Diving down through monsoon rain
gunsight centered on the train
cannons firing, red tracers find
the locomotive and the cars behind
Clouds of smoke, clouds of steam
roiling up as in a dream
floating fireballs firing back
search to stop the fierce attack
Pulling up and zooming clear
jinking because the flak is near
But rolling over and coming round
to finish killing what he's found
Rending metal, burning cars
tracer bullets like flying stars
that flare and flash like little suns
the enemy engine no longer runs
Then the firing comes to an end
no more ordnance to expend
cursing now because it's done
with more to do before he's won
He beckons others who have the taste
to pick iron bones, and not to waste
the leavings of a strafer's skill
airborne vultures to the kill
Beneath the flares on another night
he knows he'll find another fight
certain to win, perhaps to lose
it's his to do, it's fate's to choose
- - -
Sez Puresome, 16 December 1999
The True Adventures Of Youthly PuresomeMany, if not all, of these stories first appeared in the The Hook: Journal of Carrier Aviation Magazine. Those that did, are presented here by permission of "The Hook".
ORAL TRADITION #406
THE RELUCTANT SHELLBACKSby
With the ORI a done deal, the big ship left the tropical paradise of banana daquaris and thrummed south, headed for Cape Horn, the Indian Ocean, Singapore, Cubi, and Veet Nam, Puresome settled into a routine of no flight ops, two-a-day A.O.M.'S, volley ball in between aircraft stuffed on the hangar deck, and being a Naval Officer first and an aviator second. Since there weren't going to be two hops a day to hide behind until the ship reached Cubi, Puresome, who was the designated Squadron SLDO (Shitty Little Duty Officer), actually had to put X's in each of his highly responsible collateral duties.
Which wasn't too bad. Puresome's role as Lawrence Legality was greatly diminished at sea, since the Ship's law firm took care of most legal stuff; as Information and Education Officer, no rating exams for sailors were forthcoming. Puresome had long since bribed ship's company types with aviator sunglasses to weld new hooks in the ready room for flight gear, so the only thing he had to do as First Lieutenant was to wander up to the crew compartment and smoke a cigar with Ladd, the Aviation Boatswains Mate that was in charge of crew spaces. Since there weren't swept wing jits whanging onto the flight deck just overhead and tugging out the local arresting cable, the crew head had not filled up with hydraulic fluid lately, and it was the spiffiest aboard ship.
The one collateral duty that was a real, constant arsepain was that of MOVIE OFFICER. Puresome took hits from everybody for everything, from the choice du jour to the quality of training for the enlisted projector operator, who had to be drafted, trained, and certified by some ship's company ENSIGN. The fact that the Squadron movie projector regularly ate film, and, once, a reel had come off the machine, bounced down the deck to the front of the ready room by the Skipper's feets, just proved demonic possession to Puresome. Since the movie was the most important event of the day, Puresome was regularly pelted with popcorn for not being able to bribe Brand X Squadron for their Cinemascope lens or for being slow in hot-reeling "ALONZO, WILD STAG OF THE NORTH" from Ready Room One. Had he been a touching, caring, sharing, feeling, nurturing, supportive, Sixties kinda guy, Puresome might have despaired.
Another jolly activity that occupied Puresome's long days in the Anthill was SIOP planning. Just what a LTJG might have to do with the nation's Single Integrated Operational Plan of nuking commie furriners into quietly glowing happy particles was this: A4 and A6 crews were assigned two targets each to obliterate in case the balloon went up while they were stooging around Westpac and preventing dominos from tumping over, thus keeping a tiny, Asian country safe enough for its premier to wear yellow flight suits and lavender scarves. Or lavender flight suits and yellow scarves. Each target had to be meticulously planned for navigation, weapons delivery, and especially timing, in order to avoid being fried by B-52's, ICBM's, and the Doomsday Machine. But mostly, meticulous planning was needed because the pilot had to brief the CAG and the Flag on his particular targets, a dog-and-pony show Puresome particularly dreaded. So he spent hours in IOIC, the "integrated operational intelligence center" making fancy strip charts decorated with tic marks to the second and cryptic notes about bomb stuff, while Phantom pilots exercised their wrists and watched the coveted "Gidget Goes Lesbian" fifteen or twenty times in their ready rooms. To the immense disgust of bespectacled intelligence types feeding punch cards into banks of computers, Puresome and Weed sang the happy jingle "You'll wonder where..the yellow went...When we atom bomb..The Oh..Re..Ent!" at least twice a day.
So time zones loped by like slow horses. Candy Andy had already figured out that the Black Shoe Pukes had arranged to lose an hour of sleep per zone on the way over and on the eventual way back.
"How do you know?" asked Puresome, who was chronically, grossly unaware.
"If it was up your ass, you'd know," came the sly, enigmatic answer.
It was after a particularly enlightening intelligence brief made by Better-Fred-Than-Dead, the Squadron AI, concerning a recent "coupe in Thighland," that LT Loose was granted the podium during the second hour of the morning A.O.M. LT. Loose was the Senior Boat-Schooler Present Aboard the squadron, and, as such, was in charge of volunteering junior officers for such career-enhancing programs as J.O.O.D. (Junior Officers of the Deck, Underway) boat drivers. Puresome himself had been volunteered for this program, but interfacing with Black Shoe ship's company pukes proved difficult, and the fear of stumbling on weird circular activities in some of the darker Snipe spaces quickly shivered his timbers, and he quietly neglected to go anymore.
But today's subject was the ship's scheduled crossing of the equator the next day. In Navy tradition, a ceremony must be held, in which those who had previously actually survived such a ceremony, called "Shellbacks," got to wail on all the FNG's who had not. LT Loose had suffered exceedingly as Midshipman Loose and had seen to it that subsequent pollywogs suffered maximum humiliation permissible under the laws of King Neptune. While the heart of the ceremony was to be conducted by the ship's enlisted company as a legal opportunity to whomp up on officers, LT Loose had his own program at squadron level. Since practically everybody below the rank of LT were to be initiated, and especially the insolent members of the Reserve Junior Officers Association, Loose was in his glorious bull Rutenant-hood, prepping plebe pollywogs on their obligations on the morrow. Rockets One, Two, and Three looked on indulgently.
As Loose finally finished his instructions and Rocket Three, LCDR Paganuch returned to orchestrate the third hour of the AOM, Weed looked at Puresome. "Surely he don't mean us."
"Naaah," came the non-prophetic answer.
It wasn't that Puresome and Weed were basic anarchists, it was just that being a Rutenant wasn't like being an LCDR or Skipper or XO--a Rutenant was kinda a less junior junior officer, and seniority among junior officers was like purity among nasty girls. So the two figured they could fart off his program, wake up at their leisure, and show up after a good breakfast to be whacked by the Snuffies. Besides, Ensign Weed had just turned LTJG, leaving Candy Andy behind as the sole brown bar, and he was feeling the power of less visibility.
So it was that when the phone in their stateroom began to ring about midnight, a sleepy Weed fumbled for the phone, rendered less than required military courtesies and hung up. When it rang again, some "frabbs!" were said, and this time, Weed left the receiver off the hook. Puresome thoroughly approved and went back to sleep.
