Pvt. Richard Lee Leslie Musters out of Army: Three excerpts follow.

Pvt. Richard Lee Leslie musters out of the army after WWII

Taken from Richard’s memoir posted on this site by that name.
(Author’s note: After Surviving 18 months in an active combat zone in the Philippines, Pvt. Richard Leslie and six buddies walked into a booby-trapped bunker. His buddies were killed and Richard returned to the US under sedation aboard a hospital ship.)

Just when I began to feel healthy and eager to return to duty, I was summoned to the paymaster’s office where a sergeant who considered himself an officer sat behind a desk.
“Private Leslie.” He glanced up at me and immediately broke eye contact. Shuffling some papers, he said, “When were you last paid?” More paper shuffling. “I see you took a cash advance back a Camp Hon.”
“I can’t remember. Some time back in Negros Island, I guess.”
“Looks like you got three month’s pay coming.” He pinched his pencil tight and pressed it so hard to the note pad I was sure the lead would break. “Of course, none of that would be combat pay because the war had ended.”
“Like hell, I’m still in combat.”
“You aren’t even in a combat zone, if one still existed.”
“I was injured and brought to this hospital as a war casualty.”
He looked up and peered at me from over his nose. “You appear to be recovered from your injuries.” His attention back to his papers. “But that’s beside the point. It’s my duty to bring your pay status up to date.” He mumbled as he scribbled some numbers on the pad, “Three month’s regular Private’s pay.”
“Hey, I get jump pay. I’m a paratrooper.”
“According to your record, you’ve done only one practice jump since Corregidor.”
“Are you suggesting Corregidor was nothing more than a practice jump?”
“They’re all the same to me. I have to exclude your jump pay any month a jump wasn’t made.”
“That rule is overlooked during combat when practice jumps aren’t possible.”
“I can grant you that, but combat ended three months ago. The Japanese surrendered if you recall.”
Sarcastic remarks are tolerable from officers who need to assert their authority, but I was not about to allow a sergeant to get by with it.
“I want to see an officer.”
“My rank is the best you’re going to get, Private.”
“I have a right to get higher authority, Sergeant.”
“Watch that attitude, Soldier, or I will have to write you up. Then you’ll get your officer at your court martial.”
“In combat I’ve taken over squads where our sergeant in charge got shot.”
“Are you threatening me?”
My mind flashed back to a drill sergeant during training that I threatened and he backed down. However, this was different and I had to walk a fine line. “I refuse to sign any pay voucher that doesn’t include combat and jump pay.”
“We’ll see about that.”
He got up and left the room with me still standing in front of a vacant desk. Soon he returned with a lieutenant. He returned my salute, and he told me to sit down while he did some calculating. Something did not smell right.
“I see you haven’t jumped since the war ended.”
“No, Sir, I haven’t had the chance. But I am ready to jump right now if you will get me to an airport.”
“I don’t think you are in any condition to jump.”
He was right but I began a protest. “With all due respect, Sir…”
“No need for that. We can overlook that little detail.” He glanced at the sergeant and said, “I think $3000.00 would round off quite nicely.”
The sergeant nodded his approval and even started to grin. Something was up.
“Three month’s combat pay with jump pay added to mustering out pay. Three thousand dollars sounds pretty good, don’t you think?”
“Sir, I’m not mustering out.”
“Those are the orders. When we are finished with this transaction, you are a free citizen again.”
“Sir, under military code, I am making a charge against you.”
“Hold on soldier. You are not a civilian just yet. You will respect the uniform.”
“I am respecting the uniform. The charge I am making under combat rules is against you as a person. I am still in combat as the pay voucher you just signed proves.” I felt I had him at his own game.
“I cannot accept such a charge from a lowly private.”
“Are you hiding behind your rank or just afraid to face a combat veteran in a fist fight?”
“That wouldn’t be a fair fight. Wait right here. I will be right back.” He glanced at the sergeant now forcing a grin off his face. “Be prepared to include all the details of this conversation in your report.”
When a Lieutenant Colonel wearing an airborne uniform stepped into the room, I shot to my feet and saluted. All I could think of was Col. Jones.
He gestured for me and the sergeant to an as-you-were. “You just made a charge against an officer under combat code.”
“No, Sir. Not the officer. Just the person wearing the uniform.”
“Well, I can inform you that the officer has rejected your charge.”
“Does that mean I won my point?”
“You have beaten him, and he now must answer to a reprimand, probably a loss of rank.”
Such a swift decision in the military was unheard of, and I smelled a rat.
I stammered my confusion. “I, I…”
“You won your point, soldier, and with it comes an immediate but honorable discharge.” He added, “According to the code of combat.”
He beat me at my own game, I think, and I did not have the resources to research the code. Maybe none of it existed and this officer knew it. I tried reasoning with him. “I don’t want to be discharged. I need to stay in. It’s the only home I got.”
“You’ll do well as a civilian. You’ve shown great courage as a paratrooper, and now you deserve a bit of the quiet life.”
“I demand you allow me to stay. My time isn’t up, and I don’t have enough points to be discharged.”
“It’s all part of the code of combat. You won, the officer you charged lost, and you are free to go.”
“I won but I lost. It doesn’t make sense.”
“If the officer counter charged you, the case could go to a court martial with a possible dishonorable discharge and forget about the $3000.”
He reached to shake my hand. “You’ve distinguished yourself in battle. Wear your medals with pride, you earned them.” He left the room leaving me standing and the sergeant busy shuffling papers.

