|A Story: Butterflys and butterfly
It was the summer of 1961 and
I was the new guy on base. I guess I'd been at Clark for a week, maybe
two so I still had butterflies about yet another new "home" to get into
and used to.
My family was living in temporary
quarters on base, waiting for temporary yet other quarters off base in
Marisol to come available. My dad had taken us all out to Marisol to show
us were we would be living for six months or so once the house there was
finished. We had lived in a lot of weird places, but Marisol in those days
was right up there toward the top of the list. My younger brother, Chris
and I walked out into a cane filed next to the house-to-be. I almost stepped
on a cobra. first one I'd ever seen. 'Til then I thought they always had
those hood things sticking out. Not so. Only when their pissed. Like when
you almost step on them. We killed it with some rocks and took it to show
Mom. She wasn't too impressed, She'd just killed a rat the size of dog.
It was a bad day for Dad.
Anyway..... Like all of you,
I was a practiced new kid, having been a new guy every few of years for
as long as I'd been around. Its was sort of the natural cycle. A mini-life
and life-after metaphor as it were. New guy, not-so-new-guy, been-around-awhile-guy,
short timer guy, gone guy....... New guy.....
Anyway... sometime in that
rawest new-guy week or so I met Jerry Bender. He was an old hand guy, a
'post-grad' having just graduated from what was then Wurtsmith HS. (I think
he must have been in your class of '61, Chuck - excuse me for retelling
a story I told you a couple weeks ago...:)
He and I and a couple of other
guys were standing out behind the teen club smoking really bad Sno-Man
cigarettes and pretending we didn't mind how bad these fowl smelling tobacco
scrap, chicken feather and water buffalo dung butts really were. Generally
doing the old-hands sizing up the new guy orientation thing. Jerry and
the others ( I think Toby Metz and Dave Frolich, his dad was base-CO then
as I remember) were telling me all sorts of interesting things about what
to expect once we moved into temp housing off base. None of these things
were in any of the dependent orientation pamphlets we had.
I knew I was being sized up.
It was a familiar ritual. I also knew it was just a formality because I
had two advantages and they knew it. I'd been through it all before and
I had a gorgeous older sister that I knew these guys wanted to meet.
So Jerry, after filling my
head with all sorts of graphic visions of the potential perils of being
a lone dependent kid caught somewhere off base by battalions of Huks or
other assorted bad guys, was showing me how to flip open a batangas, a
butterfly knife. I was a relatively quick learner having had to best my
first cobra with a lowly rock and knowing that my mom wouldn't always be
there with her trusty wolf-rat stick when I really needed her.
So Jerry starts going through
some of his alleged "advanced" moves. One of which was to whip the knife
out of his back pocket, flip the little lever that held it closed open
on the seam of his jeans, and in one fluid motion snap the knife open while
delivering a viscous and hopefully well aimed kick into the nether regions
of the bad guys. I mean this was action stuff of the first order. It did
dawn somewhere in the far back reaches of my brain that if I was ever really
in a situation where I had to actually do this stuff that I had better
already have my young affairs in order.
The trick, as you can imagine,
is in the timing. I mean you were supposed to kick then thrust. Getting
this order of march mixed up could have disastrous implications, as Jerry
was about to demonstrate. The other trick, as we all really knew, was to
master the move to impress yourself and your buddies, but never never never
get your young ass in a position where you might need to impress a truly
So any way, as the rest of
stood well to the side Jerry goes into his routine. In a lightning like
move Jerry whips the knife out of his back pocket, snaps the hinged keeper
open, flicks it open with a graceful flip of the wrist, and lunges forward
to follow up on a vicious kick to his imaginary foe. It was going great.
I was impressed. So were the other guys. Jerry was really impressed. We
could tell. It would have finished up as a beautiful air kill except that
in his enthusiasm he kicked a little high. He might have been distracted
by the sound of the crotch ripping out of his pants, I don't know. But
he had a great kick-thrust thing going for sure until he plunged the knife
all the way through his shoe. Bummer. Really screwed up the all important
follow through. Know what I mean? I mean how do you gracefully comedown
from stabbing yourself clear through your own shoe? If you let go of the
knife you look like a real dork standing there with it sticking up from
the top of your shoe. If your hold onto it, you'll just sort of fall over,
y'know? All these and other alternatives were clearly going through Jerry's
head. Of course these thoughts were competing with other thoughts. Like,
"JEEEZZZUUSS, I just stabbed myself in the *&^%*&^$ foot!" Or,
"HOLY (*&(*%^! Am I going to bleed to death?" Or possibly, "*(%$@#%$^!!,
What's this new guy going to tell his sister now?"
There was a moment of sort
of embarrassed silence, while the rest of us took it all in. I didn't seem
appropriate to fall down laughing, but what *do* you do in a situation
like that. Well, what we did was take a step or two back to see if the
guy was going to fall over or let go of the silly knife. I mean he was
starting to sort of flail around and that could be dangerous if that thing
got away from him again. You could see the indecision on his face, or maybe
it was in his eyes which by this time were popped right out there.
He finally decides to let
go of the knife, but then has to decide what to do with his foot. I mean
you can't just put it down like nothing happened right? There were, after
all, a couple inches of recycled steel sticking out the bottom of his shoe.
Not something you really want to put a lot of weight on, even if you do
want to salvage a couple shreds of Clarkoid been-around-awhile-guy cool.
Meantime I lose it and fall
over laughing anyway.
As it turns out there was
no real damage, except to his shoe, sock and a bit of teenage pride. The
knife had gone right between his big and second toe. No one noticed the
slice in his show back at the teen club and the whole lot of us took one
of those mysterious unspoken teen aged vows to never mention the hilarity
of it all while Jerry's pride could still be bruised.
I don't know what happened
to Jerry Bender, but he was a good friend and genuinely nice guy. While
I was there he never had to use his magic moves on any bad guys I'm glad
to say. And while I did have a couple run ins with some of the local bad
guys, they never amounted to much. Unless you count the time Fat Eddy from
down in Olongapo tried to blow my brains out with a .45. He missed. But
that's another story and Tomas del Rosario tells it much better than I