cheap form of housing for the enlisted crew while the ship was in the yards. This added to the depression Earnest felt in the cold gray skies of Philly in February. With all the swinging dicks around, pussy was short. And it was not going to be easy to get back to India to see his family.

It was clear that the Chief of the Sonar Division was concerned about Earnest. The problem was that he was neither a model sailor nor a model military man. In Chief Dickerson’s view, he did not demonstrate the proper traits of brutality that one would expect. He was not enough of a dick, in short, and he thought that something might be done about that. He would turn him into a cop and after busting some heads, he might come round to having the proper attitude to being a sailor and a dick.

That is how Earnest came to be detailed to work in the Shore Patrol office on the base while the ship was in the yards.

It came completely out of the blue for Earnest. It was not something that he preferred to do. On the other hand, if it got him off that rotting stinking boat, then there was something to be said for that. He would be given a place to stay in the barracks on the base. He would have his car and a place to park. He would learn the ropes and put up with it. On the other hand, he had no intention of becoming a proper Navy cop who actually believed in the system. His sentiments were likely to be on the other side of those on the right side of the law. In this case, it was the chicken shit Navy regulations that drove him up the wall.

He was transferred off the ship the next month. He soon discovered that it was the duty of the shore patrol on the Philly Naval Base was to collect sailors who had gone AWOL. Once they had absconded and, in most cases, gone back to their home towns, they would stay away until discovered. This usually happened when they were stopped for a traffic violation or perhaps picked up for smoking marijuana. Then they would be sent back to the Philly Naval base.

If they were caught in the area, within a one-hundred mile radius, the shore patrol would simply send one of its cherry coaches with a red light on top out to pick them up. It turned out that one of Earnest’s jobs would be to drive a cherry coach for this purpose. Around the base, he would communicate with the base office with a walkie-talkie. All of this, he actually hated. He just wasn’t cut out for it.

Earnest was incredibly stupid when it came to matters having to do with wielding authority. The cherry coaches were given numbers, such a cherry coach one, cherry coach two and so on. For the first few weeks, Earnest understood this as “perry coach.” That’s what it sounded like coming through the muffled sound of the walkie-talkie. For days he kept calling to other units as “perry coach.” It finally soaked through his head that, shit, they are saying “cherry coach,” not perry coach. It probably did not make a lot of difference. Sometimes it was hard to understand what else was being said anyway.

But sometimes driving the van could have its advantages. If he went with another sailor to a town in the area to a police station to pick up an AWOL sailor, it was a good chance to get away from the base for the time being. It was sometimes amusing. Whether the sailor actually stayed on the base, once brought back, or left again immediately, was of no concern to Earnest. He was merely doing what was required of him.

It was an example of how, in the military, one sometimes ended up doing the most unexpected things.

The shore patrol office attracted the most varied sorts of sailors. One guy in the Shore Patrol office was a fat piggish type from Missouri. Billy Swiney had strong inclinations to be a police. He had somehow acquired a set of red flashing police lights and installed it on top of his car, presumably living the fantasy that he was indeed a cop as he drove back and forth to the Navy base. Swiney would pull up behind an unsuspecting driver and suddenly turn on the flashing light to scare the shit out of the poor guy. He loved getting his kicks by pestering others, like a typical pig.

There was a thin chief, in his thirties, Alan Anders, whose primary occupation was to pick up women, wherever he happened to be. He was an incurable pussyholic, at his age of thirty-five. He was friendly, however, and never gave others a hard time like Swiney. Another bearded sailor, Rob Worley, a first class petty officer, kept repeating, almost as a mantra “different strokes for different folks,” and laughing about the women he claimed to be screwing. He too was in pursuit of any and all women who caught his eye. He was not terribly discriminating. Almost anything would do. These guys spent most of their time in the office shooting the shit with their girlfriends on the Navy telephones.

If there was no one to be picked up, at the airport or local police stations, they would make local patrols around the perimeter of the base, the back areas, to check to see if there was anything out of order. Normally they would send out Earnest to give them more time to shoot the shit with their girlfriends on the phones in the office.

Patrolling was a mere boring routine. Once Earnest had settled into the pattern, however, he found that the duty was not so bad, even though there were aspects of it that he positively detested. One of these was the requirement of putting handcuffs on a sailor when he picked him up at a police station or the airport. He had no reason to fear a poor depressed sailor being dragged back to the base. For his money, he would have been happy to see him go his own way, if that had been possible.

It was a Saturday evening. The office received a call from the police tank in downtown Philly. An AWOL sailor had been picked up. Earnest and another sailor in the office were detailed to take a Navy van down to the Broad Street police station and pick him up.

Earnest parked the cherry coach outside the police station leaving his lights flashing. Inside, the cops were lounging around. There was what they called a pen, where the guys that they had picked up were being held. Earnest thought it was more like a cattle pen than anything. Earnest noticed that most of the victims were black or brown skinned. The AWOL guy was produced. A Hispanic in this case. Earnest put the handcuffs on him. They put him in the back of the van and brought him back to the base and checked him in with no resistance.

The next Sunday, Earnest was on duty. The Shore Patrol received a call that an AWOL sailor had been picked up in Pennsylvania. He was being held in a cell in the police department in Blue Balls. Earnest and another sailor were given the duty to go and pick him up. Earnest wondered about the names of those towns. Blue Balls was just down the road a short distance from Intercourse. What was going on here?

They hit the road and rolled out through the west of the city to the suburbs. Then they were out to farm country. It was coming Spring time and the countryside was newly green and pleasant. Farmers were plowing their fields for spring planting.

When they reached Blue Balls, they asked a service station about the location of the station. It was easy to find on the main street. They parked the Navy cherry coach in front and rang the bell. They were admitted. Earnest felt like a heel hobnobbing with and assisting these police with their duties. He had surely either sold himself out or was in the process of doing so. He promised himself to never let that happen to him.

Earnest noticed several plants growing in the window of the small police station office. They were marijuana seedlings in flower pots. Earnest was amused that the police were entertaining themselves this way. Perhaps they had been picked up from someone’s apartment. But what harm could a few small plants of marijuana do? There was surely a fascist tinge to laws in the United States.

The sailor was inside a small cell with just a small cot to sleep on. The heavy set deputy unlocked the cell. He was a small young guy. He looked timid. And then he started to cry. Earnest was a little embarrassed by this behavior. Sure, he didn’t like the Navy. He had run away. He said that he wanted to be with his mother. Then he began to plead with the police not to send him back to the Navy. He didn’t want to go back to the base.

Earnest thought that it was a little bit too much. He also didn’t like being in the Navy at this point. But after all, this guy, being in Philly, he was not so far from his mother. Earnest thought that his own situation was a lot worse, being separated from his family in India so much farther away.

Earnest handcuffed the sailor’s hands behind his back for the trip to the base. According to regulations, it had to be that way. Earnest rode with him in the back of the car. He kept up his whining, saying that he wanted to be with his mother. Earnest thought that it was surely not quite normal. Earnest had never been like that with regard to his mother. He rather felt better when she was not with him.

There was one aspect that he liked about being on shore patrol. This was going to Blindman’s, a sandwich shop on the base that made big Italian submarine sandwiches, or what were called hoagies in Philly. The office would send someone to make a run for hoagies to Blindman’s. They were delicious sandwiches with several types of meat and cheese. One could choose the kind one wanted.

Earnest did his best to follow the regulations and stay out of trouble.

Then his shore patrol duty ended in summer and he was back on the stinking floating barracks.

After another month, he was sent to another location on base to work with the supply team. It was called the Soap team. Another boring job, but it was easy enough duty. There were three other guys from the ship and there were no officers around. It gave him a relative amount of freedom, compared to being on the ship. These were smart and nice guys to work with and didn’t give each other a hard time.

There were hundreds of small boxes of parts from the ship. One by one, the boxes had to be checked and the parts inventoried. The team did this all day at a leisurely pace. They worked around a large table on the fourth floor of a huge warehouse on base. Since it was close to the base library, Earnest could escape and find some books to read during the lunch break.

Eventually it all came to an end when the ship came out of the Navy yards. The sailors were billeted again on the ship which began to make short shakedown cruises down the Delaware River and out to sea. The next month they were to be home-ported in Shit City, Norfolk, Virginia. The only thing to look forward to was another cruise to the Mediterranean.

Chapter Eighteen: Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach was a seedy place. There were too many sailors.There were too many down-scale bars that catered to the young drunken guys from the military bases. There were almost no available women, except for those who drifted down from the north as tourists. For the most part, the local women wanted nothing to do with sailors. They were a different breed and there was a thick racial type of stigma that attached to them and anything to do with the Navy. The local women steered clear of the military scene.

Tourists often came down for a weekend or a few more days from New York or another city. Earnest never cared much for the local bars and watering holes. They were mostly just full of sailors. After the yards in Philadelphia, the Page was stationed in Norfolk. Earnest would drive down with a friend on the weekend mainly to go to the Edgar Casey library and book shop. He liked reading up on mysticism and this was the place where books could be found.

Earnest found one beer place that he liked, however. Especially, he liked going to the happy hour on Sunday evening when one could drink beer for twenty-five cents a glass and eat as many peanuts as one wanted free. The shells were just thrown on the floor. This was a place called the Green Wheel and there was a weathered green wheel above the door. It even sometimes attracted a few coeds from Old Dominion University up in Norfolk.

Earnest started going down with some guys from the Page. It was a fun time and it was cheap on Sunday.

One Sunday, he went with two sailors named Flash Gordon and Carl Schaffer to the Wheel. Flash was married, but handy to play around with and pick up girls. Carl was a chubby guy, who could not pick up women but had an old brown Ford Pinto and would sometimes give others a ride to the place. To save money, Earnest had been living on the ship in port.

One Sunday, Earnest went out with these guys and drank beer. Flash struck up a conversation with some tourists who had come down from New York. There were two women in their late twenties. One was a thin young woman named Ann Summer. She was not so good looking and was divorced. She had come with her girlfriend and was the best looking of the two. The other was named Mary Hobbs.

The girls moved into the booth with Earnest, Flash and Carl. Earnest sat across from Ann. They shelled peanuts, letting the shells drop on the floor and swigged the cheap draft beer. It flowed like water in the place. There was a mix of clientele, sailors and locals. Earnest struck up a conversation with Ann. He wished that she had been better looking, but she was friendly and seemed willing.

They stayed till close to eleven getting wound up tighter on the beer. When they left, Carl gave Ann a ride in his Pinto to the place where she was staying. Earnest rode with her in the back with her and told her that he would like to meet her again later in the week. It was a hope of finding a woman friend. He touched her leg and kissed her when she left.

She agreed to meet him on Wednesday. Earnest got a ride with Carl, as he did not like to drive after drinking. He was happy to see her again. He held her close to him and gave her a hug. They had a good time talking. Earnest found out that she was divorced and she was looking around for an available guy for an adventure.

When they left, Earnest rode with her in the back of Carl’s Pinto. He touched her leg under her dress. He took her hand and slipped it into his pants to show her how hard he was for her. He felt her give a squeeze to his weapon. He tasted her lips and tongue. He touched her leg again under her skirt. She opened her legs slightly. When he touched her inside her lace, she was soft and moist. She kissed him again and held him there. Oh God, he wanted her to invite him in for the night. Now he was hot to have her. He knew she would be good and that she wanted him too. However it didn’t happen that night. But now he had her phone number and address in New York State. He could call her.

He wanted to meet her in her place in New York, but had to wait. The next week he wrote her an erotic letter and waited for an answer. But July the fourth was coming up. The Page was one of the ships slated to participate in the Bicentennial celebration in New York City on the fourth. It was 1976. There was no way to get away while the ship was in the city.

The next week after the Bicentennial, the ship cruised back to Norfolk. Earnest decided that he would drive up to New York on the weekend to see Ann. It would be tight to do it all in one weekend and only result in a one-night-stand, but it was hard to get it out of his mind when she seemed to be so hot for him. He had told her that he was married, but she didn’t care. She was ready for a fling with even a married guy.

He knew that his small Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was up to it. It was somewhat classy having that car, not just a run of the mill car. It would be fun, but on the other hand, somewhat risky if he should not make it back in time for muster on Monday morning. If the car broke down, it would be a problem. Fuck it, he would take the chance. You only live once, he thought.

He wrote her another erotic letter. He got an erotic one back. She wrote that she wanted him inside her up to his balls. It turned him on and he wrote her more Eros.

I know that was a little erotic, but honey, what can I do? You know that I want you. I get so wild just thinking of being inside you.”

It was a long drive and it had to be on a Saturday. Earnest started early and arrived in late afternoon in Western New York State after driving all day. He would have to return on Sunday afternoon, arriving back in the early morning. It was going to be an exhausting weekend. Why didn’t he ask for a couple of days leave? He could surely have made up some excuse. He didn’t really have an excuse but going to meet a woman should be reason enough for a sailor. It was too much of a hassle. Was a piece of ass worth all that hassle? Time would tell. It was a good thing that he liked to drive, he thought. He was just now thirty-one years old and still in his prime.

Once he reached the vicinity of New York City, he took the freeway west. It took one all the way to Niagara Falls. This was something he would like to see, but it would not be possible on this trip.

It was easy to find Ann’s place in Rochester. She worked for a big company. Her place was a nice apartment in the suburbs. She had sent Earnest a letter with the instructions how to find it. Now she was alone and waiting for him in the late afternoon.

Earnest found her place and rang the doorbell. She appeared and invited him in. He could already feel his balls itching. She looked good in a skimpy top and tight pants. Those little white breasts looked inviting. He could already taste them. He took her into his arms and gave her a hug and a gentle kiss on her lips. He said that he would like to take a shower after the long drive. He made it a quick one.

As Earnest was drying off, he became terribly aroused. There was nothing that would quell his eroticism. There was no better time than now. He opened the door and stepped out. Seeing him, Ann was delighted.

Oh, you devil, you,” she said. “Come on, you big guy.”

Earnest was ready. She quickly took him into her bedroom and undressed. He laid back and pulled her on top of him. She had a thin body. It was easy to love her.

I think I am too small for you,” she said. “I am too small.”

You are beautiful,” Earnest said, taking one of her small breasts into his mouth. “I love your small fruits. I am going to get you so good.”

She had left all of the hair on her Delta of Venus.

You are so beautiful,” he said. She was light as he bounced her up and down. She was lovely. He ate her lips and her small firm breasts alternately but could not hold out long. He had to have it quickly and get off.

Oh Earnest, you feel so good inside me. You’re a good man. You give it to me so good.”

She triggered him off and he felt the relief he needed.

Oh God, I came,” he stated the obvious.

He apologized for coming too soon.

I’m sorry for not holding out longer,” he said. “I really needed to get off. It has been a while. Your sweet peach just took me down.”

Don’t worry,” she said. “You’re doing fine. I like it like that.”

After a cigarette, he made love to her again. This time he pleasured her more slowly till her climax came. They spent the evening exploring each other, breaking only for a light dinner. Finally, he was tired from the long drive. She had done him good and he slept touching her warm thin body.

In the morning, it was nice waking up next to her and getting a throbbing arousal. She was small but nice. He liked having an older girl. He turned the sheet back and let her see his throbbing tool.

God, that’s nice to wake up to,” she said, taking it in her hand.

She guided him to her sacred spot. Earnest pleasured her till his morning explosion came.

You give me so much, are you trying to knock me up?” She asked. “I’m not complaining, honey. But you’re a good lover. Do you fuck all your women that way?”

I give it my best shot,” Earnest said. “You are so nice. Sweet and light. I love your small tits. They are so sexy.”

Most men want them to be bigger,” she said. “They go for women with big tits.”

Most men are fools,” Earnest said. “I’ll bet they would puff up if you got pregnant.”

I have to look out for that,” she said. “I can’t afford to make that mistake. It was lucky I didn’t have a baby. I like my job.”

You’re right,” Earnest said. “Just the same, if you were mine, I would like to see these puff up and give you a baby.”

Earnest tasted her small tits again. These are such delicious little flowers,” he said. “Young roses. I would like for them to always be beautiful young roses freshly bloomed.”

For Earnest, breakfast was simple. He liked it light. Cereal and milk. He didn’t want to make her cook. She brewed some French press coffee to pump up their energy.

After some breakfast, she took him for a spin in her car. She showed him the company, where she worked, and some other landmarks of the area. Unfortunately his time was too short to do anything significant.

Back at the apartment, he took a quick whiz from the morning coffee. He wasn’t sure if she was all through as he shook off the last drops. But once more would be icing on the weekend cake.

When he emerged, Ann had gone to the bedroom. He saw her lying flat of her back in her big bed in the nude waiting for him.

My angel,” Earnest said. “I see that you had the same idea as me.”

Earnest quickly stripped. “I am going to fuck you, honey,” he said. “I won’t hold anything back this time.”

Please promise me, Earnest. Don’t hold anything back. I like the way you give it to me,” she said. “You do it so good. I want you Earnest, everything that you can give me.”

She was all melted butter inside. He stirred her gently but firmly pleasuring her from every angle.

You fuck me so good, Earnest. Your big cock feels so good inside me. You could be a good husband. I think your Indian wife trained you how to do it.”

I love your delicious little pussy, Ann. Ann Summer. I’m going to cream your sweet little pussy so good. I should knock you up, honey. I should knock you up so good up in your sweet pussy. My lovely little wife. Your Yoni is just right for my Shiva Lingam.”

He pounded her hard taking her over the edge and then let his balls go wild.

Good, good to the last drop,” he said. “I’ll give you every drop of my seed.”

I think you have,” she said. “You have been giving me so much.”

She had drained his well and done him a world of good, in spite of the short time they had together. It was worth it, he thought, in spite of the long drive back which was waiting for him. It would be another long night virtually without sleep, but what the hell. He would have plenty of time to catch up in the week. That was his spin with Ann. Although they would write to each other, it would be the last time he would see her. There was always a down side to married men.

Chapter Nineteen: Mayport

The USS Richard L. Page steamed south from Norfolk and docked at the Naval Base in Mayport, Florida for the weekend. It was in the summertime. The beaches were crowded with tourists. Earnest decided to head down to Ft. Lauderdale where there was a popular beach. He was lucky enough to get weekend liberty.

He asked Dejesus, a Filipino friend, if he wanted to go with him. Dee was a small cute guy and good at picking up girls. They went over to rent a car and drive down. Earnest got the car and they headed down the freeway. In an hour or so, they arrived in the town and found a motel a short distance from the beach where they rented a room.

Having a place for the night, they headed for the beach. It was a convenient set up in Florida. One just drove their car down the beach and parked where one wanted to go into the water. The sand was somewhat packed down where cars had made tracks.

They found a good spot. They had put on their swim trunks and decided to go in, but Earnest stayed close to the shore having only minimal swimming skills. They had stopped at a store and picked up some beer. They began to polish them off quickly, taking a chance from the highway patrol, even before they got to the town.

Things started to get a little crazy as they snorkeled down the beer. In a little bit, they met up with a couple of middle-aged women. They were not pretty. One of them was middle-aged and fleshy. In her forties, she would do in a pinch, Earnest thought. The other was somewhat older, closer to fifty, with a wrinkled face. Earnest took up with the first one, Joyce. That left the older one, Vera, for Dejesus.

They struck up a conversation. The women invited the guys to sit on their pallet on the sand. The women found out that Earnest and Dejesus were from a ship up at the Navy base. The women never said where they were from. They just pretended that they were taking a vacation. No one really cared. They offered the women beer.

Earnest told them that they were staying in a motel nearby. The women, who had no place to stay, were glad to hear it. In a little bit, after everyone had become quite high on the beer, the women came with them to the motel. Driving after drinking quite large quantities of beer was a skill that Earnest was accomplished after his years in the Navy. He was young enough to handle it, looking out for the cops.

DeJesus bailed out and bought more beer on the way to the room. When they got to the room, Joyce said that she wanted to take a shower. Earnest offered to take it with her. She showed no objection to this proposal. He quickly stripped and began to help her get her clothes off. When he unhooked her bra, her big nice tits came into his hands. They were not huge but nice and robust. He took a tug at one of her nipples as she started to giggle.

Joyce turned on the water in the shower. Earnest joined her with his cock stiff and throbbing. He kissed and squeezed. He quickly fucked her against the shower wall, relieving himself of his pent-up load. Meanwhile, DeJesus had got Vera’s clothes off and was going to town with her on one of the double beds.

After their escapade, they were ready to return to the beach. Earnest had not yet sobered up. On the way back, darkness had fallen. Joyce said that she wanted a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. Earnest stopped at a package shop and bought a fifth for her. DeJesus bought another bottle for Vera.

Back at the beach, they found a secluded spot. They frolicked on the sand and waded into the wavy froth as night fell. DeJesus fell to fucking Vera in the back seat of the car again while Earnest and Joyce took a walk on the beach. When they returned, it was Earnest and Joyce’s turn in the back seat. He was trying to fuck Joyce and was on top of her making inroads in the enterprise when a beach cop came along and shined a bright light into the window.

Seeing that nothing unusual was going on, he nodded for them to carry on following nature’s path, the true way, or something along that line. When they were not fucking, they worked on the Jack Daniels. Earnest was not used to taking the whiskey straight. When he took a tug on the bottle it burned down his throat and into his stomach. They were all drunk as skunks by the late evening.

DeJesus was balling Vera again on the sand. It was a crazy night. Finally they made it back to the motel, but Earnest hardly knew how they did it in all the traffic without getting picked up by the police. Perhaps it was because half the people driving in the town had been to the beach and were now drunk. It would not be possible to arrest everyone, so they escaped by the principle of the herd.

Back in the room, they turned on the TV. Some porn flicks were running. Earnest was amused at how such films could be made. At some point he realized that after all, that raw sex is not all that interesting after a few times.

The next morning, Earnest woke up with a hangover, but horny as hell. He began to play with Joyce’s fleshy tits as she kept on snoozing. He advanced lower and began to massage her pussy. DeJesus was awake too and starting to make inroads with Vera. When Earnest slacked off, Joyce asked him: “Why don’t you come on, honey, and finish what you started?” Earnest proceeded to take her and pump until he felt his morning load exploding.

Meanwhile, DeJesus was working Vera up to her climax as he got her hotter.

Earnest was finally awake. He got up with his cock dangling, having spent itself. He went into the head and showered. Nothing like good morning pussy to soothe a hangover, he thought. It was probably what he needed, anyway, as a respite from the Navy. He would let the girls have the shower later.

It was when he shaved and brushed his teeth that he got a clue about the women. They had told Earnest and DeJesus that they had hitched a ride down to the town with a truck driver. Earnest saw their toothbrushes they left under the mirror. “North Carolina State Correctional Facility,” was written on the handles.

Shit, Earnest thought, have they escaped from that prison? Or were they released?

Earnest thought it was more likely they had run away, with both of them hitching a ride down with a truck driver. Most likely, they had absconded. Without knowing it, they had picked up a couple of jail birds, redneck jailbirds, that possibly the cops were looking for.

Sobered up, Earnest and DeJesus thought of getting back to Mayport and to the ship. They went to the café next door and bought breakfast for the women. Earnest began to feel a little better when the black coffee began to hit his stomach. He thought that he would tease them a little after seeing the toothbrushes.

How long are you planning to stay down here, Joyce,” he asked her. “When are you going to hitch back?”

Never, if I can help it,” she said. “I like it a lot better down here.”

I’m not surprised,” Earnest said. “I saw your toothbrushes.”

Oh shit,” Joyce said. “I didn’t think of that. Don’t tell anybody. If they catch us, they’ll take us back for sure and we’ll catch hell.”

DeJesus laughed. “We wouldn’t tell anybody,” he said. “We hope you have a long holiday.”

Earnest was pretty sure that it would not be very long before they would catch hell. Being out on the road homeless and with no money was not going to cut it for too much longer.

Earnest left their companions at a location near the beach. Earnest wondered what kind of luck they would have the next night. He didn’t know if they would be that lucky, but one could not tell.

Earnest, still a little hung over, cleaned some of the sand out of the back floor boards of the car. He was a little ashamed of the mess they had made. It had been a somewhat rough weekend, but what the hell? It had been fun. He was hung over but not too much worse for the wear. He hit the freeway and drove the car back to Mayport. Once they had taken it back, they walked back to the ship.

