Erotic fiction set in the World War II home front intrigues me. There was more sex happening at the time of Viet Nam, I'm sure, but maybe its abundance makes a less-compelling story setting. Free love gets pretty anatomical, but what else? Hoochie coochie was more complicated for the Greatest Generation, more worth writing about.
I've posted a photo of two U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve officers ordering a Coastguardsman to prepare for duty, a fun duty by the looks of things. The women were known as SPARs, acronym for the Coast Guard motto, "Semper Paratus--Always Ready." http://images.asstr.org/files/Authors/Holly_Rennick/Coast_Guard.jpg
Semper Paratus. A Coastguardsman's my type of man! Here's a picture of me saluting him. http://images.asstr.org/files/Authors/Holly_Rennick/Salute.jpg
I wasn't sure if I should wear gloves or not. It was September and this is Oregon. Maybe they'll be like the ladies in Charleston, I wondered, but unpacking and buying furniture left me no time to find out in advance. Anyway, I took my gloves; I'd slip them off if I saw they weren't in season yet.
I'd not be here in Astoria if my husband hadn't received papers to Tongue Point. I'd taken the train 3000 miles to set up our apartment and he got diverted to Puerto Rico! Nazi subs dropping Spanish spies, I guess they're worried about. I'll wait here until the Coast Guard stations him where they told us he was supposed to go. Coast Guard!
It was so nice, therefore, for Eunice to invite me--really my only break from the boxes. Out here on the West Coast, women are friendly.
Eunice's husband's supposed to be at the station, too, she said, but got sent to Iceland to train Navy lifesavers. Coast Guard!
"Bridge game at my place, Tuesday at 7:00. Girl's night out," she reminded me when we parted.
It might be my week's activity, I realized.
The fact was that none of the girls did wear gloves and two were even in trousers. Nice pants, to be sure, but they were pants. This wasn't Charleston, even if they wore stockings underneath. In Charleston, ladies don't play bridge on weekday evenings. Just afternoons.
Eunice took care of introductions. "We're glad you play bridge. This must be so different from the East, so much rain and everything," she apologized.
I didn't correct her that Carolinians are from the South, not the East. Before I moved, I read that South Carolina gets more rain; it's just more spread out in Oregon. Coastguardsmen's wives know about weather.
"Do you knit? Well, we'll teach you. It's really fun to make things." The girl named Jane would have issued me needles if I'd not demurred. "I'll start the bidding with a big pass. Who has the face cards?"
"Your husband--Dwight, right? He's in the service?" the one named Debby wondered. "Mine's in Alaska. No place to start a family, I told him. One spade, I think. Jane's is in the Pacific, classified supposedly, but it's just Hawaii."
Maybe that's why they invited me; we're waiting for our men. The good thing about a Coast Guard husband is that he usually stays close to home. The bad thing is that that was before the war.
"That's such a pretty blouse," noted Eunice. "Maybe they have it Portland. Whose bid is it? Oh, sorry. I pass."
I took the bid to two hearts and Debby closed it at two spades. I didn't mind being the dummy, first deal. Fewer chances to muff things. We made four.
By the end of the hand, I was almost one of the girls. Everybody thought it was great that we made even more than our bid.
As expected, conversation got onto men and the war. My Dwight wasn't an officer or anything (somewhat of a social demerit in Charleston, I'd discovered), but here it was much more about what he really does. Keeping the motors going is really important, they all agreed.
Did I work in a factory making airplanes back east? They'd read that girls do it. No, I confessed, I was a typist at County Records. Well, records are important, too, they deemed.
Eunice worked as a secretary at Tongue Point. Not saving people, of course, but in the office. The Lieutenant Commander's office, she noted with aplomb.
"That's where I met my hubby," she explained, counting her cards to see where she'd dealt wrong.
"Plus Bruce," quipped Jane, knitting as she waited for the dealer to find her mistake. "She made Bruce an Able Bodied Seamen by being his First Mate," which brought a laugh. I think it was a joke, anyway.
