A rare image of
H.B. Lewis





























































































































































































































































































































Moon over ghost town


The feel, furry and hard, of Mona’s bra through her pink alpaca sweater enraptured Willy more almost than the push and tug of Mona’s breasts themselves. Mona, on the other hand, did not like the feel of Willy’s hands on the alpaca outside her bra as much as upon her breasts themselves because the alpaca and bra came between his hands and her breasts and she, unlike him, did not have a thing about bras and alpaca, she had a thing about breasts and hands.

They drove up 299 to Whiskeytown Lake in the usual way, Mona seated on Willy’s lap behind the wheel, she steering, he working the brake and gas pedals with his feet, his hands stroking the alpaca mounds pressed outward against the steering wheel, peering over her right shoulder to check the road, his cock wedged between her denim buttocks, in danger of being snapped like a fresh green bean at every curve.

“No,” she said when he unbuckled his belt at the lake parking lot. “We have to talk.

— About what, cunt, said Willy’s dick.

“Sure, doll,” he panted. But he left his belt undone. Mona leaned against the passenger window, her round face lit by the moon in the lake. The light, reflected off the lake, off the moon, from an unseen set sun, emphasized for some reason her eyebrows. Willy tasted acid, concentrated on rearranging his cock, which no thought of misplaced eyebrows could soften.

“I wish I knew how to say this.”

“Say it,” said Willy, on the theory that nothing she said could be worse than not removing his jeans.

“I don’t think we should see each other any more.”

Which made no more sense to Willy than if she had said, “We other think don’t more see any I should each.

“See what?”

“Each other.”

“Each other what?”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said, breathing night air deeply.

“I’m not, honest I’m not. I didn’t understand a word what you said.”

“I don’t want to say it again.”

“That’s not the issue. The issue is me hearing it.” He tried to unzip. “Stop it,” she yelled. “I want us to not go out.”

“Not out?” For some reason his cock got harder, as if someone had yelled, Last call! “I love you,” he said, adding a plaintive, “Doll.”

“I love you too. I do.” She arranged, rearranged, and neatened her panties, skirt, bra, sweater, necklace, earrings, ribbon.

“Then what?”

“It’s. Oh, Will. Wil. Wih. I can’t say it anymore.”

“Wih, Wih. My name?”

“It was a beautiful name. It really was.”

The mind is frequently the last part of the body to know what’s going on, even what it might easily pick up in passing, while listening, for example, to Mustang Sally on the car radio.

“The girls call me Mustang Sally,” Mona grieved.

Nothing dawned.

“For chrissake, Willy, you’ve got a Negro name.”

The sun came up in Wilson Pickett’s mind. “You mean him, that?” He pointed to the radio. “On there. The song. Midnight Hour. That guy. Singing? What’s that got. Nothing. To do with me?”

She smoothed her eyebrows. They stayed on her forehead.

My name,” she said, “on checks and the mailbox and everything. Mrs. Wilson Pickett. How will they know I’m not a Negro?”

Total truth fate. Undeniable. Like a plane in a nosedive. No sense bringing your seat to its full upright position.

Willy hit 90 on the straightaways downhill, skidded into deserted Shasta, halted in a dustcloud by the Historical Ghost Town sign, trembled.

“I’ll change my name.”

“Oh no.”

“Why no?”

“I already.”



He tried the famous look. It almost worked. She melted, but toward the passenger door.

“Then at least help me with this.” He unzipped his jeans and let sproing forth that which bowed not to circumstance, convention, tragedy, distress, but listened only to its own blood drumming, red and furious.

“Oh ok,” she said, and kneeling, wedged her head into the space between his stomach and the steering wheel, while the malnamed Wilson Pickett by straining with his right arm, pulled up her skirt, down her panties, and fondled mournfully the upright globes of her rosy rear, illuminated by light reflected off the park sign naming the town of ghosts who lost the struggle with Redding for political dominance in the late 19th Century, off the moon off the long set sun on the other side of the Trinity Alps and the world.

