He kept fading back and forth into consciousness. He was somewhat aware of his surroundings. He guessed he was in the hospital since he seemed to have tubes coming in and out of every part of his body. When he could open his eyes a bit he recognized his children, not all of them at one time, sitting around looking worried. At times as he came into consciousness he got the feeling that whichever one of them was there was laughing and wondering how long it was going to take before they would have to contact the undertaker. He coughed a bit and they jumped up and gathered around his bed. He just didn't have the strength to do anything but close his eyes and slip back in his mind to when he was much younger.
He was a Fort Dix, New Jersey dressed in Army issue Fatigues about three days after his induction. Already he was getting acclimated to the Army's way of doing anything. The clothes issued didn't fit. The food gave him dysentery from which he quickly recovered. It was either recover or shit your drawers. So he recovered. They didn't have his orders but they had a microphone which was very loud and blurted out every few hours or so that the orders had finally arrived and everyone should fall out. They then would count off numbers and assign duties from policing the area, to kitchen police. The PA system was referred to as the "bitch box". He and about five other guys had got caught the first day they were here and they decided to beat the system by breaking into the barracks next door which was empty where they opened the window in the latrine a crack so they could hear what the Sargents were barking out. Others didn't catch on and got hung up for duty.
The second day he was at Fort Dix they called out over the bitch box for every one to fall out since they had the orders of assignment. The Sargent counted off about eighty guys and then assigned a National Guard Sargent who was also new, to march them over to the general mess for the hated KP. He was in the middle of this motley crew that started to march out of step to the cadence call towards the consolidated mess hall. He thought there was no way he was going to dive into that mess hall that was said to have a grease pit that you could walk into or pots and pans stacked so high it would wrinkle your skin just by exposing yourself to that hard soap and high heat.
The Sarge. was calling off , hep 1, hep 2 and so on. He noticed that this rookie NG wasn't looking behind so as they were advancing he started to go slower and work his way to the last row, on the right. The NG Sarge.
barked ".....to the left TURN..." and the whole troop went left and he went straight. The troop continued to march towards the mess hall and he was free, but he didn't want to go directly back to his barracks as he might be questioned. He looked for a Post Exchange, PX, and he was drawn to the Fats Domino sound of "Blueberry Hill" and "My Blue Heaven". As it got louder he found the PX. He took a deep breath and hoped nobody would ask him anything. He entered the bright lights and the loud music of Fats Domino, ordered a bottle of 3.2% beer, sat at a table and lit a lucky inhaling deeply. He drank with gusto almost finishing the bottle of beer with one gulp, laughing at his Sgt. Bilko adventure loving his youth while at the same time missing his girl so much his body burned whenever he thought of her. Yet for the moment there was a feeling of freedom, a feeling of release.
The music of Fats Domino was beginning to fade in the echoing halls of his mind as he returned to consciousness for a brief moment. He opened his eyes and all his children were there with most of his grandchildren. He thought to himself, "For everyone to be here, they must of been told the end is very near." He started to feel that same sort of freedom he felt so many years ago when for a brief moment he outsmarted the US Army. Then he felt the moment of release and suddenly he was at the ceiling looking down at his body and those he loved and he knew he was gone. He felt a little nudge and right along side he saw his girl, she had left him so long ago but now they were together again.