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Old Guy

Scouts in Belgium

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The Ordeal

Donnie paused, leaning on his shovel. “Where are we?”

“You're standing in a hole about two feet deeper than necessary. I'm sitting on a case of artillery shells talking to you.” Old Guy snickered. He always appreciated his own humor.

“You know what I mean.” Donnie went back to his digging.

“We're in Belgium. Not far from Mons, I think.” Old Guy produced a map. “Near a place called Florennes, unless that last MP was lying to us.”

“Any chance of beer? Women?”

“Beer is brewed everywhere, Donnie. And women seem to occupy at least half the Earth. Chances are we'll encounter both as we travel the countryside.”

“Why do you always answer questions that way? Is the beer any good here? Are the women good looking? Jeez.”

Old Guy started to reply, then sighed and shook his head. “It's called sarcasm, my boy. I keep forgetting you're from Iowa. We'll have to sample the various beers in order to figure out which ones are any good. Same with the women.”

“1944 is almost over. I'd like to get laid by Christmas. When can we start sampling? ”

“An astute question for a change.” Old Guy glanced up as a twin-engine plane banked overhead and went out of sight to the east. “I believe that was a Black Widow. It appeared to be letting down for landing. The airfield we seek is not far off. Once we deliver our messages, we may be able to begin experimenting with the local brews. There are usually women in the vicinity of bars, taverns, pubs, or whatever the local name is for places serving booze.”

“Hot damn! Maybe I can get laid -- finally.”

“Always a possibility. You've progressed to the point where only the largest melons send you into a coma. We ate those last two. You'll have to find some more. Practice, practice, that's the key.”

A staff sergeant from the artillery unit they'd decided to laager up with for the night gave them a shout. “Mess truck is here. C'mon over.”

Old Guy began rummaging in the jeep for his mess gear. “Looks like you don't have to put up with my cooking this evening. Let's go see how if artillery mess cooks are any better than infantry cooks.”

The artillery cooks proved capable of a workmanlike job with 10-in-1 rations and local produce. Old Guy spent the evening swapping lies with the gun bunnies. Donnie finished digging a semi-bunker complete with overhead cover (timbers taken from a partly burned barn) and straw for the floor.

Donnie was sitting in one corner of the bunker when Old Guy returned. “Damn, you've outdone yourself. The roof is a tad low, but other than that, I believe this is your best effort yet.”

“Good soil,” replied Donnie with a shrug. “I had to quit digging because it was gettin' dark.” He held up a pair of medium size pumpkins. “Liberated these from a farm field. Gotta practice.” He closed his eyes then placed the pumpkins side by side in the opposite corner of the dugout. Sitting back, he took a deep breath and opened his eyes just a fraction. A low moan escaped him, but he remained conscious.

“You can do it!” cried Old Guy. “Eyes open wide!”

Donnie gritted his teeth and did as instructed. He was able to focus on the two pumpkins for a full thirty seconds before he had to look away.

“Hell,” said Old Guy, looking up from his watch. “A new record. Are you ready for the TEST?”

“Gimme a minute, dammit!” Donnie covered his eyes and sagged back against the dirt wall. After a couple minutes his breathing became less ragged. “Okay. No. Wait. Maybe I'm not ready.”

“Faint heart never won a fair maiden.”

“It ain't fair or foul that gets to me,” retorted Donnie. “It's them with chests out to here.” He mimed a very full sweater. “I can't focus on nothin' but -- but -- them -- uh . . .”

“Boobs! Come on. Say it. Boobs!”

Donnie weaved like a drunken sailor. “I can't -- I can't focuuuuus -- oooon nothin' but -- booooobs!”

“Wow! At this rate you may get laid sometime in 1965. But I could be wrong. You're making good progress. Shall we try the TEST?” Without waiting for a response, Old Guy reached over and laid a piece of knit fabric over the pumpkins.

“Noooooooo! I ain't ready!” Donnie's eyes bulged. After a few seconds he began to relax. “Hey. I ain't passin' out.” His laughter was that of a homicidal maniac suddenly freed from a strait jacket.

