Let The World Go By
This is a story that involves sex between males. If such a story is offensive, or illegal for you to read where you live, then do not continue, go and surf elsewhere.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental.
The work is copyrighted © by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
I want to thank all of you who have sent me comments about the story. I know that I have not answered all of the e-mails please forgive me.
The Years In Between
The C-119 shuddered, its tires screeched and began turning as the silver colored twin-boom cargo plane touched down on the cold asphalt. James turned his head and peered out of the small window over his right shoulder. Outside he could tell little about the base on which they'd just landed. It was drab in color and seemed to be made up of mostly metal huts with a few frame structures, all of which were painted a dark brown or a nondescript beige. Given that was March, he expected only to see trees and bushes; and he saw none.
James looked around the inside of the plane and tried to get some sort of feeling from those with whom he had shared the plane ride from Tachikawa Japan to this desolate looking air base somewhere south of Seoul South Korea. Most of their faces were glum like his own. They were for the most part new to the Far East, although some were returning from an R & R, Rest and Relaxation Leave, as it was more formally called.
Besides the personnel on the plane, there was a stack of supplies securely fasten to the floor of the plane in the forward area. Each man had with him his duffel and handbag, which contained all his worldly possessions.
The plane rolled to a stop, its engines slowly wound down. Everyone looked to see that he was ready to leave. A cold blast of air rushed in as the rear cargo door was finally opened and the ramp put down.
The orderly deplaning gave little hint of the panic which some of the men felt. Most, if not all, were under the age of twenty. Few, if any, had any idea what the war zone would be like. It was March 1953 and the fighting continued, although there was a talk of a truce between the North Koreans and the United Nations Forces, as there had been for over a year now.
James was no different than most of these men. He was recently graduated from the Air Force Training Center at Belleville, Illinois, a small suburb of East St. Louis, Illinois which itself was a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and was located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
He'd spent the past twelve days en route here. Ten of those days were on board a small Navy troop ship, the U.S.S. Bruster. The last two days were spent waiting for a plane to bring him here.
He and all the others who had arrived with him from the States were quarantined until they could be dispensed to the various bases throughout Korea and Japan. Those staying Japan would be staying for thirty months, while those being sent to Korea would be there only twelve months. While two and one half years sounded like long time in comparison with one year, almost everyone had agreed that they would rather have spent the extra time in Japan. But the choice had not been theirs to make.
"Attention! Take out your orders!" Called the Sergeant with the clipboard in one hand.
Everyone pulled their orders out, and when he saw that they had, he continued, "You will find marked with a yellow circle around it, the organization to which you are being assigned. When I call that name I want you to form groups separate from all others. You will then be taken to your new organizations by one of the airman from that group who is here to meet you."
He began calling out the names and numbers. When he called out, "Thirty-Fifth Fighter Bomber Squadron!" James moved out of the formation and fell in front of the airman who quickly stepped out from behind the Sergeant. There were five others who lined up with him. When he completed reading the list the Sergeant called out, "Good luck!" He paused a moment, "Dismissed!"
The various groups then began moving away from the aircraft toward their new homes. James was surprised when they did not march. He guessed that everything was a little more relaxed here. He never minded the orderliness of the military but he appreciated not being treated like he didn't matter, as was often the case in the places he had been so far in the service.
When they arrived at a hut that had the sign of the squadron to which they'd been assigned, they went inside to report for duty. They handed a copy of their orders to the orderly room clerk who met them at the door.
"You will all be in Hut 9 and you can pick up your bedding and other gear from the supply hut which is Number 12 on the other end of this building," he began. "When you are finished getting your gear put away, report back here and someone will come to take you to your work stations."
James went with the other five men to the metal building with the number 9 painted in white on a small sign outside the door. All the buildings in this area were the same, a long metal building shaped like a metal tube cut in half lengthwise. There were doors on either end and a series of short but wide windows down both sides. Since it was March and weather cold, they were all closed. Only when the weather was warm were they opened. A slot in each window all them to adjust the amount of fresh air they wanted.
Inside a small Oriental boy met them, James assumed to be Korean, who beamed at them.
"I, Tobbysan. I you houseboy. I shine you shoes, I clean you hut, I wash you clothes. I take care of you, you take care of me. I number one houseboy," he bowed and waved his hand to show that they should come in and pick out their new beds.
The beds were metal. The ones which had a mattress rolled up on the head end were free. The rest were made and had dark olive-drab blankets on them. A white pillowcase covered the pillows, and a white sheet peeked neatly out from under the blankets.
"Everybody worki-worki," said the boy. If had been an American boy, James would have guessed that he was six or seven.
"How old, Tobbysan?" James asked.
"Tobbysan be fourteen in Christmas time," he said proudly. James found it hard to believe that he was just five year older than this boy.
"My name is James," he told the boy.
"Please to meet you, Jamesan," he extended his hand to James, and they shook hands.