After he hooted, she gulped, he tucked, she wiped, he zipped, she pulled up her panties and down her skirt, he turned on the ignition and she cried.

“I wish I could,” she sobbed, “but I can’t go back on it.”

“Cause you promised.”

“My mom.”

Everyone knew who Mona’s mom was.

Mona’s mom was the Clerk of Redding, California’s Selective Service System Board #110, Willy’s draft board.



Mr. Selective Service


Man of the Week:

H.B. Lewis: Redding’s “Mr. Selective Service”


It could be said, and it certainly has, that H.B. Lewis has “seen it all.” One of Northern California’s leading citizens, Lewis, a vital 73, still speaks in the ‘downhome’ manner that earned him the sobriquet, “the James Whitcomb Riley of the Bureau,” since he joined the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation some 40 years ago.

“There was this State Representative came up the other day,” Lewis recounts in his den, seated before a wall of photographs of the great California dams, hydroelectric plants, canals, and irrigation systems with which he has been involved. “‘Isn’t it true, H.B,’ he said, ‘that the Bureau spends billions of dollars to supply cheap water and electricity to farmers so their sons can get military draft deferments to stay at home and grow surpluses the government pays them to plow under?’ Thought he was being clever. ‘Pish tosh,’ I told him, ‘take off those hippie beads and look around you.’”

Many call Lewis “The Major,” as much for his upright bearing as for his years of military service, which earned him the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Born in 1893 to a humble farming family, Lewis walked five miles a day to get the mail, slopped the hogs, and milked the family cow to help out his father, the local Sheriff and township assessor.

During his varsity days at TriState College he discharged his patriotic duty by joining the Indiana National Guard’s 1st battalion, 3rd infantry regiment. Called into action his junior year to quell labor unrest in Indianapolis, H.B.’s first impression of the capital was not fond. “There we were,” he recalls, “sticking our finger in the dike of bolshevism and the folks we were there to protect came out and booed us. Mighty peculiar.”

So was his second tour of duty, when the Guard was dispatched to secure New Mexico’s border against the mustachioed Mexican bandit Pancho Villa. “That’s when I learned not to mess in politics. You had General Jack [Pershing] with 15,000 American boys chasing guerrillas around northern Mexico with no defined objective, while our President [Woodrow Wilson] supported one Mexican so-called government after another. Meanwhile we camped out in the mud and the rain and the mosquitos without decent drinking water or sanitation and when we got back? Apathy. No parades. Nothing.”

Asked about his service in World War I, Lewis grows jocular. “I guess the Hun surrendered rather than fight me. I arrived on the Aquitania November 11, 1918. Armistice Day. Got the diptheria and came home.” Carried off the troopship in New York City, Lewis rode down Fifth Avenue in a victory parade, admired the Statue of Liberty, the Woolworth and Singer skyscrapers, but found the city itself foreign and crowded. “Too many Jews,” he comments with Hooserian understatement.

How did he come West? “Another Bolshie uprising,” he says, referring to Seattle’s 1919 general strike. Once again, his troops arrived after the turmoil was quelled, but there Lt. Lewis caught his first glimpse of the future: the vast potential of Western water power.

“Other folks looked at the rushing waters of the Columbia and saw fish,” says Lewis, himself an avid sports fisherman, “but the boys of the Bureau saw modern plumbing. All that water wasted rushing past farms without irrigation, deserts without grass, homes without electricity. It didn’t seem right. We needed that water. The Pacific Ocean sure didn’t.”

Lewis modestly defers comment on his role as Assistant Manager, Fiscal Control Section and Ground Water Management, preferring to speak of the projects themselves and the vision they inspired.

“JFK came down here to dedicate Whiskeytown Dam a few days before the tragic events in Dallas. I stood up there with him. Profound words, Ask what you can do for your country. For a million years the Trinity River did what it fancied, followed the path of least resistance. A selfish what’s-in-it-for-me river. Lot like our young people today.”

