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I wasn’t sure if I should wear gloves. Maybe they’ll be like the ladies in Charleston, I wondered, but unpacking and buying furniture had left me no chance to find out in advance. Anyway, I stuck them in my purse and could slip them on if I saw they were in season.

I’d not be here if Dwight hadn’t received papers to Tongue Point and I’d taken the train all this way and was setting up our apartment when he got diverted to Puerto Rico. Nazi subs dropping Spanish spies, I guess they’re worried about, so they need someone to keep the chase vehicles tuned up for once they land. I’d HQ here until the Coast Guard stations him where he’ll stay.

It was so sweet of them to invite me to their bridge get-together, really my only break from the boxes. At least out here, the wives are friendlier.

“My place, Tuesday at 7:00. Girl’s night out,” my new friend Eunice told me. Her husband was supposed to be here, too, but got sent to Iceland. “This must be so different from the East, so much rain and everything.”

I didn’t correct her that Carolinas are considered to be in the South, not the East. Before I’d come, I read that South Carolina gets more rain; it’s just more spread out in Oregon. Coast Guard wives know about weather.

At least she didn’t say 19:00.

The fact was that none of the girls did wear gloves and two were even in trousers. This wasn’t South Carolina where we only play bridge on weekday afternoons.

“Knit?” one of them asked, to which I admitted that I didn’t “Well, we’ll teach you. It’s really fun making booties and whatever. Your husband — Dwight, right? — where’s he?” and I explained, all of them nodding. “Mine in the Pacific,” she went on, “classified supposedly, but it’s just Hawaii. Who has the face cards? “

Maybe that’s why they invited me; wives waiting for our husbands. The good thing about a Coast Guard one is that he usually stays close to home. The bad thing is that that was before the war.

“That’s really a pretty blouse,” noted another. “Maybe they have it in Portland. Whose bid is it? Oh, sorry. I pass.”

I took the bid to two hearts and my partner closed it at two spades. I didn’t mind being the dummy, first deal. Fewer chances to muff things. We made four and everybody thought it great that we made even more than our bid.

By the end of the hand, I was almost one of them.

Dwight wasn’t an officer or anything — a social demerit in Charleston — but here it was much more about what your guy really does. Keeping the engines running is really important, all agreed.

Did I work in a factory making airplanes back there? No, I was a typist at County Records. Records are important, too, they agreed, birth certificates and such.

Eunice dealt. She worked as a secretary in the commander’s office. “That’s where I met my hubby,” counting her cards to see where she’d erred.

“Plus her Bruce,” added another. “Made him an Able-Bodied Seamen by being his First Mate,” an old joke on the other coast, but maybe newer on this one as everybody roared, me with them. It’s good to be included.

“Hey!” Eunice reminded them. “Secrets stay within the Auxiliary,”

But oh my! I’d not tell a joke like that.

“The thing is,” our dealer explained to me as she re-dealt, having had a card left over, “it’s crucial to keep up the morale of those warriors guarding our shore,” which made me think that her job maybe includes publicity.

“Did she say ‘morale’ or ‘moral’?” from another, chortles ensuing.

“Some girlie in a bathing suit’s giving our hubby a private hula dance and we’re going to sit home with our Saturday Evening Post?” said another.

“Mow about a Saturday evening with a guardsman posted closer?” from yet another.

So much joking around, these gals.

Everybody got thirteen this time?” from our dealer.

***

At the five-and-dime where I’d gone to buy clothespins, a new guardsman in front of me –just out of Fort May, by his haircut — stepped back, his arm into me. I stepped back myself, but felt sorry for him when I saw his embarrassment.

“Sorry, ma’am,” averting my eyes.

It was just an accident, but it made me think about the boys who bumped me in junior high. It happened to all of us and they were jerks, but actually, we sort of liked it.

***

Next time, cards at Jane’s. I liked her spoon collection — one from nearly every state. “Trades most of them. I’ve hardly been anywhere.”

I said I’d write my friends in Charleston if they wanted an Oregon.

“Jane and I are doing watch this Saturday,” Eustice told me, helping our hostess with the coffee. Back in Charleston, we never drank coffee while we played. Out here, everybody just lays down their hands — face down, but not always — while we add the cream and sugar.

“Watch?”

“Coast watch. Looking for subs.”

“Oh my! I didn’t know.”

“We never see any, but the Japs got a freighter.”

“Oh, my!”

“Or sometimes what they do is drop off spies.”

“Are there spies around here?”

