Friday, September 29, 2006

13 December 1955

A calm, almost lazy day, though I kept busy most of it. Outside, the weather was nondescript—overcast though not glumly so. The sun shines so rarely over here that its presence is more conspicuous than its absence.

Emotionally I’m feeling fine, excepting for a few brief moments this afternoon when they started playing Christmas carols. Physically, my case of pneumonia has toned down & is content to sit idly somewhere in the cavities just above my nose, causing no bother. Currently I am engrossed in chewing my bottom lip, which is getting quite raw as I tear off tiny pieces of skin, and a gigantic hangnail, which seems intent on pulling my entire left thumb off.

I shouldn’t have said that I kept busy most of the day—the afternoon was pretty well shot, what with G.Q. & a typing test for Petty Officer. That was the first typing test I’d taken since high school, & high school is just a memory out of the distant past.

Someone is supposed to come in tomorrow to oil my typewriter. It’s getting so that it just creeps along &, slow as my typing is, there are occasionally five or six keys jammed up together.
Especially the "h". That is the most casual letter I have ever seen. It goes up & makes its mark with admirable speed, but then it either sticks there, or comes back so slowly that sometimes I have to stop & watch it, fascinated. Oh, well, the poor thing has been in almost constant use for almost two years with little or no repairs.

Mentioned the other day that we’re required to wear our blue flat hats while on liberty (none yet) & our blue watch caps while running around the ship. These watch caps are ingenious little things. I had one when I was in 7th grade, & haven’t seen one since. Made of heavy cotton, they’re like a large stocking cap &, when pulled down all the way, would make us all the rage of the 1920’s. They’re very warm, which is nice for out-of-doors activities, but miserable inside. We’re supposed to wear them all the time, except in the office, but I don’t—just carry it in case, & even then not always.

Nick is on my list for having carefully poured a cup of water down the back of my neck. I don’t know about that boy at times. We call him Joan of Arc (or Nick d’Ticonderoga) because he is rather prone to playing the role of martyr. Whenever there is work to be done, Nick does it—even though it needn’t be done right that minute. He’s a good kid, & at times reminds me of a very small boy (he’s only 18). He’ll always be epitomized by one instance of the first week I was mess-cooking. It was around lunch time & I asked him when we ate. He was sitting on the edge of his desk with his feet dangling over, not quite reaching the floor & swinging his legs back & forth. He looked up at me with the expression of a little boy with his first bicycle, & said: "I can eat any time I want to."

And then there’s Conrad—a 1st Class cook serving as PPO (Police Petty Officer—in charge of keeping the compartments clean). He gives the impression of being smaller than he is, perhaps because of a slightly large head. His voice is loud & sharp, though not high. He has an almost morbid fascination about death, particularly in its more violent forms—he tells in great detail how his own mother & father were killed in a car-train accident in 1949—his mother being thrown from the car after it had been shoved 200 feet. The way he talks of accidents & death—almost with relish. Andy says he was in several landing parties during the Second World War, & evidently had it tough. As a greeting, he grabs you by the muscles of the shoulder just below the neck & squeezes. This can be quite painful if the right muscles are involved. They usually are.

What’s this? Only five after nine? I must be slipping. Better try to write some more on the Paris trip. Till tomorrow (or the next page)….

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