Fresh Fatigues by Mark Blickley


Mark Blickley grew up within walking distance of the Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams.













FRESH FATIGUES

 

CHARACTERS

 

MAJOR HAMMOND - A forty year

old physically fit officer. 

 

SERGEANT TREZZA - Major Ham

mond’s overweight secretary. 

 

SERGEANT BOYD – Twenty-year-

old dressed in filthy fatigues and boots.

He is approximately the same size as Major Hammond.

SECURITY POLICEMAN #1.

SECURITY POLICEMAN #2.

 

Time: Early spring, 1973

 

Place: Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. The office of squadron commander MAJOR HAMMOND. Downstage Left is the door leading to the office, Downstage Right is a full-length mirror. Major Hammond is in his tee shirt doing push-ups in front of the mirror.

 

HAMMOND: (struggling) Forty-five,

forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight,

(pause) Come on, Major, you can

do it! Forty-nine, fifty!

 

 

(Hammond springs up, pats his

stomach and towels off. He carefully

puts on his shirt as he admires himself in the mirror He then walks over to his desk, sits, and begins leafing through papers. He taps the desk, nervously looks at his wrist-watch, and speaks into the intercom)

 

 

HAMMOND: Trezza! Trezza! I

want you in here on the double with

Sergeant Boyd’s file.

 

(SERGEANT TREZZA enters with

the file and a cup of coffee. He cradles his clipboard, waiting for Hammond’s directives)

 

TREZZA: Here, sir.

 

HAMMOND: When’s this hero sup

posed to arrive?

 

TREZZA: At nine, Major.

 

HAMMOND: (agitated) Great way

to start my day. Why does this

squadron get all these Vietnam Veterans? Who’s assigning them to

me?

 

TREZZA: My buddies up at McGuire

and Moody say they’re getting them. 

 

 

HAMMOND: Are your buddies getting their balls broken by them, too? 

 

 

TREZZA: (laughs) I guess so. 

 

HAMMOND: (Flips through file) I

tried to be patient. but I can’t under

stand their lack of team spirit. Team

spirit is essential to the smooth op

eration of this squadron. This Sergeant Boyd seems to be the worst of

the lot. I know what he expects. He

thinks l’m going to pat him on the ass, thank him for his war efforts and

send him home in a parade. You

know, Trezza, when I first heard

about the Vets’ behavior I figured

what the hell, give them time to adjust. But it’s been three months

since the war ended and now l’m

mad, No more leniency. l’m going

to burn this Sergeant’s ass and hold

it up over the base like the god-damned Statue of Liberty!

 

(Hammond slams his fist on the

desk)

 

HAMMOND: Do you know this Ser

geant Boyd, Trezza?

 

TREZZA: No, sir, Those Vets stick

together. But I did see him in the

N.C.O. club a couple of nights ago. 

Funny thing, too. Baby Blue, this hot

stripper from Louisiana was working

the club. She went right over to this

table where Boyd’s sitting by himself

chugging shots and starts rubbing

up against him. 

 

(Trezza, next to Hammond, demon

strates)

 

TREZZA: And when Baby Blue

picks you out of a crowd it’s an

honor, let me tell you! But Boyd just

sat there sipping his drink and didn’t

even look at her. Well, Baby Blue

was pissed, She gave him the ultimate snub, She didn’t offer him a tit. 

You see, if Baby Blue likes someone

she holds out her tit and rubs it

across his face.

 

 

(Trezza demonstrates by holding out

an imaginary breast that he swipes

across the Hammond’s face. Hammond turns his face away in disgust)

 

 

TREZZA: But she just gave Boyd

her back and walked away, and eve

ryone in the club knew she was

pissed. We were pissed, too, ‘cause

she kind of sulked and gave a lousy

show.

 

HAMMOND: (annoyed) That’s a

fascinating story, Trezza. I can al

ways count on you to give me great

insights into my men. Listen, if you

ever find the courage to leave the Air

Force let me know. I’d like to recommend you for undercover work

with the C.I.A .... or a hotel. Okay? 

 

 

TREZZA: (smirks) Yes, sir. 

 

 

HAMMOND: When I walked in this

morning my picture of Ted Williams

was on the floor. The glass is

cracked.

 

(Hammond opens his desk drawer

removes the framed photograph,

hands it to Trezza)

 

HAMMOND: I don’t know how it fell off my desk but you make sure nothing else happens to it. l want it back today, It took me years to get his autograph.

 

TREZZA: I know, sir.

 

HAMMOND: Do you remember him, Trezza?

 

TREZZA: Vaguely, sir.

 

HAMMOND: Hmmmm. You’re too

young. What a great man.

 

TREZZA: Greater than the Babe? 

 

 

HAMMOND: Ruth just smashed

baseballs. Williams smashed baseballs and enemy aircraft. Did you

know that he flew in two wars in ad

dition to hitting 521 home runs and

batting .3447

 

 

TREZZA: (bored) Yes, Major. I

think you’ve told me a little about

him. I’lI get on this right away.

 

 

(Trezza exits. Hammond reads the

report on his desk. SERGEANT BOYD strolls into the office. Hearing footsteps, Hammond looks up)

 

 

HAMMOND: Who the hell do you

think you are, Sergeant, coming in

here unannounced!

 

BOYD: (pauses, executes a crisp

salute) Sergeant Boyd reporting as

ordered, sir.

 

(Hammond growls, returns the salute

and shuttles through the paperwork

on his desk, He extracts a manila

envelope that he flings at Boyd)

 

 

HAMMOND: You look like shit. 

How do you smell? (Boyd shrugs)

l’ve got two dozen reports on you. 

Sergeant, and not one says you’re

worth a rats ass. l’m pulling you off

the flightline. I don’t want any idiots

working on my planes. What do you

think about that, Sergeant? 

 

 

(Boyd shrugs)

 

HAMMOND: Answer me, Sergeant!

