By: Wyatt H Knott [2006-05-26]

Tough

Part I: strong or firm in texture, flexible and not brittle

Have you ever been clocked straight in the eye by a 240 pound, six foot seven inch tall US Navy Bosun's Mate Second Class with hands like rocks from years of hauling line in cold water? I have. Let me tell you: it was tough.

You people don't know what tough is. Boats was tough. He was also my boss and drunk and annoyed that I'd shoved him backwards over a pool table.  

Things reached a head that night with the help of a few dozen beers, but it never would have happened without considerable underlying foment: I had been feeling froggish for weeks, having recently been promoted from Seaman to Petty Officer Third Class. I'd been giving Boats a steadily growing ration of shit and we were both spoiling to have it out. The argument started with some quibble over the game. After I shoved Boats into the table, he suggested we step outside and settle it like men. I readily agreed.

He got in my face, I pushed him away from me. He slapped my glasses off my face, I leapt at him and punched him in the mouth. He started swinging and we were locked in a boxing match, throwing ourselves at each other, oblivious to potential injury.

My hands were also pretty hard in those days and I gave Boats a run for his money, working close to cut the advantage he had with his height and reach. He was a big guy but he swung wide and wild, counting on brute force and overwhelming strength. I kept my head down and concentrated on his stomach and chest, pushing into him as his punches landed ineffectually against my shoulders and arms.   

I was doing pretty good, Boats was falling back, panting and grunting every time I got a shot up under his ribs. I thought I had him. I looked up to see how he was doing. That's when he landed that right cross.

My head exploded. It pretty much knocked me out standing for a few seconds. (One interesting side-benefit of this experience is that I can now confirm that stars actually do seem to swirl around inside your head, very similar to the way it's portrayed in cartoons.) Another punch at that point would have flattened me.

Boats was merciful. He never threw that punch. Instead, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was alright. I wasn't. I waved my hands in the air and admitted defeat.

"That's it, you win, you win, owww!" I said as I tried to touch my rapidly swelling eye.

"Thank God," he said "I thought you'd never quit."

When my vision returned, we staggered back to his nearby apartment. His wife made concerned noises and put ice on my eye while we drank Rumplemintz and more beer. After a few drinks, I had recovered sufficiently enough that I was able to keep drinking. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have little memory for the rest of that night.

At the barracks the next day, we compared bruises and hangovers. Boats told me his wife had been terrified that I was going file an official complaint and get him in trouble with the command. We laughed. Yes, my left eye was swollen shut and I'd had to tell the Master Chief I walked into a door. Yes, Boats was having a hard time breathing and was worried I'd cracked one of his ribs. We knew none of that was important. Any lingering issues had been settled. Tough is not a contest. Whatever had been irritating between us was gone, replaced by mutual respect. 
....what the hell was that? [2006-05-26 01:14:17] Mr. The Plague
Where's the lawsuits? Where's the court orders? WHERE WAS HARVEY BIRDMAN!?!?!?!?111
Shipyard [2006-05-26 01:52:41] Knig Pre, GfbAEV
If there were fights in the shipyard, the chief used to lock the guys into one of the holds, and would let them out when they got it settled.
Switchyards [2006-05-26 06:33:32] Hatless Jack
Back in the switchyards we had a practice known as "the Mississippi boxcar". If we had two people who had things that needed settling we called over the bull and he locked them in the hoghead's locker room and didn't let them out 'till the things that needed settling were settled. I'm not exactly sure how the practice got its name since it really didn't involve a boxcar at all and the practice can me traced directly back to Vancouver, but boy-howdy... Once an old time shack and a possesh from the extra gang got into it something fierce. So we broke out the punk and gut, started downing some of that old chesapeake bay canvasback, and slapped down some Roosvelts over who'd come out on top. Then the Pinkerton yard dicks showed up and started cracking skulls. Yellow Joe the Chinaman took one to the back of the head and he ain't been right since, let me tell you.
Good times... good times.
The... [2006-05-26 07:58:01] zeP
tide of fiction is heavy. Villagers on the coastline are advised to move inland.
Hurricane... [2006-05-26 08:04:58] zeP
zeP is to blame.
Wreckingyard [2006-05-26 08:40:35] Sean
When guys down at the wrecking yard would get into it, Pete the owner'd usually get Chief Mike to help throw the guy into an old 83 chevy impala what what he removed the inside door locks and window rollers from and set out in the middle of the yard and had a bunch of other old junkers piled up on top of it, and he'd just let 'em cool off for a while in there. Chief Mike really was an indian but he weren't no chief, we just called him that after we seen that one movie with the crazy indian in the nut house. Chief Mike didn't really care for it and he really was crazy. I tell you, throw a guy into that chevy when he gettin' hot under the collar and lock 'em in on a real hot summer's day, and he's ready to make peace real quick like. One time ol' Pete throwed in this guy Graves he had workin' for him who got into it with another guy we all called Boo (long story), and it was dead of winter, I mean colder'n a witch's tit in January, and ol' Pete he throwed Graves into the chevy and you couldn't even see in the windows they was so covered in ice. Anyway Graves is in there for over an hour and we all figure he must be freezin' his nuts off by now, and even ol' Boo is saying to Pete that he oughta let him out. All the sudden the chevy lurches forward, knocking off all these other cars what Pete got stacked up on top of it, and it runs head first right into Pete's new cat which he just purchased from the John Deere guy. Didn't do much damage but totally fucked up the yellow paint job. Anyway ol' Pete he was fit to be tied. 'Parantly what happened is Graves went in there with a hammer on his belt, and got so cold he pried open the steering column to try and hotwire the old girl so's he could turn on the heater but claims he accidentally put 'er into drive. That was his story anyway, but what we all figured was that he wanted to drive out of there or maybe over ol' Boo. Anyway Pete didn't put guys in the chevy no more after that on account a the doors not closin' right anymore.
Too Tall [2006-05-26 18:56:48] Knig Pre, GfbAEV
I got a cousin and an uncle, cousin six-ten and uncle six-seven, and you got to get permission to get in the Navy if yer over six-six--I think so.
Mike from the lumberyard [2006-05-27 01:28:58] FGS
We all knew what Mike did in his free time. He was a local figurehead for organized crime, not necessarily Italian or Russian or any particular group, more a loose association of con men and enforcers. He worked with us down at the lumber yard to legitimately pay for the alimony and child support he owed to his ex-wife, who had custody of Mike Jr. I say "worked," but he made his own hours and the yard foreman didn’t seem to have a problem with it and paid him like the rest of us forty hour slobs.

