For a while, it looked like I was off the hook, but of course it turned out that was wrong.
Not long after my testimony they carted Ivan Bozosky an Mike Mulligan off to prison. The judge, he thowed the book at them – literally – big ole law book, hit Bozosky square in the head. Next day, a knock come at my door. Standin there was two military police in shiny black helmets with billy clubs an armbands.
"You PFC Gump?" one says.
"That's my name."
"Well, you gotta come along with us, account of you is AWOL from the United States Army."
"AWOL," I says. "How can that be? I was in jail!"
"Yeah," he says, "we know all about that. But your hitch runs two more years – that's what you signed up for with Colonel North. We been lookin for you everplace until we seen you in the newspapers in this Bozosky trial."
The MP hands me a copy of the New York Post, which reads:
Dullard Rats out on High-Rolling Financial Men
A man with an IQ described as "in the low 70s" yesterday finked on two of this newspaper's most popular subjects, resulting in their sentencing to lengthy prison terms.
Forrest Gump, who sources close to the Post described as being "dumber than a rock," testified before a federal judge in Manhattan that in his capacity as president of the insider trading division of Bozosky Enterprises, he had absolutely no knowledge of any insider trading at the company.
Gump, who has had an apparently checkered career as an encyclopedia salesman, inventor, animal refuse engineer, and sometime spy for the U.S. government, was not immediately available for comment. He was not convicted in the trial, which lasted several weeks.
"So what you gonna do with me?" I ast.
"They probly gonna put you in the stockade till they figger out somethin," the MP says. About this time, little Forrest come up behin me, tryin to see what's goin on.
"Who's this?" the MP ast. "This your boy?"
I didn't say nothin, an neither did little Forrest. He just glared at the MPs.
"You give me a minute with him?" I says. "I ain't gonna run off or nothin."
"Yeah, I reckon that'd be okay. We'll be outside here – Just don't do nothin funny."
Fact was, funny was not on my mind at this moment. I shut the door an set little Forrest down on the sofa.
"Look," I says, "them fellers come to take me back to the army, an I gotta go with em, you know? So's I want you to get a bus back home an be ready to start school when it opens. Okay?"
The little guy was statin at his shoes an not lookin at me, but he nodded his head.
"I'm sorry about this," I says, "but that's just the way things go sometimes."
He nodded again.
"Look," I tole him, "I'm gonna try to work somethin out. I'll talk to Colonel North. They ain't gonna keep me in the stockade forever. I'll get this straightened out, an then we'll make a plan."
"Yeah, right," he says. "You got a lot of great plans, don't you?"
"Well, I made my mistakes. But somethin's gotta work out. I figger I've had my share of bad luck. It's about time things start to break good."
He gets up an goes back to his room to start packin. At the door, he turn aroun an looks at me for the first time.
"Okay," he says. "You ever get out of the slammer, you look me up. An don't worry about it, hear? I'll be all right."
An so I gone on with the MPs, feelin pretty low an pretty alone. Little Forrest is a good-lookin, smart young man by now, an I done let him down again.
Well, just like the MPs said, when we got back to Washington, they put me in the stockade – thowed in jail again. But ain't long afore they come an turn me loose.
When I got there, I done sent a note to Colonel North, say I think I'm gettin a raw deal here. Couple of months later, he stops by the stockade.
"Sorry about that, Gump, but there ain't much I can do," he says. "I am no longer in the Marine Corps, an I'm pretty busy these days watchin out for some of the Ayatolja's friends who say they want to kill me. Besides, I'm thinkin about runnin for the U.S. Senate. I'll show them bastids what contempt really is."
"Well, Colonel," I says, "that is all very nice, but what about me?"
"It's what you get for makin fools of Congress," he says. "See you aroun the stockade." An then he bust out laughin. "You know what I mean?"
Anyhow, after a few more months on bread an water, I am summoned to the post commander's office.