"Hey!" Eunice chided. "Secrets are secrets."
"Not in the Auxiliary," and everybody roared.
I laughed with the bunch. It's good to be included.
But oh my! I'd not tell a joke like that.
"The thing is," confided Eunice as she re-dealt, "it's really important to keep up the morale for the men guarding the shore."
"Did she say 'morale' or 'moral'," interrupted Debby. Chortles.
"No, really," Eunice continued. "Those boys get lonely, too."
"Some girlie in a bathing suit's giving your hubby a private hula dance and you're going to sit home with the Saturday Evening Post?" asked Jane. "You need a date now and then yourself, right? It's just till the war's over."
Just till the war's over? I thought about it. They go on dates?
Eunice noticed my brow. "Just Coast Guard boys. Everybody got thirteen cards this time?"
At the five-and-dime where I'd gone to buy clothespins, a blond Coastguardsman--just recruited, I could tell by his haircut--in front of me stepped back and his arm brushed my chest. I, too, stepped back, at first flustered, but less so when I saw his embarrassment.
"Sorry, ma'am," his eyes averting mine.
It was just an accident, but hanging up my laundry later made me think about the boys who bumped my breasts when I was in junior high. It happened to my friends, too, and we said the boys were creeps. But actually, I sort of liked it.
Next time, cards were at Jane's. I loved her spoon collection--one from nearly every state. "I trade for them," she admitted. "I've never been further than Nebraska."
I said I'd write my friends in South Carolina to see if they had extras.
"Eunice and I are doing coast watch tomorrow," the hostess volunteered while serving the coffee. Back in Charleston, we never drank coffee while we played. Out here, everybody just lays down their hands while we add the cream and sugar.
"Coast watch?" I asked.
"You know, look for subs."
"Oh my! I didn't know."
"We never see them, but the Japs got a freighter one time!"
"Or sometimes what they do is sit offshore so spies can blink them signals."
"Are there Japanese who live up here?"
"Not like California. We got some draft dodgers, though."
If I were a spy, I'd want to be in the Coast Guard so I could steal the lighthouse signals, but I didn't say it.
"It's not too dangerous to watch for subs," Jane assured, "but sometimes it's pretty rainy. One diamond."
I was doubtful. "They let us do it, women, I mean. After all," I reasoned, "what would we do if we captured one?"
She laughed. "Tell him to go home. We're just the Auxiliary. Free a man to fight, the way they say it," she added. "'Course, the ones who guard the beach are pretty important, too."
"Yes, I'm sure. One heart."
"Our little way of helping. Just for an hour or so," she clarified, which wasn't clear at all. "Want to go in my place? I could use the shut-eye."
"I'm not in the Auxiliary."
"Sure you are. You play bridge. Eunice will pick you up at 20:00. That means eight o-clock."
I knew that.
"Wear a raincoat, 'cause it'll pour if you don't."
I got torpedoed at one heart because I missed my finesse.
That week I saw the Coastguardsman who'd bumped me at the five-and-dime. He and a girl went into the Seashell, the movie house. The picture was a cowboy one. I wondered if he bumped her breast at the ticket window. If they sat in the back. If they watched the movie.
I'd done everything with Dwight because we were married. I liked doing it a lot. But I still remembered the boys in senior high who touched my top. I'd let them feel me up, but not too much, so they'd not start stories. It was pretty fun, those days.
We were an Auxiliary of two: Eunice driving a Coast Guard automobile and me the new recruit. I'd not the slightest idea of how to spot an enemy sub. We drove to a bluff overlooking the Pacific. "Thar she blows," explained my partner, pointing to a boxy-looking structure on stilts.
It wasn't that easy climbing up the ladder and through the opening, but I'd pants on, per Eunice's advice. At least it wasn't raining.
The lookout cabin wasn't much bigger than a delivery van. A window pointed seaward. Two chairs. Trunks against the back. A telephone, the boxy military type, on the wall. The view toward China was nothing but fog.
