Bob’s 1st Quarter Newsletter
First off, I extend a sincere and heartfelt greeting to all my friends and loyal readers. You haven’t heard from me in a while, and I apologize for that. 2016 was not a good year for me. I’ve been ill.
It started almost a year ago when I began to have problems swallowing. That turned out to be caused by acid reflux, which the doctors finally got under control. However, somewhere along the line, I began to feel weak, with flu-like symptoms. I’d lost a lot of weight, and I figured the acid reflux was to blame. That was probably part of it, but I suspected something else might be going on. I asked the doctor about it several times who kept prescribing different medicines, most of it aimed at treating symptoms related to the acid reflux. Nothing seemed to help. I finally asked the Gastroenterologist about it and he said he hadn’t seen anything during his two endoscope exams that would cause flu-like symptoms. I passed this information on to my general practitioner (regular doctor) and suggested maybe something else was going on. Since then I’ve been through various tests. The only thing the tests have revealed is that I might have mononucleosis. I know that sounds funny and not serious, but I assure you I’ve been quite ill. I’m still not convinced that is the only problem. Another recent test indicated possible thyroid problems.
Anyway, the illness has left me weak and without much drive or ambition. I am trying to overcome that. During all of this many other things have happened. I’m not one to go on about such things so I won’t, except for one: I just learned that my longtime friend and publisher, Dan Case, has decided to close AWOC, his publishing business. So now I’m scrambling, trying to get help with republishing my books to keep them out there and available.
All of this, coupled with my preexisting propensity for procrastination, has rendered my already snail-like writing pace to the realm of exceeding the speed of light, which, theoretically, would cause one to go backward.
Has he gone mad, you might ask?
It’s a debatable question. However, my 4th Elliot novel is caught somewhere in the Space-Time Continuum, and I hope to find the strength and energy to rescue the amalgamation of words, sprinkled with hints of brilliance and hopefully laced with enough cohesiveness to carry a sense of story, from this Twilight Zone that I, and Mr. Elliot, have found ourselves in.
I ask for your prayers and continued support.
Please check out my writing by clicking the link below:
I want to thank everyone who signed up for my Reader List. We’ve already given away a nice prize. I have a lot more good stuff planned. If you haven’t signed up, I’ve placed the link below.
Twisted Perception is now out in audiobook. Please click the link below:
Please follow the link and check it out. Once you’re at the site, there’s a button you can click to hear a free sample. Charles Bice, the reader we chose, did an excellent job of portraying the characters as he tells the story. I believe you can even get the audiobook of Twisted Perception for free, if you join Audible.com. And who wouldn’t want to do that?
I want to thank everyone who has signed up for my newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it. If you know of someone who might enjoy it, too, please email it to them.
I also give programs for writing groups, reading groups, or any group that’s interested. If you belong to a club, which needs program speakers, keep me in mind.
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This article was written by Bob Avey, author of, Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer. http://www.bobavey.com.
Bob’s 2nd Quarter Newsletter
First a bit of business: Amazon, doing the promotional magic they’re famous for, has a bit of a deal for my books. With Twisted Perception, if you’ve purchased the e-book, you can also get the Audible version for just a $1.99. With Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer, if you’ve purchased the paperback, you can get the e-book for 99 cents.
Reflective moods have come upon me lately, overcoming my thoughts on an increasing basis.
Have you ever considered that we, or at least a majority of us, might be misusing our gifts?
The content of a recent radio program caused me to think about this. The host of the show proposed, and I paraphrase, that the very thing that sets us apart from the crowd, gives us our edge, is also quite often the source of many of our problems.
A few days ago, my wife, Kathi, and I were enjoying lunch in the park as we often do. We’re fortunate enough to work for the same company and the building is close to the park. It should have been a day much like the others, but it was not.
I pulled into a shady spot, shut off the car and rolled down the windows, but instead of fresh air we received a dose of surrealism. The first thing we noticed was the abundance of birds hopping about in the grassy areas, many more than usual, but no other people were around, no other cars took up parking spaces. A cool breeze blew through the park, causing an empty aluminum can to bump and bounce across the asphalt, the action causing the only discernable sound. For a few moments, the scenario reminded me of a Stephen King movie.
