It’s not often that I can’t come up with something to blog about, but after an exhausting roundtrip to Charlotte, yesterday, to visit my sons, their wives, and my granddaughter, there was nothing left in the tank.
However, I thought you might enjoy this excerpt from my coming-of-age novel, Escaping Innocence (A Story of Awakening). If you are a Baby Boomer, like me, this should bring back some memories of your own. If you’re not, it’ll probably leave you asking a lot of questions of your friends or parents who are.
Here’s the excerpt:
US Marine Recruiter, Staff Sergeant James Averill, stared at us across the cigarette-scarred table with pale, watery-blue eyes, a five-cent Phillies cigar clenched firmly between his irregular, nicotine-stained teeth. It was July 1964, and I had now been out of high school for over two years. I was back working at the liquor store after forfeiting a full semester’s tuition for five days of art school, but the time had come to make a dent in the status quo. Of course I couldn’t do it alone, so I dragged Craig along, convincing him that he would look terrific in a U.S. Marines dress-blue uniform. We entered the shabby recruiting office on a lark, following a Saturday double-feature at the Oritani Theater in downtown Hackensack.
Sergeant Averill coughed nervously as the acrid smoke from his cheap cigar brought tears to his eyes. He had obviously bought into the fallacy that real men smoked cigars, and his discomfort only served to affirm his conviction. I estimated his age at around thirty, mainly owing to the premature thinning of his washed-out, dirty blond hair. In reality, he could have been as young as twenty. There was no way to know. His skin was ghostly white, contrasting starkly against the navy blue color of his uniform, and this appearance along with his skeletal frame rebutted the robust image he sought to convey.
With a cloud of thick blue smoke encircling his head, Sergeant Averill proudly told of how the marines had enabled him to leave his home in Little Rock, Arkansas (a feat that most of his friends had been unable to accomplish). He alternately pontificated about, and pleaded on behalf of his chosen branch of the service, in an effort to get us to enlist. Sergeant Jim (as he preferred to be called) painted exotic word pictures of faraway places replete with bawdy descriptions of sexual adventures that he assured us would be ours. He pulled his shoulders back, simultaneously thrusting his concave chest forward, affecting his best posture. He was a model of military propriety.
“Join the team, men!” he said, in a deep southern accent that seemed to grow deeper with each syllable. “Y’all will never regret yer decision. Hell, I’ll even see to it that y’all can bunk together and evy’thang.” The sergeant sensed our indecision, and pressed on. “Ya see, we calls it the ‘Buddy System,’ and it means that y’all will never be separated.” His eyes narrowed, and he pressed on, his voice dropping down to a conspiratorial whisper. “Look, men,” he said, his head swiveling from side to side to sure no one else could hear him, “We even got wall-to-wall carpeting, and TV in every room.”
Yeah, yeah, I thought, and you’ll even throw in a new Corvette! Craig coughed, and old Sergeant Jim took that as a sign of encouragement. “Whaddaya say, men? Let’s do it.” Continue reading