The situation escalated when someone started whanging on their door and hollering. Since Puresome and Weed had had the foresight to barricade their door, they knew they were safe and just hushed up until the whangers and hollerers got tired and went away. Then, because of clean living and pure hearts, they slept like large rocks.
In the head the next morning for showers, other junior pollywogs had tales of a sleepless night of horseshit and humilation in the ready room rendered by LT Loose and his cohorts.
"You guys are in a world of doody!" was the word. "Loose is going to make you guys wait until we come back from WESTPAC to go through the ceremony. There won't be many wogs, and special attention can be rendered to your beautocks."
"I have trod upon my manly parts with golf shoes yet again," wailed Puresome, who, as usual, had not foreseen any way he could have been had.
But Weed had figgered. He had not been invited to seek his fortune outside the ivied walls of Aggieville because he was a dumb child; his solution was simple and direct. "Let's just put on our grubbies and get in line." Puresome, who never should have doubted, agreed there was salvation in numbers, and they joined the long lines of initiates in shorts and T-shirts.
What fun the Snuffies had that day! Pollywogs crawled on their hands and knees through double lines of sailors with paddles. Beautocks were smacked hard. It was Enlisted Fu. The journey involved traversing half a jet engine container filled with water and slops from the galley. Puresome was especially thrilled to kiss the slime-covered beer-belly of the "Royal Baby." Finally, King Neptune and his court were passed and Puresome and Weed were pushed out of the process by those behind them. Covered with slime and crud, they crept off to the showers, disgusted but successful Shellbacks.
Better Fred was already under a shower when Puresome started detoxing. Being a pink-cheeked, fair-skinned sort who had taken more than his share of hits, there was a glow below like a neon light. "Hey, Better Fred," Puresome submitted, "if you ever get tired of the coupes in Thighland business, you could probably sign on as a replacement for the ship's port running light with them bunns!"
Unfortunately, Better Fred didn't see the possibilities of Puresome's suggestion, probably because he was major tired of Puresome's lewd questions about Thigh food and interest in just exactly what kind of Coupes those guys drove. Also, he had never had the opportunity to drop out of the J.O.O.D. Program, which was where Puresome had learned that the left light on the pointy end of the boat was red.
The good news was that Puresome and Weed stayed one step ahead of LT Loose until the ship dropped anchor at Singapore, where the matter was forgotten in the mad scramble to be the first down the chain for liberty. Later, at the ADMIN, with the help of lots of whiskies, Puresome was able to successfully plead temporary insanity and being mistaken for someone who gave a shit. As comrades in the great adventure, the issue quietly dissolved in the frantic possibilities of the great candy store of shore liberty.
The better news was that, on the way home under a wide and starry sky, nobody whacked on their door or phoned them when the ship crossed the equator.
THE RELUCTANT SHELLBACKS is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul
THE NIGHT THINGwritten by Jack Woodul
illustrated by Jack Snow comments by Steve Milliken
Certainly, the Demon that used to live out there at Mach One was dead. By the time Puresome hit the tactics phase of the Naval Aviation Advanced Training Command, it was ordained that the students first hop in the F11 Tigerjet would include stroking the afterburner, stuffing the nose over, and no-big-dealing through the Sound Barrier. But the Thing that lived at night around aircraft carriers, the Thing with yellow eyes and long teeth that could curdle the righteous stuff of the most steely-eyed Naval Aviator, was alive and out there, waiting.
Even Air Force Pukes knew about night noises, mysterious moans and glicking sounds made by ones aircraft that were ominously amplified at night. Patrol Pukes knew that night air sucked lift off the wings, and that night over the ocean sea was darker than forty feet up the gastrointestinal tract of the largest dinosaur. But carrier aviators knew the Night Thing was all of that, and, on any given night, could manipulate the vertigos, the sea, and both ends of the Boat to make you look bad, or dead, or both.
Back at University, Puresomes dreams of Wings of Gold were occasionally troubled by sea stories from the fleet that percolated down to his NROTC unit. Night carrier qualifications involved haphazardly hurling an aircraft with a slow-to-spool-up engine at a heaving spot of iron in the ocean, and many who tried were found wanting and sent off in humiliation to be Chaplains assistants in remote corners of the Empire. And there were the dark images of the Know when, then go! poster of horrific Crusader prangs that seemed to regularly happen at night. But Puresome knew that there were many rungs of the ladder to hack before he had to face that particular malevolence, and he stuffed his nascent awareness of the Thing into a box and put it on a far shelf in the back of his mind. But it growled and quivered and waited its time, never very far away.
All the while Youthly was flying FAM (familiarization) hops, formation; doing low levels; learning the fine art of idiot loop, over-the-shoulder bomb delivery of the Doomsday Weapon and other such delights on weapons deployment to MCAS Yuma, previous classes of Firps progressed to the stage of doing hundreds of Field Mirror Landing Practice landings, preparatory to the Final Exam of day and night carrier landing qualification. Each simulated carrier landing pass was closely graded by RAG LSOs (Landing Signal Officers), and Firps had to pass their cold-eyed scrutiny to earn their trip to the Boat and carrier qualifications. Puresome watched and listened to their progress with studied indifference and real attention, knowing his day was coming.
And so it happened that the Firp class in front of Puresome went to the Boat and three Firps had done their day qualifications and then refused to fly their night qualifications! They subsequently had their wings ripped off, their swords broken, and were hustled off to Vladavostock, all very publicly!
Jerbis Flinderbars! thought Puresome, its alive! as something dark and evil YOUHAHAHAed its way to his minds center stage.
This Frabb-up at the Boat constituted the ultimate Naval Aviation sin: it made people look bad. Therefore, guano ran down hill until a great heap of it landed on the heads of the RAG LSOs responsible for certifying students as ready for the Boat. Naturally, the LSOs passed on their pleasure at this condition to the lucky students of Puresomes class. They would not Frabb up, or they would not pass go.
So Youthly flew his fanny off, doing six or seven bounces at Fentress, the auxiliary field set aside for this business; then popping back to hot pit refuel at Oceana, and returning to Fentress for another go. LSOs snarled and their assistants wrote caustic descriptions of each pass. After a week of two-a-days, there was less yelling and government issue ball-point pens didnt burst into flame as often, and the students graduated to two-a-nights. Puresome would emerge from these hops with his flight suit soaked and fuming, calooses on his butt, and a real need for half a glass of good scotch whiskey.
After nearly two hundred simulated carrier landings, the hard-eyed LSOs were as satisfied as they were likely to get, and Puresome got his ticket punched for a trip to NAS Cecil Field and the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, CVA-42. He listened with great attention to instructions in etiquette around the ship , so as not to play the complete Delta Sierra during his ten day and six night traps. No mention was made of the supernatural attraction of thunderstorms to aircraft carriers or possible poltergeist intervention.
The day traps on the FDR were fun. On the second day, four day traps were required before going out for night qualifications, and Puresome felt he handled the substantial sink-hole behind the Boat with some competence. But, hanging around the rest of the day, waiting for his turn in the barrel that night, caused an intense attack of what athletes call adrenaline build-up and Naval Aviators call the chickenshits. Even watching the antics of the pre-autothrottle RA5Cs from Vultures Row failed to divert him much. Somehow, the wild flapping of their huge horizontal stabilizers and their ponderous waveoff performance, like a leviathan stuck in a tar-pit, seemed to prefigure a certain amount of doom. It did not help to have entirely too much imagination.
