HARRY STILL GIVES ME THE FINGER
It was just another Friday night in Jacksonville, North Carolina out side Camp Lejeune. There were four of us that managed to stay together through two tours to Nam. We were not always in the same Companies but we always visited each other every chance we got. There was myself, Dick Ussery, Harry Hannah ,and Buddy Sellers, all out on a tear. Harry and Buddy were
best friends and both were in 3.5 rockets. With names like Shelly Sherwood Sellers Jr. and Harry Halk Hannah the 3rd, its no wonder they thought they had something in common. Ussery and I were always in the same weapons platoon across three battalions and two tours. I even managed to get him in my mortar section when he transferred to Fox 2/5. Everybody knows that mortars don't walk point.
We were sitting in this English style club on a corner in downtown J-Ville. It was getting late and we were all, as they say , in no pain. Harry was sitting directly across from me in the booth and was looking very thoughtful as if trying to work something out. After about ten minutes he
looked up at me with this very serious look on his drunken face and said; "Whiteley! I really need you to do me a great favor." I looked back with as serious a face as I could muster and replied; "Anything Harry, I am at your service." The problem as it turned out was that Harry that very day
had been told he was to go on mess duty. Hell of a thing to do to a two tour Vet. He had put in for an early out so he could go to school and was expecting to hear the decision on that very soon. The idea of going on mess duty at this point in his illustrious career was quite repugnant to him. "Would you mind breaking my finger so I don't have to do this mess duty deal?' I could see how serious he was even in my altered state of mind and replied; "Look no further my friend, your Savior has arrived." By this time Dick and Buddy were eagerly applauding this brilliant strategy. They both knew in their heart of hearts that one measly broken finger was better
than thirty days of mess duty. Having made this ingenious plan we quickly finished our drinks and headed out to the parking lot where my 65 Chevy Impala SS was parked. The huge pile of beer cans we left on the table was testament to our enlightened thinking. We gathered at the trunk of my car where I knew there would be some sort of instrument, in my tool box, suitable for breaking said finger. I rummaged around for awhile and finally hefted a tire iron about eighteen
inches long that I figured would do the job in one whack. I would not have been much of a friend if I did not accomplish the mission with a single blow. I guess my thinking was getting clearer now.
Buddy and Dick were being highly supportive now in light of their friends
needs . I told Harry to kneel down and place his finger on the blacktop while Buddy got behind him for support After all they were best friends. I
raised the tire iron and nodded to Buddy. He came up with this wonderful ruse to distract Harry .and said; "Hey Harry look at that moon." He looked
up right on cue. I guess his thinking was also getting clearer. I was about to strike when I thought better of it. Two things were on my mind. With his
finger on the blacktop I might only smash his finger without breaking it and it might get infected with the unsanitary conditions and all. This is
when I had my best idea. I went back to my tool box and got out a large pair of pliers and put then on the blacktop and coached Harry to rest the tip of his finger on the edge. This elevated it and I was now sure I could make a proper job of it. I raised the tire iron high over my shoulder and right on cue; " Hey Harry look at that moon", he fell for it again, I smashed his index finger with the tire iron. Harry let out a scream and grabbed at his now obviously broken finger. It sort of bent backwards at the first knuckle at a very obscene angle. I could tell his first impulse was to start beating the shit out of me, but he did promise me he wouldn't, and Buddy was now doing his
best friend routine holding him and offering him comfort. I put away the tools and suggested we proceed to the base hospital. Through all of this Ussery just looked on approvingly, calling out encouragement to his wounded friend. Harry and I got into the front and Ussery and Buddy in the back. At this point Harry is yelling at the top of his lungs; "JESUS CHRIST THIS HURTS."
" Oh FUCK! YOU BROKE MY FUCKING FINGER."" SHIT THIS HURTS GODDAMIT THIS HURTS, GOD DAMNIT! He reassured me at the top of his lungs; "IM NOT MAD
AT YOU WHITELEY IM REALLY NOT. GOD DAMN THIS HURTS." I could hear Ussery
laughing his ass off in the back seat with Buddy. Harry was having a fit and trying to apologize for it and assure us he would not be violent with any of us. As we drove to the base he subsided some and was almost normal when we parked the car in the Base Hospital lot. We led him in to the emergency entrance and strolled up to the receptionist. He took one look at Harry's unnatural looking finger and immediately took him back for treatment. After only a short time a doctor
came out and asked us what had happened. We had our story down pat; "Ussery did it." We told him Ussery closed the car door on Harry's finger. The doctor took one look at Dick and knew this could only be the truth. Those of you who know Dick know what I mean. He wasn't nicknamed Chango, (loosely translated, shit bird ) for nothing . He liked being the fall guy.
The doctor commented that it was one of the cleanest breaks he had ever seen. My heart swelled.
About an hour or so later the Doctor came back out muttering something as he headed for the bathroom I thought I heard something like; "Drunken sloppy mother fucker!' The front of the doctors' smock was covered with puke and I believe Harry finally got a chance to ventilate his discomfort. He came out shortly looking very pale after his ordeal so we took him back to his barracks.
Postscript to this, Harry did indeed get off mess duty, had his promotion to Cpl. come through the very next day and got his early out within a week. I didn't tell Harry that corporals usually were not selected for mess duty. I didn't want to tarnish his brilliance. Whenever I have asked for
compensation for his good fortune, as I so rightly deserve, he always points that crooked finger at me and simply says; "NO!"