Friday, December 10, 2010's secret scenarios #4 — While reeling in a Cuban Sailfish, Fritz remembers Korea

The young Cuban first mate, Picua, puts Fritz in the fighting chair, screams to the captain to stop the boat.
“Feesh on!  Una grande!” he barks...
Dubake, 66, sets in for the long fight to reel-in what feels like an eighty to a hundred pound sailfish, hooked well and peeling off line very fast, running deep to the left of the boat.

“This is a monster!  Probably tire the shit out of me!  Hemingway?...what crap all that old man and the sea stuff, beautiful nonsense.  I don't want to kill this big a fish; I’d much rather another nice little 30lb wahoo."

Fritz, holding tight to the bent rod, glances to his left to see, in the live‘well, four gorgeous striped 35-pound wahoos jumping, flipping, splashing, making a racket. These are caught, tonight's dinner, but not yet this wild one presently on Fritz's line.  Suddenly, it abates it's powerful diving run and the line goes slack—Fritz reels in furiously, to gain back line and bring it closer to the boat.  
‘'this could be a really nice one!" he thinks.

Fritz’s mind wanders as he relaxes now into a strong second wind, reeling in steadily, as flashback reveries fill the full painful hour it takes him to bring this 85 lb sailfish up alongside the boat—an hours admixture of high exertion and reverie, meeting the love of his life, his beautiful wife Barbara in Greenwich Village in 1952 and how this also was mixed and overshadowed by his bizarre and frighteningly dicey Korean War adventure.

A long fight reeling in a giant fish is good for daydreams, this one begins with Fritz cooking lots of fresh-caught fish for Babs and their three kids, so many great fish dinners enjoyed over the 30 years he and Babs raised their young family before she died suddenly in 1983.  When he met her she was 17, attending Brooklyn College.  He was 19, home on a 60 day leave, on his way to finish his service, away from the Korean war, in Europe.  

He had been drafted in 1950 into the US Army at the start of the Korean War.  He got his greeting from Uncle Sam unceremoniously plucking him out of a starring role on Broadway in Mary Chase's “Bernardine”, a hit play of the 1950-51 theater season.  Also, The William Morris Agency had him set to fly out in two months for a film in Hollywoodhaving read for director Nicholas Ray—Fritz won a coveted featured role in the film production of “Rebel Without A Cause”.  Great!  Fritz would get to work in a couple of scenes opposite the rising young star, James Dean.  You can imagine his total disappointment and raging anger getting drafted into the Army just as his successful fast budding acting career was taking off; just when all of what he had diligently worked for and dreamed about since he was twelve years old was coming true.  Fritz and I both started acting in the drama departments of Junior High School 128 and Lafayette High School, growing up together in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn.  

So after he got drafted and was doing his basic training, I too was drafted; doing my basic in Kansas, he in Blackstone, Virginia,  We wrote and spoke to each other constantly:

“The day I was to be shipped over to Korea from Seattle, I just kept up telling them I didn’t feel like going.  Frankly, Dutch, I told them I was a red, a fag, and for the most part thoroughly against the so-called “police action” USA was having with North Korea and China.  Then I just up and refused to go and fight.  I told them my communist background forbade it. They laughed at me Jerry. Nothing worked, they wouldn't listen.

The next morning we were to ship out from a Seattle seaport direct to Seoul, Korea.  I woke up in these tent barracks right next to where two large troop-ships were docked and being loaded.  Over the din of barrack sergeants and corporals screaming and yelling, "OK soldiers! Get Up! Get up! Rise and shine assholes!"  This at 5 a.m. I lay there quietly, thinking, not moving as they kept screaming, rousing everyone up and onto the ships.  Except moi!  I—out of the blue—got this lightening strike controversial impulse, carrying it out with no forethought whatsoever. The impulse? I just went dead still in my cot, didn’t move a muscle. Stopped thinking about anything, I just lay there, blank. When they came over; "HEY YOU! Get the fuck up soldier, fall in! GET UP!!" they were screaming at the top of their lungs at me. I whispered very slowly to them that I couldn’t move my arms or legs. They had to bend down to hear me. 

At that point, the Top Sergeant and Platoon Leaders got really really very pissed with me, as you can imagine.  They went away for a few moments.  It got very quiet.  Everyone else by then had been boarded onto the ships.

Then four of them came back, screaming epithets, four of them, grabbed corners of the cot, picked it high up and then dumped the cot over, with me in it, on the floor.  I just remained stiff as a board, didn’t flinch or move a muscle.  They called in the MPs, who came quickly, and they carted me away on the cot in handcuffs and leg irons.   

They only had one nurse and one doctor at this US Army Seattle port depot, no neurologists, so they were forced to fly me to down to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to the Brooks Army Medical Center, for neuro-psychiatric evaluation.”

“Truth being better than fiction, in the Fort Sam Medical Center, in  the bed next to mine was guess who Dutch? You know him, remember, this crazy kid in 9th grade, a Jewish kid from Bay 22nd Street in Brooklyn, Jason Karp?  His father was the local Kosher butcher on 86th Street and 20th Avenue in Bath Beach?  Maybe you didn't know him that well?  Okay, da Karp was a full-out flake, a junior high school dropout, used to get his ass kicked all over Bath Beach for scamming and stealing peoples’ stuff.  Lunch money from the kindergarten kids.  A real shmuck, that kind of idiotic nonsense, and here he is laying up in the next bed to me in a Fort Sam Houston Army Hospital in Texas, trying—just like me—to get himself the fuck out of the army.....before we got killed.”
 “They had me in traction and, one day, the daily-rounds doctor in charge of my ward let me know they were going to order up a series of spinal taps to see what was truly affecting my nerve center.  What exactly was cooking with me, if, as I said "I couldn’t move my right arm or leg.”  This was right out of  “Cookoos Nest”.  They came around every morning, did the pin cushion bit, stuck me in hundreds of spots on my legs and arms to check nerve reactions. Having none, they would give me proper jabs with the pin-point and strangely enough I didn’t feel them (mind over matter) because normally I’m sure I would have jumped sky high.  “Do you feel that?”  I shook my head no at every pin stick."   No contest.