Earnest had lost his sunglasses somewhere along the way but they could always be replaced. It had been a good weekend. In the Navy it was a good weekend if one got a piece of pussy and got back to the ship in one piece.

It was not easy as the women generally hated sailors in Norfolk. Earnest hated it because he was one of only two enlisted men on board the ship with a university degree. The other was a small Jewish guy who worked in the personnel office on the ship. Earnest wanted to be able to talk to the university women but they considered it below them to associate with sailors from the ships. For sailors, it was sometimes rednecks or nothing.

Chapter Twenty: Oklahoma, OK

Earnest was not aware that ten-thousand miles away his wife’s lover, John, was making love to her. He had returned late in the evening. They put Lilac to sleep and retired to the room on the third floor of the flat where he made love to her his favorite way. John took her on top of him and let her slide up and down his thick knotty weapon. His endurance on the cycle was not quite matched in sexual prowess but probably there was some spillover. He reamed his fleshy lover till she reached the sexual equivalent of Nirvana. He then mounted her and took his lusty balls to their climax.

Indeed, he wanted her to have his baby, but she realized that it would not be practical. They slept after making love and waited for another check from America. The money would come from Earnest, the naïve American sailor who trusted his wife and suspected nothing.

The motorcycle that Lakhsmi had bought with the land money was now out of kilter and in need of repair. John took the rickshaw and bought some vegetables from the subzie walla. The same day, the postman arrived with a letter from Earnest. There was no check, but Earnest announced that he had applied to get out of the Navy. There was a one-hundred dollar bill secretly wrapped up in the stationary. John would take it to the bank the next day and get the rupees.

They were getting along. That was the bright side. The down side was that she wanted to hold onto her foothold in America, to return when it became necessary or useful. On the other hand, there would be little hope that John could follow her. She had drifted for the four years, being enrolled in a local college, and living on an income that arrived in the mail. It was convenient in a way, a life of leisure with income and a convenient lover. But it had its limits. It clearly would not go on forever.

Later, Earnest would take much of the blame. After all, he was the one who had put her in such a spot with a crazy hair up his ass to run around the world in strange places and not settle down to a hum-drum married life. She sometimes practiced on her Sitar, albeit somewhat half-heartedly. It was too difficult. She continued the classes, but she did not have the discipline and determination that was required.

When the Page returned to Norfolk from a cruise in the early Spring, Earnest was crazy and horny to get away from the Navy for a few days. He took two weeks leave. He would drive straight through, not first to Missouri, but to Oklahoma. A couple of other sailors caught a ride with him. Decker was heading to Indiana and Taylor to Ohio.

They left at liberty call on Friday and drove all evening and through the night. He could easily make it through one night, when he was excited to be away from the ship and could keep his blood pumped up with black coffee.

He made Saint Louis by noon the next day and headed southwest for Joplin and on to Oklahoma. There was a strait-shot freeway all the way. By this time, Earnest was beginning to be terribly sleepy. He had to stop for coffee from time to time. He forced his eyes open and drove on, almost twenty-four hours since he had slept.

He had made contact with a woman in Tulsa and written to her. He had come across her letter pinned up on a bulletin board at the USO in Philadelphia. She wanted to meet a guy from the Navy. Earnest had foolishly written to her. She replied with a letter and sent him a card. The card said on the front:

Say it with flowers.” On the inside, it said: “Let’s screw.” The last part was written with small yellow flowers. It was an invitation that was too tempting to pass up. Fool that he was.

Earnest made Tulsa by late afternoon and checked into a downscale motel by the side of the road. Then he called up Carol. She was expecting him but wasn’t sure if she would lucky enough to actually meet him. Foolish as he was, he had imagined what she might look like. She had not sent a picture and he didn’t insist on it. How bad looking could a woman be? That depended upon his luck and recently his luck had not been all that good.

She had called him and talked to him on the ship after she got his letter. One day the messenger of the watch came down to his compartment to find him.

Your wife is on the telephone,” he said. Earnest was flabbergasted. Could it be? It was possible. Physically possible that it was his wife on the phone, but he thought it was surely unlikely. There were telephones in India, but it was not likely that his wife was going to call him. Perhaps it was someone pretending to be his wife. Or perhaps the quarterdeck just assumed that it was his wife. At any rate, it was a woman.

Earnest hurried back to the hanger deck where the ship’s telephone was located. He said hello and talked to her.

I am Carol in Oklahoma,” she said. “I wanted to ask you if you wanted to meet me in Oklahoma.”

She had a nice voice that was starting to turn him on. She sounded OK on the phone.

Sure, I would love to,” he said. With all the noise around and a bad connection, it was difficult to communicate with her. Her voice crackled over the line. He told her that he had some leave coming and might be able to come if he was lucky. He didn’t realize that she might be a desperate woman, going to these lengths.

Surely, he had been blind not to ask her to send a picture. He could have got some idea, even if it had been an old one, as sometimes happens with a woman. He was getting himself into risky business for sure.

In no more than fifteen minutes after he had put down the telephone, she knocked on his door at the cheesy motel. He opened the door to a real shock. Not only was she an incredibly ugly woman, but also fat. Not just a little fat, but real fat, as in obese.

No way, Earnest thought. There was no way that he could make love to this woman. She had told him that she had a boyfriend who was in the Marines, but he was away. No, he could not do it, but he was not going to just refuse her right there on the spot. Perhaps some miracle was going to happen. Something that would make it palatable. Or perhaps, better yet, he would wake up from this bad dream and she would be gone.

There’s only one way, he thought. He could do it only if he was drunk. And he was not even sure about that.

After he had invited her in, he said,

Let’s get something to drink.”

He went with her to a store. Lucky that there were no one in Tulsa who could recognize him. They bought beer and some food to make sandwiches. They came back to the room. He quickly snorkeled down a couple of the cold Coors, while she did the same. It went down cool and easy. She sat on the bed and talked. After the third beer, she was lying on the bed with her clothes on. He needed to go to the head before popping another brew. When he was taking a piss, the alcohol began to hit him. He felt horny. His cock quickly stiffened. He felt a tickle in his balls. He was pointing at the ceiling.

What the hell? Pussy is pussy, he thought. He quickly stripped off his clothes and stepped out fully aroused. Carol was delighted. She quickly undressed. Earnest came and quickly took the plunge. It was as if he wanted to take the medicine and get it over with as soon as possible. He pumped until his enormous load burst. She must have known that she was not the best looking to appeal to him. But now he had made love to her out of pure lust, with no element of love whatsoever. Now he was half-drunk and completely exhausted after the long drive.

That was good. You did me good,” Carol said. “But it was so much, honey. You gave me a lot. A double dose. I think you must have been saving up.”

So I wouldn’t have to fuck you a second time, he thought of saying, but held it back.

You are right, I have,” Earnest admitted. “I came too soon. I’m sorry,” he lied.

He looked at her small tits, with the little nipples. Somehow they had not yet developed. They were not pretty. Those tits would not have looked good even on a thin woman. But on the other hand, the rest of her body was so grotesque that her breasts were the most pleasing aspect. He thought of enjoying her small nipples, not so bad in the dark, maybe.

Outside, the evening light had gone. They had not turned on any lights, but the room was slightly illuminated from the small light in the bathroom. Light filtered in from the street through the curtain.

Don’t worry about that,” she said. You did fine. It was natural. I liked it. You’re a man. So you fuck like a stud. I understand my man.”

Like shit, he thought.

Thanks. You are kind,” Earnest said.

He regretted like fuck that she was not just a little better looking. Not pretty, but just tolerable.

Are you hungry? I’ll make you a sandwich.”

Earnest lay nude under the sheet while she made the food. He wolfed it down with another beer.”

What about you?” Earnest asked. “There’s plenty more.”

I’m not hungry,” she said. “except for you.”

She turned back the sheet and kissed his cock. He was glad the lights were off. He felt her fingers on his balls.

Your balls are fruity,” she said. “Do you have some more in there for me?”

She tasted him and slipped him into her mouth as the blood started to make him swell. He was hard again.

Look at this thing,” she said. “It’s so nice. It felt good inside me, coming like a big corkscrew. You fuck good. You’re big. She slipped it inside her pussy. Now Earnest was wood hard. He closed his eyes tightly and thought of Ann. He pushed inside and moved slowly. He tasted her small nipples as he moved. Her breasts were small but soft as down as he kissed them. She breathed more heavily and started to moan. Earnest picked up the pace and pushed her over the edge. Her climax came, deep and strong. She begged him for more, more cock, harder.

You’re fucked, honey,” he said. “You bitch. I will give it to you.”

He pounded her hard and felt his explosion come at last.

Oh God, that was good. I would like it every day,” she said. “Your nuts are full of fruity cream. You did me good again.”

She gripped his cock in her dark pink sheath, hesitating to let him escape from her clutches. But he wilted quickly when he opened his eyes. He was spent and tired to boot. He had to sleep.

I think I need to sleep.” He said. “Thanks for meeting me. I’m glad we could meet,” he lied.

She was a long way from understanding her man.

Look, I’ll come tomorrow,” she said. “You have to get some sleep. I have friends that you can meet if we go together.”

She seemed to be tempting him to stay around with perhaps the promise of more pussy. There was no guarantee that he would like to meet her friends.

OK,” he said. He was too exhausted to object. “See you. Take care.”

He didn’t want to promise for tomorrow. It would be dishonest.

After she left, he locked the door. He heard her drive away as his head hit the pillow.

Like hell, he thought, before he slept. Like hell, I will go with her. He couldn’t bear the thought.

He slept soundly. He didn’t wake up till the early morning daylight. He looked around and remembered where he was. Oh shit! It was as if he had been hit by an Oklahoma tornado. Had it really happened? No matter, he had escaped. It was one of those early morning shocks.

Oh Shit! My God! He thought. I really fucked that incredibly gross woman yesterday. It was disgusting. Revolting. That was all one could think. He had already paid for the room. He was free to leave. He would get his bag and get on the road. Get the hell out of here. If she checked back for him, he would be gone. Gone as the wild goose in winter. Understand her man, my ass. She did not have a clue.

He had really not had that much beer. It had been the long drive that did him in. Now with that slept off, he felt good. He wanted to move. Wanted to ramble. Surely, there was a better chance in the wide world for love than what had just happened to him.

He felt like a one-hundred percent bona fide fool to have fallen into such a trap. Why had he not asked for her picture before going for it?

He pulled out of the graveled space in front of the aging motel. The traffic was light. He was on the road by seven. The spring air was cool and refreshing. He headed for Missouri. Outside of town, he popped one of the Coors beers for breakfast. What a fucking beautiful taste. He had another.

The buzz had worn off by the time he drove onto the old farm just after noon. He had made good time up through the small Missouri towns, skirted around the city and cruised on in. It was a surprise to his mother and father to see him pull in. Here was a place to rest up with contentment for a couple of days. The roots of his raising ran deep as Merle Haggard sang.

After a couple of days, and some of his mother’s home cooking, it was enough. He wanted to head out on the road again. He left in the morning and sailed down to Saint Louis. A little further down, he found a cheap motel. No pussy. Just contentment and peace of mind.

Chapter Twenty-One: Francis

When Earnest took a course in Islam he realized that he was more clued into the culture of the Middle East than most, having travelled and lived in India. He had visited some countries in the Middle East. He got to know some of the people in class and helped them understand some of the religious and cultural concepts.

One student was an attractive married woman in her fifties. She asked Earnest about some things that she did not understand. Earnest explained the best way he knew how. They started to become good friends. One evening after class, she asked him to have a coffee with her. They went out together.

Then she suddenly seemed to change her mind. “Why not a drink?” she asked. “I know a place that is away from the Navy crowd.” When she opened some buttons of her blouse, Earnest noticed that she had nice tanned tits. She had a way of touching him affectionately. They arrived at an exclusive small place overlooking the harbor.

They made conversation. It was coming up to eleven.

Oh, I have to get home,” she said. “My husband will wonder about me. He is a dear, but so helpless without me.”

It is good that she is married Earnest thought. Not a bad deal. A married woman is safer, at least in some ways. But one must use discretion. She was older, but he thought she would be nice to love.

Would you like to come over to my place sometime, Earnest?”

Sure, I would love to. Will I be meeting your husband?”

I wasn’t thinking of that, not yet. It would just be the two of us. I can pick you up on Thursday, if you will be free.”

Liberty after five, if I am not unlucky for some reason,” he said.

I want you to see my place. And we can go over some of the material in the class that I have questions about. Our place is pleasant. I know you will like it.”

She told him where she lived, a wealthy suburb that was close to the sea. Her husband worked for a company that sold equipment to the Navy. He was out of town frequently.

I don’t like to always be alone when my husband is gone,” she said. It can be lonely.”

He got the drift.

No shit,” he said. “I know what you mean, being in the military.”

This time it is a long trip to Saudi Arabia,” she said. “Sometimes I think he will be lucky if he comes back. Or maybe I will be lucky if he doesn’t, come to think of it.” She laughed.

Are you serious?” Earnest laughed.

Just kidding”, she said. “What a mischievous thought!”

Still, when Earnest thought about it, he thought she must be in the market for something other than her poor dear husband Paul.

Earnest met her at a coffee shop on Thursday some distance from the base. She is very nice for being in her fifties, he thought. She has taken care of herself very well. More than twenty years older than me. Her breasts were soft and ripe, but still nice. I have always liked older women, especially rich ones, he thought.

Francine was driving a little cherry-red sports car. He slipped in beside her. She roared out and buzzed down a boulevard to a suburb near the Bay. There were no military installations in this area, for a change. Earnest watched her hands as she drove, impressed with her beautiful hands and long slim elegant fingers. He thought about how they would feel around his bulging cock that had now become thick. She sped around a curve, touching his leg. Earnest felt his balls tingle and looked down at her lovely tanned tits threatening to spill out of a tiny green bra. He caught the scent of her perfume. It was subtle, but filling up the air in the small space with an enchanting fragrance.

Earnest, I can tell that you like it, the class, that is,” she began. “You have a feel for foreign places. You must love the travel in the Navy.”

Her face was aging, but still cute. Her lips were moist and inviting, painted a bright red. He liked for women to wear lipstick. It looked good on his cock if they got hungry for a taste. She was certainly elegant, but intelligent and down to earth. She was not a snob, but he could see that she was a very special woman that he had been lucky to meet. She had spunk and was still eager for new things.

The travel, yes. I like the travel,” he said. “The Navy, well that’s another story. I have tried to like it, but it is hardly ever the case. One is not treated very well as an enlisted man. One is not supposed to have a brain. And one gets in trouble if one uses it. I am getting to the point where I cannot take it anymore. It kills one’s soul. It is a sort of caste system, you know. Coming down from the British. Maybe they picked it up in India.”

That’s exactly what Paul says. He actually sometimes feels sorry for those hollowed out enlisted guys he sees on the ships. It turns them into alkis. He is critical, even though he makes a good living off the Navy. Off the government, that is. He makes more money than we need. But one can always use it. I can tell that you are too sensitive and intelligent to let it happen to you. That is, to let the Navy kill your brain and soul.”

If I still have any left,” Earnest said. “Sometimes I feel like I sold my soul to the devil that day I signed those fucking papers in that little dipshit room in Kansas City. After that I was just a prisoner. A pawn. They own me, lock, stock and barrel.”

Oh, it’s not that bad,” she said. “Don’t let them get you down. You will bounce back. I can tell you have strong beliefs. Not religious ones, but principles.”

She pulled the little hot car up sharply into the entrance to the site. It was a security gate. She flashed her card and was admitted by the attendant. The houses and gardens were expansive and gorgeous. At her place they pulled into the driveway. A double door opened. She popped her little red gumdrop up inside next to a big late-model Mercedes. Earnest was beginning to see what she meant by good money. Jesus, he saw that the place was a fucking mansion with at least fifteen rooms. Then they were inside a spacious hallway with works of art along the walls. At the end and down one level was a lush den and bar.

Francis invited him into the den and put on some sixties music. He felt nostalgic. A large window overlooked the garden and the sea.

What will you drink?”

Earnest took a glass of wine. She sat beside him. Her breasts were exposed inside her top, tanned, soft, still very attractive. He caught a glimpse of her thin bra as she reached for her glass of wine. He could make out one of her pink nipples through the thin fabric. Her skirt was riding up exposing her long tanned legs. She crossed her legs. A slow song started.

Francine took his hand. “Please,” she said, “Can I have this one?”

They pressed their bodies close and swayed to the music. She dropped his hand and held him closer. His hand touched the soft, bare, flesh of her back. It felt like soft velvet. Her cheek was next his. He thought she must have felt the bulge in his jeans as she pressed her body close to him. He felt the warmth of her body.

Just then, they heard the doorbell rang.

Shit,” who can that be? She said.

She broke away to go to the door. Outside were two young guys dressed in black suits.

We would like some time to talk to you ma’am,” one of them said.

She recognized right away who they were, the Seventh Day Adventist proselytizers.

She was irritated but did not want to treat them too badly.

Sorry,” she said. “I don’t have time right now. And I would appreciate it if you went to some other house. I am not interested in that stuff.”

But ma’am Jesus loves you,” the other one started.

Perhaps,” she said, “but he still allows jerks like you to interfere with my life. I don’t appreciate that. Have a nice day.”

She quickly closed the door firmly and came back to the den.

What was that?” Earnest asked.

A couple of those religious nuts,” she said. “They can sure spoil one’s mood. I don’t know how those pricks got in here anyway.”

They were no longer feeling romantic. They drank more wine and talked.

I’ll be right back, honey” she said suddenly. “Have some more wine.”

She disappeared for a couple of minutes. When she returned she was wearing something more comfortable. She had put on a long denim shirt. Whether she was wearing anything underneath, Earnest could only guess.

Now dance with me again, this way, honey” she said. It might help me get back in the mood. Earnest was surprised, but delighted. He liked the idea. He took her warm delicious flesh into his arms and held her close. Her soft breasts were pressing his shirt. When she looked into his face, he saw the hungry look in her eyes.

Kiss me,” she said. “Kiss me.” She pressed her lips to his. He felt her open mouth and her tongue and let her slip it into his mouth. She tasted his tongue and pressed him tighter.

You feel so good,” she said. She took his hand and moved it down to her hip. “So good,” she said.

Earnest loved the feel of her warm body.

You too,” he said. “You are beautiful.” Now he tasted her neck and then kissed her breasts. He tasted her nipples one by one as her shirt fell open. The bulge in his jeans had grown.

I want you, Earnest,” she said, “Fuck me. I want you inside me. I always think about you after the class.”

When she opened his belt and slipped down his shorts, his stiff thick tool flew up pointing to the ceiling. She grasped it hard with her long lovely fingers and felt his balls.

You are so lovely,” she said. “Well endowed.”

Fuck me, you young stud. You have a nice body.” Before Earnest could undress, she had slipped her shirt off and pulled him to her, slipping his cock inside her cherry red gap. Earnest felt himself pierce her deep and lifted her as he thrust to the hilt. She clung to him with her legs as he pleasured her, eating her soft fruits.

Fuck me, fuck me, Earnest,” she said. “You fuck me so good. I want you, I want all of you hard. My baby, you are good. You young stud.”

Earnest could not hold out for long as she took him down. He suddenly burst wildly, his strong muscle spasms out of control.

She felt his young tool bucking wildly inside her as he burst.

You’re good, you’re so good,” she said. “I had wanted you from the first.”

They sipped more wine.

I get so lonely,” she said. “Paul is a good husband. He provides for me. But he is not a lover. That is the way marriage is sometimes. What about you?”

Sure, I am married,” he said. “But it has been a long separation. I am no longer sure of anything. A soufflé will not rise twice. Unlike my cock.”

Yes, that’s true,” she said. “Would you like a snack with the wine?”

She returned with some snacks, wearing her shirt.

She sat next to him again. “Let me see that thing again,” she said. “I want to see your well-hung toy. My son.”

Earnest slipped his shorts off again. She kneeled down and began to run her tongue up and down his half-swollen tool. She kissed it and took it inside her mouth. In a little bit, she had him hard again and throbbing for her. Come with me, she said.

She led him into the adjacent bedroom in front of a big mirror. She slipped off her denim. She lay back on the big bed. He came to her and took her again, sinking into her soft rose, plunging to the full depth. He took her to the hilt.

Oh yes, oh yes, you are so good,” she said, “take me, I want you, make me cum, you stud. Make me cum, Earnest.”

He knew how most women wanted it. Not a quick brutal assault, but a gentle ravishing. He had taken her his way, the first time. He took his time to stir her soft, moist flesh. He tasted her lips and neck. He ate her soft breasts. He lifted her legs to his shoulder and pressed deeper, a dagger plunged to her center, taking her deeper. Slow and earnest. She moaned her pleasure as he stirred her soft, mature meat.

The generic quality of pussy. No matter that she was twenty five years older. She was a real woman and needed a man. He gently coaxed her over the edge. She was about to come again.

Oh yes, oh yes, fuck me, Earnest, fuck me.”

She sighed as the heat flowed through her body and brain.

Come, darling, come inside me,” she said. “I want your cum, all your cum.” Earnest wanted it again too.

Honey, you are sweet to fuck. To fuck your pussy,” he said. “I am going to fuck your pussy so good. I’ll fuck you from the rear.”

Earnest stood beside the bed and fed his raving prick up into her melted butter. This time he took his time to tool her right, with long precision strokes that hammered her in the right spot. He began to ball her hard.

Oh, that’s good, Honey,” she said. “That’s so good. You’re a real stud, a real prick-man.”

He balled her hard and felt the muscle spasms in his loins springing out of control. He rammed his tool deep and felt himself bursting wildly in his moment of ecstasy. His high slowly subsided.

Good to the last drop, the last fucking drop,” he said. She laughed.

He lay down beside her, his cock starting to wilt, but still swollen. He was spent. That moment of pride, having taken her, serviced her, conquered her, mixed with slight embarrassment as his weapon slowly withered to useless, pitiful appendage of flesh.

A woman was always the same. Tits, beautiful tits, whether big or small, always they were there and beautiful. Her pussy, always ripe and ready to fill with her tasty vanilla was ready to open. Her cute little circular aperture nestled between her soft mature buns looked so delicious.

They lit cigarettes and smoked.

I will not feel lonesome or deprived with you around, you devil,” she said. “I will always have a man when you are around.”

He felt lucky having struck pay dirt with her. He had largely dispensed with the guilt of fornication. Let nature take its course. After all, God had given him a cock to use and given a woman a pussy that needed to be filled. He could not be responsible for that absurdity of nature.

Now he felt a little navy like.

You’re a good fuck, good pussy,” he said, biting one of her soft tits. “Where have you been when I needed a good piece of real woman? A good piece of real pussy.”

That’s a pity,” she said. “But now we have found each other.”

She kissed his cock. Squeezed his balls in her elegant hand. Her elegant long fingers. She was no peasant.

She asked him to stay and spend the night with her. She would make some dinner. She said she did not want to be lonely after such a lovely day.

I would love to but I have to be back on the ship for muster tomorrow morning,” Earnest said.

No problem, I’ll get you up in time. Meanwhile there must be something you would like to watch on TV.”

Earnest felt a little odd. Most men would go for a baseball game on TV. It didn’t appeal to him.

Actually, a quiet evening with you would suit me better,” he said. “I am always around way too much noise in the military.”

She made a light dinner and they talked. He enjoyed hearing the old songs from the sixties that she played for him.

Late in the evening, he wanted her again. When he went to take a piss he got horny. He slipped his clothes off and emerged with his cock erect and throbbing. When he came to her, she said

Earnest, I know what you’re thinking of, you stud.”

She took his cock in her hand and kissed it. She licked the red head as he felt the blood surging into his loins. She took him into her mouth. He was proud, his cock standing tall, saluting the flag, ready for more battle. This was his most patriotic moment. He kissed her lips hard. He was going for another round.

He told her he wanted her from behind. He would take her in the big easy chair.

Oh, you are going to get my pussy sore, Earnest,” she said, delighted that he was ready for another rutting. She kneeled in the big soft chair, letting him slice his throbbing scepter into her rosy peach from behind.

