Not clear what happened. The floor kept banging. Then he woke up. His eyes felt like spirals, whirling. Puzzled, what was happening to him? Sunrays beamed into his room, exposing tidbits spinning around in midair. Not knowing what they were or where they came from, they resembled microscopic crabs. He never noticed them when the sun didn’t shine in. They hid like louse waiting for a corpse.
Gehr sat on the edge of his bed in a fog until the reveille bugle blew. He faced a day at the typewriter, pounding out orders for soldiers on leave or getting promoted. His left bare foot made no sense to him. The horn blasted, then he jerked the right boot on, and ran out to face the screaming sergeant.
When he first came to the unit, he wasn’t familiar with the habits in the admin office. All the guys wanted to go to the club and have drinks during Happy Hour. He said, “They’re having T-bones at the mess hall.”
“They have that every Friday,” said Birdie. “We want to celebrate you into the unit.”
Speechless, his smile reached from ear to ear.
Like automatons, they schlepped to the club and entered, and took a table. All ten waited for the waitress to take their orders. Tuck glanced up, noticed the waitress jump up from her table. She removed her cigarette from her lips, and sauntered over to them, her hips swinging. Gehr sat at the end of the table, the honored position, as she squeezed her large bod between the first chair and him. Bonds smiled and gazed at her voluptuous, overflowing breasts. “Ich nehme ein Bier, Rosie,” he said.
She didn’t speak English, but everybody understood her when she said, “Alle trinken Bier?”
Rosie came waddling back, with a tray in hand, and ten mugs of beer. The thickheaded beers glowed deep amber. Gehr licked my lips. She lay the tray down and passed each a mug with copious amounts of froth. Everyone reached deep into their pocket, pulled out their coins, and placed them on her tray. “Danke sehr,” she said with a big grin exposing her tobacco-stained teeth.
Moe said, “We got it, Gehr, you’re the honored guest.”
Hobs said, “All your drinks tonight, no matter what you order, are on us.”
Gehr couldn’t believe my ears. “All?”
Everyone sing-songed, “All!”
“Why’s that?” he said.”
Doc said, “It’s the tradition in our section.”
Gehr smiled and stared at his beer with an enormous head. “Gee, that head lasts forever.”
Birdie said, “It’s one thing Germans are perfect at.”
Doc said, “It’s known as a five-minute head or Kopf.”
At the end of the table, Wilson blurted, “I’d like to get a five-minute head, right now.” Everybody laughed.
Gehr yelled, “You’ve got one in front of you.”
Wilson couldn’t stop chuckling and got up from the table. “The head calls me.” More laughter as he sauntered to the latrine.
Bailey peered at Gehr. “What a greenhorn.” More laughter. Gehr gave him a queasy stare. “You’ll catch on.” He winked.
What could Gehr say; after turning eighteen, the army looked better than home, Mom and Pop, and their shackles.
He took his first sip. The beer was fantastic, not like American beer, but smoother and more body. It wasn’t like drinking seltzer water, a CO2 beer fizz going flat after fifteen minutes. The golden nectar went down like milk. As soon as he finished the last drop, another one plopped in front of him.
Not expecting another beer so soon, he joked: “How about a Zombie?”
Hobs waved at Rosie, and shouted, “Bring the man a Zombie!” pointing at Gehr.
Before Gehr could get a swallow down, the multi-colored drink waited. “What’s this?” he said.
“Your Zombie,” said Bailey.
Never tasting a Zombie, he took a sip. On the sweet side, he guzzled it like orange juice. Claps and cheers followed.
Five o’clock turned into eight o’clock, and then before Gehr knew it, it was ten minutes to midnight. After reading his Timex, he stood up and faced the head. Surprised, everybody expected him to run to the latrine after he drank eight beers and a Zombie. He didn’t. Pie-eyed, he said, “It’s beddy-bye-bye time. I don’t want to turn into a pumpkin.” Snickering, they stared at him staggering out the door.
He made it back to his room. Baffled, he stood in front of his open wall locker, naked. The floor hit him in the face. He got up, and it hit his face again. After several repeats, he slithered into bed and greeted fantasyland.
Sunrays beamed in. It didn’t wake him, but a sense of crabs rushing over his skin did. He shuddered awake and watched the dust flacks swirl in the air.
After spending years as a publications designer, EN and wife took jobs in Germany, where they still live. After retiring, he took up writing as a hobby. He self-publishing 8 books and many short stories, many based on people he knew and his haphazard life. His books and short stories are featured at: https://enheim.page.tl Twitter: @en_heim