Read From Here to Eternity Online
Authors: James Jones
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #War & Military, #Classics
as anybody does. He buddies around with Sgt Henderson who takes care of Holmes's horses. They served together in Holmes's company in Bliss." "Way he fights," Prew said, "looks like he's got a mean streak in him." Chief looked at him levelly. "Maybe he does," he said. "If a man leaves him alone though, he aint no trouble. He dont bother much with anybody, unless they argue with him, then he's just as liable to pull his rank and turn them in as not. I've seen him ride a couple guys right into the Stockade." "Okay," Prew said. "Thanks." "You won't see much of me around here," Chief said. "Galovitch takes all the responsibilities in this platoon. Even when Wilson's here, Old Ike does all the work. The only thing you're responsible to me for is I have to check your stuff for Sataday morning inspection, but Old Ike checks everybody himself anyway, after the Corporals turn in their report, so its the same thing." "What do you do around here then?" Prew grinned. "Nothin much. Old Ike does it all. There really aint no need for corporals in this Compny, because there really aint no squads. Everything is by platoons, instead of squads. We fall out for drill by platoons, not squads." "You mean we dont have any squad roster at all? No BAR men or rifle grenadiers? We just fall out anyway?" "Thats right," Chief said slowly. "Oh, we got them, on the books. But when we fall out the corporals git at the head of the column and everybody else just falls in any way." "Hell," Prew said. "What kind of soldierin is that? Back at Myer we'd line up everybody in his proper position in each squad." "This heres the Pineapple Army," Chief said. "I dont know whether I like that or not," Prew said. "I dint figure you would," Chief said. "But thats the way she is. Old Ike ought to be around pretty soon, to inspect you, and tell you what your duties is. The only time a corporal really has charge of his men here is in the morning when his squad is on latrine police, but Old Ike is always there to check it anyway." "This Galovitch must be quite a guy." Chief pulled a sack of Durham from the pocket of his shirt and dropped his eyes to it. "He is," he said. He rolled a cigaret very delicately with his sausage fingers. "He was at Bliss with Holmes too. Use to be the boiler orderly. Took care of the boilers in the winter. I think maybe he had a Pfc." He lit the brown thin lumpy cigaret and dropped the match in Prew's can, took several drags. But he did not look at Prew, instead he watched the exhaled smoke blandly. "Old Ike is our Close Order expert. On the Drill Schedule we got an hour's Close Order every morning. Galovitch always gives it." The rolled cigaret burned down quickly and Chief dropped it in the can, still not looking up. "Okay," Prew said. "What is it? Whats eatin on you?" "Who? me?" Chief said. "Why, nothin. I was just wonderin if you aimed to start trainin now, this late in the season, or if you meant to wait till summer and be eligible for Company Smokers." "Neither one," Prew said. "I aint doin any fightin." "Oh," Chief said noncommittally. "I see." "You think I'm crazy, hunh?" Prew said. "No," the other said. "I guess not. It kind of surprised me though, when I heard you'd quit the Bugle Corps, a man who plays a bugle the way you do." "Well," Prew said savagely, "I quit it. And I aint sorry. And I aint doin no fightin. And I aint sorry about that either." "Then I guess you aint got nothin to worry about, have you?" Chief said. "Not a goddam thing." Chief stood up and moved over to the bunk next to Prewitt's. "I think thats Galovitch comin now. I figured he'd be along." Prew raised his head to look. "Say, Chief. Is this guy Maggio in whose squad, anyway? The little Wop." "Mine," Chief said. "Why?" "I just like him. Met him this morning. I'm glad he's in your squad." "He's a good boy. He's only out of recruit drill a month, and he messes up and catches all the extra details, but he's a good boy. He's got a plenty big sense of humor for such a little guy, keeps everybody laughin all the time." Galovitch was walking toward them down the aisle. Prew watched him and was astounded. He came on between the bunks, bigfooted, bentkneed, bobbing his trunk and head with every step as if he carried a safe upon his back. His long arms reached awkwardly almost to his knees so that he resembled an ape balancing on his knuckles as he walked, and his small head covered with a cropped brush whose widow's peak came almost to his eyebrows, the tiny closeset ears and long lippy jaw carried out the similarity. He would have been truly apelike, Prew thought, had not the insignificance of his deepset eyes and his scrawny neck made him ineffectual as a monkey. "Is that Galovitch!" he said. "Thats him," Chief said, a twinkle gleaming faintly from the depth of his slow solemnity. "Wait'll you hear him talk." The apparition stopped before them, at the foot of Prewitt's bed. Old Ike stood looking at them, the red eyes set in a well of wrinkles, and worked his loose-hung lips in and out ruminatingly, like a toothless man. "Prewitt?" Galovitch said. "Thats me." "Sargint Galovitch, platoon guide am I of dis platoon," he said, proudly. "When assigned to dis platoon