Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Victim Of Lust? Part 3

I always would laugh at Wile E. Coyote when he would run off a cliff while chasing the Roadrunner. The Coyote would be suspended in mid air, defying gravity, until he realized where he was, often raising a sign that said something like "help" before gravity would suddenly work again, punctuated by a little "poof!" in a donut shaped cloud of dust when he came crashing to the ground.

I always thought that was impossible but it was fun to watch, especially since the Coyote never died. Personally, I always liked the cut of Coyotes jib.
I mean, he never quit tryin', no matter how many times he failed, which was every time.
Usually, he failed due to lack of insight, i.e. not thinkin' about the possible consequences of his seemingly brilliant plans.

Much like those stinkin' hippies who prefer Socialism over Liberty, I thought. Except Wile E. didn't try to force everyone else to try his plans.

Other times it was equipment failure, or a malfunction, which made me wonder why the Coyote kept ordering stuff from Acme.

Yeah, I often find that there's a shipload of wisdom in Looney Tunes if you know where to look. Looney Tunes philosophy I reckon you could call it.
If anything it was a helluva lot more entertaining than Sesame Street or some other crappy politically correct show tryin' to brainwash kids with useless dreck, or worse, harmful dreck.

I was thinkin' of this when my sweaty arm slipped from Rick's grasp after a gust of wind threw him off balance, it felt like I was suspended in mid air. Just like the Coyote! Except I didn't have a sign sayin' "oh sh*t!" to hold up. And I was purty sure there wasn't gonna be a humorous "poof!" donut cloud to accentuate this particular scene.

This is gonna hurt, I thought, as the wind furiously swirled and dug at me, it's roar hurting my ears.

F*ck you, I thought in defiance of the wind that, at that moment, seemed to embody the very essence of evil I had always hated.

I thought of God. God, please help me, I muttered. I didn't expect His help but I asked anyway. I was ashamed to ask, but I didn't hesitate to do so.
Almost at the same time I asked for His forgiveness.
Probably just coverin' my bases but I did wanna be sincere.

I flailed my arms tryin' to find somethin' to grab ahold of, but so far all I could grab was a wholelotta nothin'.
I was completely helpless. The thing I most feared. Not fallin', not even bein' blind, but bein' completely helpless.

Now I could finally feel gravity pullin' on me...beckoning me to my decktiny. Cold, hard, steel!

Whatcha gonna do now, tough guy? You can't fight this. I wasn't sure if that was my thoughts, 'cause I was determined to die tryin' to live!
Perhaps I was just kiddin' myself and it meant absolutely nothin', but I didn't care. It was better than giving in to complete helplessness and utter despair.

Call me a fool but I hadta believe there was a Hope that meant infinitely more than whether I lived or died.
Somehow that was reassuring, even though it made little sense.

I found myself, amazed that I could think of all this in what must've been a fraction of a second. I was more amazed I could feel with certainty a living Hope, alive! within me.

As the wind roared in victory, mocking me, I felt a tremendous tug. Suddenly, I was moving horizontally! Was the wind tryin' to bash me into the mast for good measure? I wondered.

Then I landed. But instead of cold, hard, steel I landed on somethin' much softer.

What the hell? I wondered.

"Oof!!" I heard Rick say, feeling his breath on my face.

I could barely make out Rick's face, and I realized I was on top of him.

"Rick!" I shouted. A laugh escaping my lips.

"Rick!" I shouted again.

"Hey pal," Rick said weakly, tryin' to catch his breath.

Rick was a bit on the pudgy side, and always called himself fat, but he was only around 20 pounds over weight, and much stronger and faster than he appeared. He was also an adept martial artist, although he was too humble to ever brag about it.

"Oh man! I thought I had a one way ticket to steelville!" I exclaimed. "Thanks Rick!"

"Yeah, no sweat," Rick grunted weakly. "How's your eyes?"

I rubbed my eyes with my hands and began to see better, although not yet in focus.

"Much better. Still some haze gray and rust in 'em, but I can see well enough," I said.

"Good. Good. Do you think you can get off me now?" Rick asked, tryin' to breathe.

"Hey! What are you guys doing up there?" I heard someone shouting.

I looked down but I couldn't quite make out who it was. I could tell he was wearin' khaki's, and then I could place his voice.

