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
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
"That was bicarbonate of soda in the glass," the chief
"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
"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
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
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
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
They started to believe they'd never see another Christmas at
They began to worry about Dr. Jacobs' wife and kids back in Southern
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.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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"
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.