Chapter 01: A Good Boy Acting BadlybySlirpuff©
Chapter #1 A Good Boy Acting Badly
"Stephen's just a good boy acting badly," is how my grandmother used to phrase it talking to my mom. "He doesn't mean to be bad, he just can't help it sometimes." But that never cut it with my dad though.
You see, trouble just seemed to follow me, and always too close for comfort. Like the time we were throwing apples at cars. I threw one and as luck would have it, the guy's window was down and I hit him square in the side of the head. He lost control and drove up my neighbor's lawn just missing the big oak tree in their front yard. Then there was the time, in the winter, when we made a huge ball of snow, rolled it down a hill and into the side of a bus. Much to my dismay, my aunt was just getting off and saw me.
"Stephen, just wait until I tell your mother," she yelled up at me. I was in deep shit now, but that's just the way it went. Hell, I got in trouble even when I was grounded. Something about someone hitting a golf ball through our next-door neighbor's window, I just couldn't win.
I think my last big fiasco was when my two cousins and I were walking down the road by the local business district. We saw a bunch of kids throwing rocks at a row of three green houses.
"Are you guys nuts? If Hank sees what you're doing, he's going to kick your ass," I yelled at them. You see, Hank was the local police chief and was tough as nails. No one, and I do mean no one crossed Hank.
"They're getting ready to tear them down," one of the guys shouted at me. "We're just helping them."
Sounds logical don't it? Well, it did to a ten-year-old boy who never passed up trouble when it stared him in the face. So like any other idiot I picked up a few rocks and decided to help them. Those kids soon left but my cousins and I continued doing our best to help them tear the greenhouses. Even when Hank pulled up and got out of his car, I didn't stop.
"Having fun Steve?" he asked puffing on a Camel straight cigarette.
You see Hank and my dad knew each other pretty well. My dad sold insurance and was always having to deal with Hank because of an accident, house fire and things like that.
"Just helping them tear these buildings down," I told him as I picked up about five rocks and let them fly. The sound of busting glass was like music to my young boy's ears. I saw him go back to his car but didn't pay him a mind because I was having the time of my life.
"Boys, we seem to have a bit of a problem," is how he phrased it.
The next thing I knew the three of us were in the back seat of Hank's police car. I guess he called my dad at work and told him I was in trouble again. All he said when he let me out of the back seat was, "Son I wouldn't want to be in your shoes tonight," he led the three of us into the police station. As I said, nothing but bad luck.
"Afternoon Hank," my dad said greeting him. "What did he do this time?"
"Breaking windows at the greenhouses up on 29th. Said he was told they were going to tear them down. Only problem is, the owner knows nothing about it," he told my dad.
"Get your asses out in the car, and I'll be out in a minute," my dad told the three of us, as Hank and he started talking. Five minutes later he came out. "I told him to throw your ass in jail, but he said all the cells were full. So for the next two weeks you three are going to work for him, is that understood?" we just nodded.
We did whatever crap job Hank could find. To this day, their police cars and fire engines never looked so good and I now know how long it takes to cut a ten-foot square lawn with a pair of scissors, two days. As I said, just bad luck.
How I made it through high school with a 3.0 GPA still amazed my dad. No one in our family had ever gone to college but I wasn't given a choice in the matter. My two sisters graduated from high school and became secretaries but I was the first-born boy and my parents had high expectations for me. My grades were not great, but good enough to secure a year's partial scholarship. I had always wanted to become a history teacher so I picked a college, in Southern Minnesota, that was known as a good teacher's college.
Being away from home, and out from under a disciplinarian of a father was like turning a kid loose in a candy store. My first quarter was a disaster. I ended up with a 'C' average. I had gotten a 'D in English Composition but luckily I had eked out a 'B' in Math or I'd been in deep shit.
My dad didn't even yell at me when he saw my report card, which shocked the hell out of me.
"I'm disappointed, I thought you'd do better," was all he said, but that hurt more than any yelling he would have done.
It took me the next two quarters to get my GPA to an acceptable level, but after spring quarter, it no longer mattered. I was out of money and unless I got a school loan, I wouldn't be going back in the fall.
