Fresh Fatigues by Mark Blickley
|Mark Blickley grew up within walking distance of the Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams.|
MAJOR HAMMOND - A forty year
old physically fit officer.
SERGEANT TREZZA - Major Ham
mond’s overweight secretary.
SERGEANT BOYD – Twenty-year-
old dressed in filthy fatigues and boots.
He is approximately the same size as Major Hammond.
SECURITY POLICEMAN #1.
SECURITY POLICEMAN #2.
Time: Early spring, 1973
Place: Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. The office of squadron commander MAJOR HAMMOND. Downstage Left is the door leading to the office, Downstage Right is a full-length mirror. Major Hammond is in his tee shirt doing push-ups in front of the mirror.
HAMMOND: (struggling) Forty-five,
forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight,
(pause) Come on, Major, you can
do it! Forty-nine, fifty!
(Hammond springs up, pats his
stomach and towels off. He carefully
puts on his shirt as he admires himself in the mirror He then walks over to his desk, sits, and begins leafing through papers. He taps the desk, nervously looks at his wrist-watch, and speaks into the intercom)
HAMMOND: Trezza! Trezza! I
want you in here on the double with
Sergeant Boyd’s file.
(SERGEANT TREZZA enters with
the file and a cup of coffee. He cradles his clipboard, waiting for Hammond’s directives)
TREZZA: Here, sir.
HAMMOND: When’s this hero sup
posed to arrive?
TREZZA: At nine, Major.
HAMMOND: (agitated) Great way
to start my day. Why does this
squadron get all these Vietnam Veterans? Who’s assigning them to
TREZZA: My buddies up at McGuire
and Moody say they’re getting them.
HAMMOND: Are your buddies getting their balls broken by them, too?
TREZZA: (laughs) I guess so.
HAMMOND: (Flips through file) I
tried to be patient. but I can’t under
stand their lack of team spirit. Team
spirit is essential to the smooth op
eration of this squadron. This Sergeant Boyd seems to be the worst of
the lot. I know what he expects. He
thinks l’m going to pat him on the ass, thank him for his war efforts and
send him home in a parade. You
know, Trezza, when I first heard
about the Vets’ behavior I figured
what the hell, give them time to adjust. But it’s been three months
since the war ended and now l’m
mad, No more leniency. l’m going
to burn this Sergeant’s ass and hold
it up over the base like the god-damned Statue of Liberty!
(Hammond slams his fist on the
HAMMOND: Do you know this Ser
geant Boyd, Trezza?
TREZZA: No, sir, Those Vets stick
together. But I did see him in the
N.C.O. club a couple of nights ago.
Funny thing, too. Baby Blue, this hot
stripper from Louisiana was working
the club. She went right over to this
table where Boyd’s sitting by himself
chugging shots and starts rubbing
up against him.
(Trezza, next to Hammond, demon
TREZZA: And when Baby Blue
picks you out of a crowd it’s an
honor, let me tell you! But Boyd just
sat there sipping his drink and didn’t
even look at her. Well, Baby Blue
was pissed, She gave him the ultimate snub, She didn’t offer him a tit.
You see, if Baby Blue likes someone
she holds out her tit and rubs it
across his face.
(Trezza demonstrates by holding out
an imaginary breast that he swipes
across the Hammond’s face. Hammond turns his face away in disgust)
TREZZA: But she just gave Boyd
her back and walked away, and eve
ryone in the club knew she was
pissed. We were pissed, too, ‘cause
she kind of sulked and gave a lousy
HAMMOND: (annoyed) That’s a
fascinating story, Trezza. I can al
ways count on you to give me great
insights into my men. Listen, if you
ever find the courage to leave the Air
Force let me know. I’d like to recommend you for undercover work
with the C.I.A .... or a hotel. Okay?
TREZZA: (smirks) Yes, sir.
HAMMOND: When I walked in this
morning my picture of Ted Williams
was on the floor. The glass is
(Hammond opens his desk drawer
removes the framed photograph,
hands it to Trezza)
HAMMOND: I don’t know how it fell off my desk but you make sure nothing else happens to it. l want it back today, It took me years to get his autograph.
TREZZA: I know, sir.
HAMMOND: Do you remember him, Trezza?
TREZZA: Vaguely, sir.
HAMMOND: Hmmmm. You’re too
young. What a great man.
TREZZA: Greater than the Babe?
HAMMOND: Ruth just smashed
baseballs. Williams smashed baseballs and enemy aircraft. Did you
know that he flew in two wars in ad
dition to hitting 521 home runs and
TREZZA: (bored) Yes, Major. I
think you’ve told me a little about
him. I’lI get on this right away.
(Trezza exits. Hammond reads the
report on his desk. SERGEANT BOYD strolls into the office. Hearing footsteps, Hammond looks up)
HAMMOND: Who the hell do you
think you are, Sergeant, coming in
BOYD: (pauses, executes a crisp
salute) Sergeant Boyd reporting as
(Hammond growls, returns the salute
and shuttles through the paperwork
on his desk, He extracts a manila
envelope that he flings at Boyd)
HAMMOND: You look like shit.
How do you smell? (Boyd shrugs)
l’ve got two dozen reports on you.
Sergeant, and not one says you’re
worth a rats ass. l’m pulling you off
the flightline. I don’t want any idiots
working on my planes. What do you
think about that, Sergeant?
HAMMOND: Answer me, Sergeant!
