Jim Chmura: Military Maneuvers
Although this adventure is basically true, names have been changed to protect me.
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned . . .” So began my litany of evil in the dark cramped confessional. My list as a 21-year-old was shamefully boring. But even as I confessed, my beleaguered brain pinballed between penance and pleasure.
Mary Jane. Neighborhood vamp. I had just seen her in Fr. Kelly’s confessional line on the other side of the church. Folks said he was easy on sinners. She always went to Kelly. I was soon to find out why. Anyway, she was not particularly pretty but was particularly well constructed. Her anatomy more than compensated for her rather plain face and mousy hair. Standing erect under a stained glass window, she seemed so Catholic and so moral. Then again, all stained glass windows exuded penance and morality.
And she liked me – sorta. I had waved. Just before I climbed into the box, she smiled and waved. As I was reeling off my list of impure thoughts, my mind simultaneously cranked out fresh impure thoughts involving Mary Jane.
Blessed and refreshed, I waited outside for her.
Mary Jane and I had been on only one date. Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood main transportation to downtown was the L trains. Since I had no car, I took her on a scenic screeching L ride to downtown. We saw a movie. We came back. I walked her home. We said good night. I walked home. Done.
Now it was the summer of 1966, during the Viet Nam War, when almost all young men were either drafted or about to be. I had enlisted in the Naval Reserve and I was set to go on active duty. Since I was shipping out in another week, I had one more civilian weekend left.
With so little time left. I was desperate for female companionship. After confession, Mary Jane undulated down the church stairs to the street. We chatted. I walked her 2 blocks home to18th Place. Through sweaty armpits and with true warrior courage, I asked her out for next Saturday – my last hurrah.
“I’d love to go out with you,” she said. I stammered something ridiculous but the special night was set.
Our chariot for the evening was my dad’s recently acquired 1962 Checker Marathon, civilian version. It was the exact same one seen on the TV series TAXI. The brute was a six-cylinder workhorse sporting a manual transmission. The stick shift was on the steering column - a big plus in our coming date.
On the big night I splashed liberally with English Leather aftershave. Mary Jane looked perfect. She was wearing a pleated skirt and rather snug sweater. Really perfect.
“Why aren’t you wearing your uniform?” she asked. I wasn’t particularly fond of marching around in my uniform but said I couldn’t until full active duty.
“Too bad,” she said. “I’ve heard interesting stories about those 13 buttons on sailors’ uniform pants.” What was this? Did I hear those words emit from her modest mouth? Why didn’t I at least wear the uniform pants? She snuggled next to me, thigh to thigh. I think I missed second gear.
I don’t recall where we went to eat but do remember her playing kneesies under the table. Was this a hint of why she confessed to easy Fr. Kelly? Afterwards we wound up at my Uncle Joe’s bar in Chicago’s Old Town. As I recall, it was in the vicinity of Clark and North. The joint was a small operation with a few steps down to enter. A stained oak bar lined one wall. A few lumpy upholstered booths sagged along the opposite wall. The place was long and narrow. Nothing fancy.
Uncle Joe was a divorced womanizer who bounced from job to job. He eventually smoked and drank himself to an early death. He was Dad’s youngest brother and acted more my age than Dad’s. His life seemed to be an endless standup comedy routine. With Joe, laugher was guaranteed.
“My nephew, the hero!” Joe heralded as we entered. He always, always supported nieces and nephews. “What’s a classy doll like you doing with the likes of this guy?” Joe asked as he sat us in the least gungy booth. Mary Jane blushed.
Joe had been talking with an older guy named Brick, a very fit USAF veteran. “Navy, eh?” Brick quipped. “You’ll do fine. Country needs guys like you.” He held up his hand. “One for the lovely lady and her escort, Dudley!” Joe liked to be called Dudley.
And so began the steady flow of alcohol - every drop free. Through the blur of booze, I remember Joe sliding in very close to Mary Jane. She seemed to be constantly giggling and thoroughly enjoying herself.
