Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Different Kind of Girl

Cindy said it couldn’t have been as bad as people believed. “Ray Gene ... You remember Ray Gene, he’s my first cousin?”

“I remember Ray Gene,” Tom said.

“Ray Gene was at -- Oh, it’s one of those places I can’t pronounce. You’d think they’d have real names for places. Nah or No or something like that. Anyway, it had an air base.”

“Nha Trang,” he said.

“That’s it!” She reached across the car seat and touched his hand and then took back her hand. “How do you remember all that stuff?” She turned in the seat. Tom looked at her face. He remembered her eyes, colored like blue ice, but he couldn’t see her eyes in the darkness of the car.

“I don’t know. After a while, you know the names,” he said.

“Well, they have funny names for places,” Cindy said. Her hair was longer than Tom remembered, but that was the fashion now. Not that he minded her hair being long. He had seen pictures in magazines, and all the girls in the pictures had long hair. He didn't mind her short skirt, either. When he was last home, girls didn’t wear skirts that short, and he thought it was a good thing they did now.

“Some places I remember, you know, from the news on TV?” Cindy said. “They had lots of stories about Saigon and a place that’s pronounced Whey, but it’s spelled like Huie. Are all the places spelled different than they’re pronounced?”

“Not all of them,” Tom said. Cindy was two years younger and a college sophomore. He and Cindy had not been particularly friends in high school, but Cindy was her mother’s daughter and oftentimes acquiesced with what her mother asked. Her mother and his mother were best friends, and one or the other or both decided Cindy and Tom should go out before his leave was finished. He didn’t mind. Cindy was a pretty girl. The girls were different now, though, and he would not have asked out any girls he remembered knowing. On the plane home he thought about the girls he remembered, in a different way than when he thought about them before he came home. Before he came home, he thought about every girl he had ever known, and the ones he had gone out with. He remembered what he wished had happened when he was out with those girls, even though none of it had happened. On the plane home he thought about different girls and maybe if he asked one or two out, it would happen. But when he came home, the girls were different than he remembered.

“Ray Gene said he worked eight hours a day,” Cindy was saying. “Just like when he worked at the garage. Sometimes he had to work extra hours, like overtime? But he didn’t get paid overtime. I guess they don’t pay overtime.”

“No,” Tom said. “They don't pay overtime.”

“They should,” Cindy said. “I mean, somebody works more than eight hours a day, he should get overtime.”

“It’s the duty,” Tom said, but he knew she wouldn’t understand. “You’re on duty twenty-four hours a day.”

“They should pay overtime,” she said. “Anyway, Ray Gene said when he got off work, there was a club he could go to. On the base. He said they had beer and records. There weren’t any girls to dance with, so they drank beer. Ray Gene wasn’t much for beer before he went over there.”

“Some guys weren’t, I guess.” He hadn’t been much for beer either, but he learned to drink it when it was available, because ... But that was all over now.

Tom parked the car in front of the movie theater. He put the transmission in Park and turned the key. He got out and closed the door and walked to the other side. Cindy said “Thank you” when he opened her door. Tom watched as she swung her legs from the car. He took her hand as she stood. She had nice legs and her hair was thick and dark brown and reached the small of her back. He wondered how it would be, her hair streaming through his fingers, and how her lips would taste. He closed the door. She took his arm. Her fingers were light.

At the ticket window, he said “Two, please” to the woman behind the glass. He paid for the tickets and held the door open. “Thank you,” Cindy said. He asked if she wanted popcorn and a coke. She said she would like a coke. He got two, and they walked into the theater.

They would see “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” On the phone the day before, when he called and asked if she wanted to see a movie with him, although it all had been arranged by her mother and his mother, and he told her which movie was playing, she said, “That’s the one where the colored man is marrying the white girl.” He said it was. She said she wouldn’t mind watching that movie. On the phone she asked, “Do you think that’s happening a lot these days?” He said he didn’t know.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deer season

A man in the barber shop today was talking about the deer he got this season, his first ever, after 14 years of hunting.

“Two hundred twenty-five yards and running,” he said. “Dropped him.”

