Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sherlock Calhoun

After my tour of duty overseas, I still owed the Army a year of subservience. I was a cryptographer (a code guy) by training, so I was a assigned to the motor pool (Do NOT question military logic because it can't be done). This is one of my scribblings and a bit long, but the story is true—except for some embellishment of the dialog in Part One.

* * * * *


“Hey Calhoun, c’mere.”



“Are you yelling at me, Sarge?”

“Do you see any other chucklehead standing around here doin’ nuthin’?”

“Nope, I sure don’t.”

“Then why do I always have to holler at you twice, Calhoun?”

“Because my name isn’t Calhoun. It’s Callahan. See, the nice lady sewed it right here on my shirt in big black letters: Capital C, small ‘allahan’.”

“Listen here, Calhoun, I ain’t got time to pick nits with you all day. The company’s goin’ on maneuvers tomorrow and I’m short a driver. You know how to drive one a these big rigs?”

“Nope, I sure don’t.”

“Well you do now ’cause you just volunteered. Hop up there in the cab and I’ll teach you ever’thing you need to know.”

“Boy, it’s really high up here, Sarge! And look at this big-assed steering wheel! Vroom, vroom, VROOOOM!”

“Quit actin’ like a peckerhead and listen up, Calhoun, ’cause this is important. See that gauge there says ‘pressure’ on it? If the needle’s in the red zone you can’t go nowheres ’cause the air brakes won’t work. Got that?”

“Yeah, yeah, where’s the radio in this thing?”

“This is a U.S. Army vehicle, boy; it ain’t got a radio. Now about them brakes. You hafta wait ’til the needle’s in the black part ’fore you go somewheres. Got that?”

“Yeah, yeah, where’s the seat belt?”

“I tole you this is a U.S. Army vehicle, boy; it ain’t got safety equipment. Just grab onta your pecker and hold on tight. Now listen up, Calhoun. There’s a hole in the back a the truck where the air hose from the trailer goes. If you ain’t haulin’ a trailer then you gotta make sure the plug is in the hole, elst all the air will leak out and you won’t get no pressure for your brakes. Got that?”

“Yeah, yeah, where the hell’s the ashtray?”


I push in the clutch, turn the key, give it some gas, listen to the engine go “vroom, vroom, VROOOOM”, put the gear- shift in first, let up on the clutch, give it some more gas, and off I lurch at one mile per hour. Man, is this ever neat! I feel just like a real trucker, except I don’t have a radio to say shit like, “What’s your 10-20, good buddy?”

I take a right out of the motor pool, grind through second and third gear, and I’m zooming right along at thirty in no time. So far so good, but something’s bothering me—not to mention a buzzing sound that hasn’t shut the fuck up for two seconds. I have a funny feeling that I’m forgetting something I was supposed to remember, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is because I completely forgot what it was in the first place.

Oh well, maybe it’ll come to me when I pull up at the stoplight ahead and I have a minute to think.

There is a lot of cross traffic at the intersection so I step gently on the brake pedal to slow down. Huh. That’s odd. No response. Typical Army bullshit, issuing me a truck with a faulty brake pedal. I apply a stronger gentleness, but still nothing happens.

And then it suddenly dawns on me as I remember what I forgot to remember. The air pressure gauge! The needle is in the red! Not only that, it’s pointing at ‘zero’! I forgot all about the hole in the back a the truck! So that’s the buzzing I’ve been hearing all day! Ah HAH! Mystery solved!

But Sherlock Calhoun still has a very large problem. I’m trying everything I know to slow this beast down, which is exactly zilch. I’m crying, but that doesn’t help, and I want my mommy, but that doesn’t help, and I grab my pecker and hold on good an’ tight, but all that does is make me good and horny. THE HORN! I lean on the horn to warn everyone, except it doesn’t work because, like every air horn ever made, it needs . . . air.

And that’s something I’m really, really, really short of right now.

