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Scrap Metal

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Dear Steve,

I’m afraid I’m falling asleep while I write this so I’m sorry if it makes no sense. They get us up for reveille at 5:30 in the a.m. and I just always think of how our drill sergeant said, you don’t wanna let the Germans catch you nappin, up and at em! And I wanted to say, but didn’t because I’d have got in trouble, and it would have been really funny, so I’ll say it to you now, what I wanted to say was “Probably the Germans WILL catch us napping, because we’re so darn tired from waking up at the crack of not even what and marching around in circles for hours.”

But that’s the army for you. You do what they say. And I’m a sergeant now, so some of them have got to do what I say, which is kind of refreshing for once, right, punk?

Some of the training we do is really neat or really scary at the same time. They had us dig deep, deep foxholes and we got in them and they ran tanks over our damn heads. Right over us so we’d see what it sounds like. I tell you what, it’s a lot different from standing under the trolleys. It’s a deep rumble you feel in your bones, but kind of thrilling for all that. I guess we’ll be digging a lot of foxholes.

It’s not so bad really. We’re all doing the same stuff, us guys. and it’s like being on a sports team--well, I guess you don’t know that, but you know what? It’s a little like how it was living together on our own at first, how we got used to it, but for awhile it was ‘don’t leave your socks hanging on the stove to dry out because of that time they caught fire, dammit.’ Which I hope you’re not DOING by the way even if they are nice and warm to get into. I guess I would really like to do that too if it wasn’t so dangerous. Warm socks in the morning. Just to slide into nice and slow. Don’t you like that feeling? It’s kind of cold here. I think about our stove a lot. I hope you didn’t break it again. You’d better keep warm.

I wish I could tell you where we were going because you would love it. We’re in England now at XXXXXXXXXX and I should be saying the weather’s fine, but it’s not--it’s pretty dreary.

Oh. I heard a really stupid joke the other day. This old couple in London are in bed and the air raid siren sounds. So, they get up to run out and the husband goes, oh no I forgot my teeth, and the wife goes, what do you think you need them for, what, are the Nazis throwing sandwiches? Though I will be honest if anyone could kill you with a sandwich it is not the Nazis. It is the Brits. When we did a long march the other day what did I find in my lunch box but these two pieces of gray bread you could lose a tooth in and in between just this chunk of Army spam that at least I didn’t lose a thumb trying to crack the can for. And this jelly stuff. They call it spam and jam. I say cram it where the sun don’t shine which let me tell ya Steve it don’t shine a whole lot here in England not that I’m complaining. Someone said the other day they make training this bad so we won’t mind the actual fighting so much, but Dugan, who, now, see he is the circus man I think I will have to tell you about--yes really, he was a Strong Man in an actual Circus. We call him Dum Dum because he always puts his foot in his mouth. Everyone just calls me Bucky. Dum Dum said, that’s bad enough, kid. And I said, come on, like Buck Rogers? Like Buck Weaver? Bucky’s a fine name. For a fine fella, if I do say so myself. I thought you’d get a kick out of that.

Anyway gosh I’m tired, but let me finish. So, Billie Do, that’s Bill Donovan to you thank you, but we call him Billie Do because he’s so eager every time anyone says, ‘You know what,’ he says, ‘‘I do!’. So he says: ‘After all this training the fighting can’t even be half bad.’ And Dum Dum, he was in the Pacific where things got really bad, said, ‘You’re never ready.’ I don’t know why I keep thinking about that. I feel like how could you be ready, right? I mean, I’ve only ever shot a target (even despite being a sharpshooter and all that and now after that training I did, still only a target). I did see a guy who got shot in a training exercise though. He made this gurgling noise. That happens sometimes. Some of us don’t even make it to the fighting, I guess. But that’s war. I don’t know yet though.

Anyway I’m sorry I ended like that I guess I have too much on my mind to sleep yet but I feel better having written you and tomorrow I must remember to write Ma too but please give her a kiss hello from me anyway okay Stevie?