BOYD: I don’t care ... sir.
HAMMOND: You don’t care? Well I
care, dammit! What the hell’s wrong with
you? According to your file you
were one hell of a mechanic over
there. Your write-ups on perform
ance while under fire is outstanding.
Now you get stationed at a paradise
like Charleston and what happens?
You become derelict in your duty
and disobedient. What’s your excuse, Sergeant?
HAMMOND: Answer me, Sergeant!
BOYD: I’m unhappy ... sir.
HAMMOND: Oh. (pause) You’re
unhappy. Why? Are you a warmonger Do you miss the glory or
the exotic whores? Not enough action in South Carolina?
HAMMOND: (angrily) No what?
BOYD: Sir. No, sir.
HAMMOND: Why were you such a
good airman in Nam and worthless
BOYD: (locks his finger squeezes)
l guess I didn’t have to worry back
HAMMOND: (screams) Say what?
BOYD: (releases lingers, scratches
cheek) I didn’t have to worry, I was
a great mechanic and not just on
airplanes. I was great at doing eve
rything mechanically. l’d pee my
pants during every rocket attack, get
laid when I was supposed to, hate
who I was supposed to hate. Eve
rything ... you know normal. Regular
HAMMOND: Stuff? What stuff?
Stuff is another word for drugs, isn’t
it, Sergeant? Are you a doper, Sergeant?
BOYD: No, sir. I mean, I’m a dope.
But it you’re asking me “are you” that
would depend on the are. If the r
comes after the word dope then no,
I’m not a dope, sir. If you’re asking
me “are you a dope” and the are
comes before the word dope then
yes, I’m a dope, sir.
HAMMOND: (grinding teeth) You’re
funny, Sergeant. Real funny. I’lI bet
you’re a doper any way you spell it.
I bet you miss all that high-grade
crap you used to get over there.
That's why you’re walking around
here with your head up your ass.
(Boyd shakes his head, blows up his
cheeks and puts his finger in his
mouth. He makes a loud popping
BOYD: That pop you heard, sir, was
me pulling my head out of my ass.
Sorry for the noise, Major, but when
my head cleared my ass the air
rushing in to fill the vacuum made a
popping sound. I think it’s similar in
principle to a sonic boom.
HAMMOND: More jokes, Sergeant.
Better pop it some more because I’m
going to see to it that you piss into a
bottle everyday until we catch your
drug habit. You’re going to piss on
command, Sergeant, and it your
urinalysis doesn’t nail you, I will!
You make me sick.
HAMMOND: Your behavior and
appearance on base, and especially
the flightline, is harmful to the
younger troops we have here.
BOYD: I’m only twenty, sir.
(Hammond stands up and circles
Boyd, jabbing his finger into Boyd’s
ribs to punctuate his sentences)
HAMMOND: I don’t like you, Sergeant. You’re weird. I’m sick of all
the article fifteens filed against you.
(Hammond picks up a report from
his desk and reads i0
HAMMOND: Hair too long, un
shaven, out of uniform or filthy when
you’re in one, late for work, failing to
salute officers, wiseassing your su
periors. Big tough man aren’t you,
Sergeant? The Air Force too rough
for you in South Carolina?
(Hammond throws the report back
on his desk)
BOYD: Yes, sir.
HAMMOND: Poor Boyd.
BOYD: l’ve saved a few dollars, sir.
HAMMOND: Ah, a wit. A god-
damned military wit! So this is your
act, huh, Sergeant? A witty N.C.O.
in smelly clothes. Now that I know
l’m dealing with a superior intellect,
let me throw off my gruff military
bearing and turn modern.
(Hammond stretches out his arms as
if to embrace Boyd)
HAMMOND: Let me reach out to
you my dear, sweet smelling Sergeant.
(Hammonds an inch away from
HAMMOND: Now tell me, Sergeant,
why do you wear your old fatigues
when you’ve been issued fresh
BOYD: Because they’re mine...sir.
HAMMOND: And maybe by wearing
jungle rotted fatigues everyone will
stop, look and whisper in reverent
tones (cups his mouth with his
hand) ‘there goes a Vietnam Vet.’
BOYD: The whispering is much
better than the crying, sir.
HAMMOND: And what's cried? I’m
special! You can’t touch me! So
you’ve been to war, big shit. You’re
lucky. What about the ones that
wanted to go but couIdn’t? l’ve
never seen combat and it breaks my
heart, but I live with it. I’I probably
be a major tor another six years be
cause I didn’t go to war. But I deal
with it and strive to be the best offi
cer I can. You ever hear of Ted Williams?
BOYD: Sure. I mean, yes, sir. Ted
Williams played for Boston.
HAMMOND: That's right, Sergeant.
And he was a damn good fighter
pilot, too. A Korean War hero. I
wanted to be like Ted Williams, hit
ting grand slams and shooting down
(Hammond pulls off his eyeglasses)
HAMMOND: These eyes of mine
prevented me from being a good
hitter and a pilot. But l stuck it out
and became an officer like Ted Wil
liams even though I couldn’t fly or hit
a fastball. And that took guts, too,
BOYD: (snickers) Yes, sir, Major. I
can see the similarity between you
and Ted Williams. I noticed it as
soon as I walked in.
