2/07/2017

Lafcadio - Part 3

Part 3: Something Silly, Something Gone

(Continued from Part 2: A Light in the Attic.)




I feel a tear forming. Even after all these years, the memory still hurts. I pull out the faded bandana I keep in my back pocket to use as a handkerchief. Making a show of blowing my nose, I surreptitiously wipe my eyes at the same time. It wouldn't do to cry in the waiting room at Penn Station.
A glance at my watch tells me it's almost 6:30, and the concourse is starting to come to life. I leave my seat and pace around a bit, reading the Arrivals board and checking out the offerings at the newsstand.

Then I head back to the waiting area and sit on the other side of the room. I allow my thoughts to take me back to Afghanistan again.
~
I should tell you a bit about our group. 

Ed Patterson, the oldest, was a master sergeant with 15 years in. The guy was a natural-born leader, so naturally he led us. He was a sat-com specialist back then. I think he'd intended to be career, but he ended getting his 20, and getting out. When he left the Corps, he went to work for one of the big telecommunications companies.

Carlos Morales, a sergeant, was an interpreter. His native language is English, but the Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants grew up speaking Spanish too. It turned out he had a gift for languages, and the Corps put him through a Pashto course at the language school in California. Not much call for that in back here in the world, I guess, so Carlos is in real estate now.

Paulie Newton, also a sergeant, was in explosive ordnance disposal. When he got out, he ended up working at the New York Public Library running their computer system. He says he'd had enough of noisy work environments, and besides, his hearing was pretty much jacked.

The kid, Jimmy Flanagan, a corporal, was a mechanic.  Who knows what he would have been when he grew up. A teacher, maybe. Or an actor.

And then there's me. I'm Matt Cameron. I was an MP. There was no way I was going to stay in, either in the military or in police work. So I wrote.

~

After Jimmy died, something was gone out of it for the four of us left. With all his silliness, he was the light that kept us keeping on. Ed, Paulie, Carlos, and I continued to sit under the outcropping overlooking the poppy fields, but there was no more yukking. There were no more stories and silly poems. There was only silence.  That, and the note that Jimmy Flanagan left behind for us, tucked securely under the innersole of my left boot. 


The next day, we went through Jimmy’s stuff, getting it ready to send back to his mom. We’d met Kathleen Flanagan while we were home, and we all loved her. She was a warm and funny woman with the map of Ireland drawn in freckles on her face. It was easy to see where Jimmy had gotten his personality. She welcomed us into her home as if we were family. And, lord, how she loved her boy. She was a single mom. Jimmy's dad had died in a car crash when Jimmy was only ten, and Jimmy was all she had. We knew she was going to be destroyed when she got the news.
“Hey, look at this,” Paulie, said as we were putting Jimmy’s books into the box. “This is the book about that lion.”
“Read it,” I said, and he did. Blinking away the tears that threatened to spill from our eyes, we listened to Paulie read the story of the lion Grrmmff who came to be known as Lafcadio the Great.
When he got to the end, Paulie turned the final page and a small pink envelop fell out. I bent down and picked it up. Turning it over, I was surprised to see our names on the front.
I held it up, eyebrows raised. “Well, open it, fer crissake, Cameron!” Carlos said.
I lifted the flap and pulled out a piece of folded note paper. It was also pink, decorated with delicate little silver cruets of flowers and teacups with tiny spoons. I wasn’t sure, but I thought it might be giving off a sweet gardenia scent.
And? What’s it say?” Ed demanded.
It wasn’t long. I quickly skimmed, horrified. This was our wet-behind-the-ears buddy Jimmy? No fucking way.
Taking a shaky breath, I read:
“Yeah, yeah, I know, guys” it began. “But it’s all I had. It’s my mom’s paper. She packed a bunch of it with my stuff so I’d be sure to write to her. I’m not writing you a love note or anything. Ha-ha. But in case anything happens to me, there’s something you gotta know.”
The note went on to tell us why he was worried that something might happen to him. Sure, we were all afraid we might get wounded or even killed in Afghanistan. But it turned out that Jimmy’s fears were far more alarming. Seems our Jimmy was secretly liaised to a quasi-military black ops organization called Alcázar Sentinel Security.
“These are bad people,” Jimmy had written. “They’re supposed to be helping protect the NATO forces in Afghanistan, but I found out they’re really in it for the opium. I’m not sure, but I think they know I know. And I’m pretty sure they’ve killed others to protect their interests. There’s a shitload of money at stake.
“There’s no one over here I can tell. If anything happens to me, you guys gotta do something when you get home. And if you can, take care of my mom.”
I folded the pink paper again, thinking how the frivolous silver cruets and tiny spoons on the cover were so incongruous with the dark message inside.
We read Jimmy's words again many times, but by tacit agreement, we didn't discuss it right away. We were still too raw. But we knew we would. We had to; it wasn't something we could ignore. We had to do something.

The question was, what?

 To be continued in Part 4: Barooom!


(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.) 

~



Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 8, Muse 3: "Silver Cruets and Tiny Spoons"

6 comments:

  1. nice set up. Also really like your descriptive powers in use here, especially of the characters. Pink Envelopes, huh?

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    Replies
    1. Hey, it was Jimmy's mom's stationery. 😊

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  2. ASS? :D

    This sentence reads weird to me: "I think he'd intended to be career, but he ended getting his 20, and getting out." Did he get his 20? Or did he get out after 15?

    There are some general military oddities in the flashback section, but I'm figuring they're not that important to the narrative. At any rate, we can discuss that elsewhere.

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    Replies
    1. He had 15 years in at the time Jimmy was killed, stayed in 5 more, and then left at 20 instead of staying in for his full working career. I should have made that clearer maybe.

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    2. Ah. In military parlance, "20" is your full career.

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  3. Awesome blog, i always enjoy & read the post you are sharing!
    Thank for your very good article...!

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    ReplyDelete

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