The Rat Pack – a gnawing doubt

It was a minor complaint, given the many complaints we had to choose from. But one of the guys mentioned in passing that his fingers hurt. Another chimed in and said his did too. We all agreed that everyone’s finger tips were sore but concluded the cause was a mystery. It was not three days later that the mystery of our (the whole platoon’s) finger tips being painful and sore was solved by the author.

I was a very careful and dedicated mechanic and I worked very hard at my job, putting in long hours and was often exhausted at the end of the day. There were times I was so tired that I’d just come in and collapse on my bunk, not bothering to take off my combat boots or even to climb fully into bed or even turn off the overhead light. In the middle of the night I found myself on my back lying crosswise on my bunk, knees bent over the edge, combat boots on, feet still squarely on the floor. The glare of the overhead light, which was a bare100 watt bulb, was penetrating my still closed eyelids and disturbing my sleep. As I lay there working up the energy to take off my heavy boots and turn off that damned light I felt a tiny tug. (Rejecting the conventional government issue metal bed frames and thin Army issue mattresses, we’d built our own bunks out of scrap wood to support the much thicker mattresses we’d previously commandeered from the Air Force.) My left hand dangled in a narrow gap between the thickness of the mattress and the wall. I felt another tug. I opened my eyes and glanced at my left hand. Some kind of rodent was holding my left pinkie finger in its fore paws and was busy nibbling on the thicker skin of my fingertip. Only when it bit to the quick did I feel another stinging tug. I rolled up on my right elbow. My movement alarmed the rodent. It charged up my left arm and straight for my face. I pitched forward. It ran behind my neck, traversed my shoulders in two short bounds, then leapt several feet to the floor and disappeared in the darkness of the hall. To this day I’m not sure exactly what kind of rodent it was, but it did have the bald or naked, whip-like tail common to shrews, mice and rats, and was really quite bold.

I’m not particularly fond of the term “irony”, but perhaps it was some form of cosmic justice that we, members of the 187th’s Rat Pack, were, in our turn, gnawed on by a pack of rodents as we slept.

About The Twentieth Man

Age 68
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