Excerpt from Pvt. Richard Lee Leslie

In honor of my Father-in-law on Veteran’s Day 2018
“Back at State Side”

Complete memoir to be posted on this site, additional segment each month

Needless to say, a part of me died in the Philippines, and the part that survived sustained damage.
Other than realizing I was restrained to a bed on hospital ship, I have no memory of that journey or how and when we docked or how I arrived at Camp Hon, California. The two-week quarantine holds a shadowy spot in my brain. I understood they needed to see if I brought home any ugly microscopic creatures, and I was a bit curious myself. I had escaped malaria, typhus, jungle rot and the clap, but what might be floating throughout my blood system did concern me.
I agreed to remain isolated, but I did not accept it with any degree of patience. I wandered to the PX and gazed at all the items that would have been luxuries on the islands or totally unavailable.
When the girl behind the counter asked what I wanted—my stupid gaze must have exposed my confusion—I asked, “Do you have milk?”
“Yes. Would you like a glass?”
Of all the commodities I handled overseas, I don’t recall ever having access to good old cow’s milk. I must have ordered half a dozen glasses of it from that astounded server.
I recall being annoyed with nearly everyone who seemed to be in my way, but I don’t think I got into any fights. That came later.
After quarantine, I requested a day pass to go to Riverside, curious if they trusted me to be on my own. I got the pass without reservation, and I didn’t think anyone followed me.
If they realized how shaky I was, MP’s would have escorted me, as they soon discovered were necessary.
I boarded the bus to Riverside directly to the bus stop near the bar where I had some business complete.
“I need to see the manager.” The bartender hesitated as if to say, who the hell are you? However, he called his boss from the back room. “Do you remember me?” I asked as the manager crinkled his face into a frown.
“Can’t say that I do.”
“About two years ago seven of us bought some Champaign.”
“I remember. If you still have your chit, I will bring out a bottle?” He cast a curious but sympathetic glance and repeated. “Chits? Seven of them, if I recall.”
“Yes. I have all seven of them.”
He faced the bartender. “On the shelf behind my desk are seven bottles of Champaign. Bring them out here.”
Silence until the bottles were lined up in front of me. The manager stammered, “All six of your buddies?”
“Yeah, every one of them.” More silence. “Can I have your bar hammer?”
He handed me a wooden mallet used to break blocks of ice and stood back.
“Hey are you crazy?” The bartender stepped forward, but the manager held out his hand.
“Let him do what he has to do.” Bang, one of the bottles exploded. “We’ll clean up the mess when he’s done.”
Shattered glass and foamy liquid spread across the bar and splattered onto my uniform and the manager’s shirt. The manager pulled one bottle from my final aim and said, “We have to drink this one.” He popped the cork and filled two glasses.
I raised mine and said, “To all of us who tried.”
We drank and he said, “You have honored their memories. Now you have to look out for yourself.” I set my half-full glass on the bar. “You can keep this last bottle. I’m sorry about the mess.” I left the bar and caught the bus back to Camp Hon.
The nurse on my ward took my damp jacket that smelled like booze and said, “I didn’t expect you until tonight.”
I muttered, “I can’t take it,” and flopped onto the bed. She respected my privacy.
A few days later I tried another day pass. I stopped at the bar to apologize for making the mess, but a different bartender told me the manager was out. I asked to use the phone to call a cab.
My sister had written me the address of my paternal grandmother in Whittier whom I had never met. Parked in front of her door, I told the cab driver to wait until I return or flag him off. A good thing I did.
A woman wearing a white tunic answered the door. “Yes.”
“I’m here to see Mrs. Leslie. She’s my grandmother.”
Still blocking the door she turned and yelled, “Your son is here to see you.”
“I don’t have a son.”
I interjected, “I’m her grandson.”
“It’s your grandson.”
“I don’t have a grandson.”
Rejected, I returned to the cab and asked how much to take me directly to Camp Hon. I couldn’t bear to ride that noisy bus back to camp. I lucked out by getting the same cab driver who took us to Coney Island in New York, or one just like him.
“Five dollars to get back to the bar where I picked you up. The additional miles on me.”
How I wished that cabby were my grandparent rather than the one I just about met.