"Sh*t! It's Lt. Goebbel, I think," I whispered to Rick.

"Great," Rick said. "That's just great."

I grabbed the mast and slowly stood up on precarious footing, since there was only a few inches of platform to stand on. My eyes were still too blurry to see where to clasp my safety line from the harness so I just clung onto the mast.

"Sorry Rick, I can't see well enough to go any farther," I said.

"Okay, don't move," Rick replied, dragging himself away from me so he could stand up and reclasp his safety line.

Soon he reached me and reclasped my line.

"How did you save me, Rick?" I asked, ignoring the LT's shouts for the moment.

"When your arm slipped out I grabbed your belt and fell backwards,"
Rick replied. "Actually, I think I tripped," he added.

"Let's go with the first version," I said, laughing.

"Sounds good to me," Rick said, laughing.

"Be there in a minute, sir!" Rick shouted to Lt. Goebbel.

"Can you see well enough to get down?" Rick asked.

"No, but if you can bring me some water I think I can get more of this crap outta my eyes," I replied.

Now that the excitement was fading, my eyes burned like hell and my tears were gushing out.

"Okay, be back in a jiff. Don't move, okay?" Rick said.

"Trust me, i ain't goin' anywhere," I said, rubbing my eyes again.

"Rick?" I asked as he was about to descend.

"Yeah?" Rick replied.

"Thanks,," I said, tryin' not to choke but failing miserably.

"Anytime, Ben. You would do the same for me," Rick said, patting me on the back.

"I'm waiting for an explanation!" Lt. Goebbel shouted.

"What a dick!" Rick said.

"F*ckin' a!" I replied. "What are you gonna tell him?" I asked, composing myself.

"That we're in love," Rick said, laughing.

I laughed for a long time at that.

Later, Rick returned with some water. By this time, most of the paint was out of my eyes, which had turned blood red from all the irritation.

"Damn, you look creepy with those bloody eyes," Rick said. "It's kind of cool though."

"Thanks, unfortunately I got nothin' that goes with them," I replied, smiling. "Can I borrow your cape?"

"Sure thing, and you'll need some fangs," Rick replied, laughing.

"I'm sure Lt. Goebbel has an extra pair," I said, laughing.

"I bet!" Rick said, laughing. "You know, I told him the wind knocked us down but I don't think he believed me," he added.

"Hey! Ben! Rick!" Someone shouted.

I looked down and most of the blurriness was gone. It was Tom. Tom worked with us in the same division, but he was an OS3, a petty officer third class, so he didn't do as much of the dirty work as we did.

"What!?" Rick shouted back.

"Chief wants to see you guys!" Tom shouted. "He said, yesterday!"

"Sh*t!" I said, at the same time Rick did.

"Okay! We're on our way!" Rick shouted.

"F*ckin' Goebbel," I grumbled.

"He's got some serious issues," Rick said.

We hustled to Combat and found Chief sittin' at his desk. We both approached and stood on the opposite side of his desk.
There was five other guys from our division in Combat at the time and they all watched us intently, hoping to catch some juicy scuttlebutt.

"Have a seat," Chief said. "Alright, everybody out!" Chief ordered.

The other guys left, a look of disappointment etched on their faces.
Of course, this only heightened the suspense. Those guys knew somethin' was up and I knew Rick and me would be bombarded with questions later.

"Good Lord! What happened to you Conrad?" Chief asked, gettin' up and lookin' at my eyes.

"Seagull attack, Chief," I muttered.

Rick choked back a laugh, and turned beet red.

"Okay wiseguy, what really happened," Chief said, smiling.

"I was chippin' paint and the wind changed direction and blew it into my eyes," I replied.

"Did it occur to you that maybe, just maybe there is a reason you were issued goggles?" Chief asked.

"It does now," I replied.

Rick choked again and I almost lost it. Chief's face twitched but he maintained his composure.

"Okay, listen up you clowns, Lt. Goebbel tells me he saw you both in a..," Chief paused, shaking his head side to side, pondering what word to use. "Compromising position."

"We can explain!" Rick exclaimed.

"Please do," Chief replied, sitting back and lighting a cigar.

"The wind kicked up really hard and knocked us down," I said.

Rick nodded in agreement.

Chief puffed on his cigar and blew a few smoke rings, and stared straight into my eyes, then he stared at Rick.