 

BOYD: I don’t care ... sir.

 

HAMMOND: You don’t care? Well I

care, dammit! What the hell’s wrong with

you? According to your file you

were one hell of a mechanic over

there. Your write-ups on perform

ance while under fire is outstanding. 

Now you get stationed at a paradise

like Charleston and what happens? 

You become derelict in your duty

and disobedient. What’s your excuse, Sergeant?

 

 

(BOYD shrugs)

 

HAMMOND: Answer me, Sergeant!

 

BOYD: I’m unhappy ... sir.

 

HAMMOND: Oh. (pause) You’re

unhappy. Why? Are you a warmonger Do you miss the glory or

the exotic whores? Not enough action in South Carolina?

 

BOYD: No.

 

HAMMOND: (angrily) No what?

 

BOYD: Sir. No, sir.

 

HAMMOND: Why were you such a

good airman in Nam and worthless

now?

 

BOYD: (locks his finger squeezes)

l guess I didn’t have to worry back

there.

 

HAMMOND: (screams) Say what? 

 

 

BOYD: (releases lingers, scratches

cheek)  I didn’t have to worry, I was

a great mechanic and not just on

airplanes. I was great at doing eve

rything mechanically. l’d pee my

pants during every rocket attack, get

laid when I was supposed to, hate

who I was supposed to hate. Eve

rything ... you know normal. Regular

stuff.

 

HAMMOND: Stuff? What stuff? 

Stuff is another word for drugs, isn’t

it, Sergeant? Are you a doper, Sergeant?

 

BOYD: No, sir. I mean, I’m a dope. 

But it you’re asking me “are you” that

would depend on the are. If the r

comes after the word dope then no,

I’m not a dope, sir. If you’re asking

me “are you a dope” and the are

comes before the word dope then

yes, I’m a dope, sir.

 

HAMMOND: (grinding teeth) You’re

funny, Sergeant. Real funny. I’lI bet

you’re a doper any way you spell it.

I bet you miss all that high-grade

crap you used to get over there. 

That's why you’re walking around

here with your head up your ass. 

 

 

(Boyd shakes his head, blows up his

cheeks and puts his finger in his

mouth. He makes a loud popping

sound)

 

BOYD: That pop you heard, sir, was

me pulling my head out of my ass. 

Sorry for the noise, Major, but when

my head cleared my ass the air

rushing in to fill the vacuum made a

popping sound. I think it’s similar in

principle to a sonic boom. 

 

 

HAMMOND: More jokes, Sergeant. 

Better pop it some more because I’m

going to see to it that you piss into a

bottle everyday until we catch your

drug habit. You’re going to piss on

command, Sergeant, and it your

urinalysis doesn’t nail you, I will! 

You make me sick.

 

(Boyd shrugs)

 

HAMMOND: Your behavior and

appearance on base, and especially

the flightline, is harmful to the

younger troops we have here. 

 

 

BOYD: I’m only twenty, sir. 

 

 

(Hammond stands up and circles

Boyd, jabbing his finger into Boyd’s

ribs to punctuate his sentences)

 

 

HAMMOND: I don’t like you, Sergeant. You’re weird. I’m sick of all

the article fifteens filed against you. 

 

 

(Hammond picks up a report from

his desk and reads i0

 

 

HAMMOND: Hair too long, un

shaven, out of uniform or filthy when

you’re in one, late for work, failing to

salute officers, wiseassing your su

periors. Big tough man aren’t you,

Sergeant? The Air Force too rough

for you in South Carolina? 

 

 

(Hammond throws the report back

on his desk)

 

BOYD: Yes, sir.

 

HAMMOND: Poor Boyd.

 

BOYD: l’ve saved a few dollars, sir. 

 

 

HAMMOND: Ah, a wit. A god-

damned military wit! So this is your

act, huh, Sergeant? A witty N.C.O. 

in smelly clothes. Now that I know

l’m dealing with a superior intellect,

let me throw off my gruff military

bearing and turn modern.

 

(Hammond stretches out his arms as

if to embrace Boyd)

 

HAMMOND: Let me reach out to

you my dear, sweet smelling Sergeant.

 

(Hammonds an inch away from

Boyd’s face)

 

HAMMOND: Now tell me, Sergeant,

why do you wear your old fatigues

when you’ve been issued fresh

ones?

 

BOYD: Because they’re mine...sir. 

 

 

HAMMOND: And maybe by wearing

jungle rotted fatigues everyone will

stop, look and whisper in reverent

tones (cups his mouth with his

hand) ‘there goes a Vietnam Vet.’

 

 

BOYD: The whispering is much

better than the crying, sir. 

 

 

HAMMOND: And what's cried? I’m

special! You can’t touch me! So

you’ve been to war, big shit. You’re

lucky. What about the ones that

wanted to go but couIdn’t? l’ve

never seen combat and it breaks my

heart, but I live with it. I’I probably

be a major tor another six years be

cause I didn’t go to war. But I deal

with it and strive to be the best offi

cer I can. You ever hear of Ted Williams?

 

BOYD: Sure. I mean, yes, sir. Ted

Williams played for Boston. 

 

 

HAMMOND: That's right, Sergeant. 

And he was a damn good fighter

pilot, too. A Korean War hero. I

wanted to be like Ted Williams, hit

ting grand slams and shooting down

Commie aircraft.

 

(Hammond pulls off his eyeglasses)

 

 

HAMMOND: These eyes of mine

prevented me from being a good

hitter and a pilot. But l stuck it out

and became an officer like Ted Wil

liams even though I couldn’t fly or hit

a fastball. And that took guts, too,

Sergeant.

 

BOYD: (snickers) Yes, sir, Major. I

can see the similarity between you

and Ted Williams. I noticed it as

soon as I walked in.