Pvt Richard Lee Leslie Excerpt Continued

Bushnell Military Hospital in Brigham City, Utah

After numerous consultations with doctors, and I suppose with psychiatrists, I went to Bushnell Military Hospital in Brigham City, Utah, where wounded veterans from the Philippines were cared for, many of them amputees. I hadn’t any missing body parts, but some of my mind had left me. I have no recollection of how I got there but most likely by rail with an MP escort. I can only guess at the interval between August 15, 1945 when Col. Jones announced the end of the war and Christmas Eve, 1945. Between those dates, I more or less estimate the sequence as follows:
Two months collecting prisoners and tending prisoners near Dumaguete while awaiting orders, a month aboard the hospital ship, and a month at Fort Hon, California. I must have been under close observation after arriving at Bushnell, but I can pin point my activity that Christmas Eve. I was staying at a hotel in Brigham City, probably experimenting with a two or three day pass. One snowy evening I met a girl a few years older than me as I wandered aimlessly around the town. Our conversation went something like this.
“Are you lost, Soldier?”
“I can find my way back to my hotel, if that’s what you mean?”
“I was wondering where you were headed and if you’d like company.”
“I’d kind of like to be left alone.”
“Not on Christmas Eve. Come with me.”
I obediently followed, or was towed by her arm down a snowy path to a church, its windows aglow with multi colored light. I wanted to run as the memory of a deadly church in Negros brought on a rush of guilt, but this girl clung to me.
“I’m taking you to Midnight Mass.” She drew me inside the doorway, but I refused to advance beyond the back pew. Harmonic voices backed by an organ, candles flickering, and incense smoke rising put me into a sort of trance. The ritual performed by vested men and boys in front of the altar added to the effect. It was the most beautiful experience of my life.
When the performance ended and we stepped back into the snowy night, she said, “I want to go to your hotel with you.”
As we walked a few blocks, I felt a wave of anxiety. At the lobby of hotel I said, “I can’t do this.”
“If you want me to go, I will.”
“I have to go home.”
“Home?”
“The hospital.”
She must have been frightened for me, because she helped me pack my duffel bag, check out at the front desk, and flag a cab. She gave the driver instructions and offered to pay the fare.
“I’ve got money.” I stammered. “I’m sorry.”
“So am I, Soldier.” She held open the door to the cab. “So am I.”
I mumbled, “Thank you,” as she shut the door and the cab drove off. “For that wonderful experience.”
Back at the hospital the nurse asked, “How come you’re back so soon?”
“I just couldn’t stay away.” I curled into a fetal position on the bed and pulled the covers over my head. Like that night after my grandmother rejected me, I cried myself to sleep.
My doctors must have considered this episode a setback to my recovery, and I didn’t offer much help by answering their questions with a “Yes, Sir,” or “No, Sir,” or the shortest possible answers. Their wearing uniforms did not encourage me to open up. I was locked inside myself, and I refused to show any feeling except anger, and even that was kept in check at the hospital.

