Published Monthly



Bulkheads
by Michael Fahy

“Driggs, J.L.”

“Sir.”

“Vietnam…Republic of…MSO 433…minesweeper…boatswain’s mate.”

Deck Ape!

“Trap, L.A.”

”Sir.”

“Vietnam…Republic of…MSO 433…minesweeper…boatswain’s mate.”

Deck Ape...I knew they’d fuck me!

We had three days. Driggs and I knew we didn’t have a shot at getting laid in California by anything other than hyenas in hotpots so we set our sights on Tijuana—cheap hooch, weed, gash, and the holy grail of south-of-the-border depravity—Juicy Lucy. Every shithammered redneck that made it back to the barracks under their own power swore they had seen Juicy Lucy and Ernesto, her donkey-love-machine, going at it in an alley in Tijuana.

The stories were like live sightings of UFO’s, or like when those Portuguese nuns claimed they saw The Blessed Virgin Mary bowling over Lisbon. All the stories of Juicy Lucy and Ernesto in the alley were exactly the same. One minute—nothing—then—poof—there they were! Apparently, she starts out by beating a tambourine, does a few loop-d-loops in front of Ernesto, occasionally taking off his heavily feathered rancher’s hat that says "Burro" on it to fan his ever-lengthening crank, then, as the crowd and Ernesto grows larger, Juicy Lucy loosens his saddle till it hangs under his belly when, supposedly, he’s at full throttle sporting major donkey wood. She takes it from there. That cinched it up for us. Driggs and I immediately went AWOL and headed for Tijuana. We only had three days.

We got off the bus at the stop before the border, so we could twist up a fat one and finish off a Texas fifth of Mad Dog 20/20 we got from a psychotic priest bound for Mexicali. We sat behind this lifer. His shoulder patch read—MSO 433! His nametag said “Waddell BM1.” We had heard about Waddell from guys returning from “sweep” duty in the Mekong Delta. They said that if the gooks and the mines didn’t get you, Waddell would. It was him alright.

Boatswains Mate First Class—Wendell Waddell—lifer bitch, full-blown lifer bitch, with arms so heavily tattooed and faded they looked like comic books that had been left out in the rain: a spread eagle Olive Oil getting reared by Popeye on one forearm, Superman going down on Lois inside a champagne glass on the other. Waddell was the straight skinny: shaved head, handlebar mustache, chest full of bullshit medals and proud of ‘em, spit shined shoes, a deck ape to boot. Boatswain’s Mates were the lowest form of human shit in the US Navy, just face-down, three-hots-and-a-cot, fuck-a-snake-if-its-head-stayed-still-long-enough garden variety skids, whose only real concern in life was having a warm place to take a dump.

After the bus left us off on Bolivar Street, we watched as he tried to get past the checkpoint. The Federales turned him back for being in his dress uniform. The Mexicans were funny like that. You could be staggering around on bad blotter acid without any pants, wielding a machete, swilling tequila from a boot and singing “MEXICO SUCKS MOOSECOCK” at the top of your lungs in front of a church, while spewing pustule after pustule of recently contracted gonorrhea onto the pavement like an out of control high-pressure washer—no problem—but wear an American military uniform on a Tijuana street—and it was Yankee Go Home, adios motherfucker.

A gaggle of raggedy assed kids gathered in front of Waddell, hawking naked pictures of their parents as he tried to take a leak on them, and the fence facing the Rio Tijuana. He was drunk, snot-slinging, commode-hugging, crazy-ass drunk—his natural state.

“Senor…Senor…feelthy peekchures…pssst…twenty pesos only,” one said.

“Mi momma…she cherry,” said another.

“Senor...Senor…ju fok my seester…pssst.” Another.

“Gorgo teets…jes…boom…boom…twenty pesos only.” And another. And another.

It was so sad, so pathetically and relentlessly sad—yet easily affordable just the same.

“Hello…little girl,” said Waddell in a deep and throaty gurgle to a nearly naked girl all of nine. He held out his hand with his crank in it, kneading it through the chain link security fence like a Bavarian sausage maker during deer hunting season, enticing her to come closer. Even her dire straits wouldn’t let her risk getting that near. Something had told her to run, something primal. He called her a gook bitch as he steadied himself against the fence and then:

“FUCKING ANT PEOPLE!!”

