Sooz & Sid by Walter Bjorkman

  [From a collection scheduled out Jan 2011]

In a Brooklyn bar, in late August of 1971, Sid had troubles. He was soaking up the suds with two friends. “Guys, I pulled 117 in the draft lottery, they’re gonna call me up in a few days, I’m dead.”

Fred, who always lucked out, had drawn 364, next to last, safe. “Man, too bad buddy.”

Mitch, exempt as a Conscientious Objector, commiserated. “Yeah, sucks.”

The three sat there, not knowing what else to say, Sid couldn’t do the Canada thing, too many reasons to stay.

“Effin system” Sid moaned.

“Yeh, effin’ system” from Fred.

Then the light bulb. “Work within the system – use bureaucracy!” from Mitch. “Move!” “Legit!” “To our bud Eddie out in California!”

They worked out that Sid flies out there immediately, walks into the draftboard and tells them that he has moved.

“Then, when Eddie gets your notice, you mosey into the draftboard here and tell them ‘No work in California, I moved back’.” Mitch always had ideas.

“Yeah, then each time they gotta ship your records back and forth. By the time they get back, Bingo, its ’72, they’re saying the cut will be around 80 next year, and you’re safe!”

Maybe the combined twelve years of college and student deferrments weren’t wasted, it sounded fool-proof on paper, but this was beer-soaked bar napkin paper, so things couldn’t be all that easy.

*

“Scccrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeecccccccccccccch!

The ’69 Chevy Impala, grey-black smoke pouring out of its tailpipe, came to a crunching stop on the top of a hill fifty miles to go on the road to Portland, the smoke mixing with the fog and remnant’s of brush fires that, with the burnt rubber, gave the air the smell of Secaucus if it had farms. Sooz looked over her shoulder from the driver’s seat to the two shadows she passed about 200 feet back.

“What’cha think Gertie? Should we go back for them?”

“Ehh, Sooz, think they’re like freaks, wasn’t sure if they even were guys at first. Thought we were goin’ into the city for some big studs, not skinny freaky gawd knows what. ”

“Ever do one, Gertie?”

“Do one what?”

“A hippie. I did one once, everyday for a week.”

“No way – eccch, was he dirty and smelly, they don’t wear Brut, or any after-shave, or even deodorant, I heard. And where’dja meet him? Down by the roadhouse, you didn’t go down there, didja?”

“Naw, you know my brother knows a few, for the pot, I mean Richie’s not a freak, but he likes to get stoned. Anyway, this guy, he actually was good, I mean it wasn’t just slam, bam; he went down on me.”

“Sheesh! Sooz, that only happened once for me, ‘member Chuck? His first time, I tole him he hadda, he never did it again.”

“Well, this guy liked to do it, didn’t wanna stop. But he hadda go back to Arizona, or someplace. Never saw him again.”

Gertie stopped to think. “Alright, let’s take ’em, as a backup. If we can’t find any real guys before we dump these off, I’ll give it a go, if they’re not too freaky.”

Sooz gunned the Impala into reverse and screeched back to Sid and Eddie, who had just about given up hope for a ride and were about to snooze down in the ditch at the side of the road.

“Hop in fellas”, Sooz and Gertie’s voices mixed with “you would cry too if this happened to you” coming out of the AM oldies station.

Sid and Eddie got in the back, Sooz popping into forward just as Sid got his foot in the door, shutting it as they tore off.

“Where ya goin’ guys?” Gertie asked as blasé as she could be while picturing swirling tongues.

“Uh, Sid here is headed back east, and I’m going back down south of San Fran, but thought we’d take in Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies on the out of the way.”

“We’re goin’ ta Portland for the night, lookin’ for some fellas to hook up with, so wese can take ya that far” Sooz took command, snapping her gum. “You guys ok with oldies, I could change it to FM if you want, look like you’re FM guys.”

“Anything is fine with us” Sid replied, trying to see Sooz over Gertie’s puffed up, teased hair.

Eddie and Sid looked at each other, saw the dice from the mirror, hula girl on the dash, capri pants and shiny dacron tops on the bodies, bee-hives, smelled the gum. Sid leaned over to Rich and whispered “What are we, in a 10 year time-warp?”

Sooz switched the channel anyway. After a commercial to the Pepsi Generation, “I remember holding you while you sleep . . . bring it home baby make it soon.” That was a little better, although it was pop-rock, not the blues or underground stuff Sid and Eddie were into. Harrison and Ham traded some good slide work though, and maybe it was telling them something.

