Gitmo Three

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Third chapter. I'm doing my best to learn how the editing works on Booksie. I haven't mastered it yet. This chapter tells about some of the trouble my brothers and I managed to get into.

 Charley Three

Partners in Crime, Search for Adventure

 

For most of my young life my younger brother Gary was right by my side. Did I say by my side? I should have said that he was a half step behind with one hand on my shoulder. If you could see my shadow then you could see Gary’s blended in with mine.With red hair and a freckled face, Gary was my Tom Sawyer even before I knew who Tom Sawyer was. He walked on the balls of his feet, standing on his tippy toes. His silent approach was like a ghost.

 

I got into plenty of trouble and wild situations yes, but most of the time Gary was the one that pushed me into it.

 

Just like our first day in Gitmo. Down by the docks we found a dory tied up, both oars on the pier. Looking down from the dock just seeing the boat floating there was tempting, oh, so tempting. It was made more so by the incoming waves pushing the boat towards us. Gary shoved me towards the small boat, egging me on. I didn’t see any harm. Like it’s just floating there not hurting anyone, why not? I crawled my way into the boat and sat on the wooden bench in the rear. I was almost squeamish with the horizon rocking back and forth.

 

Next thing I know, there’s Gary sitting on the bench in front of me with a big freckled face grin. The commotion from the both of us kept the little skiff rocking back and forth. My first experience with sea sickness. Soon we were slowly drifting away from the dock.

 

I turned to look at the retreating dock with despair. Gary untied the rope before he got in. Now we were drifting away. The tantalizing part was that both oars were laying right there on the dock. Mocking us, so near and yet so far. This was a submarine pier, it was far too deep to get out and wade. Panic was about to set in. This was before our first swimming lesson. Gary took the rope and using the loop on the end, he lassoed the pylon while we were still close enough to reach it. Wow, that could have ended up a lot worse. We pulled the boat back up to the pier and ran back home before anyone could lasso us and tan our hides.

 

Gary and I found an old bicycle at the bottom of the ravine, just across Sherman Blvd. The bike didn’t have a chain nor a rear tire. Just the rim. Still, with a little imagination, we could ride it.  Just push it to the top of the hill and coast downhill.  At the bottom of the incline we would have to lay the bike down on it’s side to miss the oncoming traffic. When it was Duane’s turn, with a Devil be damn attitude, he just blew through the traffic and went down the ravine on the other side.  Eventually we stole a thick piece of rope from Public Works, enough to weave together to make a suitable tire.  Dad promised we’d get bikes for Christmas. With us being overseas it must have been rough on Santa because it took two years.

 

Dad promised me a .22 for Christmas.  Ordering things from the Sears Catalog took time, especially a firearm sent through the mail. Since he was the “O in C” of the Armory, Dad checked out a 1903 Springfield M-1. It was a 30.06 with a 3 shot magazine. Four shots altogether. Dad told me that if I went to the rifle range and completed the safety course that I could use this rifle until my .22 rifle came in. Within two weeks I completed the safety course. I was in heaven. I rode the base bus every week to the rifle range with my piece in a gun case and a box of shells. The price of shells were around six dollars. That meant if I wanted to shoot on Saturdays, I’d better hustle the rest of the week. 

 

When the bolt action single shot .22 finally arrived, I was sick. I didn’t want that pea shooter.  Dad told me that I could keep the M-1 too. The good news was Gary and Duane received rifles too. Winchester model .22s. That meant all three of us had to hustle to support our habit. .22 bullets weren't that cheap. The shells for the 30.06 cost a lot more. About this time I began to think that my dad wanted us to be prepared.  You know, just in case.  I was 9 years old, I owned two rifles.  Gary and Duane were 6 and 5, they had a rifle too. After plenty of practice at the rifle range we could shoot the eyes out of a snake. We kept our rifles in the closet, cleaned, oiled and loaded, ready to go.

 

From the beginning Gary and I started sneaking out of our bedrooms at night so that we could run wild, exploring the dimly lit restricted areas on base after Taps.  A few nights a week we met up with Larry and Lon Ward, the Red Devils.  Their dad was in charge of Operations. We called those nights “Dare Nights” because it was always, “I dare you to do this,” or “I dare you to do that.” 