He paces the den, devoted to his thoughts, stopping only to refill his glass from a decanter in the shape of the Grand Coulee Dam, brandy pouring from one sluiceway, Shasta Lake water from the other. “Then. In six years, with $253 million and a few thousand men, the Trinity Project changed those million years. The men of the Bureau asked that river: ‘what can you do for your country? No more can you run willy-nilly to the sea. We will direct you, channel you, gather you in great pools to wait for your nation to call, to open this sluice, this gate. Now you’re water that means something, water with a goal. The way God should have done it.”

“What goal?” Lewis asks himself, closing the curtains with their leaping speckled trout design. “It matters not. Some say it’s about money and a man’s a fool who does great works and gets no recompense. I don’t mind who gets the water. Red injuns for all I care. PG&E hates us because we have the grand plan and they don’t. Big labor hates us because we tell them Root, hog, or die; we’re the only folks with ten thousand jobs to hand out and they know it.

“Only The Bureau tells the little drop of water: fall here on the fins of this hydroelectric turbine, flow through these cornfields, slake the thirst of men, transform the desert dust into the tang of fresh strawberries. What, I ask you, can a drop of water do better than serve the national interest?”

Which brings the conversation round to what may be his greatest public service. Most young men aged 18-26 in town may have scant knowledge of his years with the Bureau. But they do know H.B. Lewis as “Redding’s Mr. Selective Service,” leader of that little group of friends and neighbors who constitute the Shasta-Trinity Draft Board.

(Continued next week)


Old friends

Selective Service System Board #110 was a typical American draft board and had been for 51 years. Its three members were over 30, male, and residents of Shasta County (by law), two-thirds were veterans, one of the First World War. All were white (by custom), one was college educated. None were active in local party politics though all had served at one time on such administrative and appointed bodies as the County Water Board, prison parole board, school board, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, etc. None of the three were paid or made decisions of significance. All real decisions — who was drafted, who deferred, whose status was extended, who received a hearing, who did not — were made by the Clerk, Mona’s mom, a midlevel civil servant. Nothing in any way distinguished Draft Board #110, Redding, California, from any other draft board anywhere in America at any time.

Question #23 a standardized college level test (SAT, LSAT, GRA etc):

A local draft board is made up of three men: Lewis, Rogers, and Gruel. Two are war veterans. One founded a local laundromat chain, one is a rancher. One likes fishing, one hunting, one model railroading. They belong to the American Legion, Elks, Jaycees, Masons, and Shriners (one man may belong to more than one social organizition).

The Mason did not drop out of Principia College. No Elk is a Jaycee. The Shriner does not own laundromats. The rancher does not like fish. The model railroader spent World War II in the Rubber Tire Allotment Department of the U.S. Office of Emergency Services.

            1. Which man is a high school graduate?

            2. Which man is oldest?

            3. Is the model railroader a Mason?

(15 minutes)

Meetings were scheduled for Thursdays at 7pm so H.B. Lewis would not miss Bonanza, Billy ‘Buck’ Rogers could watch The Avengers and Norman Gruel would not have to forgo Honeymooners reruns. Rogers, who built not only the highly-successful Mini-Wash laundromat chain, but established Redding’s first private shooting range, arrived at 6:45 with a container of hot coffee for Mona’s mom, an attractive divorcee into whose pants he yearned to get and with whose advice he never failed to comply. Rogers’ pencil mustache and plastered hair were repulsive to Mona’s mom, who gave no sign of her true feelings until after the February 1968 Tet Offensive, when her TV began to bleed, and she quit the draft board to become chief clerk of the Farm Credit Administration, Western Division. The day her transfer came through, she classified Rogers’ son, Billy (Buck Rogers Jr.) Rogers, as a non-religious I-O Conscientious Objector. Billy Buck Jr., who dreamed of joining the Burning Fifth Marines so called for their use of Zippo lighters to burn village huts, spent three years and $15,000 of his father’s money fighting a clerical glitch so absurd as to be irreversible, only to regain his 1-A status the week the last U.S. combat soldier left Vietnamese soil. He spent his military career protecting the U.S. Trade Office in Brussels from attacks by Walloon terrorists that never materialized.