“No, but we’ve bahis şirketleri got some draft dodgers working in the hospital.”

“What if we captured one, a spy, I mean?”

She laughed. “Shoo him back where he came from, I guess. It’s not that dangerous, watching for subs, that is. We can’t see them and they can’t see us. But sometimes it’s pretty rainy.”

Jane must have been listening in. “Want to do my slot? 20:00. That means eight o’clock.”

I knew that.

I got torpedoed at one heart because I missed my finesse.

***

I stopped by the five-and-dime a few times to see what they’d gotten in, but maybe also to run into that kid who’d been there before. I’d act like I didn’t remember, and get to know him a little before we went to the movie. I’d wear a nice blouse. At the Seashell, you shouldn’t wear something too difficult.

But then I saw him and a girl heading into the Seashell and remembered the boys before Dwight whom I’d let feel me up, just not too much. It was pretty fun, those days. Would this kid and his date even watch the movie?

***

We were an Auxiliary of two: Eunice and me, the new recruit not having the slightest idea of how to spot an enemy sub. “There’s where we watch from,” my partner pointing to our lookout, an ocean-facing box on stilts.

It wasn’t that easy, up the ladder and through the hatch, but at least it wasn’t raining.

The lookout wasn’t much bigger than a delivery van. Two chairs. A trunk against the back. Did it contain guns? A telephone. Looking toward Japan, just fog.

“We spell each other?” I asked, knowing a bit about watches from Dwight.

“Naah. We’ll just wait for the guys.”

“The guys?”

“The ones assigned. Commander says it’s good ’cause it gives us eight eyes. That’s if we’re looking out the window, not stretched out. You’ll like Charlie. He’s an Easterner, too. “

I felt the shaking of the ladder before, “Hi there, dolls,” a head popping through the hatch, a jaunty cap illuminated from a Ray-O-Vac. “Bruce’s behind me. We got smokes.”

It wasn’t clear to me why it would take four of us if we weren’t going to see anything.

“I’m from Kansas City,” Charlie introduced himself. “Bruce’s from Arizona. That’s why we joined, to see the sea.” and all of us laughed. The jokes out here needed a refitting.

The one named Bruce busied himself with the telephone, saying some numbers when he got it to function.

“If we don’t report on the hour,” explained Eunice, “they figure we’ve been attacked. Regs.”

“Or that we’re asleep,” added Charlie. “It looks bad for the base if we get an inspection, so they wake us up.”

From the glow from the cigarettes, I could see Eunice pulling blankets from the trunk. “Anybody cold?”

Bruce said he was and they sat together on the trunk to share a cover. He was older, but maybe people from Arizona just look that way because they’re part Indian.

“Douse the light so the subs can’t shell us,” said Eunice like she was our skipper.

“Want a drag?” wondered Charlie, scooting his chair next to mine. “Help make you warm. You look swell.”

This wasn’t what I’d come for, to drive around with some smooth talker. I moved my chair.

“Come on, babe! It’s cold up here.”

“I’m married!” I hoped firmly enough to show him I wasn’t just playing hard to get.

Eunice had stopped whatever she was doing with Bruce. “Yeah, Charlie. Don’t act so cool.”

“I mean…” as maybe I’d misinterpreted something. “I mean we got to watch for subs.”

Charlie at least quit chasing my chair.

The four of us talked about the war, what bands were recording, how Tongue Point’s the end of the world. Charlie tried every line he could think of to get me interested in him, but ended up laughing at the silliness of his antics. Like they’d said, these guys get lonely, too.

The other two ended up a good bit less lonely, though, it not so dark that I couldn’t tell that she’d moved to his lap. They didn’t much care that we could hear them smooch. I suppose guardsmen tell each other how far they got, but probably they lie some. You can hear kisses, but not buttons. From Eunice’s giggles, though, I’d reason suspect.

At the end I let Charlie give me a little smooch, him being just a kid.

“Maybe next time?” he grinned and headed for the hatch.

“Maybe after we sink the sub with our flare, buddy,” my answer, and everybody laughed.

This wasn’t such a bad way to spend a little time while there’s a war going on.

“Charlie’s not that bad,” explained Eunice after we parted ways with our co-watchers. “Just a bit much at first. Bruce is smoother,” reaching under her sweater to reposition.

“Should Charlie and I maybe have gone down or something?” I wondered.

“That would be abandoning your post,” she decided. “Just relax and enjoy the show.”

Well, I couldn’t go blaming a wife left here by the Coast Guard, even if I wouldn’t myself.

