Hays scratched the back of his neck and walked past Dankovic to look out the window. The grounds were littered with leaves. Another potent winter was using the fall for preseason practice…”
by j.b. hogan
“What’s the matter with Dankovic?” Dawson asked Hays over beers in Toy’s bar in AP Alley where the GIs hung out when they were off duty. “He got his head on crooked or what?”
“How should I know.” Hays signaled to Toy for two more Sapporos.
“Cause you’re his best friend.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You know him better than anyone else.”
“That don’t make me his best friend.”
Toy brought the beers over. Hays and Dawson gave her the habitual once over. Toy was Chinese, big breasted in a land of small breasted women. Every new GI who came in propositioned her. Nobody had ever heard of her accepting. With anyone.
“Go short time with me.” Dawson teased. “Go now.”
“Not in your life, sonny. That’s 200 yen for the beers.”
“Put it on our tab, Toy?” Hays suggested.
“Okay, but you two getting a pretty big bill.”
“You can take it out in love.” Hays smiled and lit a cigarette.
“Never happen, GI.”
Dawson and Hays laughed. Toy went back behind the bar.
“You gonna make the basketball game tomorrow?” Hays tried to redirect Dawson. Dawson wasn’t buying it.
“It’s up to you to say something to him.”
“Look, dude.” Dawson insisted. “The boy is going to seriously screw up his life.”
“It’s his life.”
“Talk him out of it. You know him good. Explain what’ll happen. He trusts you. You’ve known each other a long time.”
“We went to tech school together, this is true. We came here together, also true. But we’ve gone our separate ways, dig?”
“Well, somebody’s gotta do it.” Dawson took a big swig of beer.
“Gimme a break.”
“Talk to Danks and I’ll tell the guys you got Toy. Just think what a star you’ll be.”
“Talk to him.”
“Atta, boy, Hays. Good man.”
“So, Danks, remember the good old days in tech school?”
Dankovic set down the brogan he was polishing and picked up another one.
“Mississippi?” He glance over at Hays.
“Aah, you know what I mean.”
“Let’s see.” Dankovic mused. “Up at 4:30 every morning. School from six to noon. Work detail in the afternoon. GI parties every night. It was great.”
“Come on, you sack.” Hays laughed. “I mean the fun stuff. Boozin’ it downtown, watchin’ football in the day room, listenin’ to Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez in O’Donnell’s room after lights out.”
“It was okay sometimes.”
“It was a lot of fun.”
“Hays, this is me, Danks. I was there. You complained about it all the time. You hated the place. That’s when you started hating being in. Remember?”
“We made a lot of good friends down there.”
“Are we talking about something else here?” Dankovic paused his hand above the already shiny boot.
“Well, I don’t know.”
Hays scratched the back of his neck and walked past Dankovic to look out the window. The grounds were littered with leaves. Another potent winter was using the fall for preseason practice. He looked across the gray scene, sighed and turned back to face his friend.
“Have you really thought this over good. You sure you wanta re-up?”
“Damn, Hays.” Dankovic tossed his boot and shoeshine rag down. “Get off my case about Yoshi. You guys are always trying to butt in. Why don’t you leave me alone. It’s my decision and I’m going to make it. Just stop bugging me.”
“Listen, Danks, do you realize what you’re getting into? You’ll lose your clearance. That means out of here and down to the main base. Doin’ God knows what.”
“Supply. It’ll probably be supply.”
“You want that?”
“What’s so great about listening to code every damn day, swing and mid shift of your life?”
“Two more years here? In this hole?”
“Look, Hays, I see what you’re doing. But I’ve thought it through.”
“What about your folks and going back home? Home to the world, man? This is a crap hole over here.”
“Not for me. Not with her.”
“Okay, so how about Yoshi?”
“What about her?”
“Take it easy, dude. But she’s been working around here for quite a while, ain’t she?”
“Well, damn, Danks. Do I have to spell it out?”
“Stop it, Hays.”
“Danks, she’s a pro.”
“Not anymore. Not since me.”
“Damn you, Hays. Leave me alone.” Dankovic rose quickly from his bed.
“Come on, man. Use your head.” Hays backed off. “Just think about it.”