(Hammond puts his eyeglasses back
HAMMOND: You didn’t notice any
thing. How could you with that cloud
of filth you carry around with you? But I’II tell you what the similarity is, War Hero! I write left-handed. Williams batted Ieft-handed. He risked his life for his country. So do I. You see, my heroic Sergeant, as a lefthander I always smear what I write. I can’t help it. lf you add up the amount of reports l’ve had to write, the papers l’ve had to sign, there must have been thousands of ink smears on my hand with thousands more to come. I figure with all this ink on my hand a lot of it must’ve been absorbed through my pores.
(Hammond holds his hand up in
front of Boyd's face and turns it for
Boyd's inspection. Boyd jumps
back, thinking Hammond is about to
HAMMOND: My skin’s drinking a
slow, poisonous death. So don’t
think I’m going to pity you or absolve
you just because you spent X
amount of months in a combat zone.
What really happened is that it broke
you. You embarrass your uniform,
Look at those boots!
(Hammond points to Boyd’s boots)
BOYD: I can’t polish these boots,
sir. l’ve tried. Believe me, l’ve tried.
Polish can’t hide the stains. It just
brings them out more.
HAMMOND: Stains? What stains
are you talking about, Sergeant?
BOYD: Fear stains, sir. Fear made
my feet sweat like they were crying.
I used to think it was just sweat, but
I’m not so sure anymore. Some
times I think of the wetness inside
my boots as ... tears or something. I
know it sounds strange but some
times I think my feet are the only
part of me that can cry anymore.
HAMMOND: No, it doesn’t sound
strange, Sergeant. If I had to put on
your boots my feet would cry, too.
(airily) We’ll just have to take them
oft and break in a new pair, won’t
BOYD: I can’t.
HAMMOND: Why not, Sergeant?
BOYD: Because they’re mine.
HAMMOND: The new boots we
issued you are yours, too, Sergeant!
BOYD: Then what will happen to
(Boyd reaches down and touches
BOYD: These feet are different than
the ones I enlisted with, Major.
You’ve got a record of my boot size.
You think it’s just a matter of me
picking out a new pair. It’s not. My
feet have changed. They feel
things. I told you I went through my
tour doing everything mechanically,
like a robot, I did what I was taught
and told to do. I even stopped
thinking about myself after a while. I
just thought about blocking out air
craft. But my feet were always
pouring water into boots from the
moment I landed in ‘Nam, At first
the water chafed my feet and it hurt
like hell. After a while I got used to
it. And then I began to depend on it.
I’d lace up my boots real tight so the
sweat wouldn’t escape. I knew that if
my feet sweat during rocket attacks,
and it hurt, I’d be able to do my job
‘cause my fear was trapped inside
these boots. If that sweat or water
or tears or whatever the hell it was
escaped from my boots it would
have paralyzed me. I’d have been
too scared to do my job and that
would’ve put my crew in danger.
That’s why l’ve got to leave these
boots on. I can’t wear any other
boots but these. And these fatigues.
I have to wear what belongs to me,
HAMMOND: I don’t see anything,
Sergeant. But I can smell. If any
thing’s changed about your feet it’s
jungle rot. That's all, Sergeant.
Jungle rot. A fungus. Filth. I’m not
buying that rot spewing out of your
mouth, either. What’s your pitch,
Sergeant? You want to go home?
You want me to send you home with
good paper and a brass band? Is
that what you want, Sergeant?
BOYD: No. No, sir,
HAMMOND: Bullshit! You’re a liar.
BOYD: I never said I wasn’t a liar. I
don’t want to go home. I do want out
with good paper. I need time alone
so I can figure out how to make the
connection between my feet and my
HAMMOND: How about making the
connection between hot water and a
bar of soap, Sergeant?
BOYD: Before I arrived this morning
I shaved, Major.
HAMMOND: I’m flattered, Sergeant.
BOYD: By mistake I squeezed out
twice as much lather as I needed.
l’ve got this thing about wasting
shaving so cream so I smeared it all
over my face until only my eyes
were left uncovered. I hadn’t looked
at my eyes for a long time. And the
longer I stared at my eyes the more I
realized they weren’t mine. No
matter how much I squinted or wid
ened them I knew they weren’t mine.
They were the dull eyes of my father.
HAMMOND: (disgusted) He must
be real proud of you, Boyd. Was he
in the service?
BOYD: Yeah, he was in the service
but he’s made a career out of work
ing in a hospital laundry. My father’s
life peaked at nineteen aboard a
troop transport anchored off the
coast of Japan, waiting for the order
to invade that never came, thanks to
the Bomb. He justifies his entire life
by the seventy-two hours he spent
floating on the Pacific Ocean instead
of the twenty-seven years he spent
bleaching out other people’s filth.
He pushed me into joining. Demanded it. Now all I want is to be
left alone by the Air Force and my
goddamn father bragging about his
(Hammond walks over to Boyd)
HAMMOND: That’s real fascinating,
Sergeant. I can’t wait till the movie’s
released. Why don’t you take off
those filthy fatigues and send them
to your father to clean? But if we
can drop Papa for the moment and
get back to the real world, the world
in which you’re a fuck-up, I’d greatly
appreciate it. You signed a four-year
contract. You have more than a
year left to pull. Nobody made you
join. The Air Force is voluntary. So
save the heart-wrenching Daddy
stories for draftees, okay Sergeant?
BOYD: (embarrassed) Yes. Yes.
HAMMOND: (points to a chair) Sit
(Hammond returns to his desk)
HAMMOND: What do you want, Sergeant?
BOYD: A discharge.