***

Maybe I shouldn’t have backed away so quickly from that new guardsman kid at the bahis firmaları five-and-dime and maybe we’d have had a Coke and caught the next picture. Sat in the back, I think. I wouldn’t let him get away with much, though.

I found a job at the recruiting office in town. A job related to the services, Eunice explained, all you do is write “Auxiliary” on your hours and they let you off for the meeting. As this place wasn’t big enough for each service to have its own recruiting office, we’d give out information on them all and point out what we thought was the right direction and start off the paperwork. I usually talked them out of the Marines where he’d be peeling potatoes. Definitely not “Join the Navy and ride the WAVES.” Coast Guard’s better, the ones who’ll ambush any Jap landing.

William — a case in point — was at the office the day after graduation. Seemed plenty smart. Smart enough to guard the coast, anyway. I showed him where to check “Signalman,” though nobody ever reads the form.

He’d stop by almost every day to check for his orders, and with pleasure I gave him his ticket to New Jersey. I even saw him off at the bus station, me and half the town. He’d do the Coast Guard proud.

Was I surprised a couple of months later when who walked into my office but William, himself.

“Guess what? They posted me right back here! I’m a mess-man. Cook on the cutter when we go out. Pretty good job. They lost the paper about me doing radio.”

“I’m so pleased to hear that, William.” As long as the cutter doesn’t meet a sub, anyway, galleys being below deck.

I don’t know why I thought of that new recruit who’d bumped into me at the five and dime, but I did, maybe what had me ask William, since he was there, to help me with the new posters. Said he’d be glad to, and as we did ii — me behind him — I reached around to thumbtack a corner, my breast on the back of his arm.

I don’t know if he even noticed, but as he left, “Semper Paratus — Always Ready,” he told me, what new guardsmen like to say.

***

“Guess who I changed the roster to for Saturday watch,” announced Eunice after taking the bid with three no-trump.

I wasn’t her partner and I held most of the high clubs, so they were probably set.

“That new one, William,” Eunice supplying the answer.

“Me! Me!” volunteered someone.

Eunice looked at me. “Supposed to be who recruited him. Regs.”

“Make sure he’s got his raincoat. New guy, you know,” from someone else.

“She’ll remember he was supposed to when she starts throwing up in the morning,” another threw in. It was good to joke around.

Jane and I first on board, I could only hope that Eunice had correctly altered the roster, and it was several minutes before the hatch lifted and up popped in a stocking cap. It indeed was William.

He looked startled. “Oh! I didn’t think it would be you!”

“Yeah, it’s me. How are you?”

“Fine, I guess.” He looked at his feet. “I got assigned to stand watch.”

Jane, my Auxiliary co-watcher for the evening, suggested we hang a curtain, and the other guardsman whose name I’d missed strung a blanket from the ceiling to partition our outpost.

With the curtain between us, the waves below and the wind all around, the others couldn’t hear you if we didn’t talk too loud.

“I’ve only been up here but once,” I whispered to William, “and we didn’t see any.” Why I whispered, I wasn’t sure.

“You’re married, right?” after we saw no subs.

“He’s in Puerto Rico.”

“Lucky. It’s sunny there.”

“I guess. Got a gal?”

“I’m going to college when this is over. Engineering, maybe. You got me thinking about radios when I signed up. Maybe I’ll meet a girl there.”

I was glad I’d gotten him thinking about radios, but “when this is over” could be a long time.

“You’re shivering,” he realized. “How ’bout you put this over you?” unfolding the blanket.

“Thanks,” pulling it around my back. “Here, we’ll share”

How many subs were watching us? Zero.

From the other side of our lookout came sounds of rearrangement, followed by those of pushings, and at one point, three Ohs from Jane.

I suppose William heard, but we didn’t look at each other. Instead, he told me that from the cutter, you could see whales during the day. I told him about all the sailboats that dock at Charleston. He told me that the Navy was getting blimps, but they’d always need the Coast Guard. I liked the thought of floating in a blimp.

We could hear Jane’s orgasm and I hoped that William understood she was here because of the war.

When I woke up, William’s arm was around me and my head was on his shoulder and I resumed watching the sea. When the telephone buzzed, the other guardsman opened the curtain, gave me a goofy grin and said some numbers into the mouthpiece.

“How’d it go?” Jane afterward wanting to know, to which I told her that I’d removed his hand, but had fallen asleep, so maybe he’d done more. If he’d done much more, however, I’d have known it.