you are, you become under me. Consequental one a my men. Am coming to give for you the lowdown setup." He paused and rested his knobby hams of hands on the bed end and pulled his chin in and worked his lips in inexpressively and stared at Prew. Prew turned to look at Chief to show his wonderment, but the Indian had lain down on the bunk, his big legs dangling over the side, and his head back on the olive blanket square-cornered over the pillow. He was suddenly outside of all of this, disclaiming all participation. "Don' look to him," Galovitch commanded. "To you talking it is me not him. He is only corporal. Sargint Vilsahn is platoon sargint and it is for him say to you anything I do not say if for you to do. "When in the morning you get up the first thing is the bunk to make. With no wrinkles and the extra blanket on the pillow tucked in. I inspect in the platoon every bunks and ones not made up right tear up and the man make up again. "I am not expecting to be any goldbricks, see? This squad detail every day to clean over the Dayroom the outside porch. After you clean up under you own bunk you get the mops help the porch. "No man this platoon from fatigue or drill be taking off without I find him gets plenty extra duty." The little red eyes glared at Prew challenging, almost hoping for some disagreement that would force Old Ike to prove his loyalty to Holmes, Wilson, the Company, and the cause, which might be Better Soldiering; Peacetime Preparedness; or the Perpetuation of An Aristocracy. Nobody could have named the Cause, but then its name was unimportant, as long as the Cause itself remained to levy loyalty. "And don' think," Old Ike went on, "can come over here a fighter everybody beating up on just because are tough guy. Quickest way to Stockade is who tough guy pulls. "And now is Fatigue Call five minute you fall out for him," Old Ike concluded, glaring at Prew shortly, looking accusingly at Choate lying back relaxing. Then he clumped back to his own bunk where he took up again his interrupted litany to his unknown god by picking up the shoes he had been shining. After he was gone, Chief Choate heaved his bulk upright, making the chain springs on the bunk squeak in protest. "You kin gather what his Close Order Drill sounds like," he said. "Yes," Prew said. "I can. Is the rest of the outfit as bad as that?" "Well," Chief said solemnly, "not in the same way as that." He rolled himself another cigaret slowly and with great care. "I guess he's found out that you aint goin to fight for Holmes," Chief said with slow solemnity. "How could he have found it out? So soon." Chief Choate shrugged. "Its hard to say," he said unmoved to exaggeration. "But I think he has. If he hant, knowing you was a fighter come to this outfit, he would have offered you the Compny on a silver platter and sucked your ass from here to Wheeler Field." Prew laughed but Chief's round solemn face betrayed no hint of humor, or of any other feeling. He only looked a little surprised to find there was cause for laughter, which made Prew laugh the harder. "Well," he said to the big man, "now we got that figured out, you got any more instructions for me before I take the oath and begin me consecrated life?" "Not much else," Chief said solemnly. "No bottles in the bottoms of the footlockers. The Old Man doesnt like his men to drink and inspects for them every Sataday, and unless I take them first he takes them." Prew grinned. "Maybe I'd better get a notebook and make a note of that." "Also," Chief said slowly, "no women in the barracks after ten o'clock. Unless they're white. All the others, yellow black and brown, I got to turn in to the Orderly Room, where Holmes gives me a receipt and turns them over to the Great White Father." He looked at Prew solemnly as the other pretended to write a note down on his cuff. "What else?" he said. "Thats all," Chief said. Grinning at the Chief, Prew thought about his shackjob at Haleiwa at the mention of the dark-skinned women; it was the third time he'd thought about her since this morning, but strangely, this time the thought did not hurt, and he could think about her freely, believing almost for a minute that there were lovely women standing on each corner, waiting for him to pick them up and be their lover, give them what they wanted, even though he knew it was not so. The warmth of Chief Choate's slow deadpan friendship had filled an empty spot inside him. Downstairs the whistle blew, and simultaneously the guard bugler began to blow Fatigue Call in the quad, and he could even listen to the call objectively. It was, he decided, very badly played, not near as good as he could have played it for them. "Its time for you to fall out," Chief said solemnly, heaving his great bulk from the bunk. "I think I'll go take a nap and get a little sacktime." "What a prick!" Prew told him, picking up his hat. "Then, at four," Chief said, 'Til hit Choy's a lick and find out how the beer holds out. This is my training season." Prew started, laughing, down the aisle, then turned back toward the Indian. "I sure guess them breakfast conversations are all through," he said, and was suddenly embarrassed at what he should not have said. "What?" Chief said, inexpressively. "Oh, them. Yeah, I guess they are." He turned quickly, went on toward his bunk.