HAMMOND: That’s simple, Sergeant. I can have you thrown out within a week.
BOYD: You can throw me, Major, so
long as I land outside this base with
HAMMOND: Why is your expulsion
with good paper so important? Aren’t
your selfish little concerns urgent?
Why hold up your release by insisting
on an Honorable Discharge? I’II push
you out of the Air Force for the good of
the service. It’s a simple administrative
procedure, a thirty-five dash twelve.
BOYD: I want out with good paper. I
deserve an honorable. I’m not really
sure why I want it. I think I’II need the
benefits attached to it. It’II give me
some excuse for having signed up.
Excuses have become real important
to me now.
HAMMOND: Why lie, Sergeant? Tell
whoever wants to know that you joined
and couldn’t cut it.
BOYD: Major, I did what I was told
and with the war over I figure I deserve
time off for good behavior. Christ,
Major, I figured civilians would give me
a hard time, not you guys. I thought if
anyone would understand it would be
(Hammond edges towards his desk.
By the end of his speech he’s sealed
HAMMOND: Oh, l understand, Ser
geant. You want me to give you the
same respect and privileges other men
have earned fulfilling their four-year
contract. Just because some of your
tour of duty was spent in a combat
zone doesn’t mean you deserve any
thing more than any other airman who
served his country. At any time an
airman could’ve been sent to ‘Nam.
You were lucky, that’s all. Why don’t
you be grateful for the experience
you’ve had and let it go at that. I admit
I envy your experience, but not the way
it affected you. It broke you!
(Boyd jumps up from the chair and
leans across Hammonds desk)
BOYD: I’m not broken! I just need
time to rest, Major. For years l’ve been
in a ring where the only rest you got
was when you were knocked out or
when you knocked somebody else out.
All I want now is to take a little breather
between rounds, sit on a stool and
swish water around my mouth till my
head clears a little. That’s all. You
keep pushing me into this ring smeared
with your chicken shit rules where I slip
and fall on my ass even though the
fight’s over. It’s over, Major.
HAMMOND: From what I hear it’s not
water you’re swishing around your
mouth, it’s whiskey. You misjudge me,
Sergeant. I want you to retire from the
ring. The problem is that because of
your rank as a non-commissioned offi
cer I can’t put you out without a hear
ing. With your war record what kind of
recommendation will a hearing board
make? It’d be hard enough to take a
strip from you, let alone boot you out.
That’s funny, huh Sergeant? Boot you
out. If I were to bring your boots be
fore the board they’d probably order a
firing squad for you. Or maybe just a
fire to burn your boots, you being a war
hero and all. There is a way, though.
If you agree to waive the hearing I’ll
push you out of the military within two
weeks with a General Discharge.
That’s not such a bad piece of paper.
You’d still be eligible for many G.I.
benefits. And you’d be out in two
weeks, I promise, Sergeant. But I can’t
have you leaving here before your
time’s up with an Honorable. Other
vets would pull the same stunt as you
and my leadership would be under
mined. Besides, you don’t solicit any
thing but contempt. You’re irresponsible and a quitter. You’re dangerous.
BOYD: Yeah, I know. That’s why I
room by myself.
(Hammond walks behind Boyd and
places his hands on the back of the
chair. He is trying to seduce Boyd into
waiving the hearing)
HAMMOND: Take my offer, Sergeant.
Get away from us. Leave. Think of it,
Sergeant. In two weeks you can start
shooting dope with your friends on
street corners as you wait for the high
Schoolgirls to walk by on their way to
class. You can corner all the little girls
you want and tell them how hard a life
you had fighting the big mean men in
South Carolina. Maybe you can solicit
the sympathy from a pretty sophomore
that you’re trying to solicit from me.
Waive the hearing, Sergeant. Let me
help you get rid of me.
(Boyd is thinking over what Hammond
has said. Suddenly he leaps off the
BOYD: I’m a sergeant and I’II demand
my rights as a sergeant. lf you try to
kick me out with anything but an Honorable I’II demand a hearing. I don’t
deserve bad paper. I made sergeant
and crew chief while still a teenager.
Remember that, Major.
HAMMOND: (shakes head in disbe
lief) How did that ever happen?
BOYD! How? I’ll tell you how. The Air
Force mistook my fear for courage.
You wonder about combat, Major?
You’re mad at me because I got to a
war and you didn’t’? Let me tell you,
Major, I wondered how I’d act. You
know what I learned? When rockets
are exploding I’m more afraid than
anyone else on the flightline. If one of
those suckers hits a plane loaded with
all that fuel¾
(Boyd makes an explosion noise and
gestures with his hands)
BOYD¾that’s the ballgame, as Ted
Williams would say.
(Hammond presses his face close to
BOYD: You dirty his name just by
having it come out of your mouth.
(Hammond pivots in disgust and walks
to the far end of the stage)
BOYD: I could easily crouch in a corner with my head between my knees,
crying, when those rockets burst. But
I’m too scared for that. I can’t see the
bastards who are trying to blow me to
bits. I just hear them. The rockets.
My enemy isn’t breathing flesh, it’s
sounds. A wheezy hiss that swells into
a bursting whistle of flame. I get so
scared I think of the exploding rockets
as some kind of audio component that I
can shut off by turning a knob. Lower
the volume, shut it oft I say to myself.