Tobby went around to all the new men and learned their names and shook their hands.
"You hubba-hubba get sheets, most chow time," he told them. Even though the words were not totally understandable, the meaning was clear: if they didn't hurry, they'd miss their lunch. Soon they were all back, their arms loaded with the various items of equipment which they use while they were in Korea: Two blankets, a pair of sheets, pillowcase, an extra pair of longjohns, sweater, a parka, helmet, mess gear, heavy boots, mittens, and scarf. The items were hurriedly put away and the beds made. Tobby was supervising everything, making sure they knew where each item went. He kept checking his watch, and when it reached five minute before twelve he called to them.
"Time get in line! Chow soon!" He went to the door, and said, "Follow me. I show you Mess!"
They all laughed, and dropped what they were doing. He led the way to the mess hall. When they arrived there, a few other men were already standing in line.
Tobby shook his finger at the group following him, "You too slow! See you not ichibon!" Then realizing that he might be pushing too hard, said smiling at them, "But you good GI anyway."
When he saw that they were all in line, he ran back to the hut to be there when the rest of his men came in for chow. Most of them stopped to wash up before making their way to the mess hall.
"More GIs come today. Sis," he said holding up his fingers to indicate the number. "See, I get them set up, and take GI to chow. Tobbysan handle everything."
"Tobbysan brag too much!" scolded Harris pretending to be upset with Tobby. Then he picked up the diminutive houseboy, and said, "You did well, Tobby, very well." Tobby giggled as Harris tickled him.
After lunch James and the others who had just arrived that morning went to the orderly room to get their assignments. James was assigned to the radio repair section. Four of the others were assigned to the aircraft maintenance section; the fifth was assigned to the photo section.
"Arneson?" the airman in baggy fatigues asked putting his head inside the orderly room door.
"Yes?" James answered.
"You're to come with me." James followed him down the hill, and across a road and into a building just the other side of the road.
"Here he is, Lieutenant."
"Hello, Arneson. I'm Lt. Winkler," said the lieutenant shaking hands with James.
"Pleased to meet you, Sir." James responded.
"This droopy-drawered mess is Taggart." Taggart and James shook hands. "This redhead is Murphy." They shook.
"That one back there is Sheldon." James walked back and shook hands with Sheldon and said hello.
"The others, Swanson and Riles, are out on the line. If I'm not here when they come in, just introduce yourself. Everyone's got tags on so don't worry about names today. You'll be getting yours later today from the orderly room. That's one thing the Captain's very particular about. He doesn't want to mistake one person for another when he sees you," Winkler explained.
"Thank you, Sir." James responded.
"No need to call me Sir"," Winkler said, "It's easier here to call me Lieutenant, or Wink, if nobody's around."
"All right, Lieutenant," James said.
"Good. You'll be working with Sheldon until you've learned your way around, and we find out what you know."
"Very good, Lieutenant,"
"Sheldon," Wink called. "You take Arneson around when you finish that IFF unit, okay?"
"Okay, Wink," Sheldon called back. James walked back and stood watching Sheldon who was tuning the IFF unit, which was an automatic two-way radar-like with the name Identification Friend-Or-Foe. They were relatively new on the line. James had seen one at the school, but had never seen inside one, since he hadn't had the clearance to work on them, and also because they were serviced by radar-trained repairman. Sheldon, it turned out was a radar repairman, who it seemed at the time, had been miss-assigned to the 35th. But before the Captain, who was very particular about such things also, could get the paperwork made out for Sheldon's transfer, found that they were being shipped in on the next flight from Tachikawa. After their arrival in Korea, it was determined that he indeed was in the proper organization one such technician per squadron.
When he was finished, Sheldon said, "Okay, Arneson, let's go put this back where it belongs." James followed Sheldon out the door to the Jeep that stood nearby.
"This jeep's checked out to Wink. We use it all the time, since we only have one assigned to the shop directly, and it's almost always somewhere else," he explained as he started the engine and put it in reverse and back into low, it seemed to James, as a single motion. The jeep never stopped moving between its backward move to its forward lunge.
"Sheldon!!" came a shout from the ship as they sped away. James wondered if Sheldon has heard his name being called, but said nothing.
"Wink's always complaining about the way I drive his Jeep. But, Hell, it can take it. They're really built! If they weren't I'd have killed it long ago." He grinned as he pulled onto the metal flight line.
Sheldon slowed down as he guided it between a row of park aircraft.
"Ever seen one of these?" he asked as he parked the jeep next to the tail section of one of the shinny metal aircraft.
"No," James replied.
"They're F-86Gs, the best fighter we've got on the line. There are some faster, but none as good as these, not in Korea anyway. The faster ones are stationed in Japan."
"How many in the squadron?" James asked.
"Twenty-five, when we're up to strength. Right now we only have fifteen. The rest are due in by the middle of April."