I work all summer with an air conditioning installation company. Even in Minnesota, caulking the duck work on rooftops was a hot and messy job. Since I was the low man on the totem pole, I got all the shit jobs, from busting holes in concrete walls for ductwork, to cleaning up and sweeping the job sites.
In May my sister and I had purchased a car together. A 1963 Chevy Impala Super Sport. It was a kelly green metal flake two door, with a mint interior except for a radio that never really worked. My brother-in-law, Tony, was a mechanical genus and always made sure the car was tuned to perfection, squeezing out ever ounce of horsepower he could. He had raced cars prior to going in the Navy and could take an engine apart and put it back together blind folded. It had a 327 cubic inch engine that turned out 350 horses. In other words, that puppy could fly, which put me at odds with my dad when I went to get car insurance.
You see my dad managed his family's insurance agency. Ever since I could remember my dad would lecture us about 'teenage drivers' getting speeding tickets, accidents and having to cancel their parents insurance policy because of it.
I still remember the day I passed my drivers license test. I missed two questions on the written test and almost maxed the driving test. I came out beaming, drivers license in hand an a huge smile on my face. It was then I got my first reality check.
"Just because you have a license doesn't mean I'm going to let you drive," he told me. Somewhere in the back of my brain I heard a bubble burst. We had one car a 1964 Ford Galaxy station wagon. I would run errands for my mother, and take anyone anywhere just to log a mile here or there.
My big break came after six months when my dad finally gave me permission to take his car to our high school fall dance. I took my girl friend, Pat, and thought I was hot shit, even though it was just my parent's station wagon. My world came to an end when we came out after the dance.
Someone had scratched the entire length of the car on the passenger side. I was speechless and felt as low as whale shit. All I knew was that I was dead meat when my dad saw it. I dropped off my date and rushed home, I guess a little too fast.
The red lights in my rear view mirror only added to my nightmare. I tried to explain that I was only rushing home to tell my dad about his car but the cop didn't care. He just saw it as another teenage boy speeding around in daddy's car and added a speeding ticket to my all ready heavy load.
I came into the kitchen and my mom was there to greet me.
"How was the dance?"
"Great until I got out." I then told her about dad's car and the ticket.
Her face turned white. "Don't tell him until tomorrow maybe we can figure something out," she told me.
I knew my dad was going to be pissed and there was no use waiting until tomorrow for the explosion. I walked into the living room, where he was watching TV, and stood in front of his chair.
"Someone hit your car in the parking lot at the school dance and I got a speeding ticket on the way home to tell you," I said as I handed him my ticket and waited for his reaction. There was none.
"We'll talk tomorrow," was all he said.
I went back to the kitchen and told mom what he'd said.
"Maybe it won't be as bad as you think," she said. "Go to bed, you can't do anything about it tonight," she said giving me a kiss on the cheek.
My brother, Dan, thought it was a scream when I told him what happened. "Guess I'll have my own room soon after dad kills you and buries your body in the back yard.
"Very funny," I said hitting him with a pillow. My dad wasn't a violent person, aside from tanning our hide when we were little; none of us had ever done anything quite this bad before, especially to his pride and joy.
The next morning my mom told me that dad went out to look at the car after I went to bed. He came in shaking his head and said he wasn't mad about the car saying it was an accident but was angry about the speeding ticket because it was something I had control over. That was my dad all right, never gave an inch.
Insurance would have paid for the scratch, but he never filed a claim, he had other ideas. It took me four months of carrying golf clubs, cutting laws and raking leaves to make enough money to pay to get that damn scratch fixed but when it was repaired, I never drove that car again unless I absolutely had to.
I knew my dad was a hard ass but I never knew just how tough he truly was until many years later. You see my dad enlisted with his five other brothers when World War II started. He was only 17 at the time. He dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. I guess somewhere between home and after boot camp about 100 men were lined up. The way it was told to me, the Captain walked down the line and every fifth man was told he was being assigned to a marine unit. That's how he became an assistant medic. However, he was given a combat promotion when the medic he was assisting was shot and killed.