"Gump," he says, "you just stand at attention while I look over your files." After about half an hour, he says, "At ease," an leans back in his chair. "Well, Gump, I see you have a very mixed record in this man's army. Win the Congressional Medal of Honor, and then you go over the hill. Just what kind of crapola is that?"
"Sir, I didn't go over the hill. I was in jail."
"Yeah, well that's just as bad. If it was up to me, I'd have you cashiered today with a bad-conduct discharge. But it seems some of the brass don't cotton much to havin Medal of Honor winners booted out of the service. Looks bad, I guess. So we got to figger out what to do with you. Got any suggestions?"
"Sir, if you let me out of the stockade, maybe I can go on KP or somethin," I says.
"Not on your life, Gump. I read all about your KP escapades right here in these files. Says here that one time you blew up a steam boiler tryin to make a stew or somethin. Wrecked the mess hall. Cost the army an arm and a leg. Nosiree – you ain't going anywhere near a mess hall on my post."
Then he scratch his chin for a minute. "I think I got a solution, Gump. I ain't got use for any troublemakers around here, so what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna transfer your big ass as far away as I possibly can, an the sooner the better. That is all."
An so I am transferred. The commander, he was not kiddin about transferrin me to the fartherest place away he could find. Next thing I know, I am assigned to a army weather station in Alaska – in January, no less. But at least they begun payin me again, so's I can send home some allotment money for little Forrest. Matter of fact, I done sent nearly all my pay home, account of what in hell I'm gonna spend it on up in Alaska? In January.
"I see by your files, Gump, that you have had a somewhat checkered past in the service," says the lieutenant in charge of the weather station. "Just keep your nose clean, an they won't be any trouble."
In this, of course, he was wrong.
It was so cold in Alaska that if you went outside an said somethin, your words would freeze themsefs in the air – an if you took a pee, it would wind up as a icicle.
My job was sposed to be readin weather maps an stuff, but after a few weeks, they figgered out I am a numbnuts, an give me the job of moppin the place clean an spit-shinin the toilets an so on. On my day off I'd go out ice-fishin, an one time I got chased by a polar bear an another time by a big ole walrus that ate up all the fish I'd caught.
We was in a little ole town there by the ocean where all the people spent most of they time gettin drunk – Exkimos included. The Exkimos was very nice people, except when they got drunk an had harpoon-thowin contests in the street. Then, it could be dangerous to be out an about.
One time after a couple of months, I went with some of the other fellers into town on a Saturday night. I really didn't much want to go, but in fact I had not been anyplace much, an so I gone along, for the ride, so to speak.
We got to a place called the Gold Rush Saloon an went inside. They was all sorts of activity there – folks be drinkin an fightin an gamblin, an a striptease artist was doin her thing on the bar. Sorta made me think of Wanda's strip joint, down in New Orleans, an I figgered I probly should drop her a postcard sometime. Also got me to thinkin about ole Wanda the pig, little Forrest's pet, an how she was doin, an then, of course, I got to thinkin about little Forrest hissef. But since thinkin ain't exactly my strong point, I decided to take action. I gone out into the street to buy little Forrest a present.
It is about seven P.M. but the sun is shinin bright as can be up here near the North Pole, an all the stores is open. Most of em, however, is saloons. There wadn't no department store around, so's I gone on into a novelty shop where they is peddlin everthin from gold nuggets to eagle feathers, but finally I seen what I wanted to get for little Forrest. A genuine Alaska Indian totem pole!
It was not one of them big ole ten-feet-tall totem poles, but it was about three feet, anyway, an was carved with eagle's beaks an faces of stern-lookin Indians an bear's paws an all, an painted pretty bright colors. I ast the feller at the counter how much, an he says, "For you army grunts I make a special price – one thousan, two hundrit, and six dollars."
"Damn," I says. "What'd it cost before the discount?"
"For me to know an you to find out" was his reply.
Well, anyhow, I stood there figgerin that it is gettin late an I don't know when I'm gonna get back into town an little Forrest probly need to hear from me, so I dug down deep into my pocket for what was left of my paychedcs an bought the totem pole.