"We take turns?" figuring I'd hardly sleep when it wasn't mine, anyway. I knew about watches from Dwight.
"Naah. We can't see them and they can't see us, so it's safe. We'll just wait for the guys."
"The ones assigned to be here, Bruce and Charlie. You'll like Charlie. He's an Easterner, too. The ensign says it's legit 'cause it gives us eight eyes instead of four. That's if we're looking out the window! Have a seat."
I heard a vehicle stop, drive away and there were sounds on the ladder.
"Hi there, doll." A Coastguardsman's head popped through the trapdoor. Maybe it was the jaunty cap illuminated from his Ray-O-Vac that made him look about eighteen. "Bruce's behind me," as the two scrambled in. "We got smokes."
It wasn't clear to me why it took four of us up here if we weren't going to see anything.
"I'm from Kansas City," Charlie introduced himself and took the vacant chair. "Bruce's from Arizona. That's why we joined, to see the sea." and all of us laughed.
The one named Bruce busied himself with the telephone, saying some numbers when he got it to function.
"Every hour," explained Eunice. "If we don't report on the hour, they figure we've been attacked. Regs, you know."
"Or that we're asleep," added Bruce. "It looks bad for the unit if we get an inspection, so they wake us up."
From the glow from the cigarettes, I could see Eunice pulling blankets out of a trunk. "Anybody cold?"
Bruce beamed and sat on the trunk next to Eunice. He was older, maybe thirty. Maybe men from Arizona just look older because of the sun.
"Douse the light so the subs can't see us," ruled Eunice when Bruce put his arm around her.
"Want a drag?" suggested Charlie, scooting his chair next to mine and offering a cigarette. "Help make you warm. You look swell."
This wasn't what I'd come for, to drivel around with some smart punk. I moved my chair.
"Come on, babe! It's cold up here," scooting closer.
"I'm married!" I hoped firm enough to make him realize I wasn't just playing hard to get.
Eunice had stopped whatever she was doing. "Yeah, Charlie. Don't act so officer."
"I mean... ," I interjected, as maybe I'd misinterpreted something. "I mean we got to watch for subs."
Charlie didn't have a quip, but at least he'd quit chasing my chair.
The four of us spent the next hour talking about the war, what bands were recording, how Astoria's pretty much the end of the world. Charlie tried every line he could think of to get me interested in him and we all laughed at the silliness of it--even him, after a while. Of course he got nowhere, but it was fun to joke around. Like they'd said at bridge, these guys get lonely, just like us.
Eunice and Bruce got a good bit less lonely than we did. It wasn't so dark that I couldn't see she'd moved to his lap. They didn't even care that we could hear them smooch. I suppose the Coastguardsmen know how far each other got on a date, just like girls do. Maybe they lie more, though.
Their blanket hid how far their hands ventured. You can hear kisses, but you can't really hear buttons. From the giggles, though, you suspect.
At the end I let Charlie give me a little kiss on the cheek. He's just a kid. Eunice and I were leaving in a few minutes, anyway.
"Maybe next time?" Charlie grinned.
I told him, "Maybe after we sink the spies with your flare," a nix without sounding too uppity, I hoped. Everybody laughed.
The tower swayed in the wind, but we were dry. This wasn't such a bad way to spend a little time while the war goes on.
"Charlie's not that bad," apologized Eunice when we later got in our car. "Just a bit much at first."
"Well, he is sort of forward," I agreed.
"Bruce is quieter," reaching in her sweater to reposition her underwear. Maybe I'd not just imagined what I thought I imagined up there. And she's married!
"Should Charlie and I have gone out to the car, or something?" I asked. It didn't seem right to have been up there when the other two were fooling around.
"Against regs. They have to stay up there. It's okay. No secrets in the Auxiliary, remember?"
"If you say so."
"Why don't you come by station and size them up before next time," Eunice decided. "That'd be better."
Well, you can't go blaming girls who get left behind, even if you wouldn't yourself.
I thought of how Eunice seemed to know how things worked. She'd made no effort to keep me from knowing how far Bruce got. A guy getting in your sweater is maybe no big thing out here.