He never drank or raised his voiced when he came to work, and he worked hard, which I appreciated. The other guys mumbled things, but never to his face, and though you knew exactly what he was into, you never, ever mentioned it. It was actually part of orientation when I came on; if you got half a brain, they said, never ask about Mikey’s free time. Of course, I asked around a little bit at first, quick questions to Jamie on a delivery, and Nate in the lunchroom, just to get a hint of what the hell was so sinister about Mike, and when I got that hint, I backed the hell off, like the others.

But stress does peculiar things to a man: makes his mind believe things are worse than they are, gives his body a nervous energy that makes his hands shake, and makes his mouth jibber and jabber as if he was the only person in the world with problems. And when a body gets to feeling that way, the order of things can slip; when that order comes out of alignment, well, there’s a procedure for righting it, like putting a dislocated appendage in its place, it damn well hurts.

Dave was one of the shift supervisors, and he was good at his job, a little high strung, but he had a sense of humor and an unstoppable work ethic. He was a force of nature in the yard when something absolutely had to get done, and there was always something that had to get done. But like other guys who love to work, his wife got fed up with all the time he spent putting food on the table, and she took off to Reno with the kid and her dogcatcher boyfriend. She was filing for divorce, and she wanted everything. Dave went to pieces, not necessarily about losing the house to his soon-to-be ex-wife, or about the money he’d lose in spousal support. She was going for full custody and she was trying to make it so he never got to see his kid, and I don’t think he knew how to handle that. Jessica was the apple of his eye, his little girl, and he said it felt like his world was ending, now that he might not get to see her again.

He spends a few weeks looking like a dead man, getting little sleep, not eating, hardly talking. We all felt bad for him, even Mike when he showed up, but what could we do? The yard foreman was calling Dave in to the office every other day, I think they were having a drink; the yard foreman trying to inject some life back into his friend, you know? But nothing came of it. The man was walking dead.

Then he went and did a crazy thing: he asked Mike for help. It was a wild gleam, almost feral, in his eye when he came up to Mike at the end of the shift. Mike had shown up early for the very first time, and he worked all day. We noticed Dave eyeballing Mike, and I’m sure Mike did, but he didn’t let on, you know, trying to cut him some slack. End of shift though, Dave just comes right up in front of all of us, takes Mike by the arm and asks him to help kidnap his daughter from his estranged wife. We froze; Mike looked at the hand on his arm, and looked without moving a single muscle on his face until Dave let him go.

"First, I told you I was sorry, Dave," Mike says, and he sounds sincere. He crosses his arms across his chest. "Second, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about."