 

Wherever I went, Gary was right behind me. From sunup to sun down and after.  Mom started telling us that we had to take Duane along with us. In her mind, she didn’t need to worry about us as long as we had Duane tagging along. Most of the time, his legs were in a cast or he was wearing leg braces from recent operations. The Navy Doctors moved muscles from his upper leg to his lower legs to strengthen them.  Mom thought that because of his status, his presence would slow us down and eliminate us getting in precarious predicaments.

 

Once Gary and I started slipping out on the prowl though, Duane would fall in right behind us. He threatened to holler out if we didn’t let him come with us. Mom was right, most of the time. Duane couldn’t keep up, the braces were too cumbersome. We came up with a plan. I would carry Duane piggyback everywhere we went.

 

We were seen a few times after hours and reported by the Base Police.  Dad began the practice of raking the ground beneath our bedroom window to make it easier to see fresh footprints. After a couple whippings, our favorite way of passage was through the treetops. We began by crawling out on tree limbs that were near our bedroom window. During daylight hours we trail blazed paths through the thick tree branches that grew close together. Duane would hang on tight, arms around my neck. As cumbersome as it was our progress was slow, yet we did it. Gary, always the pathmaker, would go ahead of us with a machete, making sure that the way was clear.

 

The dense trees offered concealment and a private passage. It was our hidden Crow’s Nest. We could see without being seen. If the climbing was too difficult, I would set Duane in the fork of the tree, telling him to stay put until I came back for him. Duane was terrified of iguanas. If I took too long he would start swinging from limb to limb like Tarzan to get away from the giant lizards whether imaginary or real. All the years of falling and pushing himself back up developed his arms and shoulders beyond normal strength.  Sometimes though, I would turn around and see my little brother just hanging from a branch, pleading with me to come get him.

 

The night the Navy Exchange caught on fire, we were just playing. Duane wanted to set Molotov Cocktail afire. Gary dared him to do it. Accidents happen all the time. We were lucky that we didn’t get caught. I think it was Ski that showed us how to make Maltov cocktails. The Gas Station was behind the Navy Exchange. Most nights we could find the pumps unlocked. After filling a few empty rum bottles with gas, Duane wanted to light one up. He used a “borrowed” lighter from one of Dad’s desks.  When Duane tried to light the rag, the spilt fuel on his arm lit up. This caused him to toss the bottle in the air with the bottle breaking on impact.  We tried to put out the flames but the pallets leaning up against the dumpster caught on fire. Soon the Navy Exchange was in flames. The Zippo lighter with Dad’s name engraved on the cover was later found at the scene, badly blistered from the fire.

 

By the time the base alarm sounded we were back in bed pretending to be asleep. After hearing the alarm just a few blocks away we joined the crowd of onlookers.  The fire brigade was busy pulling out the flammable objects. The shelves in the Sporting Goods Department held plenty of ammo. The firefighters tossed boxes and boxes of new ammo, (shotgun shells, rifle and pistol bullets) into the ditch. When no one was looking, my brothers and I hid some of these boxes in a culvert. We recovered them later when the coast was clear. I can’t remember if it was Tommy or the Guinea, Carmen Fratto, that showed us how to remove the gunpowder and wrap it in tinfoil with a BB to make a little self explosive bomb.  He showed us how to pack coconuts with the gunpowder that we removed from the bullets. Using a shoestring dipped in lighter fluid for wicks, we made our own explosive devices.

 

After our first few months on the base we were still feeling out our surroundings. The gravel road in front of our house tempted us to invent games that involved rock throwing. Since we weren’t allowed to throw at vehicles or buildings we would draw two circles in the gravel about fifty feet apart. The object of the game was to stand in your circle and throw rocks at your opponent. One of our rules was that the rock had to bounce first before contact to score any points. 

 

Everything would go just fine. Ouch that smarts. Ooh, that was a good one. After I scored on Gary about three or four times he forgot all about bouncing the rocks first. He started sailing them right at me, one right after the other. Duane would carry big chunks of coral in his pocket. If he got hit above the waist, his next salvo would be a chunk of coral aimed at my head.  Needless to say, we became very adept at chucking rocks.