“Easy,” cautioned Old Guy. He retrieved the fabric. “You passed the TEST, but look. Pumpkins. Remember? These are just pumpkins. I think you're ready for the big time. All we have to do is find a bar stocked with well-endowed women.”

“I better keep practicin', huh?”

“Yeah. But don't expect instant improvement. Look how long them flyboys have been trying to hit German targets. They try and they try, but nothing seems to help. You've had this condition since you were -- what? -- twelve? It may take some time before you're really cured.”

“Right. Let's do the TEST again.”

Ten seconds later Donnie was out cold. Old Guy sighed and tucked the fabric away. “Poor Donnie. I'm afraid the strain was more than he could bear.”

(tbc)

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Ardennes Sojurn

An MP wearing an overcoat and gloves ambled over to the jeep. Two other MPs stood under a shelter formed of broken boards and a shelter half. “Where ya headed?”

Donnie was driving. They had the top up. Light snow fell from low clouds. Old Guy had a map out. “We're messengers. Looking for the 14th Cav. Place called Wischeid.” He jerked a thumb toward the bags filling the back of the jeep. “We got mail and Christmas stuff, too.”

“They make you guys carry all that crap?” The MP studied Old Guy's map. “We're here. Andier. Cav CP is set up this side of Wischeid. Maybe two miles. It ain't much of a road.” He pointed to the left, indicating a muddy track meandering between a cluster of houses. “Through the village, then take a right at a burned out Kraut half-track. You want some coffee?”

“Hand me your canteen cup, Donnie. The kind gentleman is offering coffee.”

“I don't want no coffee. You know they ain't got no cream.”

Old Guy got out of the jeep. “Pay no attention to my partner. He's a coffee snob. Born on the right side of the tracks, silver spoon in his mouth, all that stuff. Never drank anything but imported coffee. Ground their own beans.”

“I never had no foreign coffee,” retorted Donnie. “No silver spoons neither. I just like my coffee with a dab of cream.”

Old Guy stepped into the tiny shelter. One of the MPs filled his cup. “You headed up toward the line?”

“Yeah.” Old Guy sipped the piping hot brew. It was as bad as he expected, but warming nonetheless.

“Shit, the goddamn Germans are restless tonight,” said an MP. “Haven't heard that much artillery for a long time.”

The men stood quiet, listening. “Sounds like the guys on the line are catching hell,” said Old Guy. “They'll be digging deeper with every shell.”

The MP with the coffee pot spat to one side. “Grounds froze. They ain't gonna be diggin' far.”

Old Guy climbed back into the jeep. “Let's go. Try not to hit too many bumps. I don't want to spill any of this fine coffee.”

“Yeah. I can smell it from here.” The jeep lurched into motion. “Is it really coffee?”

“I think they brewed it from burnt sawdust and old cigar butts.” At the first corner Old Guy emptied the canteen cup into the mud.

As they reached the burned out half-track and made the turn a shell burst on a hilltop a few hundred yards to the north.

“Shit.” Donnie hunched over the wheel and sped up. “What the hell was that?”

“Big, wasn't it? Railroad gun, I suppose. Take it easy. They weren't shooting at us.” The jeep lurched and bounced along the rough track. “Slow down. We don't want to break anything.”

Tracked vehicles had churned the forest road into a mass of half frozen ruts. Donnie often had to work his way around areas too rough for the jeep. At the end of one small detour, he stopped at the top of a low rise. “Are you sure this is the right road?”

“The MPs directions agree with the map, such as it . . .” Old Guy was interrupted by a rapid series of explosions. Dim red light lit the low clouds to the east. The jeep rocked on its springs and clots of snow cascaded off nearby trees.

“That wasn't very far away,” said Donnie.

“No. It wasn't.” Old Guy got out. “Come on. Let's put the top down.”

“But . . .” Donnie muttered a curse and climbed out. “I just got dried off -- mostly.”

Once the top was down, Old Guy began dragging mail sacks to one side. “Lower the windshield. I'm gonna mount the thirty.”

“A machine gun ain't gonna do us no good. That was artillery.”

“Listen. Shut the engine off.” The two men stood silent. More shells slammed down, well to the right. A heavy machine gun thumped. Other automatic weapons stuttered. Though muted by the snow, the sounds of battle were unmistakeable.