Suddenly the silence was blasted away when a pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, its radio playing some type of weird music, a type I’d never heard before.
I glanced at Kathi, communicating without words that perhaps we should go for a walk.
She nodded her approval and we locked up the car then crossed the lot and stepped onto the gravel path, which winds around the park. We followed the path to the large pond that dominates the west end of the park, and once there we slowed our pace to enjoy the scenery.
Canadian geese and a few ducks floated on the water, some of them paddling along, leaving small wakes behind. Turtles sunned themselves on logs that protruded from the pond. Occasionally a fish or two would swim to the surface then again disappear back into the depths. At the edge of the water, a mama and daddy duck swam with babies.
The geese, the ducks, the turtles, and the fish all seemed to be at peace within their environment. I imagined they had no worries, held no grudges, clung to no political affiliations, or harbored any ambitions. They simply went about the business of being what they were.
That evening, while on our way home from work we saw a dogsled, being mushed alongside the road with a team of Huskies. Instead of runners, the sled had wheels. How weird is that?
Not far from the dogsled incident, an elderly lady slowly made her way along the sidewalk with a cane. She carried a sack of groceries.
The oddness of the day reached its apex when I pulled into a convenience store to get some gasoline for the car. At the pump in front of me, putting gas into a black convertible with loud music spewing from the speakers, a man, who looked as if he’d stepped off a movie set, dominated my attention. He wore black slacks and a starched, white shirt with a black tie. Cocked upon his head was a black, Indiana Jones hat, but the crowning touch was a black, leather shoulder holster complete with sidearm. He looked like a mixture of Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers, Stacy Keach in Mike Hammer, and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.
I’m continually reminded that this is not the world I grew up in.
God created us in his image and gave us dominion over the earth and the non-human life upon it. I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of managing either the earth or ourselves.
Perhaps we should give more thought to the animals, not so much in taking better care of them – which we should do when necessary – but in living more peaceful lives by striving to be more like them, letting go of the unnecessary, non-productive thoughts we carry around with us.
At this point, you might be wondering: What’s happened to Bob and his whimsical newsletters?
We will both be back.
Two Tickets to Heidelberg
In the last episode (Part IV), I’d suggested we leave the safety of the tent and do a little exploring.
“What could possibly go wrong?” I asked.
“You’re kidding, right?”
I buttoned my field jacket and positioned the matching, army-green, ball cap on my head. “Suit yourself then. Anyway, I’ll be back before you realize I’ve gone.”
I stepped outside, walked around the tent, and began walking in a southerly direction. About five minutes into the hike, I paused at the precipice to the valley, the same one where we’d encountered the boars, but about 500 yards south of that location. The rolling landscape, beautiful even in the winter months, captured my thoughts and I wondered what might be beyond the valley.
I heard footsteps and turned to see Billy approaching. “I thought I’d better come along and keep an eye on you,” he said. “Who knows what you might do without someone to hold you back.”
Billy was joking but he was more right than he knew. My curiosity had gotten me into plenty of trouble through the years, including my current situation of being in the Army, but that same insatiable desire to understand things on a personal level had also enriched my life with luxurious experiences I would have missed out on otherwise.
“It’s beautiful out here,” I said.
“Yeah, I’d think we might be somewhere in the States if I didn’t know better.”
“That’s what makes it interesting,” I said, “something different than what we’re used to, not knowing exactly what to expect.”
“Why am I getting a bad feeling about this?”
“You’re way too nervous, that’s your problem. Come on, let’s walk a little farther.”
“It’s getting dark.”
“I know, but there’s something up the trail that I want to check out. It’s where I was headed when you caught up with me.”
We walked another fifty yards in a southeasterly direction, stopping when we reached a trail, which meandered down the slope, disappearing into the darkness of the valley.
“Yeah,” I said, “this is it.”
I’d just gotten the words out when the form of a person emerged from the depths. Seeing us as well, he waved and came toward us.
“I wonder who that could be?” Billy asked.