 

(Hammond puts his eyeglasses back

on)

 

HAMMOND: You didn’t notice any

thing. How could you with that cloud

of filth you carry around with you? But I’II tell you what the similarity is, War Hero! I write left-handed. Williams batted Ieft-handed. He risked his life for his country. So do I. You see, my heroic Sergeant, as a lefthander I always smear what I write. I can’t help it. lf you add up the amount of reports l’ve had to write, the papers l’ve had to sign, there must have been thousands of ink smears on my hand with thousands more to come. I figure with all this ink on my hand a lot of it must’ve been absorbed through my pores. 

 

(Hammond holds his hand up in

front of Boyd's face and turns it for

Boyd's inspection. Boyd jumps

back, thinking Hammond is about to

strike him)

 

HAMMOND: My skin’s drinking a

slow, poisonous death. So don’t

think I’m going to pity you or absolve

you just because you spent X

amount of months in a combat zone. 

What really happened is that it broke

you. You embarrass your uniform,

Look at those boots!

 

(Hammond points to Boyd’s boots)

 

 

BOYD: I can’t polish these boots,

sir. l’ve tried. Believe me, l’ve tried. 

Polish can’t hide the stains. It just

brings them out more.

 

HAMMOND: Stains? What stains

are you talking about, Sergeant? 

 

 

BOYD: Fear stains, sir. Fear made

my feet sweat like they were crying. 

I used to think it was just sweat, but

I’m not so sure anymore. Some

times I think of the wetness inside

my boots as ... tears or something. I

know it sounds strange but some

times I think my feet are the only

part of me that can cry anymore. 

 

 

HAMMOND: No, it doesn’t sound

strange, Sergeant. If I had to put on

your boots my feet would cry, too.

(airily) We’ll just have to take them

oft and break in a new pair, won’t

we?

 

BOYD: I can’t.

 

HAMMOND: Why not, Sergeant?

 

BOYD: Because they’re mine. 

 

 

HAMMOND: The new boots we

issued you are yours, too, Sergeant! 

 

 

BOYD: Then what will happen to

these?

 

(Boyd reaches down and touches

boots)

 

BOYD: These feet are different than

the ones I enlisted with, Major. 

You’ve got a record of my boot size.

You think it’s just a matter of me

picking out a new pair. It’s not. My

feet have changed. They feel

things. I told you I went through my

tour doing everything mechanically,

like a robot, I did what I was taught

and told to do. I even stopped

thinking about myself after a while. I

just thought about blocking out air

craft. But my feet were always

pouring water into boots from the

moment I landed in ‘Nam, At first

the water chafed my feet and it hurt

like hell. After a while I got used to

it. And then I began to depend on it.

I’d lace up my boots real tight so the

sweat wouldn’t escape. I knew that if

my feet sweat during rocket attacks,

and it hurt, I’d be able to do my job

‘cause my fear was trapped inside

these boots. If that sweat or water

or tears or whatever the hell it was

escaped from my boots it would

have paralyzed me. I’d have been

too scared to do my job and that

would’ve put my crew in danger. 

That’s why l’ve got to leave these

boots on. I can’t wear any other

boots but these. And these fatigues. 

I have to wear what belongs to me,

don’t you

see?

 

HAMMOND: I don’t see anything,

Sergeant. But I can smell. If any

thing’s changed about your feet it’s

jungle rot. That's all, Sergeant. 

Jungle rot. A fungus. Filth. I’m not

buying that rot spewing out of your

mouth, either. What’s your pitch,

Sergeant? You want to go home? 

You want me to send you home with

good paper and a brass band? Is

that what you want, Sergeant?

 

BOYD: No. No, sir,

 

HAMMOND: Bullshit! You’re a liar.

Sergeant.

 

BOYD: I never said I wasn’t a liar. I

don’t want to go home. I do want out

with good paper. I need time alone

so I can figure out how to make the

connection between my feet and my

brain.

 

HAMMOND: How about making the

connection between hot water and a

bar of soap, Sergeant?

 

BOYD: Before I arrived this morning

I shaved, Major.

 

HAMMOND: I’m flattered, Sergeant. 

 

 

BOYD: By mistake I squeezed out

 

twice as much lather as I needed.

l’ve got this thing about wasting

shaving so cream so I smeared it all

over my face until only my eyes

were left uncovered. I hadn’t looked

at my eyes for a long time. And the

longer I stared at my eyes the more I

realized they weren’t mine. No

matter how much I squinted or wid

ened them I knew they weren’t mine.

They were the dull eyes of  my father.

 

HAMMOND: (disgusted) He must

be real proud of you, Boyd. Was he

in the service?

 

BOYD: Yeah, he was in the service

but he’s made a career out of work

ing in a hospital laundry. My father’s

life peaked at nineteen aboard a

troop transport anchored off the

coast of Japan, waiting for the order

to invade that never came, thanks to

the Bomb. He justifies his entire life

by the seventy-two hours he spent

floating on the Pacific Ocean instead

of the twenty-seven years he spent

bleaching out other people’s filth. 

He pushed me into joining. Demanded it. Now all I want is to be

left alone by the Air Force and my

goddamn father bragging about his

Sergeant son.

 

(Hammond walks over to Boyd)

 

 

HAMMOND: That’s real fascinating,

Sergeant. I can’t wait till the movie’s

released. Why don’t you take off

those filthy fatigues and send them

to your father to clean? But if we

can drop Papa for the moment and

get back to the real world, the world

in which you’re a fuck-up, I’d greatly

appreciate it. You signed a four-year

contract. You have more than a

year left to pull. Nobody made you

join. The Air Force is voluntary. So

save the heart-wrenching Daddy

stories for draftees, okay Sergeant? 

 

 

BOYD: (embarrassed) Yes. Yes. 

sir.

 

HAMMOND: (points to a chair) Sit

down!

 

(Hammond returns to his desk)

 

 

HAMMOND: What do you want, Sergeant?

 

BOYD: A discharge.

