5.24.2019

The Terminatrix





     For those seeking a lower education, the military is an excellent place to start. To be clear, I’m not talking West Point or even college ROTC I mean old fashioned Basic training, Boot Camp or whatever your service calls it is the equal of a baccalaureate degree in  “reality studies.” Professors in this program are Drill Sergeants, and I had the misfortune to study under the Lower Education equivalent of a Rhodes Scholar. A Drill so menacing that they had become known as “the Terminator,” the bane of all trainees on Logan Heights, the former training center at Fort Bliss Texas. 
Our own Drills found the Terminator story hilarious and would regale us with tales of their cruelty. The exception to this was the Senior Drill whom I will call SFC Smith. He would sigh and roll his eyes at the mention of the Terminator, and mysteriously this only seemed to encourage the other drills. Occasionally we would spot an unfamiliar Drill snorting and stamping their way along in search of someone to disapprove of, “Is that the Terminator?” We would ask, but the answer was always no.
I made it most of the way through basic without encountering the Terminator. But my luck ran out a week or so before graduation. We were almost done, and I felt secure enough to risk a minor transgression, taking a shower after lights out. I later surmised that The Terminator apparently had duty that evening and for some reason was passing by our company area and heard the water on after 2100 and materialized in the latrine suddenly as if by evil magic. The only thing missing was a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning. She was the smallest person I ever encountered in uniform, about 100 pounds of anger wrapped in the pelt of some unfortunate woman. If a male had entered the female showers, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. But the rules didn’t seem to apply to the Terminator no, The Terminatrix.
I jumped several feet in the air followed by a crazy scrambling dance to keep from falling on the tiled floor of the shower. My towel was beyond my reach so not knowing what else to do; I went to parade rest, Feet shoulder width apart and hands behind my back.  She regarded me with a fishy stare as if examining a new species of parasite and in a very bored voice said: “drop” so I dropped and began awkwardly cranking out pushups in the confined space. She reached over and turned the water all the way to cold, and after glaring at me for what seemed like a year, she turned on her heel and vanished, surprisingly without a puff of sulfurous smoke. Eventually, a buddy came in to see if I had been eaten and revealed that she had gone. According to him she entered the building, ignored the private on fire guard and proceeded directly to the latrine, then departed without speaking.
Following my first encounter with the Terminatrix, she seemed to be all everywhere. We speculated that she might be twins or triplets due to multiple sightings at the same time throughout the training center. We would occasionally find traces of her handy work, an exhausted private dragging themselves back to their unit by their lips one day. A bewildered PFC clinging to one of the few trees proclaiming to any who questioned: “I am a koala bear!” But graduation soon arrived, and I forgot about the Terminatrix.
After graduation, we were marched to a new barracks infested by new Drill Seargents that would be our home through Advanced Training. Having a bit more free time now We were allowed to walk short distances without adult supervision and could patronize the Shopette, a military version of a convenience store. On one such visit, a buddy and I emerged from the store to find a platoon of females leaving a nearby mess hall. We went to parade rest as was the custom and waited for them to pass, but their drill sergeant called a halt in front of us. She had the formation right face and rounded on us. It was, of course, the Terminatrix.
As she described in detail our many faults, I noted that she was either unaware of breath mints, or that they didn’t come in a flavor she found pleasing.  She glared balefully at us with her patented fishy stare as if trying to decide if she was going to kill us or throw us back. While we waited under her malevolent gaze, I noticed the female trainees in her platoon had a frightened air about them; like rabbits freezing in the presence of a bobcat. Seeming to reach a decision she barked “Private Fuchs, front, and center!” One of her rabbit women left formation and hopped to the front. “Tell me Fuchs; she spat which one of these creatures caused you to break military bearing?”
“The tall one, Drill Sgt,” she barked back, indicating my friend. (Who never let me forget.)
Realizing the formation was blocking traffic, she had them fall out to the shopette’s gravel parking area and announced that because the hapless Fuchs missed male companionship so badly that she had dared to turn her head and look at something other than the soldier in front of her that we would have a foursome. She then stomped back over to us and announced that although she had not observed us doing anything wrong we “were indisputably guilty of something that required correction.”
 She announced that push-ups were the missionary position, flutter kicks were cowgirl and sit-ups were doggy style. She then smoked the absolute hell holy out of poor Fuchs and us,” calling out changes of position every time we showed signs of collapse. After an eternity, she formed up her platoon, allowed Fuchs to stagger back into ranks, and announced to her platoon: “There are about nine miles of dick on this post, and you won’t see a single inch!” She motioned to the platoon guide, and off they marched.
We staggered back to our barracks streaming with sweat, our meager purchases clutched weakly in our limp arms. One of our current Drills simply asked how “Drill Sgt Smith” was. When we responded that no, it wasn't him, we had had him for basic. He began laughing, Sergeant First Class Smith and Staff Sergeant Smith were a married couple, and SSG Smith was one of the few female drills at that post due to the recent opening of some specialties to females and felt compelled to outdo her husband in every respect.
I never saw the Terminatrix again but anyone who attended training at Logan Heights that long ago summer remembers.