Billy’s words indicated he’d found the experience every bit as surrealistic as I did. Who, indeed, would be out here? Guessing that our visitor was most likely a local, I called out, “Guten abend (Good evening).”
The man cheerfully returned my greeting, adding a long discourse, some of which I understood and some of which I did not. During the conversation, I learned the mysterious traveler, a hearty looking forty year old, was from the village at the bottom of the hill. Just a short walk, he’d said.
A few minutes later, my new friend shook my hand then turned away and started back down the hill. It almost seemed as if he’d made the hike for the sole purpose of talking with me. “Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas),” I called out.
“Und einen gutes neue jahr (and a happy New Year),” he replied.
A rustling in the brush drew my attention and when I glanced toward the sound two soldiers came out of hiding. It was Allen G and Charles A.
“Bob Avey,” Charles said.
He made the declaration as if he’d just stumbled upon the answer to an elusive problem.
“What on earth are you doing out here, and who was that guy you were talking to?”
Charles and Allen were a couple of passive rebel rousers – if indeed there can be such a thing – that I’d had no quandaries with but had avoided just the same.
Looking back now, I’m reminded of a scene in The Fellowship of The Ring, where Merry and Pippin come upon Frodo Baggins in the woods outside the Shire.
“Just taking a walk,” I said. “What about you?”
Charles and Allen glanced at each other but said nothing.
I stepped onto the pathway and started down the hill. I didn’t know, but I suspected Charles and Allen had been up to something and were now on their way back to the camp. They stood at the top of the hill, the expressions on their faces seeming to be a complicated mixture of fear and excitement.
“Say,” Charles asked, where you going?”
“Hopefully somewhere away from you guys.”
I heard footsteps and soon discovered that the source was whom I’d expected. Billy had scrambled down the hill. He caught up and stepped in front of me. “Yoncas, what are you doing?”
“I need to see what’s at the bottom of the hill.”
“Are you nuts? By the time you get there, it’ll be too dark to see anything.”
“It’s the twentieth century, Billy. They’ll have lights.”
Billy’s expression said it all.
“Didn’t it occur to you that the stranger I just talked with had to have come from somewhere?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess so.”
“He said he was out for a walk, and that he’d come from the village just down the hill. The guy had looked pretty fresh, hadn’t he? It can’t be that far.”
“Then why can’t we see those lights you were talking about?”
“Hey, wait up, guys. We’re coming with you.”
“I sure wish the Bobbsey Twins hadn’t of showed up.”
“Yeah,” Billy said, “and all the more reason we should call this off. And let’s not forget about the razorbacks. If we run into them again in a place where they can see and we can’t, it’s not going to be pretty.”
“You’re probably right, but how do we shake the Bobbsey Twins? I don’t know about you but I don’t want those two knowing about our tent.”
Billy rolled his eyes. “Okay, good point. Now what’ll we do?”
“Neither of them has ever struck me as having an abundance of courage. My guess is, once they realize how dark it is in the valley, they’ll turn back.”
“That would make them smarter than us. I don’t like the sound of that.”
“You worry too much, Billy. The two of them together couldn’t reason half as good as you.”
“Based on the decisions I’ve made lately, I’m not so sure.”
Then, as feared, Charles and Allen started to follow us.
Billy and I turned to face them.
“We’re coming with you,” Allen said.
“If not,” Charles piped in, “we’ll tell Lieutenant S. about the whole thing, finding you out here and all.”
I had to think fast. Both Charles and Allen reeked of hashish, not uncommon among the soldiers, sadly enough, but it was all I had. “You might want to reconsider that,” I said. “You weren’t hiding in the shrubs earlier, hoping to gain information about my travel plans. If I had to guess, I’d say you just smoked a bowl.”
Smoking a bowl was a slang term used to refer to stuffing a common tobacco pipe with hashish.
Charles and Allen exchanged nervous glances. “Yeah, well everybody does it. And it ain’t like they don’t know.”
The Bobbsey Twins had pointed out another sad truth. There were times, most evenings in fact, when the atmosphere inside the barracks would have given a thick, London fog a run for its money. The use of the drug was so rampant and widespread that there was no way the officers didn’t know about it.
