After the war the zany Williard brothers and their paramours go looking for adventure and find all they can handle when they decide to see if there really is a dinosur still living deep in the Congo. Flying a beatup old seaplane, the brothers are shot up, shot down, chased by the Mafia for carrying drug money they don’t know they have, captured by pygmies and forced to undergo the dread palm wine drinking contest, where failure means being fed to Mokele Mbembe--and if they survive all this, the Godfather is waiting back in New York to feed them to his pet shark.
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 way you'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.
Sarge. Sergeant. Williard mused to himself at the honorifics and reminisced over his years in the army as he methodically began lining up empty little Bacardi bottles. Eight years as a medic, three years in 'Nam, Service schools where he learned his art, including the last one, advanced medical laboratory training, a demanding year-long course that had earned him his last stripe and a profession that might be useful in civilian life. He had quite a lot of money on his person, but none saved. Marriage and a recent divorce had seen to that. Sooner or later, he knew he would have to go to work somewhere, doing something. It would be a new experience; he had enlisted right after high school and never held a job at anything other than throwing a paper route after school. He wasn't particularly looking forward to job hunting, but then perhaps he wouldn't have to if the expedition his brother Jason was talking about panned out. It sounded wild, but he didn't think it could be much worse than some of the escapades he and his two younger brothers had gotten themselves into during the war. Or before the war, for that matter. Sometimes he thought all three of them must have inherited genes from a pirate ancestor of some sort. They were never really satisfied with the mundane affairs of everyday life like home and school and family.
I could always go to college, he mused. The G.I. Bill had been passed, and it paid pretty good. Combine that with a part time job and he could make it easily, especially now that he was single. But school had always bored him. He was much more intrigued with Jason's idea; it sounded like the adventure of a lifetime. Both of his brothers would be coming home very soon, too. He had talked to Jason, his next younger brother, over the phone in Seattle. Jason said he was getting a medical discharge from Bethesda Medical center in a day or two, a result of a shattered knee when he bailed out of his F-4 Phantom after being hit on one of the last bombing runs over Hanoi. Jerry, his youngest brother, was hanging it up after one four-year stint in the Navy. He had run a river patrol boat in the Mekong Delta after tiring of routine destroyer duty. He claimed that captaining a patrol boat in the Meking Delta was more dangerous than ground combat or flying jets in the war, a contention disputed by both his older brothers. Whatever, Jason had told him in his last letter that Jerry had gotten tired of dodging bullets and intended to find an easier way to make a living. The same as me, Williard thought. I'm just not sure what I want to do in life. On the other hand, his idea of what he wanted to do with Terry, as in Very, were as clear as a freshly-polished windowpane. Thinking of that added a pleasant overture to the buzz from the rum he was consuming. After a while he dozed, then woke when his ears popped as the plane descended.
Good as her word, Terry joined him after only a few minutes of waiting in the departure lounge. Now she was dressed in hip-hugging jeans and a white blouse tied in front with its tails, exposing a creamy white midriff.
"You forgot your coat."
"Fuckit. You don't need an overcoat in Dallas in April. Where's the nearest lounge?"
"I thought we were going to my place?"
"We are, but I want to take some rum with me."
"They don't sell package liquor in the lounges," Terry said.
"No problem, I'll carry it inside me."
The stewardess wondered what she was getting into. Was he an alcoholic? Two quick matching doubles later, she decided that if he was, it was catching. He poured the rum down as casually as a ten-year-old drinking lemonade while assuming with a disconcerting simplicity that she wanted to do the same.
"Is rum all you ever drink?" she asked, as he ordered one more double for the road.
"No, I drink beer, scotch, bourbon and wine, but not all at the same time. Ready?"
"You forgot your hat."
"Fuckit. Civilians don't wear hats." Williard was feeling his oats. He slid an arm around his companion as they left the lounge. "Which way to the taxis?"
"Don't you have any luggage?"
"Just this," Williard said, hefting a small satchel. "I left my car and clothes with my sister. They'll still be there if she hasn't given them away at a garage sale. She's prone to that. One time she sold Larry's dental cabinet from when he first started practicing."
"Did he get mad?"
"No, he got even. He ran off for a week with his dental assistant."
"Did your sister get mad?"
"No, she was so busy spending her garage sale money she never missed him."
"What did she buy?"
"More stuff for garage sales, probably. Larry is the brokest dentist in Dallas, I bet. Hey, here's the cabs." Williard opened the door of the first one in line and politely handed Terry inside. The action pleased her; she wasn't used to it any more. He paused before getting in himself in order to remove his jacket. He dropped it on the sidewalk.
"You had better slow down or you'll spoil all my fun," Terry said.
"If I slow down, I'll spoil my own," Williard said, tossing his belt with the polished brass buckle out the window as the cab pulled away. No more scrubbing tarnish off belt buckles and collar brass.
"At least keep your shirt and pants on. I don't think I have anything to replace them that will fit."
"I'll keep my pants on," Williard promised, unbuttoning his shirt. What the hell, he thought, it will save time later. He draped the shirt out of the window, let it billow in the wind for a moment, then let it go. Terry slid over close to him just in case he changed his mind and decided to rid himself of his trousers.
