For Chuck’s flash fiction challenge I rolled an eighteen and a twenty on my spin-down D20, so I get “Superhero Artificial Intelligence.” I had an idea when I started writing this, but quickly went off track and now I don’t know what the heck I have. After 881 words I decided to stop since I really don’t know what’s going on…
The first two weeks of Mike Garnet’s stay at the Transient Personnel Unit went by without incident. Chief Dew was almost finished with his restriction and was gearing up to head to the fleet. It was late spring, but the lake effect made it colder. Mike had grown up in Michigan, so he was no stranger to the weather. He passed his time performing yard maintenance with the rest of his crew. Growing up, he had used a gas-powered mower. The crew he was on used a manual push mower. It required three or four times the effort to mow the same area, but what else was there to do with his time? Yard maintenance was worlds better than working in the galley or some of the other messy duties.
Mike frequented the enlisted bar pretty much daily. The regulars there figured out quickly he was poor at pool and many tried to bait him into a game. He threw away some of his money, after all what else could he spend it on? He was not a beer drinker, but enjoyed nursing a rum and coke. As he became a regular the drinks featured more rum. Mike didn’t care for the higher alcohol content, but saying anything to the barkeep would have been rude. There were several arcade machines, but the line of quarters was long requiring a lot of standing around and talking.
It was day eighteen of his forty-five day restriction. He had spent his entire duty shift performing maintenance on the yard equipment. Most of it had never been oiled or otherwise cleaned. His fingertips were stained by that oil and no matter how many times he washed his hands the stains remained.
He sat at the bar and the barkeep dutifully came over, “Malibu and Vanilla Coke?”
“Nah, I plan on being here for awhile tonight. Lets just start with a regular Coke.”
“Friday evening at the bar on base… seems legit.”
Mike rolled his eyes. The barkeep had a way of using pauses to make a statement sound like a question, followed by a quip as a response. It wasn’t that the quips weren’t funny; he had just heard them all.
Mike recognized the bar patron sitting next to him from the first time he had stopped into the bar after lunch with chief Dew. The man motioned to the barkeep with his glass, “Tony, you need some new material.”
“Nah, every three months the clientele rotates. You just need to come here less often.”
The man smiled. It was a bona fide smile. His eyes sparkles and the lines around his eyes deepened. He had a gravelly voice with white hair and a build that could only have come from years of working outdoors. He was wearing a read flannel, jeans and cowboy boots.
He thrust out his hand to Mike, “The names’ Martin, I remember you from a week or two ago. You have quite the mouth on ya.”
“What I lack in skill I make up for in running my mouth.”
Martin chuckled, “Sounds like every other guy in this place. You from the fleet?”
“Yeah, got in some trouble – ended up here until they figure out what to do with me.” It wasn’t the complete truth, but he wasn’t supposed to be thee in the first place.
“Well it looks like you and me are gonna fill some time by shootin’ the shit.”
Mike and Martin discussed what they liked about the Navy, things they disliked, and just about any other topic they veered into. Martin was easy to like. He had an easy way about him and was easy to like.
There was an assortment of crushed soda cans, empty bowls of chips and overturned shot glasses in front of the pair. Tony the barkeep made no attempt to neither clean up after them nor regulate their consumption. Mike looked at his watch, “Holy shit! Almost four hours here.”
“Time flies when you are stuck on land eh?”
Mike groaned at Tony’s quip. Martin only shook his head. Mike reached for his wallet, “Tony, how much do I owe you?”
Tony paused slightly and looked at Martin. Martin was quick to respond, “Don’t worry about it Mike. I got it covered.”
“Works for me! Hey man it’s been a fun few hours. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Actually, I may have some work for you. You’re in the T-P-U, right?”
“Yeah, all the lawn you could mow.”
“Well on Monday, head to Building One, first floor, office one-oh-five. I have some work for you to do.”
“Beats the lame crap I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. You need to clear it with the barracks commander.”
“No problem, see you on Monday.”
Mike loped off the stool and started for the door. Martin called after him, “Mike!”
Mike paused and did a half turn toward the bar, “Sup?”
“No dungarees, wear your blues.”
Mike feigned a salute, “Yes, Sir!” He turned smartly with a practiced about-face and marched out the door. He didn’t see the shocked expression on Tony’s face or the wry laughter from Martin. All he could think while walking back to the barracks was anything’s better than yard maintenance.