“Not everybody,” I said. “Anyway I’ve talked with Lieutenant S. a few times and I happen to know he’s not happy about the situation. He’s looking for ways to slow it down, namely identifying and stopping the dealers.”
“Hey, don’t jump to conclusions, buddy. We scored a few grams that’s all. We ain’t dealing.”
I turned and started back down the trail. “All I’m saying is that if we decide to trade stories with the lieutenant, you and your buddy, Allen might not fare so well.”
“All right I catch your drift. We won’t say anything if you don’t.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “See you guys later.”
“What do you mean later? I thought you said we could come along.”
I paused and turned back. “That’s not a good idea, guys. I’m trying to be straight with you. We’re not sure of what we’re getting ourselves into. Maybe next time, okay?”
Charles and Allen nodded and they didn’t follow us, but they didn’t leave either.
I turned and resumed my trek down the hill.
“I don’t know about you, Yoncas. I’m starting to think you could talk your way out of anything. What do you think the twins will do?”
“I’m hoping they go back to the camp.”
“That’s precisely what we should do. We could walk a few more yards until we’re out of sight then turn west, follow the valley, and come up near the outhouse. Nobody would see us.”
“That’s an excellent plan,” I said.
A short time later, Billy said, “Don’t you think I know you’re still leading us down the hill? When were you planning on turning back?”
I slowed my pace then stopped. “I thought about it, Billy. But take a look around.
Darkness surrounded us, and on both sides of the trail a thick growth of trees rose from the forest floor.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not crazy about the idea of trying to navigate through that mess.”
“Are you telling me we’re lost?”
“Not in the least. All we have to do is follow the trail.”
“I can’t even see my feet, much less the trail.”
“Yeah, I know. The trick is to look up instead of down.”
It was an overcast and moonless night, and yet, since no trees grew on the trail, the sky was visible where the vegetation parted, marking the path.
“You’re right,” Billy said. “And now that we know this, why don’t we go up the hill instead of continuing down it?”
“We should be getting close,” I said.
“Close to what, the Black Forest, Frankenstein’s castle?”
“Perish the thought. Anyway, you saw the guy. He wasn’t tired, not even winded. He couldn’t have walked very far.”
“Yeah, well maybe he’s just an old hermit who lives out here in the woods somewhere.”
“Come to think about it, he did mention something about turning into a werewolf at night.”
“That’s not funny, Yoncas.”
“Just kidding. Come here, I want to show you something. Get your bearings on the trail then look straight down the hill. It’s faint, but it’s there.”
Moments later Billy said, “It’s probably a hallucination. I’ve heard that being immersed in total darkness for an extended period of time can do that to you.”
“That’s not the result of abnormal activity in your brain, Billy. It’s the glow from the lights of the village. Come on, let’s go.”
About an hour later, we emerged from the woods and stood on the outskirts of the traveler’s village, a town about twice the size of Cowtown, which wasn’t saying much. The total distance of the village from the camp turned out to be about five miles, a long way when you’re stumbling around in the darkness.
I motioned toward the town then took a bow. “Your wish is my command.”
“My wish is to be back at the camp, relaxing in the tent.”
At the edge of the forest, a narrow road wound into the village, leading to several shops, one of which was a gasthaus, its sign like a beacon to weary travelers. It seemed the proprietors of the establishment had known visitors would be coming down the hill.
“All in good time my friend. Since we’ve come this far, let’s allow ourselves the small advantage of a good, German brew before embarking on the return journey.”
“I knew you were going to say that. It does sound good, though.”
We walked into town then strolled up to the gasthaus, a popular place from the sound of it. A soft but discernable buzz of voices filtered into the area near the establishment.
All of that stopped when I opened the door, the action initiating the ringing of a bell, the old kind that business owners would install to alert them to the presence of customers, if they happened to be in another part of the shop. The music stopped, the conversation ended, the clinking of dishes ceased, and every head of each customer pivoted around to stare at Billy and me. It was as if a switch had been thrown, the tiny bell being much more than it seemed had stopped everything, even the spinning of the Earth on its axis.