“We ought to go back,” said Donnie.

“Maybe. Let's keep going -- slowly. I don't want to drive into any surprises.”

Back behind the wheel, Donnie fired up the jeep. “I wouldn't mind being surprised by a blonde gal hankering for a roll in the hay with a GI liberator. But I don't think the guys in front of us are celebrating the arrival of a truckload of women.”

“No. Not likely.” Old Guy finished mounting the thirty and climbed in. “Let's go. Take it slow.”

“All ahead slow it is.”

“Jeez, Donnie. That's sailor talk.”

“I picked it up in a movie.”

“What movie?”

“Damned if I know. There was a bunch of guys on a ship and a nice looking gal in a sweater. The sweater is the last thing I saw.”

Engine noise flared ahead. Old Guy braced himself as Donnie steered the jeep in behind a snow laden brush pile and stopped. “Truck?”

“I think so.” Old Guy looked around. “Can you turn this thing around here?”

“Probably. It's pretty clear under the trees. What do you want to do?”

A dark shape appeared at the top of the low rise to their front. Engine roaring, the vehicle lumbered toward them, blowing black smoke. Men wearing dirty snow capes trotted ahead. One man stood silhouetted beside a machine gun mounted atop the truck cab.

“Shit,” breathed Old Guy. “Krauts. They'll see us any second. Get ready to turn around. I'm going to take out the guy on the machine gun.”

Neither man could ever remember exactly what happened in the next thirty seconds. Old Guy opened up with the machine gun, shattering glass in the half-track cab. The man gripping the machine gun dropped out of sight as did the infantrymen on the road. “Go!”

Donnie backed under a tree and shot forward, heading back toward Andier. His whole being was occupied with manipulating clutch, throttle and steering wheel. One wrong move would spell the end for both of them.

Old Guy grabbed his carbine and twisted around, firing over the back of the jeep, now bouncing away from the Germans. Bullets cut the air overhead and knocked snow off trees lining the road, but none hit the jeep or either of the men. Shooting continued even after they topped the rise and skidded down the other side.

As he grabbed the machine gun mount to keep from falling out, Old Guy lost his carbine. It vanished into the snow. “Christ, Donnie, don't turn this thing over!”

Donnie concentrated on his driving. He didn't think about boobs for a good fifteen minutes.

It was growing dark when they passed the now deserted MP station at Andier. Two light tanks and a truck passed them, heading north. They didn't seem to be in a hurry.

“Turn left,” said Old Guy. He consulted his map. We'll go to Schonberg. Then head for Corps headquarters.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“Looked like the Germans have cranked up some kind of an attack.” Old Guy glanced back at the rutted track. It was growing dark. “And not a small one, from the sounds of things.”

At Schonberg they ran into a traffic jam. Harassed MPs stood at the main intersections, trying to keep some kind of order. It took nearly an hour to pass through the small town and reach 106th Infantry CP. A disinterested captain listened to their report of a breakthrough near Wischeid.

“We've had reports of increased activity all along the line,” said the captain. “Intelligence thinks the Germans are getting ready to pull further back.”

Old Guy persisted. “Those guys weren't pulling back, sir. They were advance elements of a Panzer unit.” He walked to an Operations map. “Fifth Panzer. Those guys aren't retreating without a fight.”

“Thank you for your report, Sergeant. I'll make sure the Intelligence officer knows about it.”

“Captain, if the Germans have punched a hole in the lines, they'll be rolling in here before morning.”

“I said I'd take care of it, Sergeant. You are dismissed.”

Old Guy turned on his heel and left.

“What do we do now?” asked Donnie when they got back to the jeep.

“When they handed out brains, that asshole was nowhere to be found.” Old Guy looked around. “We unload this mail and put the top back up for starters. Then we get the hell out of here. Back to Corps.”

They piled the bags inside a small shed beside the 106th CP, then went looking for fuel. “I've got a suspicion gas is going to be hard to find before long,” observed Old Guy.

“Are you sure this is a serious attack by the Krauts?”

“What do you think? Didn't those guys we shot up look serious to you?” Old Guy sighed. “The Germans don't do things by halves. There's a fuel dump.”

