JULY 24, 2002


"There it is, Capt" howled the helicopter pilot over the loud noise of the swirling overhead blades. We were flying in low, over deep blue Pacific waters, closing in on "Nowhere Island."  I had reenlisted back into the service as a dentist, leaving a family and lucrative private practice for who knows what stupid reason.  Evidently Nowhere Island was a military installation that nobody knew about, that no servicemen wanted to get stuck stationed at.  The whirlybird came down nicely on its landing pad at the airstrip. I was now, for better or for worse, at my duty station of Nowhere Island. Dressed in military fatigues, carrying my assignment military papers, and a large duffel bag of personal effects, I stepped out and was greeted by three other military dentists stationed there.

 "Welcome to NO PLACE Island" said the evident leader of the group.  They were not in military dress but in "civies" (civilian clothes).

"Too bad you are the poor soul to have the unfortunate luck to be assigned here, like us."   I asked why and the guy says, "Look around, there's nothing here, and you will be stranded here for four years!"  My God, the place did look barren, and it did seem like a prison sentence. 

"But I have a wife and kids," I muttered.  The female and obvious leader, said, "Well, by the time you go back, they won't recognize you."

We walked and talked along the way from the air strip to their vehicle. Well, imagine that, stranded here in the middle of no where with nothing to do, except repair several hundred soldiers' teeth, for four long years. 

"Many women?" I shyly asked."  The better looking one of the two, the assertive leader, said, "Just us."  She suddenly looked better, good for the military type, for a dentist.  I knew she outranked me as the career type and so I asked, "Are you a Major or a Lieutenant Colonel (the next rank up) ?"  It wouldn't be cool to guess lower than the officer's rank, as this might be an implied insult.

 She replied, "Why, do I look that old to you?"

"Oh no," I replied.

"I am Major Ling Ling, commanding officer of the dental clinic here.  The other two here are Captains just like you, one my sister and the other a true blooded American Indian."  I looked closely and could see he was indeed a proud looking Indian dentist. I asked, "What state are you from?" thinking he must be from Utah. 


 "Are you Cherokee?"

 "Yes."  Couldn't help but notice he looked like the fellow in "Wind Talkers."

As we drove, I asked, "Where is my sleeping quarters?"  To my surprise, Major Ling Ling said, "In mine."  "My past roommate has left and you are the replacement."  Wow, that was straight forward, almost sounded like a military order.  I guess she was joking but I wasn't sure.  But now my fantasies were turned on. 

After being handed a bunch of keys and told what each was for, I stuffed them all in my pockets, totally forgetting what the heck each was for.  One looked more official than the rest and was probably the one to open and lock the clinic.  

We drove to the beach.  The car was parked facing directly at the surf, about 80 meters away.  Suddenly, and then repetitively, the waves came up the shore and pounded directly into our car's front hood and windshield. I could see the blue, smell the salty water. "See how strong the currents are here?" "Don't even try to fish or surf here; you'll get sucked in and drown, like so many dumb ass young GIs." Lesson learned.

Suddenly three old Asian men, all fat, short, white haired and with pock-marked faces from past acne adolescence attacks, pounded the windows of the car.  "They're locals, crazies.  Don't feed them or else they'll expect free hand outs all the time from you.  There many more like these out here. Don't associate with them."

"They look like that because long ago this island was target practice for the Navy's nuclear bombs."

"Just great!" I think to myself.  I'm stationed on a radioactive contaminated island; no wonder she said I'd not be recognizable in four years, why she was desperate for a lover as who knows how long we'd stay healthy here.

We then drove to town and it didn't look all that bad.  There was a main street with a marketplace to take GI money.  Kind of reminded me of tourist pictures of the Bahamas or some small shanty Mexican town.  I passed an old Italian lady working there and I told her this place was all a dream, that I wasn't really there and she really didn't exist.  She scornfully stared at me and then said "Crazy American!"  So much for trying to rationalize to the self that this was just the result of too much spaghetti and garlic bread the evening before.

 I left the group and went into the Officers Club for a drink. It was already early evening.  Some officers invited me over to the table and said I should try some sort of popular coffee-alcohol-latte drink.  There was a disco band playing and I thought, "Cool, at least I'll be able to dance here."  They whistled over a waiter and ordered this drink.  It arrived in a large beer glass mug, occupying only about 1/8th of the container.  Very foamy, brown sludge that tasted too sweet, thick, even sudsy.  "That will be $15 please."  "What a rip off," I thought to myself.  I had just arrived, didn't have smaller currency, so handed the waiter a 50 dollar bill.  He said "Thanks," and walked off without giving me back my change! "This place is a total rip off"-  stuck with a shitty drink, lots of noisy GI talk, and now the band had just finished and was putting away their instruments!  I left early, found the sleeping quarters, settled in next to Ling Ling's big brass bed.  Turned out she was quite charming and still had one more year of confinement to this island.  It turned out to be a great "professional" relationship.  "Officers shouldn't mix with enlisted men" so they say.  Well, "Army dentist with Air Force dentist" worked out just fine!  Unlike my first tour of duty decades ago, this time I was Air Force, therefore the four year gig instead of the shorter two year of Army personnel.

     After this the dream dragged on forever, from every bloody Monday for seemingly four long years, just endless dutiful drilling and drilling, filling and filling, pulling and pulling.  Other than the seductive little Major Ling Ling,  it subsequently succumbed to becoming a most boring dream of my life.  Luckily, the torture of monotony was disrupted through awakening by the stimulating aroma of coffee, being brewed by my earlier rising, dutiful wife.