Now she was his. Earnest loved the feel of her soft, mature, ass in his hands as he built her pleasure again. He gently took her higher, reaching for her soft, mellow, tits. Nearing his climax, he balled her with hard punishing strokes and exploded again. He was finally spent.

She enjoyed seeing him in the nude. She kissed his cock again.

I think we are going to get along just fine,” she said. “It would be amazing if you knocked me up. I don’t think it would happen at my age but one never knows. Thanks for a wonderful fulfilling day.”

Fulfilling is right, Earnest thought. More like a filling full.

It’s you that has to be thanked,” he said. “It’s due to you that I have a little refuge from the idiocy of military life. A little island of sanity in this so-called Tidewater with more than twenty fucking military bases in the area.”

When Francis woke up in the night, it was strange for her seeing him there. When she touched his cock under the sheet, she saw that he was half-erect. A dream? She started getting wet. His cock swelled more and stiffened. Awakening, he reached for her. He entered her. It was nice having a man inside her as she dozed. He moved gently, suddenly, gently. She felt his warm substance entering her. He had refreshed her life and awoken her desires. They slept. When he awoke, there was little time to make the morning muster on the ship.

Earnest called her later in the day.

It was close. I almost missed it,” he said. “And it’s your fault.” She laughed.

I know. I am guilty as hell for being a woman.”

Earnest would not see her in bed for another month. They met in class and had coffee. He wanted her. She realized how different it was having a lover and having a husband, when Paul returned.

Earnest remembered what a first-class petty officer had told him. “A married man had better have a friend.” That was true. He had lucked out in meeting a rich and elegant woman. Earnest realized that Francine was very good for him. He wondered if he could ever repair his own marriage.

In the Navy, Norfolk was generally known as “shit city.” What made it shit city was the way the local citizens treated the sailors. It was said that local citizens used to put up signs reading: “Dogs and sailors keep off the grass.”

Earnest had no desire to keep living in the area with some twenty military bases. The local citizens lived off the military economy, but at the same time hated the sailors and airmen.

Francine’s warm sweet love had cleansed his soul of so much built resentment and bitterness. She was like a mother, friend and lover all at the same time. She called him her sweet baby boy, with a devilish tool, a ravishing devil of a cock.

If I just had her, I would love to have her, Earnest thought. But he could never provide her with the living that had come through her husband and the expansive and wasteful military industrial complex.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Incompatible

Every day the sonar division compartment was inspected by the Executive Officer (XO) after the morning field day. The sailors assigned to do the work stood by at attention in the compartment when the executive officer came down the ladder to make his inspection. It was nearly impossible to escape punishment if the officer was in a bad mood or intent on making them clean the compartment all over again. All that was required was to discover a bit of dust somewhere in the space. This was most likely in the metal framework of the overhead or on an iron support behind a bunk next to the bulkhead. The XO would carefully run his finger along some obscure niche that might easily be missed. If dust appeared, the cleaners would be in trouble.

There were some sailors in the division that used the metal framework in the overhead to hide a roach of marijuana or sometimes drugs. If discovered, it would be difficult to identify the owner. One day when Earnest was assigned to clean the compartment, he inadvertently tossed a sailor’s small stash of marijuana in the trash bin, not aware of what it was. The sailor sensed some danger, or was warned, it seems, as he suddenly appeared in the compartment and asked Earnest about it. Earnest then retrieved the precious substance from the trash. The sailor knew that Earnest could be trusted and would never rat on a friend about such a thing. He stashed it back in the overhead in a new place.

When the XO descended the ladder, Earnest came to attention.

At ease,” the XO ordered. Earnest relaxed.

The XO with a practiced look of authority exuded a posture of gravity. This, of course, was serious business, like everything in the Navy. He looked around with his clipboard in one hand and dragged his fingers here and there across some obscure niches behind the racks trying desperately to discover a trace of dust. Not discovering anything of significance, he pretended to flake dust from his finger.

This compartment is unsat, Seeker.” he declared. “You will commence a more thorough field day on this compartment after chow.”

Yes Sir,” Earnest chirped. It was as articulate as he was allowed to be in his subordinate position as an enlisted man.” From the time he entered the outfit till the day of his discharge, his perspective on any and all things which went on was to be simply, “Yes Sir.”

The XO seemed to be finished with the compartment. Then suddenly his eyes strayed to his left. Something did not seem right. What was this? Earnest realized too late that he had forgotten to conceal the book that he was reading under his folded wool blanket at the foot of his rack. The XO’s eyes suddenly locked onto the thick book. Across the front in block letters was the title. “Philosophies of India.” It was a reprint of an old classic by Hienrich Muller. Earnest was using his spare time to delve deeper into these interesting and intellectually stimulating concepts. This was a sort of welcome escape from the absurdities of the military and at the same time helped explain how the human mind could be blinded by such daily trivialities as a minute bit of dust in the corner of a ship’s compartment. Earnest was slowly beginning to understand more about not just philosophy but the universe in which he lived. The Indian concept of Maya was particularly useful in gaining a psychological distance from Navy hogwash. Somehow that went beyond Maya.

The XO’s face froze. Earnest detected a look of alarm, then disgust on his face. It was a mix of astonishment and dread. His mind could not have been more perturbed, had the book been written by Karl Marx or Josef Stalin. What the fuck was an enlisted man doing reading such stuff as this? Heavy intellectual ideas in an academic treatise. Even worse, this was surely something deeply subversive to military life. It produced strong cognitive dissonance in his brain to think that an enlisted man, officially stupid, was spending his time delving deeply into Indian philosophy?

He looked at Seeker as if he was he had just spotted the enemy. How did he come to land on his ship? In my Navy! An enlisted man interested in Indian philosophy. The man was educated enough to realize and suspect that there were probably some profound truths in these philosophies, of which he himself was blatantly ignorant. After all, wasn’t it that Indian Gandhi who had ridded the country of British rule? And without lifting a sword. Through “soul power” or some such shit that made the British rulers, the greatest empire on the globe, quake in their boots. These ideas flickered through his dull mind as if an electrical circuit was about to blow.

This was the academic equivalent of LSD when it came to altering one’s consciousness. Indeed, it was surely deeply subversive. He couldn’t quite put all his thoughts together at once but was feeling a deep rage within his soul. Seeker was an official dummy, but seeking to understand ideas that were surely subversive in a deep and perhaps dangerous way. True they were way over the head of most enlisted men, let alone the officers, but might produce an attitude of awareness that could spread to others. It might alert others to the smell of Navy horseshit. If sailors began to see through the bullshit of the command and the Navy in general, it would be all over. To perform, they had to believe, at least up to a minimum. It would be necessary to get Seeker off the ship.

For an instant, the XO seemed at a loss as to how to react. In one respect, Seeker was doing something which was quite respectable. Seeking truth. On the other hand, in the US military, a tentacle of the premier imperialist state, there was no place for truth. As in all enterprises based upon power, violence and brutality, it was truth which must remain concealed. Earnest had assumed the aura of a dangerous subversive. The hell of it was that while the officer knew that the ideas he might have understood from the book were deeply subversive to the Navy enterprise, they did not know what those ideas were.

He would have had to read the book himself to know and in doing so, might begin to have doubts himself if he understood it. Of course, all intelligent individuals did sometimes have doubts, but kept the concerns of their consciences suppressed below the level of consciousness when in the military or government.

Seeker, you are incompatible with the Navy.” The words blurted from his lips in a sudden angry burst. Earnest saw a bright red glow on his flushed face.

Seeker was about to say “Yes Sir,” when he realized that it was perhaps not the proper response.

Exactly what I have been thinking for quite some time, Sir, he wanted to say. You are indeed correct. Fuck N’ A.

Earnest simply stood still, donning his practiced blank look of stupidity, and said nothing.

You are not as stupid as you are pretending to be, you son of a bitch, the XO was thinking. For once he wished that he could actually know the thoughts in Seeker’s devious mind. Then he could gauge just how dangerous he actually was. Peace my ass, he was thinking.

I want to see this compartment squared away before knock off, Seeker. Is that clear?”

Yes Sir,” Earnest squawked.

Disgusted and disturbed, as if he had come across a poison vermin, the XO turned and stomped up the ladder out of the compartment.

Earnest saw the XO’s broad ass waggle from side to side in his brown uniform as he moved higher up the ladder before he relaxed.

Fuck. I am in a world of shit now, Earnest thought. But the asshole is perceptive. I have to give him that. “Incompatible with the Navy?”

Fuck N’A. He’s got that right. He could not have hit the nail more squarely on the head! Nevertheless, it is somewhat of an understatement.

Earnest turned it over in his mind for a few days. Sure as hell, he was incompatible with the Navy. No shit. And now he had been told so by the second highest officer on the ship. Did that make it official?

Why the hell should the command be harboring a sailor on board who was incompatible with the Navy? Now the declaration had come straight from the Horse’s mouth. If the command realized that, then they could only be cutting their own throats to keep him on board. If the ship ever engaged in any serious exercise in warfare, it would have the nature of killing other human individuals, which Earnest had no desire to engage in. Having him on board would surely undermine their sacred platitudes such as “Battle Readiness” and other such bunk. Engraved on the ship’s coat of arms were the words “Fit to Fight” and “Always Ready.”

Since he was “incompatible” in the words of the second highest officer on the ship, why should they not just call a spade a spade and get him the fuck out of the Navy altogether? He was surely not “fit to fight,” except to fight that Navy horseshit. He was not “always ready” to unleash some killing brutality. That would be logical and the only way to act consistent with their convictions. Anything less would be dereliction of duty.

Earnest would try something just for the hell of it, to test their sincerity. The idea was devilishly mischievous. Maybe he was playing with fire. He had already gotten under their skin and they likely had it in for him by now. But the more he thought of it, the harder it was to resist giving them a tweak on their stuck up noses.

Why not put in a request chit asking for a discharge on the basis of the XO’s statement that he was incompatible with the Navy? Earnest thought. To deny him the discharge would be to deny that he was incompatible. On the other hand, if the XO truly believed his statement to be true, then he must approve the discharge. They would be caught in a bind.

Earnest got a special request chit and wrote it up. He gave as the reason for the request: “Request administrative discharge from U.S. Navy due to Executive Officer’s observation that I am incompatible with the U.S, Navy.”

The chit would be signed by four individuals, either approving or disapproving the request. It first went to the first class petty officer of the division, Sizow. He knew Earnest quite well and was a decent friendly guy. A Russian by ethnicity. He liked Seeker, maybe because he was so subversive of the deep horseshit they were all up to their eyes in. He was ready to get out of it himself if the chance was there. He approved the chit, but this meant little. It was highly unusual, but on the other hand, he was merely agreeing with the XO.

Next was the junior officer Mocini, a little kiss-ass technocrat, who would never stick his neck out for anything suggesting dissent. Ironically, in disapproving the chit, he put himself in conflict with the XO, who was his superior officer. He must have found it curious that the XO had fucked up with the statement, of it was indeed true. It must be. Earnest was not lying.

Then it went to the Division Officer Weston, who seemed conflicted about what to do. He first approved it, then for whatever reason, he crossed out his approval and checked the box for disapproval. In approving it, he had supported the XO’s statement. In rejecting it, he was refuting his own superior officer, like Mocini had done.

Finally, the chit made its way up to the XO. Had he stuck to his statement that Earnest was indeed incompatible with the Navy, he would have had to approve the request, but he did the opposite. He checked the box for “disapproved.” It meant that he was saying that even though he was incompatible, he still had to stay in the Navy. He had refuted himself, caught in a contradiction.

Finally the chit landed on the Captain’s desk. He is normally referred to as the “old man” among the crew. Wanting to quickly clear the air of such nonsense, he too had checked “disapproved.” He gave as his reason: “You have a contract to do the job and conform to Navy regulations.”

Finally, the chit came back down to Seeker. Normally one copy of a request is retained for the record of the command and the other given to the sailor. In this case, however, Seeker was given both copies. Clearly, the XO did not want it in the official record that he had made the statement that Earnest was incompatible.

When Earnest saw that one of the officers had first approved the chit and then backed out, he realized that he had confused the shit out of the command. They did not know what they should do with him.

The officers tried to ignore him and hoped that it would blow over and go away. On the other hand, Seeker was a sort of a nuisance to have on board. What kind of effect would he have on the other sailors, his friends on the ship? He surely talked to them about things and frequently went over drinking with them. He was surely influencing them, being older and more educated, even than most officers on board. He was a rotten potato.

They were disturbed by his tranquility and peaceable nature. No matter what happened, he showed no anger or emotion like other sailors. He was always reading books. Worse than that, he took courses from universities in the US and studied on board. Many or the books he read were on India or esoteric religions. When he was given leave, he did not head to an American state, but bought a ticket and headed off to India.

He was the odd man out. Most certainly he was incompatible as hell. But on the other hand, like any bureaucracy, the agenda was to isolate him and screw him to the wall, rather than to free him from his misery.

More alarming, Earnest was getting tired of playing dumb. He was planning his next move. His sea lawyer days were about to commence.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Gitmo

It was mid-April. The USS Page would get underway for Guantanamo Bay at zero eight hundred on Monday morning from Norfolk Naval Base. Earnest, who had spent the night with Francis, arrived a six thirty. This was the time when all members of the crew were ordered to report on board.

At seven, the crew was ordered to quarters and mustered. The sailors were informed of the plan of the day. In half an hour, Earnest went with other members of his division back to the fantail to handle lines. He was not crazy about this cruise. It was going to somewhat of a pain in the ass, but he liked getting underway anyway to go somewhere outside the country.

This was a shake-down cruise after coming out of the shipyards for the purpose of refresher training.

On the fantail, sailors were milling around waiting for orders. Some were talking and smoking, flipping their cigarette butts into the sea as they made impressive pronouncements. Some of them liked to talk big and bullshit. They felt important, part of a big outfit, the US Navy, not to mention the United States of America. They liked to use Navy terminology like “outchop,” “reftra,” and so on. There were guns, missiles, torpedoes, rockets and other powerful weapons around that they somehow identified with. Some were grab-assing, playing with each other out of sexual frustration. Some rednecks had their jaws swollen out with chewing tobacco. Some were still nursing a hangover from a night of drinking.

He saw Bagley, a small short seaman, with his large open mouth guffawing about something. He was toothless, as some other redneck had clobbered him in the mouth with a beer bottle when he had been on leave a couple of months ago down in Georgia. Then he saw Martin. He had a reputation for being exceptionally dumb. He too was smoking. The corners of his mouth turned down as he flipped his butt away impressively and blew the smoke from his nostrils. He was an older sailor, the type that got out of the military and found that they could make it on the outside. Like them, he had signed up for more years. He was on his way to becoming a lifer, unless he was kicked out first.

Some of Earnest’s friends were there too. They were more the intellectual types who read books sometimes borrowed from Earnest. Some of them read about Eastern philosophy. They were quieter as they talked. They did the work but did not take it terribly seriously. They kept a distance from the ship’s work. They would have jumped for a discharge that very day had it been offered to them.

There were the nuts and bolts guys there too, the type who never read books, except for comics and detective stories, but how knew how to make things work on the ship. They talked to each other about the equipment using Navy lingo. It would have been Greek to a non-sailor. They did not have much to say to Earnest, so they hardly ever talked except about fixing a piece of equipment. They were not the type that had ideas, except perhaps about a hot piece of ass if they got lucky.

No one could do anything until the officer arrived with his walkie-talkie and received the orders from the bridge. Before long, the officer arrived and looked around the fantail checking the condition of the lines. Then at zero seven forty-five the order came to pull in the gangplank. A group of five or six sailors jumped and pulled it up from the pier. They carried it across the deck and stowed it along the bulkhead inside the open hanger bay.

The Captain had decided to get underway without the services of a tug. A couple of civilian employees of the base threw off the lines fore and aft on the starboard side of the ship, when the officer gave the signal. The sailors pulled in the nylon lines and wound them on the capstans. The ships engines could be heard straining as the single large rear screw of the ship began to turn and the ship’s aft moved slowly away from the pier.

The order came to shift colors. The ship was declared “underway.” The sailor assigned the task pulled down the American flag from the flagstaff on the fantail, while another hoisted the flag up on the high mast in the superstructure.

Far enough away from the pier for safety, the ship gradually proceeded aft into the channel. Once away from the other ships, the ship’s screw was cranked up and the ship moved forward veering to port. It slowly entered the channel. The sailors on the fantail, having completed their duties of getting underway, were ordered to stand in formation at parade rest until the ship was out past the Navy bases.

In half an hour, the ship reached the coast and headed for the open Atlantic Ocean. There was just a gently pitching and rolling, as the ship headed out into the larger waves. Fair winds on an April morning.

Earnest loved to be heading out onto the sea. The smell and breeze was cool and refreshing. If only it had not been the Navy. If only he was free, free, to be his own man, his own person, he thought. He would be, but he did not know when.

The designation of the ship, DEG, meant that it was a destroyer escort equipped with guided missiles. Now after a one-year overhaul in the ship yards in Philadelphia, it had been upgraded to FFG. It was now a guided missile frigate. The main change was adding a helicopter bay to the ship, so that it had its own helicopter. Whether this added anything to the defense of the country or just produced profits for the defense industry was another question.

Earnest liked the feel of the ship as it entered the deeper ocean. It was a gently rolling and pitching, allowing one to feel like a sailor without the misery of an extremely rough sea. When one had the luxury of relaxing in one’s rack, it was rather like being rocked to sleep gently in a cradle.

There was some advantage to being at sea. There was actually not much to do. One could not do maintenance on the equipment while it was operating at sea. This should have provided time to read and study, but this was not generally the case except when ship’s work was knocked off after zero seventeen hundred in the afternoon.

Today, Earnest had the duty. He and another sailor swept, waxed and polished the deck of the passageway in front of the officer’s mess. Earnest had some idea what it looked like inside that small porthole in the door, but had never been inside. Indeed, an enlisted man was not allowed to go into an officer’s space except in an emergency. Earnest put down wax and polished the hard green tiles on the deck with the electric polishing machine. He kept the brush whirling an inordinate amount of time until the deck reflected everything like a mirror. A single step would leave a track, so he backed with the machine on the final pass. That finished, he whiled away some time below appearing to be busy.

Then it came time for chow. He lined up to eat early, as he had the afternoon watch. He would also have to be up for the mid-watch after midnight.

After evening chow, he had some time to read in his rack and then turned in early to try to get some sleep before he had to be up for the mid-watch. Other sailors played cards in the compartment. A few slept. Some were smoking, so that the compartment was filled with dense smoke. There was no remedy for that in military life.

At zero nineteen hundred, the order came to darken ship. All exterior lights on the ship were put out and the hatches were concealed with thick black blinds which overlapped inside the hatches. At twenty-two hundred hours, lights were put out in the compartment. Earnest was woken up at a quarter before midnight and got into his dungarees for the mid-watch.

He would not have time to eat mid-rats on the mess decks this evening. He headed up three decks where he would watch the sonar display for the next four hours, drinking black coffee from time to time to keep awake. The spaces were darkened. He had to go through the operations division space which kept track of ships in the area to get to sonar. These operations were just beginning to be done with computers. It appeared to be a serious operation when one saw all the small green, red and yellow lights on the electronic equipment. It was a small toy for the boys, a miniscule fragment of the American global empire. If it had disappeared the same minute, it would not have made a speck of difference in the larger scheme of global power.

In the sonar space, there were three monitors with electronic displays. Theoretically, one could locate a submarine hiding somewhere in the depths. In reality, it was very difficult unless the submarine was actually underway with engines running or one knew that it was there in the first place. This would only be the case during an exercise. A big rock on the bottom of the sea could look exactly like a submarine on the screen.

Up half a deck was the bridge. From time to time Earnest had to go up to the bridge to take a message to someone. He thought that it would actually be more interesting to work up there where one could actually see out on the sea where the ship was headed. There was a big black chair where the captain or officer on deck sat watching the ship’s operations. In the darkened spaces, one could see nothing surrounding the ship.

He rather liked the sonar watch even though it was boring and there was nothing much to do. One might think, sometimes, sitting and staring at the circle of light spreading out from the center of the display again and again. Looking at the screen was almost hypnotizing. With each ping of the sonar dome, a ring of light spread out from the center of the screen. This represented the wave of sound spreading out from the sonar dome. Surface ships in the area appeared as small bright pips of light on the round screen. Placing the curser on the pip would give its location and range. The sonar techs would check with operations divisions from time to time to verify that what they were seeing were ships in the area.

Surprisingly, there was not much talk. At some point, Earnest would volunteer to go back to the aft of the ship and drop the BT that measured the temperature in the layers of water.

Relieved at zero four hundred, Earnest hit the rack and slept soundly. It was pleasant with the gentle roll and pitch of the tin can on the ocean. He thought of Francis and got a hard-on before dropping off to sleep. The rest was short. The intensely bright lights of the compartment flooded into his eyes at zero six thirty. It was difficult to procrastinate more than ten minutes when a petty officer shouted for every swinging dick to hit the deck. After chow they would be mustered on the brow of the ship.

Sleep-deprived Earnest made a visit to the head just up the ladder and to the right and splashed some cold water on his face. He shaved quickly and brushed his teeth, neglecting the shower for now. Donning his dungarees, he stumbled up the ladder and to the enlisted mess decks for some morning chow. In spite of the fact that it was too fucking early, this was one of the best times of the day. Fried eggs would have been too much of a luxury. It was scrambled egg powder, but tasted great, with bacon, toast and jam. He downed some coffee and felt a little more awake.

There was Bagley again, with his silly toothless laugh. A red neck, but he was his good friend. He listened and humored him. He was a good kid, but a hopeless case, deprived of an education. He would be lucky to be a lifer, probably a bosun, if anything.

At zero seven forty-five, the divisions were mustered and then the order was passed to “turn to, commence ships work.” Earnest and a couple of other guys were detailed to field day a passageway. It was just make work. It was a way to pass the time of day.

At noon, he was able to catch half an hour of sleep in his rack. Then he was back on watch in the afternoon. He would catch up on his sleep once the compartment’s lights were out in the evening.

After the watch, he went back to the fantail in the open air. He took one of his sweet Crooks rum flavored cigars to smoke in the open air. There were waves on the undulating see as far as the eye could see in every direction. The ship, steaming along at some six knots, left a white wake behind the ship. It was peaceful. Here he could think more clearly. Where was he? How the fuck had he gotten here? Did it matter? Somewhere heading south in the Atlantic, perhaps off the coast of Florida by now. The red sun slowly sank into the sea on the starboard side of the ship. It appeared that the fair winds would continue for the time being. The air was becoming warmer as the ship approached the tropics. He longed to be nude on a warm sandy beach somewhere. Nude and fornicating with Francis or Sherry.

By the third day, the ship was off the coast of Cuba. The morning of the fourth day, the ship approached the US Naval Base at Gitmo. The ship steamed to the piers and docked mid-morning. Ironically, most of the work on the base was being done by Cubans who crossed over to the base every morning and left after work. It was a matter of cheap labor. Whether or not they were communists, the US Government was more than willing to exploit their labor. Neither labor nor exploitation had a political color.

The sailors would not see much of the real Cuba. In fact, they would see none of it at all. Just see the US Navy base. The base was a thorn in Fidel Castro’s side, a listening post for the US. What could the Cubans be doing that was such a threat to the US? It was not so much what they were doing, but what they were not doing. They were not taking orders from Uncle Sam and opening up the resources and markets of the island for US business enterprises. That was all that made them an enemy of the most powerful country in the world. Earnest’s sympathies were with the Cubans who were getting the raw end of the deal.

Earnest was anxious to get off the ship and walk on the island. He could say he had been in Cuba, well, almost. This shake-down cruise and refresher training, or reftra in Navy lingo, was going to be tedious. The main routine would be to get underway in the early morning, go to sea, and then come back into port in the evening. This would go on for day after day for more than a month.