My dad spent the next three years doing things he would never talk about. The one thing he did tell me was about when his troop transport was torpedoed and sank in the English Channel. They were instructed to put on their helmets, grab their life jackets and jump. The way my dad tells it, he and a few guys put on their life jackets, tossed their helmets over board and jumped over the side.
A lot of the men were killed because their helmets almost ripped off their damn heads when they hit the water. And a lot of the men hit the water, without their life jackets on, and died when they never surfaced. My dad did survive and went on to successfully raise his ten children; but he sure wasn't easy on us growing up.
I can remember having a beer with him on his 70th birthday on the back deck of his house.
"You know dad, you really were a bastard when we were growing up," I said taking a long drink of my beer.
"And your point?" he said looking at me. "Think about it, there were ten of you and only your mom and I. If I didn't rule with an iron fist, where would we have been?" he said finishing his beer and lighting up a cigarette. "You're all grown up, married and no one went to jail; I think I did a pretty good job." Cancer killed him a few short years later.
The one thing that really stuck with me though, was something he said when I was having a problem with a chemistry class in college. I was about ready to drop it when my dad asked me why?
"I just can't get it," I told him.
"Can't? I don't understand what's the problem?"
I told him again, "I can't do the damn work," I told him.
"What if your life depended on it? What if you would die unless you passed that class? Would you still say I can't do it? Son, there is no such word as can't. If you want it bad enough, there's always a way," and you know he was right.
Which brings me to why I enlisted in the Marines. As I said, my family was poor and with the car and all my other expenses, I was way short money for school in the fall. I had basically two options. One, take out a loan for school, which I probably wouldn't have even gotten because banks don't loan money to people who need it, only to those who can afford it. Or two, enlist and finish college on the G.I. Bill.
So without telling anyone, Monday John and I went down to military row. It was a federal building downtown that had recruiters from all branches of the armed services. We started with the Air force, four years and no active reserve. Next came the Navy, three or four years and one year active reserve. There was no Coast Guard in Minnesota, which left the Army and the Marines. Both had two-year enlistments without any active reserves. The Army didn't appeal to me and the Marines had a buddy plan. You go in with a "buddy" and the two of you stay together all the way through training, I really liked that idea. I asked where basic training would be, and was told San Diego, California.
I signed on the dotted line and much to my surprise so did John, why I didn't have a clue. John's dad was a dentist and his family had money and could easily afford any college he wanted to attend.
"John, what the hell are you doing?" I asked.
"You don't think I'm going to let you go it alone do you?" he told me. "Anyway, it'll be a walk in the park, and I've never seen California before."
We made an agreement not to tell anyone which lasted a total of six hours. I was having dinner with my family when my dad answered the telephone in the other room. He came back to the table, sat down, and looked at me.
"You want to tell your mother what stupid thing you did today?"
After dinner, I spent the next two hours explaining myself while my dad and mother grilled me.
"You're going back tomorrow and tell them that you've changed your mind," my mother insisted.
"Son, I spent three years in the Marines, they're all nuts," my dad added. "You've got school in the fall, how about that?" he asked.
"I don't have the money and you sure as hell don't either. When I get out I can finish college on the G.I. Bill, and will only have to work part time for spending money," I told them. "Besides, I'm not sure I want to be a teacher anymore."
As I said, we went back and forth for two hours before they told me that they would back me on anything I decided but not happily.
"Does Ann know what you're planning?" my mom asked.
Ann, let me tell you about Ann. At 5'9", long brown hair she made a statement when she walked into a room. Tall, slim, good looking and a killer ass; she had it all. And I had her, she was my girl. How did this happen? I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.
I met her at one of the local drive-in hangouts, and we started talking. She was dating a popular guy who was a real ass. Buddy came from a rich family, had a new car, and was good-looking and completely full of himself. In my high school, he was a jock, and one of the 'beautiful people' you know the kind. When Ann dumped him everyone, including me, was shocked. During the summer we saw a lot of each other and even hung out in the same group. We finally double dated with my buddy John and his girl Jenny.