Which made it too easy to imagine that the red ready room lighting and the red goggles used for night adaptation had turned everything into some naval level of Dantes inferno. The trip from the ready room up the escalator was red-lit, as was the flight deck, and the waiting A-4s hulked ominously in the gloom. As Puresome shoe-horned himself and his thoughts into the tiny A-4 cockpit, the Night Thing sensed an opportunity and grinned an evil grin.
Puresomes first frabb-up was conceptual. Even though he had to fly his carrier approaches with his seat in the full up position, so as to be able to see over the nose of the Scooter, he figured that, since he would be flying actual instruments in the black-assed night, he would take the catapult shot and fly the pattern with the seat full down, the better to see his instruments. It was a bad idea. He was not used to the seat position, was profoundly uncomfortable, and never managed to line up the TACAN needle and the boat on his first trip around the pattern. Cleverly raising his seat to the normal position solved his instrument scan problem, and the next pattern found Puresome staring at the dim, red drop-lights on the blunt end of the boat and following the meatball down the glideslope, more or less as advertised.
Bolter! Bolter! Power and go! hollered the LSO, and Puresome disappeared into the blackness. Something Evil cackled, but nobody really heard it.
His next pass was identical: Youthly couldnt help himself, squoze on a little power against the sink hole that had to be there, sailed over the wires and made sparks in the night.
I will be frabbed if I will! Puresome snarled into his mask. I will do this! He realized that there was no place for wailing, doomed dinosaurs or Dantes gloom, only himself and what he had to do. He fought the Evil Force to a draw, fixed himself on the job, and flew the Scooter around the pattern and trapped.
After refueling, he launched and banged out five more traps, even though the vertigos gave him the sensation of doing aileron rolls down final on the last pass.
Does that give me a qual? Puresome squeeked as he taxied out of the arresting gear in the red deck lighting that wasnt nearly as ominous as it used to be.
The Air Boss allowed that it was. And the Night Thing would have had a hissy fit, but it was not its nature, and there would always be other nights.
Puresome knew that the Night Thing had not gone away, but was always there, waiting. Before his first night trap in his fleet squadron, he went to bed all afternoon and flew his approach a thousand times in his head, and he was ready when he almost lost it when he descended from a pinkie holding pattern in his Tinker Tanker down into the dark. Puresome started thinking about the night trap immediately after the catapult shot on every subsequent night hop, and it was never far from his mind, even while dropping flares and bombs on the godless, rat-eating commies. Sometimes a good LSO with a calm voice could bring you aboard despite the all the efforts of thunderstorms and supernatural intervention.
The Night Thing might never be far away from Naval Aviators, but Puresome knew that the important thing was that you could kick its ass.
THE NIGHT THING is copyright 1998 by Jack Woodul
DOGGUS DELECTIwritten by Jack Woodul
illustrated by Jack Snow
comments by Steve Milliken
"Yaaaaaa..Hoo! exploded Puresome as he unlatched the Sierra fittings on his oxygen mask and dropped it in his lap. Having just screamed into the break and landed after being safety-wired in burner for .5 hours (maybe) airborne, Puresome was still going machedy-mach as he cleared the runway at NAS Fallon.
He and Virgil Viper had just done battle with the wily A-4 adversary, and, this time, he had cheated and won! The normally agile Scooter had been souped up with a big engine and everything but a radio taken out; they could turn and fly up their own hineys. Painted in the camouflage du jour, ie, morning desert, afternoon desert, semi-cloudy, hung-over invisible, the Tinks were flown by good sticks who practiced Migging every day and wore only gold-lame' breech-clouts and head-bands with Gomerisms written on them to humiliate their prey. Even though the Crusader was a manly machine, Puresome had noticed that after some of his mightiest zooms to the moon, the little bastard was trapped at his eight o'clock low.
The lie was that there were no egos involved in this two-v-one dissimilar combat maneuvering--the adversaries were like clinical test pilots, who calmly described the on-going fight on voice recorders while making drawings that would shame Michelangelo, clearly depicting how the Atoll got shoved up your tender tailpipe.
The fact that Doggus made it out of the briefing alive was testimony to the basic gentle nature of fighter pilots.
It didn't make things any nicer that the Crusader pilots didn't get to paint little Scooter kills on the sides of their aircraft like Doggus and his pals...
So the fighter pilots in the Airwing slavvered to make simulated fireballs out of the bastids. The standard fight had the A-4 anchored at the far end of the ACM range on a Tacan radial at twenty thousand feet; the fighter section would launch and burner into the area and down the designated radial with the bogey coming at them from the other direction. Talleyho would be somewhere in the middle of the area, and the fight would be on!
Today, Puresome and Virgil Viper had decided to Cheat and Win by displacing to the sun side of the radial and possibly a bit higher than the standard twenty thousand feet. Like, maybe, another ten thousand or so. They blasted off into the area and whoostled down the radial up-sun.
Ralph Lead, radar contact, twenty right at ten miles! Puresome lied like a sports car salesman to a NAVCAD, since getting radar contact on the bogey gave additional points on a Compex, and he wanted Doggus to be looking away from the fighters in the sun. But there was no way he would stick his head inside a radar boot--he wanted his eyeball pupils about the size of pencil points and able to see mosquito scrotes or A-4's at great distance.
So he squinted out the windows, and Virgil squinted at him and down at the radial from his starboard side combat spread position. Sure enough, there was Doggus, ten oclock low and down-sun.
Dropping his nose, Puresome barrelled out of the sun, with Viper cutting across the circle. He had already briefed "No gates on the Tallyho call, since the Crusaders would leave after burner puffs to clue an already nervous Doggus to their position. Puresome dropped through Doggus's seven o'clock low and lit the burner as he put his gunsight pipper on the A4 and his Sidewinder missile started to growl. Punching his radar ARO button, the range only needle quickly showed just less than a mile. With the Sidewinder sucking up the heat signature of the Scooters exhaust and howling for release, Puresome held down the firing pickle on the stick and transmitted, "Fox two on the A4, one mile deep six!"
Doggus hacked his watch to mark the shot and reefed on an eye-watering nose high port turn.
Puresome, megamach and in burner, cut to inside of his turn and projected his nose in front of the turning A-4, heading him off at the pass for a possible gun shot.
"Vipe's free," called Virgil, cutting across the circle behind them.
But Puresome, closing fast on Doggus, knew he couldn't hack the A-4's turn, but kept pressing to keep him turning until the last second; then, he leveled his wings and zoomed. "Ralph's free," he called.
Doggus would have loved to reverse, drop half flaps to try and get his nose at Puresome and pickle off an Atoll, but Virgil Viper was now smoking up his wing-line, and he had to drop his nose to gain energy to sustain his turn.
"Vipes engaged!" Virgil grunted, honking on the g's as the A-4 started out-turning the rapidly closing F-8.
But Puresome had ruddered over in his vertical climb as soon as he saw Doggus drop his nose, and as the A-4 reefed hard to force Virgil into an overshoot, Puresome was pointed down as his wingie leveled his wings and zoomed.