The hardest for Earnest was the fire drills that were carried out several times when he had the duty. Given the procedure, Earnest, surmised, one might not actually survive to fight the fire. The fire bill provided that a heavy bag of fire-fighting tools had to be lugged to the location of the fire, up and down the steep ladders of the ship. This had to be done in a matter of seconds. Being late to arrive at the space constituted a failure in the exercise. Even a man as big and strong as Earnest had trouble slinging the bag onto his back. Attempting to get down a ladder with the bag was treacherous and strained every muscle in his body. It was truly punishing. And there were many fire drills. Other sailors were responsible for arriving at the space where the fire occurred to set up a red-devil pump for air.

At sea, the order “General Quarters, Man Your Battle Stations,” was passed almost daily. Once manned, the ship’s hatches had to be closed tightly, so that they were water proof. On the other hand, it was certainly realized that destroyer escorts were quite dispensable. The loss of one was not a big loss to the Navy. A submarine lurking passively under the water could easily fire a torpedo and sink the ship before it was even detected. The ship could not possible escape. The aircraft carrier was what was important to save.

Earnest perceived that General Quarters was just a matter of entombing one’s self in one’s own coffin. How would one manage to survive? It was the old “bend over and kiss your sweet ass goodbye” all over again.

After a couple of weeks of punishment at refresher training, the ship got underway for Port Au Prince, Haiti. Earnest thought it would be an interesting country to see providing he could manage to get off the ship for some liberty.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Haiti

After a day and night of steaming across the Caribbean, Earnest’s ship was approaching Port Au Prince in the Gulf of Gonave. As the Page steamed eastward, there were high hills on the starboard side of the ship. One could see land and high green forested hills on the port side. It was a huge natural harbor. The city lay directly ahead as the ship approached the piers to dock at zero nine hundred hours on a Saturday morning.

Earnest was lucky to have liberty for the day. At half past ten, liberty call went down. Earnest got into civilian clothes, saluted the quarterdeck, and left the ship with a couple of friends. He was anxious to see some of the city which promised to be interesting. There were huge cranes on the pier for loading and unloading ships. Some Haitians had come down to sell mahogany carvings and shell beads.

The sailors walked down the pier and into the town. The stark poverty of the city struck Earnest, but since he had seen much poverty in India, it was not new to him. But here it seemed much worse than India. Hawkers on the street pleaded with the sailors to come to their shops to look at wood carvings and other items.

They walked past tall palm trees with gentle breezes blowing in from the sea. The weather was warm, tropical. Graceful local women passed by carrying heavy loads of fruit and vegetables on their heads. The air was filled with aromatic scents from the fruits and stands where food was being cooked.

They entered a huge covered bazaar in the center of the town with a magnificent variety of beautiful tropical fruits and vegetables. There were large piles of tasty ripe mangoes, guava, cassava, gambo, grenadine, papaya and bananas. It all made a colorful display.

The vegetable stands were rich with corn, sweet potatoes, sugar beets, carrots, peppers and other produce. There were sea food stands with lobster, fish and conch.

It was a fascinating place in spite of the evident grinding poverty. Earnest took some pictures for slides. Further down the main street was the huge Notre Dame Cathedral. Behind it the hillside was covered with many small houses in multi-colors, white, blue, red, green and yellow. It presented a charming scene.

Along the street there were taxis, brightly painted small buses, in psychedelic colors of red, yellow and green. There were village scenes, faces, and human figures.

They walked down the broad street from the pier, Harry S. Truman Boulevard, to an area of fine restaurants. A little further on was the American Embassy. The National Palace, an expansive white building on the Champ de Mars Plaza, could not be missed. The officers on the ship had advised the sailors to steer clear of this area, but Earnest would take a chance. He was determined to get some pictures of how the ruling class lived. The building had a Greek façade, with four large white columns in the center and expansive wings on both sides. It was clearly the seat of power in the country.

In the evening, Earnest went with a friend, Frenchy, to a French restaurant. Some officers from the ship had also arrived but ate at separate tables. It seemed excessively bourgeois to Earnest, unused to such a European setting. He was not familiar with French food, but found it delicious. They sampled the local wine and enjoyed themselves.

Earnest was a little high from the wine on the way back to the ship. Some of the local prostitutes propositioned them along the way. Earnest and Frenchy walked on trying to ignore them. Suddenly Earnest sensed someone running up behind him and then a hand attempted to grab his ass. It was one of the street prostitutes. Jesus, he thought. What is this? He had never seen anything like it before and was surprised at the tactic. Were they trying to rob him? That could have been, but he never carried money in his back pocket while on leave. So they would have been out of luck. He really had no desire to go with a hooker at this point. He realized that culturally he was not really attuned to this society and was ready to head back for the evening.

It was his only day on the beach as the following day, he had the duty. The ship would get underway at zero seventeen hundred hours for Gitmo. He would have loved to see some of the countryside, but at least he had seen something of the country. He loved the feel of the warm tropical sunshine as he stood duty on the quarterdeck.

It was back to the same routine in Gitmo for the next three weeks. The ship went out to sea every day as the training continued. They were not far off the coast of Cuba. The routine soon began to be boring as the heat intensified. It would be good to wind up this cruise for some easier and more routine duty.

The next weekend, the ship sailed from Gitmo to the opposite side of the island of Hispaniola to Santa Domingo for a liberty call. It was a beautiful setting. Earnest found the Dominican Republic more to his liking than the former French colony. It seemed that there was less grinding poverty. The first evening, he went over with some other sailors. There were small bars along the sea front where one could drink large bottles of cold local beer in the tropical climate. Earnest found this to be quite heavenly. He thought that it would be a great place to come for a holiday when he was out of the Navy and finally free.

He longed for such freedom. He wanted to be on his own, being somewhat of a loner. He left his friends in the evening and took off on his own for a very long walk across the city to get away from the pier and tourist area. After walking swiftly to the north for an hour or more through the vast city, he was in a local area where tourists were not normally seen. He liked these sorts of unspoiled places, remembering his Peace Corps experiences. He would try to blend in with the local population. This, of course, was a mere illusion. It could not be done. He remembered only a few words of Spanish that he had studied in the university.

He ventured into a small local restaurant and ordered some local food. It could not be bad, he thought, since there were so many locals eating there. It would be the genuine experience. At another table, he noticed a couple of nice looking young girls. Probably too young to be in the university, he thought. Earnest wished he could meet some locals. He hated the idea of exploiting women, the way some westerners did, coming and taking a local woman for a live in companion. He only wanted to be friendly. He would say hello to them. What was there to lose?

When he caught the eye of one of the pretty young women, he smiled and said hello. They seemed to not mind. They were even friendly, but surprised. They invited him to come to their table. They talked. He tried a little Spanish and they knew some English. He made friends, but that was as far as it could go. He could only drool. He wished them well, paid his bill and left. Still, it was a pleasant diversion from the exploitative nature of Navy life. He could feel a little more normal. A little more human and connect with human society.

He tried to work off some of his psychological burden on the long walk back to the ship. What lay on his brain was what should be his plan. What should he do next? He had now filled three years of the six years that he had signed up for in the Navy. Making a running start at it, the first year had gone fine, being with his wife and baby. The second year on the ship had been considerably harder. When he had been in Greece, enjoying the country and meeting some young women, he did not mind greatly. He could get along. There were opportunities to see new places and take pictures.

Then, shortly after the New Year, the ship left Greece and transited back to the US. It was an enjoyable cruise, seeing Portugal, the Canary Islands and San Juan. But the reality hit when the ship ended up in cold Philadelphia in the middle of the winter. He needed to make some local friends but somehow it was harder in the US. The Philadelphia phase had lasted for a year. On the spur of the moment, he had taken his month’s leave and gone to India for a break. It was not very satisfactory. It was good to be away from the military, but his wife thought he had wasted the money on the trip. It was depressing when he landed back in Philly.

Now the ship was out of the yards. But it would be home-ported in shit city, Norfolk. All there was to look forward to were a cruises to the Mediterranean. He would really have liked to be home-ported somewhere overseas. But to get that, he would have to extend his enlistment. He was not sure how he was going to solve the dilemma. He did not want to spend three more years stationed on the ship. Once back in Norfolk, the ship would be preparing for a deployment to the Mediterranean.

By the time Earnest arrived back at the harbor after the long walk, he was tired, but had thought out his dilemma on the long walk. The walk was pleasant exercise that he needed. He had not found a solution to his dilemma but he would try to cope. He wanted to see his wife and daughter in India, but they had agreed that it would be a waste to spend so much on the ticket to take leave and go there. Moreover, his wife did not encourage him to come. It seemed that she had other fish to fry and wanted to use the money for other things. He was not getting any support from that quarter, but on the other hand, it was his own fault. His karma, probably. After all, he had been responsible for putting himself in the dilemma. Now he would have to just stew in his own juices. It would be resolved one way or another.

Chapter Twenty-Five: Chillicothe

Earnest wondered how he would ever reunite with his wife who had now lived for three years in India. He was forced to enjoy his freedom. He was forced to be free from family life while being a slave in the military. It was another dialectical unity of opposites. Somehow, he feared that his marriage was on shaky grounds the first time he had gone to that young woman in Athens. He had always been taught to think of prostitution as sordid and evil. What he had discovered was how much he had enjoyed it. It was not exactly fulfilling, but he enjoyed the pleasure of making love to a new woman. This was true, even though he had paid for it. What was the big deal? He would not hesitate to do it again. The real evil was that love was being sold as a commodity in a certain form. This was normal under capitalism. Marketers had no qualms about slicing up love and selling it in the commodities they produced. It was the marketing aspect, making a profit off the relationship that was the moral question to him.

He thought of the economic question. Supply and demand. Why should sex be so expensive when the potential supply was so large? Women were not in short supply. They was rather like hydrogen, oxygen or water. A constant in the universe. It defied the laws of supply and demand. It should be cheaper in economic terms were it not for the artificial moral constraints that treated women like property.

After the relative freedom he had enjoyed, marriage might be more like a prison. It would be liberation to be out of the Navy. But he would be out of one set of chains only to be clamped into another. He would not want to give up the Navy experience. It had taught him a lot about life.

As a practical matter, going to bed with a married woman was the best option, he had discovered. She took what she needed and did not expect nor desire to own him. An unmarried woman, on the other hand, was usually looking for a good catch. Married women understood men better, he discovered. He wished that he had known it in the university. He would not have wasted his time on fickle coeds.

Maybe the boredom of married life in a small town was what had pushed him into the Navy in the first place. He thought back to an early experience in his marriage. There was to be a meeting for the teachers in the school where he was working. The meeting was some four hundred miles away. He was one of the teachers selected to go on the trip. It would be nice to get away from the school for the few days. There were a couple of young female teachers in the group.

When Earnest told his young wife, Lakshmi, that he would be going, she got upset and demanded that he not go. She was obviously jealous and afraid that he would go to bed with one of the young women. There was no reason for her to be concerned. Earnest was frustrated with her attitude. He had no intention of playing around with any of the young teachers.

On the other hand, he would like to make the trip. It put him in a difficult dilemma. He had to make up a lame excuse about why he could not go just because of her feeling of insecurity. It was a very dissatisfying experience. He had no desire to make love to the young teachers, one of whom was quite attractive. However, after that he began to think about it. He would not mind to seduce Andrea.

One afternoon he arrived back at the apartment after the school day. When he arrived home, his wife was gone. She had not told him anything nor left a note saying that she would be going somewhere. Surely, she was bored there in that small apartment. He understood that. Being left alone in a boring place with no friends around the town was hard. But what could he do? It was not his fault that this was the situation. But it rather panicked him not to find her there. He was just a guy humping and doing the best he could.

He left the apartment, thinking that maybe she had gone out to the big park where they sometimes went for a walk. He parked and walked through the park, being worried and looking for her. He saw some young women that he thought might be her, but turned out to be someone else. Finally, about to give up, he spotted her walking on one of the paths through the large trees.

Earnest came to Lakshmi and asked her what happened. She had a mischievous smile on her face. It seemed that she was pleased that she had caused him to worry about her and disturbed him.

For some moments, she did not answer. Then said,

It’s OK. You can go back to the apartment.” She was sort of brushing him off as if she did not care to be with him. He talked to her and coaxed her into coming back with him.

Later in the evening when they went to bed, he felt like having sex. He wanted to kiss and hold her. Then she shocked him by saying,

I want to get a divorce.”

Earnest felt his cock wither. She was rejecting him and the marriage outright. If she had ever loved him, she was rejecting him now. It turned him cold. He was tired. He asked her why. It was clear that the main reason was that she wanted to go back to India. She was homesick for India. He understood that the life she had there in India could not be compared to the mean, sordid, life that she was leading here in America. He was doing the best he could, but it could not work. It was his fault that he had brought her to this miserable place. She could only be happy if she went back to India or lived in a community where there were other Indians and she understood the culture. In the US the best places were New York or California.

He saw that it could not go on like this. She had to get out of this prison. He too was trapped in a teaching job that was much less challenging and interesting than his Peace Corps days. The state training school where he worked was a dead end, a boring existence in a boring small town. He had to do something about that. One solution might be the military. That would get them out into the wider world.

A few days after meeting Francis, Earnest was horny for her again. Her love had whetted his appetite. There was nothing, no woman, better than an elite married woman, he thought. She was a quality woman. Sometimes he was too much for her but she loved it.

Earnest gave her a call. He said he missed her. She told him to come over after work. When he arrived, she took him straight to the bedroom and lay back on the bed in the nude, wearing only her long dangling earrings. She had subtly perfumed her neck and breasts.

Earnest undressed and sank into her honey well. She was warm and mellow. Her flesh was soft and mature and loveable.

That feels good,” she said. “You are an earnest man.”

She was what he needed. But he lacked the words to express it exactly.

It can’t feel better than you,” he said.

He took her still beautiful legs on his shoulders, teased them with his teeth and screwed.

Do you think I will knock you up?”

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised, she said. “But I think I am past that.”

Maybe not bitch,” he said. He picked up the pace until she began to moan her pleasure. He felt his explosion coming.

She felt his warm flood, pleasing her.

He puffed on a sweet Crooks Brother’s Cigar that they sold at the Navy exchange. His still thick cock was taking a breather. He gave Francis a taste of the rum in the tobacco.

It’s sweet, pussy sweet,” he said. “Maybe that’s why I like sucking on them. Sweet, like I was sucking on an older woman’s cherry.”

Francis tasted his prick and stroked his balls. He nursed the sweet cigar while she pleasured him inside her mouth. Now she had him hard again.

Just look at you Earnest. This thing is a big part of your body. It is so nice.”

It’s all for you,” he lied. He moved gently as if her mouth was a sweet piece of young pussy. She knew how to treat a man.

Earnest lay back and took her on top of him. He filled his hands with the buns of her ass as she slid up and down his stationary piston. She moaned as her climax came.

Your prick heats my body,” she said.

It will do more than that,” he said. He stood and took her from behind. He reamed. “I love your sweet ass. It’s so cute.”

He was making up for the slow boring month in Gitmo and Francis was the remedy. Life on the ship was now boring to him. He just wanted to get the hell out of the Navy.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Morning Glory

Earnest’s thick cock rose like a flag pole pointing skyward to the ceiling. Or was it to God? Earnest could not be sure but would not concern himself with existential questions at this hour of the day. Francis was still sleeping in a thin shift. It was not yet eight in the morning. He felt his balls twisting. Twisting in lust. He tasted her nose. That was a cute little nose. He saw the aging wrinkles around her eyes. He thought that they were attractive with her tanned flesh.

She stirred and opened her eyes slightly. She spied Earnest’s bulging staff. She smiled slightly. Earnest teased her nose again. He tasted her lips. Earnest felt her leg and pressed up to her soft mound. Was she ready?

You’re going to kill me with that thing,” she said, pretending to object. She was actually delighted. When he entered her there was a little morning resistance. Then her flesh yielded the right of way to her inner morning secrets. He stirred her soft flesh as she kept her eyes closed. Then he mounted her and took her deeper.

Honey, you feel good inside me,” she said. “Be gentle. You are big for my pussy, you prick. You fill me up all the way.”

Earnest took his time, stirring up her mellow morning glory flower with his ladle, pulling almost out, then plunging to the hilt and stirring again. She was starting to wake up.

He asked her to switch positions and come on top of him. He rolled to the side while she slipped off her shift and mounted him in the nude. She still had a good body. She sank down upon his scepter, his dagger aimed up her middle. Then she slowly rode up and down his shaft, as he feasted upon her morning breasts.

You have a delicious prick, Earnest,” she said. “I miss you, but when you come you make me sore. But I don’t mind. I like it that way, my baby.”

She was starting to breathe more heavily. He felt her gripping his hard cock, moving slowly, crying gently, as her climax approached. She relished the moment as the waves of heat swept over her body. She slumped down, feeling the lingering pleasure, almost ecstasy. Earnest kissed her.

Now it’s my turn from behind.”

Earnest liked having her that way, her lovely bare ass in his hands. Her fruit was melted butter as he entered her ripe papaya from behind and started to ream. He administered long slow strokes to the center of her womb.

Screw me, honey, screw me good, you prick, you young prick. Your prick is so good. Give it all to me.”

Earnest picked up the pace.

I’ll cream you. You can’t escape now.”

He plunged deep and felt the muscles in his loins go wild with strong spasms. He lubed her with his full thick morning load.

Francis, Francis, oh God! I love you.”

It was only half way a lie. He did love the feel, the ecstasy. What could he do? His legs felt weak as she drained him of his precious substance, his masculine essence. His cock ground to a halt. He let her feel him inside her longer before pulling out. They settled back to rest.

We need some coffee,” Francis said.

In ten minutes she returned with two cups of black java. With caffeine flowing through their veins they repaired to the shower. He had the day off. She liked having him there. A younger man. She knew that he would get horny again in late morning. Sometimes she liked for a lover to take her wildly. That was the thing about a young man. Being ravished as much as she wanted, but sometimes more.

She could tempt him today. In late morning, he was reading in the study. She made some lunch. Then she slipped her clothes off and walked up to him in just her thin panties.

He was happy to see her that way.

Why don’t you come for some lunch,” she teased him. “I have something you might like to eat in the kitchen.”

He quickly stripped his clothes off.

She retreated back to the kitchen. He caught her from behind and took her as she sat back against her big solid wooden table.

Earnest, I am already sore and now you are at it again,” she said, “You should be ashamed of yourself. But I don’t think you are.”

Why should I?” he said. “You’re the best woman I know.

He sucked her soft fruits into his mouth and lifted her legs to his shoulders.

I want to be inside you,” he said.

You already are,” she said. “If you come any deeper, you will probably cream my stomach.”

Now he toiled inside her inner honeysuckle. He looked into her face, a woman almost the age of his mother. Still attractive. Tasted her eyes and lips and neck.

Francis, I want you Francis.”

You are not bad this morning, honey,” she said. “Ball me, you stud.”

Earnest pounded and felt his balls bursting again. She cherished his throbbing tool.

You did me good, real good,” she said. “I knew I could seduce you.”

You are a good piece of ass. A real good piece of ass. And my piece of ass.”

Don’t take me for granted,” she warned him. “You are fun, but not the only available man. I am still young enough to attract a younger man.”

He stayed till the afternoon. In the evening, he had to report back to the ship for duty. He needed a woman and she was fine. But sometimes his eyes were straying to younger women. They were sweet in their own way, but not as satisfying as Francis.

The cruise to the Caribbean had lasted for a month. But he didn’t like that base at Gitmo. There were always drunken sailors getting into fights. It was a pain when he drew shore patrol. Now he was back.

Oh honey, you are almost too much for me at my age,” Francine said.

He was taking her to the limit and that was as much as she could hope for. Exactly what she wanted. He was a little wild and crazed after the cruise. It was cool in Norfolk.

The day they arrived back in port in late September, he had called her. When he told her he was back, it gave her a little evil thrill. He still wanted her. The draw of older pussy for a younger man like him. She was still a desirable woman and made use of her charms.

Oh, that’s great,” she said. “I hope the cruise was good.”

A pain in the ass in some ways,” he said. “But some good liberty in St. Thomas. Nice beaches. No bitches for me, though. Not after you. You were worth waiting for.”

Paul is going out on a tech mission in a couple of days,” she informed him. “He should leave on Wednesday, so I will be free in the evening.”

Earnest felt his cock bulge slightly. “I can’t wait,” he said.” Just wish it was sooner.

You’re a devil. I wish it too,” she lied, “but you too are worth waiting for.”

I love you,” he lied.

She didn’t tell him that her husband was already out of town. That evening she was entertaining another young guy, Dan, who she had met recently. She liked to shop around. Compare performances. He was a young professor and struck her as being her kind.

When Earnest was off on Wednesday, his hands itched. He salivated for her lovely breasts as he drove out to her place. He parked at a shop and walked the rest of the way. She had asked the security to let him through. She had perfumed herself lightly, but left her female sexual scents which she knew turned him on. Not that he needed it.

Her date with Dan had been a flop. He was no good in bed. Now she appreciated Earnest even more. She imagined him taking her quickly in that short little black lace shift she wore with no panties underneath. When he entered her, she would release her tits for his nourishment.

She sipped some cold, white wine. Then the doorbell rang. When he was just inside, she closed the door and they kissed. He tasted her neck. He didn’t wait for a drink as she led him to her den. He was already getting off his shirt. He stripped his pants off and took her on the divan with a slicing thrust. He buried his cock in her juicy meat that she had exquisitely prepared for him. His balls were in a torpor. She popped the button on her shift giving him her tits. He filled his mouth with her vibrant ripe fruits. He couldn’t hold out long, having saved his substance for her. When his explosion came, he lubed her full of his fertile load. His wild muscle spasm wouldn’t quit.

Oh Honey, you keep coming. You don’t quit. That was good,” she said. She knew he was not finished. There was much more to come. She moved to the kitchen in the nude to bring him a cold sparkling glass of wine. Yes, he would now enjoy the fruit of the vine that she offered so beautifully.

He showed her one of the cigars that he had brought from the Dominican Republic. They were Cuban cigars that he had smuggled in on the ship. She had a cigarette. She lounged just in her shift. He was still nude, his limp weapon still distended.

I would like to flavor my cigar,” he said. “Would you help me? I think you would like it.”

What do you mean?” she asked.

Well, they need to be moistened,” Earnest said. “I think I know the best way to do it.”

What’s that?” she asked.

Show me your pussy,” he said.

Oh no, not that,” she said. “That is crazy.”

Not really,” he said. “If the President of the United States can flavor his cigar that way, then why can’t I.”

Fuck the President,” she said. “That’s his business.”

Marilyn Monroe did fuck the President,” he said. “It is probably thrilling being that close to power.”

Earnest bent over and kissed her pussy. She felt his tongue brush across her cherry.

That has to be the most beautiful taste in the world,” Earnest declared.

He gently touched her wet pink slit with the tip of the thick cigar. He twirled it slowly and gently pierced her crevice. Slowly, he worked it deeper.

It feels strange,” she said. “But not bad, I sort of like it. You can push it in a little deeper.”

That’s plenty deep,” Earnest said. “Leave the deep diving to me.”

You’re getting jealous of your cigar, you shit,” she said. “That’s funny.”

Earnest retrieved the elegant tight roll of tobacco leaves and lit the cigar. A beautiful classic aroma filled the room. The tobacco stimulated his brain. He felt like a king. He was in his heaven. He smoked. He fucked.

In a little bit, he put his cigar aside. His cock again hardened. He tasted her distended nipples. He felt her hand on his cock that had now stiffened like wood. She slipped her top off. He took her in the nude on the floor.

You are the most sexy woman in the world, Francis,” he said. “Your cunt tweaks my cock and brain like no other woman I ever fucked. You should be my wife.”

Shit. That would ruin everything,” she said.

He realized it was true.

You’re a delicious man, Earnest. Oh God. You’ll kill me. Fuck me. Fuck out all your Navy horniness.”

The strong female scent of her pussy now subtly drove him as he reamed the full length of his swollen baton. She understood her man.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Newport

Earnest knew what he had to do. It was the fourth year of his enlistment. He most certainly did not believe in what he was doing. But more than that, he had decided that his future was to go back to the university and possibly become an academic. Staying another two years in the military was nothing more than a waste of precious time. The way it was, he would be some ten years late in getting started in his career, but nothing could be done about that. There was no need to twiddle his thumbs for another two years while his life ebbed away.

