This story is by Mike Boze and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Two Men Walk into a Bar
Paul “Little Paulie” Bonner had always been short for his age. Picked on by nearly everyone until his Uncle Mal found a martial arts school, which had a caveat, “One day I’ll let you put this training to good use.”
Paulie, even at 15, knew that this would mean one of his uncle’s less legal businesses.
It all started like a joke . . . Two men walk into a bar . . . only this the joke involved One old man claiming to be a Medal of Honor Recipient walked into a bar.
Paulie stared up at the commanding officer presiding over the court-martial.
“Navy Seal Enlisted Paul Bonner, we are waiting to hear your side of the altercation . . .”
Paulie survived Hell Week and the weeks that followed to the goal of the formal BUD/S Class Graduation to being called a U.S. Navy SEAL. The only family to attend was his mother, who through tears said, “Your father would be so proud of you.”
Paul’s father, a state trooper, had died defending a battered wife.
The absence of family and the reminder of his father’s death created a dark cloud that carried throughout the day.
“Sir, to my recollection and I must testify that I was drinking heavily, it began as the old man walked into the bar and began to seek free drinks while claiming to be a veteran . . .”
Paulie’s memories overtook him and he grew silent. He was telling a story to several of his fellow graduates as the old man stumbled into their group.
“Seal’s huh,” the old man’s voice slurred, “I was almost a Seal, although unlike you bunch of pussies, cause back then they had standards . . . I couldn’t get into the program because I didn’t have 20/20 vision. Now, any half blind pussy can join.”
The commander’s voice drew Paulie back to the proceedings.
“Yes Sir,” Paulie began, “There were several exchanges with the old man, from the graduates, the wait staff, who I learned later had called the police. It came to a head when the old man shouted out that he was a Medal of Honor recipient, adding that not a single Seal could qualify to even tie his shoes much less match what he had endured. Having my full of the situation I told him to tell the waitress that his drinks are on me. I ended it with a very visible smirk and turned my back . . .”
“Was this offer due to his Medal of Honor?”
“No sir, it was meant as an insult.”
“How did the altercation begin?”
Paulie’s recall was limited. There was the “Why you short prick . . .” This was succeeded by a sucker punch by the old man. Paulie went into a blind rage and it ended when Paulie body slammed him on top of a table.
“Did you know he was still in a coma,” asked the judge.
Instead of sympathy, Paulie asked, “Is it from alcohol poisoning?”
This led to a break in the proceeding; which opened Paulie’s self-destructive tendency and his anger let loose a string of profanity towards the board for their disbelief of Paulie’s view on the old man’s claim. It ended with Paulie turning and mooning the board. Escorted from the room, Paulie noticed his Chief Warrant Officer’s wife in the hallway. As he walked past her, he made an implicit sexual offer and added, “Will show you what a real man is like.”
Paulie had always been overly fond of both the pleasures and the appearance of the female body; at times to hide some unexplained discomfort that bordered on envy. His aggressive pursuit of sexual conquests grew out of some unsettling need to prove his manhood; to possibly quiet some forgotten shame buried deep within years or decades before.
Paulie immediately felt remorse and a sense that his future had now been set.
The next morning, Paulie warmed a bench while waiting in the hallway. Around 3:00, the bailiff informed Paulie the results were available.
Standing at attention, Paulie listened as the judge read the report. Paulie was wondering about the offer to Chief Warrant Officer’s wife and was not paying attention as the judge discussed the old man’s Medal of Honor.
Paulie interrupted, held up his hand and said, “Wait a minute what did you just say?”
Not even trying to hide his displeasure at having to repeat himself, the judge said, “We checked and the record showed valor beyond call as the last troops were leaving Saigon. The man you called a drunk looking for free drinks was a Medal of Honor recipient, who thankfully was released from the hospital . . .”
Paulie did not hear the last words as he dropped his head and waited for the final hammer to fall. The thing he had wanted so badly was now slipping out of his grasp. The court ruled ‘Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline’ and was given a dishonorable discharge.
There was also the added charge of ‘Straggle,’ which meant Paulie had wandered from ‘the proper path, to rove from one’s companions.’
As Paulie turned to be led from the room, he watched as his Chief Warrant Officer pulled his thumb across his throat and ended with a single finger being raised.
Paulie dropped his head.
At the airport, Paulie opened the door and leaned in to give the Chief Warrant Officer’s wife one last kiss. She was more open to the suggestion the second time. On his way to the airport, Paulie asked if she would stop by a drug store and bought a little black book to record his sexual conquest and those to come.
Paulie had been in the airport less than ten minutes when his cell phone rang. Paulie recognized his uncle’s voice at the first word spoken.
“Welcome home, Paulie.”