Norman Gruel, whose 500 square foot HO Gauge railroad recreated the Southern Pacific yards of Salinas, California circa 1936, arrived on time at 7, nodded to Mona’s mom leaning away from the attentions of Buck Sr., and continued into the meeting room where he read with approval a letter in Model Railroader lamenting the decline of the lost wax process for molding locomotive signal lamps and driving wheel spring equalizers.

At five minutes past, Redding’s Mr. Selective Service entered the office as he imagined Dwight D. Eisenhower would, announced, “Greetings, one and all,” motioned to Billy Rogers as if signaling him to advance under fire, was rewarded by Mona’s mom with a smile he never knew came from blessed relief, approached the folding table in the beige cinderblock meeting room bare but for the row of filing cabinets along one wall, and joined Norman Gruel, who swore he’d remain seated and always rose to meet him.

A stack of Applications for Deferment lay at Lewis’ place, memoed and paperclipped by Mona’s mom into two piles: Accept and Reject. H.B. Lewis read out the name of each applicant, pausing democratically between names for any Wait a sec, who’s that? or What’s his story? or Is that the McIlvenny on the football team? This evening a third note was attached to a single application for a job-related deferment by newly graduated highschool student Wilson A. Pickett, who had entered the union apprentice program for heavy equipment operators. The note said, “Due at 7:30. Listen a little. Then draft him.”

H.B. Lewis read out his name.

“Pickett kid.”

“Uh huh.”

“Oh yeah.”

One way or another everyone at the draft board thought they knew Willy.


Your car, your flag

The way Willy figured it, of his two possible strategies:

1) Get a deferment, stay home, win Mona back

2) Join the Army, serve in Vietnam, become a hero, win Mona back

the second took longer and was most chancy.

But he had no argument. Why should operating a backhoe, cat, compactor, track loader, dump truck, grader, scraper or wheel loader keep him out of the war? Why why why? He entered the draft board at 7:33 p.m. argument-free, having been caught behind of all things a backhoe on Market Street, wearing his graduation suit and tie, hair too long, and let the door slam behind him, each detail registering on the face of Mona’s mom who didn’t dislike him at all, favored him even, the highschool hunk with the Negro name that just wouldn’t do for her daughter.

“They’re waiting.”

“Yes, m’am.”

He wasn’t going to look, he didn’t want to look, he did look first at the row of filing cabinets to his right and then at the three men behind the beaverboard cafeteria table to the left. He stared at the fifth filing cabinet from the end, black as magma, top drawer open, and the scorched ghost of its files on the wall above.

“It’s sort of a memorial, Willy,” said a voice behind him. “We keep it to remind us there’s a war on. Right here in Redding, California.”

“Hello, sirs.”

“That’s rich,” said a man with a pencil mustache. “Sirs.”

“If you get in the Army,” the big one in the middle said, “Don’t salute and say Yessirs.”

“I’ll try to remember,” Willy said, trying to remember he was not an idiot, had captained the track team, got to the finals in spelling, and played first base. Someone motioned him to a molded plastic salmon-colored chair opposite the three men.

“Relax, Willy,” said the man in the middle. “We’re only a little group of your neighbors who want to get to know you and help you come to the right decision.” That helped. “You know who I am of course.”

Willy nodded. He had no clue.

“This here’s Mr. Rogers.” Pencil mustache. “And Mr. Gruel.” They looked at him with fluorescent-colored eyes. “So. What kind of car do you drive?”

“Car sir?”

“Yes sir.”

“Dodge Dart.”

“Not a hippie Bug, huh.”

“An American Dodge.”

Mr. Gruel came to attention. “With the flag on the hood. Saw it parked in front of Mini-Wash #3.”

