Chapter 8 Anesthesia to the Fore
Corporal Anesthesia Remingham, a gorgeous specimen of black Alabama manhood at its hopping-maddest, washed his truck at the water point outside the amtrac compound and mourned his pearl-handled forty-fives. Colonel Droningkeit had said they weren’t regulation. Anesthesia was overcome by a sense of abused virtue.
“Damn! Whuffo dem wide peoples take way ma pieces? What I do wrong? Hoo! Black man cain’t do nuthin’ without some wide muhfuggen colonel be taken way his piece. What dat muhfuh think this is, anyway? A wah zone or a Gal Scout pignick? Hoo! Sumbitch”
Those pistols had for months been the apple of his eye, made especially for him by a shell-carver he found in Bangkok on R-and-R, right next to Linda’s Surprise Bar. On one handle of each was a nude and implausibly mammalian girl, almost a double-barreled cow. On the other was inscribed USMCS, universally understood to mean “United States Marine Corps Sucks.”
Anesthesia loved those pistols. They were beautiful. They expressed his philosophy. He swaggered with them on his daily runs in his six-by to get water for the Viet Cong training camp, and wore them to the mess hall. They added a little style, he figured, to a camouflage-colored existence. And now that got-dam colonel had made him turn them in to the armorer to be restored to their ugly olive-drab.
He kicked the tire of his truck, to which river mud stuck in great globs, and fussed mightily to himself.
“Shee-it. What I doin’ wif dis damn truck anyway? Dat got-dam ‘cruiter say I goan be a bummer pilot, go drop bums on de Russians. Dis truck look like a fuggen bummer? Any Russians runnin’ roun’ here? Sumbitch done lie like a rug. Where my airplane? I goan kill his ass. I goan kick it cross hell and halfa Georgia. Take away my bummer, and take away my piece, Shee-it.”
He sprayed the back wheels to loosen the mud, still cursing. Anesthesia did not perhaps have the perfect Marine attitude. Of course, no Marine who was worth a damn ever did. In fact, Anesthesia’s background was not designed to give him the right attitude about much of anything. Even his name gave him a bad attitude. One reason he liked his pistols was that people were starting to call him Pearl instead of Pain Killer, which appellation he had acquired at Parris Island.
He had originally been named Anesthesia by virtue of being born informally and haphazardly in Montgomery with the assistance of the state police, used in the slums of the South as a sort of low-income obstetrical service. If they didn’t know obstetrics, people figured, at least they were cheap. At the time Anesthesia’s mother lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a decaying brick building with a leaky roof and paper peeling in moldering strips from the walls. His father, she thought, might have lived in any of a dozen places, depending on who he was.
The delivery had been complicated. Mrs. Remingham unfortunately had gone into labor after being hit on the head with a marble ashtray by the landlady, who believed that forceful expression was most productive of rent from people who didn’t have any money. The cops had duly arrived and delivered the child. The sergeant who filled out the birth-certificate application could not very well ask the unconscious mother what name she had chosen for her offspring. He decided that Anesthesia had a ring to it.
This sort of christening apparently had been going on for years. There was a girl of thirteen next door named Gynecology Ether Dinwiddie.
Anesthesia sti1l didn’t know who his father was, but figured that his father didn’t know who he was either, which evened things up.
The truck gradually appeared from within its encrustation of glop. The water cut big chunks of goopy mud from the wheels and then rattled against a .50-cal. ammo box on the truck bed. From within came a disturbed scurrying and scuffling. The box contained a bedraggled rat Anesthesia had found eating the remains of a sandwich he had left there. By closing the top, Anesthesia had become proprietor of the rat. The burdens of ownership were beginning to weigh on him.
“Shee-it. Whut I goan do wif a muhfuggen rat? Guess what, Rat? I ain’t got a clue. Maybe I stick a eagle on yo’ ass, make you a colonel. Hoo. Be bettern’nat muhfuh we got. Probly smarter. Dat colonel be dumb, ‘bout like a pile water buffalo shit. Muhfuh cain’t even fix a car brater. How he goan win no wah? Shee-it.”
Anesthesia’s ability to fix carburetors was the source of his current discontent. He was a man of high and instinctive mechanical gifts, being able to repair almost anything with a screw driver, vice-grips, and bits and pieces from a C-ration box. Talent is a dangerous thing.
He had recently found Colonel Droningkeit and his driver stalled on the road to Red Beach, puzzled.
“Whuss goin awn, sir?” Anesthesia had said.
“Well, sergeant, it seems as if we have a mechanical malfunction,” the colonel said a bit stiffly. Talking to sergeants made him uneasy.
“Yassuh. Lemme look. Maybe I fix its butt,” said anesthesia, diving under the hood.
Anesthesia had unjammed the butterfly valve with a plastic C-ration fork and a slightly lordly air. It was Anesthesia’s view that the ability to repair engines was the best measure of suitability for high position.
Unfortunately the colonel had noticed his pistols and checked the regulations. The pistols had been forbidden.
Anesthesia finished washing his truck and drove off to the gas point, still muttering. “Fuggen Patton had’em. Why cain’t I? Whut so fuggen special `bout Patton? Just some wide-ass general. Got 1ots’em. Too damn many, I say. It’s hell. I spozed to git a nukeyuler bummer, and what I gets? A got-dam rat. An’ no piece to shoot it with. Shee-it.