Trivial Pursuit

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*Note to Readers: As a former enlisted Marine, I enjoy making Marines the heroes of my stories anytime it makes sense to use a military person. I must admit though, that living with a beautiful Navy officer, I’m often reminded she outranks me. I always tell her that’s fine as long as she keeps saying ‘yes’ to me whenever I ‘request permission to cum aboard.’ 🙂

As an aerospace engineer who works with a bunch of active-duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps pilots, I hear a lot of ‘sea stories’ from them. I got the idea for this one from a retired lieutenant colonel who told me about a friend of his who ended up in a long-term relationship with a teacher 20 years his junior. I understand it ended but not directly due to the difference in age. This story is very closely based on what this retired officer shared with me. If you enjoy it, please send me an email and let me know. (I respond to all of them, by the way.)

*****

Early Fall, 2011

“How’s your ankle coming along, Ms. Kennedy?” he asked her.

“It’s a lot better, thank you for asking.”

“How many weeks has this been? Five?”

“Six. Six weeks without running and it’s driving me crazy,” she told him.

“I understand completely. I tore cartilage in my knee once and I was sidelined for 30 days. I thought I’d come out of my skin.”

“I didn’t know you run.”

“I don’t. Not anymore, anyway. I switched to a bicycle a couple of years ago. It’s not the same thing, but it’s an okay substitute. I just couldn’t take the pounding after all those years. I still lift three days a week and I ride my bike-15-20 miles on alternate days, but no more running for me.”

“I had no idea,” she told him.

A hand went up and she get out of her seat. “I got it,” he told her. A few seconds later he came back and set down behind his desk.

“What did she want?”

“She didn’t understand the difference between area and perimeter.”

“You’re kidding. We’ve gone over that every day this week in class!”

“I know. When I was in the classroom, that drove me crazy. My best—or maybe worst—example was equivalent fractions. I’d gone over the concept every day for a week, reviewed it before the exam, then as soon as I passed out the test, a hand went go up. This kid reads the directions which say: ‘Find the equivalent fraction’ and asks me, ‘What’s an ee-kwi-vay-lent fraction?’ When I explained it to him—again, the kid said, ‘You should have at least gone over this in class.'”

“No. No way,” she said. “That cannot be true.”

“Swear to God,” he said.

“Wow. That’s scary,” she replied. “So you used to teach. I didn’t know that, either. You’re a very mysterious man, Mr. Hansen. “What else don’t I know about you?”

“I could tell you, but then…”

“Uh-huh. You’d have to kill me,” she said finishing his sentence. “I have a brother in the military so I’ve heard that a time or two.” She smiled at him and said, “Why is it that every time I come in here you manage to cheer me up or make me laugh?”

“Oh, great! I make you laugh? There you go talking about my looks again,” he said with a straight face.

She laughed again and said, “Hardly! Your wife is a very lucky woman. That’s all I can say.”

The bell rang and she got everyone up. “Okay, remeber we exit through the back of the computer lab. Single file and back upstairs to the classroom,” she said. As she passed his desk on the way out she rolled her eyes knowing she’d be going over area vs perimeter yet again.

“Good luck, Ms. Kennedy! See you tomorrow.”

She smiled at him as she limped out and said, “Thank you. I think I’m gonna need it.” She stopped and said, “I’ve coming in here for over two months and I still don’t even know your first name. Mine’s Kristen.”

“Guy,” he told her. “I know. It’s most boring name a…guy…could ever have. What can I say? I fought hard for some other name, but my dad was a lot bigger than me back then so…”

Kristen actually giggled like a little girl and said, “You see! You just did it again. I’m gonna have to keep an eye on you,” she told him while pointing a playful, accusatory finger at him.

______________________________________________________________________

“Okay, Kristen. Your turn,” Angie said. “Which continent has the fewest flowering plants?”

“Come on, that’s a giveaway!” Mike complained.

“Antartica,” Kristen said.

“Correct. The girls are now up by two,” she announced.

David picked up a card and after reading looked at Kristen with deep concern before asking the question. “Go ahead. Whatever it is, just ask it. It’s only a game, right?”

David didn’t seem convinced as he spoke. Mike, “Which military service’s song contains the phrase, ‘From the Halls of Montezuma’?”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Mike railed. “I don’t know that fascist shit.”