And there we stood in a doorway perhaps created by Doctor Who, weary soldiers from another dimension, dressed in olive drab clothing complete with field jackets and fury parkas.
Billy grabbed my arm and shook his head, but the bizarre invitation was more than I could resist. I stepped inside, walked a few feet then paused and announced, “Guten abend.”
As expected, the mere utterance of the magic phrase brought everything back to where it had been before our arrival: The Earth once again orbited the Sun. I found an empty table and sat down.
Seconds later, Billy found his way through the crowd and pulled out a chair opposite mine. “That was totally weird.”
A waitress appeared and I ordered a bratwurst and a bier. Billy took it a step further and ordered a dinner of jagerschnitzel (a veal cutlet) with mushroom gravy.
“Having to walk twenty miles in total darkness tends to make me hungry,” he said. “But I have to hand it to you, Yoncas. This just might be the best schnitzel I’ve ever had. I’m dreading that hike back up the hill, though.”
“It’s only about five miles,” I said. “It seemed further because of the circumstances.”
“Yeah, but it’ll all be uphill. There’s no getting around that.”
“Never say never, Billy.”
Billy took a moment to consider my words. “Don’t you go getting any crazy ideas. As soon as we finish our dinner, we’re heading back to the camp, on foot the same we got here.”
Once again, the door creaked open, the bell rang, and this time Billy and I became a part of the silent, staring continuum.
“Don’t look now,” Billy said, “but Abbot and Costello just showed up.
It was Charles and Allen. It didn’t take them long to spot us. We were the only ones who looked like Grizzly Adams.
Billy shook his head. “I can’t believe they had the courage much less the brainpower to make it here.”
“You’re giving them too much credit. My guess is they started following us from the start. Once they realized what they’d gotten themselves into, they didn’t know what else to do but try and stick with us.”
The misfits made their way to the table and sat down. “Hey, this is pretty cool.”
“Well, it was until you guys showed up. I thought we had an understanding?”
“Hey we got just as much right to be here as you do.”
As if on cue, Billy and I simultaneously pushed away from the table and stood. The waitress had already left our tickets and we started toward the register to pay.
“Say, where are you guys going now?”
“It’s been a long and interesting journey,” I said, “but alas time has come to set out for the base camp.”
Billy rolled his eyes. “Their behavior doesn’t say much for the Army’s screening process, does it?”
Billy and I paid our bills then left the restaurant, followed the narrow road to the trail, and began our journey back to the camp.
Billy kept glancing over his shoulder. “I hate to admit it but I’m kind of worried about Charles and Allen. Maybe we should go back and get them.”
“I suspect they’ll be coming up behind us any time now,” I said.
“I don’t know how you do it, Yoncas. The twins just stepped onto the trail at the bottom.”
I paused and looked back. The Bobbsey Twins had brought along provisions for the trip. Each of them carried a liter (quart) of wine, and they were already turning the jugs up at intermittent intervals.
“At the rate their going,” I said, “they’ll have those bottles finished off by the time we reach the camp. It should make for an interesting trip.”
“Aw, don’t be too hard on them. We were in the same shape a few days ago.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Some people learn from their mistakes and some don’t. Time will tell, my friend.”
Sure enough, by the time we got back to the camp, Charles and Allen were pretty wasted. It was dark and late. We took them to their sleeping bags then told them to go to bed.
Billy and I would go on to have many more adventures. When our wives arrived, they too became friends.
I got out of the service about a year before Billy and we lost contact.
Here’s to you Billy and Lisa, wherever you are.
The blog entries might be slow to nonexistent for a while. I’m going to concentrate on finishing the fourth novel in the Detective Elliot series.
Please check out my writing at the link below:
The encompassing sleep I’d found in the back of a two and a half ton military vehicle came to an abrupt end.
“Wake up Yoncas.”
I glanced around the cargo area then sat forward.
Near the back of the truck, a soldier studied me, his hands on his hips. “Well what do we have here, a couple of stowaways?”
