Thursday, May 13, 2021

JOE, Part 1 of 2 Parts blog post #497

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Lot of hits on my short story last week, but no comments. Come on, I’ll bet some of you have run into a situation such as in “Gwendolyn.” Fess up.

 This week, we’ll try a two-parter. Needs no introduction, so let’s get to it.



“What did you say, Corporal?”

Jozef Zazluski, at rigid attention, stared into the eyes of the second lieutenant standing directly in front of him. He was a good-looking dude, but Joe could tell the man was a cold fish. Which made his next words sound strange. “I said I’d appreciate it, sir, if you didn’t get a hard-on while talking to me.”

Lieutenant Saunders’s face grew mottled. “What?”

“Either you’re unusually endowed, sir, or—”

“That’s enough. Are you looking for disciplinary action?”

“Well, sir, seems like that’s what I’m calling for. A little self-discipline would be welcome, especially when I’m around.”

The lieutenant went full blood-red. “Dismissed. Now get out of my sight.”

“What about my—”

“I said outa here, Corporal. Now!”

Joe threw a lazy salute and broke for the door, barely able to hide a grin. The butter bar had showed up about a month ago, and since that time, Corporal Jozef P. Zazluski—namely him—had pulled more special duty than he had in the last six months. And they all involved doing something for the new platoon commander. It was getting tiresome. For some unknown reason, he was either on the lieutenant’s shit list or his hit list. Either way, Joe figured he might as well bring it to a head. If it was the former, maybe he could piss the CO off enough to transfer him out. If it was the latter, he’d cut to the chase instead of pussyfooting around for another six months.

Joe knew he was an attractive man. Enough women—and a few guys—had made that clear. Six feet, flat-bellied and broad shouldered, he had dark Slavic eyes, a good, strong Irish chin, and dark wavy hair that was hard to tame. He’d learned early on that his looks attracted the women, but he’d been in boot camp at El Paso before he learned they drew some men too. He knew the delights of the distaff side, but he was a year into his enlistment on a three-day pass to Monterrey with a buddy before learning other side provided its moments, as well. And if he hadn’t been loosey-goosey from the booze, he’d have never learned that. Ah well, to hell with the lieutenant.


He was sick of training recruits by the time Friday rolled around. He could hardly wait until they delivered the platoon back to the barracks. He had the weekend off.

At midmorning smoke break, his sergeant bellowed for him.

“Yo, Sarge.”

“Go pack a bag—Class A’s, enough for two nights—and report to company headquarters. Lieutenant Saunders needs a driver.”

“Aw, Sarge. I’ve got the weekend off.”

“Tough. The shavetail asked for you by name and rank—forgot the serial number, I guess.” The noncom laughed at his own humor.

Half an hour later, Jo spotted the lieutenant standing beside the newly washed Humvee he’d apparently requisitioned for the trip. As soon as he spotted Joe, the officer glanced at his watch before crawling in the front passenger’s seat of the vehicle.

Joe threw his bag in the back and got behind the wheel. “What’s up, sir?”

“Gotta go up to Sacramento. Have to deliver some papers to some senator’s office.”

“Papers to a state senator? And we gotta hand-deliver them?”

The lieutenant’s blue eyes flashed. “Ours not to reason why, Corporal. Besides, this a US senator’s office. She has an office in Sacramento.”

“So we’ll be back tomorrow night?”

“No. The papers are for some meeting. Have to wait and haul back an official reply. Won’t get that until Monday. Don’t worry about your recruits.” Saunders handed him a sheet of paper. “You’re on TDY. Somebody else will play nursemaid.”

Joe threw the vehicle into gear and fed the engine gas. Didn’t sound kosher. What was the baby-faced officer up to?

The trip didn’t take that long, but maneuvering city traffic to reach the senator’s office did. He found a spot in the building’s parking lot.

“Wait here,” Saunders ordered. “I’ll go find the right office and deliver the papers. I don’t have any idea how long I’ll be gone.”

“Not long, I don’t expect,” Joe said. “They’ll be closed by now.”

“Waiting for us.” The tone was clipped, but at least it was talk. They hadn’t said two words on the drive up.

Joe was sacked out in the driver’s seat when Saunders returned two hours later. The lieutenant got in and directed him to a nearby hotel. Twenty minutes later, they opened the door to a large, airy room with two queen-sized beds. Bunking together? Now it really sounded fishy.

The lieutenant selected the bed closest to the door, leaving the other one for Joe. After stowing their things, the lieutenant faced him.

“I’m gonna go grab a bite to eat. You wanna join me?”

Maybe the butter bar would pick up the check. Jo shrugged. “Sure, why not.”

Joe knew he’d made the right decision when the waiter delivered a New York cut with all the trimmings. Saunders had a seafood plate. Talk was desultory, mostly about how Joe thought the new class of recruits were shaping up. About the meeting they’d delivered papers for, the officer claimed to know nothing. As they pushed away their plates, Joe was gratified to see Saunders accept the check. After he studied the tab and pulled out his billfold, the officer looked at him.

“Okay, you’re off duty. I have to hold myself available in case the senator has a question, but otherwise, we’re free. I’m to pick up the papers Monday morning at eleven. There’s a pretty good bar called Morry’s out the door to your left about a block. Uh, don’t bring back any unexpected company.”

“How come you know about bars here?”

“I grew up in Sacramento. I know the area pretty well. You should probably be at the hotel by noon. Don’t know if we’ll get a call from the senator’s aide or not, but better safe than sorry.”

“You’re not going to the bar?

“Nope. Going to the room. I have some calls to make. Then I’m turning in. Don’t make a racket when you come in.”

“No, sir.”

Morry’s was a pleasant place, a little upscale from what Joe was accustomed to, but all right. There were a couple of women available for a chat, but his heart wasn’t into playing games. It took him half the evening to figure out why. What was Saunders up to? The guy had asked for Joe by name, but just cut him loose as soon as the official stuff was over. Well before his usual time and only halfway to his expected high, Jo bailed and headed for the hotel.

The lights were off when he entered the room, but Saunders was there, lying on his side in bed, sleeping. Or pretending to sleep. What the hell? It didn’t make sense that he was on the lieutenant’s shit list. The guy wouldn’t have sprung for a pricey steak in a posh hotel. And if Joe was on the “hit” list, the guy was sure playing it cool.  Fuck it. He’d just clean up, go to bed, and get a good night’s sleep.

As he stood in the shower and relaxed under the warm spray, Joe halfway expected the bathroom door to open. But it hadn’t by the time he was dried off. Saunders still lay sill and soundless in his fancy bunk. Joe pulled on a fresh pair of shorts and slid between the covers of his own bed. But sleep refused to come. He drifted between wakefulness and slumber for half the night expecting … expecting what? Hell, that was the problem. He didn’t know.


Indeed, what is the baby-faced, butter bar officer up to? I think he’s managing to get under Joe’s skin, don’t you.

 We’ll find out next week.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

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Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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