My wife, Janet the artist, told me that some renowned oil painters use a little something more than just their signatures to label their paintings. For example, a tea cup or a vase incorporated into every work of art. Sometimes the objects are masked or hidden and near impossible to find. Thomas Kincade included the letter N in most of his paintings which was a tribute to his wife, Nanette. Kind of like Where’s Waldo for adults.
That gave me an idea. Why not use that technique in my writing? My old radio partner of 40+ years, Kurt Kilpatrick, wanted to know why I was using my real name for my pen name. Richard Weirich? Really? Why not the name by which I was more commonly known from the radio wars? Burt or Bob Burton? Too late. Already on my 4th novel.
Back in the day, for those old enough to remember Burt and Kurt, we had a cast of characters featuring Kurt’s amazing impressions. That’s when you could build an audience with G-rated and occasionally PG-rated material. I digress. Anyway, now in my novels there are vignettes featuring those old legendary characters. Red Wood makes an appearance in Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare. A new book, Angels Diner: Alexandra’s Song, due for release in May 2016, will feature a cameo performance by the loveable Uncle Mack. (get a preview in Part 2 of this post)
In Farewell PFC POLK, Red Wood appears as a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. Following is an excerpt from that scene:
At the conclusion of the ceremony, an officer entered the room and welcomed them to the Marine Corps and then he introduced yet another sergeant who was as charming as the first.
“My name is Sergeant Red Wood. I’m going to be your babysitter until we get to Parris Island. Now, some of you may have the mistaken idea that you are already a Marine. By tomorrow, you’ll have the uniform, but first you girls have to go through a little thing we call ‘boot.’ So, I would like to be the first to welcome you to hell. Not all of you will make it through hell but if you do, then you will officially be a member of the greatest fighting outfit the world has ever known. First stop, the chow hall. You will not talk or make eye contact with any of the real Marines in the room. You will not get out of your seat until I say so and then you will all go to the head together. The head is what your mommy called a bathroom. From now you will call it the head. If you are ever heard calling it a bathroom, restroom, privy, outhouse, or anything other than ‘the head’ you will be required to get on all fours with a tooth brush and clean her until she sparkles. Then you will place your behinds in a seat of my choosing on a bus that will take you to the Marine Riviera. For that lovely little 9-hour ride, you will say nothing, speak nothing, and sit in an upright position looking only at the deck. We will go over these instructions again because I know you are too stupid to remember them. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” yelled the men.
“Have I made myself clear?”
The sergeant led his charges to the chow hall and sat with his friends who pointed and laughed at the new recruits. After the meal, he directed the men to the bus that would take them to Parris Island and just as they prepared to depart he repeated his earlier directives and closed with, “I know what you’re thinkin’. You think I’m an SOB. Wait ‘til you meet your drill sergeant. Then you’re gonna believe I’m the friendliest fella you ever met.” That said, the sergeant slumped into his seat and laughed and laughed. After a moment of silence, he chuckled again.
Farewell PFC POLK deals with a sad topic, the untimely and unnecessary death of a 19-year-old Marine and how his family and friends coped with the tragedy. Plenty of tears in the story, for sure. But there are also a lot of laughs and an uplifting message of hope. Hope you get a chance to read it. (Get it here.)