 

Gary’s stealthiness came in handy. He was like a ghost.  Walking on his tippy toes you couldn’t hear him coming or going.  After our parents found out about our nightly escapades they made us sleep in separate bedrooms with their bedroom in between. I guess their logic was they would hear  us if we made any commotion. Soon after that, I would hear tapping in the middle of the night. The tapping came from my window. It was Gary giving me the signal that the coast was clear.  Next thing you know, we’re climbing out the window, up the limb, and looking for a new adventure.

 

It rained a lot during the hurricane season. Wary of flooding, the guys at Public Works, like everyone else would park their trucks on top of a hill. One moonlit night the three of us were staring out the windshield of the trash truck, a big deuce and a quarter, parked on top of a hill overlooking the bay. I was rummaging through the glove box while Gary was sitting behind the wheel pretending he was driving. Duane was playing with the gear shift when he slipped the transmission into neutral.

 

Slowly at first, the big truck started rolling.  We panicked, but we couldn’t jump out and leave Duane. We braced ourselves and rode it out.

 

I had a white knuckled grip on the dashboard while we rode downhill in the wayward truck. We went as fast as gravity would pull us. At the bottom of the hill was a locked chain link gate, beyond that lay the submarine piers and open water. Crashing through the gate barely slowed us down. The truck made such a big splash it looked like a tsunami. Gary made it out first, he came back to help me with Duane. Duane’s leg irons made him too heavy to swim. While there was still air in the cab we unbuckled them. Duane wrapped both arms around my neck and we swam to shore. Gary managed to hang onto the braces somehow.

 

Later, Mom kept asking Duane if he peed in his pants, “Just how did you get these straps so wet?” she asked.

 

When we first met up with the other kids on Radio Point there was an invisible barrier between us. The other kids were born to their roles as officer’s children, but not so us. We grew up in military housing for enlisted men’s families, not much more than shacks. Our Dad was a Chief before he made Ensign. We rubbed shoulders with the guys in the Black Shoe Navy and grew up next to their families. If they were rough and crude, so were we. Mom called us “a pack of Salty Dogs.”  After our first meeting with the other kids, someone scrunched up their nose and said that we smelled like dungarees and diesel.

 

Gary came out shooting from the hip, “I bet my brother Mike can outrun any of you, barefoot on rocks.” 

 

Where that came from, I don’t know. Someone stepped up to the challenge, I won. I even won a few races with Duane on my back. After that any time Gary wanted to throw down the gauntlet he did. I was his champion. I did what I had to do to make it good.

 

After we were caught doing something that we weren’t supposed to be doing, Gary would act sheepishly, stabbing his toe in the gravel looking down like he was so innocent. He would use his red hair and a face full of freckles  to lessen his punishment. Me, I always got the max. Since I was the oldest, I was supposed to set an example.  As far as punishments go, mine would be the most severe. 

 

Most afternoons we would climb to the top of the trees in our yard filled with fear and anticipation, to watch Dad walk home from work.  The Admin Building was the next hill over. We knew we were about to get a whipping for something. Gary would wrap newspaper inside his pants legs so the switches wouldn’t hurt so much. I often wonder why my parents didn’t figure it out that the only times Gary wore long pants were when we got spanked. I never mentioned it, I didn’t have time.  I knew I was next.

 

Mom may have used switches but Dad used tree branches. He cut switches for me that were as big around as his thumb. He would wear out three tree branches on me until they weren’t nothing but splinters.  Dad was a heavy smoker.  I did my best to hold on until he started coughing. Once he started coughing it was over. He wasn’t able to do anything else.

 

At bedtime, our maid, Sylvia, would gently rub my wounds with salves from one of her magic potions.  My brothers and I would lay quietly until we heard snoring then, like Peter Pan we were out the window again.  Off to another adventure.

 

It’s funny what escapades run through your head in the middle of the night. I was just dreaming about my brothers when I heard a tapping noise at my window that woke me. I could feel them waiting for me. Just on the other side. More than likely that red headed Gary is standing on his tippy toes and Duane probably has a pocketful of rocks.  Yes, I can almost smell the salve.


Submitted: April 16, 2021

© Copyright 2021 mike frailey. All rights reserved.

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