Okay I don’t want to end that way.
Dum Dum has quite a mustache. Like a walrus. He’s a character. Do you think I should grow a mustache? I bet that would tickle.

Yours,
Buck

 

Where were are is so damn beautiful Steve, I wish you could see it sometimes. There are strange things that are so beautiful all around and I don’t know why.

Do you know what they paint a lot of the boats out here in really crazy funny colors? Well, I know you couldn’t see them all, but you could see some. Like these jagged blue and darker blue. One is like a zebra, big bold stripes. And one of the ones we saw when we landed here on the coast of XXXXXXXXXXX is like this crazy Picasso with all the colors mixed up in chunks and you know you told me that didn’t ya? You can imagine it, anyhow. The camoufloors in the Great War they did that too, to confuse the U-boats. You take any classes with that Gorky fella anymore who was all about the art blitz thing? That would be really good. You got that job painting ties at the factory or you doing posters or what? You could paint boats, too, I bet. That’s a lot better than collecting scrap.

Here is another joke: a lady gets a telegram back from the front saying her husband has disgraced himself in combat, he dropped his gun and he shot himself. Why is that so disgraceful? said the lady. Because that ain’t an ‘o,’ said the telegram dispatcher.

So fair I ain’t shot myself, Stevie, don’t you worry. Billie Do almost did, though.

I will say we eat a lot of what amounts to the same thing. Oh, boy. Canned beans, too. Imagine how that works out.

We did a night parachute landing! So I got my wings. We all wound up blown all over the place. Dum Dum landed upside down in a tree. It was actually not as funny as you'd think. We were all scared shotless at that point, because we didn't know where Cpt N. or the Lt either had got to; and it was all dark. It’s so much darker here than it ever is in New York. In New York the lights always reach up into the sky like hands sliding up under a black dress: dark and bright and dirty. Don’t you think?

Here, it was so black when we landed we couldn’t see at all. We wound up just hunkering down most of the night and Dum Dum even caught some shuteye, believe it or not, but I heard gunfire and you know, XXXXXXXXX guns sound different from American? So, I knew it was enemy troops and I went up a damn tree and shot some myself. It was actual shots in the dark, though it was almost dawn by then, so not completely.

Even Dugan said I ought to get a medal for that but I was scared anyhow and just wanted something to do. I thought, what would Steve do?

You know one beautiful thing? Before we jump out of the planes we throw out these metal gizmos, little pieces all strung together like a lucky charm bracelet with a parachute. They float down so glittering and they confuse the radar somehow. Just little shining bits of metal. See? Collecting scrap can be important. Could of saved my life that night. Please remember that. It is important and anything you do is important in keeping us all safe.

It is exactly like that though, like a lucky charm, except this one WORKS. There are a lot of guys superstitious out here. Sol Bletch has this actual rabbit’s foot he’s been lugging around from Minnesota. I am not particularly superstitious as you know. Though I would like maybe a picture if you want to give me one, maybe a picture of New York, but I won’t keep it too sentimental or anything. I figure, a good luck charm can be bad luck if you lose it or anything.

I miss you. I wish

You know what I miss? I miss the FOOD. I miss ice cream. It is now pretty hot here at least during the day (at night it is always cold no matter what I am finding). I would kill a man for some ice cream. Except I have and still, no dice. No ice, ha ha. I miss how we used to sometimes go out and get an ice cream sundae is what I miss. I miss sundaes. Cold on your lips and tingling on your tongue. And all melting after awhile. And just so sweet your stomach turns over. Like that. That’s what I miss. You know, how we got a sundae by the train stop before I left. That is what I mean all right, only when I come home I would like an even bigger one, with a cherry on top too.

So now I’m going to go sleep then. I was right. We do dig a lot of fox holes. I’m sorry if dirt got on this letter. That's how it is out here, dirt and stuff gets in everything, but I guess I don’t mind if I get to think about ice cream sometimes, and write you.

Yours,
Buck