Once again, Puresome pulled up inside Doggus's turn and pressed him. Again, Doggus was able to turn the corner, and Puresome had to level his wings and zoom.
But now, Doggus had bled his energy down, and, as Puresome ruddered over from his zoom, he watched Virgil come across the tight circle and close the A-4, his nose pointed in front of the out- of- poop Doggus.
"Guns, guns, guns!" called Virgil as he worked his gunsight gyro pipper through the A-4, which, though out of energy, was not out of ideas and was frantically trying to activate his cloaking device and go invisible. The Viper rolled his wings level and zoomed.
"Ralph's engaged, and Fox two for you, Doggie Lu, Doggie Sue!" Puresome transmitted in his most professional manner.
"Roger, knock it off, good fight, guys," Doggus called, "see you back at the patch."
"Roger, seeya, Doggus."
Puresome pulled around to the south, more or less, since his RMI compass was hopelessly Tango Uniform, but he knew if he pointed away from the mountains surrounding the desert floor of the ACM area, NAS Fallon was down there someplace. Knowing exactly where you were was an unusual, and possibly unmanly luxury anyhow. Puresome stuck his wing up in a gentle turn and throttled back to 90%, watching the Viper sliding up his wing, rendezvousing with him.
"Ralphs, button one zero."
The Viper clicked his mike twice.
But the Moon was in the Seventh House, and Jupiter was aligned with Mars, as the intriguingly nasty looking hippie girls sang in "Hair." Puresome just figured it meant everything was super Sierra Hotel, which it was. Puresome kept the nose down and the speed up, and nobody even thought about getting in their way and slowing them down. They scorched along until Puresome and Viper rolled together into a fan-brake over the numbers, easing to idle, speedbrakes, and lots of g's, finally dropping the gear down and raising the wing up passing through the ninety, and getting on-speed and working the ball for long enough on final not to look like an Air Farce puke with fifteen thousand feet of runway in front of him.
Puresome was still hyper as they taxied back to the line. He had popped the canopy open, and the wind felt good on his sweat-soaked flight suit. He opened the zippered pocket on his left arm and took out a small comb, which he used to separate and straighten two halves of the world's most obnoxious handle-bar mustache, which the oxygen mask had smushed. Puresome was on the moustache side of a cycle, which alternated between it being part of obnoxious fighter pilot image, and total disgust at the build-up of mayonnaise and bread-crumbs under his nose, which Puresome would not be able to face on some early morning, hung-over trip to his mirror and terminate with extreme prejudice.
But now, looking good, Puresome switched over to base radio to report the status of his aircraft.
Instead, an irresistible, preverted inspiration seized control of Puresome. "The duty officer's a NANCY BOY! The duty officer's a FAGGIT! Skreeek! Squawwwk! Skreeek!" transmitted over the radio in Puresome's best parrot imitation.
"Uh, calling Scarf base, say again?" came the response.
Puresome was wise enough not to answer.
The only problem, Puresome found out back at the ready room, was that he and Virgil Viper were the only two Scarfs airborne, and there was an AOM in progress when the parrot called in. Loudly. While the Skipper was addressing the assembled officers. Since Virgil Viper only opened his mouth to complain about mess bills, by process of elimination, that left....Puresome as the prospective corpus delecti.
IM STICKING TO IT
Wild Fredman, who had been SDO, knew that without an admission of "I done it," the best he could hope for was a hung jury. Besides, the rest of the squadron had boogied off for the BOQ, enroute the bar and Mom's Gamblin' Establishment, so there weren't enough folks around for a firing squad anyway.
Of course, Skipper Razor knew. And all the Scarfs knew. But Puresome knew that on such rare, perfect, high mach days when he had kicked some serious fanny, he was as immortal as any Fighter Pilot had a right to be.
DOGGUS DELECTI is copyright 1998 by Jack Woodul
DEAD SOJERSby Jack Woodul
Naval Aviator's Dictionary:
Dead Soldiers--the mangled aluminum, tin, and glass corpse containers of at-sea liquid joy, smashed flat and hidden away until suitable conditions for consignment to the deep, usually late at night. . . . .
"When Puresome comes marching home again, hooraw! hooraw!" was playing with drums and fifes in Puresome's head as he and Weed heroically marched down the midnight passageway toward the fantail, magically invisible and oblivious to the tinkling contents of two parachute bags as they whanged against knee-knockers and pipes as the carrier thrummed through the night.
The silly grins that were frozen on the faces belied their grim mission. Earlier perusal of their magnificent stateroom had shown no more places to stow remains, and old, displaced skivvies piled in corners were causing scowls from the Brotherhood of Stewards. So, well fortified with rum and Hawaiian Punch, a decent burial off the fantail was decided on.
Puresome and Weed had come by such a backlog as a result of planning. In preparation for the cruise, they had spent $25 on a second-hand refrigerator, had it craned up to the number two elevator, and with the help of some of Weed's ordnance persons, stuffed it down two ladders and a passageway and into their stateroom. With the addition of a hasp and a lock, it was ready to produce ice to chill the vegetable and fruit juices so necessary to hydrate naval aviators.
The further discovery that two cases of refreshment in a parachute bag was the approximate size of an Akai tape recorder led to many conversations on the quarterdeck on returning to the ship:
LTJG Puresome reports his return aboard, sir!"
"Very well! What'd you buy?"
"Akai tape recorder, sir!"
"You aviators sure do like your music. . ."
"Yes, sir!" With a stomp and salute. Once, Puresome actually did bring on an Akai tape recorder.
The ice and stockpiled refreshment made their stateroom a popular place. The dentist next door would come over, and he and Puresome would sing selected parts from "The Messiah" at the top of their alcoholic lungs. Many meetings of the Reserve Junior Officers Association were convened. Often, Puresome would lapse into sleep with someone like Ray Roge droning on about the physics of the interaction of ice cubes with the scorch in his mug, and awake hours later not to have missed any of the monologue. All in all, it helped everyone deal with the troublesome fact that, just because they were dropping bombs on North Vietnamese bridge approaches, the Gomers were trying to shoot them. Puresome thought this unreasonable and advocated bombing the dikes so they couldn't "have a rice day," but Weed felt sorry for the poor girls.
But, for all the social good, possession of Sojers alive or dead, was officially verboten. The word from the ship's XO was breaking of swords, ripping off of buttons and body parts if discovered. This naturally added piquancy to life aboard ship. Puresomes Skipper and XO gained huge status when they locked everyone in the ready room at the end of line periods for naughty movies and doses of Old Overhold obtained from Quack Dock, the flight surgeon.
If swilling was semi-dangerous, disposing of the remains was doubly so. There were numerous stories of burial details come to grief. One such party had crept onto the flight deck and flung a paper sack full of casualties directly into an upright whip antennae, which had bent over and volleyed the sack back onto the flight deck, and the unfortunates had to chase the tinkling cans down the flight deck.
Thus, finally backed into a corner by earthly remains, Puresome and Weed had fortified themselves, gathered up the evidence into two parachute bags, and set off for the fantail. The few persons encountered in the deserted passageways had evidently not seen anything amiss in two glazed-eyed characters in flight suits and orange ball caps hauling tinkling parachute bags that smelled strangely like stale beer.
