More Jackson County Opinions...

October 31, 2001

By Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
October 31, 2001

'Retribution' (The sixth and final week)
I found myself comparing the treatment Doc was going to get with the treatment they'd have given me had I been in his place. They'd give Doc the works. Every known test would be run. They would determine the time of death, the cause, etc. Contents of that glass would be tested and re-tested. Had I been the dead one, they would dig a hole in the ground, toss me in it, cover me with dirt, and send my folks a telegram beginning, "We are sorry to inform you...."
Heck, I shouldn't be having such thoughts. It wouldn't be that bad. The Navy didn't bury its dead sailors that way. I'd have a decent funeral. I'd be lowered slowly, not tossed, into the hole. A chaplain would pray over my grave. It's just that I was bitter, bitter against everything and everybody, that I was comparing falsely the treatment of officers and enlisted men. My hatred of Doc had soured me on the world.
But I did wish they would throw Doc in a hole, cover him as soon as possible, and forget about him. I couldn't help it. I was afraid a long drawn out investigation would get some buddy of mine - maybe even myself - in a world of trouble.
I began to wonder about the autopsy and the contents of that glass. The future of everyone in this tent, certainly the future of Kramer, depended on what was in it and the other findings of the doctors conducting the autopsy. I wondered if those doctors would be prejudiced against us lowly pill pushers. Okay, so I was paranoid.
After what seemed like ages of silent, anxious waiting (it had really been only three hours, thirty-four minutes), the ambulance and the skipper's car returned.
The chief was smiling when he stepped down from the ambulance. He and the captain were coming toward the tent. I had my fingers crossed.
"That was bicarbonate of soda in the glass," the chief smiled.
"Dr. Jacobs died of a ruptured appendix," the captain said. "Lt. Hendrickson said the doctor hadn't felt at all well yesterday. Thought it was indigestion."
Everybody, including Captain Strong, knew about the Jacobs-Hendrickson affair, and the captain had checked with her to see if she knew what happened. I'm thinking he delighted in telling her our good news, and that it didn't bother him a bit that it was bad news for her.
"We'll have you a replacement for Dr. Jacobs in a week or two." He smiled as he said it.
Weaver seemed particularly elated over this turn of events. Maybe Lt. Hendrickson really did use to be his girl. Now she might be his girl again.
Captain Strong returned to his car and drove away. The shore patrolmen followed.
Without saying a word, Sully went to his tent, reached in his sea bag, pulled out the fifth of American whiskey he was saving for Christmas, and returned. He took a big slug and passed it. I gave it to Saur, the last guy in line. Saur had never taken a drink in his life, and he didn't know he was going to now. When he took the bottle away from his lips it was empty.
So my theory was correct. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who know too little and those who know too much.
Take a lowly pill pusher's knowledge of diseases, for example. He knows too little. To him indigestion is a sure sign of appendicitis, or a heart attack, or some other gosh-awful thing.
But look at Doc's knowledge of sickness. He knew too much. To him appendicitis was merely a sign of indigestion. He knew he was sick but thought it didn't amount to anything. And, too, I guess he hated to leave that nurse. He took soda bicarb - for appendicitis. When he realized he was seriously ill, it was too late. Had he checked with one of us lowly pill pushers, we would have suggested he see a good doctor.
I must have had indigestion, aggravated by a strong imagination. It couldn't have been more. It certainly wasn't a heart attack. I felt pretty good now.
My head's a little sore, and I lately discovered a big knot on it. I know now what caused it, and why I passed out last night. I figured it out all by myself, too. It's too bad my buddies won't have the pleasure of explaining it to me. They thought it was so darn funny this morning.
The chief's curiosity in the center pole of my tent stimulated my interest. About seven feet up the pole was a nail I had driven there. Nothing was hanging on it. When Kramer moved my bunk last night he pulled it right against the pole. When I threw those aspirin away, my arm hit the pole and jarred my steel helmet off the nail. The helmet hit me on the head and I passed out.
Only Sullivan and I were in the tent now. The other guys had gone outside and were looking up at the clear, blue sky. The ones who had predicted fair weather were collecting their bets. It certainly wasn't going to rain today. It didn't look like it would ever rain again. It looked like the sun would shine forever.
We were winning the war, and none of us had committed murder. We didn't have to. Retribution took care of it for us.
Retribution: what a strange and mysterious word.
Retribution comes at strange and mysterious times, in strange and mysterious places, and in strange and mysterious ways.
On a dark and stormy night in September, 1943, in a place he had called God-forsaken, via an imaginary illness that was very real, it came to Dr. Jacobs.
His replacement (a capable, caring, compassionate graduate of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.) arrived in early October, and things began to run smoothly at the little Navy sick bay in the Tunisian port of Bizerte on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
But as Christmas approached, with its promise of joy, peace and good will, a dark cloud began to hang over the heads of seven lowly pill pushers. They never talked about it and it never went away.
They started to believe they'd never see another Christmas at home.
They began to worry about Dr. Jacobs' wife and kids back in Southern California.
But mainly they wondered when, where and how their retribution would come for their jealousy and hatred of Dr. Jacobs. They could not shake the nagging feeling inside that payback was in their future - sometime, somewhere, somehow.
(The end)
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