“A hippie flag, Willy?” said Mr. Rogers.

“An American flag, sir.”

“You got your Americans and you got your liberals,” said Mr. Gruel. “Which are you?”

“I wouldn’t go that far, Norman,” said the one in the middle. Seen his picture in the paper. Mr. Something or Other. “Question is, Willy, do you respect your flag?”

“I keep it polished.”

“Your car or your flag?” said Gruel.

“Both. I mean both.”

“If,” said the photo in the Record Searchlight, “someone bashed-in the hood of your car, just hypothetically, would you consider that primarily an attack on your car or on the American flag?”

Car first, flag first. If car flag what. If flag car not? Six eyes reflected no-man’s light.

“My car?”

“There you go,” said Rogers to Gruel. “Any man gets their car busted up, runs out and says omigod he dented my flag, has to be some kind of extremist. A car is a car.”

“You ask me,” said Gruel, “the boy shows no remorse for his flag.”

“You didn’t show no remorse, did you, son?” said the newspaper picture man.

“No sir.”

“You love your flag, don’t you?” said Mr. Rogers.


“He loves his car he loves his flag, let’s not split hairs, Norman. Drive a compact, huh?”

“It’s pretty hot,” said Willy. “Not like a Corvair.”

“Hot rod?”

“A Slant Six sir, not a V-8. No real muscle I mean.”

“Kind of an inbetween, indistinct car,” suggested the man in the middle. Mr. Mr.

“You could say so.” They took notes.

“Says here you want a deferment,” said middleman.

“I do.”

“Well, you came to the right place.” The men split a laugh three ways.

“How’s that?”

“Folks think we draft people.”

“You could sort of see why,” said Willy, stuck in the general merriment.

“It’s a common misconception,” said Rogers.

“Actually, we defer,” said Gruel.

“Why do we defer, you may ask,” said the gent in the center.

“Because we want only the best,” answered Gruel. “We want American prime rib, Willy, not watermelon and chitlins, not tacos and beans, not poisson with apricot creme freche.”

“There he goes again,” said Rogers. “We don’t draft the best, young man; we defer the best. What kind of country would this be if we sent our rocket scientists, sports heroes, and Bureau of Reclamation water project visionaries [a simpering glance at Middle-Man] off to die in steaming jungles at the end of the world?”

“Got to agree with Buck there,” said Whatsisname and suppose I have to say it? “Take your Sputnik. Suppose we drafted our top guns in the rocket business, got em killed. How’re we going to land on the moon before the Russkies put missile bases there? Do we draft Werner von Braun? Nosir. Knows his rockets. Problem is, boy, if Gruel here had his way, America wouldn’t have enough prime rib left to field the Packers. We got to scatter the deaths over a wider demographic.”

“I never said it wasn’t an honor to get deferred, H.B.,” said Gruel.

Willy imagined H.B. Lewis — that’s his name, Redding’s Mr. Selective Service, whew! — scattering shrunken heads across the land like appleseeds.

“That’s where we come in, your friends and neighbors. And Mom out there,” H.B. said. He paused to honor the taktaktak of Mona’s mom’s typing through the open door to the next room. “We are the moral engineers of daily life.”

“Thank you, sirs,” said Willy.

The three men looked at him groundhogly as if he had just disturbed their burrows. One gave a warning whistle.

“Whoa sir nosir,” said Mr. Gruel. “We agree a deferment’s a reward. But to who?”

“I’m in the apprentice.”

“Union program it says here,” said H.B. Lewis.

“To operate heavy equipment.”

“Explain to us, Willy,” said Lewis. “In your own words.” Speckled trout leaped across his tie. “How driving a front loader or a dump truck serves the national interest more than a tour of duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“National interest?”

“Think hard, Willy.”

In the semidistance a halo appeared behind the head of H.B. Lewis. Inside it shone a boat a lake. The Canada poster. No, a dam tall beneath the geese. A grader. Dinosaurs.

“Dams,” said Willy. “Lakes. Boats. Water projects.”

Yeah! “Controlling the flow of rivers into socially important contributions that determine great agricultural and and and industrial subcenters expressing the unquenchable something of the human spirit.”

He could see in H.B. Lewis’ face that what he said was beautiful.

“Set that white boy free!” cried Mr. Selective Service.

“A man should be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin,” said Billy ‘Buck’ Rogers, adjusting the elk and bison on his shirt.

“A young man of such vision and ability,” interjected Gruel, “would make a fine contribution to the military rather than wasting his talents on mere construction.”

“You calling Lake Shasta mere?” said H.B. Lewis.

“We’re not building any more dams, H.B. The ecology knuckleheads got their shorts in an uproar.”

At which point Mona’s mom, who had been listening at the door, entered with a single sheet of paper which she laid before H.B. Lewis. The men studied the paper as if it were a secret military plan, whispered among themselves. Then H.B. Lewis, smoothing the sheet, announced,

“We have a few statements of fact for you to affirm or deny, Mr. Pickett, then I think we can wrap this up.”

For the rest of his life, in beds, bunks, bags, and buffalo grass, Willy reviewed those statements, seeking the code to explain them.

“Your father participated in the 1961 three-day strike of heavy equipment operators on the Whiskeytown-Trinity Project. Is that true?”

“I don’t know, sir. I was eleven.”

“You drive an undistinguished car.”

“I guess.”

“You have no present job.”

“I’m enrolled in the.”

“Your mother’s a union representative at Staidwell Brassieres.”

“Union. I don’t think so. Just.”

“You have repeatedly consorted with known drugusers at a place called Mudfish’s what is this word and Consortium something?”

“He’s a guy that.”

“You are a friend of the terrorist Dwight the Destroyer.”

“I’m not his darn friend.”

“You are named for a notorious Negro soul singer.”

“Yes no but when he wasn’t even my parents they.”

“You have engaged in illicit sexual relations of an erotic nature with a beautiful high school girl of impeccable morals and unblemished character who has never never in her entire life, I think we can skip the rest.”

“That’s Mona, my girlfriend. Her mom is.”

“Ask him if he has any remorse,” Gruel said to H.B. Lewis.

“Do you feel remorse, Mr. Pickett?”

“For which?”

“No remorse.”

Mr. Selective Service looked exhaltedly sad.

“You’ll get your notice in the mail," he said.

Attack of the blood-throwing lady

Willy received his 1-A classification on Saturday, got hit by a thrown bat in a game at the Elks Club baseball diamond Sunday, decided to enlist. He figured he had a “Choice, Not Chance” in terms of the skills he would develop during his military career, which he expected to be short and was. This time he went prepared. Sgt. Thigpin, the Army recruiter, would be told about his training in the union apprentice program, the high degree of professionalism he would bring to the Army, and the military uses of said acumen, which Sid, who ran the union program and served in Korea explained to him: helicopter landing zone construction, jungle-stripping, the whole bit. Sid was right. It fit.

We strive at all times for balance and normalcy. When that fails, we improvise. Willy entered the U.S. Armed Forces Recruitment Center on Market (not far from Mudfish, whom he avoided), saw Sgt. Maurice Thigpin, whom he knew from Little League, seated behind his gunmetal desk, sobbing, well not totally gunmetal, some red gummy liquid on it and behind Thigpin more red gummy on the nose of the portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson and on the floor and the recruitment poster which now read “Study...Learn...Build ... for your [Blup! red splotch]” and on Sgt. Thigpin’s bronze Recruiter of the Year plaque.

Presto, Willy came up with a story about how the Sergeant had purchased a defective bottle of ketchup for his lunch which had exploded when shaken, splattering the room with Heinz, causing Sarge to break into soblike bursts of uncontrollable laughter.

Willy assayed a sympathetic half-laugh, choked. The Sarge was too sad; the blood too real.