"Could you ship it down to Mobile, Alabama?" I ast.
"Sure, for another four hundrit dollars," he says. Well, who was I to argue? After all, we are within spittin distance of the top of the world, so's I dug down again an coughed up the money, figgerin wouldn't have nothin much to spend it on up here anyhow.
I ast him if I could send a note with it, an he says, "Sure, but notes are another fifty bucks."
But I thought, what the hell, this is a genuine antique Alaska Indian totem pole, an I am already gettin a bargin. So's I wrote the note, which said this:
Dear little Forrest,
I spose you been wonderin what has become of me up here in Alaska. Well, I have been workin very hard at a very important job with the United States Army an have not had much time to write. I am sendin you a totem pole to fool with. The Indians here say they is very sacred objects, so you should put it someplace important to you. I hope you is doin well in school an mindin your grandma.
Well, I started to put "Love, Dad," but he ain't never called me that, so I just put my name. I figgered he just have to figger out the rest.
Anyhow, time I got back to the bar my guys had proceeded to get drunk. I was just settin at the bar nursin a beer when I noticed a feller in a chair all slumped over a table. I could only see half his face, but somehow he looked familiar, an I gone on over an walked aroun him a couple of times, an lo an behole, if it ain't Mister McGivver from the pig-shit farm!
I raised up his head an sort of shook him awake. At first he don't recognize me, which is understandable, account of there is a mostly empty quart of gin on the table. But then a light sort of come on in his eyes an he jumps up an give me a big hug. I figger he is gonna be real mad at me for lettin the pig shit blow up, but in fact, he ain't.
"Don't worry yourself, my boy," Mister McGivver says. "It was all probably a blessing in disguise anyway. I never dreamed the pig-shit operation would get that big, but once it did, I was under such pressure to keep up with things, it probably was taking years off my life. Maybe you even did me a favor."
As it turns out, of course, Mister McGivver has lost everthin. When the pig-shit farm blowed up, the townspeople an the environmental people shut him down an ran him out of town. Next, because he had borrowed so much money to build the pig-shit-fueled ships, the banks foreclosed on him an thew him out of bidness entirely.
"But that's all right, Forrest," he says. "The sea was my first love anyway. I didn't have any business being an executive or a magnate. Why, hell, right now I'm doing exactly what I want to."
When I ast him what was that, he tole me.
"I am a ship's captain," he says proudly. "Got me a big ole ship out in the harbor right now. You want to see it?"
"Well, I gotta get back to the weather station in a while; is it gonna take long?"
"No time at all, my boy, no time at all."
In this, Mister McGivver was never more wrong in his life.
We gone on out to his ship in a launch. At first I thought the launch was the ship, but when we finally got there, I couldn't believe my eyes. The ship is so big that from a distance it looks like a mountain range! It is about half a mile long an twenty stories high.
Exxon-Valdez is the ship's name.
"Climb aboard," Mister McGivver shouts. It is cold as a well digger's ass, but we climbed up the ladder an gone onto the ship's bridge. Mister McGivver pulls out a big bottle of scotch an offers me a drink, but since I gotta get back to the weather station, I turn it down. He proceeds to drink it hissef, no ice, no water, just straight in the glass, an we talked over ole times for a while.
"Ya know, Forrest, there's one thing I'd have given a lot of money to see," he says, "that is, if I'd had any."
"The expressions on those bozos' faces when the pig shit blew up."
"Yessir," I says, "it was kinda a sight."
"By the way," Mister McGivver says, "what ever happened to that sow I gave little Forrest – what'd you call her?"
"Yeah, she was a nice pig. Smart pig."
"She's at the National Zoo in Washington."
"Really? Doing what?"
"In a cage. They are showin her off."
"Well, I'll be damned," he says. "A monument to all our folly."