With their pupils the size of pencil leads from the bright lights of the passageways, Puresome and Weed finally arrived at the fantail, which was dark as only night at sea can be. The two stood at the railing, momentarily mesmerized by the roiling phosphorescence of the wake. Then, unzipping the parachute bags, they started sailing the flattened cans into the night.
"Day..is..done!" sang Puresome as he sailed a can and Weed did a kazoo imitation of "Taps." "Gone the...sun!" As another can arched into the dark. "From the...hill! And the dale! And like that there!"
Puresome and Weed had happily conducted about a third of the required ceremony when their eyeballs started adjusting to the dark. At about the same time, they both became aware of....several cigarette ends glowing in the dark. They..Were..Not .Alone!
Yaaaaaa! Two parachute bags were flung over the railing and the two bugged out in panic like the nuggets they were, careening down passageways and ladders to huddle in their stateroom, waiting for the "man overboard" alarm to sound. As their breathing slowly returned to normal, they realized that Grong, the God of happy hours, Olongopo, and Junior Officers, had smiled on them once again, and they had truly been invisible. Stupid, but invisible.
So, survival broughteth wisdom. In the after days and on other cruises, Puresome and Weed passed on the knowledge of the ages, and more and more junior aviators survived the ritual.
When their reefer finally died of old age and interior fungus, a large group of young, manly men gathered on the number four sponson as it was chunked into the deep. It was if they were witness to the passing of an old and honorable friend.
DEAD SOJERS is copyright 1998 by Jack Woodul
THE GREAT FIREPOWER FRABBUPby Jack Woodul
Burners belched fire, and mighty jets slipped the surly bonds as the "Foxtrot" flag flapped in the thirty-knot breeze that Momma Nature and the Captain of the carrier had arranged for the 1300 launch. Clouds of steam boiled out of catapult tracks as chaps in gaily colored jerseys carefully choreographed the dance of the jets on the big flight deck. The ship's engineers took the opportunity to blow stacks, and a huge, noxious cloud of black gas roiled aft out of the funnels, raining cinders into the eyes of a group of distinguished looking, gray-haired, and binocular-draped old farts crowded all around the ship's island and especially in Vulture's Row, the best seats in the house for today's show.
For today's mission was not merely dancing the skies on laughter's silvered wings, but a performance of great subtlety and symbolism loosely titled "Blowing Holes in the Ocean--a great many of your defense dollars at work." For these observers were Congress Persons, out to observe the handiwork of their industrial constituents and "our brave, Amerricun boys." Spending the day being sucked up to on a Forrestal-class yacht, eating "chow," and watching a major-league fireworks display wasn't too bad, either.
Puresome didn't care if they were the Bayonne Bowling Club or the Minions of Zoroaster--happiness a warm gun, and he was going to be a shooter an audience!
The firepower demonstration was to be awesome. A Phantom jet would fire a Sidewinder missile at a paraflare dropped by an A-4. A Scooter would do an over-the-shoulder bomb-drop on a smoke light. Two Phantoms would make simultaneous, low-altitude supersonic runs on either side of the ship, guaranteed to cause organisms, minor losses of control, and possible pacemaker interference. A daisy-chain of some questionable propriety would fly by, consisting of consenting, adult tanker aircraft--an A-3 whale, plugged by an A-6, plugged by an A-4, plugged by another A-4. And so on.
But the best part was when four Phantoms in diamond formation would drop a great many 250 pound snake-eye bombs from a low altitude pass just aft of the ship, followed sixty seconds later by Puresome firing five nineteen-shot rocket packs from his Scooter at the same spot of steaming ocean!
Since timing was everything in airshows, a great deal of practice had gone on prior to the real thing. Clocks got hacked and potatoes were counted, and everybody honed up for the big day. Puresome had to arrive at a seven thousand foot roll-in point, ready to start his forty-five degree dive as the Phantom formation crossed the wake of the ship in their bomb run.
Of course, everybody was reasonably serious. It would be bad form to punch some kind of hole in the ship, and there was a long tradition of interesting frabbups at airshows with ample opportunity to repeat. Like the photo F-8 that had done a half Cuban-eight, popping out flash bombs instead of on the straight and level. Or like numerous aircraft that smacked each other or the water. It was one thing to be dead, but quite another to look bad.
But the big day was going like divine clockwork. Puresome orbited at a safe distance on the starboard side of the ship, watching the rest of the airwing do their thing, monitoring the radio, and waiting his turn.
Finally, the flight of four Phantoms below him moved out of orbit and started moving towards the ship, their flight lead shifting them into diamond formation and losing altitude for their low-level delivery. Puresome eased into high trail behind them.
The Phantom leader called the ship inbound, switches "hot," and Puresome triple-checked his ordnance station switches on, mode switches to "rockets," gunsight and mil-lead, and turned his master armament switch "on," being real careful to stay away from the trigger, not being anxious to send many, many 2.75 folding-fin rockets whoostling out before their time. Puresome hung in the air, almost at roll-in, and watched the four Phantoms approach the ship. Their diamond formation was impeccable. Ace lead was flying the bomb run steady and level, his wingmen glued to his airplane in Sunday-best-Blue-Angel diamond formation.
"Standby, standby..." Ace lead called, prepping his wingies to drop their bombs on his call, and Puresome rolled into his rocket run, still lagging his nose behind the Phantom flight slightly.
"Pickle! Pickle! hollered Ace lead, and an impressive number of snake-eyes fell off the four planes.
Unfortunately, a couple of them had the bad manners to blow up almost immediately, and Puresome, screaming down in his dive, watched fuel immediately start streaming in copious amounts from the wings of two Phantoms!
"Yaaaaa! Ace two is hit!"
"Yaaaaa! Ace three is hit! Losing fuel! Yaaaa!"
"Hey, neato!" thought Puresome, just like the Big War!" as his eyes went all squinty, guiding his pipper to just the right part of the ship's wake.
And as the once impeccable diamond formation deteriorated somewhat and disappeared in a haze of JP-5 and frantic radio calls, Puresome squoze the trigger and punched 95 perfect holes in the ocean blue.
Such is life that the Congress Persons had cheered wildly. It seemed so real! And the two Phantoms had made it to nearby NAS Oceana all right, but with just enough gas to leak on the runway some. And Puresome had pulled off his rocket run and done exuberant aileron rolls off into the blue to what he hoped was thunderous applause.
The next time Puresome saw Ace lead, he told him how thankful he was to have Phantoms around to give tone to what otherwise would have been a disgusting display of military might, and that impressed congress persons would probably buy them a couple of new Phantoms...
Ace lead had adjusted his ascot and considered shifting his weapons systems to the ground-to-Puresome smack mode.
"You dirty, lousy, stinky, cheaty rat!" he snarled.
"Yes," answered Puresome, well and truly adjusting his orange and black Attack Puke ball cap. "Isn't it pretty to think so..."
THE GREAT FIREPOWER FRABBUP is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul
BLOOD BROTHERSby Jack Woodul
The Cubi Point O-Club was crowded as hell, and Puresome and Weed had been there since early afternoon, when they had snuck off from their respective extremely responsible junior officer collateral duties aboard CVA-62.