He would apply for a discharge on the basis of conscientious objection. It was a legitimate way of getting out. One only had to have all their ducks in a row and convince the Navy that they were sincere. This should not be so difficult, he thought. After all, he had already been branded as a misfit. And he was about as sincere as one could get. All he had to do now was to flesh out his views in writing.

In the summer he wrote up his application, explaining his reasoning in a thirty page hand-written document. It was, perhaps, overkill, but he would not take any chances. At the same time it would serve the purpose of teaching a course in Gandhi’s philosophy to some of the Navy officers. Those assholes.

Earnest submitted the application. He would have to wait for a couple of months to get any results. Then there would have to be an interview to probe his convictions.

It was now summertime. Earnest’s ship was deployed to sail to Rhode Island for training. There was a Navy base at Newport where the ship would dock. Earnest enjoyed being at sea. Most days, the water was calm and cool. He liked the scenic rough rocky seashore along the East Coast. There were big boulders that emerged abruptly close to the shore as ships approached the channel.

The third day out in the Atlantic, the ship was off the northeast of the United States. In the afternoon, they docked at the base. Unfortunately, Earnest had drawn the duty. He was designated to be the duty driver. It wasn’t the first time. He thought it was going to be a lot easier than that time he recalled driving the ship’s van through the crowded streets of Messina in Sicily. A car was secured from the base pool. He would drive the officers when they decided to go somewhere off the ship.

In about an hour, Earnest was called to the quarterdeck. He was informed that Captain Gomez wanted to go to the base uniform shop and needed a driver.

Oh shit. I have to drive that asshole,” Earnest thought. “How did I get so lucky? He wished it could be anyone else but him.”

Earnest collected the ignition keys from the quarterdeck officer and went down the gangplank to stand next to the ugly gray Navy vehicle. When the Captain came down the gangplank, he saluted and opened the door of the car for him. The Captain was loathe to return the salute. He was only carrying out a distasteful formality that he could not avoid. He didn’t mind saluting those young stupid bright eyed and bushy tailed ones. But Earnest, that was something else. He had seen that shit screed he had written elaborating the ideas of Gandhi.

Earnest dreaded the task of driving him. Besides being an officer, he had scarcely ever seen him smile. It was as if he was afraid of losing control of the ship if he appeared to be congenial to an enlisted sailor. Surely the thought lay on his mind as the commander. He struck Earnest as being a rigid and sour person. On the ship, the captain was referred to as the “old man.” This old man was cranky and a bore, as far as Earnest could tell. The first one had seemed better.

Earnest thought there must be an explanation for it. He must have had to overcome a good deal of racial prejudice as a minority, a Puerto Rican, to reach his position as a commanding officer of a unit in the Navy. That might help to explain it. His life had been a matter of clawing his way up, perhaps. Now he was merely someone taking orders in the chain of command. Shit flows downhill. He too was a gopher of sorts.

Earnest pulled away from the ship slowly and out onto the main road that ran around the base. He was a careful driver. But perhaps, he was over anxious to get through this distasteful task. Too much of an eager beaver. Of course, no friendly conversation or even friendly words could transpire between the Captain and Earnest. It seemed to be a severe case of the rule of no fraternization between enlisted men and officers. The social gap was too wide. Officers were addressed as “mister.” Enlisted men were merely addressed by their last names, with no title of mister. They were not of the same caste as the officers. This dehumanizing discrimination sometimes got on Earnest’s nerves. Who the fuck were they anyway? To not be entitled to being called “mister” was like a form of castration. Not being fully a man. Earnest was older than many of them and had at least as much education. And he read academic books, while most of them clearly did not.

This situation made it awkward for Earnest. He was not the type of guy to flatter the Captain, or to grovel before him like some plebian. This might well have amused and pleased the tight-assed Captain had he been that stupid. He would not put on a stupid act just to please this old man.

In fact, the main reason for the discomfort of the Captain might be the suspicion that Earnest was not as stupid as he acted. Enlisted men who were uneducated were OK. The right stuff. They shut up and took orders. There was no place for smart or educated individuals. And of course, the Captain had seen his application for conscientious objection with all those pages filled with Indian philosophy. Earnest imagined what he probably thought about that.

The road curved away from the pier and then straightened out. Earnest cruised forward, gently, and then picked up some speed. He was unaware that the Captain was closely eying the speedometer. When Earnest slightly exceeded the base speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour, Captain Gomez at once ordered him to slow down. Earnest looked down at the needle. It was pointed at nearly “thirty.” He quickly braked.

Shit,” Earnest thought. “What a prick! It was as if I was going to do something reckless.” Earnest was, in fact, bending over backward to be cautious and follow the regulations.

Oh, sorry sir,” Earnest apologized, “I hadn’t realized it.”

The speed limit on base is twenty-five miles per hour,” the Captain warned him sharply.

Earnest saw the hard look on the officer’s face and the tensed up muscles at the corners of his mouth.”

Must be hard being that much of an asshole,” Earnest thought. Was he now going to start feeling sorry for the son of a bitch?

Just watch your speed,” Gomez ordered.

Yes sir,” Earnest chirped. It was now an automatic response after being in the military as long as he had been.

Earnest pulled up in front of a red brick building. The uniform shop was inside.

Wait here,” the Captain ordered.

Yes sir,” came from Earnest again. It was like a recording. Press the “yes sir” button and it came out. Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.

Fuck’N A, Fuck’N A, Fuck’N A,”

What an asshole,” Earnest thought. He could maybe be a little friendly. Not so stiff and rigid. He felt that probably what was getting under the CO’s skin was Earnest’s relaxed manner. He was simply not doing things with a military bearing. He was treating driving the CO to the uniform shop as a simple task of driving a person from the ship to a shop. He did not grasp the seriousness of the enterprise. After all, he the captain was an important man and it was Earnest’s duty to be stiff and quake and grovel in front of him like a sailor should.

His duty was clearly to perform like a mindless robot, even though it could serve no purpose except to please the man’s ego. Nevertheless, this was what was expected of an enlisted man. Somehow Earnest fell short of the mark. He would try harder. But it was so much out of his character.

After twenty minutes Earnest repeated his salute this time more smartly as he opened the door for the Captain. He strained to look more rigid, mindless, and robotic. He would get through this stupid fucking game somehow.

They should have done a better job of giving me a lobotomy in boot camp,” Earnest thought. “It is not my fucking fault.”

Earnest paid close attention to his speed on the return run as he virtually crept back across the base to the ship. Earnest pulled up to the ship and quickly rushed around to open the door for the Captain. The Captain got out, saying nothing. He still had the sour look on his face. He was likely disgusted, Earnest thought. It was perhaps not possible for him to please an officer of the United States Navy.

Fortunately, he did not have to drive the Captain again that day. Later in the evening, some junior officers asked him to take them to the officer’s club. They talked, but not to Earnest. He was totally ignored. He was just a robotic dummy. They were above saying anything to him.

The ship was to be in port for a couple of weeks. He would be able to get around the town a little. The next day when liberty call went down at half past seventeen hundred hours, Earnest went over on the beach with his main running mate Joe Castle. He was a friendly guy that Joe got along with well. They enjoyed getting drunk together. He was a bosun’s mate who liked to have fun and kid around. Most enlisted men did not take the Navy seriously. It was a big joke.

Walking outside the base, Joe caught the eye of a couple of young girls in a car. When they quickly stopped, Joe hitched a ride. Earnest piled in the back seat with the other. He saw that she was not good looking and quite fat, but at least, she was company. He was having fun. She was Marla. She looked into his face with bright eyes, smiling. Just looking at her face, she could be cute, but he was not interested. She was not his type. She giggled and he felt her press her body against his.

Sandra, the other girl, drove the car to a small lake somewhere near the edge of town. She was better looking. He could see that Joe was playing with her and touching her legs. He lit up and they smoked on the way. She stopped the car and they got out. Earnest went along the small beach with Marla making small talk. He told her that sure, he was in the Navy, but wanted to get out. He didn’t like it.

Why not?” she asked. “I bet you get to travel a lot to other places.”

A few,” Earnest said. “but that does not make up for the boredom that one suffers most of the time on a ship. Sure there are some good times, but I have had enough.”

You must meet girls,” she said. “That should be fun.”

Sometimes,” Earnest said. “But it doesn’t happen all the time.”

The young woman said she had a job in the town. She didn’t like her job either, but there was not much to choose from.

He sat down beside her on the beach and looked out at the moon reflecting off the water. It was nice, sort of romantic, in a way. It would have been better if she had she put him in the mood. She brought her lips close to his face. Did she want to be kissed? He could have asked to kiss her, if there had been any desire to do so. As it was, they only talked. The evening air was pleasant and cool. Yes, he would have kissed her if she had been a desirable girl who turned him on. No, there was no point, he decided. He would play it straight.

In fifteen minutes, they met Joe and Sandra back at their red car. As they drove, Marla moved closer to Earnest and pressed her breast against his shirt. In the front, Joe was sitting close to Sandra. He was teasing her and making jokes. Sandra stopped at a snack bar for a soft drink. That was where they left the guys.

Earnest was glad that Marla was gone. He liked Sandra a lot better, but she was not his. Earnest and Joe walked on toward an area where there was a discotheque and a couple of small bars.

Did you fuck her?” Joe wanted to know.

No,” Earnest admitted, wondering if that was what he was supposed to have done. He was rather surprised at the question. The thought had not really entered his mind. If he had fucked her in such a short time, he thought, it would have been more like rape than anything else. Perhaps it was what she wanted, but he was not up for it. Whether Joe had gone for Sandra, he thought that was his own business. But if he had, the pleasure would have most certainly been short. Earnest still had something to learn about redneck ways.

The next day, he went over with Joe again. They met up with some other guys from the ship at a small neighborhood bar in Newport. Earnest rather liked the town. Small and somewhat quaint. But there were small bars where working guys gathered. He sat in one of the tables on the side with Joe. He was in the mood to meet a girl if it had been possible. In this enterprise, it was better to be with younger guys who were better at attracting them.

In a little bit, some young women came in and sat at another table. Joe went over and said hello. When he invited them to come to their table, they agreed. They were cute. Earnest talked to Joanne for a while, but clearly knew that he was too old for her. She was small and cute and sat right next to him. She was nice for kissing if he had the chance. They had a few beers. Earnest was starting to get a little high. He really only wanted to enjoy the atmosphere and the beer. Cute, but only a child, Earnest thought. A little toy to play with for a time. But those little tits looked delicious.

He got up and went to the head for a whiz. He had to filter out some of the beer. In one hole and out the other. As soon as he locked the door, he saw a wallet laying on the floor next to the toilet bowl. Earnest picked it up and saw that it had money inside. There was something like sixty dollars cash in it. Maybe more. It would have been easy to quickly pocket the cash and pretend that he had never seen the wallet. But in fact, the thought did not enter his mind. He thought about some poor working stiff who might have lost it after busting his ass for the money all week. Now he needed food for the kids. It would be robbery. He would do the honest thing.

Earnest picked up the wallet and turned it in to the bartender. He could not tell if he would be as honest as himself, but at least he had done the right thing. He did not want that on his conscience.

He drank a few more beers with Joe and walked back to the base. The girls had gone. It gave Earnest a good feeling, anyway, just being with a cute young girl. Earnest was rather enjoying the town and thought it an improvement over Norfolk.

The small bar was a pleasant place to go and knock back a few beers. On Saturday Earnest went with Joe in the afternoon. The place was quite filled. He noticed an older woman sitting at the bar and apparently looking for someone to talk to. Most of the young sailors did not seem interested. She had a wrinkled face but had made it up and put on perfume and a lot of lipstick.

A faded yellow rose, Earnest thought. Delta Dawn, clearly over the hill, but she was going for it full throttle. Was she just here for some drinks or was she out to pick up a young sailor? She had surely been attractive in her youth. Now she had a fifties look. Her body was starting to go to pot. She apparently thought Earnest, as an older sailor, was a good prospect. She came over and struck up a conversation with him. He sat with her and had a beer. Earnest was getting the idea that she wanted more form him than just conversation.

You are very handsome,” she said, with an accent. “Are you from the Navy ship? What is your name?”

Yes, I am afraid so,” Earnest said. “I am Earnest. I am not very happy about it and would rather not be.”

I am Fiona,” she introduced herself. “I love meeting men from the Navy. They are such nice men. I love the Navy.”

But you are not in it,” Earnest said. “I could love it too that way.”

I am not so sure about how nice they are,” Earnest said. “I know a few that do not really fit in that category.”

I always like to meet men from the Navy.” She continued. “But I think you are special,” she lied. “I like you.”

She leaned her body closer to him.

His words were lost as the music began to be cranked up louder.

Come with me tonight,” she said, “we can have a good time.”

Earnest saw the situation. It was clear that she was trying to pick him up. No, she was not the type that he would want to bed down with for a one-night stand. And what would she want after that. The ship was not leaving at once. She could mean trouble. She was not a woman that turned him on. If he was going to have a woman, it would be a good quality woman and not this trashy one. He suddenly wanted to get away from her. He told her that he liked her too but was sorry that he had to get back to the ship for duty. He thanked her and said goodbye.

The next day Earnest had the quarterdeck watch in the morning. The phone kept ringing and ringing. Every time it was the same woman asking for Keller. Finally the messenger managed to find Keller and get him up to the quarterdeck. Earnest had no idea who this woman might be, asking for Keller. He heard Keller talking to her. He kept saying “No, No, No, I cannot come. I cannot do that.” Finally in exasperation, he asked her to please not call the ship again and hung up.

The officer asked him what that was all about.

This crazy woman,” he said. “Fiona or Feona, something like that. She picked me up last night in that bar. She took me home and fucked my brains out all night. Oh God, she was a great piece of ass. She fucks like crazy. She will fuck your brains out. But now she keeps calling me and asking me to come to meet her. She wants money. Now I wish I had never gone home with her. She keeps calling me. If she calls again would you please do me a favor and say that I am not on the ship.”

Earnest was getting a kick out of it. He thought he was damned lucky to have escaped her clutches. It would have been so easy to have fallen into her spider’s web. She would have sucked him dry like a black widow spider. He didn’t really need that.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Key West

After four years, Earnest had had enough. Staying in the Navy was a waste of time. A waste of his life. He wanted to get the fuck out, but he had signed up for six years. The last two years weighed upon him like an incubus. Not only that, the Navy had promised a bonus when the last two years kicked in and then backed out of paying it. Eventually a class-action lawsuit was brought against the Navy. After all, it was a part of a contract.

But it was not that which really concerned Earnest. He had started taking some courses at Old Dominion University. This had whetted his appetite for more education. He could not go to school as a sailor. While it was not a long time in his life, he could not see wasting another two years twiddling his thumbs on a Navy ship. He was terribly bored. Another cruise to the Mediterranean would just be more of the same thing he had already seen. All the same ports again.

Earnest had latched upon the idea of getting out as a conscientious objector. However, it took some work to do this and he knew that the Navy would drag their heels in acting upon any such request. From the time he had applied he was considered a renegade. A black sheep. Nevertheless, he had written up his case and submitted the application.

Some of his friends on the ship were curious about getting out this way. He explained to them clearly and quite strongly why he had to do it. He had studied up on it and got information from a group that provided support and assistance. He said it was possible, but first one must convince the Navy that it was not just a matter of wanting to get out.

From that point on, he became a dissident. That was all that was possible under the circumstances. But becoming a dissident is equivalent to becoming an enemy, a renegade, a rotten egg, a rotten potato that can spoil those around him. Earnest did not want it that way, but he could not help it under the circumstances.

In general, he did what he had to do to get along on the ship. He hated the daily work. The routine technical checks of the equipment were so boring. The same thing had to be done over and over again. He did not enjoy changing the electronic parts, the small transistors and resistors. In practice, he decided that he could not put up with it any longer. He liked ideas, not diodes.

One day, Pancoat, the big guy, came on board. He was a first class petty officer, an E-6, Sonar Tech. He had transferred from another ship. He would essentially be the boss of the division. But now all that Earnest really wanted to do was to find time to read and study. Do things that he found interesting. The chief, an E-7 of the division was a pretty decent guy. He never bothered Earnest, never gave him trouble, although he never showed any real liking for him. Earnest thought maybe he felt a little intimidated by him. He was a skinny guy and came across as a wimp and seemed like he just wanted to get along.

The new petty officer was different altogether. First, he set about changing things in the spaces and making it difficult for others. One of the first things he did was to change the uniform lockers. Earnest kept his uniforms in his locker that was right next to his rack where he slept. The new guy re-ordered the lockers and gave them new numbers. Earnest was ordered to move his clothes to a locker on the other side of the compartment.

Earnest resented this, not only because it was unfair. A far away locker was inconvenient. When he had to get up in the middle of the night for the four to eight watch he would have to search around in the dark. At first, he refused to move out of his locker. The petty officer got angry. Earnest watched his face turn as red like a beet. He got a bosun’s mate from first division to bring a pair of steel cutters and cut off the lock. Earnest’s uniforms were pulled out and thrown on his rack in a pile. There was nothing that Earnest could do about it. Further, he was put on report for disobeying an order from the petty officer. He would probably lose part of his pay at the Captain’s mast.

Time went on. Earnest tried to put up with it, really having no choice. But the crude petty officer who always went around with an angry look on his face was down on him from then on. It was clear to Earnest that Pancoat was a brutal and violent man.

Sometimes he acted like he was demented. Pancoat spent an inordinate amount of time rummaging through boxes of small bolts and nuts and sorting them out with a sort of wild obsession. The sour man never joked about anything and never laughed.

One day he encountered Earnest on the mess decks. Earnest had taken a coffee break in mid-morning. When Pancoat appeared, his face was puffed out and his face red. It was clear that he was feeling angry.

Maybe we will have to lift you on a towel,” he warned Earnest. “Three men on a towel. I think we should have a party and do that when we are at sea.”

Earnest realized that he was being threatened with violence. He had hinted that it would be carried out when they were on a cruise. This was often the case, as there was no recourse to legal help from on shore.

He saw that Pancoat was clearly laying for him and would not hesitate to beat him up, perhaps with the help of a couple of other guys, the next time they went to sea. Earnest realized that to protect himself the best thing to do was to get off the ship. He had already seen one guy get the shit beat out of him so that he was brought back to the ship on a stretcher. That could well happen to him if this guy decided to do him in.

Earnest decided he better take the leave he had coming at once. He had more than a month of leave built up. He hoped that by the time he returned some action might have been taken on his conscientious objection application.

The ship was about to deploy to Rhode Island where there was a Navy Base. If he could get his leave approved by the time the ship reached Newport, he could leave from there. He would take the bus down to Norfolk, pick up his car, and spend some time on the road. It was mid-summer, July. But first he had to get his pay.

He decided to take a long trip around the country if he got the leave. Gas was cheap for his small car, after all. In a couple of weeks he would drift down to Florida and then maybe out west. He would just drift on the road.

By the time the ship docked at the base in Newport, his leave had been approved. He would be off on a Sunday morning. After breakfast chow, Earnest got his bag and had the officer of the deck sign his orders on the quarterdeck. It was a long walk down the pier. From there, he got a taxi to the bus station.

He was suddenly thrown into an alien atmosphere. Life on the outside was completely different from life on the ship. It would take a couple of days for his brain to reorient itself to functioning in a civilian way. On the outside, he was his own man. There was no place where he had to be at a certain moment in the day. That was completely up to him. It was back to using his brain, directing himself under his own will power. It was a great sense of freedom.

The bus was not going to be crowded. Almost everyone in America had cars nowadays, anyway. Earnest went to the ticket window and bought his ticket for New York. From there he would have to switch to another bus line for Norfolk. It was going to take all night, but that was OK. He had plenty of time.

The ticked agent said the bus would be coming in fifteen minutes. Earnest sat down to wait. He had brought only a small duffel bag. Most of those taking the buses seemed rather scruffy and poor. Probably too poor to afford a car, Earnest thought. Still, one met interesting people on buses sometimes.

When the bus arrived, he got his seat toward the front of the bus. He wanted to ride where he could see the view and the road. The bus, while quite old, had a clean fresh smell inside from the disinfectant that had been sprayed for the trip.

Fortunately, he got a woman for a seat companion. He preferred women, who were generally more friendly and easier to talk to. Men were generally bores and he was tired of being only around men. She came and said hello and claimed her seat.

I think this is my seat,” she said, “number four. It seems to be from my ticket. I am Margaret.”

Hi, I am Earnest,” he said.

She put her bag in the overhead and settled back with a paperback.

Sometimes I like to read,” she said. “If I feel like it. How are you?”

Feeling ok,” Earnest said. “I feel fine for travelling.”

Where to?” she asked. “Taking a long trip?”

I probably will,” Earnest said. “I have to go to Virginia and pick up my car. I am in the Navy and it is on the base there. After that, I will head down to Florida. I have a month of leave.”

Lucky,” she said. “I only get two weeks in a year, and that is after working in the same place twenty years.”

Earnest looked her over more closely. She was a nice woman, mid- forties. A pretty face, just a few traces of wrinkles starting to form around her eyes. Big green eyes, a small nose and thin red lips. Her long blond hair was done up on her head. Her T-shirt showed her nicely shaped breasts and her faded jeans clung tight to her legs.

What do you do?” Earnest asked. “It’s an insurance company,” she said. “Nothing exciting, but it is a job. I am lucky to have one, especially after I divorced.”

Nice, you are lucky to be free.”

If I could just find a decent man that would be better. But it seems they don’t make them like that anymore.”

I wish you luck,” Earnest said. “You are an attractive women.”

Maybe to the wrong kind of men. I haven’t had very good luck.”

She read and Earnest pulled out his own book. It was a good three hours to New York, in the late afternoon.

Earnest had to wait a couple of hours for the bus to Norfolk.

It was enough time to get a lunch in the station restaurant.

He slept off and on overnight as the bus cruised down the coast.

The next day, he got to the base in early-morning. He picked up his car from the parking lot and hit the road. Not far from town he was already in the cotton fields. It looked like the real old south. It was only a short drive down to the North Carolina border. He stopped in a shady place near the side of the road to take a piss and popped a cold beer. He felt like a loner, but was happy to be away from the Navy. He was a loner, at heart. And there were no other sailors to be found.

He drove on, taking his time. Thinking. Contemplating. Thinking out what he had better do. Thinking out what he had been through and how he was going to straighten out his life once he got the Navy and the Government out of his life. He had a whole month to figure it out and air out his brains.

Then the skies darkened. The rains began. The skies opened up in a monsoonal downpour. Darkness fell. It got so bad that he could scarcely see the road. It was essentially tropical. Pulling inside a station, he decided to wait it out. Eventually the rain slackened. Earnest drove on and found a cheap motel for the night, just the essentials. The Indians were just beginning to take over the older motels.

In the morning, Earnest showered and hit the road. He fixed himself up with a McDonald’s breakfast. It would have to do. Not bad, after all.

That day he made it down to Florida. It was hot, tropical. No air conditioner in his old VW. He drove down past the beaches in South Carolina with his windows open. Those with money were probably enjoying themselves in the big hotels on the beach. Certainly, these were beyond his budget. He skirted Miami, along the coast and found the Key West road. He had always wondered what it was like down there so close to Cuba. Now he would find out. He knew there was a submarine base there, but he would avoid that. He did not want to go near the Navy. He drove down the old highway crossing from Island to Island, connected by aging bridges. Some of them were long and narrow, leaving little room for the trucks that he met. The Keys took one to within ninety miles of Cuba.

Earnest made the last Key a little after lunch. He had stopped earlier and entered a small campground. He filled out the card and paid for a camping spot. He put up his miserable small pup tent. It would not do in a storm. After exploring around the camp he drove on. There was not a lot of hope of meeting a woman in the camp. There were some campers around, but mostly families with small children running around.

Key West was fifteen miles on. It was small with some bars. There were tourists. A small train took tourists around the town to see the landmarks. Earnest Hemmingway’s house was still here. There were a couple of famous watering holes where the writer used to work on his novels, while working on his whiskey. It was a Sunday.