 

HAMMOND: That’s simple, Sergeant. I can have you thrown out within a week.

 

BOYD: You can throw me, Major, so

long as I land outside this base with

good paper.

 

HAMMOND: Why is your expulsion

with good paper so important? Aren’t

your selfish little concerns urgent? 

Why hold up your release by insisting

on an Honorable Discharge? I’II push

you out of the Air Force for the good of

the service. It’s a simple administrative

procedure, a thirty-five dash twelve. 

 

 

BOYD: I want out with good paper. I

deserve an honorable. I’m not really

sure why I want it. I think I’II need the

benefits attached to it. It’II give me

some excuse for having signed up. 

Excuses have become real important

to me now.

 

HAMMOND: Why lie, Sergeant? Tell

whoever wants to know that you joined

and couldn’t cut it.

 

BOYD: Major, I did what I was told

and with the war over I figure I deserve

time off for good behavior. Christ,

Major, I figured civilians would give me

a hard time, not you guys. I thought if

anyone would understand it would be

you guys.

 

(Hammond edges towards his desk. 

By the end of his speech he’s sealed

behind it)

 

HAMMOND: Oh, l understand, Ser

geant. You want me to give you the

same respect and privileges other men

have earned fulfilling their four-year

contract. Just because some of your

tour of duty was spent in a combat

zone doesn’t mean you deserve any

thing more than any other airman who

served his country. At any time an

airman could’ve been sent to ‘Nam. 

You were lucky, that’s all. Why don’t

you be grateful for the experience

you’ve had and let it go at that. I admit

I envy your experience, but not the way

it affected you. It broke you! 

 

 

(Boyd jumps up from the chair and

leans across Hammonds desk)

 

 

BOYD: I’m not broken! I just need

time to rest, Major. For years l’ve been

in a ring where the only rest you got

was when you were knocked out or

when you knocked somebody else out. 

All I want now is to take a little breather

between rounds, sit on a stool and

swish water around my mouth till my

head clears a little. That’s all. You

keep pushing me into this ring smeared

with your chicken shit rules where I slip

and fall on my ass even though the

fight’s over. It’s over, Major. 

 

 

HAMMOND: From what I hear it’s not

water you’re swishing around your

mouth, it’s whiskey. You misjudge me,

Sergeant. I want you to retire from the

ring. The problem is that because of

your rank as a non-commissioned offi

cer I can’t put you out without a hear

ing. With your war record what kind of

recommendation will a hearing board

make? It’d be hard enough to take a

strip from you, let alone boot you out. 

That’s funny, huh Sergeant? Boot you

out. If I were to bring your boots be

fore the board they’d probably order a

firing squad for you. Or maybe just a

fire to burn your boots, you being a war

hero and all. There is a way, though. 

If you agree to waive the hearing I’ll

push you out of the military within two

weeks with a General Discharge.

That’s not such a bad piece of paper.

You’d still be eligible for many G.I.

benefits. And you’d be out in two

weeks, I promise, Sergeant. But I can’t

have you leaving here before your

time’s up with an Honorable. Other

vets would pull the same stunt as you

and my leadership would be under

mined. Besides, you don’t solicit any

thing but contempt. You’re irresponsible and a quitter. You’re dangerous. 

 

 

BOYD: Yeah, I know. That’s why I

room by myself.

 

(Hammond walks behind Boyd and

places his hands on the back of the

chair. He is trying to seduce Boyd into

waiving the hearing)

 

HAMMOND: Take my offer, Sergeant.

Get away from us. Leave. Think of it,

Sergeant. In two weeks you can start

shooting dope with your friends on

street corners as you wait for the high

Schoolgirls to walk by on their way to

class. You can corner all the little girls

you want and tell them how hard a life

you had fighting the big mean men in

South Carolina. Maybe you can solicit

the sympathy from a pretty sophomore

that you’re trying to solicit from me.

Waive the hearing, Sergeant. Let me

help you get rid of me.

 

(Boyd is thinking over what Hammond

has said. Suddenly he leaps off the

chair)

 

BOYD: I’m a sergeant and I’II demand

my rights as a sergeant. lf you try to

kick me out with anything but an Honorable I’II demand a hearing. I don’t

deserve bad paper. I made sergeant

and crew chief while still a teenager. 

Remember that, Major.

 

HAMMOND: (shakes head in disbe

lief) How did that ever happen? 

 

 

BOYD! How? I’ll tell you how. The Air

Force mistook my fear for courage. 

You wonder about combat, Major? 

You’re mad at me because I got to a

war and you didn’t’? Let me tell you,

Major, I wondered how I’d act. You

know what I learned? When rockets

are exploding I’m more afraid than

anyone else on the flightline. If one of

those suckers hits a plane loaded with

all that fuel¾

(Boyd makes an explosion noise and

gestures with his hands)

 

BOYD¾that’s the ballgame, as Ted

Williams would say.

 

(Hammond presses his face close to

Boyd's)

 

BOYD: You dirty his name just by

having it come out of your mouth. 

 

 

(Hammond pivots in disgust and walks

to the far end of the stage)

 

 

BOYD: I could easily crouch in a corner with my head between my knees,

crying, when those rockets burst. But

I’m too scared for that. I can’t see the

bastards who are trying to blow me to

bits. I just hear them. The rockets. 

My enemy isn’t breathing flesh, it’s

sounds. A wheezy hiss that swells into

a bursting whistle of flame. I get so

scared I think of the exploding rockets

as some kind of audio component that I

can shut off by turning a knob. Lower

the volume, shut it oft I say to myself. 

My knob is getting those planes off as

quick as I can. I believe that if I can

get the aircraft blocked out fast

enough, get them flying, they’ll stop

aiming their explosions at me and go

after them instead, You see, I figure

they’ll go after the plane worth millions

of dollars and not me who makes two-

twenty a month. Good American logic,

right Major?

