Richard D. Preston
In my own mind I was a hard assed Marine. I just spent six months overseas in the Mediterranean aboard ship. I had stepped foot on foreign soil and was no longer classified as a boot camp turd-ball. Italy, Spain, Palma, Sicily, Malta and Greece were all under my belt now and I broke a sweat running up and down the barren countryside and hills of each one of them as a USMC, fire pissing, automatic rifleman. I had also spent many nights in a Bacardi Rum and Coke filled stupor, stumbling around the narrow streets of many of the cities within these fine ports of call. I had the privilege of hearing my best friend Ron Ralich play the drums to the tune of wipe out in one of the local cafes in Naples Italy. This happened only after we badgered the owner half to death until he finally relented and let Ron on stage. The funny thing is Ron got a standing ovation from the whole damn bar when he was done. He just gave that cocky half smile of his and walked off like he played every day. Come to find out he was just naturally gifted never having been taught.
Al Paolozzi who was another good friend of mine and I crawled up the gangplank of our ship on our knees more than once requesting to board the patio daddy-o. We would slap an opened palm salute like the British do to center of our forehead. The officer of the deck had no sense of humor but let us board anyway, muttering under his breath something like “fucking Marines”. What are you going to do with two drooling drunk assed Marines in that shape?
I sat in the balcony of one bar in Naples with a redneck crazy bastard from Tennessee called Yates. We had been touring the city in our usual fine upstanding military manner, that being cocked to the gills. The band was playing some version of a hillbilly song that was dear to the heart of Private Yates. He sat there red faced and scowling down at the band as they murdered the rendition of his beloved song. You could always tell when he was gonna do something real stupid. He got this shit eating grin on his face and he squinted his eyes so all you could see were tiny slits. He kind of looked like a bloated version of Dennis the menace right down to the blond hair and cowlick. Anyway the genius stood up in the balcony and yelled down to the band to “stop fuh-king up mah sawng.” Of course you had to realize that we were in a foreign country and they had no clue as to what he was spouting off about. Hell as far as they knew he may have been cheering them on. We who remained seated at that little round table including the two raven-haired bar bimbos had a look of sheer fucking horror on our faces. But Yates just turned around and stared at us with that shit-eating grin as he wobbled back and forth from heel to toe. I can remember saying to the other guy “this can’t be good and we should be sucking wind any minute now.” The local Italian Mafia after all, in a narrow assed upper balcony, surrounded us for all we knew. The bar room downstairs was also packed with Italians and shit faced Jarheads bent on self-annihilation. The door out of the bar was a typical 36-inch swinging door opening and it was the only way out. If we all had to leave in a hurry it would be like jamming a hundred hard – boiled eggs through a small funnel, so to speak. Meanwhile the band from hell continued to dissect the beloved song of Private Yates.
Yates turned and said, “ee-its tah-ime ta go boys”, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Hell yeah, we were gonna boogie on out of this dive without an incident. We gladly got up and took our first step towards the stairway. In the meantime, in a split second, old Yates had picked up a wooden chair. When we saw him he looked like a baseball batter swinging for the fence. Just before he slung that bad boy down into the band he let out a blood curdling rebel yell that would frizz the hair on Dolly Parton’s wig. The chair flew end over end in what seemed to be slow motion through the dimly lit smoke filled air. “Shit!” I said half in panic and knowing what we were going to have to do to get out of the place. The chair landed right in the middle of the drums and it sounded like all hell broke loose. Drums rolled, cymbals crashed and our lily white asses were as good as cooked.
Down the stairs we ran as Yates yelled “Yeeeehawwwww”, the other Marines in the place must have been sick of hearing that band also because they all stood up and it was nothing but ass cheeks and heels while fighting their way to the door. We, the fucking instigators slithered through the pissed off crowd throwing punches and getting as good as we gave. Fists, snot and blood were flying all over the place. The MP’s finally showed up and started dragging any and all Marines out into the street, whistles blowing and nightsticks swinging calmed the situation down considerably. Yates and I made it through the door and into the street without getting tossed into the paddy wagon. Together, like a pair scalded dogs we ran hell bent for leather down an alley into the darkness. We never looked back, we just hauled ass. We both looked like we had been drug through a shitter backwards. Shirts half in and out, ties on backwards and our piss cutters on sideways. We must have been a beautiful sight to behold. Yates was as happy as a pig in shit. He just smiled away as if this was an every day occurrence with him. He said, “Guess we showed ‘em huh Press! Y’all got a smoke?”
Memo to self: No more liberty with Private Yates.
After what I had been through in peacetime while overseas with my fellow Marines I found it hard to walk the straight and narrow. My military alignment was warped a bit and I was a tad salty. Once we returned stateside the daily regime of the militarily orientated went against my grain. There was nothing left for me to do but volunteer for Vietnam.
California or bust!
©Copyright November 1, 2004 by Richard D. Preston