"You," Chief said, pointing at Rick, "are not telling me everything. And you," Chief said, pointing at me, "well, I don't know. Your eyes are too f*ckin' red and you look ridiculous," Chief said, smiling.

"Now," Chief said, after a long, uncomfortable pause, "I'm certain you guys are not...playing for the other team, but don't bullsh*t me!" Chief shouted.

"Sorry Chief!" We both replied at the same time.

"I can explain, Chief," I said, looking at his cigar.

"I'm all ears," Chief replied. "And yes, you can smoke."

Rick and me nervously lit up a cigarette. After a long drag I decided to play it straight. In a manner of speaking.

I told Chief the whole story and how Rick saved my life.

"Rick deserves a medal, Chief," I added.

"I just did what anyone would do," Rick said. Chief, I told Lt. Goebbel the wind blew us down."

Chief looked at us both and blew more smoke rings. Then he drank some coffee from his mug and scowled.

"Damn it! What do I gotta do to get some decent java around here? Conrad, from now on you make the coffee. This ain't very good coffee by a longshot but at least you know how to make it."

"Aye aye, Chief!" I replied.

"Here," Chief said, handing us both a cigar. "Looks like you both can use one. Don't worry about the Lt. I'll handle him and nip this in the bud real quick."

"Thanks Chief!" Rick said.

"Thanks Chief!" I echoed.

"Now, please, after you finish those cigars get back to work and try not to act like the Three Stooges, okay?" Chief asked.
"Conrad, first go get those eyes checked out by the doc. That's not a request," Chief added.

"Can I finish the cigar first?" I asked.

"Why I oughtta...!" Chief exclaimed, shaking a fist and smiling.

After I Rick and I finished our cigars I went to sickbay and waited in line.

"What the hell happened to you?" A seaman in front of me asked.

I didn't know him but I recognized his face. He was one of the cooks.

"Seagull attack," I said matter of factly.

"No way! Really?" He asked.

"I sh*t you not. Seagull attacks are well documented," I said, ominously.

They attack women.

They have even been known to attack baseball players.

Seagulls are evil. EVIL!

"You see, I was workin' on the mast when it happened," I began.

Hey, what can I say? It was fun to start some scuttlebutt.

After a half hour wait I saw Doc, a first class corpsman.

"You the guy who was attacked by seagulls?" Doc asked, laughin'.

"Yep! It was hell!" I replied, as he shined a light into both my eyes.

"I told Peppers it was true," Doc said, still laughin'. "You should've seen his eyes."

"Thanks Doc," I said, laughing.

"What really happened?" Doc asked.

"I was workin' on the mast and the wind changed direction," I replied.

"Betcha wear goggles now," Doc said.

"And you'll win that bet," I replied.

"Let me flush out those eyes and you should be good to go," Doc said, flushing my eyes out.

"Try not to rub them, and use these drops," Doc said, handing me a bottle.

"Much obliged, Doc," I said.

"Do you want a light duty chit?" Doc asked.

"No. Why?" I asked.

"Glad to see you aren't a hypochondriac. Your eyes are going to burn, itch, and get blurry sometimes, so just be careful. Get back here if you have any problems at all. I mean it, don't mess around and put it off. I do want to see you in two days regardless, just to make sure everything is kosher," Doc said. "and watch out for those seagulls," he said, laughing.

After work I took a shower and got ready to hit my rack. I was beat.

As I was putting things away Carl showed up.

"Hurry up, man, we got a party to go to!" Carl exclaimed.

Sh*t, I thought. I had forgotten about it. I was about to tell Carl I wasn't up to it but he spoke first.

"Free beer and drinks," Carl said, perhaps sensing what I was gonna say.

"You had me at free beer," I said, quickly getting dressed.

This may sound like sacrilege, but sometimes free beer ain't worth it. This was one of them times.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Hi guys!

Sorry about the delay but I've been busy and I feel like this:

Which is frustratin' to say the least:

But if your gonna put a gun to my head:

Then I should have more free time the next few days, which means I can take a muscle relaxer and get some anything-but-serious storytellin' done.

Thank you for yer patience n' patronage. Skully will now pass out...well, not literally pass out...yet...but pass out as in give y'all a complimentary virtual grog. The good stuff! :^)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Victim Of Lust? Part Two

I didn't see Carl for a few days after confiding in him. He had duty the following day and I had duty the day after that so I was kind of relieved.

