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Six Vignettes (Of Living Life As It Comes)
Second Day in Jerusalem
(July, 2010) – “Muslims,” said Haim, a Jerusalem city police officer to his partner, Shimon, “they’re both Muslims, there’s going to be trouble” he repeated, as they were driving up to a curb.
At 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon in Jerusalem at our hotel, the second day in Israel, my wife and I had just left this small caf, about one hundred and twenty-five feet from our hotel, and two floors below us, and across the street, built on a slant was this cafe, to a subsequent street, also below that, tucked away in-between a few other small businesses-here, the two police officers were pulling up, to park alongside the curb.
We were on the balcony looking down. The young man an Arab, Muslim, who I had met and talked to earlier, the manager of the caf, was pushing a middle-aged man, also an Arab, Muslim out of his caf and onto a parked car on the grass, next to the adjoining sidewalk. The Manager yelled at the middle-aged man, “You asked for the coffee, and I made it, you got to purchase it now!”
“Hell I do,” the customer said, “you oughtn’t to have made it before you told me of the price increase its way too expensive now.”
“There’s likely to be a hell of a lot of trouble here,” said Haim to Shimon, a third time.
“They’re a nuisance aren’t they?” said Shimon. Then he hesitated and added “I mean who the hell they think they are?” (Assuming they should have stopped fighting, once seeing the police car approaching, if indeed they had).
“Okay,” said the manager to the middle-aged customer, “I’ll overlook it this time,” letting the man regain his equilibrium from being thrown over the front hood of the automobile, noticing a police car had just parked nearby, alongside the curb, and a small group of citizens were gathering to see the ongoing event.
“Alright,” said Shimon, to Haim, looking closer at the two men now, “but how did you know they were Muslims in the first place, when we hardly even had pulled up here, to the corner yet?”
“Muslims,” said Haim, “I can tell Muslims a mile away.”
No: 685 (9-22-2010•
We Were on Guard duty at Cam Ranh
We were guarding the back perimeter fence, of the ammo dump, on Cam Ranh Bay, in Vietnam, 1971, three of us, Smiley, and Gordon, with me, Gordon being a Buck Sergeant, and Smiley also, and me, I was a corporal. This was the first Vietcong I had ever seen, along with his other buddy that is, they were climbing our barbwire fence to get out of Alpha Dump, I had seen them climb over some boxes of ammo rounds, as tall as a six-foot walls, jump down to the ground and run to the fence, knowing they had been spotted, evidently no time enough to set up any explosive charges or material. We waited till they got stuck-more like, entwined in the barbwire, and then as Smile and I were about to pop him, each with a 7.62 ammunition round, from our M16 rifles, Sergeant Gordon yelled “Stop!” He was younger than both of us, and had more time in Vietnam than me, but not more than Smiley. They both were stacked down heavy with gear, but no rifles between either one of them, they looked at us, about one-hundred yard from us, in near shock, frozen in their quest to get out of this awful predicament.
Then a car pulled up in back of us, “You shoot the taller one,” said Buck Sergeant Smiley to me, “and I’ll get the smaller one.”
“No,” said Gordon, “I outrank you, what’s your day of rank, Sergeant Smiley?”
Sergeant Smiley looked at Gordon-dumbfounded, and then at the American Jeep that just pulled up-the Captain was in it, and then at the two Vietcong that were about to escape. “April 10, ’71” he said with hesitation, it was now the second week of May.
“I outrank you by a month and a few days; this is a lawful order, stand down.” And about the time Sergeant Smiley and I looked back for the two Vietcong, they had escaped.
That night, while watching a John Wayne movie, out in the center of our company area, the MP Military Company, next to us-also watching a movie, got a hand grenade thrown into their area, shooting sacramental all over and sending several soldiers to the nearby on base dispensary for light wounds, some one said they saw two Vietcong running. It came just like that.
No: 686 (9-22-2010)•
On The Bus:
Outskirts of Ephesus
The strange thing was, she said “Do you think I’m pretty?” and I nodded my head yes, and she stared at me, she was all of fifteen or sixteen (dark long black hair, fine in figure, and about five-foot two-inches tall, a beauty, this was in the winter of 1996), I was forty-eight years old at the time.