Authors note: Another version of this story appeared on the website American Grit. I, Dan Hillman, am the original author. Unlike most of my stories which use a bit of exaggeration all I’ve changed are names for the sake of anonymity and omitted the endless amount of push-up done and the behest of The Terminatrix.

5.20.2019

What I've learned




A brief compilation of amusing things people have learned the hard way. As they say on Television, don’t try these at home.


Things I learned in the Army.
·       I am not to teach German children to sing “Eskimo Nell.”
·       I am not to drink food coloring, before a urinalysis.
·       The following items do not exist Blinker Fluid, winter tire air, and chemlight batteries.
·       Radar beams, flight line and grid squares exist, but I’m not to task new soldiers with their retrieval.
·       The tuna and noodles MRE is not authorized for use as a personal lubricant.

Things I learned from my children.
·       TO HELL WITH LEGOS
·       A ceiling fan can hit barbie a long way.
·       Window glass won’t stop ballistic barbies.
·       When toilet flushes and junior says "Uh-oh," it's too late.
·       Marbles in the gas tank make a LOT of noise.
·       Check the oven before you turn it on SERIOUSLY.

Things I learned from my Parents.
·       Religion: You better pray that comes out.
·       Logic: Because I said so.
·       Stamina: If the broccoli doesn’t taste good now you can sit there until it does.
·       Humor: If the mower cuts off your toes, don't run to me.
·       Thrift: A teenager’s wardrobe can be fully stocked at bag sales at the local thrift store.  
·       Modesty: Because of thrift I dress like a blind hobo.

Things I learned shopping.
·       I am not to randomly put items in people’s carts.
·       I am not to alter the direction of the escalators.
·       I am not to lay a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women’s restroom.
·       I am not to enter a fitting room and yell for toilet paper.
·       I am not to switch the men’s and women’s signs on the restroom.

Things I learned at Disneyland.
·       Pocahontas says “going native” doesn’t mean what I think.
·       I’m not allowed to ask Minnie Mouse to gargle my balls.       (Curiously this is $10 less at Disneyland than in Tijuana.)
·       Eeyore is neither getting nailed in the ass nor trying to get some tail.
·       “Buzz and Woody” Belong to Andy, not his mother.
·       Frontier land doesn’t have a brothel, and I should shut up about it.

Things I learned from my wife.

  • If the thought of anything makes me giggle, I am to assume that I am not allowed to do it.
·       That it is better to seek forgiveness than permission no longer applies to me.
·       Marriage is about compromise.  I didn’t want a dog, and she did, so we compromised.  Please meet my new dog, Max.
·       The spoons won't get clean if they are spooning each other.
·       If my wife ever hired a detective to follow me, it would be to get pictures of me not using the coupons she gave me.