If Walls Could Talk

If Walls Could Talk

Walls can’t speak but they state their message stronger than any vocal medium could convey, either “Stay in,” as with the Berlin Wall, or “Keep out,” Trump’s proposed border wall. Nothing new, the Great China Wall dates back centuries, and prisons have layers of walls in case one or more is breached. A variation of a wall, Robert Frost’s Fences that keep out neighbors and his Roads not Taken regretting we cannot be at two places at the same time.
Walls will always exist, either as an innie or an outtie.
Certain walls have a limited length which would be easy for an adversary to circumvent. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem encompasses the heart of the Jewish faith, hope and loss, keeping no one in or out. Some walls are abstract like a stonewall which is neither stone nor a wall but a declaration of defiance.
How about a wall created by a self confined prisoner as in the 1997 Pink Floyd rock opera:
I’ve got wild staring eyes
And I’ve got a strong urge to fly,
But I got nowhere to fly to.
Ooooh, babe, when I pick up the phone
(Surprise, surprise, surprise)
There’s still nobody home.

More tragically still, the autistic child whose mind walls out the entire outside world, an extreme barrier that most parents experience between themselves and their teenagers, a problem that will dissolve into nothingness a generation later.
How many walls do each of us encounter every day, barriers of guilt, tradition, fear, and what could be perceived as the granddaddy-of-all-walls—death. To the religious, it is a passage, to the agnostic, an answer, and to the atheist, an exit. Not a wall at all.

Empty Space

By Mort Harris

An obscure astronomer recently made a startling discovery. He found an area in outer space that was empty. He ran to his computer and calculated that the empty space was one and a half billion light years across. He published his findings and there was a scramble of searchers rushing to their telescopes to check. When interviewed the astronomer was asked, “How did you realize such an important discovery?”

He said, “When I found there was nothing there, I knew I found something.”

Other astronomers questioned each other. Had they seen the same thing? Some said that they have seen nothing out there. Then that must be it.

When asked the significance of his discovery he said, “if it’s true that there is nothing out there, we could be on the threshold of finding another nothing or possible countless nothings. Someday with this discovery, we may find there is nothing in future explorations.”
Some had trouble seeing the area discussed; they were told they couldn’t see nothing for the star. They were reminded if you can’t see it, that’s it stupid.

There were many photographs taken of the space “Nothing.” Time magazine had a picture of it on its cover. Under the Time caption was a complete cover of “Nothing.”

One artist was so inspired he painted the empty area. It was hung in the gallery. One little boy with his mother asked “what is that?” referring to the painting of nothing.

“What does it look like?” she asked him.

“It looks like nothing,” he replied.

“That’s right” she said, patting him lovingly on the head.

Congratulations came from all over the world to honor the man who contributed “Nothing” to science. It appears now that “Nothing” will be the new frontier. We will be rapidly moving from the Atomic Age into the great new era of “Nothing.”

The astronomer was given the Pulitzer Prize for discovering “Nothing.” He admitted that finding “Nothing” was something. Soon it will be common knowledge. Ask any school boy what he knows about outer space and he will surely reply “Nothing.”

Trumpet’s Angels

Trumpet’s hand-facing Mirror Muses:

“Good morning my, three little Angels, Groper, Fabricator, and Tweet-Tweet.”

“Good morning Mr. Trumpet, Leader of the Know World.”

“How is my trusty trio this morning?”

One-by-one Angels unclench fist to attention.

“I will issue your orders after weapon inspection.”

“What happened to Boswell?”

“Fired Boswell for an ill advised joke about angels’ motto, sharp and ready. He added but short and small handed. I’ll be dealing with you directly. Now, sound off your specialty, my pointer first.”

“Groper, here, Sir! My specialty is creepy fingers, short but eager for action.”

“Be advised to reflect on Boswell’s firing. Next, my middle finger.” He loved that particular image.

“Fabricator, here, Sir! Truth beware of smears from my lie gun.”

“Next, my pinky.”

“Tweet-Tweet, here, Sir! Poison Pen sharp and bed-side ready twenty-four-seven.”

“I’m considering two additional Angels in response to charges that I’m short handed, if you get my drift.”

Groper squelched a giggle. “What’s our assignment this time?”

“A free hand, no-holds-barred, to improvise an attack on the 36-double-D size Storm brewing from my past. All lies and fake news!”

Fabricator stiffens and salutes. “I’ll take charge of this command, Sir.”

Tweet-Tweet squeaks, “Tweet, tweet.”

Groper pouts. “I better lay low since I got you into this mess.”

Ball Four

by Mort Harris

When Abner Doubleday invented Baseball he had no idea it would lead to anger and violence.