My knob is getting those planes off as
quick as I can. I believe that if I can
get the aircraft blocked out fast
enough, get them flying, they’ll stop
aiming their explosions at me and go
after them instead, You see, I figure
they’ll go after the plane worth millions
of dollars and not me who makes two-
twenty a month. Good American logic,
HAMMOND: The only good thing
about you is that uniform, Sergeant,
and you’ve failed it, You’re in my office
because you’re a failure. A failed, bro
BOYD! No! You’re the failure! You
failed, Major! I gave you a chance but
you failed to take it!
(Boyd slaps the chair)
BOYD: Nice office you have here,
Major. Real comfortable. Do you want
me to tell you what happens outside
this line office, Major?
(Boyd paces around the office, pauses
by a window, points)
BOYD! Outside this line base, outside
this line state? You’re still puzzled
over my great write-ups while I was
under fire, right Major? You don’t think
I’m brave enough?
HAMMOND: I think you’re sick!
BOYD: Now you’re getting it. Sick.
Sick and scared. Truth is, loading
body bags as fast as I could during
rocket attacks gave me the great write-
ups and fast rank, but you see, Major,
I didn’t care about the rockets when the
cargo was bags. I just wanted those
bags out of there, away from me! l
didn’t want to smell them or touch
them. Their stink got so bad l could
taste them. It was like I was a cannibal
or something ‘cause I’d swallow that
smell and feel it grow in my stomach.
It'd make me puke and even that
smelled sweet compared to the plastic
bags broiling in the sun. The death I
was swallowing didn’t belong to me! It
belonged to the bags in the plane flying
away! Away from me!
(Boyd lifts his arms over his head and
slaps the window his voice rising and
his slapping getting more frantic)
BOYD: Get those planes up! Get
those planes out of here! Get them –
HAMMOND: Sergeant! Sergeant!
(Hammond grabs Boyd's arms and
pulls them down)
HAMMOND: Sit down, Sergeant!
(Hammond leads Boyd over to the
chair; Boyd shakes him off and sits)
BOYD: (catches breath) I had it easy,
Major. I never saw anyone get hit. I
heard explosions. I saw explosions.
Later I saw bones and flesh straining
against plastic. You got some really
strange patterns in those bags.
(Boyd drops to his knees and presses
down on an imaginary body bag)
BOYD: Sometimes the lumps were in
such weird places it was funny. If you
pressed down on them they’d be real
soft if they were fresh and you didn’t hit
HAMMOND: What are you? A per
vert, Sergeant? You think that was
funny? The men in those bags ¾
BOYD: (interrupts) The boys.
HAMMOND: ¾have my sympathy, not
you. How do you feel standing here
asking me to release you from your
contract when those men¾
BOYD: (interrupts) Boys.
HAMMOND: ¾in the bags died fulfill
BOYD: (rises off his knees) Those
boys in the bags would want me out.
They’d be pulling for me.
HAMMOND: How do you figure that,
BOYD: Because they owe me for what
they put me through,
HAMMOND: For what they put you
BOYD: That’s right, Major. Their stink
was so had sometimes I couldn’t keep
food down for days. But the worst
thing was that they reminded me I was
a person and not just part of a crew.
The only time I thought of myself as an
individual was when I imagined my
crew throwing up and not eating be
cause of the smell I’d give off if I was
zipped up in one of those things.
HAMMOND: You’d make your crew
vomit if they smelled you today, Sergeant. You should be ashamed of
(Hammond walks back to his desk)
BOYD: I am. I missed a whole step.
The lighting back, the dying. I was the
middle man, Major. Blow ‘em up, zip
per them in and then give ‘em to me to
send off. Oh, I’m lucky, Major. I slept
in a bed, ate hot meals. I’m lucky. I
know that. I didn’t fight. I didn’t see
dying. I didn’t even see death. I only
smelled it and felt how heavy it
weighed wrapped in plastic. And I
posted them on the one-forty-one’s like
a goddamned mailman, except I didn’t
carry a bag. Flung bags into planes.
When my planes took off they
screamed. My buddies said all en
gines scream when they take off, but
my planes screamed at me for filling
their bellies with stench. They
screamed at me because they knew l
was lucky and that my luck was the
piles of flesh I weighed them down
with, I didn’t care about rockets, Major,
when the cargo was bags.
(Hammond grabs Boyd by the shoul
ders and leads him to the chair. He
forcefully pushes Boyd into the chair)
HAMMOND: Take it easy, Boyd.
Catch your breath. (pause) Am I sup
posed to be frightened by that story,
Sergeant? Am I supposed to feel sorry
BOYD: I’m all right! I’m okay! South
Carolina just doesn’t smell sweet
enough. Women don’t smell sweet
enough. I should be happy. Happy to
be pack. Happy to work on planes
whose passengers all sit during the
HAMMOND: If you need help ask the
Air Force, Sergeant.
BOYD: I am asking the Air Force. I’m
asking you, Major! Help
HAMMOND: What would my other
troops think if you walk out of here with
my blessing over your dereliction of
duty? Not completing your tour is a
gross dereliction of duty. Think of my
BOYD: Major, I’ll walk out of here
anyway you want. Just get me out with
good paper. Please, Major.
HAMMOND: No, Sergeant. Impossible. Pull yourself together and finish
out your tour. It’s only a little more
than a year. Take the time to see how
enjoyable it can be pulling duty in a
peacetime Air Force. Get out of those
clothes and clean yourself up.
