(June 3, 2018)
Gunner Bill Omdahl
looked deep into those tired eyes:
“Yep, J,” he intoned.
“Did you see the yellow, too?”
“Malaria. Least it’s not Dengue!*”
- (My photographer, Sergeant John “You’re Prettier Than A Puppy Out On A Frosty Morn” Gentry from Front Royal, West Virginia, who’d have three ounces of Coca Cola each morning – not In The Bush – in Vietnam and followed that with a quart of Jack Daniels Black during the day and wind up his busy schedule with the other three ounces of soda before slumber was peaked that bright Summer morning and the newly reported Gunner Bill Omdahn thought he detected a malarial “stink” about his Public Affairs Office unit’s only qualified photographer. John was under-the-weather usually each morning, but this was serious. He complained of cold and heat, of sweats and shivers, and cold keep no solid food down. Gunner Omdahl called me over from my desk were I was designing the next month’s recruiting and reserve matazine I wrote, photographed, edited and caused to be published for our eight-state district – in other words day-dreaming – and asked me to confirm his diagnosis – “Yep, Mister Omdahl, “John’s eyes are jaundiced and the rest ranks him malarial, all right. Want me to run him by the squids at The Navy Yard? I don’t think we have any chancre mechanics aboard the district head shed right now.” The lieutenant, the Master Gunnery Sergeant, the sergeant Woman Marine clerk whom I ran off the next week because she insisted The Gunner and The Lieutenant were looking up her skirt from across the hallway through her open-ended desk where she sat not-diligently-at-all typing our vast – actually not even half-vast – correspondence while making sure her nail polish was perfect all gathered ’round to see poor John’s yellow-rimed bloodshot eyes. “At least it’s not Dengue Fever,” I repeated. That would be serious. Cause poor John to have to quit drinking hootch for a month’r’more. That got John Gentry’s attention. He went back to his photo lab and turned out the lights and as he passed me on the way to my personal car eight stories down parked by the Philly Cheese Steak trailer parked in the alley behind our Eighth & Broad Streets location for the ride to the Navy base, he said slurringly: “got some pics for The General drying – you know, the big banquet you ditched coming to, so stuff ’em in an envelope and get them to his office tomorrow, okay?” Sure, John. Let’s go. Wanna stop first for a grinder and a beer? I asked as I gleed at his green gills. What fun. The Gunner guffawed greatly at my cruel wit. Life was fine. No one was shooting near my pos’ and I felt fine.)