Maybe I shouldn't have backed away from the Coastguardsman at the five-and-dime and made some comment about the movies. Maybe we'd have had a Coke and caught a matinee. A cowboy one. Sit in the back. I wouldn't let him in my sweater because I'm married, not too much anyway. It's not like we'd be making love or anything.
But I didn't want a typist job at the station, despite Eunice's urging, because of Charlie. He'd have complained to all his Coast Guard buddies about the prude in the Auxiliary. They'd look at me strange.
But I did get a job at the recruiting office downtown. Astoria wasn't big enough for each service to have its own secretary, so we'd give out information, point the recruit in what we thought was the right direction and process the initial paperwork. I usually talked the boys out of the Marines. The kid wanted to bayonet the Nips, but I told him he'd be peeling potatoes. Coast Guard's much better. Look at the men at Tongue Point. They'll be the ones to machinegun any Jap spy.
William was a case in point: he was at the office the day after he graduated from Astoria High. He wasn't that big, but he seemed plenty smart. Smart enough to enlist to guard the coast, anyway. I showed him where to check "Signalman" as a training preference, though everybody knew that the Coast Guard never reads the form.
He'd stop by almost every day to check for his orders. It was with pleasure I gave him his ticket to New Jersey. I even saw him off at the bus station, me and half the town. He'd do the Coast Guard proud.
Was I surprised three months later when the phone rang!
"It's me, William. Guess what? They posted me right back here, out at the station, I mean! I'm a mess-man. It means I cook on the cutter when we go out. Pretty good job. They lost the paper that said I'd do the radio, but that's okay."
"Super! I'm pleased for you." I really was. As long as the cutter didn't meet a sub, anyway.
"Just thought you'd like to know."
"Semper Paratus--Always Ready." It's how you tell a new Coastguardsman that you think they're doing an important job.
I stopped by the five-and-dime a few times to see what they had new. I just might to run into that blond Coastguardsman. I'd act like I didn't remember, though, and get to know him a little before we went to the show. I'd not really go with him, of course, but if I did, maybe I'd wear my rose-pattern blouse. It's the style that's not tucked in. At the Seashell, you have to be careful.
But he never came shopping and I ran out of new things to inspect.
It was probably a month later. I'd been keeping plenty busy at the office, so it might have been more.
"Guess what?" announced Eunice after taking the bid three no-trump. "I saw the roster for the coast watch this Friday. Nice boys on it."
I wasn't her partner and I held most of the high clubs, so they were probably set. "Se le guerre," as they say in French.
"My turn! Where's my raincoat?" volunteered Jane.
"Make sure he's got his," from Debby, the joke apparent even to me.
"And guess what else," Eunice continued, looking my way. "That one you recruited, William, I think, is listed."
I was surprised. "I thought he worked in the kitchen."
"It's after he peels the potatoes."
"He peels one of us," filled in Debby, giggling at her wit.
I didn't like that. "Who says?"
"Well, nobody," admitted Eunice. "He's new on patrol, according to the roster."
Well, I didn't even like them talking about him. "He's just a kid."
"Dibs!" jumped in Debby. More laughter.
Eunice looked at me more closely. "No, wait. Who recruited him gets to go. It's only fair."
I wasn't talking about going. "No," I backed off. "I didn't mean me." The diversion made me lose count of the face cards, but it didn't matter.
"No, no. Go ahead," Eunice urged. "Debby can read her Look Magazine and think about the big one she scored last week. She doesn't even know your William."
Debby wrinkled her nose good-naturedly and gave a dramatic sigh.
My William? Oh my!
Jane and I waited in the tower until we heard the vehicle pull up. After a minute it drove off. I could only hope that Eunice had read the roster correctly.
It was several minutes before the trap door lifted. Even bundled in a stocking-cap with his pea-coat pulled up to his cheeks, I could tell the second one in was William.
He looked startled when he recognized who was in the lookout. "Oh! I didn't think it would be you!"
