Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Ninety Days Inside The Empire: A Novel by William Appleman Williams

Into the Dining Room

Page 65

When time came for lunch, Chief Yeoman Francis Johns was still tickled by his abberation about signing-over. Walking to his car he thought about his wife wanting him to stay in and make Warrant Officer.

-- Loving woman but no sense about the politics of the Navy.

He knew that such a promotion was highly unlikely now that the war was over, but the main point was that he had no interest in a job that left a man in a power limbo. He was anxious to start his secretarial services business, and looked forward to telling this particular Admiral at the last possible moment that he had to find a new Yeoman.

But he did respect officers like Taylor, Bates, and the few young ones like Wye and Reis. Even more he enjoyed the comradeship of his equals among the ratings. Driving to Five Corners for his regular two beers, corned beef topped with a soft egg, and hot rolls, he anticipated telling Mr. Hank and the two other chiefs how the Admiral had performed that morning.

They had been taking lunch together almost from the day they arrived from sea duty after the war, and now greeted each other as Scribe, Engines, Signals and Guns. Between them they had enough stars on their campaign ribbons to navigate from Polaris to the Southern Cross, or from Greenwich around the Horn to Melbourne. They were neither honestly nor falsely modest, but they wore their decorations only as required for special occasions. They led through knowledge, example and presence.

The others had agreed during their own trip to Five Corners that they would not ask Johns for news from the bridge. They would let him bobble in the wake. He sensed that almost immediately. Finally, after the beers arrived:

"OK, you Swabbies, I'll tell you anyway."

"That is your duty as the senior chief petty officer. I need to communicate the truth to the crew."

"And I need to know the targets of opportunity to prepare my marksmen."

"Yeah, and besides all that shit, us Niggers want to know what The Big White Man is doing."

The laughter spilled a bit of beer, and then Scribe provided a concise, accurate summary spiced with juicy quotations heard through the half-open door. Upon their return, they promptly passed the word -variously embellished- across the base.

Hence there was an extra snap in many salutes as late in the afternoon Mitch and Cat walked to the Officer's Club for their first chance to exchange thoughts over a drink. They had by then made their own peace with the experience; Mitch wanted a report but was also concerned to talk about specific proposals for the Friday meeting of the NAACP.

Officer's club
Officer's club
Copyright (C) 1952 Office of Public Information, 67th TRW John N. Duquette

Mitch lifted his glass.

"You OK?"

"I let it get to me for awhile and messed up a couple of strafing runs, but got it back in time to catch two instructors coming out of the sun. Yeah, I'm bushed but not grounded."

Mitch would not let up.

"Did you lose it?"

"Lay off, Mitch, Shit, we both lost it but it's over. One thing. Am I supposed to bring any more flight line stuff to you or go to Personnel?"

"Take it to Lt. Commander Bates. He'll either handle it or get to me. We'll use the chain of command to cut Personnel out of it -stay away from him."

"Roger. Now if you can get us a mimeo and some legal size stencils and paper and ink we'll come in Friday with a sample newspaper."

"Somebody will drop the stuff off tonight or tomorrow, but who is we?"

"Better make it at night. Mrs. Warrener is a nosy one. She fusses around being helpful just to check us out. We don't need her on the phone to the bad guys. As for who's we, I'll be damned if I know. Susan was going to see Lette and/or the Reverend and/or The Judge -and maybe Abbey Mae- but that's a lot of people to see riding a bus and so I don't know. Her idea is to use as many Negroes as quick as possible."