On the road, Earnest spotted a restaurant that had many types of fish. It was a sort of all you can eat place. It looked like a good place. This was where he met the two girls. One of them told him that he was beautiful. This was evidence enough for Earnest that she wanted him. He ate fish with them. They said they were staying in Key West. Earnest offered them a ride. She was definitely beautiful. It had been a while since he had had a woman. I can’t let her get away, he thought. I won’t let her get away. I am going to have her tonight. No way I can miss this. It was a perfect chance.

Earnest parked on the side of the street and followed them in. Jan and Susan were their names. Jan flipped on the air conditioner and asked him to be comfortable. There were two rooms. One room had a couch and two easy chairs. Jan produced a snack and offered a glass of wine.

Sure,” Earnest accepted. He liked tasty wine and was sure that this would be. She would be too.

Earnest began to feel mellow after a couple of glasses of wine. Now he wondered what was going to happen. He clearly belonged to Jan.

Why don’t you stay with us?” Jan offered. “We can make some dinner and make it an evening.”

Earnest didn’t mind. She started to play some soft sixties music. The wine mellowed him. They were at the far end, the southern pinnacle of the United States.

When Earnest pulled out his comb to smooth his hair, Jan told him, “Don’t worry. You are beautiful.” The wine went down easily. He was clearly getting inebriated. Jan left and appeared in a thin shift that showed her tanned legs. She invited him to her bedroom. He fell on her and they made love naturally.

When Susan moved into the bedroom, Earnest took his place outside on the couch. About two in the morning, he woke up with a stabbing pain in his stomach. He wanted to moan, but suffered in silence. It seemed that he was going to die. The wine had probably not helped. He must have got food poisoning from the fish, he figured. He toughed it out, but was down and out of it the next day. He moved into the bedroom and stayed in bed.

By afternoon, he was feeling a little better. “I think I can drive. I better get on the road,” Earnest said. He thanked them for their hospitality. Jan gave him a kiss and her address if he came back that way. She was from Indiana. He was sorry to go, but it was going to be a one-night stand, although it had been a good one.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Old Home Place

Leaving Florida, Earnest drove at a leisurely pace, taking his time up through the red-soil fields, the cotton and peanut fields of Georgia. Yes, this is Jimmy Carter country, he thought. Now he was in the White House. He skirted around Atlanta for a small town. He holed up in a rather defunct motel, still run by a local, at the edge of a small dreary town. Still perhaps too remote for the Patels.

At the local grocery story, he saw two young white girls. Barefoot, ignorant, and pregnant, he thought. In fact, only one was pregnant. He bought some dog, bologna and salami, cheese and bread to make sandwiches in his room. And a cantaloupe. There was no restaurant in the town. That, he thought, would soothe his stomach after the mishap with the poisoned fish.

Turning on the tube, he caught the local eye witless news. He decided that a one-night stand in this venue was plenty. But it would help him rest up. That was soothing. He would avoid the local rednecks with his out-of-state plates. They did not like to see Yankees. In the early morning, he would head on up north.

The next day he made good time and crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis over into Arkansas. Already, the country was looking more like the area where he had grown up. Even with the cotton fields, it was starting to look more like Missouri in the middle of August.

Earnest turned on the radio trying to avoid the preachers and the country music stations that seemed to be on almost every station. It was pretty nearly impossible in this territory. Why worry about hell fire when the preachers were keeping them continuously drenched in it?

There was a new bulletin from Memphis. Elvis Presley had just been found dead. The king was gone and that was the big news of the day. It was very significant for an America that had practically worshipped Elvis since the 1950s. Love me tender.

In the center of the state, near the Ozark Hills, he entered a small state park. There were trees and grassy camping spots. It was cheap too. A fine place to spend a night, he thought. It was relatively safe and he could avoid the motel gouging. He would enjoy the countryside and make his own food. It was good for the night, although his small tent was miserable.

He woke up fairly early, loaded up and drifted up the road for breakfast. He would pull into a truck stop for some morning chow. It sure beats the hell out of McDonalds, he thought. In this part of the country, there were still those local places that were locally run. The local waitresses were usually heavy-set older women. They would not set anyone drooling over them. They were housewife types that one would generally not flirt with. They wore an apron and had the small pad for orders, green and white, or pink. But there were exceptions.

These places still made great fried eggs, greasy bacon and sausage, buttered toast, pancakes and ham. One could get a genuine breakfast here reasonably cheap. It would not be the factory made stuff but home-made.

Up the road a ways a roadside place appeared. There were some cars and some big trailer trucks. Earnest went in and faced the smell of the early morning grease and cigarette smoke. One of the most beautiful smells in the world, he thought, although some fascists would probably come along some day and ruin it. They would prevent smoking and outlaw the tasty greasy stuff. Why not let Americans alone to be themselves?

Farmers were sitting around in bill caps with names of feed companies and seed corn outfits on the front. They talked about the weather and politics and from time to time. Today they talked about Elvis. His untimely death had hit even them. There were two tables vacant near the window. They had the formica table tops that were used in the 1950s. They did not require a tablecloth.

Earnest slid into the plastic covered seat. He was surprised when he was greeted by an attractive young woman with a “good morning.” Earnest returned the greeting. She looked good enough to eat. Her lovely breasts were plump round ripe peaches. The other waitresses in the place were middle aged and motherly. I got lucky getting her, Earnest thought. He asked for coffee. He watched her cute ass wiggling away before he took the time to study the menu. He had already felt a thickness in his cock. What was she doing working in a place like this? Was she getting laid by some of the truck drivers who came through here? He wondered about that. She was too good for that.

She returned and poured him coffee from the glass container. He watched her skillful but graceful motions. He noticed that she had nice hands, a nice sign, with long fingers. They would be so beautiful wrapped around his stiff cock, he drooled.

Earnest ordered. He had decided that he was hungry. After all the time on the road and in the miserable tent, now he was hungry. He ordered one of the big breakfasts with bacon and eggs, hash browns, toast and jam. The young waitress promised to keep the coffee coming. Plenty of black coffee. There was real cream for the coffee, not the phony factory white powder found in most places.

The breakfast came quite quickly and he dove into it. She poured him a second cup of coffee. When she went to the counter, he noticed that an older truck driver was trying to seduce her. She was going along, stringing him along. Probably angling for a bigger tip from the son-of-a-bitch, Earnest thought. He felt a tinge of jealousy. But she had been friendly to him. He took it as a compliment. He hoped that the young delightful creature did not go for such rough men. He would be more kind to her, he thought. Treat her better, if he had a chance. He would like to see her rescued from this place if it was possible. But how much could he do? There were so many.

The food fortified him. He was now back with the living. Nothing like a little unhealthy grease to fix one up, he thought. Except pussy, of course. There would not even be any contest when it came to that. Especially when it was unhealthy pussy. The caffeine began to surge through his veins. He lingered over a third cup of the black morning magic poison while he drooled over they young waiters enticing tits and enchanting young ass. Finally, he gave it up and left a generous tip. How many other men would be suckers for that again that day? He paid up at the cash register.

Gas was still cheap. Just as well fill up here, he thought. Pump your own America. This was America, self-service. Two hours later, he was over the line into Missouri. He remembered the look of those hills from the time he was a kid. He remembered the crazy wild goose chase to Cabool and the fight it produced between his father and mother.

Now, at least, he could read the signs, even though he was from Missouri. He made Springfield by one. Here, he would just have something light. He saw a supermarket. There was a sort of deli inside. One could eat inside. It was better than Micky D’s. Certainly much better.

Earnest rolled on across the southern half of the state and then the flat bottom land, approaching the Missouri River. The seed corn companies displayed their growing varieties of corn, plenty of corn, along the highway. He would take the old road, US Highway 65 right up to his old home town. Then there was the bridge across the river at Waverly. What a relic! When are they going to replace this 1940s piece of crap? He wondered. It was too narrow for today’s trucks and cars. But nostalgic. He remembered the feeling he got crossing that bridge when he was just a kid and they were on their way to Arkansas in an old green 1951 Chevy. It seemed so huge and impressive then. It was something grand for a poor kid from the sticks. He rolled across more flat bottom land covered in ripening mature corn and then began to climb up into the gentle hills of north Missouri.

The lay of the land was now completely familiar. Acres and acres of laid-by corn heavily laden with long maturing ears filled the fertile fields. Patches of dark green soybeans, grain bins, barns, farm houses, Hereford cattle, farmers cutting hay appeared along the highway. Now and then there was a herd of black Angus cattle. Housewives were returning from the supermarkets. The fieldwork was done, except for baling hay, the huge round bales. These big rolls had replaced the old square bales that looked so beautiful dotting the fields when he was a kid. The round ones could be left in the fields longer, as the rain just rolled off of them till they could be moved to the side of the field and covered with plastic.

At a little after five, he was almost there. He passed the last significant town. Another twenty miles and he would come to the turn-off, to the old strip of highway and then drive the two miles of gravel road.

Earnest arrived totally out of the blue. His parents were there at the old home place as always, but were planning a trip to Oklahoma to see their favorite TV preacher, Oral Roberts. They were finally getting some payback for the money they had funneled to him over a period of over twenty years.

His parents were surprised to see Earnest but that was the way he sometimes did. He had just dropped in unannounced. His younger sister and husband came down to the old place for a visit when they saw that Earnest was home. Indeed, it was with his brother in law, Bob, that he could develop the most rapport.

Earnest told him about the Navy and told him that he had asked to get out. He said that he really could not take any more of it after more than four years. It was just a matter of time. One way or another, he was going to come out of it.

It gave Earnest a nice feeling to be on home soil, there sitting under the big old shady walnut tree, even though he felt a little like a failure having gone down the wrong track once again. But now he was ready to remedy it. He thought he had found the solution to it. He would go back to school once he got out. He would get his family back together again. Things would be alright. He would get his life back on track soon.

He hung around home for three days. He did not want to spend an inordinate amount of his holiday on a rural Missouri farm. There was still some exploring and rambling that he would like to do before facing Norfolk again.

The next day his uncle died. Uncle Clay was in the local hospital in town. The telephone rang around nine in the evening. His parents had already gone to bed on the August evening. Earnest answered the telephone. It was his aunt. She asked him to let his father and mother know that uncle Clay had just died.

It happened that when the call came, he was lying in bed with a magnificent hard-on. It was from a fantasy. A few days ago before he left the ship he had received that letter from that cute little Filipino girl. It was in a nice pink envelope. He opened the letter and read it. She sent her picture posing in a bikini bathing suit. It was not a great body. He remembered her ad that he had replied to. Now the letter had arrived just before he left. He took out the picture and imagined how it would be to make love to her.

Marriage, on the other hand, was something else. Earnest calculated that she would soon turn to fat, at least after the first kid, and quickly go to pot. That was the way most flip women were, as far as he could tell. Still, at the time, it had burned his balls with terrible lust to be between her young fleshy legs. Even the sad news about his uncle hardly deterred his cock again asserting its prerogative to throb for that secret juicy piece of fruit inside there. He put the picture away. It was only a fancy. A fantasy.

He decided that he would stay for the funereal and then be off. That was as much as he could stomach of the local scene. Why couldn’t he find some of his old classmates? He wondered. Surely, they would still be worthy of a fling. He thought about that cute band major, Marcia. She was always a fantasy for him. And there was Jo Ann, the girl who rode his bus. It was likely that she was fat now. But what about Doris? My God! What soft dreamy eyes. Where was she now? All gone probably. The good ones, anyway. Some had been plucked young, too young, in the back seat of late fifties models of Chevys and Fords. Some plucked in pick-up trucks. Earnest had missed out on his share of that young home-town pussy. His family was just too religious for that.

The day came for the funereal. Earnest hated looking at dead people. In fact he hated a funereal. He was going to hate his own the worst of all, he reflected.

The most interesting thing was seeing some of the people he had known years before, when he was younger. Too young to know better. It was like looking into something from the past, but now with more understanding.

Earnest had changed vastly with his travels around the world but the local scene, the home community remained largely frozen. It was like a time machine, looking back into time. There was that guy, the father of one of his old classmates. He had always bought fancy new cars. They were financed, of course. Earnest always thought he was such a rich hot shot.

Now Earnest saw him in a different light. He was short. Sawed off. His size was surprising, because had looked bigger when Earnest was younger. His hair was dyed black, oiled and slicked back. He had a tanned rough complexion from working outside. A face that was unknowing. Nothing other than red-neck ignorance appeared on his face. Earnest noticed a big gaudy cowboy buckle with a horse on his belt. His teeth had yellowed from tobacco. His wife was pale and frail, as always, as if she did not belong with him. He would be the straw-boss on a construction job. It was shocking but revealing.

Earnest now saw right through the society, right through to its soul, he thought. Shoddy, pathetic, pitiful, evoking pity, rather than contempt. He had felt put down by this town society. Now he could see through it, how thin and pitiful it was. He felt sad. He felt sorry for them. Most people were quite poor in any event.

His older cousin, an aging woman in her forties now, had married a preacher. Now they lived in a suburb of Kansas City. It brought back memories of her when he was five. He had played a part in their wedding in the old church just across the street from the funeral parlor where they were now. He had been the ring-bearer in their wedding. He had to walk with a small pillow in his hands with the ring on the pillow. He was dressed up in a suit with a bow tie. He had performed part of the ceremony.

He had seen the groom with his cousin as a handsome young man at her house in the local town, Preston. But she was too much older than him to be real friends.

Now he saw him, Ronald, once again. He was a fat-grown greaser. He was a fat preacher with a strut in a slick suit. He walked with a slight limp. When he shook hands, a phony plastic smile spread widely across his face showing big bugs bunny teeth. Earnest could not recall having seen such a phony. He was rather revolted by his appearance and behavior. He is grotesque, Earnest thought.

His wife appeared sincere, but with her nose in the air. Her face reeked of a church-like appearance, a sort of fake heavenly aura. Her face and entire demeanor could have only been created by a life in and around a church of a certain orientation to society. It was a look which one would have had to conjure up if it had not actually existed. It gave the impression of being angelic but with a twist. She was at the same time a snob. At least to the inhabitants left behind in her home town. That was based upon her residence in a city, which in any event was not very large by national or international standards. Only by the standards of rural north Missouri. The couple clearly saw themselves as superstars moving among the plebian patrons of the village.

Earnest was relieved to get away from it all, with almost a shudder at the thought of it. Jesus Fucking Christ, I am surely a lucky son-of-a-bitch to have escaped this. He would not waste any time in escaping once again. He told his parents that he wanted to explore around a little more before going back to the Navy for the last go round.

Chapter Thirty: Northwest Passage

Earnest threw his stuff in his car and left early in the cool dewy morning. He left the small pup tent behind and took the bigger canvas tent. He would do some camping along the way. More serious this time.

Gassed up, he sailed north on US Highway 65, skirted around Des Moines, and drove on up through the ripening Iowa corn fields. By mid-afternoon, he rolled into Minneapolis. This is a place I have always wondered about, he thought. There was a big university in the town. It pained Earnest’s soul that he could not just join the throng and be a part of the university. No, he realized, that would not work, even if he was free. It was just a fantasy. He could never afford the tuition. But he put it in the back of his mind. He would return to the university. Some university when he was free. He loved learning. He wanted a life of the intellect.

Fuck it, he thought. The city is expensive. I have more of America to see. I have more rambling to do. He needed a piece of pussy. That big campus was flooded with a surplus, no doubt, but he was not in a position to avail himself of it. He headed west on one of the US highways he saw on his map. It was the one that would take him on and on across the Dakotas and Montana. There were more than six hundred miles of Montana if one wanted to roam like the prairie buffalo.

The sun was going down when he saw the sign for the state park. There was a big lake and camping. That’s for me, he thought. A good place to spend a night. He wondered what might be in the park. Maybe even some women, but probably not very likely. It was not an unfriendly place. There was an entry fee and a small fee for a camping spot.

He was given a number. The campsite was just near the edge of a large lake. In late August, it was starting to be cool in the evenings. He had stopped at a market and filled his cooler with two six-packs of Coors. It was delicious as it melted down one’s thirsty throat. He had some packs of cheese and salami. What a friend we have in cheeses, the Edward Abbey line came in his mind. He had a loaf of tasty seedy wheat bread. That would be a good feed washed down with the delicious beer.

This was loner America. A lonely existence. But fuck it, he thought. As long as he was on the road like this, he was free. Free as he could be, with the Navy two thousand fucking miles away. Those motherfuckers! I’ll fuck them, he thought. They have fucked me enough, especially in the last year. When I go back, I’ll free myself and be free from them forever. They won’t get their bloody fucking hands on me again.

It was a delicious thought. He would just not take any more shit off such an institution. Honorable discharge? Fuck! How the fuck could such a dishonorable outfit award an honorable discharge? It was a contradiction.

He made another sandwich and inundated it with strong horseradish mustard, the kind he liked. That made the top of his mouth and his nose sting. Then he washed it down with another one of those tall cold cans of Coors. He conjured up the image of a sexy long-legged woman in the nude. Now if I had her, he thought, if I had her the way I would like to have her, now that would be an honorable discharge, for sure. Can’t get much more honorable than that.

He stuffed himself full. He conjured up a vision of Jan, the woman he had met in Florida. That delicious young juicy pussy. He needed that tonight. He felt himself getting a hard-on. He felt horny as hell. He was horny as hell.

When Earnest stepped out of his tent there was a big full moon. The light shimmered off the water in front of him. He was nude. His stiff cock throbbed toward the sky. He looked around to the sides. No one seemed to be around. He stepped closer to the water. He felt his twisting balls. He fondled his cock and felt the joyous spasm take him, shot off into nature. Sweet relief.

The next day, he made it to Fargo, North Dakota, around noon. It was the first time he had taken this road. He passed through small farm towns. The land was quite desolate in places. He preferred avoiding the bigger towns with corporate fast-food joints. He had come some three-hundred miles. This was Bismarck. He saw an old-fashioned looking place with an old-fashioned name, the wagon wheel restaurant and motel. He pulled in. It reminded him of places he had seen as a kid. One time when he was in high school, he drove an elderly couple across the country and stayed in such places.

In the restaurant, there were tables with high backed seats along the window. He ordered a big beef burger. No fries. The waitress was surprisingly different. She was an attractive woman. He was attracted to her. She looked like she had some class. She told him she was just filling in for the regular waitress who could not come today.

I am over in the motel,” she said. “Where are you from?”

From Missouri, originally,” he said. “But now I am on the east coast. I am in the Navy.”

So that is where you are heading?”

Yes, unfortunately, but I have some more leave before going back.”

Enjoy it while you can.” She said. “My name is Dana.”

I’m Earnest,” he said.

Earnest?” she asked. “Are you really earnest, or more of a playboy?” She asked.

A little but of both from time to time,” he admitted.

Well, take a rest,” Dana said. “The rooms here are a little old fashioned but nice.”

I don’t mind that,” he said. “Sometimes the old things are best. I like them a lot sometimes.”

Oh, me too,” she said.

OK, then, maybe I’ll stay,” Earnest said.

I’ll check you in at half past three if you are interested,” Dana said.

Earnest watched her as he ate. Yes, she was attractive. Early fifties. Some twenty years or more older than him. But she was an attractive woman. She was friendly.

He took a spin around the town. He saw that the town was pretty pathetic. There was not a lot of money around the community. A couple of variety stores, a small shopping center with a J.C. Penny’s, and a couple of grocery stores.

He bought some nice aftershave. He would spice himself up. Maybe for her? At four, he drove back to the motel. The sun was still high but not so hot. There were two people at the desk, Dana and her assistant.

Oh hi, again,” she said. “So you have decided to stay? We saved you a room.”

It was a lie, but he didn’t know it. She invited him aside and talked to him.

Why don’t you come with me?” Earnest figured that she was going to show him the room. Then he would settle in and take a rest. He was a little tired, even though he had slept well enough the night before in the tent.

She took him back, not to one of the square motel rooms, but into her place.

Would you like a beer or a glass of wine?” Dana asked.

Earnest asked for a beer. It had come right out of the blue.

You don’t have to go and suffer in a room, honey,” she said. “You can spend the night here … on me.”

What did she mean “on her?” Earnest thought.

You mean that I don’t pay,” he asked.

I will give you a place to sleep here,” she said.

Earnest had never had it happen to him before.

That would be great, really too much,” he said. “Are you sure about that?”

Sure, I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t sure,” she said. “If you can behave yourself,” she kidded.

Earnest wondered what kind of behavior she was expecting from him.

I have to go and check the desk. Sorry,” she said. “I’ll be right back. Behave yourself.” They laughed.

Fuck’N A, Earnest thought. Maybe I have lucked out in this little place.

Travelers on their late summer holidays were starting to give up the road for the night. Things seemed to be going OK at twenty-five bucks a room, plus tax.

Dana appeared again. “I think Liz can handle the desk,” she said. “I have just about got her trained.”

Earnest was starting to get the picture. He was surely a little slow to the way of the world, having been brought up all those years in s small-town church. Going every Sunday. It was not a good way to start one’s life.

She was picking him up. No doubt about that. She had now closed the blinds.

Why don’t you get your bag for the night?” she said. “I’ll show you where to park.”

He went around to his car and moved it to the spot she suggested. When he returned she has shifted into something more light, more comfortable. It was a short loose dress. Earnest could make out her breasts inside and her pink nipples, he could tell, were now erect. They were nice, mature. They had lost their youthful perk, now mellowed. Earnest noticed that her legs were tanned. A hint of tiredness was creeping upon her face with some wrinkles around her eyes. Another beer and she started to look more attractive. Wrinkles could be attractive in an older woman.

She put on a record. It was Elvis. Love me Tender. It put Earnest in the mood at once. It was such a beautiful song and enchanting with Elvis’s rich voice. That incredibly moody song put him in a certain mood. Dana came to him and pulled him up from the chair.

Please dance with me,” she said. Clearly, she was a lonely woman.

He took her soft mellow flesh in his arms. He had stiffened. He felt it press against her soft body. When the song was about to end, she offered her lips and they kissed. He felt her tongue probing his mouth. He suddenly wanted her.

She turned down the music and led him into the bedroom. She got rid of the dress as he stripped. She lay back on the bed ready to let him take her. Earnest felt himself slipping into her soft center. They made love for half an hour.

You are good,” she said. “So good. I knew it when I served you in the café. Sometimes one can tell how a man is going to be in bed. Why don’t you watch some TV while I check the front desk.”

She repaired herself from the damage he had done. No worse for the wear, he thought. She went to check on the progress in filling the rooms for the night. One could not expect too much, after all, from such a local, small-town motel.

Earnest listened to more about Elvis’s death on TV. His Funereal had just been held. Now his importance and demise was being discussed. President Carter was in more trouble over his foreign policy.

Once the evening was settled at the front desk, with just Liz to keep watch, they retracted to the bedroom and made love again. She liked being pleasured by a younger man, a good man. How many had she taken here? Earnest wondered. Was she a hoar taking someone every night?

I will tell you a secret,” she said. “You don’t have to believe me, but you are the first customer I have ever gone to bed with here. There was just something about you that I liked.”

Earnest didn’t know if it would be naïve to believe her, but why not give her the benefit of the doubt? Whether it was true of not, it really did not matter to him. It felt good to believe it. And they had enjoyed the pleasure of love.

I like the feel of the body, a strong young man next to me in the night,” she said. “Sometimes I feel lonely after filling up the place. Of course, we are half empty a lot of the time in the winter and only fill up when people start getting stuck in a blizzard.”

He told her that she was a very nice woman.

You mean more to me than just a good piece of ass,” he lied. How much more could she be to him at that point? He could not have grown to love her that quickly. Pussy was pussy. It had a generic quality to it. If a woman did not turn him off, then it was love after a fashion. She was quite attractive. She was sweet. At least she was sweet to him. He felt warm and safe and good next to her. He loved the feel of her soft breasts in his hands, filling his palms, the solid feel of them. He liked kissing her lips and entering her. Even her wrinkles looked cute when his hormones began to spin out of control.

By the same token, what was he to her? A man that she needed. A man with a hard love tool that she needed. That was love enough for the time available. He filled a vacant place in her life and gave her a break from the sordid boredom of the small town. Sometimes it was necessary to have a man fuck her brains out and take her to a deep climax. Earnest had given her that much.

I love you,” he lied. “You are a nice woman, you are a lady,” he said.

