The publisher gave me this title for an anthology (now out of print, and in fact a “collectible”,) so I figured one of the stories should have that title, too. When I did research on Connie Francis, whose song “Lipstick on Your Collar” was the obvious source, I discovered that she had entertained the troops in Vietnam, and done it with more guts, grit, and heart than Bob Hope. I knew right away the kind of story I wanted to write. You can read my excerpt here, or over on my blog, sacchi-green.blogspot.com . If I had a favorite story, this would be a major contender, especially for its characters.
Lipstick on Her Collar
The DC-7 burst from clouds over the South China Sea at an angle so steep VC rockets had no chance at a target. My breath caught and my butt clenched. At the last possible instant the plane leveled off, touched down, and came to a jolting stop.
I'd seen the same thing too often to be seriously alarmed. But I wasn't on board. And I wasn't Miss Maureen O'Malley from the Boston Globe, getting her first taste of the adrenaline-mill that was Vietnam in 1969. I wondered whether Miss Maureen's panties were still dry. And how long she'd last at this war correspondent game. If she couldn't handle the heat, the sooner she headed back to the Ladies' pages, the better.
She wasn't hard to spot on the tarmac. Miss Boston's dainty sandals, blue plaid skirt and matching jacket were about what I'd expected. The fine legs beneath the short hem, however, exceeded expectations.
I wasn’t the only one looking her over, but I was a lot more discreet about it than the guys. Any overt attraction to women could have landed me, if not in the brig, at least back Stateside with a dishonorable discharge.
She showed the strain of flying half-way around the world. Sweating in the sudden, brutal heat of Tan Son Nhut airfield, lipstick blurred and tendrils of dark hair curling damply on her cheeks, she seemed absurdly young. I'd have been all encouragement with a nurse or WAC just arriving in-country, but the orders to ride herd on a journalist were really chafing my chops.
"Miss O'Malley," I said firmly, seizing her attention, "I'm Sergeant Hodge, your driver. Let me get that bag." I bent to the heavy suitcase. Yes, very fine legs, and naked. No pantyhose. "C'mon in under cover while they unload the rest of your baggage."
She focused on me hazily. Probably hadn't slept for at least twenty hours. I felt just a smidge of sympathy.
"Oh...thanks...this is all there is.”
Well, that was a point in her favor. "Okay, good, but I still have to pick up a few packages." I was about to offer to show her the rudimentary ladies' room when she blurted, "But...I was expecting a woman driver."
"And I was expecting Maureen O'Hara,” I said, amused. Passing for a teen-aged boy often comes in handy. "Southeast Asia needs more redheads." I shed my helmet and brushed back my russet forelock. My short hair didn't tip her off, but my grin did the trick. She surveyed the rest of me more closely.
"Oh! I'm sorry." Her face flushed from more than the heat. "That's WAC insignia, isn't it. I still have a lot to learn."
No kidding.I silently steered her into the terminal, aimed her toward the restroom, and left to retrieve packages I'd promised to pick up. It wouldn't hurt to let her stew in a bit of embarrassment for a while.
Not for long, though. She emerged looking tidy and composed, make-up freshened. As she stepped up into my jeep she caught me admiring the nice rear view, and her deliberate wriggle as she settled into the seat made me wonder with a touch of paranoia just what this reporter had come to 'Nam to cover. A juicy scandal about dyke WACs would put women in the military back decades, just when we were needed most.