“Get out of here.” Dankovic growled. “You’re not my friend anymore. You don’t understand at all.”
“I’m just trying to help.” Hays slowly headed toward the door. “That’s all.”
Dankovic sat back down on the bed and looked away from Hays.
“You don’t understand.” He spoke to the window. “Let me be. I got enough trouble without you, too.”
“All right.” Hays acquiesced quietly. “All right.”
He turned and walked out into the hallway. Dankovic stared out at the emptying trees. A strong wind was blowing. It looked very cold outside.
“You pay me now.” Yoshi wriggled a shiny green bar dress over her small, lithe body. Hays had to admit she was a fine looking whore.
“It was just short time.”
“You Number Ten, GI.”
“Come on.” Hays frowned.
“You a friend of Johnny’s. Help a girl out.”
“All right.” He handed her several bills.
“Good boy.” She patted him on the cheek.
He took her hand. She gave him an odd look.
“You like Johnny a lot?”
“Danks my number one man.” She imitated the GI talk she heard daily at the Gold Dragon bar. “I his main Jane.”
“Do you love him?”
“What you mean, love him?” She pulled her hand away. “Of course, I love him.”
“Then why did you just do this with me?”
“You pay me, that’s why. You know that.”
“Does Danks know you still do this?”
“Maybe so, maybe not.” She fussed about on her vanity table. “Why you ask?”
“Because he wants to marry you.”
“I know.” She smiled.
“Listen.” Hays rubbed his left eyebrow and thought for a minute. “You gotta let Danks off the hook. It’s gonna really mess him up to get married.”
“What you mean?”
“Everything. He’ll lose his clearance. They’ll make him take some shitty job at main base. He’s goin’ to stay over here for two more years.”
“He like it here.”
“He’s from Pennsylvania, for God’s sake.” Hays said, as if that would make sense to the girl. She glared at him.
“Say, you trying to butt in on Johnny’s time? You trying to mess him up?”
“Come on.” Hays grew tired of reasoning. “Christ, look at this. The poor schmuck thinks he’s in love with you and you’re still doing anybody that walks in.”
“Get out, you Hays.” Yoshi picked up a hairbrush and pointed it at him. “Get out, you dirty GI.”
“Damn it.” Hays moved sock-footed toward the sliding, practically balsa-light wood front door of the girl’s small apartment.
“You leave now or I tell Danks you made me hump you.”
“Bull crap.” Hays blustered, but backed closer to the door.
“You go.” She drew back the brush.
“All right, all right.” Hays raised his hands. “I’m goin’.”
“Ah, shut up.”
“Don’t talk me that way.”
“I’m sick of you. You’re ruinin’ my buddy’s life.”
“Get out, you damn GI.”
He gave her the finger as he slid open the door and slipped into his shoes as fast as he could. She came toward him, hair brush in hand.
“I tell Johnny you rape me.”
The hair brush hurtled past his head and banged off the outside door. He hustled out into the street. A wave of cold air hit him smack in the face and the gray sky spit snow. He pulled his collar up.
“Crap.” He hurried off into the night. “I really screwed that up.”
Hays and Dawson were in the Prince bar, getting drunk and giving Paulie Dunn a fake tough time.
“Come on, Boob Tube.” Dawson hassled their buddy. “Tell us again about the time you hocked your clothes down here to get a beer.”
“Ah, man.” Paulie laughed. “You know about that. I told you a bunch of times. That was when I was new here.”
“You ain’t no fun.” Dawson faked a frown and jabbed a finger into the soft flesh of Dunn’s ribs.
When he bent over, Dawson swatted his fatigue cap off to reveal Dunn’s shoe polish-dyed Elvis pompadour that couldn’t decide whether it was red, black, or brown. Dunn picked his cap up off the filthy, beer splattered floor of the Prince.
“Knock it off, fellas. Come on.”
“Sorry, Boobie.” Hays felt Dawson tugging on his shirt sleeve. “What?”
“Look there.” Dawson nodded toward the front door. “It’s Dankovic.”
Hays turned just as Dankovic, his usual washed out complexion nearly a marble white, stalked into the bar. There was little doubt where Dankovic was going.
Dankovic walked straight over, ignoring greetings from Dawson and Dunn.