Now Kristen understood why David had concerns. She did her best not to get angry, but it was boiling just under the surface again. Mike saw her looking at him like that and reacted ataşehir escort the way he always did at any mention of the military that wasn’t utterly negative. “What? I’m supposed to know that Nazi shit because your dad was in the Army back in the and your little brother was stupid enough to enlist? Really?”

Angie tried to ignore his rant and said, “So what’s your answer, Michael?”

“I don’t fuckin’ know and I don’t care. How about the Army?”

“No, that’s not correct. Kristen?”

“The Marine Corps,” she said.

“Correct-a-mundo and we win! Eat shit, dudes! She got a high five from Kristen but Michael was still visibly very pissed off.

“Oh, that figures. You ask my girlfriend a military question knowing she’s in love with the fucking military. Nice.”

Kristen sighed and decided not to put up with his nonsense again. “I am not ‘in love with the military.'”

“Oh, so you weren’t fawning all over that freak on TV the other day? The one you said was so hot who was bragging about how many Iraqis he killed?”

“I didn’t say he was hot. I said he looked very sharp in his uniform. That’s all. And he didn’t brag about anything. He’d been awarded the Silver Star and he was just answering the reporter’s questions. Sheesh!”

“That’s such bullshit, Kristen! You said the guy was good looking. I sat right there and heard you say it!”

Kristen’s older sister Angie and her husband David went into the kitchen pretending to get another drink but heard every word. Nothing set Mike off like the military. Well, except maybe the word ‘corporations’.

“Okay, fine. I mentioned he was a nice-looking guy but not just because he was in uniform.”

“What is it with you and this sycophantic attraction for men in uniform? Do you like guys who kill people?”

Kristen had reached her breaking point and she knew if she couldn’t get out of this conversation immediately, something was going to have to give. “You know what? I’m done. We’re not discussing this—again. Just let it go, okay?”

“No, we’re not letting it go! Every time you see some baby killer in uniform, you gotta go say something idiotic like ‘thank you for your service’ or tell Angie about how great he looks. You know what? I’m fucking sick of it! So fuck the military and fuck your uniforms!”

“Angie? Can you take me home tonight?” she said trembling with rage.

Mike realized this was getting serious and tried to calm himself (and her) down. “Hey, come on, Kristen. What are you doing? You know that shit gets me fired up. All I was saying was…”

She turned toward him and trying not to start trembling with anger said, “Unlike you, I can separate wars from the people who get sent to fight them. I hated going into Iraq just as much as you, but the people who got sent didn’t start the war. Politicians did. And not just the president. The vote was 77 to 23 to use force to remove Saddam Hussein so there’s plenty of blame to go around! Look. I can hate the war but still respect those who serve our country. Yes, like my dad and my brother.” She was shaking by now and in an usual outburst said, “But I can’t respect you. In fact, you disgust me!”

“Yeah, well they disgust me! They’re all a bunch of fucking fascists!” he spat. “Sometimes I have no idea how I could have ever asked you out.” He strode toward the door alone, and on his way out looked he right at her and said, “Oh, wait. You were a pretty decent lay,” and slammed the door so hard windows shook.

“That was…intense,” David said calmly.

“That was insane. Kristen, how do you put up with that? Talk about childish. Did he get teleported into 2016 from 1968 or something? Baby killers? Jesus. What a dick.”

Kristen Kennedy was 27 and didn’t know how she put up with it. She’d been teaching elementary school for almost five years now and she’d been with Mike for several months after agreeing to go to an antiwar rally with some friends mainly because she was interested a cute guy she thought might be there. She’d ended up meeting Michael, who was also reasonable good-looking in a scruffy sort of way and a very active antiwar protestor. She liked pretty much everything else about him and one thing led to another. But the way he always went off over this issue had always bothered her. After tonight’s display, she’d had enough.

“I honestly don’t know,” she said. “I can tell you this, though. After that outburst, I’m done. Tomorrow, my school just happens to celebrating Veteran’s Day and our principal always finds someone in uniform to talk to our kids in a short assembly and I think it’s great. I believe kids should understand the role the military plays in keeping us free while also learning about how politicians can misuse it. Those are two separate issues and Mike can’t seem to understand that.”

“I think he does,” Angie said. “He’s just gotten so deeply into whatever it is that motivates him that he can’t admit there really is a difference. Come on. Get your stuff and I’ll give you a ride back to your place.”

