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The little brunette stewardess in the green miniskirt eyed the army sergeant sitting in the aisle seat of the 727 bound from Seattle to Dallas. She took in the five stripes he wore and thought he appeared rather young for the rank, but then she saw the overseas bars on the sleeve of his winter class A uniform. A quick glimpse at his chest showed a triple row of ribbons on his left breast. A little older than he looks, she thought, and just back from 'Nam; probably, with money burning a hole in his pocket. Good looking, too, with that dark hair and those dreamy brown eyes.
"Would you like something to drink, Sergeant?" she asked, leaning forward slightly and smiling more than a little slightly. She had a week's leave coming with nothing on her agenda and the sergeant looked interesting. Besides, she was getting a little tired of the crowd the other stews ran with. They seemed to consist mostly of airline pilots, whom she was tired of, or shallow characters in gold necklaces and leisure suits, with the pockets of their suits usually filled with dope of one variety or another. A military man might be a welcome change of pace, she thought, even if her friends did consider them dour and too restrained for their tastes
Sgt. James Williard scrutinized the legs beneath the green miniskirt and let his gaze travel up over the rest of the stew's body. Her matching green top was well filled out. He had a hard time getting his eyes to travel up to her cap of wavy dark hair and a lightly freckled face with full lips and pert nose. Nice, he thought. "I'm not a sergeant."
The stew raised her brows. "You couldn't prove it by the wayyou're dressed."
Williard smiled, with a hint of regret behind it. "I just got discharged. I'm on my way back home." What he didn't say was that until six months ago, he had been a lieutenant, courtesy of a combat commission. Then the war wound down and he found the army was overstaffed with medical service officers. Reluctantly, he accepted continued service at his old rank but soon tired of the peacetime army and decided to try civilian life for a while, though at first he had been uncertain of what that would entail. Now he thought he knew; that is, if his brother's plans worked out. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. Jason was the wildest of the three Williard brothers. Compared to him, Williard thought he and Jerry were boy scouts, a contention no one else who knew them would believe.
"You say you're going home. Do you live in Dallas?"
"Yup. You got some rum?"
"Sure. Be right back," the stew said. She put a little extra wiggle to her behind as she departed.
After his years in 'Nam, Williard appreciated the wiggle. The rum would go down nice, too, he thought. After 36 hours spent tramping around through intermittent rain at the out processing center in Seattle he was more than ready for a drink. One of the last stops had been the clothing and tailoring shop where his well-worn fatigues had been exchanged for dress greens. The army insisted newly discharged personnel leave the base looking like an advertisement for a recruiting poster, ignoring the fact that most of the soldiers would rather have been boiled in oil than wear a uniform out into the world. He glanced at the empty seat beside him where a winter dress coat lay, also bedecked with ribbons and overseas bars and stripes.
Williard was unimpressed. By rights, the coat should have sported lieutenant's bars rather than sergeant's insignia. He was still pissed at the army over that. The only token on either of the garments he was really proud of was the combat medic's badge, earned during the Tet offensive when the Medical Dispensary he was in charge of was almost overrun. That action had also gotten him a purple heart, his combat commission and a brand new appreciation of what it was like to go without booze and women for extended periods of time. Hence, his interest in the stew and her cargo.
"Here you are," the stew said, bending over to deposit a two-ounce bottle of airline light Bacardi and a plastic glass of ice on his tray. She leaned far enough forward to give him a brief glimpse of what lay beneath her blouse.
"What the fuck-- I mean what the hell is this? I ain't going to drink no rum without no Coke." Whoops! Have to start watching my language, he thought. Obscenities came out as easily in the field as spit from a baby, mostly at the way the army usually fucked up operations.
"Oh, sorry about that," the stew said. "Be right back again." Hearing the ex-sergeant talk added zest to her errand. He had spoken in pure Redneck, her favorite language when it came from the right person.
Williard hardly thought about his grammar. He could speak perfectly good English when he chose, but right now, he didn't feel like bothering. All he wanted was to get outside of a few of those little bottles of rum and inside a set of civilian clothes. Or inside the stew, whichever came first.
"Here you are," she said, setting down two plastic glasses of coke and another of the miniature bottles of Bacardi light.
"The extra one is on me," she prompted.
Williard grinned, accepting the gambit. "Right. My name's Jim."
"Hi. I'm Terry, as in Very."
"Interested, it seems. Me, too. Do you have any clothes at your place?"
"Like, to wear?"
"Or unwear. This uniform don't suit me no more."
More redneck talk, and his grin was infectious. "I think you look handsome in it. Were you in Vietnam?"
"Yeah, but I didn't look so handsome in dirty fatigues. And this f-- this uniform is going to be hot in Dallas. I want to get out of it."
"I think I can safely say I can help you out there. Wait on me after we deplane. I've got to get busy now."
"Don't get too busy to keep the rum coming."
"You got it, Sarge." Terry said. She winked and left. While she was tending to other passengers, she found herself wondering whether or not the sergeant was married. The thought surprised her. Usually she didn't worry about it one way or another, taking her fun where she found it. Suddenly she wondered whether she was getting old, or at least old enough to start at least thinking of settling down.
Copyright © 2003 by Darrell Bain