In Chapter 23, Lynda pulls a gun on me because she's heard about Nurse Butz, a girl I'd met while gigging at an Army medical staff party. Here's the entire story...
The Banana playing for the 85th EVAC nurses' party. We did a lot of shows for military medical staff. With what they saw every day – all sorts of grisly casualties and injuries – it was no wonder they partied so hard.
The gig was rocking. Scores of medical staff cutting loose, laughing, dancing. Drinking. And drinking. Captain Crown was telling jokes, glad-handing, making sure glasses were full, the life of the party. After all, it was his party.
Captain Crown was an Army doctor. He'd come to Dodge City looking for us a couple of weeks after the Banana's audition show at MACV. He'd heard about the band, and wanted us to play a party he was throwing for some fellow Army docs and nurses. Our club gigs, they'd all been arranged through Steinmetz. Our pay came from the club's food, beer, and soda sales. This gig was different – it was totally on Crown.
Crown was a Virginia boy, like me, but from up north, near Washington, D.C. He was probably a young civilian doctor who happened to get drafted, we thought. He didn't seem to take any of the war stuff seriously, didn't let it cramp his style. We'd heard he was real important around our little corner of Vietnam, had the ear of General McBride at MACV in Qui Nhon.
All we really knew about him for sure was that he liked to party. He had us set up in a metal Quonset hut on his compound, one of those WWII-era tin cans with the curved roof. The acoustics were terrible, we'd discovered at sound check, the sound bouncing all over the place. And there wasn't a stage, Crown just tucked us in a corner not far from the makeshift bar area.
But the place was crowded, with loads of pretty nurses around. I couldn't help but notice one in particular. She reminded me of Judy. Petite, dark hair, terrific face, amazing rear end.
I wondered what Judy was doing tonight, who she was with, and if she was wondering about me.
"Hey, Corporal, you know 'Love Potion #9'?" Captain Crown was standing in front of me, a drink in his hand. "The Searchers?"
"You got it, sir," I said, watching the cute nurse head to the bar. "Who is that, sir?" I tilted my head in her direction.
He followed my gaze. Then he nodded and raised his glass. "Well, now, that's Nurse Butz." He gave me a mischievous wink.
I laughed. "Well… I can see that."
"Why do you want to know?" he said, grinning like a sly fox.
I could tell Crown was up to something. He definitely struck me as the practical jokester type. "No reason, " I said, trying to play off my interest like I didn't care. "She's just kind of cute, that's all."
"Hmm," Crown nodded, sipping his drink. "So, carry on. 'Love Potion,' got it?" He walked off to work the crowd, still wearing that grin, as we launched into the tune.
At the end of the song, I looked up to find Nurse Butz weaving her way toward me.
Crap. What did Crown do?
She stumbled up and put her arms around me. Her eyes were almost crossed, she was so drunk. She gave me a big, wet, sloppy kiss. I could feel my face turn red as the crowd cheered and whistled, Captain Crown howling the loudest. Then she disappeared back into the audience.
• • •
Three hours of playing and we were dog-tired and starting to pack up. Crown wasn't around, but it seemed the partiers weren't ready to turn in yet, people still milling around.
A young doc staggered up, sloshing his drink onto himself. He slurred, "Hey, you, guitar guy. What'll it cost for one more set?"
I looked over at the band. Sugden was shaking his head as he coiled up his bass cord. Ioli, cymbal under one arm, gave me a thumbs-down. Jessen frowned from behind the Farfisa lid.
I wasn't into it either, not for this guy. The double-life thing – MP by day, rock star by night – was wearing especially heavy tonight.
"Whaddaya say, man?" The doc, swaying, waited for me to answer. I was waiting for him to fall over. "Jus' one more set, how 'bout it?"
How are we going to get rid of this guy?
I did the math in my head. Crown had just paid a hundred bucks for three hours. Our inebriated friend, he'd get the Banana's extra-special, we-don't-want-to-do-it-time-to-go-the-hell-home price, I decided. A real bargain.
"A hundred bucks," I snapped.
Without a word the guy handed me his drink, reached deep into his pocket, and pulled out five crumpled twenties. He slapped them into my other hand and snatched back his drink.
He raised his glass and tottered around in a circle. "Party time!" the doc whooped. What could we do? We unpacked and set back up.
It was our first experience with the four-hour level of a drunk crowd. Halfway into our hundred-dollar set, there was another doctor directly in front of me dancing with a nurse. Like everyone, the guy was pretty smashed. He was doing something between boogie-ing and staggering. He kept backing up toward my microphone stand, stopping just before he would've hit it. Every time he stumbled near, I backed off of my mike; I just knew I was going to get clocked in the face with it. That, or he was going to fall right into our equipment. We'd worked way too hard to find it and pay for it for that to happen.
Where does this idiot get off?
The guy kept dancing away from me, then backing towards me. I didn't think he even knew I was behind him.
We were almost through "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown," the Stones, and the guy came near again. I winced as he stumbled dangerously close. Anger rippled through me as I sang.
Then, out of nowhere, the neck of the bass guitar appeared, lowering down in front of my microphone. I kept singing, staring at the tuning pegs, glancing over at Sugden who was concentrating on his playing, the microphone between my mouth and the headstock of the bass. The drunk guy was still incoming; this time it was clear, he was going to fall back into me. Six inches from impact and – wham! – Sugden swung his bass, bashing the guy with a short solid stroke to the back of the skull. The doc flew forward, clutching his left hand to his head. He managed to catch himself with his right hand in sort of a squat on the floor.
Stunned, he looked around over his left shoulder, still holding the back of his skull.
Sugden was back in his original position, thumping away on the bass like nothing had happened.
The guy thought it was his fault, that he'd run into the mike. "Oh, yeah, sorry," he slobbered when the song was over.
Sugden burst out laughing. I cracked up too, and it surprised me. Sure, the guy was a drunken idiot and he might've messed up the equipment, but I didn't want to hurt him. Did I?
"Man," I said, my face a cool-guy mask, "I'd hate to be that sorry sonofabitch in the morning."