To be a good father I attended my sons little league games and rooted him on. Out there stood my son under his baseball hat with a big red “T” on it for the “Tigers.” On his jersey was the number “0,” which accurately described the record he compiled that season. Zero hits and zero runs in fact. I don’t think his bat ever met the ball.

Here it was the last game of the season and his team was undefeated in spite of my son. The game wound down to the last inning and his team was in danger of suffering their first loss. It was two out in the last inning and the Tigers were losing one to nothing.

Actually, there was more action in the stands what with the screaming, cursing and hair pulling. Fist fights broke out all over and those were just the mothers. There were more hits among the spectators than on the field.

Come to find the Tigers had just one out left before losing. I was thankful my son was due to bat fourth so he wasn’t in danger of making it to the final humiliating out. Cancel that. The third batter up was hit by the pitch and took first base. Oh no, my son would bat after all. A loud cheer went up. But that was from the opposing bench. I moaned, the team moaned and the fans began to file out. The coach was crying as he woke my son up to bat.

My son ran to the plate, but the coach called him back. He forgot to take a bat. My son tried lifting the bat as the pitcher released the ball. Ball and bat met, simultaneously by accident. The ball rolled slowly toward third. The crowd was shocked, I was stunned and the coach stumbled into a pail of water. While my son was waiting for the next pitch, everyone was yelling run. My son was confused. This was all new to him. He started to run as the third baseman threw the ball, hitting the pitcher. The third baseman ran crying to his mother, another player threw the ball home, but the catcher was waving to some friends as the tying run was scored. As my son was rounding second, the catcher threw to first, but the player had gone for a drink of water and the ball went to right field. The outfielder dropped a handful of dandelions and chased the ball as my son rounded third. The outfielder threw the ball which landed in a bucket of lemonade as my son scored the winning run. He then picked up the bat and went back to the plate to bat.

We couldn’t convince him the game was over. He wouldn’t let go of the bat. The next season they gave him a new number. He was number one!

Witches of Westwing

Starring D. Van Trumpet and
Three vengeful witches:
Karen McStougal
Zero Summer
Dormy Staniels

The three aforementioned witches invade the Trumpet Mansion to investigate the missing dancing women in limestone relief that never arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as promised. Fake news has advanced the conspiracy theory that these performing ladies, who previously controlled the mansion property, are being held hostage somewhere on the ten missing levels of Trumpet’s supposed sixty-eight story mansion.

Trumpet mesmerizes the witches with his billion dollar charm and seduces each in turn, gifts that keep on giving…headaches. He positions Poison-Root Paul Manadrake at an adjacent apartment for protection as well as exploring opportunities of god-like grandeur.

Unable to shake his Groper image, Trumpet dispatches Make-the-Problem-Disappear Mikie Coben to sprinkle these former paramours with holy moolah fairy-dust. While playing Bonker Ball with Interns on Television, he failed to appreciate the survival forces of three wiley witches on Charmed, on a rival network.

With the help of a conniving Bear from the East, arranged by Poison-Root Paul Manadrake, D. Van Trumpet acquires a precarious Place-in-the-Sun just short of God. Who will betray him first, three witches who use him for their amusement or a Bear’s favor with strings attached.

His fate to be determined by a Dedicated-to-the-Truth Mule Skinner. Stay tuned.

Author intrusion

Every word of a novel is, by definition, an author’s intrusion into the reader’s life. The question is, how much of ourselves do we authors want to express and how much do we want to pass on to our characters. Least intrusive (by the author) is through dialogue and internal monologue.

Next level involves the author’s choice of overall narrative delivery, first person or third person. (Second person, you, is awkward)

First person is, again by definition, totally intrusive, foisting the author’s or her character’s life’s experience on to the reader. Any straying from the author’s perception is jarring and inappropriate.

Third person omniscient is a balancing act between an author and her characters. The challenge is to make the characters voices and the author’s voice likeable and believable within the context of the reader’s suspended disbelief system ie. Science fiction, and fairy tales, etc.

Intrusion as a pejorative, applies to character-driven stories, author’s voice hidden within each of her characters. Every action, feeling, and perception must remain in a single character’s experience or multiple characters in separated segments.

Every word other than dialogue or interior monologue is potentially author intrusion. The challenge is to develop expository information in the aura of the character as if she had written even when outside his or her perception.

If the author insists on interjecting her voice, the genre becomes third person omniscient described above. In my opinion, a less challenging art form, but who am I to judge Jane Austin, et. al?