After a little while, it become apparent to me that Mister McGivver is drunk again. In fact, he is not only drunk, he is reelin. At one point he reeled over to the ship control panels an begun turnin on switches an pullin levers an knobs. Suddenly, the Exxon-Valdez begun to shudder an tremble. Somehow, Mister McGivver had turned on the engine.
"Wanna go for a little spin?" he ast.
"Well, ah, thanks," I says, "but I gotta get back to the weather station. I'm on duty in a hour or so."
"Nonsense!" says Mister McGivver. "This won't take but a few minutes. We'll just go out in the sound for a little spin."
By now, he is lurchin an stumblin an tryin to put the Exxon-Valdez in gear. He grapped hold of the wheel an when it begin to turn he follered with it – right down onto the floor. Then he begun to jabber.
"Hoot, mon!" Mister McGivver shouts. "I think I'm about four sheets to the wind! Arrr, me buckoes, we be forty leagues from Portobello! Run out the guns! You've a bit of the animal in you, young Jim – Long John Silver's my name – What's yours…?"
Shit like that. Anyhow, I got ole Mister McGivver up off the floor, an about that time a sailor come onto the bridge, must of heard the commotion.
"I think Mister McGivver's had one too many," I says. "Maybe we oughta take him to his cabin."
"Yeah," say the sailor, "but I seen him a lot drunker."
"It's the Black Spot for you, laddie buck!" shouts Mister McGivver. "Old Blind Pew knows the score. Hoist up the Jolly Roger! You'll all walk the plank!"
Me an the sailor carried Mister McGivver to his bunk an laid him down. "I'll keelhaul the lot of you" is the last thing Mister McGivver says.
"Say," the sailor ast, "you know why Captain McGivver turned on the engines?"
"Nope – I don't know nothin. I'm with the weather station."
"What!" says the sailor. "Hell, I thought you were the bar pilot!"
"Me, no. I am a private in the army."
"Greatgodamighty!" he says. "We got ten million gallons of crude oil on board!" An he runs out the door.
It was apparent I could not do nothin for Mister McGivver, account of he is asleep – if that's what you want to call it. So I gone on back to the bridge. Nobody is there an the ship seems to be sailin along, buoy markers an things be passin us at top speed. I didn't know what else to do, so I grapped the ship's wheel an tried to steer us at least in a straight direction. We had not gone too far when suddenly there is a great big bump. I am figgerin this is good, since the Exxon-Valdez has finally stopped. Turns out, though, it is not.
All of a sudden, it seems like there is about a hundrit people runnin around on the bridge, everbody hollerin an screamin an givin each other orders, an some of them even be givin each other the finger. Not long afterward, some fellers from the Coast Guard come aboard, complainin we has just dumped ten million gallons of crude awl into Prince William Sound. Birds, seals, fish, polar bears, whales, an Exkimos – all will be destroyed by what we has now done. An there is gonna be hell to pay.
"Who was in charge on this bridge?" says a Coast Guard officer.
"He was!" everbody on the bridge shouted at once, all pointin they fingers right at me.
I knowed right then that I am in the doghouse for sure.
Maniac Army Man at Helm of Disaster Ship, says one of the headlines. Certified Nut Driving Oil Spill Boat, says another. Cataclysm Caused by Dangerous Fool; this is typical of the kind of shit I got to endure.
In any case, they sent up a three-star general from Washington to deal with me an my problems. In a way this is sort of lucky, since the army does not wish to get involved in any sense with the blame for the Exxon-Valdez mess, an the best thing they can do is get me the hell out of there – quick.
"Gump," the general says, "if it was up to me, I would have you before a firing squad for this, but since it isn't, I am gonna do the next best thing, which is to have your big stupid ass transferred as far away from here as possible, which, in this case, is to Berlin, Germany. Maybe, if we are lucky, nobody is gonna be able to find you there, and so they'll have to put all the blame on old Captain McGivver for this disaster. Do you read me?"
"Yessir," I says, "but how I'm gonna get there?"
"The plane, Gump, is on the runway. Its motors are running. You got five minutes."