Thursday, July 21, 2005

Hard Luck o' the Irish

It was early afternoon, and I was headed home after a long day of job hunting. My first thought, of course, had been to enlist in the military, but I can't go to the recruiting office anymore since they took out that stupid restraining order. So instead of signing up to go to war, I spent the day being rejected by every male modeling agency I contacted, and I was not in a good mood.
I had the pedal to the metal, relieving some stress, the war wagon (my Mom's '96 Saturn) hugging the curves as I practiced my radio calls without a radio.
"All call signs," I said aloud. "This is Darth Spock, I'm A-19 in grid 53...Damn! A-16 in grid four." That's why we pros practice. It ain't easy.
The road into my subdivision-- Festering Springs Trailer Park-- is narrow; there's barely room for two cars to pass, and that's assuming both drivers are sober. As it's also a very low-traffic area, I couldn't help but think what a great place it would be to set up an ambush. Still, I wasn't concerned, and ripped through the curves at a near-suicidal 33 m.p.h. I rounded the last curve before the Festering Springs entrance, and--
Roadblock! Not cops, a civvy car, blocking the road ahead. Tangos, definitely, but what kind? Arabs? Nah, they're more into car bombs. French seperatists? No, too far from Quebec. Had to be Irish Republican Army, then. Mick terrorists set up these roadblocks, relying on the fact that most folks will panic, stop, and get taken hostage. Not me. I thought back to an article I had read in the June '85 Soldier of Fortune, about how to deal with a tango road ambush like this one. I could see now that the vehicle turned sideways across the road was a Cadillac, and did some quick weight/velocity computations in my highly-trained mind. There was only one solution, other than pulling over, and with mere seconds to spare I commited.
Blam! I T-boned the Caddy and knocked it into the trees beside the road, while I and the war wagon continued down the embankment on the opposite side. I caught a glimpse of two people diving for cover, and then everything went black as my Mom's car slammed into a boulder at the bottom of the ravine.
Smoke. Gas. A ticking sound as the Saturn's now-useless engine cooled down. God, how long had I been out? I checked myself for injuries, and was horrified when I felt the warm liquid seeping down my abdomen. Was I bleeding to death? Wait. I felt again, smelled, and realized that the urine-filled watergun I carry had shattered, covering me in what mercenaries call "pee pee." No worries. You haven't been to war if you haven't been soaked in your own urine. It did leave me without my main weapon, though, and I knew the tangos were probably on their way down the embankment to kill me, or capture me, right then. I pulled a back-up weapon from the glove-box and scrambled out of the car.
I heard a voice from the road, and clawed up the embankment towards it, my weapon at the ready. I paused just below the roadbed, shook the cobwebs out of my still-ringing head, and sprang.
"Nobody fucking move!" I yelled, scanning for targets. I couldn't believe what I found. Cowering by the wrecked Cadillac were Mr. and Mrs. James, the elderly black couple who live in a mobile home a few doors down from mine.
"Lord, Earl," Mrs. James said, "isn't that--"
"McFab!" Earl barked, rising to his feet. "What the hell's wrong with you?"
"Christ, I feel like the world's biggest idiot," I said. "I mean, talk about stupid..."
"Damn right you're stupid, and wait'll I tell your mama what--"
"So stupid," I continued, "I didn't even realize that my own neighbors were IRA terrorists. Now, sit back down, Paddy, and no one gets hurt." I gestured with my weapon.
"Paddy? Goddamnit, McFab--"
"I tole you he was crazy," Mrs. James chimed in. "His poor ole mama said--"
"We're not Irish, you idiot!" Mr. James continued. "And what the hell are you doing with that toothbrush?"
"It's a combat knife," I said, and looked down. Shit. "Okay, it is a toothbrush. If you don't think I can kill with it, though, think again."
Mr. James set his jaw and stepped towards me, a lethal look in his eyes. "McFab," he said, "I've had a long day. I took Irene to the Krystal burger like she wanted, and I hate the damn Krystal burger."
"It gives him the runs," Irene said.
"Stay outta this, Irene. So I ate food I don't like, I got a bad case of the squirts, and then my car breaks down half a mile from our redneck-infested trailer park and the toilet I so badly need right now. That would be bad enough, but--"
"Plenty of toilets at Guantanamo Bay, Mickey O' Pipebomb. I'm sure they'll fix you right up."
"I was stationed at Gitmo, you wanna-be, no-account, livin'-with-your-mama--"
"His poor ole mama," Irene said.
"Idiot!" he finished, and closed the gap between us. I must have still been slowed down by the car-crash, because my usual panther-like reflexes weren't quick enough to respond before he had me on the ground, his hand clasped around my throat.
"Lord, don't kill him, Earl, " Irene said.
"Kill him? Hell, I'm gonna shove that toothbrush up his ass sideways!" He wrestled the toothbrush from my hand.
"Lord, his poor ole mama," Irene said. "Him comin' home with a toothbrush up there. Oh, Lord."
I struggled to find enough air to speak. "M...Mr...Mr. James...please..." He relaxed his grip slightly.
"You got somethin' to say, boy?"
"I-I'm sorry," I gasped. "Please...can't breathe..." He let me have a little more air. "I thought you were terrorists, I promise. I was just trying to protect the homeland. Hell, you should understand, you were in the Marines."
"Well...Damnit, McFab, you're crazy as a damned bedbug, but I got a soft spot for you. That sculpture you made of the boys on Iwo Jima, planting the flag..."
"You--you liked it?"
"Brought a tear to my eye, boy, and to think you made something that nice with mashed potatoes...Any Marine would have been proud to eat that sculpture, McFab." He let go of my throat and stood up.
"Earl, ain't you gonna shove that toothbrush--"
"I said stay outta this, Irene! Now, one thing, Mr. Randy. You gonna pay for my car."
"Hmmph. His poor ole mama gonna pay."
"Irene..."
"No problem, sir," I said. I stood and brushed myself off. "I just hope you'll accept my apology, soldier to soldier."
"Soldier to wannabe," he said, and we shook.
"Tell ya what, " I said, "I'll call us a tow truck and we'll have you home on that toilet in no time."
"Sounds good," Mr, James said, and sat back down by Mrs. James and the mangled Cadillac.
I opened my cell-phone, stepped a few feet away, and dialed.
"Give me Homeland Security," I whispered.