5.14.2019

Night of the Mew


Recently we performed one of those random acts of kindness some people are always bragging about; we took in a stray cat. He’d been haunting our neighborhood for some time, and our two-year-old son would excitedly point and repeat "mew, mew" when he stopped by to cage a meal, so we dubbed him Mew, a few days later Mew formally adopted us when I opened the front door without checking for infiltrators. He made himself at home not knowing that there was still an obstacle to his permanent employment, our dogs Abigail, a medium-sized mixed breed of regal bearing but indeterminate parentage and Max an old Australian Shepard mix who happily divided his retirement between sleeping and farting. Fortunately, the dogs were undergoing their semiannual trip to the groomer and happened to be out of the house at that particular moment.
The cat was bundled off to the veterinarian to be “fixed” although I doubt Mew realized he was broken. When we retrieved him, the vet informed us that he was something called a Flame Point Siamese, which we later speculated is a subspecies of honeybadger. On his return, Mew was exiled to the spare bedroom, ironically for his protection as he had yet to meet the dogs. He slept peacefully for a day or so recovering from his surgery; the dogs, unaware of the intruder, suspected nothing.
On the third morning, Mew decided that the accommodations had become confining and resolved to escape. His opportunity came the next time I attempted to leave the bedroom after a care and feeding session.  Mew saw his chance and kicked on the warp drive employed by cats seeking passage through a guarded door. Unfortunately, his escape route led to the hallway where he found himself separated from the dog Abigail only by my frantically descending leg. At this point, I discovered that Mew wasn’t a stray cat, but rather an unusually short and hairy ninja. As a side note, I wish to inform the Yakuza that his disguise was perfect and I apologize profusely for having him neutered.
Immediately detecting the dog, Mew sprang to the attack, deploying claws to scale the intervening terrain (me) and launching an airborne assault on the unsuspecting Abigail, who was caught unaware and set to panicked flight. Mew paused for a moment, analyzing the situation and liking the odds set off in pursuit.  The dog terrified and thoroughly confused kept looking back over her shoulder trying to bark as well as determine the nature of her pursuer. Not liking what she saw, she executed a 90° evasive turn into the kitchen, withdrawing from battle but colliding with Heidi, my wife, knocking her down amid a cascade of the lemonade she had been pouring. Now even more frightened and confused Abigail paused to administer a proper trampling and fled into the living room.
Mew failed to negotiate the turn into the kitchen and continued down the hallway with me in pursuit. Mew continued headlong down the hall emerging on the opposite side of the living room where he encountered our older dog Max, sleeping peacefully on his cushion. I can only imagine what went through his head when he opened his sleepy eyes and saw the cat bearing down on him hissing like a cobra.  Max let out a mighty WOOF! And struggled arthritically to his feet. At that moment Abagail entered the room from the kitchen moving at highway speed colliding with Max just as the cat sprang.
A scene of much violence and general mayhem ensued as Mew first attempted to defeat his foes in hand to hand combat but then mounted Abigail’s back perhaps thinking he could ride her to freedom. Abigail disliking this turn of events bucked and spun rodeo-fashion about the room trying to dislodge the hitchhiker.  I’m not entirely sure what happened to Max during the melee leading to some concern that he had been torn to shreds. Complicating matters, the vengeful and lemon scented Heidi, dripping with wrath and lemonade adding blistering profanity to the cacophony of yelps, barks, screeches and yowls that accompanied the battle.
The day was saved only by my joining the battle inadequately armed with a cushion snagged as I passed the couch. Swinging this weaponized upholstery, I managed to disrupt the struggle enough for Abigail to flee back into the kitchen and through a closed screen door leading to the relative safety of the backyard. Once the field was clear of enemies, Mew returned to his usual loving self.
After the battle, we returned a somewhat incredulous Mew to his bedroom prison; apparently, he was under the impression that he had won possession of the house and its staff through trial by combat. Max turned up outside leading us to wonder how he managed to exit the house, some black material found on his supposedly clean feet led to speculation he had gone up the chimney. Abigail was unwilling to reenter the house and had to be escorted by Heidi or myself. 
The day after the battle, Mew received a transfer to the home of my cat-loving sister who counts her cats using a formula based on the number of cats per square foot. The final toll turned out to be about $500 worth of veterinary bills covering numerous scratches bites and perforations to the dogs. While Heidi and I escaped with only light to moderate shredding.  The screen door had to be replaced Thankfully the children were elsewhere in the house but heard enough cursing to expand their vocabulary to that of a Marine Corps drill instructor.