I’d developed a habit of matching nametags with faces. I ran through the list and pulled one out. “Morning Corporal H.”
Corporal Jim H. had been in the military for a while. He had about ten years on me, and I guessed most of it had been spent doing the same thing, working in mess halls. There were more people like him at the time than you might have thought, quiet, unambitious sorts who’d found, for lack of a better term, a safe-haven in the military. He wasn’t the head cook, but chances were pretty good he’d been put in charge of this detail.
“We missed the convoy,” I said. “Sergeant M. was pretty upset about it. He told us to hitch a ride with you guys. I hope you don’t mind?”
“Better come out with the rest of it,” Billy added.
“Oh, yeah, I guess we’re supposed to help you guys out a little.”
Corporal H. grinned. “Guess you’re sort of at my mercy, huh?”
He moved his hands away from his hips and crossed his arms across his chest. “Say while we’re on the subject, what’s this I hear about you being from Oklahoma?”
I hadn’t realized we had been on that subject and I hoped the Corporal didn’t have it out for Okies. “That’s right. Wish I was there now.”
“What part of Oklahoma?”
“Sand Springs, a small town near Tulsa.”
“Yeah, I know where it is. Grew up in Sapulpa myself.”
I grabbed my duffel bag and climbed out of the truck. “We’re practically neighbors.”
The corporal smiled but his expression overrode the gesture. “I get to thinking about it now and then. I can’t say I miss it for the most part, but there were some times. Life wasn’t all that good for me there, came from a poor family, wasn’t all that popular at school. You know the routine?”
I wasn’t sure why the corporal had chosen that time to open up to me, but I wasn’t surprised that he had. Such occurrences had become common, a trend that would later encourage me to enroll in college classes. I would go on to earn nine hours of psychology credits at the University of Maryland. I had intended to obtain a degree in the subject, once I got out of the military. Yet another one of those things I didn’t follow up on.
Let me get back to the story.
“Anytime you want to talk, about anything,” I said, “let me know. I’m a pretty good listener.”
Billy had gotten out of the truck as well and he was standing next to me. “Where do we put our stuff?” He asked.
The corporal glanced at our deflated duffel bags. “Is that all you got?”
“No sleeping bags?”
“Didn’t have time to grab any.”
“This army is going to hell in a handbasket,” the corporal said. “Help me unload the truck and I’ll show you where to go.”
About an hour later, Corporal H. led Billy and me to a large, military tent that’d been set up approximately fifty yards northwest of the bivouac area.
As I write this it occurs to me that the story gets a little weird at this point, not by intent, but by epiphany as I rediscover the old memories along with you. Except for a kerosene-fed stove and a couple of cots, we found the ten by twenty foot space empty. To this day, I don’t know why that tent was there, or what its real purpose was. Billy and I used it without disturbance the entire time we were there. At the time, I considered our circumstance a bit of luck. However, looking back I experience a tinge of guilt as a trail of deduction leads to no other end than the majority of the other soldiers having shivered on the ground in sleeping bags.
“You can put your stuff here,” the corporal said.
Our trip to Baumholder turned out to be a bit of a vacation in comparison to typical military life. We worked about three hours a day, washing a few metal trays after each meal, and outside of that we were on our own. As quasi chow boys, Billy and I dined separately from the masses, taking our meals in the tent where we spent the bulk of the daylight hours for fear of being discovered and shanghaied into duty of a more strenuous nature. I imagined the veins in Sergeant M’s forehead swelling to capacity, had he known the outcome of our punishment.
Later that day, in the early evening hours, I was stretched out on the cot, fading off to dreamland. Keep in mind this was the same day that Billy and I had walked across half of Germany, looking for Coleman Barracks. Sleep would come easy, but not just yet. One of the few inconveniences of our private tent was the lack of a latrine.
“I’ll be right back,” Billy said.
About thirty yards north of the tent, an outhouse occupied a rather scenic spot overlooking a valley. I figured that was Billy’s destination, though his words had barely registered.
What seemed like seconds later, Billy rushed back into the tent. “You got to see this,” he said.
