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Excerpts from "Woody, Cisco and Me:
Seamen Three in the Merchant Marine"

Jim Longhi

From Page 15

After introductions and negotiation, they choose three steward jobs. Unfortunately, a doctor's exam was required, which, according to Cisco had not been asked for before. He couldn't pass the eye test. Cisco and Woody contemplate choosing a different ship, but Jim would not be eligible, as he could not refuse a job once accepted. How to proceed?

Cisco put his hand on my shoulder. "You know I wanted you to ship out with us."

"Wait a minute. You guys are not rid of me that easily. For one thing, what have you got to lose if you take the physical? Maybe you'll pass the eye test."

"Impossible; I can't see beyond three feet. Anything beyond three feet is distorted, and glasses don't help."

"Vincenzo Long-eye," the uniformed man called out.

"Here, sir." I stood up. "But it's pronounced Longhi -- rhymes with 'shorty.'"

"Gilbert Houston?" he called, without a smile.


"Woodrow Wilson Guthrie?"


The man looked up sharply and stared at Woody, obviously feeling that the two stripes on his sleeve entitled him to more than that "Yup!"

"All right, come with me." He let us down a corridor.

"Go on." I prodded Cisco. "Maybe they'll skip the eye tests."

"In here!" The officer opened the door and gave Woody a dirty look. "Strip down -- everything!" He pulled the door behind him and left us standing alone in a doctor's office."

"Goddamn it, Woody," Cisco muttered as he started to unbutton his shirt, "you got more ways for starting trouble then you got hair on that wooden head!"

"Cain't help it -- somethin' about officer's uniform makes me nauseous. If I'd of opened my mouth to say more'n 'yup,' I mighta throwed up."

"Come on, Woody." I took off my trousers a little self-consciously. "If you want to do your part in this war, you can't be allergic to officers' uniforms."

"You're right, but my allergy's been with me ever since I was a kid and used to see our town sheriff's uniform all sweated and stained with the blood of some poor Indian that got persuaded into signing away his land. However, I ain't gonna let that keep me from carrying out orders and doing my dang bustinest best to beat them Nazis!" And in a flash of dazzling speed he pulled off his shirt, kicked off his shoes, stripped off his trousers, whipped off his socks, jumped out of his underwear, and snapped to rigid attention.

Cisco and I stared at his shiny, bony body.

"The man said strip!" Woody continued standing at rigid attention. "What are you guys waiting for? Dontcha know there's a war on?"

"Congratulations!" A pot-bellied doctor, smelling of whiskey, had come in unnoticed. His remark was for Woody. Woody stayed at rigid attention as the doctor came up to him. "For a little guy," the doctor continued, "I'd say you are pretty well endowed."

"Why thank you." Woody looked down at himself, though still standing at rigid attention. "For a long time I had an inferiority complex about that. You see my cousins used to call me Shorty, which according to theirs, mine certainly was, until one day my grandma said, 'Pay no attention to them idiots, little Woodpecker, t'aint the size that counts, it's what you do with it.' So I'd be much more obliged to you, Doctor, if you paid a complement to the size of my brain instead." He bent his head. "Here, feel it."

"Never mind the jokes, wise guy." The doctor poked Woody's groin. "Just cough." Woody coughed as though his lungs were bursting. "All right, wise guy, that's enough!" The doctor scribbled something onto a card. "What's your height?"

"Five-feet six and one-eighth."

"Read the eye chart on the wall, wise guy." Woody read each letter very slowly, to give Cisco a chance to memorize the letters. "That's enough. Next man. Height?"

"Six feet one." I stepped ahead of Cisco; I too was going to call out the letters as slowly as I could.

"Read the fourth line backwards." The doctor started to examine my groin. I read as slowly as I could. "Did you say the last letter was M?" the doctor asked without looking at the chart.

"No, N."

"Okay, next man. Height?"

"Six feet two." Cisco looked at me, nodded toward the eyechart, and shook his head hopelessly.

The doctor finished poking Cisco and went to the sink. "Read the fifth line down, if you can," the doctor called to Cisco as he started to wash his hands.

"F-X-T-L-E-M." I read quickly, trying to sound like Cisco.

Without turning around, the doctor said, "Okay -- you guys can go."

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