Sheldon got out and got the IFF unit from the back of the jeep as James looked on. He set the unit on the wing and hopped up onto the wing of the aircraft. Then he popped off a piece of the side with a screw driver. James had only seen pictures of how to take off the covers of the radio compartment, but had never it done. Every plane was different, so they never bothered to show them where to look for it, or how to do it.
James got out and walked over to the plane and would have climbed on if Sheldon hadn't seen him coming.
"Wait," he called. "I want to show you some things about these birds before you go crawling around on them."
James stayed on the ground and watched Sheldon fastening down the IFF unit, and then he had put two other units that had to be removed before one could replace the IFF unit. It seemed as if it was taking a long time until James realized why from what he could see happening. Each unit not only had cables that had to be reconnected, but there were shock-mounts that also had to be fastened. Also as he was to learn later, each fastener had to be safety-wired: a fine piece of wire was threaded through the cable connector and secured to a special screw on the outside of the case, and each shock-mount was also safety-wired to keep it from coming loose during flight.
When he finished he climbed down from the plane.
"Promise me you won't climb into one of these until I show you where it's safe to walk, okay?" Sheldon said.
"Sure, I promise," James said wondering, but giving him the Scout's salute. Sheldon grinned.
James watched from the ground standing behind the wing where he could see what Sheldon was doing. After showing James where to walk and where not to walk on the aircraft wings, Sheldon showed James where all the equipment was located inside the compartment where he'd just finished installing the IFF; he closed the compartment with a screwdriver locking it tightly. Sheldon then climbed into the seat while James stood on the step leading up to the cockpit. He showed James the red-painted lever on the control stick that was used to eject the seat and the pilot out of the aircraft. Then he demonstrated that there were three positions for the canopy closed, halfway open, and fully open; and pointed out that it was always best to have the canopy all the way back whenever possible. "I know," he said, "you wonder why we are so particular about that. One day, they tell me, some new kid climbed in, and he blew himself through the top, only it wasn't all the way open, and it cut him half." The gruesome story did as it was meant to, frighten the new men, and long after it was necessary.
That night after dinner, James was lying on his bunk thinking about all the things that had happened that day. He suddenly remembered that he had told Hobbie that he'd write as soon as he got to Korea. They'd talked on the phone when James was home on leave.
He got up and pulled out his writing tablet and pen. Leaning back against the wall with his pillow behind his head, he began writing:
Dearest Hobbie, I arrived today in Korea. You should see this place, you wouldn't believe it. Everything is so drab, not just the colors, but the buildings themselves, mostly metal huts....."
James wrote on describing the experiences of the day, and the days leading up to it since he'd talked to Hobbie before leaving.
"To back up a ways to the trip over. I had miserable times in the past, as you know, but nothing quite like that.
"Every other day I was on KP for 16 hours, plus for remainder of the day, and on the other days, I was on watch, two hours on, and four hours off. My post was one hallway, outside, on B-deck. Most of the time it was cold and windy. Nothing to see, nothing to do but stand and walk back and forth.
"Being in the mess made me sick so I didn't feel like eating. The rest of the time I was so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open.
"Tell me, how's it going with you? Are you still in the DI role? Or have they moved you up to First like they promised. I hope that you're in the position you want to be in. I wish that I could still be there with you. I miss the good times that we had together."
James paused in his writing to ponder the situation with Hobbie. Was it realistic to even think of trying to maintain a relationship when they were so far apart? He knew that he didn't have the will power to remain faithful to a person that he never saw for months at a time, to say nothing about years. He thought it was the same for Hobbie. It was far too difficult for most men whether they were gay or straight.
"I want you to know that I really do love you, and I know that you love me. But being practical, like you said when we talked, means recognizing our limitations, and admitting to ourselves that the reality is that we can't remain entirely faithful to each other. I am beginning to see what you were saying.
"Like you said," he continued, "My hand is starting to take root, it's there so often. But it's not just the sex, it's the companionship which one needs when times get trying, that is important too. No matter how hard I try, when I get down, I really do need someone to be close to, right at that moment.
"I take out the pictures of you and look at them when I get especially down. Right now I'd like to be with you and hold you close to me. I want it so much that it hurts me just to think about it...."
James stopped writing for a moment and closed his eyes, trying to visualize Hobbie lying beside him holding him. He felt the strong black arms tightening about him and the warm kisses on his neck and lips. He could fell the tingle in his groin as he felt Hobbie's warm body next to his.
"You okay?" he was jolted back to reality by someone touching his shoulder. He opened his eyes that now were moist. It was Mike Turner who worked in the weapons shop and whom he'd met at diner. Mike's bunk was just two over from his.
"Oh, yes, I'm fine. Just writing a letter home," James explained.
"To your girl?" Mike asked.
"No, no, just a friend," James said, and then wondered if he'd said the right thing, especially considering his condition.
"Would you like to go to the club for a beer?" Mike asked.
"Sure," James said. "I can finish I get back." He needed to get out for a little while, at least. Maybe that would take his mind off from his loneliness.
