Dandy Bob was a sailor. Not the best sailor, but not the worst either. He followed orders well enough, but was just too slow for the company commander’s- or any of our- tastes.
“Pick up the pace, Petunia. I’ve had crabs quicker than you.” The CC sprayed these words 3 inches from Dandy Bob’s blotchy face. A gentle, compassionate expression was Dandy Bob’s forte, especially when confronted with abuse. I always wondered how much the guy could take. For the entirety of boot camp, I never saw him pop. He never broke his Dandy Bob stride, slow and semi-steady, like the turtle in that fable. He was sure he was winning the race. Try as they might, they could never humiliate him: he retained a methodical dignity.
We were both in our early twenties.
Dandy Bob worked in the Defense Information Library. His movements were so sluggish that he made the book stacks seem animated. Mostly, he kept to himself, consumed in Agatha Christie mystery novels and drinking lots of soup. Dandy Bob was a big proponent of soup. He kept the deep, bottom drawer in his desk stocked with it. Chicken and stars, split pea, beef bouillon and all that bullshit. He was a pretty “by the book” kind of guy which is maybe why they put him in the library.
He got shipped to Iraq in the first wave out of MOS school. Pretty sure he wasn’t going to be indexing thirty year old books in the desert nor was he able eat his preferred 6 cans of soup a day. One would think it’s too hot in the desert to eat soup, but, trust me, that wouldn’t have stopped him. I only hope, for his sake, he did pick up the pace overseas. Without his soup, he was probably even slower.
I was discharged under questionable conditions nearly three decades ago, now. and I haven’t thought about the guy in years. But, as I write this, it’s my hope that his natural and effortless ease, his good-natured nonchalance, carried him through the hard times in the war and his personal life. We should all have it so good. I hope he wasn’t crapped on too hard by Uncle Sam or some other such wicked force. I hope that the carcinogenic ingredients in the soups he loved so much didn’t kill him. I guess this testimony is my hope that he’s still Dandy Bobbing along now well into his fifties, his moist, kind eyes just taking it all in.