“Take me with you,” she exclaimed. The rest of the tour folks were all now getting onto bus, passing this lovely creature, oddly looking at her-pert near on her knees, as she was looking at me. It was late afternoon, and we had been taken to a rug merchant show, outside of Ephesus, and I had purchased a small rug, while several other folks from the tour bus, had bought rugs of a much larger size, some pulling them onto the bus. She was one of the girls I had talked to during the tour around the rug factory, and show and during the light lunch they provided for us, who had told me-speaking broken English, with her Turkish accent, how she was purchased-perhaps better said: sold to the proprietor for two-years of free labor, for a lone on a piece of land, her father had bought. Thus, she was making rugs, along with her other duties. Her girlfriend had formed a relationship with the proprietor, a man nearly as old as me, and therefore, she got most of the benefits, she none; so she explained to me.
I said-nearly in despair-oh most thoroughly, “This just isn’t possible, nothing I can do about it, I’m very sorry.”
She had to be taken away finally. It was a most extraordinary case, I wanted to help, and I wasn’t married-and I think she knew that, and during every phase of the tour, show and lunch, that they provided for us, she had looked at me with those soft girlish dark eyes, that just died when I said, had to say-and when she become absolutely stiff, in posture after I said it, and I’ll say it again-: “This just isn’t possible…”
There we all were sitting on the bus, and me, especially me, as if an earthquake struck.
No: 687 (9-22-2010)•
The Black Tailed Cock
(Fall of 2006) They charged-whacked each other, pecking and pecking the legs of one another, and the long black tailed cock, the heavier one, went to its knees. The other lighter cock, white- breasted cock, twisted its neck and beak over the other’s neck, finding a grip, both flopping their winds hard against the wall as if to get momentum, drumming them against the small arena’s wall in the El Rosedal backroom, in Lima, Peru. Then they both stepped back, and charged pulling and hauling up feather after feather, wings spread to gain balance, the long black tailed cock swinging backward off balance a number of times but upon regaining it, he went on with the battle, as the other one came whacking him on the head and back with his beak, as he swung forward and backward, trying to fend him of, and find his balance again, but neither ran a loose, like so many cocks do to escape the other: they stood face to face-like the old bare-knuckled boxers of the 1880s and ’90s did, like John L. Sullivan did: jerkily they fought along the long solid concrete yellow arena wall, with five-hundred people watching ever move they made: it would seem if pecks were counted-as punches or blows, as in boxing, the white-breasted cock pecked his opponent to the bone, with twice as many pecks. The adjudicator-stepped in, pulled them both apart, blood on the beak of the white breasted cock, the Referee, he leaned forward, shook his head, at the owners of the two cocks, the fight was long-over ten-minutes, thus, between the two, they both showed stemma, fortitude, and bravery, and the crowd was happy and roared, and the two cocks nervously wobbled in circles as the owners came to pick them up, to fight another day, the referee, looking at the cocks as if not able to make up his mind if he should have allowed another minute or two.
No: 688 (9-22-2010)•
Music to His Ears
He is not tall nor short, perhaps taller than short for a Peruvian though, and near ninety, short black hair laced with white, bronze skin, not dark nor light, an aging rum color. He is a proud peer of the realm, constantly visiting the PeruvianPalace, municipalities, the horse races, who lives in Huancayo, Peru, but visits his home, called Lima. He sits in his room going over his many papers, an elegant house, in Lima, looks as if it was made of white stone, laced with iron here and there: it reminds me of the modern and the older houses of San Francisco, of yesteryear. We are drinking a rich flavored cup of Kenyan coffee, in the form of a latt.
A number of sparrows race by the dinning room window chasing one another, in the house garden: one pauses like a helicopter in midair as if to check out who is watching them, and goes on over to the table where there is birdseed, and he comments: “These are exceptional little creatures from God. The many colors they come in. And make music with their songs.” He looks at his daughter with regards, with is fine dark eyes. “Believe me, they are precious!”
During the course of the day, he talks to his daughter on the horses, and his paperwork, curious things. That her husband should become president of Peru, and go to war with Chile, and Ecuador, get their lands back; he also talks about his daughter in the United States, Mercedes, Ana, and Martha in Lima, and Mini and Nancy in Huancayo. And that she should sell all her lands in the Central Jungle, and travel with her husband.
“Yes, of course I believe you, I should do that,” Rosa says.
She tilts her little head. “Well, do you want more coffee?” she questions.
So saying, she drifts into the other room to check on her husband, doing his daily reading and writings, gradually turning the television on, and the radio in the kitchen off. The old man watches from the arch of the doorway between the kitchen and the dinning room, the living room is part of the dinning room where the television set is.
