From: Oregon, USA
December 20, 1941
Aboard USS Gridley
Location: 75 miles east of Palmyra
Attached to: TF 406
Mission: Air combat
Ship's Status: No damage
Fuel: 444 (84%)
Reedy sat in the crowded mess room reading a paperback book. He was scarcely aware of the occasional jostling and the conversations going on around him, he was that absorbed in what he was reading. At one point, though, the fact that someone was speaking to him finally penetrated his concentration. He looked around.
Seated at his left was one of the newcomers aboard. The man had a wide forehead and sandy-blond hair. He had a wide mouth and large lips. A woman, Reedy thought, might have described them as "sensual" but to him they just looked kind of rubbery. He had pale brown eyes.
"I said, what'cha reading?" the man repeated. Jake closed the book, leaving a finger in it to keep his place, and raised it to show the man.
"Farewell, My Lovely," said the man, reading the title. "That sounds like a girly sort of book." The man's tone was sneering but Reedy just grinned.
"Not exactly," he said. "A man snaps another man's neck with his bare hands in the first few pages and the bodies start piling up from there. It's a mystery novel." He shifted the book to his left hand, still keeping his place, and extended his right. "I'm Jake Reedy, by the way." The other man shook.
"I'm Al," he said. "Al Tanner. Where are you from?"
"Scranton," replied Reedy.
"Are you?" said Tanner. "I'm from Philly." Before Reedy could reply Tanner reached out and plucked the book from his hand. Reedy gritted his teeth for a second but he said nothing. Tanner looked the book over.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Chandler. I tried to read a book by this guy last year. Something with 'sleep' in the title. I didn't like it, though. I couldn't tell what the hell was supposed to be going on." He handed the book back to Reedy.
"That isn't an easy book to figure out," said Reedy. "But the plot isn't really all that important. It's all about the style." Tanner snorted.
"Style," he said dismissively. "I don't care about style."
"I sort of guessed that," said Reedy, then mentally kicked himself. It was an obvious shot but he shouldn't have taken it. His mouth was always doing that, saying things before his brain had a chance to vote on whether or not it was a good idea. But he was a bit nettled by the way the other man had snatched his book and lost his place. Tanner narrowed his eyes, apparently unsure whether he had been insulted or not. Reedy grinned at him good-naturedly.
Further conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Bill Bonderman, who squeezed into an empty space on Reedy's right.
"Hey Bill," Reedy said. Bonderman nodded in return. The tall, quiet Texan filled his plate and then bowed his head over it, hands folded in his lap.
"If you're praying for the food to be edible, good luck," joshed Tanner. There was laughter around the table. Bonderman finished and then looked up with a smile.
"I have been known," he admitted in his drawl, "to ask the Lord's help when in peril. But mostly I try to ask what service I can be to Him." He started eating.
"You gotta be from Texas," said Tanner.
"Yep," said Bonderman without looking up.
"I know a joke," said Tanner. "Three people are riding in a rail car, a Texan, a rich Yankee, and beautiful Texas lady. After they've been riding for a while the Yankee leans forward and says 'Lady, I'll give you ten dollars if you'll show me a good time.' The Texan immediately pulls out a gun and shoots the Yankee dead. The lady turns to him and says 'Thank you, kind sir, for defending my honor!' And the Texan says 'Honor, hell. No city-slicker from back East is going to go around raising the price of women in Texas!'" Tanner finished, then guffawed loudly at his own joke.
Bonderman smiled genially. There were some chuckles from around the table, which died abruptly when a burly sailor across the table cleared his throat. He was not smiling. The burly sailor, Reedy knew, was Greg Belchik, a loader on turret 52. He was from San Antonio.
"I know a joke," Belchik rumbled. "It's about a Yankee who had to pick up all his teeth with two broken arms."
"Hey, easy, big guy," said Tanner. "No offense. I love Texas! Remember the Alamo and all that!" Belchik subsided with a glare.
"Got duty," muttered Tanner. He got up and left but Reedy caught the nasty glare he shot Belchik just before he headed up the stairs.
Reedy and Bonderman sat in silence for a moment as conversation resumed around them. Reedy opened his book and Bonderman was busy eating. After a moment Bonderman paused and glanced at Reedy.
"Who was that guy?" he asked.
"His name's Tanner," said Reedy. "He's new." Bonderman nodded slightly.
"Insulting women can be a dangerous pastime, where I come from," he said. "But I do know a good Texas joke."
"Yeah?" said Reedy.
"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Bonderman asked.
"To prove to the armadillo it can be done." Reedy just looked at him, not understanding. Across the table, though, Belchik started bellowing with laughter.
< Message edited by Cuttlefish -- 4/26/2011 2:42:08 AM >