OK then. Sarge was dying. The exploding Heinz ketchup bottle had punctured an aorta, ruptured an artery. Thigpin was bleeding to death before him. Quickly! A tourniquet! Willy pulled at his belt, snapped it from the loops.

“Please don’t take off your pants,” said Sgt. Thigpin.

“You’re hurt.”

“Down deep.”

“Where?” Willy rushed the desk.

“Sit down. Willy.” Sarge spoke like an old man reading from a file card. “Pickett. First base. Spelling bee. I was going to give you a call.” He was reading from a file card, flecked with blood. “Graduated June. Your Dad worked on the dam.”

Willy pulled up a molded plastic salmon-colored chair, laid his belt on the desk. “What happened, Sarge?”

“I’m 36 years old, Willy.”

That didn’t seem responsive.

“Married, been in the service 15 years. Trained in sales and public relations at Fort Benjamin Harrison. I work 53 hours a week, spend 12 travelling, a thousand miles a month, a hundred contacts. I was up for regional Recruiter of the Year. Two kids, did I say two kids? Benny and Maurice Jr. Didn’t get to Korea. Too old for Vietnam. What’s left for me, Willy?”

“I’ll help you, Sarge.” Willy searched for a handkerchief, found none, pulled his Johnny Cash t-shirt over his head, mopped the desktop area nearest him.

“Please,” said Sarge in a shattered voice.

“This stuff stinks,” said Willy, reconsidering his choice of a towel.

“Menstrual blood,” said Thigpin.

“Jeesus God.” Willy threw the shirt, which he had bought at an actual Johnny Cash concert in Sacramento, against the window, where it stuck.

Sarge pulled a roll of paper towels from a desk drawer and began to dab at his plaque on the wall. “It’s not so much the blood. It’s how I got suckered.”

“You oughta do something about the President.”

“Oh yeah.” Thigpin took down the frame and went to work on the President’s nose. “She looked normal, I mean good looking. Tall and real fashion type platinum hair. Society gal. She sat down and I made a kind of joke about how we don’t recruit goodlooking chicks. Maybe if I’d thought about my wife. No, that wasn’t it. Because she started explaining.” He spit on Lyndon Johnson’s face and polished the glass. “I didn’t exactly follow but the blood of innocent children in Vietnam is the same as their mothers’, it goes through the womb into the unborn kid. I missed the connection between kids in Vietnam and kids here. She seemed to think they had the same blood. Then cool as a cucumber she pulls out one of those Hefty plastic garbage bags and she’s got it in both hands squeezing the sac and the neck like a gun and twirling around. I told her, ‘This is federal property, ma’m’, but she zapped me right in the face and I got so mad I just sat here and didn’t move till she left.”

“Was it all hers?”

“I don't think women.”

“I heard they bleed a lot.”

“And it smells.”

“Sure does.”

“So what can I do for you?” said Sgt. Thigpin. He’d cleaned most of his face. Rusty channels below his eyes. Stigmata. Sweat, blood, and tears.

“I wanted to enlist.”

“Ain’t that a kick in the pants.”


“I filled my quota. Today. Just before that woman ruined my career.”

“What do you mean quota,” said Jimmy, naked from the waist up, sneakers stuck in blood. “Don’t you want guys in the Army?”

“We have to supplement the guys who want to go with guys who don’t want to go. That’s why we have the draft. If everyone went who wanted to go, we wouldn’t have a draft.”

“Could you run that past me again, Sarge?”

“There’s eleven million eligible guys out there.” He rubbed at a clot on his appointment calendar. “We only need half a million. If we recruit half a million, there’s no one left to draft. We have to stop recruiting so they can draft the rest.”

“They don’t need the draft?”

“Not for military purposes.”

“What then?”

“Social control.”

“But it’s patriotic.” Willy gestured at LBJ recovering from his wounds.

“Don’t think of me. My life is ruined.”


“Move to Canada,” said Sergeant Thigpin. “They’re not crazy up there.”