This story is specifically why people I know thought I should keep writing stuff. It never made it to my list, because I never received any orders governing it.
Early on in my military career, way back when I was a PFC, my Battalion would occasionally have “Fun Runs”. A Fun Run is just like running for several miles. Except that it’s fun. Because people that outrank you say so.
This is pretty much the Army equivalent to declaring “Our office is so much fun! On Friday we get to wear Hawaiian shirts!” It’s awesome if you happen to love Hawaiian shirts, but just kinda sucks if you have taste.
One of the features of the Fun Run was that afterward the Battalion would gather together and hold a pie auction. The point of the pie auction was that if you bought a pie, you could pick any soldier who was present, and hit them with the pie. So as you can imagine, an awful lot of repressed rage got transferred into pie kinetics after these runs. The important thing to know here is that by tradition, the first pie always got thrown at the Battalion Commander.
This whole exercise was to raise money for the Battalion Family Support Group. In theory, this was an organization that would help the families of deployed soldiers manage during the long separations that military life often inflicts. But in reality, FSG was more like a cross between the homeowners association from a sit-com, and a social club for unemployable wives of military officers. And when I say social club, imagine the kind that gets taken down a peg by a scrappy band of misfits in an 80’s comedy movie.
To sum this up: the Family Support Group was not very popular with most of the soldiers.
The night before one of these delightful Fun Runs, I received special instructions.
“Bring in a pie for the auction.”
I’m not sure how much the pay has gone up, but back in those days if a Private First Class had a child he automatically qualified for food stamps. So I didn’t have much money. And most of what I did have was generally earmarked for important things, like strippers and alcohol, and more strippers.
A pie doesn’t cost that much I guess. But it was the principle that bothered me. The Army has billions of dollars and I have barely any. And now they want me to buy stuff for them.
Now technically, it wasn’t an order. It would be against regulations for my supervisor to *order* me to spend my own money on the Family Support Group. It was just, technically, a suggestion. And it’s just peachy to make suggestions. And if soldiers choose not to follow the suggestions, well, someone has to be assigned to that toilet cleaning detail.
So that night, I went out and I bought a premade pie crust. And a tub of Cool Whip. And then I stopped by a Korean grocery store and purchased a whole, frozen squid. And sprinkles.
I got back to the barracks, and started the preparations for the morning. Which pretty much just means I started thawing the squid in a shower stall. My roommate was a bit surprised when he got back.
“Is that a squid in our shower?”
“What’s it doing in there.”
The next morning I packed it all in a cooler, and set out for the Fun Run. After about three miles of fun the Battalion gathered for the auction. I quickly assembled the secret weapon, and added it to the pie table. I then notified the auctioneer about my special pie. Of course she selected my pie for the first auction.
The bidding started fairly briskly, as many people wanted to hit our Commander with a pie. But soon enough bidding started to peter out, and that’s when the auctioneer let everyone in on the secret.
“This is a special pie.”
“What’s so special about it?” called someone in the crowd.
“It’s a squid pie.”
“I beg your pardon?” said the Commander
“I said it’s a squid pie sir.”
“There’s no such thing.”
So she reached in, pulled out a tentacle, and waved at the Commander with it.
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” asked the Commander with, all things considered, a reasonable tone of voice.
“It’s a tentacle sir.”
“PIE DOESN’T HAVE TENTACLES!”
“Normally you’d be correct. But this is a squid pie sir.”
And the bidding immediately picked up again. My pie raised close to five hundred dollars, which was a new record for the pie auction. I didn’t get into any trouble because nobody wanted to look like a bad sport. And I got to watch my CO take a high velocity mollusk to the kisser, which is a good morning no matter what branch of the military you are in.
3-12-08 Update: T-shirts are now available.