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STAND IN A ROW AND LEARN / lee K. Abbott, Jr. WHEN I KNEW him, everybody called him Ears (on account of the obvious), but his true name was Dorcey Eugene Wingo and he liked to speak of himself in the third person, his voice a mostly sing-song instrument of twang and nosework. "Dorcey Wingo," he'd say, "he's a special guy. You shouldn't mess with him. Mister Charles'll learn that." That day we got off the bus from Las Cruces at Ft. Bliss for Basic, he told the DI that Wingo, Dorcey E., ex-Chapter President of the Banditos, had several distinguished talents, among them a higher brain power than most, ability to absorb deprivation of any ilk, and skills at shifting in and out of the Given Something. You just knew he was going to die in the low place they were certain to send us. To be true, as I've since told my wife Pammy Jo, Ears was a profound screw-up. Soon after we got our greens and tidy haircuts, he went AWOL with Gibbs and Rocky Perteet, laid waste to a Juarez strip joint called the Cavern—the kind of place, Ears said, you can naturally expect at the convergence of foul water, abused privilege, and an economy that caters to unhappy appetites. "Dorcey Wingo's educated," he said the next day. "Trust him, he's gifted in these things." He was in the middle of what appeared to be nearly twelve thousand punishment push-ups, his fatigues sweat-stained, his face a pulp of bruises and lumps. "You should have seen our hero," he said. "He was offended, leapt into a dozen greasers." His face took on the shine of a man with moola and new transportation. "Ah," he said, "them licks felt wonderful." He just couldn't wait to mix it up with those short, violent boys in black pj's. Twice in the next month, he was in the stockade, the first time for suggesting, in the middle of some rudimentary Mickey Mouse on the Sixteen, that good-hearted Uncle Sam ought to give every fucking one of us a major league a-tomic de-vice with which we could incinerate not only our crafty enemy but also the leaf-growth and rot and bug filth he hid among. "Dorcey Wingo says ace those dudes." He was standing on the top row of the field bleachers, yelling down at Sgt. Pike. "No more nickel and dime," he was hollering, "it's time for bucks, gentlemen!" Pike had a twinkle in his eye that said all you needed to know about contempt and, say, acceptable Army life. "Dorcey says abandon all them plans and lay on the slick thing he's talking about." I told him to sit down, shut up, Pike was going to nail his butt. "Can't happen," he said. "This boy's got to live forever." Next time he went to the stockade,- it was for an impropriety with a PX clerk, a female with action and gristle enough to be called marvelous. He took it to her, he said, hopped over the watches and business machines The Missouri Review · 73 counter, pinned her against the register, and licked her from chin to cheek. "She had the look," he told me later. "Makes you want to grab hold," he said. "Brings out the best in a fellow." She had made him feel the light and warmth of something, he said. Made him forget the fodder and grunt-like nature of himself. She tasted swell, he said, like his girlfriend Betty Lou Bates, a beloved with outsize humpers and no shame. "Jesus," he sighed. "What a treat." I could see it already: he'd either make a smoking hole in the ground or be the kind of meat-mess you'd need tongs and self-discipline to deal with. I told him, too. What with his attitude, I said, he was sure to step in It, be foolish enough to walk under It when It dropped from above, flush It from a hidey-hole or embrace It from loneliness, It being (Sgt. Pike said) that disturbed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 73-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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