5.06.2019

Going Down - Hill


Mr. Krieg, the Vice Principal of Poverty Valley High School was an unhappy man, or so he had explained to us on numerous occasions. At the moment, he was unhappy about a dairy cow on the roof of the science building. For that matter, the cow seemed rather unhappy with the situation herself, rushing back and forth plaintively mooing for rescue while Mr. Krieg rushed back and forth shouting instructions at the maintenance men who had just arrived with a scissor lift.
My friends Joe Park and Double Dee joined the crowd watching the spectacle. Joe was tall and muscular, we had adopted him when he had transferred in the year before.  Double Dee or simply “DD” had been a friend since kindergarten. Shorter and stockier than Joe everyone called him DD because his Indian father had bestowed upon him the magnificently unpronounceable name of an ancestor and had been reduced to using his initials after years of enduring our pathetic attempts to say his name correctly. 
Using the lift the two men had gained the roof and were attempting to herd the cow aboard, but she was having none of it, after a couple of laps around the rooftop it was the maintenance men who were herded back onto the lift.
“Maybe they should just take up a barbecue?” DD opined prompting raucous laughter from the crowd.  Unfortunately, this attracted Mr. Krieg’s attention “I know you have someplace to be.” he growled, taking a break from haranguing the workmen. 
“Yes, Sir.” We replied simultaneously not wishing to be further associated with the cow and its presence on the roof, we proceeded rapidly to our homeroom where Mr. Fletcher, our homeroom teacher seemed surprised to see us.
“I thought you’d be in the office by now,” He said, arching an eyebrow as we entered. “How the heck did you get that thing up there without marking up the grass?”
“Believe it or not Mr. Fletcher, we didn’t do it.” Joe protested. “We just got here ourselves.” Fletcher looked dubious but let the matter drop.
“Why doesn’t he believe us?” Joe asked, sounding somewhat hurt. “We have a little fun now and then, but I don’t remember lying about it.”
“I have no idea, maybe he’s still sore about all the dry ice in the teacher’s restroom.” I speculated.
In fairness, they did have reason to suspect us. Our little circle of friends had been amusing ourselves at the expense of the faculty and staff for most of our time in high school. We had not set out to trouble Krieg specifically, but as Vice Principal, most disciplinary issues fell to him. Also, Jenny, his daughter had taken a shine to DD so he could seldom escape, even after work.
The trouble had started on the first day of school when through some error on the part of the highway department the road passing in front of the school had been closed in two places, each approximately half a mile from the school. Someone had erected traffic barriers on the road to the school and students, staff and buses were delayed for some time. Suspicion had fallen upon our circle of friends because DD was discovered to have an orange traffic cone in the back of his truck. If you knew DD as I did, you would have realized he was just as likely to wear it as a hat as try and block traffic with it, but alas, we had all been detained and interrogated. Some weeks later Mr. Krieg found himself unable to leave his house because he needed to cross a bridge whose wooden deck planking was mysteriously missing. Also, this meant that his daughter could not return home from a date at the hour her father had specified.  I understand DD dropped her off at her aunt’s house around midnight, tired and disheveled from their many unsuccessful attempts to cross the damaged bridge. And worst of all just before Thanksgiving, Mr. Krieg had the misfortune to chaperone the first ski bus of the season.
After school, Friday Joe, I and DD had boarded the bus for the two-hour drive to the Bare Mountain Ski Area. Skiing was a major sport at our school, and the school ski club had an arrangement with the Bare Mountain resort, we would be sleeping in its loft. Mr. Krieg and the school's girls, Ms. Flail, along with a couple of parents that came along for free lift tickets would chaperone the two dozen students.
The first night passed without serious incident.  Joe, DD and I briefly explored our new environment which was a somewhat rustic two-story building. Guest services like a bar and restaurant as well as ticket sales and ski rentals were on the ground floor while we were billeted on the second floor, a multi-purpose room that had been divided into spaces for boys and girls. We accessed the building through a stairwell at the rear. I think we had some vague notion of slipping into the bar, perhaps to conduct research on adult behavior. It’s been too many years and too much adult behavior for me to recall. Frustratingly, the stairs led only to the loft and even worse the door locked automatically.  Lacking anything to prop the door open and having left our cold weather gear upstairs we gave up and went to bed.
The night passed without incident, Mr. Krieg and Coach Flail had made some rather vague and ominous threats about the terrible misfortune that would befall any student who attempted to invade the area designated for the opposite sex. Girls were one thing but skiing was entirely another, and we made no attempt on the female section that night.
