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Excess Braggage

By Robert J. Hogan


AT THE time that First Class Private Abraham Ginsberg finished his advanced flight training and became Second Lieutenant Abraham Ginsberg, Yank air had been catching merry hell from Jerry over the Le Tore sector.

That was why some green replacements were being rushed to the veteran 26th pursuit squadron. The new 64th bombardment squadron at an adjoining field was getting them as well.

On that day, Abe Ginsberg was very proud. He wasn't very tall, but he made the most of his stature as he squared his narrow shoulders before the assignment list. His small feet and spindling legs were encased in the best pair of cut-rate boots careful money could buy. The new whipcord officer's uniform hung loosely about him, not a perfect fit, but what of it? Hadn't Abe saved almost a hundred francs on that suit after an hour's haggling?

Before his proudly grinning eyes his own name screamed at him from the assignment list:

Second Lieutenant Abraham Ginsberg, assigned to 26th Pursuit.

And directly below:

Second Lieutenant Bullock Maddox, assigned to 64th Bombardment.

Abe Ginsberg had been picked for the 26th for a reason. He had turned out to be a good Spad pilot. He had an eye like a diamond expert and could shoot like a hungry duck hunter. When it came to navigation he was just fair, but he prided himself on being better in that subject than big Bull Maddox, his tormentor, who stood beside him crowding him considerably as they stared at the list together.

Abe tilted his face up almost two feet to meet the glaring eyes of Bull Maddox. Abe was triumphant at last.

"So after all is said and done, ain't it Abe Ginsberg who gets pursuit while a big practical jokair, like Bull Maddox, gets only truck driving of bombers?" he chirped. "And only a few months ago wasn't it my friend, Bull Maddox says, 'de government's nuts to think they could make a pilot and a officer from a guy like Abe Ginsberg,' ain't it?"

"Yeah?" snarled Maddox with his usual timely wisecrack, "And nuts to you, fella."

Abe Ginsberg chuckled as he saw Maddox's broad back fill the doorway to overflowing and leave it empty again. It wasn't until that afternoon that Abe Ginsberg heard Bull Maddox's booming voice again. And Bull was still on the beef plenty.

"It's only luck that Ginsberg got pursuit," Maddox was snarling in protest. "What a break for that guy if he knew what I know about the outfit he's going to."

Abe tensed just outside the door of the mess and listened.

"That guy could be the new squadron commander of the 26th if he knew how. They're all rookies up there, even the C.O. All he's got to do is shoot off his mouth about his record and hand out a good line and they'd make him skipper without even taking the air. Wish I had this chance instead of being shoved into the 64th where they're all experienced."

"There's a bunch of mechanics on the flood over at Mouveau right now, I hear. Getting tight as boiled owls. If I was in Ginsberg's shoes I could go over there and tell them I used to fly lone patrols over the St. Mihiel sector. I'd make 'em believe that I had this German ace, Baron Von Litz, so scared, he'd run out of the air every time he saw me. What a break! Spill it to those drunken greaseballs and it'd be back to the kiwi C.O. of the 26th before I got there. He'd fall sure, but don't any of you birds tell Ginsberg."

That was the moment that Abe Ginsberg made his presence known to Bull. He breezed in like an onion odor on someone else's breath.

"I didn't think you was such a friend of mine, Bull," he chirped. "Thanks for the tip-off. Vot ideas you're giving and for nottink. Dank you."

A coffee cup sizzled through the air straight for Abe Ginsberg's curly head. But the quickness of Abe's movement deceived the coffee cup and contents as well. Abe dove for the door with a laugh that shook Bull Maddox's half-made system like a sputter-bike annoying a neurotic patient.

AT ONCE Abe applied for a pass and got it. He made a hasty round of the giggle fountains in Mouveau and found what he sought. Men in overalls, grease-smeared and dirty, were ranged along Madame Serafon's bar. A roll of franc notes came in sight.

"You guys come from the 26th, ain...

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