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Carl joins the Army.

July 16, 2016

SCN_0409March 7, 1943

His anxious energy made standing under electric lights at attention at 3 a.m. easier.

Carl had been in Army boot camp a little more than four hours. Of course, his anxious energy was counterbalanced by the sadness, the loss.  His reverie soon turned away from sadness.  He looked up.

The lightbulbs in the outdoor fixtures far overhead were huge, compared to the ones he had at home in Kalispell.  Carl wondered where bulbs like that came from.  He wondered if they would have been better for his homemade photo enlarger than the puny bulb he used at home.  Do they make a lot of heat?  Carl thought that they probably made lots of heat.

Carl’s problem was that the image his enlarger made had a hot spot in the middle, despite the big piece of wax paper Carl fastened between bulb and negative to diffuse the light.  Anyway, the bulb had soon melted the wax, spoiling the image even more.

If thinking about his homemade enlarger made no sense, neither did obsessing about the love life he had left behind.

His girlfriend had long strawberry blond hair.  How he longed to touch her hair.  Gloom soon took away whatever pleasure Carl might have found in the dark beauty of the surroundings. The well-ordered parade ground, lit by the moon and 3 a.m. slants of window light. The cypress trees. He hadn’t seen cypress before, except in pictures. In books. In school.  Everything was humid and quiet.

Carl had maybe 60 other army recruit companions in the same situation as him.  Someone had ordered them to stand at attention, then whoever it was, left them to wonder what the hell would happen next.

They stood there, looking straight ahead. He and the others had all just gotten their heads shorn.  Not quite bald, but close.  They wore identical fatigues and boots.

Carl thought about home, about college. He had been living in Missoula, Montana, for most of the two years before he joined the Army. He had hoped enlisting would get him into the Navy, possibly safer during the war. It didn’t work. He had offered himself to be drafted. His best choice.

Just last year Carl saw a picture of cypress trees when he took intro to botany as a forestry student. Botany 101. Sounded like an easy subject when he handed his card to the registration girl sitting at the table in the gym.

Oh that registration girl!  Carl could picture her even now.   Didn’t the university have great looking women just about everywhere he looked?  He rarely saw R.G. again.

Anyway, R.G. found a place for him in Botany 101, section 5. The entire — oh, maybe 200 students or so — botany class met in Science Hall on the oval for lectures three days a week and then split up by section for labs in the same building.

He could barely stand it.  He hated the routine, the boredom.  Botany 101 consisted of memorizing a couple hundred unfamiliar words and a couple dozen new concepts.  That was all.  He hated school, except for the drinking and the women. Well, he liked math, because it was more than a new vocab list and a few ideas. But he hated all the rest of it.  He liked playing bridge and chess too.

He had really wanted to find a woman to love, to sleep with. Carl smiled despite the order against it. Apparently whoever gave the order to stand there wasn’t even paying attention. Maybe nobody was watching. Carl enjoyed his thoughts. Best of all, Carl recalled how he had found exactly such a woman in Missoula. He remembered how they they had loved each other and went everywhere together for more than a year. Then she finally agreed to have sex with him. His first impulse was to tell her no! that he had changed his mind.  Carl was getting aroused by his memory.

They had hiked out along the river some distance. They spread a blanket. He remembered how guilty he felt when he thought of his mother. Up until this moment she had been the principle woman in his life. That was about to change, he thought.

She offered herself to him and he at first sat beside her and kissed her.  Then he helped her remove her boots and socks.  He unfastened her pants and pulled them off.

He blushed a deep crimson as he pulled her panties down and off her feet.   She drew her legs to her chest as she sat on the blanket and clasped her arms around her legs. She was cold.  She asked with him to please be gentle. He blushed again.

He remembered sitting beside her, then they laid down together.  He sat up to untie and remove his shoes.  He took off his pants. He fumbled with his own underwear.

Then he cringed.  Carl remembered with chagrin that he failed when he tried to have sex with her. He knew nothing about her hymen. He was so excited that he ejaculated onto the blanket. He felt frustration, shame.

They consummated their relationship later that day at a friend’s brother’s apartment.

Carl’s mind was back in the recruit depot. His anxiety was less. Hell, he could stand at attention all night if he needed to. Carl saw that the others were starting to look around, same as he was.

He decided he would perform small acts of defiance. Maybe add a wrinkle to his clothes, skip an eyelet on his boots.  Carl didn’t want to get brainwashed.

Then loud footsteps interrupted his thoughts.

“Fall out!” a voice commanded. Bud looked around but nobody seemed to know what to do.  ‘What did it mean?  Fall down?.’ He grinned when he thought of all 60 recruits just collapsing.  Then came a voice like a thunderbolt.

“You piece of shit!” shouted a man with a broad brim hat and shiny boots. He was maybe less than 5 feet tall, had a red face and stood in front of Carl. Inches away from his face. “Did I say give me a goofy smile, turd? You better answer me! ANSWER ME!”

“No sir!” Carl’s voice was high. He stopped smiling. He stood as still as he could, amazed at the man’s appearance and energy. Amazed at how this crazy guy had picked him out of the group. Amazed at the man’s volume and language. Nobody had spoken to him like that before.

Oddly, he thought how he probably wouldn’t tell any of his sisters about this man’s foul vocabulary.

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