I guess the night before put me in the mood for a stroll down memory lane. I say that because as I walked down the jungle path toward the boat landing my mind was split. Half was keeping a sharp eye out for stranglers from action the night before, and the other half was concentrated on my much earlier years. I bet everyone does the same kind of thing now and then. Well maybe not the soldiers running around the jungle seeking revenge part, but the split thoughts part.
Some of those memories are so painful, I expect that we all tend to bury them for years. Even buried memories come back to visit now and then, like bad chili.
As I walked along in the very front of our little group, I was isolated, not by distance so much as by who I was. It was as simple as that. I wasn’t like the others and I really never had been. I was, of course, even less like them at that moment.
When I never really liked playing with dolls as a child, I probably should have known then that I was different. I was different even though I had the almost idyllic Saturday Evening Post family life. I had a hard working masculine father figure, who worked two jobs so that his wife could raise three kids.
He was the kind of man that in the back of her mind every little girl and young woman hopes to have as a lover. Like any other, so called, normal girl I had more than one dream where the man turned his face to me afterward ,and it was dear old dad. No that had never happened in real life. Not that I would have objected, or ever told anyone.
I also had a strong mother, who had enough kids so that it was financially impossible for her to work. So we were poor, but so was everyone else in the mill village. I have a theory that you are only poor, when you know you are poor. I also think, that you are only poor, if you know there are people who aren’t poor.
So my family only became poor, when I went to the town’s high school. During all the other years, when I went to school it was with kids in my own socioeconomic status. So I was poor for the first time, when I was a teenager. Even then I defended my own way of life. I never apologized for being poor. I never took anything that belonged to anyone else, except the occasional boy from some rich bitch, just to prove I could.
It was bad to do that, but Jennifer was the worst of all possible girls to have pissed at you. She never was pissed at me, but we were like Frick and Frack. She knew how to scheme, like the slutty little bitch she was. I could kick any of the girl’s and about half the guy’s asses. We were like the cotton mill mafia.
I was a natural high school enforcer, since I had two brothers. In my house it was like, fight for it, or lose what little I had. I loved my brothers and was sad that neither of my brother’s had lived as long as I had. They had not even lived to the age I had before the big change.
My older brother died in a South American shit hole, while working for the government of the United States. We never knew exactly what he did for them, but we did know that they sure were sorry about it. Or so said the little guy who had to look on a card to be sure he got my brother’s name right. Eddie died in 1985, during the summer, at least that’s what the little man said. He was really sorry that there was no body for us to bury. Seems Eddie kinda god lost while they were exploring for oil. Why a government employee was looking for oil in a foreign country I never knew.
My middle Middle bother died two years later in an automobile accident. That’s what his buddy said at least. He flipped an old van over while making a delivery. Samuel was some kind of courier, according to the friend. He was the kind who paid no income taxes. The man who explained that also handed me an envelope filled with cash. I never bothered to ask what he had carried in the panel vans he drove.
I graduated high school shortly after Samuel went into the ground, after a closed casket service, I might add. My mother and even my dad seemed to be broken after that funeral. My graduation from high school wasn’t cause for any celebration. I just got on a bus the next day to start my career with the Unites States Air Force. The rest, so they said, was history. At least little bits of history as it happened at the time. Since Eddie died in some South American shit hole. I seemed to be drawn to the area. I’m not sure if it’s coincidence, or I just gravitate to it. I guess shit happens, like it is supposed to happen in the end.
By the time my memories got to my basic training in Texas, we had reached the river landing. I was the first to see the aluminum river patrol boat tied to the rickety pier. If it wasn’t from the actual war in Vietnam, it was from that time period for sure. Just as were the small arms which we carried onto the boat. We had stepped back in time to the war my Dad fought. The one, where if he had been less of a man, I would not have existed in the first place.
If you do the time line you will see my dad was first there during the adviser stage of the war. Later he was part of The First Marine Expeditionary Brigade. After his tour with the FMEB he came home to start a family. He told me something I never forgot the night before I left for the Air Force.
“I hoped that by getting out, I would never see and feel death that closely again,” he said. “Unfortunately life doesn’t let you insulate yourself from those kinds of things. It happened with the boys and all the nightmares came back.”