Now, Sid and Eddie were not averse to doing some time-sex traveling, after all it was four years earlier that they popped their cherries in Chattanooga, along with Fred, on the same night, with the same woman. She had a bouffant and leopard-skin patterned bra and panties, but it wasn’t so far removed in time then, and she was older, from that time. She also charged, this could be a freebie. Had to be – Sid and Eddie were as poor as their torn jeans.

As the asphalt ribbon became the main strip leading into Portland, bars and clubs started to appear at the side of the road. At each one, Sooz would turn into the parking lot, drive around and she and Gertie would size up the guys hanging outside.

“Ehh. Bikers, they’re just hippies with only half their teeth and beer guts. Sheeeet, real hippies, we got two in the back.” Gertie wasn’t reticent to assess the attributes loud enough for Sid and Eddie to hear. “Look, some nervous kids, we could break ’em in Gertie, but they might go cryin’ home to mama.”

After about a half-dozen of these, with no success, they reached downtown.

“Alright guys, we’re going to a club we know. Got any money?” Sooz kinda made it sound like the only way they were gonna hang was if the guys would pay the way, their last shot.

“Naw, that’s why we’re hitchin’. But, hey – there’s the City Forest we heard about. Allowed to sleep overnight, where we’re gonna stay.” Sid leaned over and put his hand on Sooz’s shoulder. “You gals wanna join us, why bother fishin’ all night when we got the goods right here ?” Sid couldn’t believe what he just said, it must’ve been the hairspray fumes.

“OUT!! GETTA OUTTA HERE RIGHT NOW YOU CHEAPASS FREAKIN’ HIPPIES, SCREW IN THE WOODS? WITH YOUSE? THINK WE EVEN WANNA TOUCH YOUSE?” Gertie was apoplectic at the thought of bugs nesting in her beehive, swirling tongues nothwithstanding.

Both Sooz and Gertie started pushing the guys out as best they could with one arm, whacking them with the other, giggling all the time. Sid and Eddie tumbled out of each door, but as Sooz burnt rubber, Sid’s leg got caught up in the door and he got pulled along the ground for about twenty feet, wrenching his knee socket in every direction.

Sid spent the night in the hospital, Eddie ordered take-out for them from a Sambo’s nearby then fell asleep in the chair next to the bed. The next day they had to drain the knee and pull out a few tiny cartilage fragments.

*

The bureaucratic ruse didn’t work. Sid had to report for his physical on December 20th, they missed by 12 days.

The induction letter arrived on Christmas Eve. It stated that due to the temporary injury to Sid’s knee, he was to wait two months for it to heal, and report his status to the draft board at that time.

In 1972

Free and clear. Turned out Sid did score with Sooz afterall.

  1. September 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Good story–I’m always impressed with what men have to put up with in the name of civic duty. Sid got luckier than most in this American lottery. Russian roulette, American lottery. I’m still dreaming of/longing for sanity.

  2. Walter
    September 15, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Thank you, Beate. There always was Canada, and even if for ethical reasons a guy went there, it was a lot less enduring something than those that died and those who killed. I can’t condone anyone who went to Viet Nam and did what they did,but I can understand how they got there. Just a handful of years earlier, I would have been one of them as a fifteen yr. old, before losing my obsequience,

  3. September 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Walter – this reads like part of a novel, I hope the collection builds on this piece? Actually it’s the first I’ve heard of this lottery situation. Although the UK went to war while I was at university and there was talk of drafting…but the students in my (Ivy League) uni were exempt as they were expected to be the ‘ruling classes’ in the next generation. Never felt too good.
    On a lighter note I love that ‘(hippies) don’t wear Brut, or any kind of aftershave.’ That takes me back!

  4. Walter
    September 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Claire – thank you much! Yes the situation was quite dire in the states back then, even for the ‘ruling classes’ of students, they even did away with student deferments that same year of the first lottery – I had just graduated and lost mine anyway.

    It is one, in six parts, creative non-fiction of Eddie that is the centerpiece of fifteen, with another 3-parter on my Mother’s emigration, and a 5 part fiction using Marzy & Eddie – some seen here on VOICES, plus another twelve one parters. All written in a one year creative burst. I am mixed, somehow feeling not worthy – the required aw shucks embarassment, and about to shit in my pants with the anticipation, somehow liking them more as I re-read them.

  5. deepee
    October 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Nicely done. I like where this went and how it went there. Plus I remember living the nightmare of the draft with my own highschool buddies, watching the little ping pong ball come up the chute on tv telling who was gonna have to start praying real soon.

  6. Walter
    October 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thanks Darryl – yes a lottery no one wanted to win, befitting the times when up was down and sideways was lunch.

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