It was after dark. Didn't have anything to do, so I went topside and got to talking with some other non-rated jaybird and we came up with an idea that sounded brilliant at the time.
Since we had the duty that night and we were scheduled to paint the port side of the boat the following day, why not get permission to list the boat and wire brush the limber holes and zinc chromate them. That way we could grab some hose and a paint pot, the next day paint the side, haul for a noontime beer at Bells and find some soft flesh, a shower and clean sheets before the rest of the animals showed up. Well it sounded like a great plan and probably was At least it was until I grabbed a limber hole just forward of the conning tower fairwater In the vicinity of the aft bulkhead of the Forward Battery. The rim of the limber hole had been badly dinged up and had a burr on it like a razor blade. It sliced through my leather glove and the hand I was holding on with I dropped the wire brush and grabbed on with my right hand to keep from falling between the tank tops.
The topside watch on the inboard boat jumped down and held me until my topside watch could haul me back aboard. There was a lot of blood squishing around in the fingers of my glove and by now the Duty Officer was topside. They pulled my glove off.
Officers feel compelled to begin every conversation with a statement of the obvious and deliver a lecture on your enlisted stupidity. Officers in the course of their assigned duties get paper cuts or a hurt thumb from a falling coffee pot lid. Bluejackets, God bless'em, monkey with stuff that can, on a bad day, cut you in half, crush you or remove sizeable chunks of your anatomical appendages.
"Jeezus sailor, what in the hell did you think you were doing?"
"Wire brushing limber holes."
It was darker than a gahdam well diggers hip pocket, so I figured after four years at Annapolis this J.G. could have figured that one out on his own.
"Why in the hell are you doing that?"
"The COB beats us sir And makes us work at night."
I wondered what kind of toe-dance Dutch would do when Mr. 'wide-awake' hit him with that load of horse manure.
"There's no corpsman aboard so you guys take him up on Orion."
'You guys' is a term used by officers so recently assigned that the only names they know, eat off gold rimmed plates in the wardroom.
"You guys, bear a hand and get this lad up to the sick bay on the tender."
Who is this guy? Jeezus, he's five years older than me and he's calling me 'lad'? So, I wrapped a greasy bandana around my hand, which was looking a little on the messy side by now.
Any trip to the quarterdeck of the Orion was the poor man's equivalent of a trip to the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland. The USS Orion (AS-18) was a floating rest home for brown-bagging CPOs. When all the Chief Petty Officers left the ship at once, the draft decreased by four to six feet. I once asked Stuke where they found all those idiot chiefs.
"Dex One time, this fellow who worked in the research department of the Institute for Dumb Bastards brought in one of those Mexican Piñatas full of Chiefs hats."
Stuke always could explain everything.
Well, the next thing I know I'm up on the quarterdeck of Mother Onion where some two-striper and this senior Chief 'What's- iz- mate' have established their mini-kingdom.
Chief 'I don't miss any meals' says,
"C'mere kid Let's take a look at that gash. That thing's gonna need some looking after."
This guy had to have been one of the Three Wisemen.
The two-striper is now on the phone with some nameless authority somewhere in the bowels of the ship that never goes anywhere. In my time in Squadron Six, the state of Rhode Island and Orion moved about the same distance.
"Son, the doc says we need to run you up to sick bay up on the main base."
So the next thing I know, I'm in a jeep desperately in need of a valve job, being driven by a first class, titless WAVE yeoman from Orion.
We stop at the Main Base Gate and Mr. 'Where the hell am I?' gets directions. In his protracted conversation I hear "He's one of those stupid submarine guys" used to refer to the jerk who now is in a great deal of pain. He gets in and shifts into gear.
"Horsefly, I may be a stupid submarine guy but I never forget a face You use that term one more time and I will hunt you down on the beach and do my damndest to punch everything between your eye brows and your chin, out your rectum."
The rest of the trip was made in silence.
We arrived at the sick bay. Some guy in undress blues with bandage scissors and a thermometer in his pocket met us. He took me into this clinic that smelled like antiseptic Like somebody spray-painted the place with Lysol.
He said, "Let's take your temperature."
"Ace, I don't have the gahdam mumps.. I've gotta cut-up hand."
But it seems some cornball somewhere made a Navy Reg concerning temperature taking and it was either do it or they just let you die.
There I was with this glass stick stuck in my face, when this vision of total loveliness appeared.
She was about thirty With cute blonde hair peeking out from under this starched white nurses hat with Lieutenant stripes on it. She took my hand in her gentle hands and unwrapped the nasty bandana and dropped it in a stainless steel waste bucket.
"We won't be needing that."
It was the last one I had But what the hell, at that particular moment that sweet thing could have tossed my dress blues in that can and I wouldn't have cared I was in love At nineteen, there is no distinction between lust and love Same package. She could have removed my kidneys with a rusty jack knife and it would have been perfectly okay.
She gave my hand a little gentle ladylike squeeze Lightning shot out of my ears My toes all shot off like Roman candles The roots of my hair died And my heart ran backward.
"Can you feel that?"
Dex, you lying sonuvabitch If she does it again, you know damn well they are going to have to haul you down off the roof of this place.
God, she smelled good. Her voice was that of an angel I looked down at my red lead-spattered brogans and the holes in my dungarees.
"Ma'am I don't always look like this."
"Oh, don't apologize I'll get Doctor So-in-so and we'll have you back to your ship in no time. Now, listen to me, you will have to keep that laceration clean No more dirty handkerchiefs, okay?"
Anything you say, you creature from the Garden of the Goddess of Love.
"Yes ma'am, I'll do that."
The Doc arrived He looked like he fell off the gorilla delivery wagon.
He gave me some kind of pain killer-shot... Had Miss Vision of Overwhelming Desire clean up my hand Painted it with brown stinky stuff and stitched me up.
Miss Lady of Hypnotizing Perfume Bandaged me up and stuck me with a Tetanus shot.
Why do women look so damn good in those starched white uniforms? She had on one of those starched white uniforms She had on one of those lift'em up, bras And her breasts went up and down as she breathed Did I mention that she smelled really good?
When she sat down on the stool to write out a prescription, instructions to give to Doc Rohre and a light duty chit She had her back to me She had a very cute fanny and you could see the outline of her panty elastic I was fighting sexual fantasy overload.
No wedding ring? No wedding ring!! Are all the officers in the Navy blind?
"OK sailor, you'll be as good as new in no time. Be a good boy and don't let it get infected or you'll be back in here Your driver is out there waiting to take you back to your ship. What kind of ship are you on?"
"The rust bucket of the fleet."
And she was gone Gone Out of my life forever. leaving nothing but two years of late night sexual fantasies dancing behind my eyeballs.