 

HAMMOND: The only good thing

about you is that uniform, Sergeant,

and you’ve failed it, You’re in my office

because you’re a failure. A failed, bro

ken man.

 

 

BOYD! No! You’re the failure! You

failed, Major! I gave you a chance but

you failed to take it!

 

(Boyd slaps the chair)

 

BOYD: Nice office you have here,

Major. Real comfortable. Do you want

me to tell you what happens outside

this line office, Major?

 

(Boyd paces around the office, pauses

by a window, points)

 

BOYD! Outside this line base, outside

this line state? You’re still puzzled

over my great write-ups while I was

under fire, right Major? You don’t think

I’m brave enough?

 

HAMMOND: I think you’re sick!

 

BOYD: Now you’re getting it. Sick. 

Sick and scared. Truth is, loading

body bags as fast as I could during

rocket attacks gave me the great write-

ups and fast rank, but you see, Major,

I didn’t care about the rockets when the

cargo was bags. I just wanted those

bags out of there, away from me! l

didn’t want to smell them or touch

them. Their stink got so bad l could

taste them. It was like I was a cannibal

or something ‘cause I’d swallow that

smell and feel it grow in my stomach. 

It'd make me puke and even that

smelled sweet compared to the plastic

bags broiling in the sun. The death I

was swallowing didn’t belong to me! It

belonged to the bags in the plane flying

away! Away from me!

 

(Boyd lifts his arms over his head and

slaps the window his voice rising and

his slapping getting more frantic)

 

 

BOYD: Get those planes up! Get

those planes out of here! Get them –

 

 

HAMMOND: Sergeant! Sergeant! 

 

 

(Hammond grabs Boyd's arms and

pulls them down)

 

HAMMOND: Sit down, Sergeant! 

 

 

(Hammond leads Boyd over to the

chair; Boyd shakes him off and sits)

 

 

BOYD: (catches breath) I had it easy,

Major. I never saw anyone get hit. I

heard explosions. I saw explosions.

Later I saw bones and flesh straining

against plastic. You got some really

strange patterns in those bags. 

 

 

(Boyd drops to his knees and presses

down on an imaginary body bag)

 

 

BOYD: Sometimes the lumps were in

such weird places it was funny. If you

pressed down on them they’d be real

soft if they were fresh and you didn’t hit

a bone.

 

HAMMOND: What are you? A per

vert, Sergeant? You think that was

funny? The men in those bags ¾

 

 

BOYD: (interrupts) The boys. 

 

 

HAMMOND: ¾have my sympathy, not

you. How do you feel standing here

asking me to release you from your

contract when those men¾

 

 

BOYD: (interrupts) Boys.

 

HAMMOND: ¾in the bags died fulfill

ing theirs?

 

BOYD: (rises off his knees) Those

boys in the bags would want me out. 

They’d be pulling for me.

 

HAMMOND: How do you figure that,

Sergeant?

 

BOYD: Because they owe me for what

they put me through,

 

 

HAMMOND: For what they put you

through?

 

BOYD: That’s right, Major. Their stink

was so had sometimes I couldn’t keep

food down for days. But the worst

thing was that they reminded me I was

a person and not just part of a crew.

The only time I thought of myself as an

individual was when I imagined my

crew throwing up and not eating be

cause of the smell I’d give off if I was

zipped up in one of those things. 

 

 

HAMMOND: You’d make your crew

vomit if they smelled you today, Sergeant. You should be ashamed of

yourself!

 

(Hammond walks back to his desk)

 

BOYD: I am. I missed a whole step. 

The lighting back, the dying. I was the

middle man, Major. Blow ‘em up, zip

per them in and then give ‘em to me to

send off. Oh, I’m lucky, Major. I slept

in a bed, ate hot meals. I’m lucky. I

know that. I didn’t fight. I didn’t see

dying. I didn’t even see death. I only

smelled it and felt how heavy it

weighed wrapped in plastic. And I

posted them on the one-forty-one’s like

a goddamned mailman, except I didn’t

carry a bag. Flung bags into planes. 

When my planes took off they

screamed. My buddies said all en

gines scream when they take off, but

my planes screamed at me for filling

their bellies with stench. They

screamed at me because they knew l

was lucky and that my luck was the

piles of flesh I weighed them down

with, I didn’t care about rockets, Major,

when the cargo was bags.

 

(Hammond grabs Boyd by the shoul

ders and leads him to the chair. He

forcefully pushes Boyd into the chair)

 

 

HAMMOND: Take it easy, Boyd. 

Catch your breath. (pause) Am I sup

posed to be frightened by that story,

Sergeant? Am I supposed to feel sorry

for you?

 

BOYD: I’m all right! I’m okay! South

Carolina just doesn’t smell sweet

enough. Women don’t smell sweet

enough. I should be happy. Happy to

be pack. Happy to work on planes

whose passengers all sit during the

flight.

 

HAMMOND: If you need help ask the

Air Force, Sergeant.

 

BOYD: I am asking the Air Force. I’m

asking you, Major! Help

me!

 

HAMMOND: What would my other

troops think if you walk out of here with

my blessing over your dereliction of

duty? Not completing your tour is a

gross dereliction of duty. Think of my

position, Sergeant.

 

BOYD: Major, I’ll walk out of here

anyway you want. Just get me out with

good paper. Please, Major. 

 

 

HAMMOND: No, Sergeant. Impossible. Pull yourself together and finish

out your tour. It’s only a little more

than a year. Take the time to see how

enjoyable it can be pulling duty in a

peacetime Air Force. Get out of those

clothes and clean yourself up.

 

 

BOYD: I can’t. There’s no sense to

anything anymore. No purpose. Only

chicken shit rules that prevent me from

thinking. This is who l’ve become,

Major. You’ll have to deal with it be

cause l’ve dealt with it.