“You were my friend.” He preempted whatever salutation Hays might have been considering. “I don’t know why you did it.”
“What are you talking about?” Hays flushed crimson but tried to stonewall it.
“You know damn well what I mean.”
“Hey, Danks.” Dawson tried to play peacemaker. “Come on, sit down, have a beer with us.”
“Yeah, come on, Danks.” Dunn seconded.
“Just stay out of it.”
“Okay.” Hays faced his friend. “What’ya want, Danks?”
“I can’t believe you, man. You were setting me up.”
“I never set you up.”
“Bullshit, man, you Jody’ed me, you back-doored me. I thought we were friends. You’re a lousy bastard. You took a day of leave and forced yourself on my girl, you bastard.”
“Take it easy, Danks. That’s not true.”
“You didn’t come down last Tuesday and offer her a bunch of yen to do it with you?”
“I never did that.”
Without another word or warning, Dankovic lunged forward and pushed Hays out of his seat onto the Prince’s slimy floor. Dawson and Dunn jumped back from the beer and glasses spilling from the jostled table. Hays slowly got to his feet, wiping his dirty hands on his pants.
“You tried to talk me out of it, and when that didn’t work you tried to ruin it by making Yoshi do it with you.”
“You got it wrong, Danks. That’s not how it went down.”
“Oh, sure. I suppose it didn’t even happen.”
“Not like that.”
“Did you do it with her?”
“Come on, Danks.”
“Well, did you? Did you do it?”
“Yes, but I didn’t force her, I . . . .”
“You lousy son of a bitch.” Dankovic was so angry, he was nearly crying. “You no good son of a bitch.”
“I did it for you, Danks. Yoshi is a pro, man. She’s looking for a ticket to the world. That’s all she wants.”
“Lyin’ son of a bitch.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Son of a bitch.” Dankovic taunted. “Son of a bitch, son of a . . . .”
Hays lurched at his friend in mid-sentence, stopping the string of epithets and shoving him toward the door of the bar. With Dawson and Dunn trying to separate them, the two old friends, grunting and cursing, wrestled along the bar, banging into stools and angry drinkers all the way.
“Knock that shit off.” Somebody warned them.
“Get out of here, you jokers.” Someone else bawled.
The fighters crashed into a table by the door, its edge ramming into Hays’ right kidney. He dropped to his knees. Dankovic popped him with a weak but still stinging right cross. Dawson grabbed Dankovic and with Dunn’s help hustled him to the door. Hays stood up, knees soaked, rubbing his side and jaw.
“She’s a whore, Danks.” He spoke through clenched teeth. “She’s gonna ruin your life.”
“You’re a liar.” Dankovic called over his shoulder as Dawson and Dunn pushed him out of the Prince and into the cold air of AP Alley. “A lousy rotten liar . . . .”
With his friend was finally gone, Hays collapsed into a chair at a table near the front of the bar. He let out a big, loud sigh.
“Your buddy’s a real mess.” One of the guys at the bar said. “A real dork.”
“He ain’t been around much. It’s like he’s still a newbie.”
“He must be stupid if he’s marrying one of these women.”
“Why don’t you forget about it.” Hays stood up and approached the bar. “It’s none of your business.” The guy leaned back, surprised.
“Okay, okay. You dudes do whatever you want to. Just take it easy.”
“Yeah.” Hays frowned at the guy, who looked away. “We will.”
He then walked back down the bar to the upturned table where the melee had begun. He set up the table and scattered chairs, then sat back down. He rubbed his wet knees and again wiped his hands on his pants.
“Gimme a beer.” He growled at one of the working girls standing nearby. The girl nearly ran to the other end of the bar. “And a glass of absinthe.”
There was a chorus of oohs and aahs among the patrons and workers of the bar. Hays stared glumly at the wet table before him. He was sober as a judge now and wished he’d minded his own business and kept his nose out of Danks’. Toy brought him the drinks and he slammed the absinthe, barely keeping it down by chugging the beer. It didn’t help at all. His mind wouldn’t get fuzzy from the alcohol and the liquid wormwood. He was trapped in the reality of the lousy situation he had helped create. He felt like a fool. He felt like hell.
(original illustration J. Ashton via British Library )