The young man had spent the long hours during the trip
rationalizing his reasons for a four-year enlistment.
First off, there were no wars at this time and no one
would be shooting at him.
unless in college he would be eligible for the draft
within the next year and,
the only thing he had been doing in college was taking up space
and he didn’t know how long he would be able to last there.
He further rationalized that after he was through with the service
he would be better prepared for college.
Also, maybe he would learn a vocation in the Coast Guard.
Other than that,
he had thought about the Coast Guardsmen stationed at the
Randolph Street Lifeboat Station in Chicago Harbor and
the Coast Guard seemed like romantic, adventuresome,
not-too-difficult duty that would bring him into
contact with any number of girls.
“Day is gone.
Gone the sun,”
The Boatswains Mate threw the switch,
turning the lights of the barracks off.
“from the lake.
from the hills,
from the sky.”
His fingers absently caressing the stubble of his military brush,
lying on his back with his hands behind his head, he listened.
From the far end of the camp the mournful sound of the bugle echoed softly…
then all was quiet.
feeling the thickening in his throat and the stinging behind his eyes,
swallowing, he attempted to hold back tears.
In Barracks 7 there was the rustle of fifty beds, the breathing of fifty men,
and the muffled sobs of more than just a few.
“You can’t get’em up,
you can’t get’em up,
you can’t get’em up in the morning!”
The bugle that had sounded so mournful playing taps the night before
was now loud and raucous…
just as it was meant to be.
Walking the aisle between the rows of bunks,
Clanging a truncheon from bunk to bunk,
“Reveille!” The Boatswains Mate called,
“Reveille! Drop your cocks and grab your socks!
Shove your pee erection back into your two-snap,
U.S. Government issue skivvies and, holding your towel
and toilet kit in front of your crotch to hide it,
rush to the head.
Civilians, the Army and the Air Force have washrooms,
bathrooms and toilets.
The Navy, Marines and Coast Guard have “heads.”
Stand before the communal urinal straining against a full bladder,
and as badly as you have to, it seems an eternity until, finally,
red-faced from straining, you do.
Wait until there’s an opening in the long row of sinks and brush your teeth,
wash and shave.
Uniform of the day: dungarees.
Thirty minutes from reveille:
Fall in outside!”
Wearing pea coats over dungarees,
caps at precisely two finger-widths above their eyebrows;
as they had been taught the day before,
the breath of the fifty boots came in white plumes on the early morning,
Faces red from the cold, stared straight forward.
“Dress right dress!
Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four!”
©October 24, 2011 / Mark M. Lichterman