James put his letter away and got up trying to adjust his half-erection so that Mike wouldn't notice. The baggy fatigue uniform helped, but not enough. From the look on his face, Mike noticed, but he looked away pretending not to.
James grabbed his field-jacket and cap. "I'm all set," he said smiling cheerfully.
They went out into the brisk night air. There was a hint of snow in the air, or possibly rain. The sky was dark and cloudy. It was short walk to the club, which was one of the frame buildings, like the mess, with metal roofing. It was crowded and they went up to the bar and ordered beers.
Mike found them a table and they sat down. The conversation was easy and nonspecific. They talked mostly of the service and the experiences they'd had in common. Even Mike tried not to get into the personal area. It was if he sensed that James didn't want to talk about himself just now.
After the third beer, James had relaxed and was laughing and talking about some of the lighter moments he'd had in school. He was telling Mike about his senior class play.
"You can't imagine the look on the director's face when she realized what we'd done. It was so smooth that no one in the audience realized that we had skipped a full five pages of dialogue and then when the act was over, gone back and picked them up!"
"It sounds like it was a riot!" Mike laughed.
"It worked so well, we told her that we were going to do it that way all the time! She about had a fit! Threatened to fail us all if we did." James laughed again remembering it.
When they returned to the hut later, James was feeling much better. He didn't even finish the letter until the next day. He just undressed and climbed into bed.
In the morning he had a headache, but other than that, he felt fine. The day passed rapidly with all the new things he had to learn. The procedures, and equipment were mostly all new to him. There was only one piece of gear that he was slightly familiar with.
He followed Sheldon everywhere; they had lunch at the same time, and even went to the bathroom at the same time. James thought, "This is just too much, I'm sure that's not necessary." But it just happened that they were talking about something critical at the time, and it seemed only natural.
That night James finished the letter to Hobbie, feeling much better, but he was glad that he had already written what he did. It would tell Hobbie much better than if he'd felt good, as good as he did now when he wrote the first part. He wrote also to his folks, telling them all about the new base, and everything he was doing. They enjoyed hearing about such things. They were glad that he was traveling; they hadn't had much opportunity to travel themselves when they were young. They did some traveling now that the children were old enough to leave alone, but it just wasn't the same as when you were young, or so they told him.
Time passed quickly for James and soon he realized he'd been there for a month. He was now working on planes by himself. The tasks were pretty much routine things, and he was learning fast.
It was nearly the first of May now and the weather had greatly improved. The new planes had flown in from Japan and were checked out. He was beginning to get mail from home now. The schedule of work, eat, rest, etc. was becoming routine to him. It was his first real full time work situation and he was adapting to it well.
On his way back to the hut before lunch, he stopped to see if he had any mail. There was a letter in his box, so he asked the mail clerk to get it for him.
It was a letter from Hobbie, the first one he'd gotten in nearly three months. He could hardly wait to read it. But it was lunchtime, so he put it inside his foot locker and went to mess with the rest of the group.
He had ten minutes before he had to be back at work after lunch, so he sat down on his bunk and got out the letter. Most of the others were doing the same, if they had mail, or were just resting if they didn't.
"Dear James," it began. "How great it is to hear from you! I know you must think I don't care about you, since I haven't written for so long. I was home on leave for two weeks last month. My mother was in the hospital, but she is better now, for which I'm grateful.
"As usual, she wants to know if I'm ever going to get married. Both my brother and sister are younger than I am, and they're both married with kids. Did I tell you I'm an uncle for the seventh time?" James laughed when he read that.
"Well, I keep telling her, I can't support a woman on my pay, a man perhaps, but not a woman! NO, I didn't really tell her that.
"I'm still on the line doing DI work, though, I'm due for another promotion the end of June. Maybe they'll give me a squadron then that is if I make Tech. Sgt. I'll have to go to school before they'll give me the First Sgt. job in any case.
"I cried when I read your letter, really I know how you feel, James. It really gets to me too sometimes. So far, I've only been BAD twice, once you already know about. This other time was when I was home on leave. I went out one night after seeing my mother, when she was so bad. I went to this bar. He was a young white kid, younger than you, but he reminded me of you so much that I couldn't help but like him. We got along fine, at first, but when it came time to go to bed, he just couldn't take it, you know what I mean. I felt badly that I'd hurt him. He didn't bleed all that much, but he cried. I couldn't even finish. I took him back to his room on campus. He called me the next night and wanted to try it again. I told him, that I didn't want to hurt him again.
"He said that didn't care, he just wanted to do it. I told him, that I really couldn't do that to him. He got upset and hung up on me. That made me angry, and I was just getting ready to go out to have a beer, when he called back. This time, he apologized for hanging up on me, and said it was okay, if I didn't want to try it again, but he'd like to see me, even if we didn't go to bed.
