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Paymaster Day


An Encounter in Tijuana

After the trial, Sammy Draper was transferred; he finished his tour of duty at another station and left the Navy for good. The next year our ship was at anchor in San Diego and by some great quirk of fate, Paymaster Day, Lt. McDonald and I decided to go to Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border. This was most unusual because I hardly ever went ashore together with Day, and none of us had ever been to Tijuana before. Always before, when we were in port, McDonald and I would go play golf and Day would go see his fiancée. They had been engaged for almost two years but they had never slept together. During this voyage at sea he had gotten a C.I.S. letter from her. This is a well-known type of letter in the Navy. At Annapolis we would get C.I.S. letters the night before a hop saying “Christ I’m Sorry I have a sick roommate and can’t come.” It seems that Day’s fiancée during his time at sea had been obsessed, thinking only of his stuttering and decided to call it quits. The previous evening Day had gone over to see her, got his ring back, and then raped her. The other officers thought he had acquitted himself properly and nothing came of the incident. So Day was now free to join Lt. McDonald and me on our first trip to Tijuana the following night.

This evening in Tijuana in the foyer of a crowded night club while Day and I were waiting for Lt. McDonald to come back from the restroom, suddenly we were greeted by a smiling, urbane Sammy Draper. It was quite a shock to see him emerge from the crowd. He was elegantly dressed with coat and tie and shiny black shoes. Sammy extended his arm and I thought he was going to shake hands. Then, he said, “Here, take this, punks” and he let a $100 bill flutter to the floor. Being practical-minded, Paymaster dove for it; by the time he had retrieved it, Sammy Draper had disappeared back into the crowd.

When Paymaster changed the bill into five $20 bills I remarked to him, “Sammy said punks, not punk, so we should split it.” Day said it was obviously intended for him, but he gave me two 20s which I accepted. When Lt. McDonald rejoined us he said that it had probably been intended for him too since he had been a member of the Court Martial; but he was too late, the money had already been divided up.

At any rate, no matter how we split the $100, Sammy Draper had gotten in the last word.


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