I grinned when he said that. I grinned and almost – almost – said, “First man I shot was 100 yards and lying down. Of course he was shooting at me, so …”

I didn’t say that because (a) it would have been one-upmanship, and (b) I don’t really know if I hit the man I was aiming at. It was at night and I saw a blink-blink-blink light from the edge of the rubber trees, the light about the size of the burning end of a lit cigarette, the light muzzle flashes probably from a Russian or Chinese DP light machine gun, that looks like a rifle, but has a bipod near the end of the barrel and a round pannier magazine on top.

When seeing the muzzle flashes, I was surprised. I thought: “I’ll be damned. There really is somebody out there, and he’s shooting at me.” That last part was important. He was shooting at me. He was not shooting at the 30 others in my platoon, nor at the M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle that sat near my bunker. He was shooting at me. A realization: “He’s trying to kill me.”

So I aimed my M16 low and fired 18 rounds in just over a second. The rifle climbed and the bullets went some into the red dirt road and some into the tall grass and maybe … maybe … into the man who wanted to kill me.

Maybe I shot the man, maybe I came just close enough, and he went to his commie sergeant or commie lieutenant and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore tonight.”

Whichever, the light machine gun did not fire again.

Two hundred twenty-five yards and running is a decent enough shot. So is 100 yards and lying down when you are the target.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Woman breaks up with man who used to be a woman; prefers him as a man

(And, yes, I am lifestyle insensitive.)

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Chaz Bono was born Chastity Bono, to Sonny and Cher. She (Chastity) at age 13 decided she was lesbian. In 1998, she (Chastity) wrote that coming out "catapulted me into a political role that has transformed my life, providing me with affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman, and as an individual.” (Family Outing, Little-Brown, 1998). In 2008, she (Chastity) began “gender transformation,” that is, changing from what she was (see the above “affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman …”) to a man.

Now we get to Jennifer Elia, who “began seeing Chaz before his gender reassignment process began, when he was still Chastity Bono, in 1999.”

She (Jennifer) began dating her (Chastity) because both preferred women rather than men as sexual partners. But then she (Chastity) decided to become Chaz. Six months ago, she (Jennifer) said she preferred her/him (Chastity/Chaz) as a man. “Jennifer, who says she is a bisexual woman, said that their intimate relationship as a now 'straight couple', has improved 'for the good.'"

But now they have broken up, boo-hoo.

So. A girl decides she prefers other girls as sexual partners. She enters into a relationship with another woman who likes women. A time later, though, the first she decides to become a he, and the second she prefers “him” with new parts.

Welcome to the New World.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

They were so glad to help out someone in need

Every Monday morning, the fourth grade teacher began class with the same questions, beginning with the girl who sat at the desk nearest the door and continuing with every other student: “Did you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” and if the answer was “Yes, ma’am” then, “What did you study in Sunday school” and “What was the subject of the preacher’s sermon?” If the answer was “No, ma’am” the teacher asked, “Why didn’t you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” Answers almost always were, “My mother was sick,” or “My daddy was sick.”

For three of us, though, the answer every Monday was “No, ma’am.” We three, all boys, sat in the same area of the classroom, at the back and near the windows, farthest from the teacher and last to answer. And every Monday we waited while other kids received praise from the teacher or admonition when a sermon subject wasn’t remembered or a Sunday school topic. We waited to say “No, ma’am,” and we waited to hear the teacher ask why we hadn’t gone to Sunday school and church the day before and we gave the same answers week after week – “I don’t know” or “I just didn’t.”

One Monday one of the other boys said, “My daddy said we don’t have to go to church.” The teacher was a bit ruffled by that response. She said, “Everybody should go to Sunday school and church.” That Monday, too, I gave the answer my mother gave when I told her of the Monday morning questioning: “I don’t have any church clothes.” That stopped the teacher for a moment. “Oh,” she said, and then she went to the last boy.

Later that week, Thursday, when I got to class, the teacher said to me, “Tell your older sister you won’t ride the bus home. I’m taking you somewhere after school.” I did not ask where she was taking me or why; I just said, “Yes, ma’am.”

