Short Stories

Rank

He felt, for certain, that his father did not love him.

and this was a tortuous thing for a young, smart and curious boy from Queens, New York City.

His father’s body was covered with bled away World War II navy tattoos:

battleship across his grey haired muscular chest;

anchor on one sinewy forearm and a hula girl on the other,

US Navy insignias on ship-work chiseled biceps.

A museum of war art on a muscled body hardened from years living and working on powerful,sturdy steel ocean going tug-boats chugging about in far off and dangerous waters.

He brought his ink-scarred body back but his mind never returned from oceans and battles and the boy could not comprehend this male figure head emptiness in his small family.

After the pacific war ended the father shouldn’t have left the Navy but he began a family, one night, on shore leave in San Diego; leaving his true love, the high seas, behind for a life on dry land, which he never found legs for.

The boy got straight A’s in high school while the father took jobs on private boats taking him far from his wife and two boys for months at a time.

During these long stretches in time, home was calm and happy; the two boys and their warm loving mother; but when the crusty ex-sailor suddenly returned he always tried to whip the little group into his personal tug boat crew and his two sons resisted; rebelling against this stranger-father with his weird military disciplines.

In the navy, the father, never rose above the rank of “non-com” boat skipper; taking orders from officers stationed ashore and above him in the navy’s chain of command.

Unlike the land-lubbing navy brass, he was a true seaman; boats,foreign ports of call, cresting swells, storms, combat, heavy lines and the smell of thick marine paint mingled with salty air smells; freedom and fear.

He was a just skipper and a regular lower-rank sailor; he was not officer material.

When his oldest son turned eighteen the bright yet confused young man joined the army; just to get out of the house and away from his old man who just grunted when his tall, lanky, handsome son entered the home and that’s all he ever gave; grunts and old war stories from a tug boat past he was forever stuck in.

As fate would have it, a next war came, Vietnam, and the son was shipped off and sent to fight in the worst of the worst; a waveless ocean of deadly jungles.

Miraculously he survived ; returning to “the world” dressed in an officers crisp uniform adorned with medals of bravery, toting an over-stuffed duffle bag, body unscathed , ink-less scarless skin, but burdened with a memory haunted by a year long tour of hell duty in “the nam”.

The day he came back home to “the world” and queens from war, dressed in his crisp olive green Army Lieutenants uniform, was the first time in his life that his “non-comm” former navy tug-boat skipper father stood up proudly to greet his son, the officer, respectfully at the door …in place of a grunt.

From that day on things changed. The old world war II sailor-vet began paying attention to the army officer and the ridiculous house-rule orders ceased…… but the love never came.

 

©2016 Michael Domino

 

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