"So we went out and had a few beers. I took him back to my mother's house since she was still in the hospital, and we did go to bed. I didn't try to enter him. We just did the other things that made him happy. He looks so much like you; I wouldn't have paid any attention to him otherwise.
"I hope that this won't affect the way you feel about me. I feel badly, but like we agreed when we first wrote, life goes on despite what we want or do. We have our needs that have to be met. As long as you know that I care for you, and would rather I were with you, more than anything else in the world, if only we could.
"I feel so badly, I can't go on......
"Love always, Hobbie."
There were tears in James' eyes when he finished reading, which he quickly brushed away as he folded the letter and put it back into his locker. He would reread it again after dinner. God! How I love that man! I want to be with him too, more than anything than I can think of!
Fortunately they were very busy that afternoon, and on into the evening. Heavy ground action in the north meant heavy air support from the south. The war interrupted even the best schedules occasionally. James had no time to brood about the letter, or even to reread it that night. He was exhausted.
He wrote a quick note to Hobbie the next noon. Just to reassure him that he did indeed still love him, and did understand.
James was on his way into the orderly room to mail it, when he bumped into and almost knocked over a man coming out of the door.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry," James said.
"Hey, that's okay."
"Really, I hope I didn't hurt you," he apologized again.
"No, I'm fine really."
James took a look at the airman he bumped into. He was a short, wiry, tousle-haired blonde, even younger than himself.
"My name is James Arneson."
"Mine's Harry Davis," came the response.
"I've got to run, but let's get together tonight, I'll buy you a beer. It's the least that I can do," James suggested.
"That's fine," Harry answered.
"What hut are you in?" James asked.
"I'm in 8."
"Good, I'll see you later. Sorry, I've got to run." Harry waved his hand and went on his way, while James hurried in to mail the letter and then back out and down to the radio shack.
Once again the planes flew until well after dark. James ate dinner early and went back to work. On his way, he stopped to leave a note for Harry. It read simply: "See you later. James."
James finished up about eight-thirty. He was tired, but he felt good. He hurried and showered. The cool water refreshed him and he was singing on his way back to the hut. Inside he dressed and hurried next door to meet Harry.
Harry was writing a letter when James walked in.
"Hi, there!" James called to him as he approached.
"Hello! Just a second, I'll be ready to go," Harry answered as he signed his name and folded the letter and stuffed it in an envelope that he'd already addressed.
"Can we stop on the way and mail this?" Harry asked.
"Sure, why not?" They went back to the orderly room and Harry dropped the letter into the slot marked MAIL OUT. Then they walked over to the Airmen's Club.
James bought two beers and found them a table. They talked of the usual items of interest to a new arrivee at an Air Force Base. By the time they were ready to go back to their respective huts for the night, they had discovered that they would be good friends. Both were idealistic, young, and sensitive. It was good to have found a new friend when you were far away from those you loved.
"Have a good sleep, Harry," James said as they parted.
"You too!" Harry said. They went on to their beds for badly needed rest. Morning always came early, the first flights were due out at dawn. This meant that the preflight crews had to be up at least an hour before sunrise, which was at this time of the year, five-thirty.
It was four days before James and Harry were able to take time out for a beer together again. Harry was in aircraft maintenance. He would be responsible for coordinating all the repairs on his bird, as they called the aircraft, and the overall maintenance of it. The number painted on the tail was FB-0691, and his pilot was Charles E. Perry, call Chuck by his friends, a cheerful small, but tough competitor. He and Harry had arrived two weeks apart, Chuck first. Harry had specific training on the F-86G, and so was not bewildered by the maze of equipment that was on board. He knew who had to handle which of the chores involved with keeping the bird in the air as long as possible.
When Harry and James sat down at the table at the club, they were already deeply involved in conversation.
"Like I was saying," Harry said, "I've always liked going out to eat. And I've noticed that many of the places you go; don't really provide the kind of food and service which most people want. And, I might add, have a right to expect."
"That's true," James answered.
Harry continued, "When I get out, I'd like to have my own place. Do it up right. And have the best food in the city."
"Sounds like a good idea," James said. "I really haven't thought too much about what I'd like to do when I get out. So much can happen between now and then, I haven't made any plans."
"For me, it's what keeps me from going crazy, being away from home and all," Harry said taking a sip of beer.
"I suppose," James mused.
"Cindy says that I've too many big ideas," Harry said, and added, "But I don't think you can dream too big."
"Cindy's your girl?" James was glad for a change in the subject.
"Yeah," Harry answered, "She's real neat." His eyes misted as he thought about her, and added, "She writes to me all the time." It wasn't quite true, but who knew otherwise.
"It's good to have someone who writes and keeps you up-to-date on what's going on at home." James said.
"Yeah," Harry went silent for a long time, thinking about all the things that were happening. James didn't interrupt the reverie.
Harry was embarrassed when he realized what had happened. The jukebox had changed songs and that brought him back to reality.