Fifteen minutes later, refueled and carrying two extra jerry cans of gas, they headed out along the main road toward St. Vith. Behind and to the southeast, the drum-fire of artillery grew louder. Traffic going both ways picked up considerably. As they approached Setz, vehicles slowed to a crawl, then halted.

Heavily armed MPs approached, stopping briefly at each vehicle. When their turn came, one MP stopped beside the jeep while another stood further back, weapon at the ready.

“Lemme see your trip ticket,” growled the MP.

Old Guy handed it over. “We couldn't get through to Wischeid. We're headed back to our own Corps.”

“Yeah. Who played in the 1939 World Series?”

“Ah . . .” Old Guy frowned. “I have no . . .”

“Anybody knows that,” cried Donnie. “The Yankees and Reds. Yanks won in four games. What is this -- twenty questions?”

The MP heaved a sigh of relief. “Krauts dropped in some guys dressed as American GIs. Shot up a convoy on the St. Vith road. Others have been reported. You guys take care. The road to St. Vith is closed for now. Don't know when it will be open.” Signaling his buddy, the MP headed for the next vehicle in line.

“I didn't know you were a baseball fan,” said Old Guy. “Good thing. I don't know crap about it.”

“You don't know baseball? What kinda American are you?”

“Apparently not a very good one. I wonder what they'd have done if you hadn't known which teams were in the -- what Series was it?”

“1939.” Donnie shrugged. “I don't think they woulda shot us. I can't believe I know stuff you don't.”

“Me neither. Don't let it go to your head.” Old Guy looked around. “Go around this mess. Take us into Setz. There ought to be logging trails or farm roads that will take us across to St. Vith. We need to get clear of this mess.” He rummaged in a bag. “I'll get out the Michelin Guide.”

Donnie groaned. “Is this going to be one of your famous short cuts?”

“Ye of little faith. Have I ever gotten us really, really lost yet?”

“Well, yeah.” Donnie started reciting a litany of wrong turns, dead ends, harrowing escapes, and plain wandering around.”

“Those are all hazards of being a messenger,” retorted a somewhat chagrined Old Guy. “Units are never where Corps thinks they are. And our maps are always crap.” He held up a pre-war Michelin Guide for Belgium. “Voila! This is the real thing.”

“Then why don't you use it all the time?”

“Because the Guides tend to cover areas where ordinary people like to go. Armies end up trudging through places no one in their right mind would consider a likely travel destination.”

“Well. Yeah. But this place don't look like no vacation spot.”

“We'll see.” Old Guy flipped pages. “Not even the Riviera would look good covered with tanks and scruffy GIs. While you were busy driving I've noticed any number of lodges that look like places a young man might bring a woman. Hiking in summer, skiing in winter, followed by sitting in a cozy lounge sipping alcoholic beverages.” He flattened the Guide on his knee. “And here it is.”

“I guess if I can cure myself of passing out every time I see a nice rack I could do stuff like that, huh?”

“A whole new world would open up for you, Donnie. A whole new world.”

“Dang.” Donnie watched the snow fall, wandering the pathways of his mind. He kept bumping into real and imagined boobs and started to feel lightheaded. Fortunately, Old Guy found what he was looking for.

“This area is shown in some detail. A secondary road runs from Setz over some higher terrain and connects with a couple other roads that come out either at St. Vith or a bit south of it.”

“This must be Setz,” said Donnie. They drove slowly through a small village. Streets were churned into a slushy, gray mess. Muddy vehicles were parked helter-skelter. Men bundled against the cold gathered around small fires. “Is this your vacation spot?”

“Not now, for sure. Look for a road leading south.”

A few minutes later they were clear of the village. The road proved to be surfaced with gravel and in relatively good condition. Half a mile on they reached an intersection. The gravel road continued more or less south. The road to the right wound up over a rise and vanished into a dense forest.

“Turn right,” instructed Old Guy. “This is the road we're looking for.”

Donnie made the turn. “We ain't the only dummies. Look at those tracks.”

A single set of wheels had left impressions in the six-inch deep snow. The ruts appeared to have been made by a vehicle equipped with standard US Army lugged tires. Fresh snow coated the bottom of the tire marks.