The ataşehir escort next morning Kristen was standing outside her classroom on the catwalk keeping an eye on the kids and talking to Staci Dennison whose room was next to hers. “Hey, check him out!” Staci said pointing down to the parking lot.

“Oh, wow! He looks amazing,” Kristen said.

“What uniform is that?” Staci asked her.

“That’s a Marine officer’s dress blue uniform,” she said. “My brother, Allan, is an enlisted Marine, so I know a little bit about it. Not a lot, but I do know which uniform each service wears.”

“He looks really impressive. I didn’t see his face but he’s tall and tall is a good thing, right?” Staci said smiling.

“I like tall,” Kristen said in agreement, smiling herself. “I also like guys in uniform,” she proudly admitted out loud without fear of retribution.

“Who doesn’t?” Staci said. “They make average guys look good and hotties look…” She whispered in Kristen’s ear, “Fuckable.”

“Staci!” she said pretending to be offended.

“Well, they are! He could do me and I didn’t even see his face.”

A third female teacher who was in her first year heard part of the conversation and said, “No offense, but that guy looks like he’s my dad’s age. Good looking or not, that just creeps me out.”

“Well…I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers,” Staci chirped.

“After Michael, I’d just like to meet a decent guy, young or old. Okay, not too young or too old, but as long as he’s nice, you know? That guy must be our guest speaker today,” Kristen said as the bell rang and kids went scrambling to get inside.

“Okay, this morning we’re having our Veteran’s Day assembly at 10 o’clock. Who can tell me what Veteran’s Day is all about?” Ms. Kennedy got several different answers as she guided the discussion to help her kids understand the meaning of the day.

“So Memorial Day is when we remember those who died serving their country while Veteran’s Day is a time to remember anyone and everyone who served on active duty. Oh, and don’t forget. The winner of our essay contest on Veteran’s Day wins a $50 savings bond!”

At ten minutes til’ 10, she walked her class down to the cafeteria where they held their assemblies. There were service flags hanging above the stage with the Army’s on the left and the Coast Guard on the other end as the oldest service’s flag went first. There were some Army ROTC cadets from a local high school who would serve as the color guard to post the flag when the service began. She got her kids seated then took a place along the wall and waited.

“Shouldn’t you be sitting down?” a familiar voice said from behind her.

“I recognize that baritone voice,” she said turning around to say hello.

It took her 2-3 seconds to make sense of what she saw and that this man belonged to the voice she’d just heard.

“Something else you didn’t know about me, right?” he said smiling.

“Oh…my…God!” She was looking at him from top to bottom from the crisp white ‘hat’ on his head to the shiny, patent-leather shoes on his feet.

“Are you retired or something?” she asked still in a state of mild shock.

“Guilty as charged,” he told her. “I retired three years ago then taught math at a junior high for two years before coming here. And lemme tell ya, those two years were the longest decade of my life.”

Kristen laughed at his dry humor and said, “So…is that an eagle?” pointing to his shoulder.

He looked sideways and down and said, “Why yes, I believe it is.”

“So you were a colonel in the Marines?”

“Among other things,” he said still smiling.

“What is this awesome looking leather belt you’re wearing?”

“That’s called a Sam Browne belt,” he told her. “When we’re wearing it, we keep our cover on even if we’re indoors,” he said as he pointed to his ‘hat.’ It’s an old tradition Marines call ‘being under arms.'”

“I knew about the ‘hats are called covers’ thing, but I hadn’t heard about ‘being under arms’ before. I’ll take your word on that,” she said smiling brightly. She was looking at all the medals hanging from one side as well as a bunch of ribbons on the other. “So, were you in Iraq?”

“Yes, I was. Twice in fact. Beirut in 1983, First Gulf War in ’93, Iraq in ’04 and ’06, and finally Afghanistan in ’07 not too long before I retired in ’08.”

“Wow. Geez, I mean, I had no idea,” she said still trying to make sense of all the ‘stuff’ hanging over his pockets.

“I’m proud of my service, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve. It’s my past and I live in the present. I only wear my uniform once a year now and only for the kids’ sake on Veteran’s Day. I’m very happily retired, Kristen. “

“Well, thank you for your service and I must say you look very handsome.”

He laughed and said, “This uniform is a chick magnet.” Like Staci had done earlier, he leaned closer and said, “Even a guy like me can get laid wearing this.”

