Thanksgiving, 1976

Back when I was in Oklahoma, the holiday season was approaching. I was living in the barracks again. My attempts to live off base with a couple of roommates had ended in disaster. I’ll be revisiting this neighborhood again…

Dan Franklin was a friend of mine. He was an Orthopedic Technician at Reynolds Army Hospital. It was Dan who diagnosed the greenstick fracture of my right ankle, and fashioned a splint for me so my ankle would heal. There’s another story I have yet to tell…

Dan was married to Leslie, one of the dental assistants I worked with at Clinic #2. Because we were friends, and because Dan and Leslie were incredibly sweet people, I was one of several people invited to their house for a Thanksgiving feast that couldn’t be beat.

On that Thanksgiving morning in 1976, I was sitting at the desk in my room, listening to music. My door was open, I rarely closed it when I was there. Almost everyone that had been in the barracks when I arrived was gone. They had all been discharged from active duty.

Randy, Roger, Johnny and Tommy. The Two Mikes. Jesse. Don One and Don Two. Virg and Alan. Even Lightning Bob. They were all gone. Raoul and I were the only Originals left. That’s what we called ourselves. Everyone else was a Fuckin’ New Guy.

Raoul had gone home to Middle of Nowhere, Texas for the holiday. I’m sure he had invited me to come along–I was practically a member of his family then–based on the number of visits I’d made, and how much I loved his mother’s cooking, but I declined. I had been invited to Dan and Leslie’s, so I wouldn’t be spending the holiday alone. I was just about the only person in the barracks, except for Fernando, and maybe a couple other guys.

Fernando was from Puerto Rico. He was an FNG in my company, and had transferred in to Fort Sill after a tour of duty in Korea. Fernando was a suave and debonair guy. He’d had all of his uniforms tailored to fit him like a glove while he was in Korea. He was 5′ 8″, slim, and what most women might describe as devastatingly handsome. I’m not a woman, and I thought he was extremely good looking.

I had partied with Fernando and his girlfriend, Christina, at the barracks several times. They made a devastatingly handsome couple. She was also from Puerto Rico. She stood about 5′ 3″, deep, almond shaped eyes so dark they appeared to be black, and her long black hair cascaded down below her shapely ass.

I’m actually surprised I remember any of this about her because she had the biggest tits I’d ever seen on a woman that small. Half of her total weight must have rested on her chest, and I’m sure I spent most of my time gazing at her hooters whenever she was around.

At one of the barracks soirées a few months before, I got ridiculously drunk, even for me. The FNG’s living in our barracks had invited the girls living in their barracks to a party, a kind of a Get to Know You social thing. It was a brilliant idea, I wonder why none of the Original guys ever thought of it.

We bought a bunch of booze, rolled a bunch of joints, ordered some pizzas, and even decorated the dayroom so it looked almost festive. It was an Army barracks, there was only so much we could do. To our surprise, some of the WAC’s actually attended–not many–six or seven at the most. There were maybe a couple hundred WAC’s living in the Women’s barracks. Most of them were tough looking lesbians, and they weren’t interested in hanging out with a bunch of sissy guys.

I stumbled over to the pool table and bumped into Fernando and Christina. I was wasted, and started babbling to them about nothing. I have a vague recollection of doing this, but I’m sure I was staring at Christina’s tits the entire time. I very politely asked if I could ask her an incredibly inappropriate question, then immediately changed my mind and apologized.

And then Christina did something even stupider than me. I have a very clear memory of this. Maybe it was because she was one of the only women in the room, and she wanted to prove to everyone she could be one of the guys. I couldn’t tell you what her thought process was, but she asked me to tell her what my incredibly inappropriate question was.

We ended up getting into an argument–You don’t want to know.  Yes, I do.–it went back and forth like that. Finally, she demanded that I ask her my incredibly inappropriate question, or she would never speak to me again.

I looked to Fernando for support because I was pretty sure he was going to have to kill me to death once my question was uttered. He looked at me and said, “Do it.”

I’m pretty sure everyone in the dayroom had stopped speaking. The music may have even stopped playing; it was as silent as a church on Monday.

I straightened my posture as much as I could without falling over. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Just how big are your tits anyway?” It was a question every guy in the room wanted to know the answer to. For all I know, even the girls in the room were curious.

