A 994 word snapshot in the life of Ben Hoffmann:
“Hoffmann!” Sarge yelled at the top of his lungs from below deck. I was getting some fresh air, watching the wind turn the royal blue waters into rippling whitecaps on the ocean’s surface. My thoughts were elsewhere. My thoughts were back home. With Will. With Colonel Lewis. With Carina. My thoughts were at home. In my mind I was still on my beat up couch reading the paper, watching as Will hurried out the door in order not to be late for work. Lord knows I have killed in order to one day be right back on that couch, nonchalantly sipping coffee and reading the paper.
“Damnit! Hoffmann get your scrawny ass down here!” I rolled my eyes at Sarge’s terse language, but my feet moved quickly anyways, realizing the severity of my delayed reaction. Jim laughed at me as I ran down the stairs to promptly get my ass handed to me. Sure enough, as soon as I got below deck, Sarge was waiting at the base of the stairs. His beady eyes were squinted, and his face was red from the heat of the day and presumably his anger. “All I needed you to do was teach Josiah to keep inventory of ammunition! You were hiding from me, boy? Best not. I’ll whoop your ass, boy. Now. Once you are finished helping Josiah, report to weapons. Brinkley has something for you. You’re being promoted to gunner, dumbass. Don’t screw it up or I will whoop your ass boy. Now go quickly before I have to tell you twice.”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir.” I say before walking quickly past him and down the passageway to the stores. Liam Josiah sits atop a crate of cloth, his arms crossed and his head titled back to lean against the metal wall of the ship. He smiles when I enter.
Josiah was born to a Southern Baptist family in Mississippi, though he didn’t particularly think of himself as a religious folk, so he enlisted when he turned eighteen. That was one year ago last tuesday. The boy was young, but he didn’t look it by now. A year at sea, fighting against the Japs, it simply wears a man down. He came in a tall and proud man, and is currently sitting in front of me boasting a scar above his eyebrow from a drunken brawl, and messed up knee after he fell trying to get to the guns before the Japanese got to us. Before spending a year with rowdy boys and the ocean he was probably doll dizzy too. Hell, we all knew he was girl crazy from the moment he stepped on this ship. All he wanted to talk about was this girl Elaine. Even now, whenever Sarge brings her up in a moment of bitter laughter and weakness, Josiah’s cheeks will still redden with the faint memory of his girl. Back then I sympathized with him – I suppose I still do – for missing his darling back home. After all, I did, and still do, miss Carina with all of my mind and body, but I certainly wouldn’t be considered girl crazy.
“Sarge assigned you to my keeping? Excellent. It has been a rather long time since we talked.” Josiah chuckles, his brown hair falling in his face and his wide smile breaking loose. “Grab my crutch will ya pal?”
I grab it from the wall and help him up steadily, talking to him as I do so. “It’s been a while indeed. Three days?”
“Long time to be cooped up on a ship and not chit chat, wouldn’t you agree?” I have my arm around his shoulders, holding on just enough to ensure he would not collapse, leading him towards the record book where he could sit and work just fine. This was the one job that Sarge could have Josiah do before we docked back in the US and had him transferred to home front units. There wasn’t much use for a soldier with a bum knee.
“Oh most certainly. Now, let’s sit you down here at the desk. Yes, just like that. Perfect. Each binder is labeled with items we have in here, you will keep tabs of things coming in and going out. Just mark it, check once, twice and so on. You will even get updates on mail pick ups and so on. Won’t that be nice? You’ll get to see when Elaina sends word.” I say with a genuine smile and he smiles up at me too.
“Of course, and I will notify you whenever word comes from Carina. How is she, by the way?” He looks up at me with eager blue eyes, but the rest of his body seems ready to give out. One more month until we dock, and I can marry my sweet Carina, and Josiah can get back on land and fix that knee of his. Surely the two of us can survive one more month.
“The last she wrote was a week ago, I’m sure my recent letter hasn’t even arrived at her door. Her mother has been staying with her recently, trying to find a new place for her parents. Out of the city. Housing has just been so tight back home. Other than that, she is the same precious girl I wait for.”
“Piping hot too.” Josiah jokes and I smack his back playfully, joining him in laughter.
“I suppose you’re right. She is definitely piping hot. Anyways, do you have any questions about your job before I go down to the gunner?”
“No, no. Don’t trouble your time with me and women. Go get your tiny ass promoted!” He calls, sending a small whistle my way as I mock salute him and exit the room. I couldn’t deny my blood tingled anticipating the action found in the gunning room. The Japanese would have no idea what hit them. Not after they get a taste of Ben Hoffmann.