They were at the stage of beer-drinking (short of bullet-proof and invisible) where the facial muscles are paralyzed, limiting the subject to a single, silly-assed expression and terse speech.
Early-on camaraderie had gradually lost out to sullen belligerence as the Club had filled up with Phantom pukes, A-6 pukes, RIO pukes, and some ship's company pukes, including the Air Boss, who was, besides being a commander, generally considered to be an asshole.
Not only were most of the crowd not righteous A-4 drivers, their noise was drowning out the Filipino band's version of such favorites as "I reff my har een Sam Pranceesco," which usually caused Puresome to get all wet and runny.
Hey, Weed," Puresome nudged his room-mate, "lookit that weenie Air Boss sitting over with that bunch of blackshoe faggits!"
"Yup," commented Weed incisively.
"I vote we launch an Alpha Strike against that target," continued Puresome, whose soft-voiced comments actually blanked out the bands spirited rendition of You better quit kickin my dog around. Other malcontents muttered approval, swilled their drinks, and made ready.
None of the shot glasses lofted from the bar across the smoke-filled room actually struck the target, but its approaches were severely cratered. And though it had seemed like a good idea at the time, Puresome and Weed found it prudent to mix and mingle in the crowd away from the bar to avoid reprisals launched from the impact area.
Now that immediate death seemed to have been avoided, Puresome had time to acknowledge the relentless filtration of San Miguel beer through his system. Since his full bladder light was on, he left Weed for the long trip to the head, or the bushes outside, whichever came first.
After a trip outside and a furtive stop back at the bar for more cold beer, Puresome eventually found Weed in intense conversation with a short, skinheaded individual. Weed was staring down like a snake stares at a conejo. "I bet you're a... god... damm... MARINE!" Weed was saying. "I bet you're a god... damm... CAPTAIN!" he continued. "I bet you're a god... damm... ROTORHEAD!" Weed hissed, about two inches from skinhead's face.
To Puresome, grinning fixedly, time went one-potato, two-potato, while the object of Weed's withering scorn deliberately shifted his bottle from his right hand to his left; drew back his fist, estimated range, elevation, and windage to Weed's nose, and fired....smack! rendering Weed's normally perpendicular snoot about forty-five degrees port.
Again, time again went one-potato, two-potato while a thin trickle of blood started seeping out Weed's bent nose. The little captain just leaned back and surveyed his work. Weed was still grinning, the neural road to awareness somewhat awash in San Miguel.
Finally, the truth dawned. Puresome and Weed slowly faced each other. "Goddam, Weed," said Puresome, "he hit you!"
"Yeh, goddam, he did!" Weed acknowledged.
Let's hit him!" suggested Puresome; Weed nodded his head "One two three!" The section turned, aimed, and fired, nailing the Jarhead, who had not moved from the original scene of triumph. He dropped out of sight in a forest of aviator legs.
"Fixed his ass, said Weed.
The killer duo had hardly completed their first triumphant swig of beer when a slightly bent Marine struggled up from the floor and yelled, "Goddam, for a couple of squids, you guys can hit!"
"Aw, hell, a section ought to nail a single anytime, and you punched ol' Weed a purty good one, too," offered Puresome.
"Hell of a deal anyway, pardner," said the marine, "Us go get a beer!"
"Bet your ass," snuffled Weed.
The rest of the evening was a paragon of inter-service tolerance--whiskies were drunk; war-stories were traded; even the Commandant was toasted. When the Marine finally wandered off into the bleary distance, Weed allowed that he was a "good ol'boy."
Aboard ship next morning, a befuddled and bent Weed roughly shook the sleeping Puresome awake. "Hey, did you see the sumbitch that hit me?" he said, pointing to the forty-five degree list of his nose.
"Yup," replied Puresome. "It was a god.... damm.... Marine!"
BLOOD BROTHERS is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul
FIRST BLOOD OR A TARGET OF OPPORTUNITY ALPHA STRIKEby Jack Woodul
The very Young and Youthly Puresome was returning through the dim dawn of a Mexican morning, a brick on the accelerator of his VW Beetle, which was chattering along like a sewing machine in heat toward his Inamoratus, afters a summer's abstinence at the dissolute Univerity of Guadalajara. His eyes were glazed over with lack of sleep and pent-up amore. Two hundred miles south of the Border, mesquite bushes and cactus whipped by as the small car hurtled along toward destiny.
Out of the uncertain light in the distance, Puresome saw the outline of the wily Mexican cow emerge from the roadside bushes and climb onto the blacktop. "No sweatski!" he figgered, "I been dodging these critters all summer, and it is a piece of cake." He eased over to the side of the road away from the cow. Off in the distance, the Mexican cow matched his move exactly.
Again, no sweat! Puresome moved back to his original side of the road; the cow again matched him.
At the speed of VW heat, the distance remaining was diminishing quickly, so Puresome was forced to take his foot off the gas and, again, dodge to the other side of the road. Not to be faked out, the cow fixated on his tires and followed him on over.
As time and distance to point of cow impact rapidly diminished, Puresome slammed on the brakes, geared down, and dodged frantically. The cow danced to either side of the road in perfect choreograpy, until, in a squeal of tires and a pall of smoking rubber, Puresome hit the instrument of the AntiChrist smack dead center head on in a tremendous crash! and knocked the animal into the ditch!
Yaaaaa! Puresome jumped out of his beloved machine; the sloped hood between the headlights was perfectly dented with the shape of the animal's ass; there was cow shit on the roof!
Youthly saw red and went totally batshit! He reached under the seat of the car and retrieved the 9mm pistola he had carried all summer to defend himself, located the cow, who was struggling to its feet in the bar ditch, worked the action on the pistola and started to shoot furiously.
He returned to his senses holding a smoking pistola, empty of shells with its action open. The cow was definitely morted with some nine bullet holes in its person. Puresome became aware that this action might not endure him to the locals, and that the owner and his buddies might emerge from the brush waving machetes and screaming bloody murder for a piece of Puresome's worthless, cow-killing, Gringo beautocks!
So he jumped back into the injured VW and tore off into the sunrise. Luckily, he had hit the cow so dead center that the damage did not include the actual steering of the vehicle. When his heart finally stopped pounding some, he remembered the tequila in the trunk, which, even the smallest child knows, is in the pointy part of that car, not the back.
The reason that this might cause some worry was that Puresome had spent most of his remaining pesos on bottles of tequila and packed them loosely in his pile of almost a summer's worth of dirty clothes, figgering that he would leave a couple of bottles visible and declare those to Mr. Customs Man, and hope for the best, relying on the luck of idiots and drunks to see him through. Now, there could be the very distinctive odor of dripping fire water to give him away, and he would be a grape for the minions of the law to pluck, and he would never see Tunita again.
But Grong, the Goat God, who was to befriend Puresome for a lifetime of Happy Hours, took him into his hands this day. Not a drip of cactus juice dropped, because, as it turned out, not a bottle was broken in its careful cradle of dirty skivvy. And, even better, the Volkswagon's hood was jammed shut by the force of impact. He passed through border scrutiny like fat through gooses.