THERE IS, in the Army, a little known but very important activity appropriately called Fatigue. Fatigue, in the Army, is the very necessary cleaning and repairing of the aftermath of living. Any man who ever owned a gun has known Fatigue, when, after fifteen minutes in the woods and perhaps three shots at an elusive squirrel, he has gone home to spend three-quarters of an hour cleaning up his piece so it will be ready next time he goes to the woods. Any woman who has ever cooked a luscious meal and ladled it out in plates upon the table has known Fatigue, when, after the glorious meal is eaten, she repairs to the kitchen to wash the congealed gravy from the plates and the slick grease from the cooking pots so they will be ready to be used this evening, dirtied, and so washed again. It is the knowledge of the unendingness and of the repetitious uselessness, the do it up so it can be done again, that makes Fatigue fatigue. And any man who shoots his gun at squirrels and then gives it to his young son with orders to clean, any woman who cooks the succulent meal and gives the dishes to her non-cooking daughter to be washed - those grownups know the way an officer feels about Fatigue. The son and daughter can understand the way an enlisted man feels about Fatigue. Fatigue, in the Army, occupies fifty percent of the duty time; in the morning there is drill, in the afternoon Fatigue; but it is a fifty percent unmentioned in the enlistment campaigns and the pretty posters outside every Post Office in the nation that are constantly extolling the romance of a soldier's life, the chance for adventurous foreign travel (take the wife), the exceedingly high pay all unattached (if you get the rating), the chance to be a leader (if you get the commission), and the golden merits of learning a trade that will support you all your life. A recruit never finds out about Fatigue until some time after he has held up his right hand and then it is too late. Most of the details are not too bad, they are only fatiguing. For there is the justification that they are necessary. If there is to be baseball, some one must spread the horse manure on the diamond so the infield will be grassy, and no one could expect that the players do it, since they do the playing. But in addition to the necessary details that are only fatiguing there are other details, in a Regiment of Infantry, that are not only fatiguing but degrading. It is hard to be Romantic about the cavalry when you have to curry your own horse, and it is hard to be Adventurous about the uniform when you have to polish your own boots. And this explains why officers, who are above such menial tasks, are capable of such exciting memoirs of war. A man may be bored with scrubbing his own cartridge belt after every sashay in the field but he is not disillusioned; but when he goes every afternoon to the Married Officers' Quarters to manicure the lawns, wash the windows, sweep the yards, and clean the streets, he is not only disillusioned but degraded; he has really known Fatigue. After every party at the Club there must be some loyal and patriotic soul who empties out the ashtrays and wipes up the liquor. But these were not all. There was an even greater test of patriotism. There was the trash collecting detail. Once every twelve days in its rounds of the battalions this chance for heroism fell to every Company, and the three-man picked detail sortied out in their truck to collect the trash, as distinguished from garbage which the Kanaka garbage truck collected, from the Married Officers' Quarters. In itself this would not seem very patriotic; but the officers' wives, having no incinerators, fearing to clog the soil pipes, and not wanting to use the garbage truck whose collector was a civilian and could quit, deposited their used menstruation pads in their trash cans. Emptying a single can so used can be very patriotic, but by the end of an afternoon when the truck was full the patriotism required of the detail was immense. They deserved at least a D.S.C. as, walking the two miles to the dump instead of riding in the back, knowing what their best friend would not tell them, they trudged doggedly through the aura of bad fish that clung to them all. Even the insensitive stomachs of the most patriotic and most common soldiers were inclined to rebel. And the most rebellious of those stomachs, since Warden ran the details for G Company, was invariably Prewitt's. It became increasingly clear, from day to day, that whenever Prew happened to be at the head of the double line of the Fatigue formation, Warden would happen to call out one of the more patriotic details. One of these was the butcher shop detail. The butcher shop in addition to its market for the wives supplied the meat for all the individual companies. The butchers, enlisted men on Special Duty, did not mind the more delicate work of cutting steaks and chops, but they applied for Fatigue details to do the heavier slimier work of unloading