 

(Boyd slowly walks to the door as

Hammond speaks)

 

HAMMOND: As your commanding

officer l’m telling you to either clean up

your act and fly straight or waive a

hearing so I can discharge you in accordance with Air Force policy. Those

are the only choices you have and

those are the only things I have to deal

with, Sergeant.

 

 

(Boyd grabs doorknob, is about to

leave)

 

BOYD: l can’t, Major.

 

HAMMOND: Goddamn you, Boyd! Close the door!

 

(Boyd closes the door. Hammond

charges over to him)

 

HAMMOND: You’ve made me the

laughing stock of Charleston Air Force

Base. You think I don’t know what the

pilots and navigators are laughing

about when I walk into the Officers

Club? They’re laughing at me because

I can’t handle the smelly, insolent enlisted men servicing their aircraft. 

While they’re breezing through clouds

I’m anchored behind this desk having

to put up with all the crap necessary to

keep them gliding through the air to

wards fast rank and respect. You’ve

made a fool of me, Sergeant. You and

your friends.

 

BOYD: I have no friends here, Major.

 

(Hammond walks back to his desk)

 

 

HAMMOND: I tried to be patient. I

really did. I never reprimanded you

when the flood of article fifteens

against you came pouring into this

office, I gave you a chance. I gave

you time. It’s not fair what you’re doing

to me. You’re trying to destroy my

career, aren’t you?

 

BOYD: (stunned) No. No, sir. 

 

 

HAMMOND: Yes, you are, I tried to

help you now you have to try and help

me. Straighten yourself out, Boyd. Do

your job. That's all. If you need to see

doctors I’lI send you to doctors. Just

please, change your fatigues and keep

your mouth shut, okay? No hard-assed military shit. I’m asking you,

Boyd. I'll see to it that you don’t pull

too much extra duty. Just do your job

and keep your mouth shut for sixteen

months.

 

BOYD: I need to get out, Major. 

 

 

HAMMOND: And I need respect! This

is my life, Boyd. You understand? My

life! You’re jeopardizing my life every

minute you walk around this base

looking like you do and acting like you

do. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a

war, but I do know what it’s like to be

under tire. I’m not a glamour boy pilot. 

Everyday I’m under attack by the base

commander for some deficiency,

whether it exists or not.

 

BOYD: Just get me out, Major. That’ll

make everyone happy.

 

HAMMOND: Yeah? When you got out I’d still be here listening to the snickering at the Officers Club. I heard General Susberich is upset with me over the lack of discipline in this squadron. I don’t want to retire as a major. I don’t want men ten years younger than me laughing at me when they're promoted

to light colonel and I’m not. 

 

 

BOYD: You seem to be doing all right

from where I’m standing, sir.

 

 

HAMMOND: Then step back and lake

a good look, Sergeant. You’re the one

who’s doing all right.

 

BOYD: Oh, yeah? That’s good to

know.

 

HAMMOND: Well, you are. You have

more power than I do.

 

BOYD: Major, if l had your power I’d

be on a commercial airliner flying in

any direction that’s away from here. 

 

 

HAMMOND: Look, Boyd, if you can

cover the battle scars for a moment

and look at the situation realistically,

you’ll see that I’m telling you the truth. 

 

 

BOYD: What’s the realistic situation,

Major?

 

HAMMOND: That we’re both in the

military. That we both have jobs that

are dependent on each other. 

 

 

BOYD; l’ve been dependable, Major.

Real dependable. Now I want to leave

this job and move on. I’m only a

worker. I was supposed to be a war

rior. You’re management. You’re de

ciding to stay, not me. I don’t want a

brass band parading me home. I want

a slip of paper that’ll prove what I did

was all right. That’s all. No power, No

parades. Paper. To pry my boots off

with.

 

(Hammond throws up his arms.)

 

HAMMOND: We’re back to feet, huh? 

You know, Boyd, I think you’re an ac

tor. A good actor. You pretend not to

see the power you wield, but I think

you do. I think whatever’s inside those

boots of yours has nothing to do with

any emotional anguish. I think it’s a

feeling of power you’ve trapped inside

them. That’s why you don’t take them

off.

 

BOYD: Major, are you saying if I click

my heels three times and make a wish

I'll end up in Kansas?

 

(Boyd shuts his eyes, clicks his heels

three times, mumbles)

 

BOYD: Kansas...Kansas...Kansas. 

(pause) Doesn’t work, Major. You’re

 

wrong.

 

HAMMOND: No, I’m not. You’re an

actor, Sergeant. This office is a stage

and the audience is the whole god-

damned base! And you’ve been cast

ing me as the villain. But I can’t be the

villain. I don’t have any power over

you. A villain has to be threatening,

right?

 

(Boyd shrugs)

 

HAMMOND: I tried to be threatening

but didn’t pull it off. You’ve known all

along they were just threats without

any power behind them.

 

BOYD: Power. What power? I’m

what a powerful man looks like? 

 

 

HAMMOND: It's your smell that gives

you away. That powerful sour smell of

yours. You can walk into the office of

your squadron commander and make

him sniff your stench. That’s power! 

You said something before about hav

ing had to smell the death that wasn’t

yours. Well, you’re pulling the same

thing on me. You’re making me and

the rest of the troops on base smell

your bitterness, your anger. Nobody

here did anything to you except take

you back from a war and give you

clean clothes and a job. So stop acting

so self-righteous about your pain! 

 

 

BOYD: I’m not being self-righteous,

Major. I’m trying to spare the Air Force

with having to deal with my pain. Don’t

you understand? I’m giving you guys a

way out but you won’t take it. 

 

 

HAMMOND: A way out? You’re telling

me that’s a way out?

 

BOYD: The key word’s out, Major. Get me out.

 

HAMMOND: Way out of line, that's

what it is! You’re a crew chief. You

understand the importance of discipline. I'll bet the discipline of teamwork

got you out of ‘Nam alive. 

