Out Of Uniform
The next morning I awoke wet, hungry, and very sore. As it
turned out, I didn’t have too much trouble finding the right highway to Fort Knox. It was last night’s roof. My first ride was with a black man. When I explained my situation to him he drove out of his way to drop me off at the fort. I didn’t want him to, but he insisted, in fact he even dropped me off at the part of the fort
where boot camp was held; the fort had more than a twenty-mile
perimeter, so that was a big help. Once on my own, a couple MP’s
pulled up in their jeep. I guess they thought my sleeping bag
contained explosives. Anyway, I told them I was there to see a
friend. They said, “Get in” and then took me straight to Mike’s
Mike was glad to see me; he couldn’t talk, though. Apparently, one
of the recruits wanted out of Uncle Sam’s Army, so he stripped naked and after handing his uniform to his CO and then telling him to fuck off, he started to walk home. He didn’t get very far before he was picked up by security, and for that act of insubordination, the whole company was put on cigarette butt duty. When I arrived, I found Mike outside his barracks picking up the butts. He had been picking them up, along with twigs, pieces of paper, dead grass, etc. for twenty hours and he still had four more to go. I sat down under the nearest tree, and commenced reading my book, looking up only occasionally to see the sergeant’s in charge keep the boys moving.
Finally, when Mike was allowed to leave, the two of us
walked over to a large restaurant-like building and ordered cokes.
Mike told me that he wasn’t sure what the Army had in store for him. He scored the highest in the company in marksmanship, but he didn’t know if that was good or bad. He also heard they might make him an MP, he wasn’t sure if that was good or bad either. After we caught up on old times, I began to think about heading home. As we were finishing our second coke, I noticed a long-haired cat with his girlfriend talking to one of the other soldiers. When the guy got up to leave, I went over and asked if he was heading back into Louisville. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that I could ride with him all the way to Columbus, Ohio.
In Cincinnati, I said good-bye to my new found friends.
Columbus was a bit out of the way, so I had them drop me off at a
gas station. There, I struck up a conversation with the lone
attendant, and he told me if I wanted I could sleep in one of the
cars parked behind the station. I accepted his offer, and on that
cold but sunny morning, I got back on the highway. By late afternoon I was in Lansing; mission accomplished.
The summer passed quickly. With a little money in my pocket,
I thought I might go to Europe. There were a lot of people doing
that, but I didn’t have enough, and besides, ever since Roger and
his brother came back from their trip out west and told me about the marvelous sights they saw, I knew I needed to go where there were less, not more people. I needed to get away from the drugs also. My rolly polly friend Thom and I were getting wasted (on weekends) the same way we used to when Thom and I lived together in our Lansing apartment. For mental health reasons, I needed to go away, far away. Off the coast of Texas there was an island with a beach 500 miles long. There, I hoped to find the isolation I was looking for.