and moving the sides around. Prew's neat tailormade blue fatigues would be stiff with blood and muck after an afternoon of this. It would be on his face and in his ears and in his hair, and the rancid smell of the butcher shop would waft about him as he walked. Warden would be standing in the corridor doorway as he came in, his sleeves rolled up two turns, smoothly cool and clean after a refreshing shower, and grinning fondly. "Better hurry up and wash," he'd say. "Chow's almost over. The Compny's been in for fifteen minutes. Or maybe," he would grin, "you'd rather go in like you are and wash up later." "No," Prew would tell him seriously. "I think I'll wash first." "Still the dude, 'ey?" Warden would grin at him. "Suit yourself." One day Warden asked him if he shouldnt maybe go out for fighting, or maybe baseball. "You look awful tard, kid," he grinned. "If you was a jockstrap you wouldnt have to pull Fatigue." "What makes you think I mind it?" "I didnt say you didnt like it, kid." Warden said complacently. "All I said was you looked tard. Drawn to a fine edge." "If you think you can push me into fightin, Warden," Prew told him grimly, "you are wrong. I can take everything you hand out. You and Dynamite together. I'm twice the man you are. If you didnt have them stripes, I'd take your big bulk out on the green and beat it to a pulp. And if I couldnt do it with my fists, I'd git me a knife and look you up downtown some flight in River Street." "Dont let the stripes worry you, kid," Warden grinned. "I can always take my shirt off. Take it off right now." "You'd like that, wouldnt you?" Prew grinned back. "You could get me a year in the Stockade for that one, couldnt you?" He turned to go upstairs. "What makes you think Holmes has got anything to do with this, kid?" Warden called after him. And there were other minor inconveniences. He had meant to use his first weekend in G Company to go to Haleiwa for the showdown with his shackjob, but all the first week he had been a victim of The Warden's Duty Roster, as a new man, his name heading every list for extra details. And The Warden utilized his advantage relentlessly. As the week went by and he did not see his name on any KP list, his soldier's intuition began to whisper warnings. On Friday when the details for the weekend were posted on the bulletin board the suspicion became fact. Warden had saved his KP back to give him on the weekend. But Warden was even cleverer than he had suspected. Prew was on KP Sunday, and on Saturday he was Room Orderly. There would not even be one day off to go to Haleiwa. There was a diabolical finesse in this arrangement, too. A Saturday KP got out of standing Saturday Inspection, but the RO had to stand Inspection like everybody else, in addition to his extra work. Warden was a smart man, no doubt of that; when he held the cards nobody could beat him at the way he played the hand. Early Saturday morning Warden came out of the Orderly Room, all spruced up for inspection, to watch Prewitt manicure the porch. He leaned against the doorjamb grinning lovingly, but Prew worked on grudgingly and ignored him. He occupied himself with wondering whether Holmes had engineered this deal because he would not fight, to force him into going out, or whether it was Warden's own idea for some ungodly reason just because he did not like him. Sunday Warden came into the kitchen for breakfast around eleven. He was the topkicker and he did not have to eat on schedule like the rest of them. Warden had hotcakes and eggs and sausage; the Company had had hotcakes and bacon, such as it was with Preem sleeping off a hard night in his sack. Warden leaned against the aluminum pastry table with its big utensil rack above it and ate his food with relish, in full view of the sweating KPs. Then he strolled over to tie KP room past the huge built-in icebox. "Well, well," he said straight-faced, leaning leisurely against the jamb. "If it aint my young friend, Prewitt. How do you like straight duty, Prewitt. Life in a rifle company, 'ey." The cooks and other KPs were watching, because The Warden almost never spent a weekend on the Post. They were expecting something big. "I like it, Top," Prew grinned, trying to make the grin convincing, looking up from the steaming sink he was bent over, naked to the waist, his dungarees and shoes soaked with sweat and soapy water. "Thats why I transferred," he said seriously. "Its a great life, this. I find a pearl, I'll cut you in. Fifty-fifty. If it hadnt of been for you, I wouldnt of had no chance to find it." "Well, well," The Warden said, laughing pleasantly. "Well, well. Thats a friend for you. Thats an honest man. Dynamite had his Preem and Galovitch in Bliss; I had my Prewitt in A Compny. When men have served together; they'll do anything for each other. I'll see if I can fix you up with a lot more, since you like it so much, Prewitt." He grinned down at the other, his brows hooked up his forehead. Prew always remembered it, later, as