By Doog © 2006
Editor's Note: You can find the first installment here.
It was the summer of 1942, and America was at war. Europe was a bloody mess, the battle for the Pacific raged. Young boys strapped on their helmets, grabbed a carbine, and entered the fray, not nearly prepared for the horror that is war. Those who returned were no longer boys, but physically and emotionally scarred men deified as heroes. Those who did not return were deified as martyrs.
Leo G was neither, for he never went. Not for lack of wanting; in fact, he desperately yearned to sign up. The desire to fight back at the evil Nazi war machine burned bright within his Polish-Jewish heart. Fanning those flames into a burning maelstrom were the tales that trickled through to his parents - tales of friends beaten, family members killed, simply for the crime of being born of a certain ethnicity.
Neither was it for lack of trying that Leo G never went to war. Even though he was not quite of age, he made his way to the recruiting station and was able to talk his way through the initial screening. (Not only was he raised as a gangster, but he was also quite the con man too. Think Frank Abegnale Jr. meets Roy Dillon.) Unluckily for Leo G, a bum hip suffered in a bicycle vs. vehicle accident two or three years before resulted in his being medically disqualified from service in the armed forces.
Leo G was pissed. If there’s one thing that he knew well from growing up with the mob, it was the importance of family. His family was being kicked in the junk in a most brutal way, and he was not allowed to even attempt to kick back.
To soothe the ache deep in his soul, Leo G took solace in the welcoming arms of lovely young nubile chickadees, sometimes several sets of arms at the same time. After all, when you’ve got dashing good looks, a mercury-silver tongue, and the willingness to use the above in a less-than-moral manner, why not? And the fact that many of these lady friends were the wives or girlfriends of servicemen liberating Europe or bleeding in the South Pacific was just Leo G's way of screwing the system that he felt had screwed him.
It was during one of these encounters that Leo G chanced upon a life-changing discovery. His current coquette's husband was home on leave, but reported for a day to a nearby airbase. Keeping perfectly in character, Leo G took the opportunity to re-familiarize himself with this airman's wife during a mid-day romp. When the adulteress stepped out to the grocer, Leo G noticed a uniform hanging in the bedroom closet. A pilot's uniform. Just for shits and grins, he tried it on and examined himself in the mirror. Salad bar on the breast, pilot’s wings sparkling from the collar, an exact fit. Lookin' good, Leo.
Wearing the uniform, he left the house and never returned.
After the novelty of strolling the boulevards of Gotham and receiving uniform-inspired deference wore off, Leo G discovered that Air Force threads combined with just a little smooth talk allowed him access to just about any military installation he chose; the benefits of military life were his for the taking. First on the list were the duty-free stores (mostly for smokes and liquor); next, he discovered the Officer’s Clubs and golf courses. Before long, Leo G was just another Good Old Boy in the American Armed Forces - never mind that he wasn't actually in the service. Leo G was never one to bother himself with such trivialities.
During one such foray to an air base, Leo G saw a parked troop transport plane with a queue leading to the passenger door. Through innocent inquiry, he learned that the plane was flying to San Francisco. Leo G, who had never been to California but had always wanted to go, stepped into line. Arriving at the front of the line, Leo G spun a yarn about being back home on leave, and his girl is in California, and his bags got lost on the hop over the pond, you know how it is, and his bags had all his papers in them, and he's only home for two weeks before heading back to Europe to play peek-a-boo with the Luftwaffe, and he really wants to see his girl, he needs to see his girl, can't you just do a guy a favor?
Once on board, Leo G settled into his seat with visions of sunny beaches and California women dancing through his head. But his anticipation turned sour when, shortly after takeoff, the plane's commander stepped back into the cabin, tapped Leo G on the shoulder, and motioned toward the cockpit. Hesitantly, Leo G made his way forward.
"I saw your wings," the pilot began, "And I really need a favor. Look - me and my left seat really tied one on last night. He wasn't even able to make it to the base today. Me, I'm in no shape to be driving this thing.."
"Okay..." Leo G replied, uncomprehending.
The pilot persisted, "I know you're on leave, and ordinarily I would never ask, but I really need some help. Could you just point the plane west while I get some shuteye in the cabin?"
Leo G looked at the cockpit seats with widening eyes. "Um, sure… no problem."
"Thanks, I really appreciate it."
Regaining his wherewithal, Leo G turned to the pilot, patted him on the shoulder, and compassionately said, "You go get some rest."
And then Leo G sat down at the controls of a military aircraft flying five miles above the ground. Problem was, Leo G sat down in the navigator’s seat, not the pilot’s seat.
The commander immediately knew that something was amiss, but he still retreated to the main cabin to sort things out in his head. Five minutes later, he returned to the cockpit to find Leo G still comfortable ensconced in the wrong seat, autopilot still flying the airplane.
"You know," the pilot began, "It's just not right - me asking you to do this when you're on leave. I’ll be okay - you just go on back in the cabin and enjoy the flight."
With feigned reluctance, Leo G agreed, and settled back into the main cabin. When the airplane arrived in California, the disembarking passengers were surprised to see a squad of MP's waiting for them – all except for the plane's commander, that is.
Once the interrogation was complete, and the nation's military was satisfied that Leo G was not a dissident intent on witnessing dreadful harm upon American servicemen or perhaps a German spy stealing military secrets, Leo G was charged with theft of military property and one count of abduction for each passenger on the plane - hundreds of charges, in all.
And that's the story of how Leo G ended up in the Federal Penitentiary.
For the first time, that is.
Doog lives in California, is married with two young children, is a complete donk of a poker player while being a kick-ass poker blogger. He’s also the most modest, humble person you’ll ever meet, should you have the esteemed privilege.