I was lucky to find you,” she said, “Yes, lucky. “Around here it is mostly aging farmers. You have been to the university and travelled. You know how to treat a woman better than most men.”

The next morning she checked with Liz at the front desk. Then they lingered in bed for a while. Older morning pussy was a delicious treat, he thought, and she would not send him to the café to eat.

Earnest told her that he hoped he would see her again. He knew that it was not likely. They were just two strangers who had come together accidently and helped each other through a lonely night.

Chapter Thirty-One: Purple Mountain Majesty

Earnest drove on to the Montana border in the afternoon. He found a state park along a lake. He got a campsite and pitched his tent for the night.

No bed and no sweet pussy tonight, he thought. But he was happy. Sometimes it was pleasant to be alone with one’s thoughts. The air was high and clear in the West. There were a million stars across the magnificent Milky Way.

He thought of Dana. He walked down to the station. There was a phone booth. He dialed her number and pumped in four quarters. He was happy to hear her throaty laugh.

What a surprise,” she said. “You devil. I miss you. Can you believe it? I actually miss you. You sweet ass. I wish you could be with me tonight. I want you again tonight.”

Me too,” Earnest said. “Well, that’s life. I am here in my tent in Montana. I started thinking about you.”

Dana sent him a kiss.

I love you,” he lied.

Yes, she is a woman that one could love, that one could certainly fall for quickly, he thought. And never forget it. One could be bit by the filthy love disease with a woman like that. Better to stay away from that.

Earnest slept sound, but lonely.

In his dream, Earnest was in some city in Europe. He had met a young woman. He was squeezing her soft flesh and kissing her. He knew that she wanted him. She wanted to take him home, but he had to be back in the ship by midnight. It was a painful life.

The miles rolled up across the now vacant wheat fields of Montana for hundreds of boring miles. From east to west, it was like crossing a vast sea of wheat fields, a vast and vacant continent dotted with small conservative and sordid towns, where people were ignorant and happy because of that very fact. He kept moving past pickup trucks and junk yards. A hundred small grocery stores that served the locals appeared. In the bigger towns, one could sometimes find a deli in a supermarket for something to eat. Where there were none, he bought salami, pickles, cheese, mustard, seedy bread and ham. Food rough enough, he hoped, to produce a healthy diet.

These western towns were lightly populated, sparse, conservative, Republican, all across the state.

He stopped and ate in Billings, taking the food to his car to eat. It was more comfortable. On across the sea of wheat stubble to Bozeman and Butte was a full day’s drive. Here he found a decent motel for the night.

He was almost across, almost to Idaho, but took the road north to Helena and Great Falls. This would take him up to purple mountains that he had always wanted to see. The views from the mountains were magnificent. Here were the northern grand Rockies where he could rest up in some cool mountain air. He would camp there, trying to avoid the bears mentioned on the signs.

He drifted up to Glacier National Park in the western corner of Montana. There was another park over the Canadian border called Waterton Lakes National Park.

He drove up into the park and camped, in spite of the danger of the bears. There were people around in the camp grounds. He did not expect to have any trouble.

The second day he met them, a couple of girls hitching a ride in the park. Earnest was game. He offered them a ride. Wow, he thought. She is cute and friendly. The other was not bad either. She seemed to be tagging along. He asked where they were headed. They said they had a cabin, unlike him. They offered to show him their cabin, which was not far from the camp.

Earnest pretended to want to know what the cabins looked like. The girls pretended that they just wanted to show him the cabin. When they arrived, they showed him the simple but clean Spartan cabin.

Why don’t you stay and have some lunch with us,” Jo said. Earnest was game for that too. The two set about making some sandwiches and salad. Jo seemed to be the outgoing one, while Sandy was more reserved. They talked and offered him a beer. Soon the lunch was ready. Jo had taken her pullover off showing the tops of her firm young white tits.

Sandy, who was younger, seemed to be just out of high school. She was cutting some vegetables for salad. She was wearing a low cut t-shirt. Earnest noticed that her vibrant breasts popped out nicely. He wondered if she was wearing a bra under that. When she bent over, he knew the answer. She gave him a view of her lovely tits. He could even see her pink nipples. She laughed.

Well, what shall we do? We have had our trek for the day. It is cool in the evenings. That tent must be pretty uncomfortable.” Jo said. “Why don’t you move in with us? With what you pay for a camping spot, you could almost feed all of us.”

It sounded like a good deal to Earnest, especially after he had a view of Sandy’s beautiful young white tits. He wondered just how friendly she was.

OK, I can get my mat and sleep on the floor,” Earnest said.

The girls had a bottle of California wine which they shared with Earnest.

That evening they went to bed around eleven. Earnest had not slept very well in the tent the night before and was somewhat tired. He had not yet gone to sleep when he felt someone near him. It was Jo. She kissed him and invited him to come to her small bed.

When she lay down, Earnest could see that she was naked. He had slept just in his shorts. He lay down and embraced her. She asked him to slip his shorts off. He took her easily. She was ready for him.

Don’t come yet,” she urged. “We have to share with Sandy. That is, I have to share you with her. That’s the deal we made. If one of us meets a guy, we will share him.”

Sandy was awake but playing possum.

You can make love to Sandy too,” Jo said. Earnest was surprised, but liked the idea. After they had played a while she said he should give Sandy a chance. He moved to Sandy’s bed and let her come on top of him. He felt himself sinking into her warm rose.

It’s so strange,” she said. “But it feels good. You can come more. You can come all the way.”

It wasn’t her first time, Earnest thought. But she was not experienced.

Earnest moved gently inside her. He tasted her nice young tits.

You are sweet, Sandy,” he said. “You are beautiful.”

You feel good inside me,” she repeated. “Your thing is big. It is so nice. It really fills me up.”

Earnest was about to reach his climax and couldn’t hold out much longer. He tasted her soft breast harder and picked up the pace. His wild muscle spasm came suddenly. He let it go, his pent-up wad exploding.

She felt his warm surge filling her.

Earnest tasted her lovely breasts as he finished.

Earnest was finished for a while.

Now, honey, you are mine,” Jo said. “I’ll get you back to life. I’ll bet you are going to be harder the second time and you’ll give it to me. The second time you will love your woman better.”

Jo gave him a break to recoil from his toiling in their young fertile fields. The crack in the blind showed him a big full moon. He thought of howling at getting so lucky. She coaxed him and teased his young tool back to life.

You’re getting good again,” she said. “You are so good for my pussy. You can easily fertilize two women in a night. So why have two men. It’s just a nuisance. She fondled his balls and kissed them. You will give me what is inside there. Some of your fertile seed.”

How did I end up meeting these two crazy young women, Earnest thought.

After a few days, he drifted up and crossed the border over into Canada. Waterton Lakes National Park was just across the border from Glacier National Park. Here there was a campground with showers. Earnest got a place to put up his tent. There was a small town just outside the park.

Earnest parked outside and went into one of the bars along the street. There were a few tourists around. The bar was almost empty in late afternoon. He felt like meeting some local people. He thought it might lead to something more entertaining. He sat down at one of the small tables and had a beer.

There were two young guys at the next table. Earnest struck up a conversation with them. They asked him to join them. They were local Canadians. They said that there was not much going on in the area. It was Saturday and they suggested having a small party. They knew a couple of girls. They were renting a small apartment. Earnest went with them to the package shop where they bought some wine and beer.

They went to the apartment. When the girls arrived, Earnest met them and saw that they were not bad looking. He drank some wine but the girls seemed quite cold to the whole affair. They were not at all friendly. They seemed almost hostile to Earnest. Was it because he was from the US? He was not sure, but it seemed that the party was a bust. It seemed that they did not trust him.

When Earnest tried to be friendly with the girls, they were not interested. Even though he enjoyed the wine, he saw that the party was going nowhere. After a bit, he said goodbye to his friends and headed back to spend the night in his tent. His overture to the locals had not been terribly successful.

The next day, he packed up his tent and got a room in an old rustic hotel. It was quiet and the rates were reasonable. He went downstairs and drank a beer. There was a young Canadian guy who wanted to cross over into the US. He had tried, but the border guards had turned him down.

Maybe they would let you across over with me,” Earnest suggested. He thought that if US citizens could cross easily into Canada, the Canadians should be able to cross over to the US. It was not the case, however. The guy, Scott, thought it might be worth a try. The next they drove to a different border crossing, but it was the same deal. Apparently they were on the lookout for the guy. He was on their black list and could not cross.

On the way back, Earnest looked at his fuel gage and realized he had forgot to put gas in his tank. It was another forty miles back to the nearest town from the desolate countryside. He was not sure he could make it. Some ten miles from the town, the car sputtered and died.

Shit,” Earnest said. “We are shit out of gas out here. We are in a world of shit.”

Then he remembered that he had the gallon can of fuel for the small cook stove he used when camping. Shit. I wonder if my old banger would burn that shit, he thought. Or maybe it would blow up the engine if I tried to burn that shit as fuel. The only other option was going to be a very long walk and it could certainly not be done in a day. There was little choice.

Earnest got the can from the front trunk of his old VW and funneled half of it into the gas tank. It was a moment of truth. He returned to the driver’s seat and cranked the car. It sputtered and then started to run, but with a strange crackling sound. There is nothing to smooth down the engine in that shit he thought. But as long as it doesn’t actually blow them up, it will get us to a gas station.

Earnest drove at a reasonable pace for the ten miles on the cook stove gas. What it was doing to the engine, he really could not know, but it was heavenly when he saw a gas station come into view. He pulled in and filled up. Saved by the skin of his teeth. There seemed to be no real damage to the car. He would have to be more careful out where the towns were so far apart. It was just another part of the adventure and he had managed to luckily pull it out of his ass.

Back at the hotel, he said goodbye to Scott and wished him well. Maybe he would find a way to get across to the US before long if he was set upon going. Earnest was ready for more drifting. He would take the road North to Calgary and Edmundton. He had always wondered what it looked like up in Alberta. They were sort of western cowboy towns, rodeo towns, it seemed. But there was a business aspect. He would keep drifting and poke around.

Chapter Thirty-Two: Good Samaritan

The highway to Calgary was narrow with small towns along the way. He kept his tank filled with gas after he had had the experience of running out. He was paying a higher price than in the US where the real cost was paid in war taxes.

Reaching Calgary later in the afternoon, he found a reasonable small hotel. He would like to meet someone here. He realized that it was actually refreshing to be out of the United States, out of the belly of the beast. There was much less emphases and obsession with global power in a country that was not a global hegemon. People seemed to be just living their lives. There was certainly an advantage to live in a country that minded its own business and did not try to rule the entire world.

Here in Alberta, things struck him as being more British than “American.” That is not following the culture of the United States just to the south. Downstairs was a small bar with a shuffle board. There was cold Canadian beer. It was almost deserted. Lonely. A young Canadian appeared. Earnest played games with him on the shuffle board and drank beer.

Earnest was enjoying himself and not really bored. Although, such drifting might get to be boring at some point, he thought. He was airing himself out from the years in the Navy. He was now out in a different world. He was two thousand fucking miles away from Norfolk, his duty station and the ship that he was stationed on. It seemed that his mind was slowly reverting back to a civilian orientation. His mind was recoiling from the shock of idiocy and the constant confrontation with stupidity that was a staple of every day in the prison called the US Navy. It was a sort of insane asylum where the residents took idiocy as normal. Indeed, demanded lockstep conformity to stupidity. The lifers had been there so long that they had lost all touch with rationality. They were full blown crazy. That was the way they passed the time of day, every day.

He would never again be able to accept the authoritarian setting where he would be told where to go, and what he could do and not do twenty-four hours a day. Being his own person began to build some confidence in himself. He would take control of his future. Take control of his life. Now there was no going back. He would make a clean break from it when he went back. With his mind freed, he would be a giant among those piss ants. They were stupid slaves. Vermin. They didn’t have the backbone of a salamander. All the life had been crushed out of them, being pussy-whipped by the measly salary and the grub the Navy fed them on. They knew they were worthless shits. They knew they could not make it on the outside. They had to keep sucking the tit of the nanny state till the day they died. So they pickled their brains with alcohol to drown their cowardice to face the world like a man. They thought they were saving the world from communism. But they lived like a decadent communist totally dependent upon the state. Even their brains had been taken over by the state, being no more than a sterile appendage in their skull. If they had been given a lobotomy it would have made no fucking difference whatsoever. They would have been the same worthless piece of meat. A silicon diode could think far better than these idiots running that outfit.

Now he was washing his hands of it completely. He was flushing it out of his brain. Cleansing his system of the poison the state had attempted to infuse into his veins. He would concentrate upon ejection. Getting out altogether. Mentally, he was already out. He had freed himself of any hold they had on his brain and soul. Now he had to complete the process and free his body of his clutches as well. He would be free as a bird, even while they tortured his body with useless inane tasks until he was finally free.

This would come with the approval of his Conscientious Objection application. He could no longer tolerate any association with the military. These relations were coming together in his mind as the necessary path, the right path that he had to take. As long as he stayed in he would just be shit upon and treated as a useless turd to be abused. Why should he allow himself to be treated as an untouchable, as an outcast. Was his brain inferior to theirs? He was outraged at the thought. Once he got the chance, he would trash them and shame them intellectually and there would be no way they could respond. It would make any decent human being ashamed of themselves. But probably not them, he thought.

Meanwhile, he would have fun. The next day, he headed on up the road to Edmundton. The road followed the line east of the Rocky Mountains. It was a bigger city. Would he go for a hotel? What kind of accommodation could he find?

Just before he reached the town, he saw a couple hitch-hiking along the road. At first he didn’t notice that they also had a baby. Now it was too late. On a sudden instinct, perhaps humanitarian, he had pulled over to stop. He took them into his small cramped car, thinking they probably were just looking for a ride somewhere.

Once in the car, they told him that they knew a place in the town to stay. They showed him how to drive to get there. It was along one of the main boulevards of the town and the traffic was heavy at this time of day. At the east edge of the city they came to a sort of youth hostel. It seemed to Earnest that it was a sort of hippie hang-out. There was a crowd of young hippie types thronging around the front grassy space, some with dirty worn back packs. Some were clearly puffing on joints and passing them around. There were some crumpled beer cans around. They looked like a sort of defunct university student group, mostly dedicated to smoking grass.

Was there a place to stay here? With a big crowd of basically moneyless young people, the situation did not strike him as hopeful. The place was already full to overflowing. There was no chance.

Earnest now realized, or thought, that he had made a serious mistake of taking in the young family under his wing. He could find a place to stay. But what about them? What could they do? After picking them up, he thought that it would be unethical to just dump them out somewhere. Did they have any money? Probably not. He was ashamed to ask such a thing. He would find a place. He would let them crash with him if that was what they wanted to do. It was foolish, he knew. He was a crazy ass. How could he let a young family crash in the same motel room with him. And why would he take the chance? On the other hand, he did not have the heart to put them out in the cold.

He drove up the highway. There was a place, a motel just on the outskirts of the town. He got a room and paid for it. The clerk did not ask how many were staying. He just plopped down the thirty-five dollars for the room. Earnest told the family that they could spend the night with him. Perhaps they were embarrassed to be in a pickle but would accept the offer.

Earnest wondered how he was going to manage it. Could he trust them? Would they try to steal his money? Would they do him in while he was sleeping and abscond with his money? I am foolish doing this, he thought. He even shared his food with them that he had brought. When the family crashed later on the floor, he slept with his billfold under his pillow. It was the best he could do.

Nothing happened, however. They seemed to be straight. They appreciated the free night in the motel. On the other hand, he did not seem to get much thanks for his trouble. The next day he left them in the town and wished them well. He didn’t know if they had any money or not. But he could not be the good Samaritan for every stray that he met along the road, lonely though he was.

Enough of Edmundton. He would drift east now across Saskatchewan. More lonely territory. He kept his small car gassed up. It was a long way between towns. He could find small motels to stay in with no strangers along. His good deed had proved a little awkward.

It was late morning. He saw her by the side of the road. A young woman, he saw, in her profile, perhaps an image perfected by experience. She was hitching. Perhaps in her twenties?

Earnest slowed down and stopped. At that moment, she turned her face toward him. It was a face that was weathered and scarred with deep wrinkles. It was too late. He could not bolt now. She was more than sixty, if a day. She was worn and tired, apparently, from weeks, years, on the road. Fooled again. Fooled again, he thought. I am a fucking fool. He had again stepped on his dick. Well, he was out for adventure. But here it was not exactly the kind he was looking for. He had not bargained to pick up an old and withered woman from the side of the road. No matter. Just take it as it comes. Enjoy it.

She opened the door and plopped down in the passenger seat with her pack. She was a wanderer, a tramp, she said. She had a small printed book of a few pages that she had printed up by hand telling about herself. “Truth Will Out,” was printed on the face of the small book. This she later gave him for a small contribution to her tramping.

They talked. She said that she had lived her life on the road, hitching. She said she had hitched all the way through several countries, even Egypt. Earnest had no reason not to believe her. It did not seem very safe for a woman, but she had survived. The US and Canada were surely easier that the Middle East for that sort of thing. She bailed out at the next big town. Earnest made a contribution to help her down the road. She gave him the souvenir, the small booklet. It had some stories and poems that she had written. It is too bad that she is not young anymore, he thought. She must have had many men along the way in previous days and years.

Earnest stopped for the night in Saskatoon. It was just a pit stop. He got a cheap room. Studying the map, he decided to head south for the US from Winnipeg. It was a big town straight north of Grand Forks and Fargo.

Earnest made Winnipeg easily the next day. It was a strange town. The weather was turning colder. Canadian Mid-Western. He looked for a youth hostel and found a YMCA. He could stay here cheaply, but it was dormitory style. He would have to share with a few other guys. He could put up with it for one night, at least. He would have to take care to guard his money. It was also not safe to leave it in the car. It was too easy to break in. He had done it himself several times when he locked his keys inside.

There was a large grassy park where he walked to stretch his legs. The town looked sparse and rather bleak. He figured that it must be too cold here in the winter time. It was not a good place for him.

The next day he headed south, crossed the border to the US. The customs made him open up his car for inspection. Then he rolled on down through North Dakota to Fargo.

There would be a few more days of drifting and camping across Iowa and Indiana and to West Virginia. The big heavy dews tended to soak up his canvas tents in the nights. Leaving early meant that he would have to roll up his tent before it dried out. He was headed back. He was ready. He would be ready to face those bastards in Norfolk. It would not be long. He would liberate himself from the idiocy of the fucking US Navy.

Chapter Thirty-Three: Fuckup Division

Earnest rolled into Norfolk on a Saturday afternoon. His leave was due to expire at the end of the day. His ship, the Page was out of port at sea. It had deployed to the Caribbean, he was told. He found the duty officer in the transient barracks and was officially checked in from his leave.

The duty officer immediately put him on a duty watch in the barracks. All he had to do was to sit at a small desk and write in the logbook “all secure” every fifteen minutes. SNAFU, he wanted to write, Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.

Now after his time of freedom, the government was back in the business of wasting his precious time. He was now shackled to a metal gray Navy desk twiddling his thumbs.

Earnest talked to the guys coming in. He had grown even more cynical about the professional idiocy in the military. They had plenty of time, being in limbo like him in the transient barracks. More properly, Earnest soon discovered that the Navy officers were completely bumfoozled about what to do with him. They didn’t have a clue. They wanted to get him out of their hair. On the other hand, to speed up the discharge would be giving him what he wanted. So they resisted. They would stonewall as long as possible, being bureaucratic about it.

Earnest considered the possibly he would be classified as a conscientious objector, officially, but be kept in the Navy. In this way, they might force him to finish out his six year commitment. He might be kept in the Navy and given a new rate, such as boatswain’s mate. That had yet to be determined. While it lay undecided, the Navy officers took the easy way out. He would be assigned to the Fuckup Division on the base. Officially, he did not exist. He was in the region of military hell known as limbo.

In late November the ship would deploy to the Mediterranean for six months. Officially, he was still attached to the ship, although he was not to be allowed on board. The command would not take him on the cruise and could not leave him behind on the base. This situation might finally force the hand of the executive officer. As long as the ship was in Norfolk, the command was just stonewalling.

The Fuckup Division was a unit that was assigned to do odd jobs, whatever came up around the base. Sometimes they be given duty to work in the mess hall. Sometimes they would be sent out to cut down cherry trees for firewood for the officer’s fireplaces. At other times, they would rake leaves on base, even if there were no leaves to rake. They would pick up the bags of grass that had been cut. Whatever could be found to keep them busy, they would be assigned to do. Sometimes the jobs would just be make-work. Earnest discovered that even the chief petty officer of the division was also a “fuckup” petty officer for some reason or other. For whatever reason, they did not want him around a ship or other unit. Everyone in the fuckup division was branded a misfit for one reason or another. The case of Earnest was somewhat more serious, as his crime had to do with the brain. It was ideological. So this put him in more dangerous territory to be sure. On the other hand, it was admirable that the government did recognize the legitimacy of being a conscientious objector, if not a dissenter. It had to be connected to a religion, not just philosophy per se. Earnest figured he was probably over the border. He was beyond the pale. There was no place for him in the military.

Earnest was now officially branded a misfit. It seemed that he was considered a transient for the time being, because an effort would be made to send him back to his ship. But those refused by their units, would remain in the limbo of the fuckup unit. It was a classic catch-22 bureaucratic tactic. If someone did not conform to the model, then ignore them and pretend that they did not exist. This would cause their self-esteem to sink lower and lower as they became more and more alienated. At some point, they would either leave or be pushed out. Barring that, they were clearly on the road to going bananas. The US Navy was an outfit that could easily drive one insane with one hand tied behind it. It was an important principle of bureaucracy that apparently Max Weber had either missed or papered over.

Nevertheless, all the shit was sliding off Earnest like water off a duck. The chain of command, namely the principle that shit flows downhill, was clear. Now Earnest had achieved the ultimate, the lowest possible position in the chain of command, so there was sure to be a hell of a lot of shit flowing downhill to him. He could have cared less. He didn’t give a shit. Let them do what they wanted. He was on his way out. Now his attitude had changed. He was refreshed and recharged. He was now very positive, but not toward the Navy. Rather, toward what he would do when he got out. His long period of leave had had the effect of an LSD trip on his brain. He would never be the same again.

When he got the chance, he went to the university down the street, Old Dominion University, and signed up for a course in the history of North Africa and the Levant. He waited. He went to the lectures and studied the material. This was a way of keeping himself sane. He now needed to get paid in September, but his pay record was lost. It was not on the base and probably at sea on the ship. He had to wait to get paid and meanwhile did not have the money to pay his bills. This was not unusual in the Navy when personnel were being shifted around.

Meanwhile, he was assigned duties in the Fuckup Division. The first was the base litter detail. He would work with another two guys to clean up litter from around the base. This was an easy job, but boring as shit. They were assigned a Navy pickup truck. One guy would drive the pickup, while the other two guys collected litter from the sides of the roads and the grounds. Then they would shift around.

Earnest reflected upon the absurdity of it all. After so much training in the Navy, he had now been reduced to doing this mundane chore that could be done even by an illiterate. Indeed, done even better by an illiterate. This was as well as the US Navy could make use of his university education. Of course, it was not completely the Navy’s fault. He had refused to participate in manning the equipment designed for the purpose of killing others who were just as innocent of crimes as him. They just happened to be born in the wrong fucked up state while Earnest had been born in the right fucked up state. All states were fuckup states, in Earnest’s view. The only way to be a moral individual was to avoid the state, all states.

Never mind. He would now have to wait again for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn. It was just a matter of time.

Earnest had a class in the evening once a week. It was incredibly refreshing. He had taken Islam the previous semester. Now he studied the Ottomans and Suleiman the Great. This was some missing intellectual stimulation, although the history of North Africa could be decidedly tedious. He hit the classes with a healthy appetite.

After the litter detail, he was put on the leaf raking detail as the Fall advanced. The leaves began to fall. He was sent with a crew of several guys, each with a rake to collect the leaves from the streets in front of the officers’ quarters. One guy took a wheel barrow.

Sometimes he would be sent on the wood-getting detail. They were sent to cut down cherry trees for the officers’ fireplaces.