He starts to talk about ghosts, and God. His daughter avoids these subjects. She accepts this as fact, for wanting attention, something to do, talk about, and perhaps a deep belief that is contrary to hers and he likes to debate, but she doesn’t.
“I’ve noticed that; I wonder about.” He starts his sentence off.
“Perhaps we can talk about something else,” says Rosa, knowing the conversation will just go in circles, if it is political or religious. He came down to Lima to stay with her for three-days; it’s been ten-days now.
She laughs a little, a kind of serious laugh, when he mentions the ghosts, prefers not to hear about his battles with his demons.
“Pity.” She tells her husband, “I can’t help him become a Christian.”
“Don’t be so alarmed with it,” he says to her “one must keep in mind, he loves God, nonetheless,” he is explaining. That is perhaps his only sin, to her knowledge, if indeed that is a sin.
“I don’t quite understand,” she tells her husband in a low murmur. What took him completely away from Jesus Christ, but it seems irrelevant to him, as long as his vision is on the Bible and God Himself, the rest will work itself out somehow, perhaps gazing into those dark mirrors, fighting with those demon at night. He tells her, “It is our job to bring the bowl and soup to him, not to for him to eat it! That’s Jesus’ job.” That seems to smooth things over for a while.
From close up, she tells her dad, “You’re always welcome here pa, and my husband loves to have you, but you said you’d be here three-days, and it’s been ten.”
“Ten days,” the old cougar says, slyly, “woops, time does go by and you don’t even notice it. I do remember now, yes, it’s been at least that.”
“It really doesn’t matter all that much, we wouldn’t mind seeing you every so often, but we ought to have some privacy, you should come back next month for a few days, it’s my husband’s birthday.”
“Oh yes, yes, I’ll leave tonight.” He says.
“No,” Rosa comments, as he raises his eyes from looking here and there, and then at her, “Tomorrow morning is fine, it’s too late now, wake me up in the morning, I’ll walk with you to get a cab.”
He goes back up to his room, sits on his bed, starts to read the list of new horses for the races to be, it is like music to his ears.
No: 689 (9-23-2010)TC
Dedicated to Augusto Pealoza
The Private was drinking wine in the company area, alone, it was dusk; everyone else was in their hutches, as we called our little huts we lived in, in Vietnam, back in 1971. He seemed very happy to see me. He handed me his bottle of wine, and I took a drink from it, he had been in country no more than a month, I was going home in a few months. “This is it,” he said, as if he was already tired of war. He was breathing hard, smoking one cigarette after another and the one he was smoking now, taking big drags off of, was burning read hot, like a candle melting on top of a scorching furnace. “Oh, how was it today?” I asked him. He then sat down on the wooden walkway that ran throughout our small company area, no bigger than a football field. And he asked if I had any beer in my hutch and I did, and went a brought a few cans over, sat back down beside him. “You have good beer here,” he commented, as I gave him one, to help wash down his wine, the bottle pert near empty. I nodded my head, up and down as if to say-yaw!
The military patrol he was on today, he told me, it’s senior sergeant (Staff Sergeant type),would not allow him to talk about what took place outside the company area today, down near the south, near the sea. “Staff Sergeant Gordon’s a very good man I believe, he knows his stuff, he has his reasons for doing whatever he had to do, or you may have been told to do by him”, I said, plus I wasn’t asking for any details-not in particular. But it was frightfully difficult for him not to talk about it, the drunker he got, the more he needed to talk. “I’m pretty sure he did right though,” he said after a while. “He shot all three gooks,” the Private told me, as they had tried to get away from the scene. “Well,” I said, “the main thing is, you’re alive and well; these things happen, this is war.”
“Of course,” he said, “I know that Corporal, but it was the doughnut girls!” (That’s terminology for Red Cross girls.)
He looked very sad-no, perhaps more puzzled, if not inconsolable. We talked for a long time. Like two drunken soldiers, he wanted to be cleansed from the results of the day, in particular of what he saw, and had to participate in. The VC (Vietcong)had captured a Red Crossgroup, killed the jeep driver, and took the two girls, raped them, and tied them to wooden sticks, cutting open the first layer of skin in several locations, leaving them in the sun to die, and be tormented by ants. And when the Private and Staff Sergeant (along with the rest of his platoon),found them, they were already dead.
No: 690 (9-23-2010)•
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