She put her hand over her mouth anadolu yakası escort as her eyes opened wide before she laughed. “You see! You always manage to make me laugh!”

“I guess I should get ready to go up on stage.”

“Oh, okay. Good luck.” As he started to walk away she touched his forearm and said leaning toward his ear, “Just between you and me, you wouldn’t need the uniform…to…um…you know, get laid. But it would be a very nice added bonus.”

He stood up tall and kind of leaned back as he said feigning deep surprise, “Why, Ms. Kennedy. I had no idea you even thought about such things.” He noticed that she blushed fairly heavily, but he pretended he hadn’t noticed. He just said, “See you in the lab later on?”

She nodded sheepishly as the color drained from her face.

“He is so hot!” another female teacher who saw them talking said to Kristen.

Kristen told her, “I know, right? And he’s so quiet. He never goes to school-related events so you almost never see him. He just strolls on down to his computer lab every day, does his thing, and goes home. It’s like he’s not even here. He’s really good with the kids, though. He makes learning math so much fun. They all love him.”

“I can see why,” she said as she looked at his wide back and narrow waist in the tightly-tailored black uniform. “Why do they call it ‘dress blues’ when the coat is black?” she asked.

“The enlisted uniform is blue, but the officers’ uniform is black. Well, except for the pants which are light blue with the red stripe. Although I understand Marine generals wear black pants. Oh, and never call a Marine’s pants—pants. They’re trousers. And the hat? Uh-uh. It’s called a ‘cover.'”

“How do you know all that stuff?” she asked. Kristen explained her familiarity with the issues one more time.

Kristen dearly loved this kind of pomp and ceremony and she was suddenly aware how happy she was to be out from under the likes of Michael. The color guard came to attention, the guys started marching and turning then set the flags in their stands. Once they got back in place, the National Anthem was played and Kristen couldn’t help but notice Mr. Hansen was standing at attention and saluting, his upper arm perfectly perpendicular to the floor and his hand and wrist weren’t bent the way guys on TV always saluted. He looked very professional, very sharp, and she had to admit—very handsome.

The principal thanked all of the parents, teachers, and children for attending then spoke for just a moment about the importance of honoring our veterans before saying, “I was unaware we have a retired Marine serving on our staff. Mr. Guy Hansen retired from the military a few years ago and began teaching then moved here to our school to run our computer lab this September. I knew we were lucky to have him when I interviewed him for the job, but this a very nice little extra no one else knew. So without further adieu, let me turn the floor over to Mr. Hansen.”

Everyone in the room applauded as he walked up on stage. Several people stood up, then a few more followed, and seconds later, everyone in the room was on their feet applauding. Once it got quiet, he said without needing a microphone, “Thank you and welcome to everyone.”

He made a few opening remarks then turned around and picked a sword of some kind. “If I may, thought this might be a hit with our kids.” He looked out and saw some wide eyes as he continued, “Especially our boys.” He held the pearl-handled sword up high and said, “This is not a weapon, okay? So please, no one call the police on me.” There was some polite laughter. Kristen was watching the moms in the audience and judging by their constant smiles, several of them were obviously enjoying the view as much as she was.

He withdrew the sword from the scabbard revealing the long blade which caused quite a stir as one student after another said, “Cool!” or “Awesome!” He explained the history of this ceremonial sword, called a Mameluke Sword, as a short lesson on military history. With that done, he then announced the winner of this year’s essay contest and called her up on stage to read what she’d written to the audience.

He politely thanked everyone and slipped out a side exit without a word.

When Kristen took her kids to his lab later on, he’d changed out of his uniform and was wearing a button-down shirt and a pair of Dockers. “Where’s the uniform?” she asked as soon as her kids were seated.

“Hanging up in the car where it should be,” he said politely.

“You looked so dashing! I was hoping you’d still be wearing it,” she told him.

“Well, thanks,” he said modestly. “That was plenty for another year, though. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for what you might be thinking were you to see me in it again.”

She knew he was politely teasing her, but what he didn’t know was that she had something bordering on a fetish for guys in uniform. “Guys or maybe just…Guy,” she thought to herself. The irony made her laugh out loud. Hansen looked at her but didn’t ask. She was just thankful she hadn’t blushed that time.

She slowly made her way around the room in one direction while he went in the other checking on the kids and answering questions before coming back to his desk where she sat in the chair next to it.

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