A couple of weeks after being back on base Earnest was informed that his ship had returned. He was instructed to pack up his sea bag and was given orders to report to the ship. He drove to the piers and walked to the brow of the ship.

He presented his orders to the officer of the deck on the quarterdeck of the Page. The officer took one look at the orders. A scowl came across his face. Instead of signing him in according to the orders, the officer informed him that he was to go down and clear his locker of any remaining gear and report back to the transient barracks. Officially, he was being kicked off the ship. He was a rotten potato that they did not want on board any more as he was likely to spoil those around him.

Earnest was not sorry about being kicked off the ship. He thought that it was surely one step in getting the hell out of the Navy altogether. He went down to the compartment and quickly cleaned out his rack and locker. He retrieved a few books that were stowed down under the sonar equipment space.

Back up on the quarterdeck, he collected his things, saluted the officer, and disappeared from the USS Richard L. Page. He did not know if he would have to ever come back on board. He was clearly headed for official status in the Fuckup Division now.

It was mid-evening when Earnest returned to the main base and the transient barracks. The base and the ship piers were adjacent to each other. Earnest presented the orders to the officer. The officer looked at him and asked what had happened. Clearly the orders were for him to report to the ship.

Didn’t you report to the ship?” the officer asked.

I reported,” Earnest said, but I was not admitted to the ship. The ship’s officer refused to sign me on board,” Earnest said. “I was ordered to clear my gear off the ship and leave. They sent me back here.”

It seemed to be something quite irregular. The officer was surprised and seemed to not quite know what he was supposed to do. He picked up the telephone and made a call to the ship, asking for an explanation. Earnest figured that he was being told about the conscientious objector application and that they ship was refusing to allow him on board. The captain clearly feared the danger that other sailors on board might go in the same direction under the persuasion of Earnest. He knew too much and guys on the ship had started calling him a “sea lawyer,” when he discussed the way to get out as a conscientious objector. Worse, the officers knew that Earnest was dead serious and feared that he could be persuasive. He was not, after all, a typical enlisted man. It was dangerous to have him among the crew.

Earnest discovered that two of his friends on the ship had also applied for CO status while he had been on leave. This must have caused an alarm among the officers, the ruling class of the ship.

Earnest chuckled to himself when he heard this news. That must have scared the shit out of the officers on board the ship. If it got out of hand, it was going to be their ass. They would be held responsible. A virus had broken out and started to spread among the crew. Earnest was the cause and the source. It required strong prophylactic measures at once. The growing cancer must be excised. The crew had to be isolated. So Earnest had been given explicit verbal orders not to come near the ship. Well fuck them, he thought. They could not keep him from seeing his friends off the boat.

At the same time, the officers on the ship had tried to intimidate him with a blatant lie. He was told that he would be given a general discharge and not be eligible for the G.I. Bill. This would mean that he would not get any funds for study at a university. He didn’t know if it was true of not, but he knew that he could not back out now. They had almost convinced him that it was true. Who could tell?

The officer hanged up the phone and gave him a curious look. It was the first such case he had ever come across. It was like he was amused, but at the same time showing a feeling of admiration for someone with the courage to buck the system. And it had worked to the extent of getting him off the ship. No one wanted him around as he was like a deadly pathogen.

The military was supposed to be made up of courageous men. The reality was that the outfit could only tolerate weak individuals. One had to be a weak lily livered wimp to get along in the system. One had to go along to get along. This was the game in any bureaucratic system and the military was one of the worst forms of it. One could only survive in the system as a lifer when all the life and character was completely crushed. When all individuality had been totally annihilated one was compatible.

Earnest was actually relieved to be kicked off the ship. He had had enough of that. Anyway, now he only had to put up with the Fuckup Detail while he did his own thing and studied and enjoyed his classes. It was much more pleasant being out in the Fall air raking leaves or cutting wood than inside a sonar space running maintenance checks on a piece of electronic equipment. That was truly soul-killing.

One day Earnest’s interview came. An officer, younger than him came and asked him questions about his application and his beliefs as a conscientious objector. It was held in his room in the barracks. It went on for an hour. It was a singular opportunity to explain his views which he had now thoroughly thought through. They were sometimes naïve but sincere.

Had he persuaded the officer? Perhaps. The officer had the demeanor of an honest person unlike most of the enlisted men he was around. They were too suppressed and insecure, as well as being too ignorant, he thought, to have any ethical views for the most part. To the extent that they did, they were not able to articulate them intelligibly.

It was refreshing to actually be communicating with an educated person. In the Navy, due to the apartheid system of caste separation between the officers and enlisted men, one was never allowed to talk to anyone who had actually graduated from a university. Many of the enlisted men were intelligent and sensitive, but were not articulate. Some had spent some time in a university and some read informative books. But in general, most were adrift in an intellectual vacuum.

Earnest had written a statement of his beliefs for his application.

The sole purpose of religion in man’s life is to bring about self-realization. That is, the knowledge of his inner being or soul is one with the Supreme or God. Truth is synonymous with God and non-violence. Consequently, it is man’s duty to remain apart from all forms of organized violence. It is man’s duty to refrain from killing, according to the ancient principle of Ahimsa, non-violence to any living creature, from Jaina, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Truth is identification with God and Humanity. From truth non-violence is born. It must be taken for granted that non-violence is the law meant for rational beings and is thus preferable to brute force, which is the law of the jungle.”

Therefore my convictions prohibit me from (1) carrying arms for the destruction of mankind, regardless of political convictions, and (2) participating with a military organization in the use of violence.

I submit that it is my sincere belief that these convictions are consistent with the inner truth of all religions, the same God, the same non-violence, and the truths taught by Gautama, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and many others.

The whole philosophy of Gandhi was built upon the concept of Ahimsa or non-violence, a very ancient idea in Hindu and Jaina thought. He came to believe that non-violence was equivalent to God and love. Dr. I. C. Sharma, in his book, Ethical Philosophies of India, points out that “Gandhi did not preach a pacifist philosophy of meekness and non-violence. Gandhi realized through experience that non-violent behavior, when inspired from the innermost recess of the human personality, is mightier than the mightiest weapons on the face of the earth because it rises from the central force, the spirit of man, which is in fact the central reality and the central truth, God.”

The philosophy which I have outlined views the world as a monistic whole. Such thought holds that the material universe is but Maya or illusion. That is, the world is an unreal manifestation of the absolute. But it also holds that each man, indeed every creature, is a part of the monistic whole. Each man has a spark of the infinite within him. Each soul is a part of the infinite soul and through realizing this (self-realization), one may be truly enlightened. The Zen poet Baso exclaimed upon self-realization, “I saw men walking toward me, but all were the same man. All were myself.” It follows that if one hates his neighbor, he hates himself and God. If he works against his neighbor, he works against himself and God, be it for nationalistic or personal cause.

The interview went on for an hour and then finished. Earnest made his points strong and forceful. He was articulate, giving straight answers without beating around the bush. At the end he was asked by the officer if he had anything more to add. No, he answered. He had said what he had to say. He had made it clear, surely, to any intelligent person.

Now all he could do was to wait. He waited and waited. There was no news of any action. Nothing came for months. The officers on the ship were neglecting the case, letting it lie until it became absolutely necessary to do something.

In November, the instructor of the history course that he was taking arranged a field trip for the class to Washington. They would go to the Islamic Center and to a Middle Eastern restaurant. Earnest liked the idea and wanted to join the class for the day. On the other hand, he had to ask for the day off from the critical task of cleaning the leaves off the streets twice a day. Was it possible that he could be spared? What the unit was doing was clearly unnecessary make-work.

Earnest submitted his request for the day off. He gave the reason as: “The history class in which I am enrolled at Old Dominion University is having a field trip to the Islamic Center in Washington on November 17. I would like to get off one day for this. I am willing to work a day some weekend to make up for this day off. I respectfully request liberty on this day.”

It had to be signed by a couple of people, including the chief of the Fuckup Unit, who was also a Fuckup chief. He thought that he would be given the day off even if it was counted as a day of official leave.

The next day, he was given the chit back. It was disapproved by both petty officers. Now in an officially fucked up unit, one need not expect any favors, or even routine procedures. One of the petty officers wrote:

We have a job to do. College is extra. And should not interfere with duty’s The Navy seams to be of no concure of your, (an inconvien to you) your job is our concure. Navy First-College Second.” [sic]

It was a good point, Earnest thought. It was true that the Navy was no concern of his. And never was going to be. Why should it be? His only concern was that he was still officially a part of the outfit. The first class petty officer, two ranks about him, was scarcely literate. Earnest gave it up. It was all building up his urge more and more to be out for good.

At least, Earnest could rejoice that he had not been written up again. But he had just escaped by the skin of his teeth. The Norfolk Navy Base contained a trash incinerator where all the refuse of the base was burned. Noxious fumed poured out of the tall stack twenty-four hours a day to foul the air breathed by the sailors, officers and enlisted alike. This shit was flowing downhill on everybody. The Navy was not yet in the age of recycling.

One day Earnest was on the garbage detail. He went with the truck to dump the garbage in the burning pit for incineration. The truck was driven up the ramp and backed up to within inches of the pit. The rear of the truck extended out over the hot foul burning pit. The rough redneck petty officer he was with ordered Earnest to climb back along the side of the truck over the burning pit to enter the truck and throw out the bags of garbage. Below the pit was smoldering at a hot temperature. If one slipped they would fall directly into the pit.

What kind of stupid fucking order is that? Earnest thought. The trash could easily be thrown into the pit from the truck without risking one’s bacon to crawl out over the pit.

Earnest tried to reason with the second class petty officer to do it in a safe way. Earnest was only a third class petty officer, after being busted down at mast. So he was outranked by the E-5.

Sure, I will throw out the garbage,” Earnest said. “But please let’s drive the truck up a little so that it is not over the pit. I am sorry that I really do not feel comfortable climbing out over the pit.”

The redneck reacted angrily and cursed him. He called him a chicken-shit and a mother-fucker.

You get your fucking ass back in that truck and clear it out. I’ll write your fucking ass up for disobeying a direct order. You fucking cunt.”

I am willing to do what you say,” Earnest pleaded, “I am not disobeying your order. But it strikes me as dangerous. I am thinking about safety. It seems it will be much easier to drive the truck up a little. Then I will be glad to clear out the truck.”

Fuck you,” the petty officer spat out. “I’ll fucking do it myself and then your ass will be on report.”

Earnest saw him climbing back over the hot pit clinging to the flimsy sides of the truck.

What an idiot,” Earnest thought. “Am I going to risk falling into that incinerator to avoid being written up by an illiterate red neck?” He was reminded of that first day when he had been at the recruiting center at Worm Island when he first got to a Navy Base. Nothing has changed, he thought. These red-necks in the military will always be the same and make life miserable for others, for no good reason.

He had no desire to be a hero. Whatever had to happen would have to happen. He was just trying to do the best he could and get along. But at the same time he had to look out for himself. He was clearly around dangerous people.

Earnest continued in the class, but missed the field trip. He made friends with a cute young woman at the library but did not have a chance to ask her to have lunch with him. Despite everything, he was happy to be off the boat. Being in the Fuckup Division was not all that bad. It was a big improvement over the ship.

Chapter Thirty-Four: Istanbul

Earnest thought back to the Med Cruise. It was on a winter day in January. The ship anchored in the Bosphorus off the old city of Istanbul. It was not the first time he had been there. He had first landed there some six years before on his way back from the Peace Corps in Punjab. He had found it to be a fabulous city.

Not yet spoiled by the disease of modernization, Istanbul was traditional Europe to a great extent. He remembered the elegant old Dilson Hotel where he had stayed with a Peace Corps friend. It was quite affordable in those days even for a Peace Corps volunteer. He found the food to be great. They walked on the plaza in Taksim Square and ended up in Cicek Pasaj eating boiled prawns and drinking great cold draft beer. This is a city for me, Earnest thought. It has tradition without most of the misery of Indian cities.

Leaving the ship, the boat launch had taken them to Hyderpasa Station, the beautiful old nineteenth century railway station designed by the Germans. It was on the Anatolian side of the channel where the ferry boats got underway for Beyoglu on the European side. Earnest had gotten liberty and gone over with some friends in the morning.

The ferry was crowded as always this time of rush hour. Most people were headed for work or school on the European side. Sea gulls trailed along the sides and behind the ferry flying and diving for bits of simit thrown by passengers. Waiters came around through the passengers carrying trays filled with small glasses of hot steaming Turkish tea and cubes of sugar. He took a tea and dropped in the sugar cubes. When another came with a rack of simits, he got one of them. They had been freshly baked that morning. He stirred the tea watching the cubes of sugar crumble and dissolve. He sipped the invigorating warm brew enjoying the scene.

He noticed a stylish young woman sitting across from him with long lovely legs. She was so beautiful that it started to put a blister on his heart to think of having her in his arms. She was not the only one. He noticed several other stylish young women around the boat, apparently on their way to work or school.

The waiter came back and collected the empty glasses. Earnest paid his twenty-five kurus for the tea and simit. The boat was nearing the landing in Beyoglu. Before the ferry quite landed young passengers jumped across to the pier and rushed off up the street. When the prow was thrown across to the pier, a throng of passengers hurried off joining the crowd on the quay past piles of freshly baked simit and poacha, sweet pekmez roles, borek, and other varieties of morning pastries. They walked up the street toward Taksim Square.

The small red trams were trundling back and forth on the small rail track in the center of the wide walk way. Shops were now open with many restaurants and sweet shops were crowded with customers. The small bufes sold all kinds of snacks, cigarettes and other goods.

Earnest walked with a friend down to the Galata Bridge taking pictures. It was a paradise for a tourist with a camera with the very old, traditional, mixed with the modern. The young women in miniskirts kept catching his eye as he tried to catch a picture of them with his telephoto lens. They looked at least as delicious as the sweet pekmez roles.

Across the Golden Horn, the hills were prominent in the ancient city, Constantinople as it was once known. The mosques with tall minarets graced the hills. Just across the bridge they came to Yeni Camii, new mosque, which was only some four hundred years old.

Fishermen had arrived to start their morning angling for fish from the bridge. In the ancient city, a building only four hundred years old was considered new.

Across the bridge a large courtyard in front of the mosque was crowded with a throng of pedestrians and peddlers of many types of wares. Sellers had settled on the pavements of the back streets near Miser Carsasi, the spice market. Earnest walked up to the huge old covered bazaar with his friend. Inside was a vast maze of small shops loaded down with every variety of wares, spices, dried goodies and Turkish delight. Everything catered to the tastes of the locals but to tourists as well. Beautiful handmade metallic goods were shining in the shops. There were shops selling ceramic tiles, copperware, brass ware, and a great variety of other things.

Tiring, Earnest sat down to rest in a coffee house which was also a tea house and bar. Even though it was still morning, the sailors asked for beer that appeared in cold half-liter bottles. It slid smoothly down Earnest’s throat after he had worked up an appetite from the vigorous walk.

There were two young attractive college women at the adjacent table. High on the wall behind them were black and white pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Habib Bourgiba, nationalist leaders of Turkey and Tunisia.

Earnest noticed that the young college women were not bad looking. He saw that one of them was very cute. He noticed her attractive tanned legs. Her eyes sparkled as she talked and laughed with her friend. He saw that they had books with them. They probably knew some English from their studies. Maybe they would teach him some Turkish. He would attempt a conversation with them.

When he caught her eye, he told her “Hello.” They were not put off but gave him a hello back. They seemed willing to become friends. They seemed friendly enough. They would not mind meeting some young American guys. It would likely make their day. Meeting them would certainly make Earnest’s day, he thought.

Earnest asked them their names. Zeynep and Lale. The names were difficult for him to remember, in any event. But he began to break the ice with small talk. He found that they were students at Istanbul University, the ancient university next to the covered bazaar.

Earnest and the other sailors had been strictly warned not to go anywhere near the university. The Navy officers were afraid that there would be anti-American feelings among the students. This said more about the Americans than the Turks. Certainly, they had not liked American foreign policy after the Turkish landing in Cyprus. But this did not mean that they would be hostile to some Americans they might meet up with on the street.

Earnest thought that in any event, he had much more experience with foreign places and students than any of the officers on the ship. He did not pay any mind to it. He did not give a shit about their stupid and naïve warnings. He had made many communist friends in India as a member of the American Peace Corps.

It appealed to Earnest to see the university and when the young women invited him to come with them, he accepted. He and his friend accompanied them to the huge ancient gate of the university. There was no danger whatsoever, of course. There were many old shops near the university which sold books and notebooks. Earnest always loved these small shops.

The huge old gate of the university was beautiful covered with Ottoman script which he could not read. In front of the university was a huge courtyard or maidan where sellers had spread their wares along with simit and snack sellers with push carts. There were huge places where one could sit and drink tea and other drinks nearby in the small streets.

The girls were friendly and now they had made friends. Earnest got the address of his favorite, the cute one that he had fallen for. He wished that he could give her a kiss, but hesitated. When they parted, she offered him the Turkish kiss on both cheeks and then the other one did likewise. What a nice thing, Earnest thought. He wished that there had been such a custom in America. He was going to walk away with the old love-sick blues again. Nothing could be done about that. He could always drool and send them a letter, but this was a rather piss-poor resort. It did not get to the heart of the matter for a young horny American sailor. He would do what he could. Get it while he could. But in this case, he could not.

He liked making friends like that. He had met a young student in Barcelona and written to her.

For Earnest, the travel was endlessly fascinating. He noticed that many of the sailors had no appreciation for the cultures in places where they traveled. Surely it beat being stuck in a small town somewhere.

In the evening Earnest met up with some other sailors from the ship. One was an older boiler tender who had been an enlisted man much longer than Earnest. He was down to earth and he liked him. They ran the machinery that propelled the ship.

All some of the guys wanted to do was to go up to the red light district and get laid. It would be “wham-bam, thank you ma’am.” The location was at the top of a steep street that ran up the big hill from the Bosphorus. Earnest went with Bob and two others in a taxi from the old covered bazaar.

The taxi dropped them at the foot of the long street. It had begun to drizzle rain. It was cool and refreshing but gave an area of drabness to the old rather dilapidated part of the city. Earnest loved the aura. He despised modernity, glass and steel cleanliness which smacked of bank capital. The old quarter of the city had changed little in decades.

It was a long and steep climb to the top of the hill. The old brick houses had security bars on the windows. The cobblestone streets were rough and worn. One had to be careful not to turn one’s ankle on the uneven stones. As they approached the area, they could see half-dressed young girls and fleshy older women in the establishments behind the barred windows of the run-down buildings. The doors were ajar leading to the dimply lit rooms.

According to Turkish law if it slips out, you’re finished,” Bob informed Earnest, authoritatively. Earnest did not know if it was true. How would he know that? Earnest wondered. The whole scene was interesting but had no great appeal for Earnest. He was merely a casual observer and would not indulge. Indeed, he had no desire for such a brief and crude encounter with a woman. Even prostitution could be more elegant and humane in traditional settings. This struck him as particularly tawdry.

A couple of the young guys picked a girl and went in. It didn’t last long. They were out quite quickly, it seemed to Earnest. He thought that it could not have been terrible exciting or very satisfying.

Earnest had had it for the day or roaming the rough old streets of this great smoky old city. They walked back down the hill in the rain. Now the Istanbul drizzle was picking up. They boarded a ferry that would take them to Hyderpasa Station. He was sure that he was always going to remember that day in Istanbul.

Since he pulled duty the next day, he could not go over again. He would have to wait for another time to see more of Istanbul. If I could only catch that train to Tehran, he thought as he saw the huge time schedule board in the station. That had a great exotic appeal for him if he had had the time and the leave. That would be great, but he was about to miss the chance forever, it seemed. But there would be other memories that would engrave themselves on his mind.

There were opportunities that he had missed. He was not sure what lay ahead. But he was thankful for the experiences out in the wider world.

Chapter Thirty-Four: Freedom

On the day before the ship deployed to the Med, the executive officer (XO), called Washington and secured the discharge for Earnest. Seeker was ordered to come to the ship. He made the trip down the familiar passageway to the personnel department. His discharge was issued the same day as he stood around in the passageway. He could not believe that it had happened so quickly. It was just that easy, but the officers had been stonewalling him, keeping him as long as physically possible. Getting the discharge in his hand, he merely walked off the ship for the last time. He was a free man.

It was a feeling of unbelievable exhilaration. Earnest could scarcely believe that he was actually free of the Navy. The next day, the ship would deploy to Europe without him. He felt a little guilty that his friends on the ship would be going off without him. But why should he feel like that? They had their own life to live and it could not be the same as his. He had some catching up to do in his own life.

But first, he had to finish up his class at the university. He cleaned out his gear from the barracks and threw it into his car. He rented a room down at the YMCA. It was a nice small room where he could study in the quiet surroundings. He would pass the class with an “A” before getting out of the town and driving to Missouri.

Oddly, the ship had not demanded his military ID card. Probably it was because he was suspended in limbo. He needed it to get back on the base. He realized that even though now he was officially out, he could still use the Navy exchange with his ID. There were some things he wanted to buy from the exchange. The next day he dared to slip back on the base, even though officially he had been discharged. Who was going to know the difference? He went into the base exchange feeling a little strange and bought a few things. On the other hand, it frightened him somewhat. He had not realized that he had become so socialized into military life. He did not know that he was that hooked. He was suddenly ashamed of himself, after all the shit he had gone thorough to get the discharge. He realized how easy it would be to continue depending upon the Navy as a warm mother, a sort of nanny state. It would be the last time he would use the exchange to shop. After all, he was out of the Navy now and he would not go back on the base again.

In his small room at the YMCA, he spent some days preparing for his final in the class on the history of North Africa.

Before he left, he went to say goodbye to his Navy buddies’ wives and girlfriends who were living in a small apartment. One evening, they asked him to go to the Navy enlisted club with them. He agreed and thought that maybe one of the women was interested in him and might be trying to seduce him. However, he was clearly finished with Navy life for good. He would not want to do any dirt on his Navy buddies while they were away at sea.

After the final exam in the history class, he spent the last night in the YMCA. The next day he checked out early in the morning. He drove up the long boulevard one more time and passed by the Navy base on the way out of town. He was on his way to Missouri. Free at last. It gave him a great feeling of freedom.

He was so high mentally, that he would drive it straight through. He could not slow down. He pulled an all-nighter and arrived the next day in late morning.

His new life was just beginning. He had a lot of catching up to do.

The old salts in the Navy said that the letters stood for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself.” Earnest was one, at least, who would never have considered it.

Earnest found it heavenly to actually be out and on his own. Now the Navy had no purchase on him whatsoever.

Back in Missouri, he thought back to his undergraduate days at the university where he would go to study once again. Johnston Hall for women held memories for him. That is where she lived. That cute little girl from Indiana. He had no idea about her family or background at the time. He just knew that he was crazy for Ruby. He was head over heels in love or lust or something along that line for her such a cute little petite thing.

But then, Ruby had her own ideas. A mysterious creature, as indeed all women are. To him, she was a hot shot, way above his aspirations. He was quite jealous of those guys that she travelled with on the debating team. He took her out several times to see a film and eat pizza on Friday evenings. That was glorious. He wanted her badly. He thought of her constantly.

The down side was that she was too religious and went to the hardest red-neck authoritarian fire and brimstone church in the town. This was the Church of God Holiness.

Then one day Earnest called her dorm and could not get her. He was told that she was gone. She had dropped out of the university, just like that without ever telling him anything. How could it be when he was so crazy for her? Somehow he had to get in touch with her. The fact that she had jilted him and obviously cared nothing for him did not sink into his young consciousness. He would write her letters. Even go and see her on Spring break. But it was doomed. It would never work. Her father was a poor worker in a steel mill in Gary. There were several small kids in the family. She had to go to work just to keep the family afloat. She would work in Chicago. How would she ever pay the fees to study in Missouri? She had only managed it on a scholarship. She was likely ashamed of her family background and so quietly went away. Still he wondered how she could be so hard hearted.

Now that he was free, Earnest saw vast opportunities and possibilities opening up in his life. The first thing to do was to get back into school. If things worked out, he would study and gain a greater understanding of the world. He was on his way to a new and much greater way of life.

The other thing was to get his family back to the US and his life back on track. He was finally free from Navy Hell.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s