"Guess I just went away," he said. James smiled. He liked Harry. He was a dreamer, but had both feet on the ground at the same time, and that was unusual in a person, especially a young man Harry's age. They continued talking, not about anything very specific, just idle conversation. The sense of companionship was developing, a sense that they knew whom the other person was, and it was creating a bond between them.
Later that night when James was lying in his bunk, dropping off to sleep, the picture of Harry standing high on a hill of green grass holding out his arms to someone came to his mind. He felt himself running. And then he fell! The sensation of falling, and looking up as he fell changed the picture in his mind. He was looking up, and heard someone calling him as he continued to fall. The voice was far away, and he couldn't tell who it was. Everything went black as the falling stopped and he felt nothing. He shivered in his sleep, and waking briefly his eyes opened; it was dark outside, and he slept once again.
James was lying on his bunk on Sunday afternoon after lunch when Mike came in the door of the hut. He came up to James and asked him in a whisper to meet him outside.
James sat up and tightened the laces on his shoes and followed Mike out of the hut.
"You know Harry Davis, don't you?" Mike asked when they were alone.
"Sure," James looked puzzled. "Is something wrong?"
"Lieutenant Perry's been killed. His plane was shot down." Mike said slowly.
"Oh, how awful!" James said.
"I don't know what to do," Mike explained. "I was on the flight line when the flight came back from the mission. Harry was there waiting, and when one of the pilots told him that Perry wasn't coming back Harry just threw his hands up in the air and walked away. They tried to talk to him, but he just kept walking. They watched him for a while, and he stopped and sat down by the edge of the flight line, they felt he'd be okay."
"How's he now?" James asked.
"I went out and tried to talk to him, and he just sat there starring, and didn't answer me," Mike said.
"He's still there?"
"Yeah, he was just a minute ago, when I came to get you."
"Okay, I'll go and see what I can do," James said, "But don't tell anyone else, okay?"
"Sure, James. Thanks." Mike patted James on the shoulder. James went back inside and got his shirt and cap, and hurried down to the flight line.
When he got down to the rows of lined up aircraft he noticed the vacant spot. Out on the taxiway, he saw the figure in the distance. He walked out across the taxiway to the grassy area between it and the tarmac runway. He said nothing as he approached Harry, and sat down in the grass next to him. He took out a cigarette and lighted it. He took a drag and then handed it to Harry.
"Thanks, James," Harry said not looking at him.
"I'm sorry, Harry," James said and lighted another for himself.
For a long time they sat not saying anything, smoking the cigarettes. Finally Harry still looking out across the runway asked, "Why, Perry? Why my bird?"
"It's a hard thing to loose someone you care for, or something," James put his arm around Harry.
"Oh James, I feel so helpless. I feel as though somehow I failed him..." He began to sob. James pulled him close to him, and Harry wept on his shoulder.
"It's all right, Harry, it's all right." James continued to hold him as he cried, sobbing openly and unashamedly. Finally when no more tears would come, Harry stopped sobbing and his breathing once again became regular. For a few minutes he didn't move, but remained quietly in James' arms.
"Thanks, James," he said pulling himself upright.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I'll be okay now thanks to you," he answered, "But I feel like such a baby."
"Hey, man, you just lost a good friend, someone you cared a great deal for. You've got a right to feel badly," James said.
"Thanks. He was good to me; he made me feel important in what I was doing. He was a good pilot, and so young..."
"At least it was quick. He didn't have to suffer any."
"Yeah," Harry agreed softly and looked James, he tried to smile. They got up and walked back to the living area, not talking but keeping their thoughts secret. James recalled the picture of Harry standing on the hill holding out his arms to him, and now he knew what it meant. He put the thought out of his mind, and got ready for another long day. One of many that followed seemingly without end.
But end they did, as the Truce which had been agreed upon went into effect. It brought a different kind of feeling to the base.
It was not what they had all thought it would be. It wasn't peace, but rather another phase of the war that wasn't a war. Now there was no combat in the sense of continual shooting and bombing. But there was an occasional outbreak of shooting from the North, and answered by the troops of South. The planes would fly north and dropped a few bombs, but nothing serious. It was more like practice, than like war. But it wasn't a war! Tell that to the men who lay bleeding and dying in the front line hospitals! Tell that to the dead who lay in coffins waiting to be flown home to be put into the ground near where their ancestors lay!
James and Harry continued to grow closer together. They shared their letters from home, so it seemed as if they got more mail than they actually did. James shared the letters from his family who wrote him regularly. The letters from Hobbie were not shared. Those he kept close to his heart, secrets from a secret world far away.
One day late in July, James saw Harry running from his hut toward the latrine, running as if he were sick. James hurried toward him to help if needed. It was just after mail call, and when James got to the door he could hear the sobs coming from the inside. Carefully he pulled the door open and stepped inside. Harry stood out of sight sobbing softly now, no sound coming. James walked quietly to where Harry was standing holding the crumpled pieces of paper in one hand.