 

 

(Boyd laughs)

 

HAMMOND: Was that a real laugh or

a camouflaging laugh?

 

BOYD: What do you mean ‘a real

laugh?’ What would I be camouflag

ing?

 

HAMMOND: The truth. I think deep

down you know if we let you out with

an Honorable, your example would

lead to a breakdown of discipline on

this base. I think you understand the

value of discipline. I think it saved your

life.

 

BOYD: Do I have to keep thinking of myself as part of something? Is that all

l am? Part of something?

 

(Hammond sits behind desk)

 

HAMMOND: That's right, Sergeant. 

 

 

BOYD: And that’s Why I have to get

out. I’m part of something that has

nothing to do with Charleston Air Force

Base.

 

HAMMOND: You’re wrong, Sergeant

You’re very much a part of Charleston. 

One Civil War began here, Boyd. Don’t start a second one on this base.  The morale of this base is one of the responsibilities of your rank. Be truthful with yourself, Sergeant. 

 

BOYD: Can we discuss the truth, Ma

jor?

 

HAMMOND: Certainly, Sergeant. 

 

 

BOYD: You’ve accused me of being

an actor, but you’ve been untruthful

from the very beginning of our conver

sation.

 

 

HAMMOND: No, I haven’t. l’ve admitted you have the upper hand. I’m

only an officer commissioned by the

President; you’re a war hero.

 

 

BOYD: Can we cut the war hero crap,

sir?

 

HAMMOND: Believe me, Sergeant, I

wish you would.

 

(Boyd's angry. He walks behind

Hammonds desk and leans over him)

 

 

BOYD: You had me going for a while,

Major. I mean, you started out like a

typical hard-ass and then you suckered

me in with your one on one approach. 

I thought for a moment you were human, that you were listening to me. 

You’re not listening. But I am.

 

HAMMOND: And what do you hear, Sergeant?

 

(Boyd bends dawn, speaks in Ham

mond’s ear)

 

BOYD: A liar. A scared liar. You for

get that I’m an expert on fear. 

 

 

HAMMOND: (angry) You better ex

plain that last remark, Sergeant. And it

better be good!

 

BOYD: I walked in here not trusting

you, Major. But I listened to what you

said because of the three months you

gave me before hauling me in here. I

just realized that you didn’t bother me

so I could have a chance to straighten

myself out on my own. You delayed

seeing me because you’re afraid of

me. You’re only seeing me now be

cause others have noticed your fear

the base commander, pilots, your other

troops.

 

HAMMOND: (nervously) W-Why

would you frighten me, Sergeant? 

 

 

BOYD: Because your neck is on the

block if you don’t get me to¾what did

you call it? ¾fly straight? You’re

scared ‘cause you’re not in the same

league as me. I don’t care how much

metal is pinned to your collar, I’m

closer to your vision of Ted Williams

than you are and you know it! l’ve

been tested I made it through ‘Nam. 

You wouldn’t have, you’d have

cracked over there, I know. l’ve seen

guys like you over there, Major. It

would’ve broken you.

 

(Hammond springs up from chair)

 

 

HAMMOND: That’s a lie! A stupid lie! 

I wanted to go! l wanted to! 

 

 

 

BOYD: Yeah? Well I want to go, too. 

You’re going to get me out with good

paper, Major.

 

HAMMOND: No! 

 

BOYD:

Yes, you are. That’s all you’re

good for ... paper. That’s all you

are ... paper, Paper rips, Major. 

 

 

HAMMOND: Shut up, Boyd!

 

BOYD: You’re going to give me good

paper and I’m going to give you back

your secret so you can continue intimi

dating green troops. Nobody will know

what a frightened man you are. 

 

 

HAMMOND: (clenches fists) How

dare you speak to me like that! I’m an

officer in the United State Air Force! 

 

 

BOYD: (smells blood) No wonder

pilots and navigators laugh at you.

Theirs are camouflaging laughs, too,

Major. They’re camouflaging the dis

gust they feel at having an office clerk

receive the same pay and privileges as

them. But you’ll never get the respect

they get. Why should you? Talk about

unfair! Why should two fighters be

paid equally if only one steps inside the

ring? That’s what they whisper about

you in the Officers Club. You know. 

You feel it. Don’t blame me. I’m not

your excuse.

 

HAMMOND: You sonofabitch!

 

 

(Hammond grabs Boyd by the neck

and slams him into the wall behind his

desk)

 

HAMMOND: You sonofabitch! You

sonofabitch!

 

(Boyd slides down the wall gagging. 

Hammond releases his grip. Boyd

coughs, clears his throat)

 

 

BOYD: You’re tough, Major. Real

brave. You know if l hit you l’d rot in

jail. Kill me, Major! Kill me! 

 

 

(Hammond grabs Boyd by the lapels

and pulls him up. He pummels Boyd

against the wall to punctuate each

sentence)

 

HAMMOND. God-damn you, Boyd! 

You’ve got to start looking like a re

sponsible airman, you hear me? 

You’re going to change your fatigues! 

You’re going to walk around this base

and do your job like every other mem

ber of this squadron! ‘

 

(Hammond releases Boyd and walks

toward the mirror)

 

HAMMOND: You’re not the superstar

on this team¾

 

 

(Hammond points to reflection in mirror)

 

 

 

HAMMOND: I am!

 

(Hammond talks to Boyd while watch

ing him in the mirror)

 

 

HAMMOND: You’re a utility player,

and I’m going to utilize you! You hear

me, Boyd!

 

(Hammond tums and faces Boyd)

 

 

HAMMOND: You’re going to walk out

of this office looking lie a non-

commissioned Officer, not a derelict! 

Scum like you aren’t going to put me

on General Susberich’s shit list! You

hear me, Boyd!

 

(Boyd gasps for breath, rises)

 

 

BOYD: You’re concerned about how l

look when I leave this damn office? 