I sat up and dropped my feet over the side of the cot. “It’d better be good.”
“It is. Come on.”
Once outside, neither of us having a flashlight, we stumbled along in the darkness until we reached the area where the outhouse sat.
“Look,” Billy said. He pointed into the valley. “There they are.”
Struggling to adjust to the available light, I looked down the slope and into the darkness. The valley floor seemed to be moving. As if a large body of water had flooded its boundaries, the area bobbed and weaved with dark, undulating shapes. A mixture of grunts and snorts accompanied the chaos.
“What is that?”
“Razorbacks,” Billy said.
“We’re a long way from Arkansas.”
“Maybe so, but I’d know that sound anywhere.”
“Wild boars,” I said. “Germany is famous for them.”
“I don’t recon there’s much difference.”
“They’re getting louder,” I said.
“They’ve caught our scent.”
I turned away from the approaching snorts and scrambled out of there. Billy had a thirty yard jump on me but I was gaining on him. Propelled by the stench of hot, pig breath, I streaked past the tent and ran for the deuce and a half that had brought us to this demented game reserve. Not knowing the jumping and climbing capabilities of wild boars, I avoided the cargo area and climbed into the passenger side of the cab.
Expecting the angry beasts to body-slam themselves into the truck, pummeling it to the point of metal fatigue, I scrunched down in the seat, hoping to avoid detection.
Moments later, a scream that would melt the peels from onions cut through the night.
I sat forward, chanced a peek through the window.
Nothing. No pigs. No Billy. I was all alone.
I gathered my courage and climbed out of the truck. I couldn’t let my friend get trampled and gored by a bunch of overgrown, German pigs. I retraced my steps until I reached the hill overlooking the valley where the commotion had begun.
This area, too, seemed deserted. Until something or someone that resembled an African chieftain, brandishing a spear, came out of the darkness.
“Silly things cornered me in the crapper.”
“I’m guessing that was you I heard screaming?”
“That was no scream. It was a war cry. I found this old mop handle in the outhouse and chased the crazed razorbacks away with it.”
“It must have worked,” I said. “I don’t see any more boars around. I guess that makes you a hero of sorts.”
“Why do you say that?”
“If you hadn’t turned them away, the boars probably would have run through the camp. There would have been a lot of surprised soldiers, jumping from their sleeping bags.”
A couple days later, having finished the evening dishes, Billy and I were kicked back in the tent.
Even as one who lived this era, it’s been difficult for me to conceive of having no personal computer, no smart phone, no cell phone, or any type of device that would connect to the internet. And even if by some strange circumstance I would have had any of those things, there was no internet to connect to. Television and radio broadcasts were available, but neither Billy nor I had a radio or a television with us. All we had was conversation. I truly miss those times.
Anyway, by this time I had begun to experience cabin, or tent fever.
“We have close to an hour of daylight,” I said. “What do you say we go on a little exploratory mission?”
Billy looked comfortable and content in his cot. “Why would we want to do that?”
“So far all we’ve seen is the mess tent, this tent, and the outhouse.”
“This is the best duty I’ve ever had. Let’s not push our luck.”
“We could skirt around behind the tent and check out the area outside the camp. No one will notice.”
“What little sense of judgement I have left is telling me to stay here and enjoy my freedom.”
“We’ll be back to the tent within thirty minutes. What could possibly go wrong?”
I truly promise to wrap it up next post.
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At the end of part II, Billy and I had gotten ourselves into a bit of a predicament, and we’d narrowed down our options on making the best of it to either waiting on the train or walking from Heidelberg to Coleman Barracks.
Under ordinary circumstances, we should have been able to get back to the base and grab a couple hours sleep before roll call at 6:00 AM.
These were not ordinary circumstances. We’d only been in Germany for a few weeks, neither of us had been past Mannheim, and a commuter train had brought us to our current outpost. We knew where we were, but not exactly how to get back to where we’d been.
Did I mention that German bier is typically stronger than its American counterpart?
Our infamous trek encompassed a deserted menagerie of highways and byways where no cars or vehicles of any kind traveled, and we were certainly the only pedestrians. It was dark, quiet, and precisely eerie. Like a couple of POW's, scrambling behind enemy lines, we stumbled along the countryside in the general direction of the base.
