by Robert W. Greene.
Kitchen police (KP) and guard duty were behind us forever once we finished basic and advanced training at sprawling Fort Hood, Texas ("The stars at night are big and bright..."). At the time, however, in April 1957, as we climbed the gangway of the USS General Hodges at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, we did not know that our fortunes in this regard were about to improve. The ten-day crossing to Bremerhaven, moreover, a blur of chills and nausea, did not augur well. On the other hand, the train ride by night, lulling, under a moonlit sky, from Bremen to Butzbach in Hesse, eased our transition from Texas to Germany.
The good news was announced at our first formation in Schlosskaserne, the military compound in Butzbach. After calling the roll, the first sergeant said we could be spared KP if we were willing to have our pay docked by five dollars a month. He would use the fund created in this way to hire German civilians to work in the kitchen in our stead, under the supervision of the mess sergeant. He also told us that, as members of headquarters battery, we were exempt from battalion guard duty. A whoop and a holler went up from a hundred throats.
Our two German KPs worked in garrison and in the field, including the month we spent on manoeuvres in Grafenwohr, the 100-square-kilometer impact area the Army had leased in the mountains northeast of Nuremburg.
Both KPs were old enough to have fought in the War -- on the Eastern front, of course! They made only one request of the first sergeant: that Adolf be allowed to come along when we went into the field. The first sergeant agreed. So on the convoy going to and from Grafenwohr, perched between the mess sergeant and the KPs, sat Adolf, the airdale-schnauzer mix that had adopted us, GI and KP alike, and that we GIs had named.
One noontime, deep in the heart of Grafenwohr, numbly eating out of our mess kits, we heard a cry coming from the mess truck, parked not far from the fir tree under which we had squatted down to feed. The taller KP was shouting and pointing across the clearing. There, emerging from the tree line opposite ours, a pack of wild boars were rooting around. Adolf had seen them too and was sidling over to investigate. The shorter KP was now yelling in English: "They will kill him! You must save Adolf! You must save Adolf!"
Those of us in headquarters survey section had the vehicle and equipment needed to answer the KPs' call. We were also bored out of our minds. So we leapt into the cab and truckbed of our three-quarter-ton. Our Cajun driver gunned it and in seconds we were flying across the clearing. Our bespectacled transit operator had grabbed an aiming rod as if it were a javelin and was set to throw it with all his might ("at the biggest, meanest looking one in the bunch," he later claimed). He was on his toes, bouncing up and down in the open truckbed with the rest of us, gripping the cab's roof with one hand, waving the aiming rod in the other. And he was roaring. We were all roaring.
(Years later, while I was watching The Misfits, that tornado of an event came rushing back to me. Strapped upright behind the cab of a flatbed truck driven by Eli Wallach, filling the big screen, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montegomery Clift are in hot, zigzag pursuit of a string of mustangs. They're flying across a Nevada plateau, waving their lassoes, roaring.)
Our adventure, unfortunately, was short-lived, no sooner started than ended. Adolf, having lost either his curiosity or his nerve, was trotting back to the mess truck. The wild boars had slipped back into the forest. Cajun braked, turned the truck around and drove us back to our midday rations, whose surprise suspension had brought us such savage joy. The reign of habit, routine and tedium resumed. But we remembered the day. We had never seen the KPs so excited. "You must save Adolf!" the shorter one kept crying.
NONE OF IT MINE,
by Robert W. Greene
It's a Friday night in October 1949. We're outside Joseph White Stadium near Franklin Park, where we've just watched two high school football games. We're heading toward Washington Street, to catch the El home at the Green Street station.
Leo M. is strutting along in the group directly ahead of us. He's a trouble-maker from the stretch of the Avenue next to ours. He suddenly whirls around, points at Joe D. in our group, and says to his pals: "See that skinny drink of water? I kicked the shit out of him last week!" He and Joe did square off briefly the week before, but it was broken up before a winner was declared. Joe yells back: "Hey, Leo, want to go at it again right now?" Leo M. accepts.
Joe then turns to me: "Bobby, you've got to change shoes with me. I'm wearing new ones and my mother will kill me if I get them scuffed." I agree. We repair to a side street. They are three, we are four. I'm wearing Joe's shoes, Larry W. is holding his jacket, Jim M. completes our group.
Joe is indeed tall and lean, but also a skilled boxer with a joltingly hard punch. Leo M., short and stocky, seems handy with his dukes. He's cocky, especially at the beginning. (For the opening seconds, they look as evenly matched as Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler, but white and years before those destroyers were born.) Joe is right-handed, but boxes leftie, which confuses his opponent. His right doesn't jab, it clubs, rocks all the way to the toes. Soon, Leo M. is bleeding from the nose, mouth, over the eyes. Joe has barely a scratch on him.
Without warning, one of Leo M.'s buddies jumps Joe. Jim steps in and now there are two fights going on. Leo M.'s ally, a blonde kid from Brighton, is a fancy fighter. Jim is clumsy, but strong and willing to mix it up. Joe and Leo M. are on the ground, exhausted, with Joe on top. Stepping back onto the sidewalk, Leo M.'s remaining buddy signals to Larry and me his intention to stay out of the jam.
Jim and Blondie are slugging away. Blondie's jabs are doing minor damage. One of Jim's left hooks connects and Blondie is staggered backwards against a parked car. An instant later, a siren sounds and a police cruiser, lights flashing, turns into our street. All of us take off. In minutes, we're racing up the stairs of the Green Street El station. Leo M. and his pals emerge on the platform opposite, probably to avoid riding with us. Out of breath, we plop down on a bench and Joe changes shoes with me again. Not skipping a beat, he's on his feet, thumping his maroon-stained shirt with his fist, calling across the tracks: "Hey, Leo, look at the blood! None of it mine!
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