Patriotic pieces from the Great War/In San Francisco
IN SAN FRANCISCO
Permission of the author
Aw, gee, I wisht them ol' fog-horns would stop blowin'. Sounds just like some one moanin'; an' gosh, I feel blue enough to-night without them howlin' around down there.
I ain't never been no Jane for showin' feelin's. I've always had the sand to buck it off. But aw, to-night I'm wopped between the lamps. I got to git this off my chest—it's jist bustin' me. Don't get me wrong. I ain't no weak mouth; but I ain't got no mother, never had no father, ain't got nobody to spill to—But he left to-night—had to beat it to France or somewhere wid de army. Course I knowed he was billed to go sometime, but ain't it funny you don't seem to feel it in your bones that they are sure goin' till—bang! They're gone.
To-night Sam came steppin' up. That's his name—Sam. Gosh, I just love that name. Well, Sam comes up. Gee! you ought to see Sam; he Is the grandest lookin' guy you ever lamped—all shoulders an' no waist. Say, all the skirts on de coast wuz crazy for him, an' gosh, he grabs me an' sticks.
Well, Sam he comes up an' says, "Honey kid, I's got some headlines in big print. Tomorrow we are off for de big fight. We've bin called into service."
"Aw, Sam—Sam honey, to-morrow?" I says.
Then I felt myself kinda slippin', so I put on the brakes. I ain't no sob artist like them swell dames up the drag. It's a bunch of nerve an' grit I's got. We set down an' chewed the rag about things; then he sed:
"Honey kid, I guess there ain't much chanst of me gittin' back; this ain't no joy ride we're goin' on. We're goin' to lick them Germans, an' we ain't comin' back till we do. I ain't never had no yellow streak, so I'm there to the last ditch.
"Now, listen, darlin'. I want you to promise Sam somethin'. You ain't like the roughnecks around here. Now, kid, don't go sinkin' down wid them. Gosh, when I'm gone they ain't goin' to be nobody to look after you, honey, so you gotta buck in an' do it yerself. 'Tain't gonna be no soft job. This ain't no ladies' seminary round here, an' there's always a lot of rough guys hornin' in. You jist hang onto that grit of yours, an' you'll be there a million. Maybe the ol' luck will fasten on me an' I'll get back all together."
Gosh! I couldn't hang on any longer, so I turned her loose. I jist bawled like a brat. I tried to laugh an' tell him I'd be all to the hunky when he wuz away, but I didn't git along very well through the waterfall.
Purty soon Sam slid down offa the couch on his knees by me, wid his head in my lap. His big shoulders were jist shakin', an' he said:
"May, darlin', when I'm gone, I wisht at night, before yer go to yer pallet, you would try an' say a little prayer fer me. Will you, baby? You've been all the happiness an' sunshine I've ever had."
An' I says: "Sam, I ain't never heard no swell prayers, an' I don't know the real way they do it; but if God will listen to me say it my own way, without no frills or fancy kneelln', oh gosh, Sam, I'll beg Him to take care of yer, darlin'."
Then I pulled him up, an' I sat on his lap. We tried to kid a little—you know, when your heart is achin', you try to act it ain't at all.
Purty soon I thought of somethin'. On my finger I had a ring—no sets or glass: jist a big ring wid a lot of carvin's on it. It wuz my mother's—I ain't never had it off, hungry or no hungry. But I took it oft my mit, an' slipped it on Sam's little finger, an' sed: "Sam darlin', I want you to wear this li'l ring of mine; an' at night, when yer down in them trenches in 'No Man's Land,' an' you're feelin' purty lonesome, just touch this li'l ring, an' you will know I am wid you, kid, lovin' you an' thinkin' about my Sam."
He kissed the li'l ring—gosh! it wuz regular Francis X. an' Mary Pickford stuff; only dis wuz the real thing; we wuz jist about breakin' our hearts in that li'l sketch.
Then Sam looked at the Big Ben an' sed, "Gosh, I gotta be goin', honey."
We walked over to the door. He put his arms around me, not sayin' a word, an' kissed me jest as silent, then quick he turns an' says: "So long, honey," an' wuz gone.
I stood an' watched him; but this ramble-shackle palace ain't set in grounds, so I could only see him goin' down the hall.
I ain't much fer size—never weighed a hundred in my life: jist a li'l rat,—but I've got to stick out my chest an' buck up. But before I git so fresh wid myself I'm goin' to have a good ol' bawl all to myself, an' I'm not goin' to leave none fer to-morrow. I'm gonna go down to de water early in de mornin', an' I might lamp 'em when they're sailin' away. None of de gang has never saw me bawl yet, an' they ain't agoin' to now.
Gosh! I wisht them ol' fog-horns would stop blowin': they'd make any guy shaky.