The exact details of the marathon hike are a bit fuzzy, perhaps mentally blocked might be closer to the truth, but somehow, only by the grace of our Lord and Savior I surmise, we found the gate to Coleman Barracks. It was now somewhere around 5:00 AM, Monday morning. Like a long-distance runner, who’d come within inches of the finish line, I stood outside the gate, the frigid December air of the early hours doing little to inhibit the sweat that oozed from every pore in my body.
I couldn’t determine whether anger or surprise dominated the emotions of the guard who came out of the shack to confront us.
“Avey, I might have known it’d be somebody like you.”
I couldn’t say we were friends or even casual acquaintances, but it might be suggested that somewhere between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico we’d crossed paths. “Hey Sanchez. Fancy meeting you here.”
Sanchez glanced at his watch, over to the guard shack, and then back to us. “Does anybody but me know you’re out here?”
“That would be seriously doubtful.”
“Are you drunk?”
“I don’t believe this. I’m going to the guard shack. When I turn back around, I best not see anybody standing here.”
“You can count on that. You’re all right, Sanchez. I owe you one.”
“No you don’t.”
Billy and I gathered what little strength we had left and scurried through the gate. All we had to do was go about a half mile, enter the barracks, change clothes, and fall into formation with everyone else. After what we’d been through, this should be, to indulge a cliché, a piece of cake.
We arrived at our location with a few minutes to spare, though it soon became obvious that something wasn’t quite right. There was no formation, not even the beginnings of one. We were the only soldiers in the area. Even if we’d been a few minutes late, somebody should have been hanging around.
Billy and I exchanged glances then ducked into the particular barracks where we were temporarily being housed with hopes of finding everyone still in their bunks. We’d just cleared the stairs to the second floor and turned the corner, when we were met my Sergeant M. He was one of those soldiers who wore starched fatigues, shiny boots, and a smoky-bear hat. He was a drill sergeant. More than that, he was our drill sergeant, and, as everyone who’s been in the service knows, the goal is to remain anonymous to drill sergeants, not to draw their attention.
“Where the hell have you two been?”
Fearing we’d been busted, though never giving up hope, I found a response. “We had a late night and fell asleep in our civvies (civilian clothes). When we heard the commotion, we ran outside to join the others. We realized we were out of uniform so we came back in to get dressed.”
Sergeant M. was a tall, lanky guy, with a powerful, but high-toned voice. He’d always reminded me of a blue heron. He stalked over to a row of windows that looked out over the base then motioned for us to follow. “You’re supposed to be on the convoy to Baumholder.”
We watched through the windows as the last of the small, armored, personnel carriers clanked out of the area.
Sergeant M’s eyes widened as he leaned forward. “And there they go.”
I tried to hold it together but the image of the giant, squawking blue heron was just too much. I began to laugh.
Billy threw an elbow into my side then shot me a what-the-hell-are-you-doing glance.
Had I kept quiet, we might have gotten by with taking a jeep to catch up with the convoy. As it turned out, the sergeant bellowed for us to grab a duffel bag and cram some clothes and whatever else we could muster in about three seconds into it. After that, he marched us outside and over to the mess hall where a couple of deuce and a half trucks were being loaded.
“You’ll ride with the cooks,” the sergeant said, “and since you’re already with the chow boys, you’re on KP duty.”
The dreaded words no soldier wants to hear. KP duty or kitchen patrol equated to long hours of pure hell, a nightmarish combination of dish washing, food preparation, and floor mopping.
Billy and I tossed our duffel bags into the closest truck and climbed in. The ride to Baumholder was probably long and bumpy. I slept most of the way. I seem to remember Billy saying that it could have been worse, and that at least no one had noticed we’d been temporarily AWOL.
And then, “Wake up, Yoncas.”
I’m sorry I’ve dragged this story out, but it’s turned out to be much longer than I’d thought. Stay tuned for part IV, where I promise to wrap it up.
Thanks for reading.
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