“A weapons carrier or ambulance, I think,” said Old Guy. “An hour or so ahead of us.”

“Someone else has one a them fancy maps.”

“Or he was just following his nose.” Old Guy shrugged. “This area is bound to have a network of logging roads, fire cuts, you name it. The forests here aren't like those back home.” He glanced at the map on his knee. “The Guide shows a few little blocks that may be cabins or lodges.”

“You said women like them lodges. Maybe we'll find some gals with booze and boo -- boooo . . .”

“Easy, Donnie. Don't pass out. If you wreck this jeep we may end up in a POW camp.”

“Okay. Okay. I'm all right now.” Donnie thought for a moment. “Prisoners don't have to drive all over creation gettin' shot at, do they?”

“No.”

“Do the Krauts have any women runnin' them camps?”

“No.”

“Dang.”

(tbc)

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The Ersatz Squad

Old Guy raised one gloved hand. “Stop.”

As the jeep slowed and came to a halt, Donnie chuckled. “Gotta piss again?”

“No. The snow's all stirred up. Maybe it's nothing. The guys ahead of us might have stopped to take a leak or -- something.”

Donnie climbed out and stretched. “Buncha prints over here, too.”

Old Guy walked around the jeep and eyed the ground. “Hell of a lot of prints. They must have . . .” He broke off and waded through foot-deep snow toward a cluster of trees. “Damn. Look at this.”

Donnie moved closer and watched as Old Guy brushed snow off a patch of red. “That ain't -- that ain't blood. Is it?”

“Looks to be. Somebody was lying here.” The area around the blood patch was heavily marked with boot prints. More prints and drag marks led toward a nearby tree. Old Guy walked slowly toward the tree. Its lower branches hung to the ground. Those on the near side had only a dusting of snow.

Old Guy shoved through the branches. “Shit. There's a dead GI here.” He backed out and stood for a moment, examining the snow. “A sergeant from an artillery unit, judging from his jacket patches.”

“I don't get it,” said Donnie. “Did he die on the ambulance and -- no -- our guys wouldn't just dump anybody like that.”

“No.” Old Guy waded around the tree. “Come on. Bring your carbine.”

“What the hell?” Donnie halted next to Old Guy. Boot prints, covered with a layer of fresh snow led deeper into the woods. “How many?”

“Hard to say. They were walking in the prints left by their leader. Whoever they are, they seem to know what they're doing.” Old Guy stepped into the boot prints. “Let's see where they came from.”

Donnie gripped his carbine and followed. “It's Krauts, ain't it?”

“I think so. Remember what that MP said about Germans wearing US uniforms?”

“Jeez. That must be -- these guys stopped the vehicle. Made like they was real GIs. MPs maybe?”

“Yeah. The sergeant must have figured it out and tried to -- I don't know. Tried something.”

“The bastards shot him and left him.” Donnie slowed. “You think there's more up ahead?”

“No.” Old Guy stopped. “I suppose -- ah -- it's not likely. Keep alert.”

What they found after creeping quietly through two hundred yards of forest was enlightening, but not dangerous. Six parachutes lay in a neat pile under low-hanging boughs. Tracks led in from several directions. The chutes were stashed at the edge of an open area.

“Looks like an old burn or maybe somebody logged it off,” said Old Guy. Young trees covered the open ground, none over four feet tall. “Good landing area for parachutists.”

“Okay. Now what?”

“You keep asking me that as if I have a plan. I don't know. Let's go back to the jeep. Stay alert. I don't think the bastards are likely to come back, but . . .”

“Yeah. You can never tell what a damned Kraut might do. Shouldn't we go back down and report this to somebody at Setz?”

“I've been thinking about that. We'd be an hour getting back there and we couldn't give them any details. The Krauts will be near St. Vith in less than two hours, if this road doesn't get worse on the other side of these hills.”

“So we follow 'em? What do we do if we catch up?”

“I'm making this up as we go, Donnie. I'll dig my Thompson out of the back. You got your carbine. We got the thirty. Grenades. We'll think of something. First we have to find them.”

“Yeah. And not get shot while you figger out some kinda plan.”

“That too.”

