The Short Awkward life of
It was now after work hours for most of the military personnel on the Babenhausen (West German) Military Base, and Staff Sergeant Lee Erwin Wright went to the little grocery store on the base to buy some groceries, pretending not to notice Mac Remora, the manager of the small military PX, he was in a hurry.
“I’ve seen you around a lot,” said Mac, “can I help you with anything, such as pointing out where the squash is-it’s over there, over there by the potatoes (and he pointed), and other fresh vegetables (Lee had been looking about for some tomatoes and green peppers, mumbling aloud ‘where the heck are they’)”
“I see them now,” Lee Wright told him.
“I think I’ll take some of those big green peppers home with me also,” said Mac Remora, “now that I look at them, they really look big and green and hard, they’re real choice ones.”
“I suppose it’s the thing to do if you don’t want them to vanish,” Wright agreed, “I use them for spaghetti sauce.”
The young woman nearby started selecting a variety of fresh vegetables, putting them into a carry cart, lifting two of the green peppers out of the wooden basket, sweating in the hot little grocery store, trying to absorb the wind coming through the back opened door to the store, that blew through the back section, the outside of the store shaded by trees.
“I should have ordered more fresh vegetables and fruit on hot days like this,” remarked Mac to Lee.
“The bushels you have would appear to be plenty,” Lee told him, “most of the soldiers go to Darmstadt for their big shopping sprees, stocking up for a month, that is; you don’t want to spoil us customers (?)”
“Well, the distributor will bring what I want!”
“No matter what?”
“Sure,” remarked Mac.
Sergeant Lee Erwin Wright, had half an hour before he’d have to go back on duty, he had CQ (the overseer for the Company Headquarters for the evening). He had his uniform on, and he rushed to get out of the store, shaking Mac’s hand. He did not speak to him much as he prepared to pay, and leave (knowing he had to get back to his apartment, wash his face and hands, and go over to the Company Headquarters, sit the night away in an uncomfortable chair, answer phones, make the rounds of the military base, write reports, and hope he could leave the window open for the breeze without getting any insects into his CQ Room, and he didn’t want to be late).
This was the first time he and Mac spoke, to the first time they saw each other eye to eye, not just passing by. Matter-of-fact, he had seen him a few times in the Education Center as well, and he was seemingly always with a girl or a white soldier, as if they were pals.
He was an extremely handsome and well-kept Blackman; and appeared to have a decent civilian social position on the base, which he had for some five-years, making at the time far above a Sergeant’s pay.
“He seems to be a good manager, isn’t he,” he asked Corporal Sims, who knew him better than he, now on CQ Duty, Sims being his runner incase he needed something quickly. Sims looked at him now. He looked at the Sergeant, and out the window towards the PX, as if he knew something, he had never mentioned before.
“One thing, I’ve heard, but I can’t say for sure, I don’t know for sure, he truly makes more money than that small store provides, he lives high off the hog, and his inventory is always off when the inspectors come.”
Mac was about six-foot-four inches tall, with a styled haircut, clean shaven, and with extremely sharp dark eyes with a faint impression of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, slightly noticeable when he smiled, he was thirty-two years old, Lee, twenty-seven.
“Well, here’s to the snake in the grass!” Sergeant Lee Wright said. He smiled at Corporal Sims when he said that, and not smiling, the Corporal looked curiously back at the sergeant.
Mac was very tall, slim waist, very fit, and built well, if you didn’t mind that distance end to end, he had a fast stride, stretch and reach. Regular-lipped, for a Blackman, and was considered quite desirable by German women, housewives and even female teenagers at the civilian military schools.
He dressed in the same sort of way, beyond the style of the day, and was known very publicly to be a fancy talker.
“Here’s to the snake in the grass,” said the Sergeant for the second time-in jest, “I can’t ever thank you for your information, I get the sense we will be meeting again, because something is on his mind.”
“Let’s not talk about Mr. Remora,” said the Corporal, “I’ve heard too many rumors about him.”
Sergeant Wright looked over in his office at the Corporal without smiling and now he smiled at him.
“It’s been a very strange night, and afternoon,” said the Sergeant “ought you not to put your hat on so you can go make the rounds, check out the motor pool, I’ll watch the telephones!”
“I might not put it on; it’s so hot out there!” said the Corporal.
“You might have a very hard time telling the MP’s why you’re out of uniform then, Corporal.”
“I could use a drink?” said the Corporal.
“I don’t think so, not on my shift anyhow.”
“But you drink a great deal?” remarked the Corporal to the Sergeant.
“No, not on duty I don’t.”
“But let me be radical, okay?” said the Corporal.
“Go check out the base,” said the Sergeant.
“I’d rather stay here and have a conversation,” said the Corporal.
“Don’t be thoughtless, Corporal, I need to write something to report, and if Captain Sharp comes by, and we haven’t made a round, he’s going to have our heads for dinner.”
“No trouble, I’ll just go do what I got to do, it’s a damn fine night to get drunk though.”
Sergeant Wright had seen it coming, but the Corporal made no noise, he noticed his shoulders and head were shaking as if to say: it’s going to be a long night.
“Are you upset Sergeant?” asked Sims.
“It doesn’t matter, it accounts to nothing. My nerves are like steel, just get going and do your job.”
“Yes,” said Sims, “I suppose I rate that for the rest of the night now (meaning to make his hourly rounds throughout the military base which took normally twenty-minutes).”
“Nonsense,” said the Sergeant, “you know I’ll do some rounds.”
“Forget what I said, nothing to this anyhow. I’ll not forget you sticking up for me the one night when I was drunk on duty; I won’t forget what you did for me then.”
“It wasn’t anything, nothing at all; it’s all gobbledygook anyway, just don’t get thirsty for booze tonight, all right?”
He didn’t answer; he just left the orderly room, and Headquarters, and did his rounds as the Sergeant demanded.