"Yeah, it's me. How are you?"
"Fine I guess." He looked at his feet. "I just didn't think that..."
"I just wanted to say hi, is all."
"I got assigned to stand watch."
Jane interrupted, opening a trunk. "How 'bout we put up the curtain? You two can have the chairs."
The other Coastguardsman, a tall fellow whose name I'd missed, strung a blanket from hooks on the ceiling, separating them from us. In a moment, a hand shoved a blanket under the divider. "Don't get cold." Jane's voice.
With the blanket between us, the waves below and the wind all around, the other couple couldn't hear you if you didn't talk too loud.
"I've never been up here before," I whispered to William, "except once and nothing happened."
"You're her?" His question horrified me, as it meant that the tale was known.
"Anyway, he didn't say who. Just that one kiss from her was better than a--well, you know--from anybody else."
Maybe little Charlie's got a bit of decency, I realized. I was glad I'd given him the kiss, and not just for the compliment. He'd settled for the kiss, maybe, but he'd wanted to poke me, too.
"Let's just watch for Japs," William decided.
The night was clear for a change. If they were going to slip a spy on shore, we'd catch him.
"You're married, right?" after we got tired of watching. The way he asked it wasn't like he was assessing me. He just wanted to know.
"Yep. Coast Guard, just like you. He's in Puerto Rico for a while."
"Lucky. It's sunny there."
"I guess. You got a gal?"
"Did, but she ditched me right after I joined."
"It's okay. I'm going to college when this is over."
"Engineering, maybe. You got me thinking about radios when I signed up."
I was glad I'd done that.
"You're shivering," he realized. "Here, wear this," unfolding the blanket.
"No, I'm fine."
"How 'bout you just put it over you?"
What could I do? "Thanks," wrapping it around my back. But that wasn't fair. "Here, we'll share," sticking the edge back over his shoulder.
"Any Japs out there."
I watched the sea, wondering how many fish were out there.
From the other side of the lookout came muffled laughter and occasional words.
"Stop that, buddy!" Jane's every inflection to the contrary.
"You like this better?"
But there wasn't much maybe about it. At one point she said, "Up more," but I don't know about what. I could hear as they arranged themselves and then their pushing. At the end she said, "Oh" three times.
I suppose William heard as well, but we didn't look at each other. I hoped he understood that Jane wouldn't have done it, except for the war.
It was better just to guard the coast, we both knew.
William told me that sometimes you could see whales during the day.
I told him about all the sailboats that dock at Charleston.
He told me that the navy was getting blimps to watch the coast pretty soon, but they'd always need the Coast Guard.
I liked the thought of floating in a blimp. I wondered if Jane's orgasm was as long as it sounded.
I woke up when the telephone buzzed. Otherwise it was quiet but for the waves and wind. In a moment the tall Coastguardsman opened the curtain, gave me a goofy grin and said something official-sounding into the mouthpiece.
William's arm was around my back and my head was on his shoulder. I wasn't cold any more. William was still watching the sea, the edge of his hand barely touching the side of my breast.
I'd given a kiss to Charlie, hadn't I? Why not William, then? It wasn't really that much of a deal.
"How'd it go?" was Jane's question when we got to the auto. I sensed her hope, but she saved me from having to explain when I didn't have a good answer. "A girl's her own boss, right?"
Her evening wasn't that simple, or maybe it was simpler. I'm not sure.
"I didn't trust his rubber; it's good I brought my own," she summarized.
I agreed that it was good.
That was really all there was to our reporting. I didn't tell her that when I kissed William, I let his hand reach further and only pushed it aside when it tried to open my buttons. But then I'd let it come back to try again.
I didn't mind. It's just for the war. Dwight's down there in Puerto Rico, probably with one of those senoritas with the wide, low-cut necklines.
At the next bridge game, Jane must have said not to press me for details.
"A girl says no and that's it," Debby volunteered.
"Or maybe you only remember what he was supposed to wear when you start throwing up in the morning," someone added.