Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Umnak Island, 8 September 1944

Hello little darling…

Yesterday I did not write and today, as yesterday, so little has happened that I can think of nothing to say. The days on which I do not go for a hike are the same with the sameness of Mexican beans or Romanian mush. And about as appealing.

Take today for example. I finished work at 8 a.m. and waited a few minutes for my relief, who was late. When he came I told him the chief censor had left him a note about some business and then I went over to the mess hall for breakfast: tomato juice, undone hotcakes, real (as contrasted with canned) butter and coffee. I am doing my monthly KP trick this week so after eating I stayed in the mess hall to mop the floor and wash the dishes. Russ Linhart, an amiable St. Bernard of a boy, is also on KP. He set the tables and carried out the garbage. We were through at five after nine. 

That posed a problem. The ACS enlisted personnel expect for the top three graders were to take their monthly physical exams today. That meant I had to stay up until one for the first exam or get up by six for the second. I decided to stay up. Jack and I took a short walk to the top of the hill but the weather was bad and we couldn’t see anything, so we came back. He went to the rec hall and I took a shower. After that I went to the hut to wait out one o’clock.

The hut in mid-morning is not particularly pleasant. Mac, the cook, has been working nights and he wakes up around ten and turns the heat way up. A hot hut stinks and ours is no exception. Mac is the only man who likes the hut overheat—and that is natural for a cook because after being over the proverbial h.s. all day long a cool hut seems frigid to him. So I never complain about his pouring on the oil, but the rest of the fellows give him a bad time about it and the atmosphere is sometimes tense. 

Today the hut was very hot, but I left the door open. That is our compromise: hot air, but fresh. Mac was reading a letter in bed. Greenleaf, at the next bunk down, was out at work, his bed unmade. Richardson was lying on top of his bunk trying to sleep and making occasional remarks about the heat. Reger the Noisy was in bed, belching and clicking his fingernails. Hesse was off at work. Tim was in bed with a horrendous hangover and from time to time he would sit up and growl at Mac because Mac’s bedlight is unshaded and shown in his eyes. About once every half hour he would go outside and let out his beer. Time has the unpleasant habit of urinating off the front walk, less than a yard from the door. It is neither pleasant to see or hear. And on the occasional hot days his habit would be noticeable to a deaf mute. The bed across from mine has been empty since Lyle went on furlough.

I read some more in “Admiral of the Ocean Sea,” and added the Caribbean to the places we want to visit. So far the best chapter in the book to me has been the one describing how the news of Columbus’s first trip got around Europe in private newsletters. The whole book, though, is an excellent job and fascinating to read. When I began to get sleepy I made a pot of tea on the hotplate and that kept me going. I decided to skip lunch when Mac told me it was going to be chile con carne; the army kind is even worse than the restaurant type. 

At a quarter to one I walked over to the hospital for the physical. I went with Mac who was moaning because staff sergeants and up are excused—the old “if we are screwed they should be too” argument. It is, of course, stupid to suppose that the top graders are any more immune to whatever we might catch than the enlisted men. But I’ve got past worrying about illogical things in the army and the things that make me mad make me made because they happen to me and not because they don’t happen to anyone else.
The inspection was the usual farce. The doctor ran the works of us through in about five minutes. We had a different doctor inspecting than on my previous trips, and the fellows all seemed to think he was a card. He sat and smirked and made remarks about the size of our pudendums as we paraded past until I had to think of a certain Senator that the New York Post gave a bad time. Inspection over, Jack and the Reb and I went to the commissary, bought some cheese and walked back to camp.

from Windblown and Dripping, 1944
I spent half an hour or so sweeping up around my bunk, emptying my wastebasket and rearranging my supply of Nescafeswingshift was moaning and groaning at working overtime by the time we came to relieve them. 

That is the way the day goes, and you can see how little variation there is likely to be from such a theme. It also probably explains why I have not accomplished more on my writing recently. There seems to be neither the time nor place – especially the latter.

You are the thing that makes all this worthwhile, little one. Whenever I am really blue at being away from you I can usually climb out of it by thinking of how wonderful it will be to be back together again, and how much more I will appreciate everything we had.
Take good care of the Romur [their kayak] and tell Haj I had nothing to do with her getting a bath. I want to be on barking terms with her when I get back.

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