“You’re too good for my dumb nephew,” he crooned. “Nice, strong Polish girl like you.” Then he reached under the table, grabbed her thighs and squeezed them together. She laughed all the more louder. Now I was drunk but not that drunk to ponder potential pleasures of the flesh that night. Through the alcoholic fog, I saw Joe wink at me and wink again. After much laughter, free drinks and pats on the back from Brick, we struggled up the stairs to the door.
“Keep your head down, Navy,” he said as we departed.
“What’d he mean?” Mary Jane mumbled.
“Just to be careful,” I said.
“Oh my.” She squeezed my hand.
Somehow we stumbled across the Checker. It must have been very late. Ashland Avenue was deserted. As we weaved our way down the avenue, Mary Jane slid next to me like a barnacle on an old ship’s hull. I slid my right arm across her shoulders. She snuggled in and giggled.
“Cap’n sez crew must assist,” I said.
“Well matey, ye must shift gears while I clutch the clutch and steer.”
I had her shift gears with her right hand. Being so close, she eased her left hand somewhere interesting. Enough said. I was in severe panting. She was in severe romance. Based on our one and only previous date, I figured it had to be the wide assortment of booze talking. But what care I?
“I’m really going to miss having you around,” she cooed. “I mean, a sailor and all.”
“Maybe we can go somewhere together on your first leave. My Uncle Frank has a cottage in Michigan.”
“It would be really nice.”
Clutching difficult and uncomfortable.
“We’re not getting any younger.” She put her head on my shoulder. “Getting married isn’t so bad.”
Whatever you say, I thought, whatever you say.
We made it to her house. I parked in a deserted dark spot under a blown street lamp and cut the engine. I think the clutch said thank you.
Her skirt was riding high on those lovely thighs. Those big breasts were pressed against my side. She tried to gaze into my eyes but had trouble focusing. Good enough. Then we kissed. I mean we really, really kissed. My mind was racing. I was definitely enjoying the moment but where to park, where to park for the ultimate moment? That Checker had a really big back seat.
Back to the lakefront? No, too far. Under the 16th Street viaduct? No, too risky.
She was doing some very creative things with her tongue in my ear.
Quick! 19th Street alongside Harrison Park? Maybe. Under the L tracks? Noisy but an option.
She was sucking the breath out of me. Her hands were everywhere a Catholic girl’s hands shouldn’t be. I was surely on the way to the land of milk and honey with the most delicious piece of cake in the neighborhood. She broke this longest of kisses. I came up for air. My lips actually hurt. My luscious Mary Jane turned her flushed face to the windshield. She stared for a second then leaned back.
My Mary Jane gurgled then exploded. She barfed her goddamned guts out. All over her beautiful breasts. She barfed on those lovely thighs. Ecstasy be damned.
“Son-of-a-bitch, son-of-a-bitch,” I groaned. I steadied her up as best I could and opened my door to get the roll of paper towels from the trunk. I don’t know why, but thankfully, we always had paper towels in the trunk.
As I eased out, poor Mary Jane slid over onto her side and into the smelly slime. Her arms flopped helplessly at her side. Her mouth was wide open. She was a real mess.
I got the towels. I pushed her upright. I cleaned and wiped all parts of her anatomy as she gurgled and belched. I wiped those big old knockers that had been so promising. I cleaned those fleshy thighs with towel after towel. I felt like dumping her under the 16th Street viaduct. I either finished cleaning her as best I could or ran out of towels. So I guided her zombie-like body through the front gate and down the stairs to her folks’ basement flat. The Pilsen area has sunken yards a bit below street level.
Hand over hand, along narrow gangway walls; I got her to the side door. I fumbled in her purse, found the key and opened the door. Thank heavens nobody was up. I set her against the inside wall next to the door, put her purse on the floor, and pulled the door shut.
I don’t think I took two steps when I heard that poor gal hit the floor with a thud.
We talked before I left. We both apologized.
“Hey Mary Jane, it’s Knucklehead,” her father had said when I called. Fat chance for him as a father-in-law.
While I did sail the Atlantic, I never did make it into the homeport of her heart. I found out that she married an equally Catholic guy from the neighborhood. But regardless of how many men she may have dated, I doubt if she had shifted their gears the way she shifted mine. DSS
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