If only Jack hadn’t believed his friend when he broached the subject of climbing down that roof drain pipe. They were recently led around in handcuffs for buying something legal. Confessing to the purchases and the investigators searched, but there was nothing to be found.
It was the Six Day War between Israel and everyone else but USA. Young Gator was in Top Secret communications and they had just been ordered to do 24 hour watches with 12 hours off to recover. It was somewhat dreary and very hard to do. His best friend, Chuck, opened his hand to Jack one day and showed him something he called a ‘pep pill’ “you can buy them at the pharmacy in port” Sounded OK and they worked. Methadrine, stronger than espresso but with somewhat unpleasant side effects.
They got by, but Chuck developed a fondness for the little white pills. He sort of ‘hid’ on board when he would get hallucinations and paranoid. Jack didn’t have a clue. Someone in the division turned them in and that’s where the handcuffs showed up. They wound up in the Marine Brig on land and Chuck said a fellow ship-mate was coming after Jack with a knife that night because he had fingered him as the major smoke distributor on board. Not like the movies with a one way glass, just ‘escorted down a passageway and “Is that him?” as the entrepreneur stood about 12 feet away. Brilliant. They locked us up in a common bull pen. Maybe he did come with the knife? It was a long time ago. They did not lock up the pharmacist. As mentioned, meth was legal over-the-counter in Italy. Just go to the pharmacy and ask for it; “Pills or injection bottles? Do you need a needle?” Clueless.
The boys had the duty of cleaning the building when they spotted the big drain pipe going down to the courtyard. A few days later, they were gone and in Sicily by the time it was noticed. They spent a lot of time on the run and wound up in Rome. They lived with some street people who crashed in a rehab catacomb near Trevi Fountain. Begging for 100 Lire coins in Italian and snagging coins thrown from the economy tour buses. You could hear the aluminum windows snap open as the tourists flung the coins into the ‘Three coins in the Fountain’. Jack visited the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and finally looking a bit worse for wear, they wound up in Florence. The cops came for them in the morning where they were camped and they wound up in handcuffs again, this time in a car headed for Pisa and another jail. Just like the movies. Very uncomfortable riding across Italy with hands behind.
As Jack and Chuck approached their new residence, they leaned over a bit with the cuffs at their backs and saw the leaning tower out the window. “Wow, it really does lean a lot!” More unpleasant accommodations and finally a court marshal. Sentenced to six months hard labor in a Marine Brig in southern Spain, Rota. What is called a ‘red line brig’ with guards ready and able with pistols if you crossed that line. They got a bit of torture of sleep deprivation for three days and were allowed to join the bull pen after: Strip your bunk! Make your bunk! Go to sleep! 1 hour intervals, repeat until you plead. It works. It breaks people down very efficiently. Gator still has dreams about that.
Especially the water in the face. Fun Marines, bad duty for them with a few moments of entertainment now and then. After three months working hard in the heat, the biggest guard asked Jack if he would like to ‘dance’ with him in the isolation cell. What did Jack have to loose? A bit stronger from the work, he said, “sure, might be a good time” ‘Ahh, you’re no fun’ and that guard went back to whatever it is that guards do. Time was up, discharged with an Honorable discharge eventually, and they were flown back to the states on a very uncomfortable C-130. What a career, and Jack was doing so well. To be continued…