After school, well after school when all the buses were gone and there were only teachers in the building, my teacher said, “Come with me,” and she and I went to the parking lot and got in her two-year-old Buick and drove the two miles to Naples. She drove to a house and as she parked, explained: “You know Joe Smith. He is two years older than you, but you are about his size. His mother said she has dress slacks and shirts Joe no longer wears. We will find some that fit you.” I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

I wish I could explain the sense of embarrassment, of guilt, and the fear I had going into a stranger’s house, hearing a strange woman talk about how pleased she was to be able to help someone in need; how embarrassed I was when taken to someone else’s bedroom, where three or four pairs of slacks and belts and white shirts and bow ties and long ties were laid out on a bed and I was told to put on a specific pair of slacks and shirt and to let the women know when I was dressed. I got undressed and then did as I was told, three times or four times, and the two women made comments to each other on how each pair of slacks fit and each shirt, and they discussed which tie would go best with each pair of slacks. In the end, my teacher selected a pair of slacks and a shirt and tie and belt and put everything in a paper sack. I mumbled, “Thank you” to Mrs. Smith. My teacher and I got into her car and she took me to another house and I did the same thing another three times or four times. Again, the teacher selected the used clothes I would get. Again, I mumbled “Thank you,” and then the teacher took me home, several miles southwest of town, in the country, where there were, under normal circumstances, places to hide, but not on that day. The teacher took me home and I said, “Thank you” and got out of the car and carried my used clothes into the house, where I told my mother why I was so late getting home.

Supper was quiet that night. Daddy got home not long after I did. He and Momma had time to talk. Near the end of supper, Daddy said to Momma, “On Saturday take the kids and get them some church clothes.” I understood. He would not have me wear somebody else’s clothes, somebody’s cast-off clothes.

My parents could not afford to pay all at one time for clothes for five kids. I guess Momma charged the clothes and paid out over a few months.

On Sunday, Momma took us kids to the Baptist Church in Omaha. On Monday, when it was my turn to answer “Did you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” I answered, “Yes, ma’am.” The teacher was very pleased.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

I passed through the living room; local news was on TV, something to do with local noting of world AIDS day, in which the infected are (something – Not “celebrated,” but something) and the AIDS dead are remembered. In the first 25 years of AIDS, 25 million people died world-wide. A million a year, average. A terrible number. In the great flu pandemic of 1918/19, 25 million died in the first 25 weeks, 100 million during the course of the infection (or 50 million or 60 million. Estimates vary.) There has not been a World Flu Day. Maybe it’s the touchy-feely latter 20th century/early 21st that caused tears for the AIDS dead. Most people will not say those 25 million AIDS dead might not have died had men kept their dicks where they belonged, or to be more frank, out of where they did not belong.

Bring back the smoke-filled room?

“Instead of a candidate-vetting process carried out quietly by party leaders, it's now done randomly by a Hydra-headed national media. Any flaw or past stumble is metastasized into a public nightmare for spouses and children. So they say No. In their place we get mysterious candidates who have wandered in from Nowhere Land or obscure state senate seats.”

(The debates don’t do a damn bit of good. We get “Whoozis?” candidates, TV gets more ad money, dig-deeper sleaze mongers rake around in the muck trying to find somebody somewhere who will remember the time a hope-to-be candidate did something that could have, might have been something he or she was not supposed to do or say or think or tell a joke about. It’s OK for President Clinton to present himself to a White House intern, but oh good grief this black Republican once worked around white women, so he must have done something. I mean, you know how they are.

(The 1960 Democratic presidential campaign was the first I paid attention to. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts won the majority of the party primaries, but a few weeks before the convention Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas announced his candidacy for the nomination. When the convention began in Los Angeles, no candidate had a majority of delegates. Kennedy got the nomination, but says, “1960 represented the last time there was true drama in a Democratic convention. Since 1960 the outcomes of the conventions have been known in advance.”

(Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt disagreed with that statement, calling the convention “turbulent--but prearranged …”)