Williard grinned and snuggled up. So much for the army. It had been an adventure, as Jason would say, but it was time to move on. Or in. He felt a surge in his groin as Terry brushed against him when she leaned forward to give the cabby her address and he forgot about any other adventure, other than the present one.
Terry was beginning to doubt the wisdom of picking out the former sergeant for a fling. He was acting rather manic. She needn't have worried. Williard did sometimes act a little crazy when he got outside of too much rum, but right now he was simply reacting to the sense of release he felt at being free from the ordered existence of military life, plus a delayed exuberance at having been shot at and lived, unlike others he had known who hadn't been near so lucky. As she leaned back, he put his arm around her. She thought he was going to kiss her, but instead he stared at her chest as if he were just now noticing the difference between male and female.
"Be damned," he said.
"What's wrong? Don't you like what you see?"
"I just noticed."
Now what? Had he already forgotten his first scrutiny of her body? And what was the 'be damned' for? Unless he was blind, he certainly had no reason to complain. Just to reassure herself, she glanced down at her chest. They were still there. She looked back up. "They usually get noticed sooner than this."
"There's only one of them."
"What?" This was getting ridiculous.
"Unless there's another one behind that one, but that wouldn't make any sense."
"You're not making any sense."
"Neither are you. I still don't see but one name tag."
"Oh." For the first time in years, Terry blushed.
"Yeah, I just noticed. You really are Very Terry."
"It's Terry Very, but sometimes my friends do call me Very Terry when I get interested in something. They say I have a one-track mind."
Williard grinned. "I can see why. You are Very Terry, Terry Very. I like you." This time he did kiss her. After that, she decided that she liked him, too. He was nice. Crazy, but nice.
Later, in bed, she decided he was even better than nice, especially the way he gently and thoroughly fondled and nuzzled her, even after he was sated. She liked the attention, even though she was already happily dazed. His hands moved over her breasts, caressing them as if he were petting a pair of sleepy kittens.
"Do you like them?" she asked.
"Sure. Especially the other one."
"Which other one? You've got your hands on both of them."
"So I do. I meant the one that holds the name tag."
"Wait til you meet my brothers."
"You mean there's more than one of you?"
"Yeah. Two more. They're getting discharged, too."
"What are you all going to do now?"
Williard rolled over onto his back. "You know, that's a problem. There's the G.I. bill. We could go to school, but none of us ever cared much for that."
"Too dull. What ever happens in school?"
"You could go back in the army."
"Naw. The war is over. The army wouldn't be any fun anymore."
Terry sat up in bed. "You thought Vietnam was fun?"
Williard shrugged. "Sometimes. At any rate, it beat going to work in a grocery store or selling shoes. Don't worry, though. Jumpin' Jase has something planned for when we all get home. He's the real adventurer."
"Jumping Jase? You mean Jumping Jack?"
"No, Jumping Jase. That's Jason, my brother."
"What did he do in the war?"
"He bailed out of airplanes, mostly. That's why they called him Jumpin' Jase."
"Oh. He was a paratrooper."
"No, he flew an F-4 with the Marines."
"Is that the planes he jumped out of?"
Terry had seen pictures of the swept wing fighter plane on television. She couldn't imagine why anyone would want to parachute from one. "I don't get it," she said. "Why would he jump out of a jet airplane?"
"Most of the time they were on fire, but sometimes they were just broke."
"Oh," Terry said, finally understanding. "He got shot down."
"Mostly, except one time he was flying along the beach on the way back from a mission."
"What happened then?"
"There was a bunch of nurses in bikinis. He ran out of fuel he went back so many times to look and had to ditch in the ocean."
"I bet the marines got mad at him for that one."
"Yeah, but he was so good at making crispy critters they gave him another plane."
Terry had heard the term. It referred to burned corpses. She shuddered and changed the subject. "How about your other brother?"
"That's Jerry. He was in the Navy, so mostly he just drove boats and drank rum."
"What did you do?"
"Treated troops for the clap, mostly."
"No, really, what did you do."
"Sometimes I handed out Band-Aids."
Terry finally caught on, remembering the caduceus on the brass of his uniform. "Nut. You were a medic, weren't you?"
"That's what I said."
"In a roundabout way. I bet you saw a lot of action, didn't you?"
"How would I know? I was drunk most of the time."
Terry saw that he didn't want to talk about it. She hadn't recognized the combat medic's badge on his uniform, but suspected that he had been involved in some fighting. "Never mind. What is it your brother is thinking about doing?"
"Chasing dinosaurs in the Congo, so he says."
Terry sat bolt upright in the bed. "Dinosaurs? You mean like searching for skeletons?"
"Nope. Live ones."
Terry stared down at him. He appeared to be perfectly serious. "You're not serious, are you?"
Williard yawned before answering. It had been almost two days since he had had any sleep. "I guess it really depends on my brother. When I talked to him a couple of days ago, he sounded convinced that there might still be some live ones left in the Congo. Or one, anyway."
"Golly, that sounds exciting," Terry said.
"Anything Jason does is usually exciting. This should be no exception." He yawned again.
"Yeah. You can put your name tag back on now. G'night."
"'Night," Terry murmured. She lay back down, thinking that if today was any indication, then the rest of the week with Williard might be something to behold.
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