BOYD: I can’t. There’s no sense to
anything anymore. No purpose. Only
chicken shit rules that prevent me from
thinking. This is who l’ve become,
Major. You’ll have to deal with it be
cause l’ve dealt with it.
(Boyd slowly walks to the door as
HAMMOND: As your commanding
officer l’m telling you to either clean up
your act and fly straight or waive a
hearing so I can discharge you in accordance with Air Force policy. Those
are the only choices you have and
those are the only things I have to deal
(Boyd grabs doorknob, is about to
BOYD: l can’t, Major.
HAMMOND: Goddamn you, Boyd! Close the door!
(Boyd closes the door. Hammond
charges over to him)
HAMMOND: You’ve made me the
laughing stock of Charleston Air Force
Base. You think I don’t know what the
pilots and navigators are laughing
about when I walk into the Officers
Club? They’re laughing at me because
I can’t handle the smelly, insolent enlisted men servicing their aircraft.
While they’re breezing through clouds
I’m anchored behind this desk having
to put up with all the crap necessary to
keep them gliding through the air to
wards fast rank and respect. You’ve
made a fool of me, Sergeant. You and
BOYD: I have no friends here, Major.
(Hammond walks back to his desk)
HAMMOND: I tried to be patient. I
really did. I never reprimanded you
when the flood of article fifteens
against you came pouring into this
office, I gave you a chance. I gave
you time. It’s not fair what you’re doing
to me. You’re trying to destroy my
career, aren’t you?
BOYD: (stunned) No. No, sir.
HAMMOND: Yes, you are, I tried to
help you now you have to try and help
me. Straighten yourself out, Boyd. Do
your job. That's all. If you need to see
doctors I’lI send you to doctors. Just
please, change your fatigues and keep
your mouth shut, okay? No hard-assed military shit. I’m asking you,
Boyd. I'll see to it that you don’t pull
too much extra duty. Just do your job
and keep your mouth shut for sixteen
BOYD: I need to get out, Major.
HAMMOND: And I need respect! This
is my life, Boyd. You understand? My
life! You’re jeopardizing my life every
minute you walk around this base
looking like you do and acting like you
do. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a
war, but I do know what it’s like to be
under tire. I’m not a glamour boy pilot.
Everyday I’m under attack by the base
commander for some deficiency,
whether it exists or not.
BOYD: Just get me out, Major. That’ll
make everyone happy.
HAMMOND: Yeah? When you got out I’d still be here listening to the snickering at the Officers Club. I heard General Susberich is upset with me over the lack of discipline in this squadron. I don’t want to retire as a major. I don’t want men ten years younger than me laughing at me when they're promoted
to light colonel and I’m not.
BOYD: You seem to be doing all right
from where I’m standing, sir.
HAMMOND: Then step back and lake
a good look, Sergeant. You’re the one
who’s doing all right.
BOYD: Oh, yeah? That’s good to
HAMMOND: Well, you are. You have
more power than I do.
BOYD: Major, if l had your power I’d
be on a commercial airliner flying in
any direction that’s away from here.
HAMMOND: Look, Boyd, if you can
cover the battle scars for a moment
and look at the situation realistically,
you’ll see that I’m telling you the truth.
BOYD: What’s the realistic situation,
HAMMOND: That we’re both in the
military. That we both have jobs that
are dependent on each other.
BOYD; l’ve been dependable, Major.
Real dependable. Now I want to leave
this job and move on. I’m only a
worker. I was supposed to be a war
rior. You’re management. You’re de
ciding to stay, not me. I don’t want a
brass band parading me home. I want
a slip of paper that’ll prove what I did
was all right. That’s all. No power, No
parades. Paper. To pry my boots off
(Hammond throws up his arms.)
HAMMOND: We’re back to feet, huh?
You know, Boyd, I think you’re an ac
tor. A good actor. You pretend not to
see the power you wield, but I think
you do. I think whatever’s inside those
boots of yours has nothing to do with
any emotional anguish. I think it’s a
feeling of power you’ve trapped inside
them. That’s why you don’t take them
BOYD: Major, are you saying if I click
my heels three times and make a wish
I'll end up in Kansas?
(Boyd shuts his eyes, clicks his heels
three times, mumbles)
(pause) Doesn’t work, Major. You’re
HAMMOND: No, I’m not. You’re an
actor, Sergeant. This office is a stage
and the audience is the whole god-
damned base! And you’ve been cast
ing me as the villain. But I can’t be the
villain. I don’t have any power over
you. A villain has to be threatening,
HAMMOND: I tried to be threatening
but didn’t pull it off. You’ve known all
along they were just threats without
any power behind them.
BOYD: Power. What power? I’m
what a powerful man looks like?
HAMMOND: It's your smell that gives
you away. That powerful sour smell of
yours. You can walk into the office of
your squadron commander and make
him sniff your stench. That’s power!
You said something before about hav
ing had to smell the death that wasn’t
yours. Well, you’re pulling the same
thing on me. You’re making me and
the rest of the troops on base smell
your bitterness, your anger. Nobody
here did anything to you except take
you back from a war and give you
clean clothes and a job. So stop acting
so self-righteous about your pain!
BOYD: I’m not being self-righteous,
Major. I’m trying to spare the Air Force
with having to deal with my pain. Don’t
you understand? I’m giving you guys a
way out but you won’t take it.
HAMMOND: A way out? You’re telling
me that’s a way out?
BOYD: The key word’s out, Major. Get me out.