She eyed me kaçak bahis siteleri for a minute, smiled, and said it was because I was from back East. Her evening required less recounting. “We get the itch; maybe they scratch it.”

***

I next ran into William at the shoe store where he grinned and had me help him choose new loafers. I wished we were where his arm could have been around me.

It wasn’t that I’d planned anything; it just came out. “Seen the new one at the Seashell?”

“What is it?”

I wasn’t sure. “They say it’s pretty good.”

“I’m off at 18:00.”

I gave it some thought and changed into a sweater.

The Seashell was mostly empty, but the back row was full. Full for a back row, that is, every third seat empty. I chose a row part way back.

Gary Cooper was an ex-sheriff who’d stumbled into a nest of train robbers.

After assessing those sitting near us, William put his arm around my shoulder. Nobody could see unless the couple in front turned around, and they were watching the movie, what Dwight and I would have been doing, anyway.

After a bit, he got his arm far enough around me to drag the wool against my brassiere, rather fun.

My sweater posed a problem, however, as there wasn’t an easy way for him to reach in without pulling it up, something I wasn’t about to let him do, not here in the theater.

I wasn’t adverse to his other hand on my knee, though, but had he tugged at my skirt, I’d have said no. Better to just cover his hand with mine to park it, us not being in a back row.

I wasn’t expecting him to steer my hand onto his lap, but liked how it reversed our roles, his hand providing cover for mine.

Gary Cooper was getting no help from the train crew, the engineer smoking his pipe.

As you can get an idea of what’s under the serge by resting your hand on a guy’s font pocket, that’s what I did, him at first pulling back, but as Gary Cooper’s now-runaway train careened through the tunnel, William was rocking in his seat, his having a bit of squeak to it. The train was blowing its whistle.

When he at last sucked in a breath, I knew why, as being married, you learn how such things work. It’s not what you talk about after the movie, of course, but you both know.

When we exited, me a little shaky, William managed, “See you around.”

“Okeydokey.”

A girl who’d been sitting two rows back winked at me in the lobby.

***

When Eunice said she’d tell Bruce that I was tired of waiting for Dwight, I asked her what on earth was she talking about.

“That you’re ready for some loving.”

“Why would you tell Bruce that?”

“To pass on to William. Your guy needs a guardsman-to-guardsman talk.”

“My guy?” This took me a minute to process. Maybe we’d explored each other a tiny bit, but that hardly makes him that. That’s total nonsense, I told her, and even if I might be a little bit ready — which I of course wasn’t — it wasn’t going to happen.

“Why not?”

“One, I’m married. Two, he’s just a kid.”

“Married? Tell me about it, kiddo. And “two” means he probably doesn’t know how, right? You want Jane to be the one to take care of that? Wear something nice and let him think he’s the one in charge.”

She couldn’t be serious, could she? Maybe I’d a little itch, and as they said at Auxiliary, it’s important to keep up the spirits of those guarding our shore, and all, but for me to actually cozy up with William?

The next couple of bridge get-togethers had some good stories. A bat had gotten on to the lookout one evening, right when both couples were making whoopee. The guys said they’d chase it out, but the girls said it didn’t matter. Another time, the guys said the girls could take off early. Once they know you’ll not tell the other guys, guys like that are fun to talk to.

When Eunice reported that Seaman Apprentice William and Seaman Bruce were next up to stand watch, all the gals all agreed, even Jane, that Eunice and I should be the ones to share that assignment.

She’d said I should wear something nice, but it’s not as if we dress up to go sit in a tower. The following day I went to the ladies’ counter at Penney’s and said that my husband told me to splurge a little. Any nice brassieres on sale?

Sitting on the trunk, William and I chatted about his responsibilities. He now knew how to make coleslaw. He was learning about radio on his own and they’d let him take a test, and he passed, maybe they’d let him get real training. Also that he knew some of the recruits I’d processed and one had lied about his age, but I shouldn’t do anything.

No sightings of offshore Japs, but what was more on my mind was the Seashell, and apparently on his, too, as out of the blue. “Sorry about what happened,” in a manner that left no way for me to pretend I didn’t know about what. All I could say was that it wasn’t his fault.

He thought a minute, then offered that it must be hard for me to be out here, all alone, and I admitted that was true. “That’s why it was my fault.”

He thought a minute more. “So maybe it wasn’t anybody’s fault,” his compromise.

With that, I concurred. “But I’m still sorry I made you.”

“You didn’t make me,” his way of seeing it. “You just made me want to.”

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