The troop ship taking us across the Pacific was a WWII relic. In the morning the NCOs, furious at having to share our three weeks of misery, harried us out on deck, so the reeking hold where we slept—six high on canvas cots—could be swabbed, the GI cans of vomit carried to the stern for the flock of seagulls constantly circling over the ship’s wake. For rec we stood at the rail, smoking, watching the sea replay its tired repertoire. Otherwise there was dealer’s choice in the hold, the dollar limit game hosted by a sergeant to fleece new privates. My luck had to change. With my last ten, I sat in. I drew three jacks against a straight and went bust on the first hand. On deck I breathed deep, thinking if I could not get seasick it somehow meant I might survive the next two years.
Months later on payday at Schofield Barracks, I took my winnings from the EM game and sat in with the NCO’s, who played dollar limit. I went up and down for a while then hit a bad stretch. With aces up I lost to the three jacks of a fat Spec-5 who smirked at the inevitable downfall of a private to his superiors. I left, borrowed ten bucks from a friend, and came back. In an hour I busted the fat Spec-5 with three tens, cleaned him of his money and his smirking pride, all but his yellow stripes.