James took his young friend in his arms and held him lightly at first, and as the sobs began in earnest again, more tightly.
"It's okay, Harry," he said softly, "It's okay." Slowly the sobbing subsided, finally stopping all together. Harry eased himself free of James' arms, not wanting to appear ungrateful to his friend for his support, and yet not wanting to seem weak in his eyes either. He brushed his eyes with his sleeve and handed the crumpled letter to James.
James took it, and just held it. He looked at Harry as if waiting for some sign to proceed.
"It's from Cindy," he said, "She's getting married next month." His lips quivered, as if he were about to cry again, but he clenched his jaw holding back the tears.
"I'm so sorry," James said. What else could one say? A Dear John, the worst kind of letter to get. One doesn't expect it, and one can't see in advance how to react to it if it does come. James somehow felt immune to the possibility. He had no real commitments, not yet anyway, and with Hobbie it was understood that life was the way it was. Whatever happened happened, and neither of them was to blame. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily make it any easier to accept, but at least there was the understanding before hand.
Harry took the letter back from James' hand as he saw the James wasn't going to read it. He was glad. Glad that it had been James who had found him, because he seemed to understand and care. Most of the guys he knew would understand all right, but somehow he would have felt betrayed by his emotions if he'd cried in front of them. That wasn't the case with James. He really did care, and it wouldn't make him feel less like a man having him know.
He stuffed the letter into his fatigue pants pocket, and smiled at James.
"You're a real friend, James," he said. "Thanks."
James returned the smile and put his hand on Harry's shoulder.
"I guess we should get back to work," James said.
That evening James was on call for Transient Flights, which meant that he had to be available at a moments notice to make repairs or assist a visiting aircraft with problems. It meant that he couldn't leave the area. Often he would just go to the Com Hut, as the communication workshop was called, and read. If calls came in from the control tower, which was the origin for such requests for assistance, they would go to there first, then to the orderly room second. If the on-call person was not available, the call would then go higher, and that was very undesirable! He picked up his writing materials, a book he'd been reading, and strolled down to the flight line where Com Hut was located.
It was a warm night, but dark, the moon was in its new phase. There was just one light pole between the living area and the flight line. It stood outside the orderly room at the top of the slight slope leading down to the flight line. James by this time knew the way well enough to have walked it in his sleep. As he stood momentarily under the light, he thought that he saw the flicker of light coming from the flight line. In a moment it was gone. He dismissed it and walked leisurely down the path to his destination.
He fitted the key in the paddle lock and let himself into the 15 by 20 foot room that served as the workshop for the radio repair personnel of the squadron. After turning on the bare-bulb light that hung from the ceiling, he went to the low-frequency radio test stand and turned on the unit. There was almost always a unit in the stand, even if there was nothing wrong with it. Those units were capable of receiving the standard broadcast band, and although the sound quality was poor, it was at least a source of music to fill the room. He set the volume low so that it would not be heard outside, unless one were really listening for it. Not that anyone would care, but James didn't want to call attention to his presence there, and since the windows were covered at night with their wooden shutters, he would be concealed within. He didn't quite know why he liked it that way, but he was comfortable with it.
For the next half hour he sat at a bench writing a letter to his parents, one long overdue. He was just finishing sealing the envelope when he look up to see the door open. It was Harry.
"I stopped at the hut to see if you wanted to go to the club for a beer, and they told me you were down here," he said.
"Thanks, Harry. I'd really like to, but I can't." James replied smiling.
"I know," Harry smiled back. "That's why I brought these."
He held up a paper bag. Inside were six bottles of cold beer.
"You're going to get in trouble, Harry," James scolded jokingly, "They'll hang you for sure!"
"I know, I know," Harry laughed, "It's against the rules. But a lot of things are against the rules!" He took out two bottles and flipped off the caps with his opener. James went to the door and latched it, he didn't want any interruptions.
"There," he said, "At least we'll have some warning, if anyone should drop by." Harry handed him a bottle.
"Cheers!" he said tipping his bottle against the one James held.
"Cheers!" James returned. It was good, he thought. No one really cared, but it was still against the rules, if it caused a problem. But with no aircraft scheduled in tonight, how could there be a problem?
As they sat chatting and drinking the beer, James soon realized that Harry had been to the club for more than the time it took to pick up the six bottles of beer he brought with him. They had been drinking together before, and James recognized Harry's slurred speech. He said nothing, as it was still early, and sleep would cure that easily by dawn. And for himself, he'd be off from work at noon, if he had any calls tonight.
James drank slowly, and so he'd only had two by the time that five were gone.
"I gotta take a piss," Harry announced. "Okay if I just do it outside the door?"
James smiled, "Sure just wait till I turn off the light. No need to show the whole world what you got." James reached up and turned off the light. Then he walked to the door and undid the latch. Harry stepped outside and stood on the top step. He opened his fly and pulled out his dick. Immediately a stream flowed across the way into the gravel at the base of the metal workshop building. Even in the dim light from the far away light pole James could make out the shape of the semi-erect penis. Very nice, he thought. He was surprised by the thought, and vaguely annoyed, and further annoyed by his own remark that followed the thought.
