On their first wedding anniversary Carla told her husband what her father had done to her and her sister Karen. He turned pale. Then he went ballistic. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He wanted to smash all the furniture. No. He wanted to kill that son of a bitch. No, torture the motherfucker. He needed to do SOMETHING.
“I wanted to tell you that I will never forgive you for what you did to me,” Carla told Leon on the telephone, as the Sony tape recorder’s reels turned silently. “You took my childhood away from me. Children are supposed to be allowed to play and have fun. After you fucked me I could never play, never really have fun.”
A long silence.
“But you turned out OK after all, didn’t you?” Leon said. “I mean, what I taught you came in handy, didn’t it? It got you a rich husband, and you’ve obviously made him happy.”
“But I was only 10 years old for God’s sake.”
“You never once objected, Carla. You never said no. In fact you had multiple orgasms. Remember? You liked it.”
Ah. There it was, exactly what the prosecutor needed. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Add that to the sworn deposition they just got from Karen.
Leon’s attorney told him it wasn’t likely Ms. Witherspoon would entertain any sort of plea bargain because, well, she’s got a hard on for sexual predators, especially incestuous child molestors. We’re looking at jail time, Leon. Better get your affairs in order. I’ll do my best, but there’s not much I can do. She’s got an airtight case.
I was shocked, Beth said. I mean really shocked. But then I wasn’t really that surprised. It explained a lot of things, you know? And maybe I just didn’t want to see, didn’t want to believe he was that way, even though I knew it all along. Most of it’s a blur, but this is what I remember. He comes home, pretty drunk. I don’t say anything to him because I’m paralyzed. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s just too awful, too horrible to even think about. He gives me this look. I’ll never forget it. His dark eyes are sunk into his head, like a skull. He’s got a grimace that shows his clenched teeth. He doesn’t say anything, he just goes right into the den. He comes out with his shotgun. Oh, my God, he’s going to kill me! I’m petrified. I can’t move, and I can’t scream.
But he sits down on the sofa, and just like that he props the stock on the rug, puts his mouth over both barrels. He reaches down.
And that was it.
Leon wanted me to see his blood and brains spray the white wall behind him. Why? Because he was a heartless, evil son of a bitch. No other reason.
* * *
They finally sent me to Roswell AFB for the Officer Candidate School screening tests. I got off the C-47 late in the afternoon. My room in the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters was small, but clean. After a quick shower I dressed in my civvies. Blue blazer, blue shirt with button-down collar, chinos, loafers. Walked over to the Officer’s Club.
Yes, as an officer candidate I was entitled to these privileges. I had three scotches on the rocks before dinner. I ordered my favorite: steak, baked potato with chives and sour cream, and peas. Apple pie ala mode for desert. My orders were folded neatly in my shirt pocket, just in case anybody questioned me. God, that steak tasted good.
I was alone in the testing office of the old WWII barracks. The sun shone through the windows, and the place smelled of hot wood. A bored staff sergeant handed me the first test booklet and an answer sheet. Also a number 2 pencil. I sat down on a folding chair, at a small table.
My nervousness vanished as I went through the questions, one after another. I knew the answers for virtually all of them, and then just guessed at the rest.
I watched as the sergeant put a plastic scoring sheet over my answers. Didn’t take him long to tell me that I’d passed. Best score he’s ever seen, he said. A record. I smiled. He gave me the next test. And again, I breezed through it. This time I scored a 99.
The sergeant pointed me toward the base hospital. A full physical. A white-coated physician checked my mouth as well as all my other orifices. He put his finger at the side of my scrotum and asked me to cough. He put his finger on the other side of my scrotum and asked me to cough again. He looked at the chest x-ray. Peered at the squiggly red line on my electrocardiogram. He scribbled something on my paperwork.
“You’re good,” he said.
The next morning the sergeant said my orders for OCS were being cut and ought to be ready in a couple hours. Meanwhile, there’s just one more test, and it won’t take long. Just a formality, he said.
It appeared to be some kind of psychological evaluation, something to determine how mentally suitable one was for the duties of a flying officer. I had watched all those pilots and navigators at 4128th Strategic Wing, and I knew how they behaved. Many of them were aggressive, and some were irreverent goofballs who had little use for military formalities.
Like for instance Colonel Cridland, who had just taken over as Wing Commander. He was a full bird colonel, a former fighter pilot Ace in the Korean War. A silver star was among the rows of his campaign ribbons. He was imposing and handsome, just like a movie star, tall, well built, with dazzling white teeth and silver hair, sunglasses.
When we first met in Intelligence Division, he quizzed me closely about where I was from, and wanted to know exactly what I did in bomb scoring and preparing those combat mission folders. Every time I saw him in the hallway afterward, he’d stop and make a joke about this or that. As if I were his buddy. As if he didn’t see the stripes on my sleeves indicating my lowly enlisted status. He never played superior officer with me. He was just open and friendly and full of mischief.
One day I was in the big coffee shop/cafe on the floor above Intelligence Division. I was standing at one of the tall tables with three other Airmen. He came in the room in full regalia—tailor made Class A blues, and his service cap with silver clouds and lightning bolts on the black visor. He bought a pack of Luckies, and saw me. He approached. The other Airmen automatically stood at attention.
“Excuse me, John,” he said.
“I was wondering if it’s OK with you that I go over to the club for lunch now.”
I looked at my watch. “I suppose so, but I hope you’ll be back in time for the 1300 briefing.”
“Oh, thanks, John. I really appreciate it.”
And he grinned, and departed.
I opened the test booklet. A multiple choice thing. Excellent! My favorite kind of test.
“You are flying over the countryside,” one of the questions read. “You observe a farmhouse below. You:
a) ignore the farmhouse and continue flying your mission.
b) consider buzzing the farmhouse, but realize it would be a violation of regulations, so you don’t.
c) buzz the farmhouse because it would be fun.
d) none of the above
I reasoned that answering a) would indicate a guy who was not very observant. A flying officer, however, allows nothing to escape his attention. So forget a). Then I reasoned that choosing b) would reveal me as a kind of stick-in-the mud, unimaginative and perhaps even timid guy. Good pilots are never timid, they are BOLD. Fearless. Therefore the only possible answer was c).
There were many more questions along the same lines, and I answered them as I thought a pilot or navigator would.
The sergeant again laid the plastic sheet over my answers and checked them off.
“Your score is 60,” he said. “Passing is 65. So you failed.”
My face burned. I couldn’t believe it. “Would you check again? Maybe the overlay was misaligned.”
The sergeant complied. But no, the score was still 60.
“Well, Airman,” he grinned. “Looks like you ain’t going to OSC after all.”
Oh, well. I guess it just wasn't meant to be.