HAMMOND: Way out of line, that's
what it is! You’re a crew chief. You
understand the importance of discipline. I'll bet the discipline of teamwork
got you out of ‘Nam alive.
HAMMOND: Was that a real laugh or
a camouflaging laugh?
BOYD: What do you mean ‘a real
laugh?’ What would I be camouflag
HAMMOND: The truth. I think deep
down you know if we let you out with
an Honorable, your example would
lead to a breakdown of discipline on
this base. I think you understand the
value of discipline. I think it saved your
BOYD: Do I have to keep thinking of myself as part of something? Is that all
l am? Part of something?
(Hammond sits behind desk)
HAMMOND: That's right, Sergeant.
BOYD: And that’s Why I have to get
out. I’m part of something that has
nothing to do with Charleston Air Force
HAMMOND: You’re wrong, Sergeant
You’re very much a part of Charleston.
One Civil War began here, Boyd. Don’t start a second one on this base. The morale of this base is one of the responsibilities of your rank. Be truthful with yourself, Sergeant.
BOYD: Can we discuss the truth, Ma
HAMMOND: Certainly, Sergeant.
BOYD: You’ve accused me of being
an actor, but you’ve been untruthful
from the very beginning of our conver
HAMMOND: No, I haven’t. l’ve admitted you have the upper hand. I’m
only an officer commissioned by the
President; you’re a war hero.
BOYD: Can we cut the war hero crap,
HAMMOND: Believe me, Sergeant, I
wish you would.
(Boyd's angry. He walks behind
Hammonds desk and leans over him)
BOYD: You had me going for a while,
Major. I mean, you started out like a
typical hard-ass and then you suckered
me in with your one on one approach.
I thought for a moment you were human, that you were listening to me.
You’re not listening. But I am.
HAMMOND: And what do you hear, Sergeant?
(Boyd bends dawn, speaks in Ham
BOYD: A liar. A scared liar. You for
get that I’m an expert on fear.
HAMMOND: (angry) You better ex
plain that last remark, Sergeant. And it
better be good!
BOYD: I walked in here not trusting
you, Major. But I listened to what you
said because of the three months you
gave me before hauling me in here. I
just realized that you didn’t bother me
so I could have a chance to straighten
myself out on my own. You delayed
seeing me because you’re afraid of
me. You’re only seeing me now be
cause others have noticed your fear
the base commander, pilots, your other
HAMMOND: (nervously) W-Why
would you frighten me, Sergeant?
BOYD: Because your neck is on the
block if you don’t get me to¾what did
you call it? ¾fly straight? You’re
scared ‘cause you’re not in the same
league as me. I don’t care how much
metal is pinned to your collar, I’m
closer to your vision of Ted Williams
than you are and you know it! l’ve
been tested I made it through ‘Nam.
You wouldn’t have, you’d have
cracked over there, I know. l’ve seen
guys like you over there, Major. It
would’ve broken you.
(Hammond springs up from chair)
HAMMOND: That’s a lie! A stupid lie!
I wanted to go! l wanted to!
BOYD: Yeah? Well I want to go, too.
You’re going to get me out with good
Yes, you are. That’s all you’re
good for ... paper. That’s all you
are ... paper, Paper rips, Major.
HAMMOND: Shut up, Boyd!
BOYD: You’re going to give me good
paper and I’m going to give you back
your secret so you can continue intimi
dating green troops. Nobody will know
what a frightened man you are.
HAMMOND: (clenches fists) How
dare you speak to me like that! I’m an
officer in the United State Air Force!
BOYD: (smells blood) No wonder
pilots and navigators laugh at you.
Theirs are camouflaging laughs, too,
Major. They’re camouflaging the dis
gust they feel at having an office clerk
receive the same pay and privileges as
them. But you’ll never get the respect
they get. Why should you? Talk about
unfair! Why should two fighters be
paid equally if only one steps inside the
ring? That’s what they whisper about
you in the Officers Club. You know.
You feel it. Don’t blame me. I’m not
HAMMOND: You sonofabitch!
(Hammond grabs Boyd by the neck
and slams him into the wall behind his
HAMMOND: You sonofabitch! You
(Boyd slides down the wall gagging.
Hammond releases his grip. Boyd
coughs, clears his throat)
BOYD: You’re tough, Major. Real
brave. You know if l hit you l’d rot in
jail. Kill me, Major! Kill me!
(Hammond grabs Boyd by the lapels
and pulls him up. He pummels Boyd
against the wall to punctuate each
HAMMOND. God-damn you, Boyd!
You’ve got to start looking like a re
sponsible airman, you hear me?
You’re going to change your fatigues!
You’re going to walk around this base
and do your job like every other mem
ber of this squadron! ‘
(Hammond releases Boyd and walks
toward the mirror)
HAMMOND: You’re not the superstar
on this team¾
(Hammond points to reflection in mirror)
HAMMOND: I am!
(Hammond talks to Boyd while watch
ing him in the mirror)
HAMMOND: You’re a utility player,
and I’m going to utilize you! You hear
(Hammond tums and faces Boyd)
HAMMOND: You’re going to walk out
of this office looking lie a non-
commissioned Officer, not a derelict!
Scum like you aren’t going to put me
on General Susberich’s shit list! You
hear me, Boyd!
(Boyd gasps for breath, rises)
BOYD: You’re concerned about how l
look when I leave this damn office?
