Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. What a dream! No, it was not a nightmare, like the ones I had after the war. I was in the Army again, I mean Basic Training at good old Fort Lost In The Woods. That place had to have been chosen because of its Korean like weather, roasting hot or arctic cold with no in between. Basic was bad enough, but to relive it in a dream is way too much.
What was I doing there? Why would they want a recruit almost seventy years old? That’s more than twenty five years older than the general. Even the battalion commander looked like a kid. The other recruits were young enough to be my grandchildren, if I had any. Even the man in the next bunk (in my dream) at thirty three was about ten years older than the other recruits. Now I know more about military stuff (especially history) than most of the enlisted staff. Hey, I lived through a bunch military history. I was even at Valley Forge (the Army hospital, not during the war with George Washington). All that I got from mentioning my experiences was trying to push the ground down, twenty times every time I opened my big oral cavity.
Remember the guy in the next bunk? He works with me in the supermarket where I have a part time retirement job. I’ve yet to ask him what he was trying to prove by invading my personal dream. Someday I’m going to ask him why he wanted to enlist at his age. Just for the fun of it, I wish I could find a way to get into somebody else’s dream. Not for any evil or ulterior (ulterior, how is that for a word which makes me look literate!) reason. I just want the comfort to know I am not alone in this dream stuff.
Does anyone remember basic training with helmet liners and M14s? Right shoulder arms! Klunk… Ooh that hurts! For the first week that rifle barrel would glance off the helmet liner and my brain would feel like the clapper in the worst sounding bell you’d ever heard. With the second week my aim got better and the ringing stopped until we got the steel helmets. After almost fifty years my shoulder still has a permanent groove where that hunk of iron was slammed into it.
How about the rumor about saltpeter in the food to suppress certain desires? I was too tired at the end of each day to even think, let alone think about those kind of desires. Another thing about Army food, it kept your plumbing clean. That malady was not for nothing called GIs. I liked Army food, even the creamed beef on toast and C-rations. Comparing Spam with a certain part of a horse’s anatomy may, or may not, have been fair, but when you’re hungry, you’ll eat almost anything!
Why can’t I have normal dreams? Before I went into the Army, I took flying lessons. I would dream of trying to land an airplane, but on every try, the wheels seemed to be held off the ground by some invisible force. At the moment of success I would fall out of bed. My biggest fear, when I enlisted, was falling out of a bunk bed. Wouldn’t you know it, I was assigned an upper. I feared it, but it never happened. The fear came back when I became a helicopter crewman. I think what kept me safe was that I was not the pilot and had no reason to try to land in my sleep.
It’s rare that I remember a dream. When I do remember one it is always a weird one. Back in the Army at seventy? Not unless I get a desk drivers job, an officer’s commission and no more basic training.