There were lessons here to be learned, but Youthly, being himself, had his eyes fixed on Albuquerque and a rendezvous with sweet, dark-eyed destiny, and heedlessly hurtled north up the interstate highway.
In his smokey, celestial barroom, Grong sighed a massive sigh and marked a "one" on the cocktail napkin with Puresome's name on it. Because he knew with a prescience peculiar to such a deity that there would be lots more marks out there in the misty future, and that he'd have his hairy hands full taking care of the boy.
And, being a god, of course he was right.
FIRST BLOOD is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul
THE NIGHT I GOT MY NAVY CROSS, (ALMOST)by Jack Woodul
Way up in a useless, obscure corner of the flight schedule was a piece of routine trivia served up daily by Norman-the-Fink, the beloved Schedules Officer. This was the assignment of the "PT-Boat CAP," a pilot from each of the attack squadrons charged with the heavy responsibility of manning an aircraft to fight off the rat-eating commies in case they decided to O.D. on rice wine and charge out to Yankee Station to do a PT-109 number on the U.S.S. Independence.
That no Gomer JFK had seen fit to come and get us had been noticed by flight crews, and, since the assignment of the PT-CAP seemed mostly ceremonial, this information tended to dusty abandon in comparison with real-life concerns, like which brown-nosers were getting two day hops.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the boys had been into the rum-and-Hawaiian-punch jug that night in their palatial CVA-62 stateroom. Weed had rolled inverted and crashed into his rack sometime earlier, because about midnight thirty, Puresome realized he had been holding conversation with no answers for some time. His last thought before his eyes rolled back in his head and he spun into his upper rack was that he had a nordo roomie..
The sounds of the telephone ringing and Weed trying to (1) find it, and (2) answer the right end would have been hilarious to a milk-fed quarterback, but Puresome was not of that persuasion and was mystified by the whole proceedings, especially by Weed screaming in his face that the caller was the squadron duty officer, and he wanted to talk to Puresome!
Eventually, Youthly understood and rolled out of his upper rack to land, cat-like, on his left hip and shoulder. Finally addressing the phone through the correct end, the SDO made Puresome understand that he was the PT-boat CAP and it was a launch! Launch'em!
It was zero-dark-thirty; Puresome was Hawaiian-punched; and he didnt like this at all. Stumbling into flight suit and boots and every knee-knocker on the way to ready-room four-starboard, things didnt get any better when a wide-eyed SDO verified that he was to suit-up and man-up: the Commies were coming!
Puresome fumbled through putting on his g-suit and torso harness in abject fear. he fumbled up the escalator through the red lights and into the darkness of the flight deck. After tripping over most of the tie-down chains on the flight deck, he finally found Sidewinder 412, which seemed to have two wings.
Since he was too befuzzled to think of any sophisticated downing gripe and was too busy figuring out how to convince the Big Guy that if he saved him this one last time, he really was going to straighten out and join the boy's soprano chorus, Puresome zombied up the boarding ladder and into the cockpit.
The longest five minutes of his life were those spent strapping into the cockpit, getting external electrical power plugged in, fiddling knobs and praying. Reprieve came with a plane captain scrambling up the ladder and yelling that the launch had been scrubbed...thanks again, Big Guy!
After a reverse procedure of tripping over tie-down chains, Puresome found his way back to the ready room, too weak with bit of a near thing to do more than throw his flight gear in a chair, give the SDO the finger, and hump back to the old stateroom, where Weed was obviously snoring on. Puresome was sleeping the sleep of the boozy righteous in thirty seconds.
Shortly thereafter, he was treated to deja'vu most foul: the phone rang, and Weed eventually answered. It was the SDO for Puresome, the duty PT-boat CAP guy, and there was a launch! Again. Puresome was still in the domain of punch, but this was too much--he was pissed! He donned his flight suit and boots; stomped to the ready room; told the SDO to perform illegal and immoral and painful acts upon his own person; donned flight gear, strode to the flight deck, found and mounted Sidewinder 412; got external power and air, started the aircraft; taxied to the number one catapult, turned up, and.....launched!
Up came the gear! Up came the flaps! On came the radar! And on came the armament switches! Yahoo! Wagner was playing, and fat ladies in horn hats were singing as Puresome switched to Strike Common frequency and received a vector for the encroaching rat-eaters. On came the gunsight, cranked-in went the mil-lead, and, there on the scope were, yes! Blips! Yahoo! Puresome's eyes went all squinty in the dim light of the cockpit as he closed with the radar contacts.
Behind him, newly awake and stone-cold-sober, the CAP aircraft from the other squadron was launched into the inky black. It was not a good thing.. Uh, Sidewinder 412 from Blue Hawk 310, say posit," managed its driver. Youthly actually didnt say anything like missionary, but spat out his radial and DME from Guntrain tacan.
Merge plot! Puresome giggled maniacally as he pickled off three Mk-24 paraflares, jammed on full throttle and climbed and turned to reach a roll-in position to bomb the Commies when the flares illuminated. As the flares lit, he could see..."there's something down there! Clear me to shoot, Guntrain, clear me to shoot!"
Ah, negative cleared to fire, 412," Strike Control came back, "we're receiving radio transmissions that these are friendly Czech freighters bound for Haiphong, rest, and relaxation..." In mid-dive with pipper on target and bomb pickle under thumb, Puresome could only exclaim "ratsfannies!" to himself over the lost opportunity to save his ship, his mates, and to cover himself with well-deserved glory. "Uh, Sidewinder 412 from Blue Hawk 310...say posit" crackled over the UHF.
The rest of the launch was a piece of pastry. Puresome droned about, pickled off the rest of his flares in a clear area, looked at the pretty stars, and awaited his approach time back to the ship. Blue Hawk 310 contracted the vertigos and diverted to Danang. There was enough punch still flowing in his veins that Puresome didnt even mind the night trap.
By the time he had dumped his sodden flight gear in the ready-room, fired off a further insult or two at the sleepily indifferent Squadron Duty officer, the Wagner aria playing in Puresome's head had turned into an anthem played by the little man with the ice pick. As he switched on the light back at his cozy stateroom, a hung-over Weed pulled the sheets over his head and whimpered.
"It's OK, dirtbag," said Puresome, "I been out saving your ass."
THE NIGHT I GOT MY NAVY CROSS, (ALMOST) is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul
The True Adventures of a FOP (FRIEND OF PURESOME)
by Jack Woodul
BOUNCING THE SPIDERby Jack Woodul
Screaming out of the sky, Puresome the Pitiless, Terror of the Air, and ex-Yankee Air Pirate searched for victims.
The test hop on the mighty A4B, dredged out of the Arizona desert and made ready to do battle with the wily Gomer, was complete, and the more important business of jumping unsuspecting Florida Air National Guard F-102's or the unwary A-4 separated from the herd was at hand.
Puresome had raised the test-hop on aircraft coming out of maintenance to a high art. When his old squadron had decided to step up to brand-new A7A's, he had cheerfully declined and walked across the hangar to be an instructor in the Tinker Toy RAG.
