(You can read part I here)
I unhooked my swim line from the Budweiser and handed it off to my swim bud to control so it wouldn’t get fouled hanging loose. Picking up my kick I swung out coming alongside the first man to my front.
“Excuse me, but do you happen to have any Grey Poupon?”
“But of course I do — I just shit an ass-load of into the sea.”
I didn’t hear any laughs but I saw some grinning teeth from the man.
“Yooz doin’ ok? Any issues? Cramps, stings, nausea… cough and scratchy throat due to seasonal cold and flu?”
*To the next man* “Hey, I heard they’re having an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at Sloppy Joe’s this weekend — you down?” teeth again but no audible chuckle. I needed to try harder.
*To the Sergeant* “My man, Sergeant Heil — how about some Bohemian Rhapsody, my brother?!”
No chuckle and no teeth from brother Heil. His eyes looked like deep black wells with an off-white dot down at the bottom. He rocked back and forth as he kicked along. Leaning in close I offered:
“Look, man, there’s no foul at all in just taking a rest now and then. Just stop kicking for a few and let the train pull you along, right?” He nodded distinctly though he kept rocking along.
*Next man* “Goddamn, George… something keeps bumping my leg — I swear to God! I feel like I just fell off of the sinking Indianapolis.”
“Oh, Jesus Paste — don’t even tell me that. Would a knife make you feel better?” I fumbled for my knife but the Sergeant pulled his arm out of the water and held up a Marine K-Bar knife; he was ahead of my game.
Just then I had the full-caliber creeps and almost talked myself into an imaginary shark-induced panic. Finally, I heard an audible “POP” sound as I pulled my head out of my ass and made it to the point team. I was concerned about these two pipe-hitters at the front: They did not even for a second have the luxury of breaking from their constant hard kicking needed to keep the group steered.
We discussed the option of swapping out with them at some point in the swim. I tell you, that concept really seemed to perk them up; there were teeth! I made my way to the other side of the Budweiser to check with and spread tidings and good cheer to the brothers swimming that side. I addressed the first swimmer:
“Seen any good movies or read any good books lately?”
“Yeah, Sergeant — Papillon!”
*Chuckling* “Aw, man… that is depressing!”
“Yeah… did you know ‘papillon’ means butterfly, and butterfly in Spanish is ‘mariposa,’ which means faggot?”
“Wow, that is fascinating. Then maybe your name should be Sergeant Mariposa.”
“Ah-ha-ha-ha… no, maybe YOUR name should be Sergeant Mariposa!”
“Great come-black, Sergeant,” and there was chuckling to be had there!
One of the men told me about how he was planning the house he was going to build when he got back to his home station. That seemed legit to me; just droning along, kicking and rocking, planning his house. The time for him was passing nicely. I let him describe the essential floor plan to me as my eyes glazed over and I couldn’t hear a thing he said.
Oh, hell… when I got back to my swim bud he was rolled over on his back, not kicking, and his line was stretched tight behind the centerline of the Budweiser as he was being towed along behind the team.
“Hey, man… are you taking a break — that’s cool if you are… hey… HEY!”
He rolled his face over toward me and delivered the bad news.
“I’m done… I can’t do this anymore. I’m finished. I want out of here — get me out of this!!”
This was a contingency that we had not planned for during the preparation phase of the swim. Yeah, what exactly do you do with a man who refuses to swim? The Green Berets was not a great hunting ground if you were looking to bag your seasonal quota of quitters. This man, I learned, had a tremendous issue with his spouse back home and was losing to divorce.
He had physical distress — the same distress that we all had — but to that mental and emotional stress was added. I felt for him, but what do I do — cut him loose and let him float out to sea to perish? I could unhook him from the Budweiser centerline and clip him off directly to my belt to take his burden off of the team, but realistically I knew I couldn’t very long fin for two men.
“Dude, do you seriously intend to be that vain? Are you so vain you think you deserve to put your burden on all these men who are equally as smoked as you are? Ain’t that some shit — you are the shit, wonderful you!”
The mighty Orion unsheathed his sword and pointed it to the front of the swim formation indicating it was time for me to swim another loop to check in with the lead team.
“Hang in there, dudes — I ordered us some pizza!”
“Poseidon just called and he wants his swim fins back.”
“Don’t mind me, Sergeant Heil… I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me, I’m just a poor boy from a poor family — spare me my life from this monstrosity!”
*Sergeant Heil, very weakly* “Easy come, easy go — will you let me go… I’m really worried, man… I left the coffee pot plugged in back in the barracks.” Sergeant Heil was trying like nuts to stay in the fight; my heart was out to him.
The point team, facing reality, put on a great face, but only on the surface; yet, they wouldn’t lose face as point team. The reality we three knew was that the point team absolutely was going to have to be rotated out of that position so that they could rest. I had nobody to bring forward with me, as my swim bro was going through a divorce.
We made a plan to swap out and agreed on a clock time that it would happen in spite of anything else. I had just less than an hour to figure out who should swim with me.
“…and the guest bathroom would be right there next to the guest bedroom slash home office. All the bathroom fixtures there are going to be Kohler’s.”
“Man, that sounds like a beautiful layout, Sergeant! Hey, listen… I need a man to rotate upfront with me at 2100hrs to give the point team a break; they are getting their asses handed to them. Can you come up and swim with me? You don’t need to worry about the navigation — I’ll handle all of that — I just need a man to kick.”
“Sure. I can plan my house just as well up there as back here.”
“SUPER!! I’ll come get you when it’s time and we’ll swim up there together.”
I swam the loop and briefed all the men that we were going to trade out the point team and halt our swim at that time for a rest.
When I got back to the rear to find my swim bro still floating on his back like a Goddamned turtle I was so mad I could spit. It was bad enough some bitch-ass lass was causing this guy so much grief, but she was also causing 11 other men a plateful of grief from a thousand miles away. I put my hands on his chest and stomach and dunked him under then slapped him:
“Come on, man — fuck that Goddamned whore — pull yourself together, pull your weight. I mean it, I’ll cut you free to drift off! It’s just you and me back here; I’ll cut you away and nobody will see.”
Fuck me?? Yeah, that was the last straw for that asshole.
(concluded in part III)
By Almighty God and with honor,