MID-AFTERNOON

I sat at the U.S. border in Jackman
Coming into the states from Canada where I was living
Headed for Providence RI to take a ship out of mothballs as Bosun
Bound for the Persian Gulf with a full load of 500-pound multi-purpose bombs

To support Desert Storm
I had just watched some asshole customs guy drive off with my new truck
I had been being searched by customs for years
I knew I had to be present when they searched my stuff

I had worn jeans on covered with hand-sewn patches
At that time I was a great seamstress 
“Can I watch them search my stuff?”
I looked at the immigration officer at the desk

He raised his hands
“I have nothing to do with this”
Months later I held and read the response letter
From Ms. Patricia Duffy

Officer Workforce and Control
Washington DC
“The fact that you were searched does not concern us.
The way you were searched concerns us a great deal.”

But I am getting ahead of myself
Suffice it to say
I never saw those officers
At that border again

I was on the bow as we made our way through the Straight of Hormuz
They had mined the straight
And I was watching for mines 
There it was a big black ball the size of a Volkswagen with spikes

I spoke into the radio
“Black ball fine on port bow”
I watched everyone from the bridge run out onto the port wing 
A near miss

We had six reservists with us and dropped them 
After traversing the straight
They literally ran off the ship
They were so excited

Everything ended really quickly
They had no good place to send us
So we sat in the Netherlands for over sixty days
One night during that six-months a group of us strolled through the red light district

Girls in picture windows gestured and yelled out at us
Within our group was a kid from central Maine somewhere
He had paused in front of a window
He looked at me

“I am going in”
“I looked at him surprised, 
“Are you sure?”
“Yes” “OK, I will wait.”

It literally seemed like a minute
I was still looking for a seat and he was standing next to me
I again looked surprised, “Did you change your mind?
“No, I am done.”

I stared at him a minute
“Excuse me!”
It was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen
But like most cities

It had a violent underbelly
We had a big weight lifting cadet with us from Mass Maritime
He was unbelievably obnoxious 
He limped back to ship after a night out 

Beat to shit
I sat in a cafe in mid afternoon
A helmeted cop stationed at the door
Surprise, surprise I sat alone

The smell of rich dark coffee and smoke filled the cafe 
A group of the guys came in to check on me
The same young guy from nights earlier looked around the cafe then back at me
“You must be in heaven.”

And then it was over
I left my truck in Maine and flew back into Quebec
Luc was about one
I had been detained in customs

They had found a black ball about the size of a softball wrapped completely in duct tape
In my bag
A customs officer slowly unwrapped the duct tape 
Spikes could be scene protruding from the ball

He did not ask any questions, and I remained silent
Everyone in the surrounding area had stopped and was watching
You could cut the tension with a knife
Finally all the tape was off

The officer was staring at a push-pull red button in the middle of the ball
He slowly reached down and pulled it out
The ball bounced out of his hands
And began bouncing all over the table 

Laughter and a childlike song filled the terminal ~