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By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
October 31, 2001

More than jack-o-lanterns
This year, my small family came into a small patch of pumpkins when we organized an impromptu photo shoot near Knoxville, Tennessee. My young daughter was dressed in her orange Tigger costume, her feet bare as the weather had not yet turned, with Mother Nature's fall foliage all around her, pumpkins organized creatively behind her. Piper's little face concentrated on getting the next leaf into her mouth, my best friend tossing leaves in the air so that they would fall at the moment the camera snapped the picture. Four adults taking shots from every angle and giggling at a baby discovering fall leaves for the first time. It was October. It was Halloween time. The time of year when the largest pumpkin makes the Georgia farm magazine.
Halloween began as the day before the celebration of the dead, I learned in Catholic school many, many years ago. November 1 is All Saint's Day, a day to celebrate the dead and to remember your lost loved ones. The night before is All Hallow's Eve. The night when the spirits of those who have died in the last year are released to "reach their eternal destination." It was a night of prayer and vigilance with Masses held until the dawning hour. A vigil Mass is still held on All Hallow's Eve, but the theory of spiritual travel doesn't hold as much weight. Now, don't ask me how it went from the religious holiday to kids dressed as princesses and Tiggers going door to door asking for treats, but I'm sure somebody knows.
Halloween is more than just haunted houses and jack-o-lanterns. Festivals are held at schools and in small towns where people sell handmade crafts and blankets, jams, jellies and veggies. There's moonwalks and dunking booths and ring tosses where everybody wins a prize. Some hold beauty pageants. Some have roller coasters, but all offer cotton candy and funnel cakes.
As I scooped out pumpkin guts Sunday night with my husband Eric beside me, his arm elbow deep in pumpkin, with Piper watching wide-eyed from her highchair, I thought of what Halloween means to me. Roasted pumpkin seeds. Charlie Brown and Linus waiting in a cold pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. Watching TV with my brother and sister as we sorted through our loot and traded Tootsie Rolls for Sweet Tarts. The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. Choosing your costume with care months before the actual day. Bobbing for apples at the school's fall festival and "fishing" for prizes.
Halloween means the first taste of a ripe orange and potpourri brewing on the stove. It's bringing the sweaters out of the closet and having to be home for dinner an hour earlier. Wearing makeup years before your mother told you you could because it's part of your costume. Knocking on your neighbor's door when you wouldn't otherwise. It's a celebration of not only pumpkins and harvest time and lost loved ones, but of childhood, which is so fleeting. The rush of excitement and expectation that comes only a few times a year at really big holidays and just before your birthday. When you know something really good is going to happen and you're going to love it, but you're not quite sure what IT will be.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
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