Following the tire tracks was easy enough. There was no wind to obliterate the marks and only an inch or so of new snow had fallen since the tracks were made. No other vehicles appeared to have used the road.

Donnie stopped the jeep at a Y-intersection. One branch curved left. The tire tracks followed the road that angled to the right and down the hill. Heavy tree cover and low fog hid the valley below.

“The bastards must have a better map than I do,” said Old Guy. “Or they're lost.”

“Can Nazis get lost?”

“I imagine so.”

“It's funny,” mused Donnie. “The Germans I've seen so far look like ordinary joes. And yet, here they are, goose-stepping all over Europe and calling themselves the Master Race. I guess you can never tell about folks.”

Old Guy frowned. It was unlike Donnie to spout semi-philosophical sentiments. “None of that crowd in Berlin look much like Aryan heroes. Keep following the tracks.”

“All ahead slow.”

“Not too slow. We want to catch them before they reach St. Vith.”

Donnie made the turn and eased down the hill. “How we gonna tell the real GIs from the Krauts?”

“You better polish up your baseball knowledge.” Old Guy patted his Thompson. “But they're likely to answer questions with bullets. Identifying the bad guys might not be hard.”

“I'd hate to shoot anyone wearing a US uniform,” said Donnie. “Except maybe for a couple officers.”

The road descended in a series of switchbacks. As they rolled around the last turn, Old Guy signaled another halt. He got out and looked around, then waded through foot-deep snow to the edge of the road where he knelt down and peered at something below. Donnie joined him.

“What'ya got?”

“There's a house down there. Sort of a large cabin. And a couple smaller sheds. See 'em?”

“Yeah.” Donnie sniffed. “Wood smoke. Somebody's home.”

“Jeez. You're getting to be quite a scout. Before we know it you'll be reading deer scat and tracking all kinds of critters though the woods.”

“Any fool can smell smoke. What's this scat stuff?”

“Poop. Deer poop. Elk. Critter poop.”

“You mean shit. Why didn't you just say shit?”

“Damned if I know, Donnie. Trackers refer to animal poop as scat.”

“Oh, well. It must be some kinda technical term. Like sayin' 'angry' instead of “pissed off.”

Old Guy stood up and brushed the snow off his fatigues. “Why are we standing here talking shit?”

“You started it.” Donnie walked back to the jeep. “We gonna go on down there or what?”

“Yeah. Get your shit.”

Snickering like a couple idiots, the two men loaded up on ammo and grenades. Avoiding snow laden trees, they walked and slid down the hill toward the cabin. Old Guy paused beside an open-sided shed piled high with wood. He pointed to a small building to the right.

“Let's check that out.”

Donnie held up a hand. “Hear that?” Music drifted on the still air.

“Yeah. Radio or record player.”

“Sounds like they're killin' a cat in there.”

“It's in French. A woman. Every French song I've ever heard sounds like that.”

“Think it's the Krauts?”

“Search me. Keep your eyes open. I'll check out this other shed.” Old Guy walked lightly across to the closed shed and peeked in a small window. He motioned for Donnie to join him.

“There's men inside,” he whispered. “Four, maybe five. Glass is frosted. Could be our guys.”

Donnie shook his head. “Or maybe it's the Krauts. Our guys could have gotten the jump on 'em.”

“Maybe.” Old Guy jerked his head toward the cabin. The front door faced the shed. Light poured from the window beside the doorway. He decided to circle around back. “Come on.”

The window at the back of the cabin was dark. Nothing was visible through the dirty glass. On the far side of the building they found a Dodge weapons carrier. Snow had melted on the still-warm hood. The truck bed was equipped with folding troop seats and had a canvas cover, open at the back.

Old Guy crept up to a lighted window. The music was louder here. He peeked quickly, then rose up for a longer look. Donnie heard several muffled thuds. Old Guy laughed quietly and motioned Donnie to follow as he circled back around to the front of the cabin.

“What . . . ?” Donnie rushed to catch up. “What in hell are you doing?”

“It's okay. Take it easy. And don't forget all that practicing you've been doing.”

“Practicing . . . What are you talking about?”