“HONK! HONK! RUNAWAY TRUCK! FUCKING HONK!” I scream out the window as I roll slowly through the intersection. Luckily, there’s no one around to hear me because the window is closed and all I’m doing is screaming my lungs out at a piece of glass. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw my cigarette butt out of the closed window: not only would I have been airless, but I would have had a forest fire in my ear hair to contend with too.

The truck finally rolls to a stop, everybody is safe, and I have a huge lump in my throat. Great. One tragedy just barely averted and now this: I have an inoperable throat tumor. What the hell else can go wrong today? But that’s just my usual hysteria talking after a barely-averted tragedy.

Geeze, talk about overreacting and getting myself all worked up over nothing. I mean, I can understand a few nerves if I was test-driving a jet fighter or an aircraft carrier . . .


Robert the Skeptic said...

Good God, Charlie... the only thing more horrifying is if the Army had decided to make you a Cook!

Pat said...

Frightening and very relevant with this Toyota business. I heard the tape of the tragic family whose accelerator jammed - they were heading towards an intersection and were all killed. So glad you were spared Charlie.
Some of the commenters advised go into neutral and switch off but I'm not convinced.
Does being a cryptographer mean you are ace at crosswords?

Wandering Coyote said...

LOL!! This is a great story! And...what...? You used to smoke???

Tiffin said...

So did he "volunteer" you for anything again after this, Charlie? Like driving a tank or anything?

Charlie said...

ROBERT: I disagree. First, kitchens don't have air brakes. Second, it's hard to poison people with PB&J sandwiches—my spec-i-al-i-ty.

PAT:I'm glad, Pat, that I spared others. Switching off the ignition and putting the vehicle in neutral does indeed help, but the car will still roll for a while. Just like my truck.

I'm lousy at X-word puzzles, but I love sudoku and logic problem magazines.

WC: Yes, I used to smoke. That's the reason I have emphysema—I gambled and lost.

TUI: I was about to send out the St. Bernards to find you, even though I know you take breaks.

Actually, I made a pretty good truck driver after that first feaux pas. I was intelligent enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Kim Ayres said...

Reminds me of the Blonde who goes into the garage and asks the mechanic to fix the horn because the brakes don't work.

Kevin Musgrove said...

My understanding is that you have to jam the gear into reverse, the shredded synchromesh slashes your tyres and your grind to a halt amidst all sorts of sparks and things.

Mind you, I was only a passenger at the time so what do I know?

Alice said...

Hilarious! My brother worked on F-14s in the Navy, but he was stationed in Key West where there were no F-14s the majority of the time. Military logic.

But that gave him the free time to join soft ball leagues, befriend a deep-sea fisherman and go alligator hunting. So I'm pretty sure the Navy benefited extensively from his service.

Sorry the font on my blog is too small for you to read, and I am too lazy to change it.

Charlie said...

KIM: Don't tell me you do blonde jokes in the UK too.

I surely was blonde the day I had neither horn nor brakes.

KEVIN: Thanks for the advice about forty years too late. I suspect I would have been in BIG trouble had I dropped the transmission on the road.

BTW, did you survive the accident?

ALICE: There is the right way, the wrong way, and the military way. Thou shalt not question the latter way.

And it's okay to be lazy. I do it all the time.

mapstew said...

Charlie sir, it's 2:15 here, I'm just in from a gig, and I'm sure my laughing has woken the kids!

Great story, I love it!


Dorothy said...

This is a great post, my first visit and I'll be back.

Dorothy from grammology

Charlie said...

MAP: I'm glad you enjoyed the story, but I'm sorry you woke the bairns.

Perhaps, in the future, you should save reading my posts until everyone is up and about (including yourself).

DOROTHY: Welcome, and thank you! You have an excellent and amazing blog!

Mary Witzl said...

WHEW. You kept the tension in that VERY tight, right up to the end.

So glad I never learned to drive in the army. So glad I never had to JOIN the army. They'd have had a field day with my last name.