It was nothing more than a drive-in movie, with some food thrown in, but it was our start. We made-out but she'd all ready pre-warned me to watch my hands so I was the perfect gentleman, which really sucked.
We dated, became close and one day, while her parents were at work, did the big nasty in her bedroom. I prayed that the condom that I'd been carrying around with me for the last three months wouldn't break and thank God it didn't. I shot off way too early and ended up having to climax her by hand. It was another three days before I had the chance to redeem myself with her. This time I brought three condoms.
That night I jacked off in the shower before picking her up for our date. I figured that this way I might last a bit longer. We went to the drive-in and spent the night in the backseat of my car under the blanket. We'd become more than an item by then.
I never did tell her before I enlisted but figured it was bound to come up, like when I got on the plane to boot camp.
"Ann, I've got something I need to talked to you about," is how I started it.
All right, I was wrong if I thought she would understand as I was taken to task about what a stupid thing I'd done. She didn't buy my story about going to school on the G.I. Bill when I got out and asked me if I expected her to wait around for my sorry ass.
"I was kind of hoping you would," I said rather sheepishly.
"How long do you plan on being gone for?"
"I'll be gone for about five to six months for boot camp and then get a two week leave. I'll have to go back for some type of schooling and finally be stationed somewhere over here," I said sounding like it would be a walk in the park.
"How about if they send your stupid ass to Viet Nam?"
"Babes, only the grunts go over there. I've got way too many smarts for them to do that to me. Look, they'll probably station me somewhere in California. I can either fly home or you can come out to see me; it'll be something like a mini-vacation," I said smiling. "Anyway, it's only for two years. Then I'll be back in college and it'll still be the two of us," I said kissing her. Whatever I said, it worked because she said she would wait for me. We sealed our commitment to one another in the back seat of my car.
Life was still good at least for the moment, but that was soon to change.
I'll never forget a morning during my first week of boot camp. It was about five-thirty and still dark as our platoon stood in the cool and damp California air waiting for our turn to go into the mess hall. In the distance I could see the lights from the homes on the hillside and the glow from what must have been San Diego. My buddy John was standing next to me and hit my arm to get my attention.
"We fucked up this time didn't we," he whispered. "I think that asshole is trying to kill us," he said a little louder as our drill instructor yelled for everyone to shut the fuck up or there would be no breakfast.
"Just remember, they can't kill us," I said softly to him. Well, I hoped anyway.
To understand what was bouncing around in my head maybe I should introduce myself and tell you how I got myself where I am. You see my name is Corporal Steve K., First Marine Division, Alpha Company, currently serving my first tour in the beautiful Republic of Viet Nam. I would tell you my last name, but I don't need the publicity, if you know what I mean. Let's just say it has way too many vowels and consonants to make it easy to pronounce. I found that out the hard way, the first day of boot camp.
Our Drill Instructor was doing our first roll call and when he got to my name he butchered it two or three times before he yelled out.
"Puke, you know who you are, get your ass up here right now."
Sheepishly I stood up, and went up to the front of the platoon. I told him how to pronounce my name, as everyone looked on.
"Son, I'm going to remember your ass," he proceeded to tell me. And he did, all the way through boot camp.
A couple of college buddies had gone into the Marine Reserves instead of going into the regulars. They figured that being a weekend warrior was a lot safer than going into the service full time. They came home, after boot camp, and told the rest of us how tough it had been.
"Bull shit," my buddy John told them. "You guys are just a bunch of pusses. Shit man, I would have breezed through it. Hell, they couldn't have done half the crap that you're feeding us; if they had, they would have been thrown in the brig," he laughed.
Jim and Craig, the two who had just returned from boot camp, told John he didn't know squat and that he wouldn't have last a week. That my friend was the wrong thing to say to John.
Boot camp in 1968 was designed to do four simple tasks. First, was to get the recruit in the best physical shape of his life. Second, was to get a group of strangers to work together in one cohesive unit, i.e. the platoon. Third, was to indoctrinate the recruit, to obey any, and all orders from a superior without question or hesitation. Finally, was to turn a civilian into a professional fighter, who could take care of himself in any situation and kill on command.