Enterprise, Maker of Men. Me, I entered the good ol' Academy at the age of six when my mom ran away with an electronics engineer, leaving my dad the choice of doing for me or dumping me. He chose the latter, abandoning me at Enterprise until several years later when he gratefully took back my mom, and thus I emerged from that livid monolith of military tradition as a 10-year-old "man", I assume.
I guess there are some who'd say I was giving it right back in kind when I enrolled my Wesley at Enterprise. But the psychiatric cant about how we re-create the pain of childhood in our children, whether for redemption or whatever, doesn't hold water for me, 'cause I had a not-too-bad old time at The Enterprise.
Yeah, there were a few personal problems. For example, I was a runty kid with two prominent front teeth, resulting in the obvious. Everybody called me "Mouse," which I didn't mind so long as it came from my parents, but the unflattering use of the epithet by my peers caused me great anguish.
I was also a dutiful little guy. I remember staggering into formation on the quad at six of a sub-zero morning, toting a rifle almost twice as big as me. Moreover, in a school so proud of its heroes, it wasn't easy being a coward. I was scared of damn near everything. I particularly remember the horror of the giant swing from the gymnasium balcony on the knotted climbing rope. Whereas all the other cadets seemed to meet the challenge with relish, I died a thousand deaths beforehand.
Another recollection---and here maybe the shame was worse than the fear---I did indeed shit in my pants when I pulled midnight guard duty on the empty 3rd floor of old Roddenberry Hall. So alone, so terrified, and guarding against---what? With the belt of a holstered sidearm strapped twice against my skimpy belly, what nameless enemy was I guarding against?
Still, those instances weren't The Enterprise's fault. And there were compensations. After all, my tour at The Enterprise was during World War II, when anything even slightly military was top priority, and we kids in our uniforms were king shit from the Raritan to the Delaware Water Gap, and pretty hot stuff too in Trenton, Camden, and Morristown, where we matched marching bands in spring and fall. Looking back, I see those days as the good old days after all, and there was much to be said for the Academy's demanding disciplines and the way they put sinew into mind and body. So all in all I had reason enough to hope that Wesley would fare well, possibly even thrive, at The Enterprise.
Besides, I didn't have much choice, since my profession required me to be out of town on assignment half of the time. I was lucky to be an alumnus, with special privileges like lower tuition fees (heh-heh-heh). On a journalist's salary, even with a news magazine that traditionally paid its people pretty well, it was hard as hell to hang in there with the typical Enterprise parent. When I recieved the bill just for uniforms alone, I had to mortgage my Datsun.
That was when Wesley was turning six and we were both just coming out of the shock and grief of his mom's tragic death. Livia and I had been separated then, three years. Despite her shrieking recriminations whenever we met, I had managed to keep in close touch. I knew about the pills. That had started when we were still together...to settle my poor Livia's nerves, to ease her pains. What I didn't know about was the booze. One night pills and booze collided. It was a lethal encounter.
My trip home to southern New Jersey was painful beyond belief. I had loved Livia deeply and couldn't fathom how we had come upon such hard times. I stood a long time outside our big 'ole house, under scudding gray clouds, thinking, remembering. When at last I went inside, Wesley wasn't there to greet me, nor anywhere about. Not in the cellar, nor in the attic, nor on the nearby beach.
I found him later, beyond the marsh, hunkered down amidst the dunes, his little face tight, his skinny arms hugging his skinny knees. I put my coat around his shoulders It was coming onto summer, but that wind still had a bite.
"Wesley---Wesley," I said. "What are you doing here? All alone, Wesley?"
"Waiting for you," he said. "What took you so long?"
I picked him up, coat and all---he was no bigger than a button---and carried him home.ns 18.104.22.168da2