having been a look of secret understanding, a glance that swept the cooks, KPs and kitchen, everything aside, leaving only the two pairs of eyes that recognized each other. He put his hand comfortably around a mug, heavy, handleless, at the bottom of the sink and waited for Warden to go on. S3 But it was almost as if The Warden saw his hand around the mug beneath the water, for he grinned lovingly again and walked away, leaving Prew standing there absurdly with his daredevilish romantic picture of himself rising with the cup in murderous triumph. But, in spite of Warden's threat, his name did not come up on the Daily Details sheet again. His second weekend he was free to go to Haleiwa. It was the same curious fact he had noted so many times before, in A Company; Warden was scrupulously fair, in his own eccentric way, he never overstepped his own private, self-constructed line of equity. He should, he knew, have written Violet a letter, once during the middle of the second week he even thought about it for a minute. But he did not do it. Letters, like long-distance phone calls, could never convince him of the existence of another human far away existing in this same present he existed in. In reality, Violet did not exist until he saw her, then she began again where she had left off before. In-between she existed only in his mind, and how can you write a letter to your own imagination? He could remember, as a small boy, watching his mother write frequent long letters to different relatives and friends, some of whom he had never seen. It was his mother's hobby, but even then it had seemed strange to him, in the town of Harlan Kentucky, to write letters to other towns, to people she had not seen for years and probably would never see again. While at any time his father might be caught in a cave-in in the mine and be dead before the answers came. After his mother died that winter of the strike, six letters had come addressed to her. He looked at her name on all the envelopes, the name of her who was already dead still existing on the paper, and then he opened them and read them curiously, and not a one of them had mentioned the fact that she had died. He had thrown them in the stove and burned them. There was a time lag there that seemed to exist in space instead of time, and he could never, after that, account for it. So he did not write to Violet, because the writing of letters did not have a true connection with the realities of death, and moving on, and eating. He waited till he could get free and went to see her. She was waiting for him at the door, leaning against the jamb and looking out through the screen, one hand propped against the other jamb as if barring the door to a salesman. It seemed to him that no matter what time of day or night he walked up the macadam road from the highway intersection,- she was always waiting in that same position, as if he had just phoned and she was watching for him. It was uncanny, as if she always knew when he was coming. But it was no more strange than anything else connected with her. He had never pretended to understand her since the first time he met her at Kahuku and took her to the carnival and, knowing carnivals which are the same in any portion of the earth, found that Violet was still a virgin. That in itself surprised him, and he did not get a chance to recover from it from then on. Violet Ogure. Oh-goo-rdee. You pronounced the r like a drunken d. Even the name was strange and unpredictable. The strangeness of a foreign land, is understandable, because you expect it when you go among foreigners, you're even looking for it. But the equation of the simple first name and the alien-tongued surname was unreadable. Violet was like all the other second and third generation Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Portagee, Filipino girls with their first names after English flowers and their last names coming across alien centuries, girls whose parents had been shipped in like cattle to work the cane and pineapple for the Big Five, girls whose sons were often among the numberless hordes of little boys shining your shoes on the sidewalk outside a bar, repeating the antique legend: "Me half Japanee, half Schofield," or, grinning obliquely, "Me half Chinee, half Schofield." A crop fathered by soldiers who had served their hitch and mysteriously vanished into that mythical "Mainland" that was the United States. Violet was an ambivalent mingling of the intensely familiar and the inscrutably alien; she was like the city of Honolulu with its highpowered, missionary-owned bank buildings and its shanty Japanee-language movie just off Aala Park, a polygenetic blend nobody, least of all Violet, could encompass. He had learned to pronounce her name correctly, and that was all he learned about her. He walked into the unkempt chicken-defiled front yard and she came out on the homemade leanto porch. He took her hand and helped her down the three rotting steps and they went