Le Plume Est Sur La Table


When we were growing up our mother told us how, in high school she’d learned to speak French. One of us asked her to say something in French, “Le Plume Est Sur La Table, that means ‘The pen is on the table'”. We repeated, “Lay Ploom se sir la tah-blu. Say something else mama!”, we begged, “Say something else!”…
“Ouvrir la porte, that’s open the door”, my mother smiled and said.
– “Oo-vray la port”, we said in unison. As far as we were concerned, we knew how to speak French.


Liberty Park
Naval Air Station Norfolk, VA. (Photo Courtesy Virginian-Pilot).

Years later, as I walked across the parking lot leaving to go to work one morning, those french lessons came back to me. I was about to put the key in the door of my ’65 Mustang when it hit me, “Ouvrir la porte” and just as I was about to open the door, I glanced inside the car. There, in the backseat, lay Ferdanand Beadman sound asleep. How was he getting into my car? This was the third morning in a row I’d come out to go to work and found him fast asleep in the back seat, how was he getting in without breaking the lock? The bigger question was WHY was he breaking in in the first place? His sister lived not more than 5 miles from where we were. Which led to an even bigger question, how was he getting to where we were? We were in the parking lot of the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (B.E.Q.) at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia! How was he getting on base everyday? Granted, security was nothing like it is now, but I would think it wouldn’t be that easy to either climb the eight foot fence or find a stranger that would let him ride through the gate with them. But there he was snoring away in the back seat. I didn’t call base security, I simply got in the car and drove off base. I stopped along the road, woke him up and made him get out. I told him that I was going to contact base security to keep an eye on my car and for him to catch a ride to his sister’s house. I never saw him again after that and assumed I’d have no more surprises for a while.
The theory of having no more surprises was shattered around 1630 that afternoon when I arrived back at my room in the enlisted quarters. For some reason NCIS or base security got it into their heads to bring the drug sniffing dogs to the living quarters that day. Of course, I knew I had nothing to fear, until I remembered that I had a roommate, a roommate who liked to have pot parties in the BARRACKS and who’d had one just last night. Whenever he and his buddies started lighting up I would make myself scarce. So now here I was standing in the middle of his roach clips, bongs, rolling papers and residue in front of a security officer and his dog.

“Is this your paraphernalia?”, he asked. I quickly let out, “Heck no, it’s not mine, I don’t do drugs”. The officer looked at me in disbelief, “Your roommate says its yours, he said its all yours!”. Why that dirty dog! I’ll fix him, I thought to myself. My roommate was from West Virginia, he liked to hunt and he liked guns, he liked guns a lot. And for some unknown reason he thought it was a good idea to bring all of his guns with him from home. Not only had he brought his entire arsenal with him, but that arsenal was right here in the room with us. He’d put his entire gun collection in the overhead (that’s the ceiling for you civilians). The guns were above the ceiling tiles, there was at least one gun lying on top of each tile in that room and I was about to rat him out for lying that this left behind mess belonged to me. I was just about to narc on him when I remembered, “Hey wait a minute, you couldn’t have talked to him, he left for home this morning, he hasn’t been here all day!” That old trick of turning one suspect against the other had almost worked on me. “Nope, he didn’t tell you nothing”, I said.
“Maybe not”, he said, apparently they weren’t done yet, “but the dog hit this locker. This IS your locker, isn’t it? It has your name on it”. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic baggy, “We found this in a shirt in your locker”. He felt around in the baggy and pulled out a tiny lint ball. He took the lint and began unraveling it, inside was a seed. “Know what this is? We do, and to make sure we’ll be sending it to the lab. We found it in that shirt”, he pointed to a shirt I’d just bought last week. It was a shirt my friend Filly was wearing when I went home to Remington the prior weekend. I saw it and liked it so much I offered to buy it from him right then and there. He agreed to sell it to me for $12. Up until that day, I had not yet had a chance to wash it and / or wear it. The officer handed me a piece of paper, it was a summons to appear at Captain’s Mast two weeks from that day. Captain’s Mast is like civilian criminal court, with the same consequences and worst. I’d never been in this type of trouble before and all I could think of was that I only had to weeks to clear my name before I’d be standing in front of the captain.


Walking the plank
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Captain’s Mast.

On the morning of Captain’s Mast I arrived at base headquarters not exactly sure what to expect. I was led in to see the Executive Officer (The X.O. is the second in command after the base captain). He was standing behind a desk that was just outside of where mast was being held. He instructed me on what to say and do when I went in to see the captain. “…but before we go in, do you have any evidence, witnesses or testimony you wish to present that could clear you of these charges?”, he asked.
“Yes sir, I just want to tell you that I have never worn that shirt before and that I bought it from a friend of mine only a week before it was found in my locker”, my voice was shaky.
“Is your friend willing to attest to this? Do you know how to contact him?”, he was beginning to seem not so bad after all.
“Yes sir, here’s his phone number. Actually this is his grandmother’s phone number, he doesn’t have a phone.”
The X.O. took the number, dialed it and asked the person on the other end if he could speak to Filly Pevvish. I knew who was on the other end and I knew they would have to run down the hill, get Filly… anyway, there was about a 5 minute pause before Filly picked up the receiver and answered. This is the actual one-sided phone conversation I heard:
“Is this Filly Pevvish? It is? O.K. fine then. Hello Mr. Pevvish, this is Commander Oxnard, I’m the Executive Officer here at N.A.S. Norfolk. I am standing here with someone who says you know him. He is currently charged with possession of a controlled substance. That substance was found in the pocket of a shirt we found in his locker. He further states that he bought the shirt from you… (pause). Oh, he did? Mr. Pevvish, did you know that there was marijuana in the pocket of that shirt when you owned it? (pause) Oh? Well, thank you Mr. Pevvish, and thank you for your help in this matter”.
The X.O. hung up the phone looking a bit dejected, “Mr. Pevvish said ‘yes he knew he had marijuana in his shirt pocket, he always has marijuana in his shirt pockets, he said he keeps it there all the time. I guess that takes care of that, I have no choice but to dismiss the case. You won’t have to see the captain after all”. I was very thankful that Filly had admitted the that shirt and it’s contents belonged to him. He was a civilian and the Navy couldn’t touch him. And what made it perfect was that everything he’d said was true.

With that, the X.O. took out a document, handed me a pen and had me sign that I understood that the case was being dismissed. He took the pen and said “The irony is, this is the same pen they used when they charged you”. He chuckled to himself, laid the pen on the table and turned to put the documents back in the file cabinet. I looked at the pen, then at the X.O., then back at the pen. Hmm, “le plume est sur la table”, I thought to myself… what an unbelievable last couple of weeks this has been. Yep, I need to write this all down while it’s still fresh in my mind. I grabbed the pen from the table, rushed back to my room and used it to write this story.

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