Maybe, just maybe he was too drunk to remember what I told him, I thought.
The fact that no one was laughin' at me was a good sign, whether Carl remembered or not, I reasoned, tryin' to shake the feelin' of dread that had grown within me since that night.

I couldn't put my finger on why I had this feelin'. If Carl told everyone I was a virgin I was certain I would never hear the end of it. I would be the butt of every joke, ridiculed beyond comprehension, humiliated past all endurance.

So why the feelin' of dread? I wondered. Maybe I'm just gettin' paranoid, I thought, tryin to sweep this feelin' off the grid.
Unfortunately, it didn't budge. It mocked me, daring me to just try to compartmentalize it and forget about it.

Damn! I thought. It wasn't like me to get all worked up over speculations based on a feelin'. There was no evidence that Carl ratted me out. Besides, I'm purty sure he don't want me spillin' the Navy beans about him havin' only one ball.

Maybe it's somethin' else I'm uptight about, I mused. Maybe I'm just blamin' this feelin' on the only thing I could associate it with at the moment.
Whatever it was that was buggin' me, be it dread, impending doom, or all four horsemen of the apocalypse, I had to carry on. I couldn't ignore this, but at the same time I couldn't allow it to paralyze me.

I muttered a quick prayer, somethin' I seemed to be doin' a lot less of than I used to do. Guilt soon followed that thought.
I couldn't exactly articulate why I was prayin' less than I used to, or why my faith in God seemed to be dwindling.
However, I was acutely aware of it.

I had often pondered why this was. Nothin' seemed to be goin' my way. I couldn't catch a break. I couldn't do the job I was trained for. Instead, it was an endless stream of grinding and chipping paint and rust, and repainting. Cleaning the ship several times a day.
Every day, twelve hours a day, with a duty day every third day.

And duty days meant more, much more than just twelve hours of work. It also meant a four hour quarterdeck watch, and probably a four hour firewatch, and drills thrown in for good measure.

It all seemed unfair to me. Yeah, welcome to the real world, I thought, sarcastically. Where's God in all this? I wondered for the upteenth time. I'm sorry. It's not your fault.

I used to get angry at God, but that anger quickly turned inward.
Then I had a dark realization, or at least it seemed real at the time.
I didn't deserve God's love. Somehow, that made sense and I was no longer angry at Him. It explained why I could no longer feel His presence, and it explained all the unanswered prayers.
No, I was alone. I deserved to be alone. Hell, even I didn't like me.

After awhile I just tried to forget about it...about God...avoid thinkin' about spiritual stuff at all costs. It hurt too damn much. So I partied. I drank, then I drank some more. I worked hard and I played hard.
No, that's not it, I worked hard so I could play harder. That's what I lived for. Like that song Against The Wind: I was livin' to run and runnin' to live...never worried about pain...

Ah, f*ck it, I thought. I always get depressed when I think about this sh*t. All serious and meloncholy. F*ck that. Too much thinkin' just brings me down. Time to party!

And yet, even in this sorry state of mind (mindlessness actually) I somehow managed to keep my sense of humor. Which is a good thing because it kept me from falling off the edge, so to speak.
Good thing, too, because soon, I was gonna need all that humor and then some.

"Hey Ben! Whassup?"

"Hi Carl," I replied, gettin' ready to climb the mast for another grueling session of chipping paint and hand.

More fun than a barrel of rabid monkeys, I thought.

"Not much. Thought I would climb the mast and hang around up there for awhile. There's a nice breeze up there," I repled.
"What are you up to?" I asked.

"Gotta repaint the signal bridge, if Bernie ever gets back with the paint. Hey, a friend of mine is having a party tonight, wanna go?" Carl asked.

"I dunno. I was thinkin' of shootin' some pool," I said.

Besides, I don't even know his friend, I thought, or where the nearest bus stop is or the times it runs.

"There'll be free beer," Carl said, with a gleam in his eyes.

"Okay you twisted my arm," I replied, laughin' as I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

"Cool! I'll meet you in the compartment after work then," Carl said, sporting a mischievious smile.

I was about to ask Carl what he wasn't tellin' me when I spied our division officer headin' my way.