"Karp and I began sneaking out at night in our hospital blues and robes; we were very nuts.  He was the hustler, you know, like,
 "I told you the midnight nurse was my good buddy—how’d you like those two Mexican chicks—the club was hot, right?  Listen, Slink….”
“Don’t call me Slink, okay?”
“Okay, okay what’s eating you today Efrem?  You’re awfully nervous. I’m tellin’ ya, just keep up with the right arm and leg, no feeling; you shoulda done migraines like me—tell ‘em ya just got a migraine headache like there’s no tomorrow. You know what I’m saying?  Whadda they know about migraines?”

Yeah, well, the shitheads on the second floor in the lab just gave me my second spinal tap yesterday!  That's why was I sleeping all day?  Jerkoff doctor who did it also pretended he broke the needle in my back, then said he had to go get another one. Nazi prick!  I don’t know if I can make it through this one, Jay!”
“Stick with it, Slink, I know you can make it.  Sixty-five percent disability.  A check in the mail every month for life. In another few weeks you’ll be outta here.  Back on Broadway.  Holy shit.  Hey look what’s coming?  This shmuck’s the head of the whole joint.  His name is Hyman Glass. Uh huh, Hyman, a General.  Hey, they’re coming our way.  Watch it, Slink!”   
The Surgeon General of the Brooks Medical Center and his team of doctors surround Dubake’s bed. 

DuBake sitting in a large well-appointed office, in a wheelchair fixed with traction for his neck and shoulders.  Major General Hyman K. Glass, behind his desk, begins;

“Dubake, we know there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with your jewish spine.  You’re as fit as the day you were Bar Mitzvahed.  In fact, we have a report from the MP's that you and Private Karp, your next-bed neighbor on the ward, were spotted in the Mexican Sector of San Antonio last Saturday night, dancing up a storm in your hospital gowns with a couple of Chicano hookers.  Says in this report that you gave the MPs the slip, went out the backdoor when you saw them come in the nightclub.”

“I’m not so sure about that, General.  All I know is I can’t move my right arm and leg.”
“Bullshit, Private!  Just shut up and you better listen to me.  What in the Dickens is wrong with you, are you thick in the skull, young man?  Aren’t you aware there's a "Private Slovik Case" in Korea going on right now?  Don't you read the newspapers? They are going to execute this man for malingering and desertion in time of war.  Mark my words!” he warns Dubake, sternly.

“So you are finally admitting this is a war, not a ‘police action’?  Malingering?  Maybe it’s psychological, maybe it's a paralysis. Perhaps I just don’t want to kill my commie comrades for John Foster Dulles and the insane Cold War position the USA has taken in this 'police' action?”
“Oh, come on, private!. Why don’t you cut your pinko NY crap already?  You’re a good Jewish kid from Brooklyn.  Do you want to destroy your life and bring shame on your family?  I just got off the phone with your father, Harry.”

“My father? You spoke to my father?  You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, I’m not kidding you.  Your old man’s a nice guy.  A good Jewish mentsch with a lot more sachel than you have.  He begged me to give you a chance.  I promised him I would get the Adjutant General on the phone and tell him to drop all court martial charges against you, but only if you get out of that bed you've been bullshitting in for 3 months now and get your ass back to duty?”

“You mean go be a Medic in Korea?  Get blown away in a war I detest, and hate. Die in a war I don’t believe in?  No way!”

“Well, Private Dubake, you better get yourself ready for another series of spinal taps.  Look, soldier—you better get it together!  You can’t win this thing. The US Army is one big powerful machine and it will chew you up and spit you out. I want to help your family stay out of what can be a very embarrassing situation, especially for our people, so what is it?  What’s it going to be?”

Stubborn, Fritz is silent.  
Then weakly, “Make a suggestion?”

“You get your ass back to duty!  I put you in for special orders. "Special Services"—let’s say a sixty-day recuperation furlough with your folks in Brooklyn—then special troop entertainment duty in the European Theater, Germany, France?  How does that sound?  Weren’t you on Broadway in a show when you got drafted?  You know I saw that show "Bernardine" with my wife.  You were very good.  Well, I'll get you assigned to Special Services in Europe.  How’s that sound?”

“Well, geez. . sounds pretty good. . .you can do that?”

“I didn’t get to be a General for nothing, ‘Shmendrick’.  You'll have your new orders in a couple of hours. Now you get your ‘tuches’ right out of that bed—and take off that stupid traction, wise guy.”

On his way out, walking, leaving the wheel chair in Glass’ office, Fritz turns back:
“Doc?  Those spinal taps you ordered for me?  You ever hear of this Nazi doctor?  Mengele?  Doctor Mengele?”
General Hyman K Glass, picking up his phone, gives him a shriveling look.  

Dubake, with a slight shrug of the head and shoulders.
“Just joking, sir.”  
 Salutes.  Walks away down the hall.


  1. Fabulous story, keep them coming!

  2. These taller than tall tales are almost toally believable because of your great writing. More, more, more of these larger than life stories about this much larger than life character, please.

    Naomi Beth Wakan