The trouble began when Lt. Larsen’s bunkmates discovered that he intended to marry a whore.
“Larson’s smart,” said Lt. Taffe. “She’s the best piece of tail in Foggia. Ask any G.I. who’s pronged her.”
Larsen, small and slight, face set in stone, packed a barracks bag and moved out. No one knew exactly where, although there were plenty of spare billets. He’d told only the chaplain, but no soldier could marry a local without the Major’s signature, so the chaplain had had to tell the Major, and now his bunk mates knew.
First the Major had tried to talk Larsen out of it and after he'd failed, summoned the bunkmates. “For Lt. Larsen’s own good, you have to nip this thing. He’s from Wisconsin. Imagine how his folks will feel if he arrives home with an Italian whore.”
Larsen was a navigator and with WW2 over, had no official duties. He’d been assigned some made up duty, continued to do it, and showed up at officer’s mess, but ate alone and never looked anyone in the eye. It was said that he’d told the chaplain he intended to marry Filomena with or without permission. If forced, he’d desert, marry in some village church and disappear into the mountains of Italy never to be seen again. Larsen’s bunkmates told the Major that Larsen didn’t bluff, even in poker. So the Major went on to Plan B.
He had the PX give Filomena a job behind the counter where she’d see dozens of GIs every day. And once a month, when the liquor ration was passed out, she’d hand each soldier his fifth. That was the closest I ever got to her. I paid my money, got a receipt, stepped up and handed it to her. She took it from my hand, passed me a fifth of Old Crow, and never once caught my eye.
She couldn't have been older than seventeen, fair for a Southern Italian, glowing skin, soft brown hair, large brown eyes, heart-shaped face, slender in a modest brown dress. Now she was always with an older woman, maybe a relative, maybe not. It was said that most of her family had been killed in the war. Every Sunday she and Larsen and the older woman went to services in Foggia’s basilica. Not long after that I got my orders and shipped out for home.
We had an unofficial army newspaper, the Foggia Occupator, which I asked to have mailed to me back in Brooklyn. About a month after discharge, a copy arrived and on page one was a photo of Larsen and Filomena coming out of the basilica, he in dress uniform, she in a white wedding gown, officers tossing rice as the newly married couple passed beneath an arch of crossed swords.