I don’t know how Christina could’ve been that shocked by my question. Everyone that I talked to about it afterwards knew what I was going to ask her, even the other WAC’s knew what I was going to say.

Be that as it may, a look of horror crept across Christina’s face, and she started crying. Fernando escorted her out of the dayroom, down the hallway to his room, and that was pretty much the end of the party.

Fernando knocked on my door an hour or two later. I knew it had to be him. And I knew I was going to got dead. But Fernando didn’t kill me to death. To my surprise, Fernando and Christina both stood outside my door. They looked to be even drunker than me, if that were possible. Christina was still crying, but Fernando was sobbing harder than she was. I may have even started crying.

I apologized to her. I apologized to him. I apologized to both of them. I don’t know how long or how many times I apologized, but it seemed to go on for hours. I think Christina finally stopped crying. Fernando did not. They finally stumbled back to Fernando’s room, each supporting the other.

To say that incident impacted our friendship would be an understatement. Fernando and I still spoke to each other, but not much, and we certainly didn’t hang out with each other. I don’t think Christina ever spoke to me again. And she never did tell me big her breasts were.

* * * *

Fernando likely heard my music playing on that Thanksgiving morning. I tended to have only one volume setting on my stereo in those days: louder. He appeared in my doorway and I gestured him into my room. Fernando looked sad, so I produced a bottle of whiskey from one of the drawers in my desk and a couple glasses. I was feeling kind of down myself that day. We started drinking toasts to departed friends, and to family far away.

We smoked a couple joints, and continued toasting anything we could think of. Before long, we were laughing our asses off. We even laughed about my incredibly inappropriate question to Christina that ended up making everyone cry.

“Jesus! What did she think I was gonna ask her! Have you ever had sex with a horse?”

“I know, man. I knew what you were going to say. Fuck, everyone at the party did. Do you want to know how big Christina’s tits are?” Fernando asked. He handed me the joint we were smoking.

I can’t remember if he was still dating her or not, but I can’t imagine anyone I knew back then breaking up with those gazongas.

“I don’t think I want to go there again, man.”

“They’re 48 F’s!”

“No shit!” I was impressed. I didn’t know tits came in an F size.

“Oh, you should see them, Marco. They are so beautiful, and so perfect! They make this noise when she takes off her bra, kind of a sucking noise, like her tits are vacuum sealed!!”

We laughed as if that was the funniest line ever spoken. We laughed as if we were best friends, and always had been. And before I knew it, it was time for me to go to Dan and Leslie’s.

Now I had a dilemma. I had been planning to give the bottle of whiskey we were drinking to Dan and Leslie for hosting the Thanksgiving feast. Fernando and I had toasted away at least half of it, so that gift wouldn’t do.

In addition, if I went to Dan and Leslie’s, Fernando would be left all alone on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t do that to the devastatingly handsome Fernando, who was suddenly the best friend I’d ever had.

I decided to call Dan and Leslie. Seeing how they had invited several single, lonely servicemen and women to their house, maybe one more wouldn’t be a problem.

Well, it was. I wasn’t the only one who had discovered one more lonely person hanging around the barracks. Leslie said the original number of people they had invited had doubled. She was sorry, but she just couldn’t accept one more unplanned guest.

“I understand. No problem. But in view of the circumstances, I won’t be able to attend your Thanksgiving feast today. Thank you for the invitation, and tell everyone I said hi.”

“Wha–” Leslie was saying as I hung up the phone.

“Marco, my friend. What did you just do?” Fernando asked.

“I changed my plans. Are you hungry?”

“I’m fucking starving!”

Fernando and I drove to the nearest McDonald’s. We probably ordered one of everything. And an order of fries. We ate and ate. And ate some more. We made a lots of sucking noises and laughed like fools. Thankfully, we were just about the only patrons inside the place, so the staff didn’t call the police and have us arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.

As it turned out, everyone at Dan and Leslie’s Thanksgiving feast ended up puking their guts out. Food poisoning.

I’ve lived through sixty Thanksgivings, but I think that one may have been the best. It certainly embodied what the holiday means, spending time with friends, sharing joy and happiness, and forgiveness. Being together, and fighting back against the loneliness that can consume us during the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, Fernando, wherever you are today. Happy Thanksgiving, Christina. I hope your tits are still vacuum sealed and still make sucking noises when you remove your bra.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, one and all.

Skol, Vikings. Beat the Lions!

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