That night, She washed dishes as I helped Number Three with her arithmetic and stealthy peanut butter snarfing from the jar. I gulped down a dollop of trepidation—not easy with a mouthful of peanut butter—and told the Squeeze I had orders to go to Tailhook.
She turned around holding her gloved hands up so the cuffs caught drips.
“Because I’m responsible and mature, you know?” I said.
The cacophony from the family room ceased. The TV broadcast dead air. The nine-year-old dropped her peanut butter spoon onto the floor. The Squeeze looked at me that way she did—still does, actually—with her head cocked a little to the side like a robin drawing an aural bead on a worm.
She pointed an orange, rubber-gloved, sudsy finger at me.
Then she started laughing, howling more like. The moon wasn’t even full.
“Oh, God,” she said, “I’m going to split my pants.”
Which would have been serious. “Decent” shopping was a four-hour drive out of the Mohave Desert, with me tending six over-energized, over-constrained bundles of noise and motion while she tried on a lot of slacks in a lot of stores. Fortunately, she did not split her pants.
By the time I left for Hook, she could look at me without giggling—occasionally.
On Saturday at the convention, I sat in on the morning and afternoon flag panels and presentations because it was my duty. My attention wandered though. They talked about subjects far above my ability to control, subjects that would not affect what I did on Monday at work, and subjects that would not alter my life in the next couple of years. The problem was most likely due to the fact that I still looked at myself as a JO (Junior Officer), despite the fact that I was an O-4, had had the lobotomy, and had my JOPA (Junior Officer Protective Association) membership card revoked.
That night at dinner, I sat with some guys I didn’t know, East Coast pukes, I guessed. We had three unoccupied chairs at the table. A comely young woman, body parts piled on top of each other in a right fetching way, pulled a chair back.
“May I?” she asked.
“Oh, hell yes,” one of my tablemates said.
“I’m the scout,” she said.
An Aussie. I didn’t catch the accent in her first two words.
“I have three roommates,” she said. “Shall I call them to join us?”
“Oh, hell yes,” original welcome mat said.
“Hell no,” another said. “You stay. I’ll call them. What’s the room number?”
The other three girls arrived, and we were one chair short. I left. For a number of reasons, actually. The biggest being a needlepoint the Squeeze did for me in a heart-shaped frame. “I love you,” she’d stitched. Underneath that line, in smaller letters was “RLB.” Remember Lorena Bobbitt.
I found a table of defense contractor reps with an open chair. We introduced ourselves, and in a nanosecond forgot names and occupations. The dinner progressed. A ramp vs. time function described the increase in db level and the number of rolls flying around. The guest speaker plugged away dutifully with his script.
“Even if CNO was the speaker,” one of the reps said, “nobody’d listen.”
“Hell. If Bob Hope was the speaker nobody’d listen,” another said.
I thought about God and Abraham walking down that road. I thought about that biblical scene a lot where God said he was getting pretty fed up with Sodom and Gomorrah and that he was going to nuke the twin cities.
Abraham asked, “What if there are fifty good guys?”
Then he proceeded to weasel God down to ten. Abe quit there. As it turned out Lot and his family only made a handful. If they’d mustered ten, it would have saved the cities.
I made one more appearance at Hook, in ’85, to receive a plaque. The Squeeze and I attended the dinner. We grabbed the plaque and got out of Dodge.
Ten of us got orders to Hook ‘78. Maybe we didn’t measure up to the kind God and Abraham were looking for. Hook got nuked in ‘91, or rather, it nuked itself. Real close to fifty years, the Tailhook Convention lived in closed-circle infamy. But Hook ’91, the whole world noticed that one.