Dave laughs in his face. "HA!" he says, in a pitch that was more like a scream, and he says it leaning in all close to Mike, and man, we all hold our breath. Mike isn’t someone most anyone on the crew would have messed with if he’d just been a stranger on the street. He’s not tall, but he’s all lean muscle, and hell, he just looks mean. Knowing what we do about his free time, and some of the stories we’ve seen on the news about property and people going missing and such, well, you just get to figuring that it’s Mike and his boys. And this dumbshit decides he’s going to laugh in the face of the head murderer in an association of murderers. Jaime and Nate walk off then, and the yard foreman throws up his hands and walks too. I stay, and Dean, one of the new hands, he stays. Dean’s curious like everyone is when they start out here, and me, well, I guess that curiosity hasn’t faded.
You can see Mike’s face contort, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him get visibly upset, and to be honest, it’s a little scary. His whole body tenses up, and his hands ball up into fists.

"You want me to steal your little girl, Dave?" he asks, his voice soft enough I can hardly hear him. "You understand what that means, man? It means she’s mine, if I choose not to give her to you, and at this point I’m tempted, seeing as you called me out like this in front of God and everyone on the crew. Now, I’m not one for hurting little kids, but your daughter won’t be a kid forever." Dave’s face turns white. "Oh, yeah, buddy, you don’t have any idea who you’re talking to," Mike says.

"I know you’re under a lot of stress. When I went through my divorce, I was the same way. Shit, I might have talked you the way you talked to me if our situations were reversed," he says, and his body language loosens up just a bit. "But our situation ain’t reversed, Dave, and I feel like I been disrespected by a man too cowardly to do his own dirty work. That don’t sit right with me. No, you’re going to have to make that right." Mike grips Dave’s arm and pulls him into the parking lot towards his truck, a huge black Ford, covered in dust from the dirt lot it’s been cooking in all day.
Dean asks Mike if he could let Dave go before I can stop him. "Shut your fucking mouth, kid. If this was your business, I’d be hauling on you like I’m hauling on him." He opens the passenger door and shoves Dave in. He closes the door and stomps around to the driver’s side and climbs in. Dave is looking at Dean and I in the parking lot. His face says it all.

It’s two days before we see either Mike or Dave. Everyone comes to work like nothing at all happened, except for Dean, who can’t keep his mouth shut until the yard foreman lays him out right before lunch. Then he’s real quiet. What the rest of us realize is that two things are going to happen: one, Mike will be back at work; two, things will continue as they always have, or you’ll end up like Dave. So out not telling anyone what happened was a safety measure. Dave made a bad play, and now that he was missing, the rest os us took stock. I mean how bad did we want to suffer Dave’s fate, whatever it was? The answer came with little hesitation.

So imagine my surprise when Dave shows up to work with Mike. They’re walking across the parking lot together, Mike visibly holding Dave up by the shoulders. He looks like he’s been mauled by a lead pipe wielding bear, but he’s alive. His arm is in a sling, and one eye is black and blue and swollen shut. He doesn’t act like he’s happy to be alive, but this is a small thing considering that we were prepared to cover for his mysterious disappearance to save our own skins. Mike catches us all in the office before we clock in.
"There was some tension between me and Dave," he says, "but that tension is gone now. I just want you to know that I like you guys, and I don’t want to have what happened to Dave happen to any one else from the yard, okay?" It’s a question that demands a response, so we all tell him, sure, no hard feelings. "Good," he says. "Don’t make me have to not give a damn."
After all that, we clock in, and like nothing’s happened, go about our business in the yard.
OK, ok... [2006-05-27 04:00:46] Knig Pre, GfbAEV
So, the big timber from the logging camp was delivered to a skidding yard down by the Willamette to be loaded onto the Sun Maru Japanese freighter for shipment to India for fabrication into furniture by dwarf Mongolian lesbians who were very fond of Bazooka Bubble Gum.
strong or firm in texture, flexible and not brittle.... [2006-05-27 13:53:41] perfektMperfektshun
sounds like a bio for adult friend finders..in the geriatric section...ever ride an old geezer and his thing just plumb snaps off..i hate when that happens dont u anna nicole? nah she may be blonde butt i bet she was smart enuff not to have to service him...unless she was a necro~feel~him~up...
speakin of service ...thank u to all the vets so i can get to things i hate without steppin on a land mine to mindlessly rant while u put ur life on the line xoxoxoxxo
It's Sunday... [2006-05-28 11:09:02] Sean
feels like something's missing.
~valuables~ [2006-05-28 13:03:35] perfktMperfktshun
...could it be the family jewels?
Missing [2006-05-28 14:09:01] Wyatt
Boob along, boob along, nothing to see here.

Damn, I never thought I'd be missing Zirealism, but there it is.

navy bosun's [2006-06-12 21:26:06] jimmy ess
how do they make mcnamara lace
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