The next day was bright and cold, perfect skiing weather.  Despite her father's disapproval, DD went off to ski with Jenny While Joe and myself spent the day on the Giant Slalom course in preparation for ski team tryouts that would take place in a couple of weeks.  My final run of the day was remarkable only that I had too much speed going into a narrow path known as a cat-track as it had been created by the resorts lone sno-cat.  It was filled with beginning skiers, and I blasted through at highway speed with the ever-loyal Joe right behind me yelling “sorry” as the beginners toppled like bowling pins in my wake.  While I had intended to get in a couple more runs before the hill closed, we detected the red-coated figures of the Ski Patrol headed in our direction and decided to call it a day.
After dinner that evening everyone was lounging around, talking, reading or listening to their headphones. Joe, Jenny Krieg, DD and I were idly gossiping when Joe pointed at the stairwell door.  Mr. Krieg and his fellow chaperone Coach Flail were holding hands. We were impressed as Coach Flail a tall, athletic blonde, was not only terrifying but a good deal younger than Mr. Krieg.
“Say, Jen, are they knocking boots?” asked Joe with his characteristic tactfulness.
“I don’t really know.” She replied, frowning. “I don’t think he’s been on a date since Mom died.”
“Wouldn’t that be something?” Joe opined. “Maybe if he gets lucky he’ll lighten up a bit.”
Jenny’s eye narrowed a bit. “Could you imagine having that as a stepmom? Beansprouts and Gatorade for dinner every night.”
Sadly our gossip session was brought to a close when Mr. Krieg announced that it was time to prepare for bed.  Jenny said goodnight and left for the girl’s side under the basilisk glare of her father.  We would be rising early the next morning, skiing for half a day and heading home after lunch.  Once everyone was bedded down, we noted that Mr. Krieg and his lady friend were nowhere in sight. Nodding to DD and myself Joe led the way along the back wall and down the stairs. The room was quite dark, but we hurried as there was a light in the stairwell and we knew if we lingered in the open door, we would be noticed.
     On reaching the first floor, we found the double glass doors already blocked open with a piece of firewood and a few feet away sat a two-quart box of white wine and a six pack of Olympia beer.  Apparently, someone had stashed them in the snow next to the door to chill for later consumption. We contemplated our course of action.  We postulated that instead of being there to chill they had been dropped by accident and we should probably take at least the beer into protective custody, we also marveled a bit at the box wine, this was a new innovation at the time, and the idea of wine in a box was positively strange. As we discussed the matter, I noticed that there was an intermittent trail of red stains in the disturbed snow that led off toward a nearby stand of trees. Before I could point this out we heard a sound that chilled us to the bone, the upstairs door had opened with a loud click.
     Jenny told us later that her father had been sitting with Coach Flail and they had observed someone opening the door to the stairwell. Mr. Krieg and Coach Flail had taken a moment to get their boots and coats on and set out in pursuit. We looked at each other in horror and having no other option but capture we slipped out the door and fled around the building. All three of us peeked around the corner and saw Mr. Krieg and Coach Flail standing disgustedly just outside the doors glaring at the looted cache of beverages.
“Damn it, somebody took the red.” Complained Coach Flail, “Idiots took the Vodka too.” Krieg grumbled, “Got the wine spread all over the snow too.” He said striding purposefully toward the trees, following the trail of red stains.
“Nothing lower than thieves,” the coach said, rubbing her arms in response to the cold, she bent and placing the six-pack on top of the wine she turned and reentered the building.
We winced as the door closed with a clack, the only way to get back in now would be to get the key from the bartender on the first floor, he would tell Mr. Krieg either at once or the next day, and we would be in for it. We started to argue about what to do next when a mighty bellow erupted from the trees. This outburst was followed by the wildest cussing I’ve ever heard, and Mr. Krieg burst from the trees with a sizable brown bear close behind.  He ran toward the door but slipped on the snow just before reaching it, He and the bear both slammed into the glass doors one after the other Tom and Jerry style, with a resounding SMACK that shook the entire building.  Mr. Krieg bounded to his feet and lit off around the opposite corner from our hiding place. The bear, apparently slowed by whatever alcohol it had consumed took a bit longer but set off in pursuit. We could tell when they passed the bar on the opposite side of the building as a great cry rose from the bar patrons when they came into view outside the bar’s picture windows. Not wanting to be caught from behind by either Mr. Krieg or the bear we fled back through the doors but apparently dislodged the firewood doorstop in our haste.
The slobbering beast circled the building three times with the bear about two feet behind him.  Each time they passed the bar its patrons would let out another almost cheering roar, each one greater than its predecessor. From the sound of the last cry, it sounded like Mr. Krieg and possibly the bear itself had finally entered the bar and we retreated upstairs.
Coach Flail was nowhere in sight as we crept back to our sleeping bags, perhaps storing her unauthorized libations. We shed our boots and lay down in feigned sleep. I heard the door open and close several times and a rush of quiet but excited conversation. I rolled over to see the unmistakable shape of Mr. Krieg framed in the glow of the emergency exit sign over the stairs.  He stood there for a long while in the dim light before slowly moving off, he never mentioned the incident, but for the rest of our time in High School, he never failed to inform us that he was watching.