Nothing Ever Changed

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

"Hey Rats… Gettin' underway at 0800 in the morning."

"How long we gonna be out for?"

"Only know we're singlin' up at 0800... Outside of that, I've got no idea where'n the hell we're goin' or how long we'll be out… You got some place to be?"

"Not really… Just wonderin' where in the hell we're goin'…"

"That's the hell about being a damn E-3… Never knowin' anything. I'll bet every sonuvabitch in the gahdam Squadron Office knows where we're heading. Dammit to hell… The entire time I've been in the gahdam Navy, I've never known where my butt is gonna be next week, except when this rust-attracting sonuvabitch is up on blocks in drydock."

"Hey Sweetpea… You're not exactly an indispensable element in the Naval planning process."

"The hell I'm not… Me'n Arliegh Burke, that's all you need. The rest of it is just icing on the cake."

"Well Morning Glory, you'd better kick your butt in gear because it's gonna be a long night. Gotta fuel this iron monster… Throw in a top-off charge... Make a radio run and pick up our guard mail up in the Squadron Office and load stores when the truck gets here."

"Anyone seen Stuke?"

"He's up in J-50."

"Well somebody get word to him to bring some books. Damn if I wanna spend five or six weeks with nothing to read but bean can labels and the Bluejackets Manual."

"Jeezus Dex … Getta gahdam library card."

"Okay, okay… You know why they don't send donkeys to school?"

"No?… Well nobody likes a smartass."

"Hey below."

"Yo."

"Truck on the pier… Need some guys topside to get our supplies off the truck and piled up forward of the sail."

"Why not take it below? Hell, we've got enough guys in the duty section to get it below and stored."

"Naw… The duty officer said not to stow anything until Rat Johnson and the other cooks come aboard."

"Hell, we'll be moving crap off the damn deck when we are passin' Old Point Comfort… Man, the Old Man is gona be hotter than a two-dollar firecracker."

"Hey Dex… Don't worry about it, I'll guarantee that we'll have the deck clear before the Old Man gets her rigged for sea and makes the first trim dive,"

"No shit, Sherlock."

"Hey… Get a bunch of you idiots up topside and start unloading that truck."

"Topside, aye."

Guys who slept on the old smokeboats slept in weird configurations. They assumed attitudes intended to keep them from being launched out of their racks in heavy seas. You had guys who held valve handles… Pipes above their racks… Bunk chains. You had guys who slept in what we called 'figure four fashion'… Guys who covered their heads with their foulweather jackets. Waking these guys up was like resurrecting the dead… Like breathin life into a pile of cigar store Indians.

"Hey Bill… Wake up… Stores loading topside… Up and at 'em… Roll out, babe… Coffee in the messdeck… C'mon, hit the deck, sweetheart."

"Jack… Hey, roll out… That's it… Go toss some water in your face and head topside."

"OK Rhodey… Don't give me that fake snoring you smoke-stacking jaybird… I saw you open your eyes and I haven't got time for your fake bullshit."

"Ladies, it's colder than a witches tit topside, so grab your sea jackets."

"Hey below… We're going North. The XO got approach carts for Halifax from the Cubera."

"Jeezus, are you Dick Tracy?"

It went that way all night long. Great coffee and an incessant flow of idiotic conversation as the lads prepared the boat for sea. It was what sub qualified bluejackets did…

"Anyone seen the 'T' handle wrench for the topside locker lids?"

"Dex… Why don't you stuff one of those bastards under the old mans' rack… You're always lookin' for the damn thing every gahdam time we get underway."

"Hey, the damn thing is only good for one thing… It's not like some sonuvabitch would steal it for his honey's charm bracelet."

"Hey Dex… Stuke just dropped down the A.B. hatch hawkin his standard horse manure about being captured by a band of gypsy nymphomaniacs and being held as a sex slave for the entire weekend."

"Hell, I believe it."

"You would."

"Hey Doc, I think the Stookey man needs a light-duty chit. He's been subjected to seventy-two hours of continuous non-stop sex and needs time to recuperate."

"Was it consensual or non-consensual?"

"Hey Stuke, was it consensual or non-consensual?"

"Dex… Definitely non consensual. They held a gun on me… All thirty-two of them… They forced themselves on me… Took advantage of me… Chief, I hope this won't reflect adversely on my career and stop me from making Admiral."

"Mr. God's gift to women, how bout laying topside and join your illustrious shipmates who are jackassing stores to the after battery hatch."

And so it went.

"Hey Chief… There are two civilians wandering around topside who say that they are going with us… Jeezus Glen, say it isn't so."

"Hey, how in the hell do I know? I would say if two guys showed up topside in the gahdam dark saying they had word to report aboard, I would bet money on it… Nobody is stupid enough to bullshit about going North in the winter time… Not on one of these 'freeze your ass off contraptions'. No Dex, they're for real."

"Well dammit, don't rack em in the After Battery."

"Why not?"

"Jeezus Chief, you put that guy from Daystrom Electronics back here last November and the sonuvabitch told the exec that his crew was weird. All we did was talk about having sex with farm animals and we were hugging each other and calling each other 'Sweet Cakes' and 'Darlin'. The next thing we know, the exec rounds us up and herds us into the messdecks, lights us on fire and makes it clear that it would be in our collective best interest to knock off the bullshit. Then he said, 'Am I fully understood?' Then Johnny Roberts said, 'Aye sir… You don't wan't us havin' sex with farm animals and stuff like that.' and the Exec went nuts. We had our tattle tale, stool pigeon wardroom spy… Put this sonuvabitch in the forward torpedo room… He won't have to walk too far to rat on the poor bastards up there."

"See what I can do."

"Thanks Chief… We'll save you a turkey the next load of oversexed farm animals we get aboard."

"Keep it up Horsefly and you'll always wonder why you and your fellow idiots are constantly up to your butts in boiling oil."

"Hey below, need some line handlers topside… Outboard boats getting underway."

"Laying topside."

"Well get your ass in gear."

"REQUIN arriving."

"Holly jumpin' catfish… The Old Man's aboard."

"Yeah… He'll toss his gear down the bear trap to his steward and then he'll put on that hydraulic oil-stained steaming hat and yell, 'Let's get the boat to sea, gentlemen… Single up all lines… Set the maneuvering watch… Pass the sailing list up to the topside watch on the next boat and get some damn coffee up here'."

And men wiping sleep from their eyes stumbled topside… The sailing list was passed to the next boat inboard… Smoke belched forth aft of the sail and engulfed everything as the black cloud drifted forward.

"Take in the brow."

"Take in two and three."

"Take in number four."

"Full left rudder… All back one third… Take in number one… Shift the colors, mark the log."

And so she slid aft into the Elisabeth River... Three-hundred eleven feet-six inches of sinister looking naval hardware… Eighty-two officers and men… A complete community of undersea warriors.

"Hey Chief."

"Yeah whatcha need?"

"Where you want us to stow the farm animals?"

 

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