This had proved to be a bagger's paradise, because, even if he was not scheduled to fly, he could often hang around the duty officer's desk and snivel a couple of hops. Being assigned to the maintenance department, Puresome could often pick up a couple of test-hops as well. Despite the considerable number of clicks on his body's counting accelerometer and corresponding dint in his supply of Med-Cruise skorch at the end of the day, Puresome was sprinting for the flight time gold ahead of fellow-bagger Worm, who had been temporarily stymied by unreasonable A-7 RAG types.
The cruel war was raging, and ancient A4B's were filling breeches in the ranks of the much more modern A4E's and A4C's. "Where are the ECHOES of yester year?" Puresome wondered as more and more of the runty-nosed scooters showed up.
But flying the prehistoric bird wasn't all bad. The needle-ball-airspeed usually worked, and below two thousand pounds of gas, the BRAVO compared well with the ECHO and easily whupped the CHARLIE in aircraft bending contests.
The Florida air around NAS Cecil was a target-rich environment, so Puresome had honed his test hop routine into thirty-minute thing of compact beauty, leaving some thirty minutes available to teach unwary aircraft to beware of the Puresome in the sun.
But today had been ratty. Other than the one square turn he was able to get out of an F-102 and an ATOLL pass through a four-plane formation headed for Pinecastle Target, which had dutifully broken left and resumed after Puresome whoostled by, the morning had not been real interesting. Since he didn't have enough gas to go lurk around the Cedar Key power station, another well-known choke point, Puresome reluctantly headed back to Home Plate.
But, shortly after he switched to tower frequency, things started looking up. Sidewinder 404 called for takeoff on Runway 27 Right, and Puresome recognized the voice as belonging to his pal Spider, flying one of his old squadron's brand new A7A's! "Yeee...Haw!" Puresome immediately leveled off and headed west toward the field. High, sun at his back, and at perfect fighting weight, his eyes went all squinty.
Spider was an ex-squadron-mate who had made the transition to the SLUFS's, and, in spite of being an LCDR, was a long-time particular pal. He had shown up as a replacement at the beginning of the second line period on Yankee Station, a bull LT coming back to sea duty. Spider blustered his way into the ready room, hoping to divert attention from his "FNG" status with noise. Spider waved his hands and carried on in front of a small group about how they used to do stuff back when he was a "Fighting Red Cock."
Prematurely salty LTJG Puresome was having none of it. Mindful of the rules of ascendancy of sea-duty over shore duty pukes, he was especially offended that Spider didn't know enough to be humble in the presence of mighty warriors who had already fit the forces of evil. His mouth went into autoload, cocked, and fired.
"Yaaa, right! You boot!"
"Boot?...Boot?" Spider sputtered in disbelief, hands going unsynchronized and out of control, "I've got more time at high station than you've got in the NAVY!"
"Yas, and I've got more time in the Phuc Yen GCA pattern than you've got in post-grad school!" Puresome interrupted, and the potential game of smack'em in the mouth was narrowly averted by the intervention of Captain Zoderly, boy SDO, and other less smarty types.
But Spider was a kindred spirit--he loved to fly, and it showed. Puresome came to really envy Worm for having Spider as his section lead. He was a good stick, a good leader, and was not just a little nuts. So it wasn't too long before Puresome assigned him a place among the very elder gods and they became pals.
Puresome even composed a song honoring Spider's previous West Coast status:
"Red Cocks! Red Cocks!
Raw! Raw! Raw!
Bestest squadron you ever saw
Finest drivers on the block,
are the sweeties in the squadron
with the fighting Red Cocks!"
Spider accepted the honor with grace for about the first one hundred and sixty times he heard it.
But now, Puresome hung on the perch, watching Spider's A-7 waddle down the runway, fat with a full bag of gas, and get airborne.
"Must have called for a low performance take off," mused Puresome as he dropped the nose and crammed on the throttle.
The lightly loaded Scooter picked up mega-warp in the dive, and Puresome rapidly overtook Spider from six o'clock low. Timing it just right, Puresome zoomed up from below and passed just in front of Spider's aircraft. Woomp! Spider's life flashed before his eyes and his head whanged upside the windows as his plane passed through Puresome's jet wash. "Etai!" he yelped.
Puresome zoomed straight vertical and, keeping the G's on, barrel rolled around for a classic gunnery pass of great beauty. Spider, recovering, had dumped the nose of his thunder pig in an attempt to gain some smash.
But it was a slow thing, and Puresome relentlessly smoked in.
Budda, budda, budda! Puresome squoze the trigger as the A-7 filled his gunsight. Simulated leaden death streamed from his guns.
Once again, Puresome pulled vertical. But, just before rolling over the top, he realized something was a bit wrong. The cockpit had mysteriously filled with smoke.
"Whut?" Puresome stuck his head inside and cleverly noted that the "fire" light was on. "Whut?" thought Puresome again, closing the throttle, "this can't happen to me."
His nose being pointed straight up and his airspeed rapidly dwindling back toward the peg, the next order of business was to recover from the unusual attitude; Puresome eased the stick over, and the nose fell thru.
Foom! Spider's airplane swooshed by! After Puresome's initial attack, he had madly started dumping a great deal of gas over the Florida countryside, and had pitched back into the fight with a vengeance. Now Puresome, somewhat distracted, was the grape, and Spider was the plucker. As Puresome started regaining some airspeed and his nose started to come out of the dive, Spider scorched by again. Puresome was too preoccupied to notice that he, too, was drinking simulated leaden death.
Puresome had leveled off and was trying to figure out where exactly he was. All the electric instruments were dead, and the wet compass was still madly wobbling around. Knowing he was west of the field somewhere, Puresome scientifically figured that he had to go "E," and, since it was still morning, that was where the sun was. As he started turning in that direction, Spider roared by, having Puresome's ass and loving it.
"Jerbis Flinderbars! Hefoe! Hefoe!" Puresome yelled into his mask, holding his forearm across his helmet.
But the good news was that the motor did not seem to be melting and ran OK with the power set at 88%, and that NAS Cecil had to be out there somewhere through the cockpit smoke and haze.
But the better news was that Spider had finally figured out that something was a bit wrong, and he joined on Puresome's left wing.
Puresome whanged the glareshield with his open palm several times, then held his forearm across his helmet, followed by holding up five fingers, the signal for engine troubles. Spider nodded his head, understanding perfectly, and Puresome passed him the lead.
The wind had died down, and Spider led Puresome to a straight-in approach to Nine-Right at Cecil. After visually OK-ing Puresome's gear, Spider broke off and Puresome put 110 mils on the gunsight and got a good hit on the runway. He taxied off the active and shut down among the flashing lights of fire trucks and the meat-wagon. Puresome disgustedly left the quietly smoking turd-wagon as quickly and with as much style as possible.
Of course, the problem was a rat-gnawed wire bundle someplace that had caught fire and burned stuff up, not an expertly fired golden BB, as Spider maintained later when he wandered over to: (a) collect a souvenir piece of wreckage for his "I love me" room, (b) drink a small, silver goblet of Puresome's blood, (c) generally jerk Puresome's chain.
“Years from now, when you speak of this...and you will....be kind," Puresome axed.
But he did not really care.
Puresome the Pitiless would be back.
BOUNCING THE SPIDER is copyright 1997 by Jack Woodul