"That's a nice piece you've got there!"
"Oh yeah?" Harry asked, and added, "Well Cindy always liked it, but she'll never get it again!" His voice was firm, but slurred. His emotions were under control.
"I'm sure whomever gets it will like it." James wished that he'd stop talking about it, not Harry, but himself.
"Yeah?" Harry continued, "I always thought that it was kinda small." Harry turned around when he finished shaking the last drops off. He stepped back into the room without putting it back inside his pants.
James hadn't noticed. He just closed the door and turned on the light. What he saw was Harry standing behind him playing with his cock.
"What do you think? Is it small?" Harry asked.
James looked at it, a little embarrassed, "No, it's not small."
"How does it compare to yours?" Harry asked nonchalantly.
"Oh I don't know," James tried to sound disinterested.
"Come on, James. Tell me," Harry insisted.
"Okay," James said, "Mine's bigger than yours. Not all that much though." He was trying to be vague and wishing that the conversation would end. He was starting to get aroused himself, seeing Harry standing nearby with a hard cock in his hand.
"Let's see it," Harry said suddenly.
"No," James said firmly. But Harry wasn't to be put off. He moved close to James and put his hand on James' crotch. James felt himself flinch, but he held his ground. His cock stiffened as Harry massaged it.
"You are bigger!" Harry said. "Take it out."
James couldn't think of any way out of the situation, and by now he didn't care. He wanted Harry, and he knew at this point that he could have him. Slowly he unbuttoned his pants and pulled out his dick. It was true; it was bigger than Harry's.
"Gosh," Harry said. "I never saw one that big before." He reached out and grabbed it with his free hand. James' cock flexed at the touch.
"We really shouldn't be doing this," James said.
"Yeah, I know," Harry laughed, "It's against the rules." He moved closer to James putting his cock next to James'. The difference in length was almost two inches, and James' was somewhat thicker too. They were both uncircumcised.
"It sure is pretty," Harry said stroking them together.
"Ever suck a guy's cock? I did a couple of times."
James looked at Harry; he frowned at first and then smiled back. "Yeah, I've done it too."
"Good!" Harry said, "Cause I wanna suck your big dick!"
"Are you sure about this, Harry?" James asked.
"Yeah, for Christ's sake," Harry said. "Let's do it. I'm so horny, I'd suck a chicken!"
James knew it was the beer, and the Dear John letter, even so he too wanted to do it. He pulled the ground cloth from off the hook where it hung neatly folded, as if waiting for just such a need, and spread it out on the floor. Harry immediately fell to his knees and took James throbbing cock into his mouth. James moaned. It had been so long since anyone had done that! He feared he'd shoot right away if he didn't stop. James pulled away and lay down on the floor beside Harry. They assumed the 69 position and began sucking each other eagerly. It was true, Harry had done it before, James thought, he knew exactly what to do, exactly how fast to go, when to stop, when to bite down and how much. He drove James crazy with desire for release. James returned the favor raising Harry off the floor at times with his teasing lips and tongue.
"Ohhh!" Harry moaned with James' cock pulled deeply into his throat. He erupted with spurt after spurt of the creamy fluid, filling James' mouth and throat. James concentrated on extracting all of Harry's cum before letting go of his own orgasm which Harry swallowed eagerly as he continued to force James' spurting cock deeper into his throat. When it was finished they lay silently each with a cock lying loosely between their lips.
Harry was the first to speak as he rolled over on his back. His voice was clear, and the slur was gone. "I've wanted to do that since the first day that I ran into you. Did you know that?"
"No," James said honestly, "I really didn't think so." He didn't actually know how he felt, even now. Sure, he found Harry attractive, and felt an urge, to become intimate with him, but he'd been able to overcome it by thinking of other things. That is, until now. Now that he'd been with Harry, even just this once, he couldn't predict how he'd react the next time the thought came into his mind.
"Of course," Harry said, "We'll have to be careful about it, but I do want to be with you again. And do other things too."
"It won't be easy," James said, knowing all the kinds of things that might interfere with such clandestine meetings.
"But I want us to be closer now," Harry said. "I really do like you a lot."
"I like you too, Harry." He accepted the kiss that Harry gave him as he leaned over looking down into James pale blue eyes that glistened in the soft light. James pulled him closer and kissed him deeply, exploring the inner reaches of Harry mouth with his tongue. Even with the lingering taste of the brew and his own cum, it was sweet. Their lust rekindled, and they once again tasted the fruit of their passion.
When at last they parted each going to their beds, the night was far advanced toward morning. Yet neither was tired, and each lay awake long after climbing into bed. When they finally closed their eyes, their dreams were filled with visions of each other, and they slept.
To be continued
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