If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first. It will be helpful to better understand these sample episode extracts.
The Thule Girls – The Bass Fiddle
“I don’t care if you are a general. You can’t put my bass in the cargo area. I paid five thousand dollars for it and it goes on a seat with me or I don’t get on this airplane. I’ve told you that before. No seat, no bass, no bass player. What part of this conversation don’t you understand? Check with your senior officer, the president or your wife, or whomever you have to talk to but you’d better do something about my situation pretty soon, because I’m hotter than hell and I don’t feel like standing here arguing with you any longer.” Rhonda Reeves flipped her short dark hair from her moist face, clung to her cumbersome canvas covered bass fiddle and stared at the bewildered young Sergeant with her big hazel eyes. “You’ll have to make room for my bass on the plane or I’m on the next bus back to Manhattan,” she continued haughtily.
“But I have my orders,” the handsome Sergeant wearing dark glasses and dressed in fatigues protested, standing on one foot and then the other. “All musical instruments go in the cargo area. Those are my orders. I’ve told you that a hundred times. What part of my order don’t you understand? Your situation is no exception.”
In the year nineteen fifty-eight, a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) plane destined for Goose Bay, Labrador and Thule, Greenland, sat parked in the scorching July sun awaiting takeoff from McGuire Air Force Base near the town of Wrightland, New Jersey.
The frustrated young Sergeant had other passengers to board, equipment and food to stow for the twelve-hour flight to Thule – the most isolated U.S. military base in the world.
“Damn,” the tall, well built Sergeant muttered to himself, as he turned away from the defiant young woman and marched toward a small office located in the back of the gargantuan terminal. “There’s always one bitch to contend with on these flights. I wish the booking agency would just send male entertainers to Thule. It would sure make my job easier.”
“Captain”, he called out as he knocked on the frosted glass office door.
“Yes, Sergeant, come in.”
“Excuse me, sir, but I have a problem boarding one of the passengers for Thule,” the Sergeant announced, standing at the edge of the Captain’s cluttered desk in the small dark office.
“Yes?” the Captain replied, glancing up from his scattered paperwork.
“Well sir,” the anxious Sergeant began, clearing his throat, “one of the female musicians, the bass player, Rhonda Reeves, refuses to let us stow her instrument in cargo. She is adamant. She claims she won’t make the trip unless she can have the thing secured in a seat inside the aircraft.”
“Have you checked your passenger list Sergeant? Do we have an extra seat all the way to Thule?”
“Yes. I checked the passenger list, and we have four extra seats, but it’s against regulations to store musical equipment in the cabin of the aircraft, and I have no authority to change that order.”
“If you’re sure we have extra seats all the way to Thule, let her have an extra seat. It’s too late to replace her. We’re committed to transporting eight female musicians to the god-forsaken piece of ice, so let’s get them boarded. You’re making the trip with them aren’t you Sergeant?”
“That’s right Captain.”
“When will you be back?”
“I’ll return in three days with the men who’ve completed their tour of duty. When will these girls be coming back, sir?”
Looking at his schedule sheet the Captain replied, “They’re scheduled to be up there for two months.”
“Isn’t that longer than usual?”
“Yes, but as you know the Bob Hope Show just returned and that cost a pretty penny. We got these girls cheap, so we’ll keep them in Thule longer than usual. God forgive us. Round ‘em up, and head ‘em out, Sergeant.
“Yes sir.” The Sergeant wiped his brow on the sleeve of his uniform and replaced his cap on his sweaty head. He hurried across the bustling terminal toward his eight female musicians, sitting in a row of grey plastic chairs, placidly smoking and snacking, waiting to be told what to do.
“Here comes the Sergeant on the run,” Shelly Robinson, the blonde pianist with the jazz trio remarked, sitting up, grinding her cigarette out with her tennis shoe on the cement floor. “I hope you’ve convinced him to let you take the bass in the passenger area, Rhonda. I don’t know what we’ll do if he still says no. We’ll have to go on without you, I guess. I have to take this gig. I’m desperate. I don’t even have enough money to get back home to Boston.”
“And I’ve gotta’ save some money,” Kerry Jarvis, the red-haired drummer with the jazz trio sighed.
“I’m broke too,” Rhonda answered defensively, “but my bass will end up a pile of splinters when we hit the runway for a landing. It cracked last year when I went to Europe, and I can’t risk it. You know it’s impossible for musicians to afford insurance for their instruments. I have no choice.”
“Okay ladies,” the disgruntled Sergeant shouted, signaling the girls to rise. “Your luggage is checked, so grab your jackets, coats and bedroom slippers you were told to bring. It’s gonna’ get cold and the plane is not heated. Follow me.”
“Hey Admiral,” Rhonda yelled, carrying her bass in front of her, as the line of girls trotted behind the Sergeant, heading for the waiting aircraft, “What about my bass?”
“It’s alright Miss Reeves,” the Sergeant shouted, rolling his eyes toward the sky, “we will accommodate your precious bass.”
“Thanks asshole”, Rhonda muttered, bumping the perspiring young Sergeant with her bass as she struggled up the hot metal stairs leading to the door of the plane. “I knew you could do it.”
Having reluctantly allowed two young airmen to load her drums in the cargo area, Kerry gasped as she peeked into the dark, uninviting interior of the stifling plane, “Hey,” she complained, “these seats are all turned backward. I can’t fly like this. No. No. There’s something wrong here. I can’t sit backwards. I’ll vomit sure as hell. I still get carsick in the mountains. It’s scorching in here and I’m claustrophobic.”
“Shut up and sit down,” Shelly ordered, nudging Kerry with her oversized black purse.
“Okay, okay. Don’t push,” Kerry complained, still not moving. “This is awful. It’s dark in here. Look, Shelly, the seats are all backward. Is it safer in the front or the back of a plane?”
“Kerry,” Shelly growled, “Sit down somewhere. There’s a line of men behind us. They’re waiting to board. Just pick a seat and sit down.” Kerry slid into the seat next to Rhonda, near the cockpit, to get out of the line of fire.