A Glibertarians Exclusive: License to Kill, Part I

Paul O’Doull lay on the muddy ground, looking through the sights of his Springfield. The rifle was one of the new ones, an ‘03A3 with an aperture sight instead of the old barrel-mounted sight of the ’03. The floorplate felt cheap to Paul, stamped metal instead of milled steel, but the rifle worked, and it was familiar enough.

He and his trench-mate, Private First Class Henry Houlihan, were both in position, with other Marines to their right and left. All had weapons up, loaded and aimed. The attack would come in to their front, and the attackers would have to cross a low ridge, when they would be sky-lined for a moment.

That was when the Marines planned to open fire.

Paul checked the Springfield’s safety – off.  He checked the magazine cut-off – off. He checked the load in the chamber for the tenth time. He was ready to go. He looked up and down the line once. Everyone was prone, rifles aimed at the ridge.

The Marines were ready.


 Honolulu, March 1946

“Who was that?” Maggie asked.

Paul O’Doull closed the door of the manager’s apartment of the little Ala Wai building he and his wife owned. “Remember Sally Neal? Navy nurse, rented an apartment from us before the war.”

Maggie looked thoughtful.  “Little gal? Red hair?”

“That was her. With the war over, she is spending some leave time looking up old friends. Guess she lives in Frisco now. She married that Navy officer that was sparking her before Pearl Harbor. He was killed on the Indianapolis.

“That’s too bad.  Too many young men killed in that damn war.”

Paul tapped his leg; it made a noise more like furniture than flesh. “Tell me about it.  Only luck that it wasn’t me in the first one. That was bad enough.”

Paul planted himself on the cheap couch that sat in the living room. Maggie came out of the kitchen and sat beside him. She patted his wooden leg.

“You’re doing well enough. Losing your leg hasn’t stopped you from more important things.” She winked. “Are you going out to meet your friends tonight? It’s Wednesday.”

“Planned on it.” Paul generally spent Wednesday evenings playing poker with a group of old Marines at a nearby watering hole called Mahalo; three of the usual attendees were, like Paul, veterans of Belleau Wood.  That number included, to Paul’s delight, his old trench-mate Henry Houlihan, who Paul had thought dead. Henry had taken a bullet through the upper chest, but miraculously the bullet had not done lethal damage. Henry had returned home little the worse for wear and had later made the journey to Hawaii, found the weather and scenery to his liking, married a Hawaiian girl and stayed.

“Is Apikala coming along with Henry?”

“You could call and ask.”

“I will. We can have a few drinks while you men play cards.” Henry’s wife and Maggie had hit it off on their first meeting and were now great friends.

Later, after a light supper, the couple walked the six blocks to the Hawaiian bar, Paul leaning heavily on his cane and stumping along; his weight had gone up some over the last ten years, but he still managed with the one cane and the old, original wooden leg.  He still had the odd, rolling gate, swinging the prosthetic leg forward with each step so the steel knee joint locked to take his weight, but after almost thirty years he was used to it.

Three of Paul’s poker buddies were already seated at a round table in the middle of the room, cards, chips and mugs of cold beer in front of them. Henry Houlihan was there, as was his wife Apikala; she and Maggie went off to a small table near the window for some girl time while Paul waved for a beer and sat down with the men.

“Deal me in, boys,” he said.  He looked over at one of the younger men, still on active duty, a veteran of Okinawa, Dugan Jefferson. “What’s eating you, Dugan?  You look like you could eat rocks.”

“Fuckin’ asshole on the radio on the way in here,” Dugan grumped. “Whining on and on about the atom bomb, how we dropped them on all those poor Japs.  If Truman hadn’t dropped those bombs, they woulda sent us into a meat grinder.  Told Sam here, ‘you think Iwo Jima was bad? You think Okinawa was bad?  Wouldn’t be nothing next to invading Japan.”

Sam Kendall, a returned Navy CPO, grinned. “He’s been going on about it for about the last half-hour, Paul.  Maybe we can change the subject now you’re here.  Tell him about Belleau Wood again.”

“Heard your damn Belleau Wood story only about fifty times now.”  Dugan, still scowling, took a long pull at his beer.

“Well, I’ll tell you one good thing about Belleau Wood,” Paul said.

“What’s that?”

“No atom bombs.”

“Yeah, that would have sucked.  Imagine if the Krauts woulda got one this last go-round?”

“What’s it matter to you?” Paul joshed Sam good-naturedly.  “Fuckin’ squids would be all out on the water, all away from it when it goes off.”

Dugan started dealing cards. “Come on, you assholes,” he said. “We gonna play cards or talk all night?”

Paul lit a cigarette, then picked up the five cards he had been dealt.  None of them seemed to have any relationship to any of the others.

“Gonna be one of those nights,” he muttered.  His old friend Henry looked over at him and grinned.

The evening went on. The four old servicemen played cards and drank beer.  Maggie sat at the window-side table with Apikala, sipping a gin and tonic while Apikala drank iced tea.  Outside, night was falling, and traffic on the sidewalk was picking up.

“Henry says he wants Paul to go shooting with him Sunday,” Apikala said.  “With those old Army rifles he bought when the war ended.”

“You’d think they both would have had enough of that,” Maggie said with a smile. “Boys and their toys, I guess.”

“You were here in 1941.  You remember how it was.  We all thought the Japs would invade.  Everybody that had guns was keeping them loaded.  Oh, the Navy said no, you can’t keep guns, but you know everyone did.”

“We did,” Maggie said, thinking of a little .32 pocket pistol Paul had bought in 1936; after the incident in Iowa, Paul felt the need to keep what he referred to as “a little helper.”

Outside, three young men walked past the Mahalo, bound for a larger, noisier bar down the street.  The three had the obvious look of tourists, with garish clothing and loud voices, and the three were more than a little drunk.

One of them stopped suddenly outside the window.  That redheaded broad in there, he thought to himself.  I think that’s…

He took a closer look and nodded.  Sure as hell, that’s Aunt Maggie.

Then, not wanting to draw Maggie’s attention, he hurried after his friends.  “Have to tell Uncle Micah about this,” he muttered.


Man thinks ’cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please,

And if things don’t change soon, he will.

Oh, man has invented his doom,

First step was touching the moon.


Now, there’s a woman on my block,

She just sit there as the night grows still

She say who gonna take away his license to kill?