"I'll be there," I said. "I better get to climbing. Lt. Goebal is headin' this way. See ya later, Carl."

"Right on," Carl said with that sh*t eatin' grin still plastered on his ugly puss.

Somethin' was definitely up, I thought. Oh well, as long as there's free beer it didn't matter all that much.

I quickly climbed the mast until I got to the top. Then I got to the very edge of the wooden platform that was temporarily put in place and hooked up my safety harness.
My friend Rick was up there on the other side. We were both in the same division.

"Hiya Ben!" Rick said, a bit louder than usual because of the wind.

"'Sup Rick?" I replied.

"We are," Rick said, lookin' down. Rick wasn't a big fan of heights. He wasn't terrified, he just didn't like it.

As a kid I was always climbing trees, particularly douglas fir trees and I always climbed to the top. I loved heights. I had some close calls via broken branches too, but that didn't deter me from climbing.

When a branch did break I somehow I always caught another branch to keep me from decorating the forest floor with my remains.
I didn't look for that to happen. I mean, I wasn't some adrenaline junkie who purposely sought to fall for the thrill of it.
It scared the hell outta me whenever it happened. Just not enough to give up climbing.

But there was no branches here. If I had a mistep when the safety harness wasn't attached they would be scraping whatever would be left of me off a steel deck.

"This sure would be a bad time to have an earthquake," I said.

"Don't even say that!" Rick shouted over the wind which had gotten more blustery.

"Okay, I won't say it," I replied, laughing.

After awhile I noticed there was some areas of the mast I couldn't reach without unhooking my safety harness. I unhooked it, grabbed the arm and leaned out to chip the paint and rust.

"What the hell are you doin'?" Rick shouted.

"Chippin' paint!" I shouted back, the wind gusting so hard the paint chips flew right into my eyes.

"Damn it!" I shouted, virtually blind. "I can't see!"

"Don't even think about messing with me right now," Rick said.

The wind gusted again and I almost lost my grip.

"F*ck!" I shouted, tryin' to control the overwhelming sense of panic I felt rising up within me.

I gritted my teeth and tried to pull myself back but my grip was precarious so I stopped.

"Is there anyone down there Rick?" I asked, the wind ripping the words from my mouth before they could escape.

"What? Sh*t, you're serious! Hang on, Ben, I'm on my way!" Rick shouted.

"I said, is there anyone down there?!" I shouted as loud as I could.

"What? No! No one's there!" Rick shouted.

I dropped my hammer, freeing up that hand. But my position was so precarious it didn't help much. I felt for where I had been chipping, and found the arm. I gripped it as tight as I could stabilizing myself somewhat.

"Hold on Ben!" Rick shouted, getting closer.

"Good advice," I muttered, tryin' to wipe my eyes on my shoulder as the wind roared about me.

It seemed to take an hour for Rick to get near me, but it was only a few minutes.

"How are you holding up, Ben?" Rick asked.

"You ever notice these harnesses ride up yer ass?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh, yeah! Drives me nuts!" Rick replied, laughing.
"Crap! I can't reach you without unhooking my harness!" Rick said.

"Don't try it, Rick. Go get some help. I'll wait," I said.

"That won't make a difference. Someone still has to go out there to help you," Rick said.

I heard a click and I knew Rick had unhooked himself.

"Dammit Rick! Don't put yourself at risk!" I hollered, worried about him.
"I know! Go get one of those long hook thingy's the Bos'n Mates use."

I felt Rick's hand as he grabbed my arm in an iron grip.

"Okay, I gotcha," Rick said.

I thought about what to do next. If I simply let go I might throw Rick off balance.

" can let go now!" Rick shouted. "Honest! Just relax. Don't pull or try to help me."

"I might throw you off balance," I said.

"I said I gotcha!" Rick replied. "Now let the f*ck go!"

"On three?" I asked.

"Good idea, on three. One! Two! Three!" Rick said.

It was really hard to let go when I couldn't see anything but I trusted Rick. He had never lied to me about anything.
I let go the hand that Rick had and pushed with the other hand and felt myself bein' pulled by Rick.

Then the wind decided to gust again. I sensed animosity from this wind. Like it was some kind of evil entity seeking to destroy me. I lost what little orientation I had and I heard Rick cursing.

"Damn it!" Rick shouted.

Now ain't this a kicker, I thought, lost in space.