One and Inseparable
Oh they were rascals those two. No sooner could they walk then they were out racing tricycles. Remember them? They’d come barreling down that hill on Elm Street hell bent for leather … and … Pete it was. Always Pete. He was forever charging after one thing or another never troubled himself with the concept of brakes. Only thing preventing that child from flying straight into the Pacific was Isaac Ferguson’s crabapple tree. If he crashed into that poor tree once he crashed into it forty times and every time George’d pick him up, put him back in the saddle and off they’d skedaddle before that old grouch could get off his couch. One of the wonders of the world that is. How that boy Pete lived long enough to sprout gray hair.
Come summer they wouldn’t stay inside for a minute. Slept out on the porch every night. Every day they’d be hunting crayfish, swinging on a rope over the creek and dropping straight into it … rain or shine, teasing snapping turtles, exploring haunted houses. They used to go digging around that old dump. That, as I recollect, was about the time George started collecting old bottles. He was always a shade, just a shade mind, towards the thoughtful side. They’d come back with the most outlandish stories … some old lost colony, a missing princess, an abandoned mine … Lord knows what, all based on a couple of dried up old shoes and a broken dinner plate still covered with egg. They’d play for hours and hours on that old pile of logs at the end of the street. One day it’d be a fort the next day it’d be a ship, day after that a wagon train. Ran barefoot all summer long. Hot tar, sharp rocks, broken glass, nothing slowed those two down.
School couldn’t corral them either. Neither of them had the mind to cram their heads with a bunch of dusty old book learning. Guess they feared it’d crowd out the space for their imaginations. Nope, they drifted through school. They daydreamed through school and whenever they figured they could get away with it they’d skip school altogether. He may not have the education, George’s mother used to say, but he got the smarts and he got the temperament. He’ll be fine. Only thing George got out of high school was music. Swing was his thing. Laid back and loose. That’s when he started to refine that easy going way of his.
Teenager Pete, on the other hand, wound himself up tighter’n a spring. He’d got a bee in his bonnet from somewhere about the rights and wrongs of the world and, well, Pete being Pete, he’d set himself off in several directions at once protecting rights and attacking wrongs. He became the protector of the persecuted, the defender of the downtrodden, the bodyguard of the bullied. Got himself into more scraps with more bullies than any six people you can think of. Never cared about the odds. He’d take on a dozen as quickly as he’d take on one. Got himself backed into a corner time and time and time again, but George would save him. Every time George would save him. George had this gentle way. That boy … I swear … could untwist a tornado just by talking to it.
Come the war they both joined up. Pearl Harbor came the December of their senior year. Pete wanted to drop out and join up straight away, but the Marines said to come back when they had diplomas. So they waited. George much easier than Pete. Day after graduation they marched down to the recruiting center and joined up … and that’s when the real world hit ‘em hard for the very first time, right between the eyes. Marines told them they couldn’t serve together. George was the wrong color. You know, up until that time I don’t reckon it ever occurred to either of them that one of them was black and one of them was white. Far as they were concerned one was George and the other was Pete. That was it. Well … there was nothing they could do. They’d already signed up. So they marched off their separate ways. First time those two had been apart since before their tricycle days. They kept in touch though and, as the story goes, managed to get back together.
Well, you know George. Like his mother says, he got the smarts and he got the style. Managed to talk himself into what they called a ammunition supply company. Thing about ammunition supply it has to be right up there. Right on the front line. So whether the Marines wanted it or not George got himself right up alongside the combat units. Iwo Jima it was and damned if Pete wasn’t in the main invasion force. That’s where they reconnected. Now neither of them’ll go into any detail about Iwo, but they will say that’s where they swore nobody’d ever split them up again and anyone who tried would have hell to pay … from Pete anyways. George’d smile his way out of it.
So they came back home. By this time George was so deep into music, I mean seriously deep, but he never could cotton on to all the fussing, fighting, drinking and drugs that seems to collect around jazz clubs. So he gets himself the idea to start up a church, the Free Church of Mind, Rhythm and Soul. There’s just enough religion in it to keep the rowdy crowd and the taxman at arm’s length, but it’s a jazz club, sure as I’m sitting here, it’s a jazz club. Pete? Well, Pete’s still charging into the slings and arrows of an unjust society and George is always there to help him back up on his horse whenever he gets himself knocked off.