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John Palcewski's Journal

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Behind The Lines
forioscribe

This morning I heard Pushi meowing at the door. I parted the curtain, looked out into the courtyard. The wind was up, the fronds of the palm were waving. I swore I heard that familiar meow. But it must have been my imagination. 

I go back to this keyboard and resume my tapping. 

Begin the Beguine. A flirtation. A dance. 

When Chester heard the song on the car’s radio that night  it took him right back to those days in Hawaii, when he was the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the Schofield Barracks post office. He spent a lot of time after work on the beach under a waving palm tree, staring out at the sunset, thinking about how Betty dumped him. How much he had loved her. All those love poems he wrote. All those flowers he brought her. Candy, too. And she just threw it all away. 

He found a station that played only American music. The song “Harbor Lights” perfectly captured his loneliness. And back in America after the war that song would come on the radio, and he’d get a lump in his throat. That bittersweet tune reminded him of the unbearable pain of those days and nights on the other side of the world. Thinking about Betty’s betrayal of him. And his son. 

And now they want to Begin the Beguine! 

In those fits of nostalgia Chester didn’t think of Harriet, the bar whore he took home with him after closing time, while Betty was in St. Elizabeth’s giving birth to little Johnny. He also didn’t think about how he had earlier showed up, drunk and slurring and stumbling, loudly demanding to see his son. They told him if he didn’t get the hell out of there, they’d call the cops. That’s why he took Harriet home and fucked her in Betty’s bed. To teach that bitch a lesson. 

Begin the beguine. 

Like “Harbor Lights” the Cole Porter tune and lyrics brought it all back. So while little Johnny shivered in a delirium in the car’s back seat, Chester sat at the bar and knocked back a shot and a beer, then ordered another. The time just slipped away. 

Out in the parking lot someone recognized Chet’s car, and just happened to look inside, saw a blanket moving. Knocked on the glass. A little pale white face appeared. Jesus H. Christ! What’s that kid doing in there? He’s gonna FREEZE to death! 

“You gotta be out of yer fuckin’ mind, Chet. They could arrest you for endangering a minor, do you know that?” 

They shook their heads. Unbelivable. The guy at the bar, who was one of the NCOs at the Polish League of American Veterans, summed it up:

 “…this asshole leaves his own son in the parking lot to freeze to death while he sits there smokin’, knocking back shots, cryin’ in his beer like something BIG has happened, but he don’t know shit about that. Wanna hear about the landing on Omaha beach on 6 June 1944? Huh? I was there, brother, and I saw it all. My best friend got hit and screamed half a minute after we jumped off that LCVP, and I grabbed his hand and dragged him up the beach, and looked and saw his bloody fuckin’ guts fallin’ out of his belly. And that was in just the first minute of the fuckin’ landing. I wasn’t behind the lines sortin’ GI mail at a fuckin’ Hawaiian post office…”