I guess I learned, that you can’t hide from the horror. If life wants to drop it on your ass, life will just hunt you dawn and drop it on you, no matter where you hide. You might as well embrace the shit it throws at you, and learn to wade through it. Of course hip boots do help, so you can try to prepare yourself for it.
Whether you like the farm or not you had to appreciate that they could handle details very well. The river boat dropped the half dozen plus one of us onto to a steel pier in some slightly larger than small town on the river. The pier was near enough to the ocean to have sea gulls and the dead fish smell of the ocean hanging in the air.
There were taxi’s waiting for us. One taxi took the two reports and whisked them off to God alone knew where to file their final reports, I supposed. The three operatives from the pig farm left in a taxi together. Simon Jerrod and I shared a taxi which left for a destination unknown to all but the driver. I did surrender my firearms to Deacon, who presumably gave them over to a cop who was also there to meet us. I didn’t actually see the exchange.
“Do you have a blade?” I asked quietly in the rear of the taxi.
“I am traveling with my friend Jim Bowie strapped to my leg, and you?” Jerrod asked.
“If I get a job offer for the stockroom of a grocery store, I am prepared,” I said. It was my smart ass way to explain the flat metal box opener with the sliding razor blade. Unlike Jerrod, mine was inside a pocket of my jeans. It was thin and flat so had no profile that needed to be hidden.
Jerrod, of course, knew that if we ended up in a commercial airport, he would have to make other arrangements to get the Bowie Knife home. My blade just went in the trash, but his was an expensive knife and held memories, he might want to mail it on ahead.
I had done that before with the concealed hammer .38 before the big change. Now that I knew that I could fly again, I had to consider how to get weapons moved around once again. No real pro wanted to work with a strange weapon, not that he/she couldn’t, but well broken in boots make for the most comfortable hike in the woods.
The taxi didn’t take us to the airport. It took us to a cruise ship dock on a different pier, in a different part of town. The drive was a very short one. One thing I had learned from working the kind of work I did, was to just play along unless you had to kill someone.
“Just go with it,” I whispered to Jerrod.
The two of us, dirt stained, grubby looking, and in Jerrod’s case stinky, presented ourselves to a Latin looking man in a Crisp White Uniform. “Hi there, I’m Maxine Stone and this is Simon Jerrod.”
“Ah yes, we had a call advising us that you were on the way. Your cabins are ready. This is also for you,” he said handing me an envelope.
“Very well,” I said as Jerrod just stared at the ship with a deer in the headlights gaze.
“Your travel agent said your luggage was being shipped. The steward will show you to your cabin. Your things may have already arrived, I’m told,” he said trying very hard to be helpful.
The Steward was a female and I happily followed her. As cruise ships go the one we found ourselves on was small. There were probably two hundred passengers, give or take a couple of dozen. There were no swimming pools on board, but there were restaurants and bars everywhere. Even a couple of small shops. That seemed most important to the other guests and to Jerrod as well.
I was more impressed by their dependable power grid and robust wifi systems. The shops and the casino also appealed to me. I noted those on my walk to the cabin below. Once inside my cabin, with the door closed, I opened the envelope.
The note inside read,
Maxine have fun for the next few days. The ship will dock in Miami in five days. There will be an airline ticket home for Jerrod waiting there. A small plane will stop for you at the general aviation area that same afternoon. We will have things ready for you at the farm, your stay should be short
I suppose that the enjoy was meant to accompany the two thousand dollars cash also in the envelope. “Walking around money for the five days,” I murmured.
There was a knock on what had to be the connecting door. I opened it to find Jerrod all smiles standing there. “Now this is the way to travel,” he said.
“It does beat the shaking river boat. Oh by the way here, some walking around money.” I handed him a thousand dollars.
“Wow, I had no idea I would get paid until after we got home?” he commented. He was most likely wanted to know where the rest of his money was.
“Well I have to go make a report to the client. This is just an advance,” I suggested. That explanation left my options open as to how much I would pay Jerrod in the end. I needed to sit down and do an assessment as to how he had performed and if I wanted to work with him again.
“You are going to have to fly home from Miami alone. The ticket will be waiting for you, but you might need to buy a drink or a meal along the way. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t carry any real money along on the jungle expedition.” I said.
“Not much, but I could have managed,” he said. “But hey thanks.”