Jimmy bought himself a fancy used sedan with the money he had saved in Japan and, from California, headed east, a wholly different man. He cruised through Texas en route to Brooklyn and the start of Fordham Law School. A fellow Marine, a black staff sergeant a few years older than him named Earl, was hitchhiking the same direction Dad was heading. The two were still dressed in Marine fatigues. The only difference between them was that Dad had a few more doodads on his shirt and a sidearm, which was mandatory for all officers.
Earl was heading home to Georgia, so they rode together for a good long time. Dad got hungry and pulled off the motorway to grab a bite at a local diner. The sergeant declined to go in. Dad insisted. “Come on. You must be hungry.” Thinking the man was low on funds, Dad offered to buy. The sergeant reluctantly went into the diner with the officer. Dad didn’t notice the sign in the window saying “WHITES ONLY.” Soon, there was a ruckus inside—breaking plates and glass. Dad screamed, “THIS MAN COULDA DIED PROTECTING YOU SORRY FUCKIN’ ASSWIPES!” A chair busted through a glass window. The sergeant ran to the car.
Jimmy walked backwards, continuing to scream at the rednecks. When he was almost at the car, he remembered he had his pistol. He was a terrible shot, but he was madder than he’d ever been. He drew the pistol. One shot discharged into the air and Dad jumped. “FUCK!” he yelled. He started shooting at the tires of the cars outside the diner, ducking at the sounds of ricochets. Jimmy threw the gun in the car and they raced off.
“Well, Earl, we just won’t stop until we find a better class of people.”
“You’re all right, Lieutenant.”
“Call me Jimmy, Earl. The fucking war is over.”