Old Guy stopped beside the front door and called out something in German. “Damen, hier sind Amerikaner.” Dead silence followed. Finally, a female voice responded.

“Amerikaner? From the shed?”

“Nein . . . er . . . no. We followed the truck. You have the fake Americans inside?”

“We -- ah -- Heidi, put your sweater back on. We have guns. Stand back from the door.”

Old Guy slung his weapon and motioned Donnie to do the same. Completely mystified, he hesitated, then complied. The words 'Heidi, put your sweater back on' zinged around in his mind, bludgeoning cautionary thoughts into silence.

The door opened to reveal a petite brunette armed with a carbine. She surveyed the two men with suspicion. “How many consecutive World Series did the Yankees win in the thirties?”

Old Guy glanced at Donnie. “Show your stuff.”

“Uh . . .” Visons of sweaters filled with large round orbs danced in Donnie's head. No thought of sugar plums were to be seen. Baseball trivia vanished into the gloom. He moaned and began to drool.

“Dammit, Donnie, snap out of it!” Old Guy looked at the woman. “My friend is a bit tongue-tied in the presence of -- ah -- large -- .” He mimed enormous breasts. “ -- you know.”

She frowned. “Well, I don't have . . .” The frown turned to a smile. “Oh. He heard what I said to Heidi.” Back to the frown. “But that's no proof. Nazis turn into mindless morons at the sight of a well-stuffed sweater. Answer my question!”

“You have me there. I don't follow baseball.”

She lowered the carbine a fraction. “Don't follow baseball? What kind of an American are you?”

“Consensus seems to be that I'm not much of an American. Sorry. You got any other questions? I'll take a stab at anything except baseball. Or football. Or tennis.”

“How many gold medals did Jesse Owens win in the 1936 Olympics?”

“Four. Hell, even I know that. Those fake GIs were probably briefed on that as well. Where does that leave us?”

“No. The fakes are all ardent Nazis. They wouldn't want to know anything about a black man, even if knowing such information might save their lives.” She lowered the carbine. “Besides, we've already administered the supreme test and they failed. Come on in.”

Old Guy led a nearly catatonic Donnie into the cabin. Six men clad in American fatigues lay sprawled on the floor and draped over furniture. A buxom blonde was busy binding their legs and arms with rope. She smiled at Old Guy and went back to her task.

“Heidi speaks no English,” explained the brunette. “My name is Freda.” She shook his hand.

“Where did you learn to speak English?” Old Guy held up both hands. “Wait. Don't tell me. I hear that northeast flavor. You went to school in the States?”

“I did.” Freda propped the carbine in a corner. Other weapons were piled next to the door. “I came back just before the war started. I've been running a bar called Rosie's, down in Florennes.”

“Hey! I know that place. We were there a few days ago. Florennes, I mean. Not the bar.” Old Guy pushed Donnie into a chair. “Shall we help Heidi with the Germans? I need to release the guys locked in the shed, too.”

Freda handed him a large key. “Go let them out. Heidi has much experience in tying up Germans. You'd be surprised.” She blushed.

“No.” Old Guy took the key. “It kind of makes sense. Nazis and bondage, I mean.”

“What shall we do with your friend?”

“His name is Donnie. Leave him there. He hasn't passed out yet, so -- I don't know. He may fall into a coma or he might recover somewhat. He's been practicing.”

“Practicing?”

“Ah -- doesn't matter.” Old Guy actually turned red. “I'll just -- just step out and release the others.”

As he went out the old fart wondered if he had a chance with Freda. He reflected glumly that although he didn't pass out at the sight of an unclad breast, his track record with women wasn't much better than Donnie's. Most of the women he'd been involved with had found reasons to end the relationship -- usually in the middle of the night, leaving no forwarding address.

Rattling the lock, he yelled, “Rise and shine, men. Formation in ten minutes.” He opened the door to find four men on their feet, staring as if at a madman.

“Who the hell are you?” asked a corporal.

“You Uncle Sam has need of you,” announced Old Guy. “It's snowing, freezing, and the Krauts are over the fence. There are no overshoes, no gloves, and not much to eat. Even bullets are in short supply. All your Uncle can offer is a rifle, if you can steal one, and a whole shitload of Germans, who will find you.”