You’re concerned about how I smell? You’re concerned about these boots?  Okay, Major! Look! These boots! I’m pulling them off for you! There they go! 

 

(Boyd flings the boots across the room,

next to Hammond)

 

 

BOYD: Off! Off!

 

(Boyd quickly strips)

 

HAMMOND: (stunned) Sergeant ... you

put those clothes back on! 

 

 

BOYD: See! Easy! Right, Major! 

This uniform? Off! I’m taking it off for

you, Major!

 

(Boyd hurls his shirt at Hammond and

then his pants)

 

BOYD: Now get me out! You win.

Major! The world will know you’ve

won! See, Major!? See!? I’ll walk out

of here and the world will know you

won! You can get me out! Get me out. 

Major!

 

HAMMOND: (scared) Sergeant Boyd! Put your clothes on!

 

(Boyd strips down to his oversized

government issued boxer shorts)

 

 

BOYD: You win, Major! They’re off! You did it, Major! Congratulations! Now get me out! Get me out, Major!  I’m going to walk out of here and tell everyone I meet that you won! You did it, Major! Major Hammond did it! Hail Hammond! Hail Hammond! Bless you, Major! You did it!

 

(Boyd starts out of the office)

 

(Hammond rushes over to intercom)

 

 

HAMMOND: Trezza! Get the S.P.’s in

here on the double!

 

(Hammond tackles Boyd at the door

They struggle. Boyd frees himself)

 

 

BOYD: (out of breath) I’m walking out

of here, Major, and you can’t stop me. 

l’m going to march over to General

Susberich’s office and tell him how

skillfully you got me to take off my

boots and fatigues. Then you’ll be the

hero. That’s what you want from me,

isn’t it, Major?

 

HAMMOND: Gel back in here, Boyd. Lets talk. Put your clothes on. 

 

 

BOYD: Not Unless you give me an

Honorable I’m walking out of here,

Major, I’m walking over to headquar

ters.

 

HAMMOND: (fidgeting) You win, Boyd, I’lI give you the good paper.  Just stay put, Don’t leave. And put your fatigues on.

 

BOYD: You lying to me, Major?

 

HAMMOND: No. I give you my word. Get dressed.

 

(TREZZA and TWO SECURITY POLICEMEN crash through the door. The Policemen leap onto Boyd, whose back is to them. Boyd falls forward. He struggles but is handcuffed and yanked to his feet. A Security Policeman picks up Boyd’s pants and is about to hand them to him)

 

 

HAMMOND: (to Security Policeman) No! Leave those alone.

 

(Hammond snatches the pants out of

the Security Policeman’s hand throws

them by the mirror and addresses

Boyd)

 

HAMMOND: You’ll never wear them

again.

 

 

(Hammond pulls his raincoat off the

coat rack and hands it to the Security

Policeman)

 

HAMMOND: Wrap this around him,

airman.

 

BOYD: Do I have to do this to get out? 

 

 

(A Security Policeman pushes Boyd

towards the door)

 

 

 

BOYD: I don’t want anyone to see me

like this. (near tears) You failed, Ma

jor! You failed! I am a sergeant! I

deserve more respect! You have no

right to allow this to happen to me. I

don’t owe anything!

 

(Boyd is led away. Hammond, visibly

shaken, locks the door. As soon as the

lock clicks into place the lighting

changes. The office blacks out as an

unnatural light spotlights Hammond This

spotlight must Click through many differ

ent colors and densities to show a pas

sage of time as Hammond remains frozen in front of the door. Hammond

slowly turns and walks to his desk. He

picks up a pen and starts scribbling

away. He stops, looks at the door,

smirks, and continues writing. Suddenly

he throws down the pen, rises, removes

his shirt and walks over to the mirror,

where he begins to do push-ups)

 

HAMMOND: One … two … three ... four … five ... six ... seven ... eight ... come on, Major. 

 

(Hammond collapses on the floor his

 

outstretched hand touches Boyd’s fa

tigue shirt. He feels the material, looks

up at it and slowly pulls it towards him.

He examines it and sniffs it. Hammond

undresses and pulls on Boyd’s fa

tigues. He shivers as he zips up the

pants, buttons the shirt. It's as if the

fatigues are ice cold Hammond re

trieves Boyd’s boots. As he moves

towards the boots his shivering is less

pronounced he ‘s growing accustomed

to the fatigues. Hammond plops down

on the floor and pulls the boots down. 

He lets out a slight cry, almost a whine,

as he laces them up. He stands in

front of the mirror modeling the filthy

uniform. He tums in all directions to

get a good overview of how he looks. 

The shivering returns, but he dismisses

it with a smile. At last he feels com

fortable in the fatigues, so he walks

over to his desk and presses down the

intercom button. There’s a pause.

Hammond does not speak)

 

TREZZA’S VOICE: Yes, Major. Ma

jor? Major Hammond? Are you there,

Major?

 

(Hammond runs his hand gently over

the fatigue blouse, as if absorbing

some kind of power from it)

 

 

HAMMOND: Trezza ... what’s on my

agenda, Trezza?

 

TREZZA’S VOICE: You have a sur

prise barracks inspection in twenty

minutes, sir.

 

HAMMOND: Okay. I'll be leaving

shortly. Call up Chief Crawley. I want

him to make the rounds with me. Till

then I don’t want to be disturbed,

Trezza.

 

 

TREZZA’S VOICE: Are you all right,

Major?

 

HAMMOND: I don’t want be disturbed, Trezza!

 

TREZZ’AS VOICE: Yes, sir.

 

(Hammond walks over to the mirror

and admires himself. Then he

crouches into a batting stance and

“digs in” at the plate. He takes two half

swings. His face becomes a study in

concentration as he tenses his body

waiting for the pitch in the mirror.

When he sees the pitch he executes a

powerful swing and clicks his tongue

as he makes imaginary contact with a

baseball. Blackout)

 

End Of Play

 

 

 

 

 

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