The Gulf

The Gulf by David Poyer

Book: The Gulf by David Poyer Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Poyer
Hayes had heard about six times before. He’d been flying SAR when the Air Force hit Tripoli. He described how the horizon lit up as the F-111s bolted by beneath him, three hundred feet off the water. Then Buck told one: not a war story, but about the time Admiral Augenblick hoisted his flag on the Deyo and three planes had been scrambled to get oatmeal for his breakfast. Then the landing lights crapped out on the destroyer and they’d had to do bombing runs with the canisters of Quaker Oats.
    The bottle gurgled and Peeps switched instantly to reserve. “So, what you guys doing up here?”
    â€œConvoyin’,” said Schweinberg thickly.
    â€œThem Iranians are getting to be a pain in the ass.” Richards gazed into his glass, then granted it a quick death. “Fact, I got thumped by two of ’em a couple a weeks back.”
    â€œThumped?” said Hayes.
    â€œThere’s two F-14s out of Bushehr do a patrol down the demarcation line. Well, I was dropping off a rock-guesser in East Thirty-four when they come out of the sun.” He illustrated with his hands. “I wasn’t psyched to go evasive just then. They come down in a dive like bats outta hell and then broke, one left, one right. Jet wash was like hittin’ a wall in the sky.”
    He paused to top off. “You want to watch out for those guys. I think they know us in the commercial choppers. But they might figure you for enemy.… Chuckie, you ready? Shit, you don’t do so bad for swabbies.”
    â€œTake it easy, Claude,” said Hayes. He’d lost track of how many, but Schweinberg was staying neck and neck with the old guy.
    The Floridian waved him off. “Hit me,” he said thickly, waving the mug. “Fill that fucker to a hundred percent. We’re gonna be at sea for a long, long time.”
    *   *   *
    Richards left when the scotch gave out, but Schweinberg wanted more beer. They stayed till there was no one playing darts, no one left at all. At last, the manager threw them out. “Airway, breathing, circulation,” mumbled Hayes as they staggered forth. Schweinberg’s arm was over his shoulder and his Nike Airs squeaked as they dragged. Outside, the dark was very dark and the quiet was very quiet. The night was cool and the parking lot was empty.
    Buck Hayes slowly became aware of a total lack of yellow Land Rovers with one-handed ex-thieves in them. “Fo-ock,” he mumbled. He sat down on the curb. The night looked as if it had been taken apart and put back together wrong. He had to hold a steady left rudder to keep it out of a spin. He’d partied hearty before with Schweinberg, but now he realized they’d made a mistake trying to keep up with the old Marine. Also they were miles from the pier, and the only thing moving on the whole street was a dog, far off, eating something off the pavement.
    He got up suddenly, staggered a few steps off, and stood bent, waiting miserably for the inevitable.
    Chunky Schweinberg was feeling no such anxiety. When Hayes had let go, he’d buckled slowly at the knees, muttering, “Death—but first, cheech.” Now he lay face down, examining a cigarette butt up close.
    He was remembering the double-wide he’d grown up in. Shep and Blackie and Bull Head out in the yard. His mother, sitting in the car with white gloves on, looking at him and his father with that hopeless expression on her face. He was suddenly conscious of a tremendous sadness. “I used to have a ferret,” he mumbled.
    â€œSay what?”
    â€œA ferret … got him when he was little, raised him by hand … I really liked that fuckin’ ferret.”
    â€œWhat was his name?” asked Hayes. Claude saw Buck’s face in the streetlight and thought with sudden piercing insight, No wonder they call ’em shines.
    â€œOh, we called him Shit. ‘Here, Shit.’ ‘Have you fed Shit yet,

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