“Who is this asshole?” asked one of the men.

“Never mind that,” snapped the corporal. “He's bustin' us out. Where are those damned Krauts?”

“In the cabin,” said Old Guy. “Sleeping the sleep of the depraved.”

“They'll be sleeping,” muttered the corporal. “When the Army gets through with them they'll be sleeping in their damned graves.”

Donnie remained in a semi-deranged state while Old Guy and the four men he released dealt with the Germans. Two men drove the weapons carrier back to the ambush site and retrieved the body of their sergeant. Then they loaded the barely conscious Germans into the vehicle.

Old Guy shook hands with the corporal. “Don't let any of those bastards loose, not even so they can take a leak. And make sure the people who interrogate them find out who shot your sergeant. That one should be charged with murder.”

The man, a lean Texan, spat into the snow. “They was caught wearin' our uniforms. Makes 'em spies, don't it? I reckon they'll be stood against a wall and shot.”

“Yeah. You may be right. Take care. We'll be along as soon as my partner comes back to life.”

“Okay. Maybe you ought to dump him outside in the snow. Get him away from that gal with the nice hooters, anyhow.” The corporal shook his head sadly. “Except for the supermen trussed in the back, he's got the worst case of boob paralysis I've ever seen.”

“We've been working on the problem. Hopefully, he'll get better.”

“Doubt it. I really do. Oh, he may get to where he can look at 'em and maybe even touch 'em, but inside he'll always be one sick puppy.” The corporal climbed into the cab.

“Maybe.” Old Guy watched as the weapons carrier rolled away. “Who knows,” he muttered. “It would take a miracle to cure Donnie -- but miracles do happen.”

Inside, Freda was in the middle of making tea. Donnie was nowhere in sight.

“He wake up?” asked Old Guy.

“Not really.” She shrugged. “Heidi took him into the back. She likes him.”

“Likes Donnie? Is there something wrong with the girl?”

“Probably. She likes most men -- unless they're under the age of ten -- or dead.”

“Ah. Still, I don't think she'll get much out of Donnie.”

Freda handed him a cup and poured tea. “You might be surprised. She took some rope too.”

A piercing moan filled the cabin. Old Guy sipped his tea. It was as bad as he expected. “Rope, eh? Well, with her natural endowments and some rope -- anything could happen.”

Another wail penetrated the walls. Freda blushed.

Old Guy grinned. “Sounds like anything did.”

End

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Heidi emerged from the room alone. "Amerikaner Kaput, Ich habe die Baseball-Informationen, die wir benötigten!" Heidi the quickly picked up a Thompson on her way out the door. Old Guy looked at Freda. He jumped up from the table, and ran to the room that Donnie was in. There Donnie was, hanging from a support beam that ran across the ceiling. The noose tightly around his neck. His face blue and purple. Pants down around his ankles, with his M1 rammed up his ass. And his privates removed. A huge pool of blood on the floor, with an SS dagger laying in it.

"Holy shit"...Old Guy muttered under his breath, as he stared at the slightly swaying Donnie. "Heidi's a damn Nazi!" Freda walked in and screamed at the sight. "I had no idea she was an SS member!" Freda explained. "Well, nothing we can do for Donnie now but cut him down. He was a kind of worthless guy anyway. Always scared. Especially of women. Not very bright either." Old Guy got up on a wooden chair, pulled out his M3 trench knife and cut Donnie down. "Well, that's that. So Freda, you got a comfortable bed we could get to know each other better on?"

The Real End

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Resolving a few issues, Donnie?

Instead of literary death, try Doc OG's prescription for a sour outlook.

Get comfy blanket and lay in a supply of your favorite snacks. They have to be handy; right next to your recliner. Tuck yourself into the chair with a bottle of some good whiskey and your TV remote.

Find reruns of shows like Gunsmoke, Paladin, and The Rifleman. Settle down and watch those until you get your mind right -- or your frontal lobes turn to jelly. Either way works.

No thanks needed. Provided as a public service by the Old Guy network. "Old remedies for Old Folks" is our motto.

OG

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Hulu and Amazon Prime are mother beautiful solutions for wifehasthermoteitus.

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