You’re concerned about how I smell? You’re concerned about these boots? Okay, Major! Look! These boots! I’m pulling them off for you! There they go!
(Boyd flings the boots across the room,
next to Hammond)
BOYD: Off! Off!
(Boyd quickly strips)
HAMMOND: (stunned) Sergeant ... you
put those clothes back on!
BOYD: See! Easy! Right, Major!
This uniform? Off! I’m taking it off for
(Boyd hurls his shirt at Hammond and
then his pants)
BOYD: Now get me out! You win.
Major! The world will know you’ve
won! See, Major!? See!? I’ll walk out
of here and the world will know you
won! You can get me out! Get me out.
HAMMOND: (scared) Sergeant Boyd! Put your clothes on!
(Boyd strips down to his oversized
government issued boxer shorts)
BOYD: You win, Major! They’re off! You did it, Major! Congratulations! Now get me out! Get me out, Major! I’m going to walk out of here and tell everyone I meet that you won! You did it, Major! Major Hammond did it! Hail Hammond! Hail Hammond! Bless you, Major! You did it!
(Boyd starts out of the office)
(Hammond rushes over to intercom)
HAMMOND: Trezza! Get the S.P.’s in
here on the double!
(Hammond tackles Boyd at the door
They struggle. Boyd frees himself)
BOYD: (out of breath) I’m walking out
of here, Major, and you can’t stop me.
l’m going to march over to General
Susberich’s office and tell him how
skillfully you got me to take off my
boots and fatigues. Then you’ll be the
hero. That’s what you want from me,
isn’t it, Major?
HAMMOND: Gel back in here, Boyd. Lets talk. Put your clothes on.
BOYD: Not Unless you give me an
Honorable I’m walking out of here,
Major, I’m walking over to headquar
HAMMOND: (fidgeting) You win, Boyd, I’lI give you the good paper. Just stay put, Don’t leave. And put your fatigues on.
BOYD: You lying to me, Major?
HAMMOND: No. I give you my word. Get dressed.
(TREZZA and TWO SECURITY POLICEMEN crash through the door. The Policemen leap onto Boyd, whose back is to them. Boyd falls forward. He struggles but is handcuffed and yanked to his feet. A Security Policeman picks up Boyd’s pants and is about to hand them to him)
HAMMOND: (to Security Policeman) No! Leave those alone.
(Hammond snatches the pants out of
the Security Policeman’s hand throws
them by the mirror and addresses
HAMMOND: You’ll never wear them
(Hammond pulls his raincoat off the
coat rack and hands it to the Security
HAMMOND: Wrap this around him,
BOYD: Do I have to do this to get out?
(A Security Policeman pushes Boyd
towards the door)
BOYD: I don’t want anyone to see me
like this. (near tears) You failed, Ma
jor! You failed! I am a sergeant! I
deserve more respect! You have no
right to allow this to happen to me. I
don’t owe anything!
(Boyd is led away. Hammond, visibly
shaken, locks the door. As soon as the
lock clicks into place the lighting
changes. The office blacks out as an
unnatural light spotlights Hammond This
spotlight must Click through many differ
ent colors and densities to show a pas
sage of time as Hammond remains frozen in front of the door. Hammond
slowly turns and walks to his desk. He
picks up a pen and starts scribbling
away. He stops, looks at the door,
smirks, and continues writing. Suddenly
he throws down the pen, rises, removes
his shirt and walks over to the mirror,
where he begins to do push-ups)
HAMMOND: One … two … three ... four … five ... six ... seven ... eight ... come on, Major.
(Hammond collapses on the floor his
outstretched hand touches Boyd’s fa
tigue shirt. He feels the material, looks
up at it and slowly pulls it towards him.
He examines it and sniffs it. Hammond
undresses and pulls on Boyd’s fa
tigues. He shivers as he zips up the
pants, buttons the shirt. It's as if the
fatigues are ice cold Hammond re
trieves Boyd’s boots. As he moves
towards the boots his shivering is less
pronounced he ‘s growing accustomed
to the fatigues. Hammond plops down
on the floor and pulls the boots down.
He lets out a slight cry, almost a whine,
as he laces them up. He stands in
front of the mirror modeling the filthy
uniform. He tums in all directions to
get a good overview of how he looks.
The shivering returns, but he dismisses
it with a smile. At last he feels com
fortable in the fatigues, so he walks
over to his desk and presses down the
intercom button. There’s a pause.
Hammond does not speak)
TREZZA’S VOICE: Yes, Major. Ma
jor? Major Hammond? Are you there,
(Hammond runs his hand gently over
the fatigue blouse, as if absorbing
some kind of power from it)
HAMMOND: Trezza ... what’s on my
TREZZA’S VOICE: You have a sur
prise barracks inspection in twenty
HAMMOND: Okay. I'll be leaving
shortly. Call up Chief Crawley. I want
him to make the rounds with me. Till
then I don’t want to be disturbed,
TREZZA’S VOICE: Are you all right,
HAMMOND: I don’t want be disturbed, Trezza!
TREZZ’AS VOICE: Yes, sir.
(Hammond walks over to the mirror
and admires himself. Then he
crouches into a batting stance and
“digs in” at the plate. He takes two half
swings. His face becomes a study in
concentration as he tenses his body
waiting for the pitch in the mirror.
When he sees the pitch he executes a
powerful swing and clicks his tongue
as he makes imaginary contact with a
End Of Play