April 1, 1944: Los Negros Island in the Admiralties.
He was hanging his boots and socks. They were filthy, filled with god knows what, absolutely totally soaked, as always. He fancied himself tough enough. He had been through a lot. He had wanted to stay on Corregidor, but his orders were to protect the general staff, so he did as he was told.
Lorton was on the other side of the tent. He hated sharing a tent with enlisted men, even in the middle of a war. He had nothing against them, but he felt exposed around them. They were young, he was old. He felt self-conscious.
“It’s your unique problem Lorton, you know that.” said a man at the far end. That’s why you’re not a Colonel or a General after all your years of service.
Lorton peered at the man. He looked down and not at him.
“Duncan Lee.” I should have figured.
“You don’t like wet boots, wet socks, cold, mud. Oh you will put up with it. And you’ll do you’re job, better than most if not all, but you don’t like it. You’re mentally tough, but not physically tough.”
Lorton still wouldn’t make eye contact.
“Maybe you’re right. But you weren’t in France in 1918. I was. It was shitty at best. And no, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like trench-foot and I didn’t like the cooties and I didn’t like the mud. But who does?”
Lorton took off his pants, they were wet at the ankles, he hung them up as well next to his shirt. He lay back on the bare cot and he lit up a Chittagongaretti, an Assam Cigarette grown at vey high altitude.
“I’m sure you have my entire file. No, it’s my weakness. Some just mutely accept the cold, the mud, the heat, the discomfort. I’d rather be clean. I’d rather be dry. But when have I ever shirked my duty? So the asshole who pretends better gets promoted. I get it. You tell Donovan I want that goddamned Battalion Command by ’46 come hell or high water. The difference between me and the other spit and polish mutes is that I would do anything to the death just to get that promotion. And assholes like you? They just hand you the rank. All because you don’t complain about wet boots and wet socks.”
Lorton took a long roak on his Chittagongaretti.
“Oh by the way, Lorton said, say hello to Gorsky and Koch for me,”
Lee ran across the tent and stood at the foot of Lorton’s bed. He put his hand on his pistol. “What are you saying Lorton? Is that some kind of a threat? How do you always know these things?”
Lorton looked straight up, still avoiding eye contact. “If you don’t get your hand off that pistol, I will shove it so far up for rectum it will shoot out of your nostrils. Second of all, Battalion command by ’46, Corps Artillery by ’50. You go tell Donovan that and you will never hear another word from me about anything. Have a smoke?”
Erie Pennsylvania, January 15, 1947 National Guard Armory.
“Colonel Lorton, there’s a packet here for you, came by courrier.” The admin sergeant said.
Lorton put out his cigarette. He opened the brown paper packet.
31 December 1946
War Department, Washington D.C.
SUBJECT: Assignment Orders
Lorton, Paul B., LTC Field Artillery
Relief from: current assignment: CLASSIFIED
Assigned to: Commander 6th Battalion 99th Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division Alamogordo New Mexico.
Effective: 15 February 1947.
Report to Erie Station for transport.