The little girl saw something in Waddell—something—something only the filthy backstreets of Tijuana and the lack of food, potable water, and adequate shelter could see and, obviously, something those accustomed to plenty could not, or else it was just his huge crank which, from where we stood, looked like a Jacob’s ladder with a pith helmet at the end, something straight out of National Geographic. We twisted up the last of the doobsack in red, white, and blue Easy Rider paper, and headed for the border. It was time to find Juicy Lucy.

By this time, every AWOL with a pulsating pocket rocket and freshly cut orders for the Nam had bought either an oversized Hawaiian or tie-dyed shirt to put over their uniforms so they could get across the checkpoint. Driggs got us a couple of tie-dyed jobs with super-imposed imagery and cryptic psychedelic messages from the guy with no legs playing the ukulele perched next to a smoldering pile of tortillas. Driggs’ read: “DO IT IN THE DIRT,” which featured an armadillo blowing a cat on the sun; mine had a picture of two turds in top hats shaking hands with “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER” on it.

It was nearly dark now. The evening fires in the Tijuana distance were being lit and the smell of kerosene wasn’t half bad. The silhouettes of shanties made of fifty-five gallon drums and refrigerator boxes lashed together with torn pantyhose peppered the hazy horizon. It looked like the moon with smoldering outhouses. Driggs said that we should roll Waddell before the Mexicans did, which was a good idea, but I was way too fucked up for that noise, besides, he wouldn’t be easy. Lifers like Waddell were hardcore leftovers from the big one—WWII. They’d been in the shit in more shitholes than you could shake a stick at, and were in their natural state when being cut, beaten, or shot. They expected to die before their time and were surprised and made meaner every day their eyes opened in whatever gutter they happened to find themselves in. They taunted death, embraced it and, sometimes, even begged for it. You’d have to kill the likes of Waddell if you tried to take him off.

Driggs pointed to the banks of that glorified shit trench they called the Rio Tijuana, to a hole in the fence where two wetbacks were already through. They headed right for Waddell who looked like a sick farm animal in need of a vet. They never said a word. They walked right up on him, stuck him, took his wad, and split back through the hole in the fence. He was already down and vomiting into his lap anyway, so he just rolled over like a worthless piece of lifer shit.

“You see that…man…holy fuck?” I said

“We shoulda’ did ‘em ourselves...lookit how easy he pussed out,” Driggs said in disgust.

Then, a genetically impoverished voice from the crowd of Hawaiian-shirted-soon-to-be-classified-as-deserters yelled: “HOT DAMN…LOOK…SHE’S HERE…JUICY LUCY!!” Everybody started toward the border at a quick-step march, their imaginations and boners guiding them towards a silhouetted Ernesto standing outside The American Way Song and Dance Hall on Zapata Street, his heavily feathered rancher’s hat easily definable in the smoky Tijuana twilight. Once we heard the tambourine we had to buff out. She’d be doing the loop-d-loops in front of Ernesto before long. We only had three days.

Driggs started running before I did. Not that I gave a rat’s ass, but I looked back to see if Waddell was moving. He reared up like Lassie fighting off a mountain lion so Timmy’s father wouldn’t be late for a Grange meeting, gagged, then, in a sudden death rattle-like surge, began dragging what was left of himself to the sound of the donkey show like a lemming to the seawall, his bullshit medals cutting a small furrow in the well-trodden Tijuana filth. With every agonizing pull of his comic book arms, he made his way along the threshold to the Third World, while two gloating Federales rifled his lifer pockets and kicked him like yesterday’s piñata.

“FUCKING ANT PEOPLE!!”

That’s the last thing I heard as I joined the crowd around Ernesto. Waddell was in his natural state. So were the Federales. So were we.


Michael Fahy lives on his farm in the hinterlands of SE Minnesota. His work has appeared in Minnesota Monthly and Word Riot. He believes that "The Zeitgeist" is little more than a thrill ride in a Bavarian amusement park.

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