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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Civil Defense 1966

Submitted: February 01, 2008

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Submitted: February 01, 2008





Already practiced in the art of the vacant., blank stare, I knew I could pass for a corpse with no problem.  I was determined ,in fact, to make a good job of it. And who knows? Perhaps start a career.

It all started when our local Civil Defense organization , in cooperation with  city and county agencies, held a disaster drill of major proportions.  My Boy Scout group (Flaming Arrow Patrol, Troop 99, San Gabriel Council, Altadena CA) was one of several used as pools of willing guinea pigs in an attempt to find out what would happen should someone ever drop the Big  One on us.

We were Ready.

Those of us born in the 1950s had been raised with the Bomb all through Kidhood.  in abstract terms we knew of the threat, but in day-to-day terms it  made little impact on us.  Our constantt war gaming was focused on  re-hashing the  Second World War.  Interestingly enough, since our Daddies and Uncles had won the Good Fight, we were more sympathetic to the losers, the underdogs. Nobody wanted to be G.I. Joe in our mock combats. How boring, how predictable!No thanks, buddy, I'll sign on with the Storm Troops. It had nothing at all to do with the ideology or atrocities which had been committed.  Frankly , it was the outfits, and especially the funky helmets which gave them such a hard-core persona.  We were not alone, as the U.S. government later adopted the coal-scuttle helmet style for its own and showed it off for the first time in the invasion of Grenada in 1983.  Yep, everybody wanted to be the Germans I, however , was the only one to take the part of the Japanese.  I became an expert at the last ditch suicide charge.  Out with a blaze of glory!Banzai!in our scenarios, everybody died.

The 60's  brought  the nuclear threat  closer to our minds in a big way, however.  The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was a major shock to the system.  I vividly remember the sinking feeling I had as the news-casters suggested cleaning out the old fall-out shelters.  My family, of course had no such handy haven. Just an old wood-frame house with a basement  full of  old mason jars, junk and black-widow spiders that hadn't been cleaned out since the Flood. It  became obvious to  more than just myself that Something needed a lotta  work.....

In the meantime, however,we still indulged ourselves with military fantasies of a more conventional nature.  That's where Scouting came in.  Make no mistake, it really was the uniforms and "Ach Ja, Kamerad"  sort of stuff that drew us into the movement. What do you expect from an organization founded by a veteran British Army and Intelligence officer like Col. Baden-Powell?  In any case, when the opportunity came to join the big drill in the summer of 1966, it was too good to pass up.  Here was our big chance- us Scouts, in our uniforms, as Honest-to-God CASUALTIES!  It was like an early fulfillment our later allotted roles in olive-drab a little farther down the line. 

Finally, the Great Day came.  Our elementary school was chosen to be an aid station in  part of the exercise, from which we lucky troopers were to  be flown by helicopter to the local hospital. Of course, at that time nobody  stopped to consider that in a real fracas the hospital would have been fried too.

We were given little dog tags denoting our respective afflicitions.  As Lady Luck would have it, I had my arm and clavicle broken by a falling wall.  I was frankly disappointed. A broken arm in  the midst of a nuclear holocaust seemed a bit pedestrian, to tell the truth.  I soon worked up a trade with  Alonzo, who was Dead.  Thigs seemed much more logical that way.  Alonzo was made for the part, and soon his shrieks were echoing satisfyingly through the halls. As for me, I have always been kinda introverted, yet a frustrated actor. This way I could kill two birds with one stone. I could be the epitome of the quiet type,  and be on stage at the same time!

Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. They ripped off the choppers and so instead of Up, Up and Away I was dumped unceremoniously into the back of a station wagon. I decided to make the most of  things.  I curled my upper lip to show more tooth and gum, and tried to make my eyes all  glassy and out of focus.  Like I said- t'weren't  nothin' !I got my first gasp as I slid along the floor of the wagon to come to a shivering halt  next to a lad who was mewling about a fractured tibia or some such nonsense.  The wife of the driver took one look at me and said  "Harry!  Is- is he ALRIGHT?" Beneath my glazed eyes I gloated: "I'm gonna be a star!"  She calmed down a bit and tried to smile, but refused to look at me for the rest of the trip.

We were transported to St. Luke's Hospital in Pasadena, where I was placed with several other victims on a pleasant lawn near the Emergency Room.  I  immediately settled in for some serious acting.  I sprawled  out a little more when no one was watching.  I stared at the sky and the tops of the pine trees until I started to fade out for real.  Occasionally I noted some passersby's disgust at my carcass on the grass.  Once a trio of nuns trooped by and let out a communal gasp.  Shortly after that somebody threw a sheet over me. That was fine by me,  as the  flies were seriously starting to tickle my nose. I managed to contort my limbs into a convincing case of rigor mortis.

I had, however, forgotten one important factor  in all this. I had expected some sort of attention durig all this- a trip to the cold box, a hasty autopsy- SOMETHING.  No Taps, nothin'. Finally after about an hour and a half  I heard a diffident voice piercing my  foggy consciousness.  "Uh, Uh, Son? The exercise is over now. You can get up."  It had to happen. All good things must come to an end. I expected to see the grinning faces of my comrades around me, but I was alone. I stumbled uncertainly into the Emergency Room and became enraged at what I saw. All around were contented casualties sucking down Cokes and reading Marvel comics. The worst part was,  they were all finished and there was nothing left for ME!

I learned some important things that day. Oh, I can't say that I lost my bloody-mindedness  immediately, but I did start to pay more attention to reality. It became obvious that in a Big Blast there would be no time to worry about individuals or mourn the lost. But instead of framing things in terms of patriotism and self sacrifice, I saw thigs in more concrete terms:

Dead men don't get Cokes. And dead men don't get comic books.....

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