Seagram was about 5'5" and built like a burly fireplug. From his stature, another guy in the unit aptly nicknamed him "Stubby." Of course, we didn't call him that to his face, a face with more craters and gullies than that of Keith Richards. Stubby often said, to anybody in earshot of his frequent rants, "I've been in this Army 26 years; I was here before you were and I'll be here after you're gone. You don't have to accept me, I have to accept you!" Or he might add, whenever he had the least suspicion that someone doubted the wisdom of his orders, "and I outrank anybody in this unit except the CO (Commanding Officer)!" Which wasn't literally true. Stubby was a master sergeant. Although they were at the same pay grade, the E-8 first sergeant outranked him, but then he didn't appear to respect the first sergeant anyway. He certainly didn't appear chummy with him or the other NCOs. He seemed to be on the best terms with an officer, the major who was Battalion S-3.

      Stubby drank hard and heavy. Everyone learned to stay away from him the morning after, as well as in the evening after he got his load on. But stone cold sober, he was still a mean son-of-a-bitch. Spanish is the native language of most Puerto Ricans, but that didn't exclude them from the draft. On one occasion, Stubby started baiting a Puerto Rican kid he overheard conversing with a friend in Spanish.   

"You're in the American army, speak English!" Seagram said.

"Que?" ["what" in Spanish] The kid reflexively responded.

"What's the matter, puta [Spanish for whore; equivalent to calling a guy a bitch today], you got trouble with English?" 

At this, the kid glowered, appearing roused to fight. Stubby egged him on.


Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry