(Originally posted Sunday, January 18, 2009)
Chad the Dictator, Part V
by Eric Rasmussen
I was on the plane with Chad, a C-38 cargo plane with almost nothing in it except for two double agents of the Iraq Mahdi army and several crates of cigarettes. Nobody knew about us, Chad said; he’d hitched us a ride from somebody he knew in the State Department, and we weren’t on the plane’s manifest. Our presence here was classified.
“And if we go down over the ocean,” he said. “Nobody will know about us.”
“What about my parents? My mother?”
“Tough titty. You’ll be a smear on posterity. Like D.B.Cooper. People will write songs about you. ‘Hunsacker the Idiot,’ they’ll call it.”
We all did calisthenics together. Push-ups. Jumping jacks. Lunges.A reclining rope climb to work my glutes and hamstrings.
“I’ve got a joke,” said one of the double agents, Tor, to the other, Djoto. “A girl from Fresno with an enormous …”
“Not in front of my recruit,” yelled Chad.
So Tor wrote it down on a napkin and showed it to comrade,who snorted.
“It was funnier than the last one,” he said.
“The other one was more ‘A dingo ate my baby’ funny.”
“You’re right. And this one?”
“This one is more ‘hypodermic needle in the eyeball’ funny.”
“Hey!” I said. “Tell me the joke.”
“Face in the ground, shit head,” said Chad. “You don’t pay attention to those guys. They’re not regular army. They don’t live by any code. They’re mercenaries. Freebooters. Filibusters.”
The two double agents looked back at him with moist hurt in their eyes. “Geez,” said Tor, “we’re just earning a living like anybody else.”
“Yeah. I gotta feed my baby girl and sometimes I like a vanilla chai latte in the morning. So what if I’ve got to kill a few people to get it. Who are you to judge?”
I was switching exercises constantly to keep up the cardio burn. I was out of shape, because I’d stopped working out since the end of mandatory high school P.E. and done nothing for the last two years for my stomach but eat chorizo and egg tacos at a little stand across the street from the Knucklers’ dormitory, the restaurant where I would also practice my rudimentary Spanish with a cook named Inez. Whenever I threw uneaten taco in the trash, Inez would curse at me and tell me I was sinning against God. Then she’d cross herself.
“Dios mio,” she said.
Now I needed God’s help and I wondered if maybe throwing away food was how I’d gotten into this sorry ass shape with the Lord. Sinning against God, that’s how I roll.
“What kind of sick fat fuck dogface are you?” screamed Chad,who had been my official “Knuckle Buddy” in the fraternity but who was now my military commander in chief as we flew back to Krazikistan to help him overthrow the junta that had ousted his father from the presidency. “Look how fat you are,” Chad said. “Is that what you get eating tacos every morning? Did you ever once appreciate your taco even for a fucking moment you fat fucking American pig? No! You just put in the garbage. Well I’ll teach you to love every last chick pea like you crawled over the desert on your knees for it.”
“I don’t like chick peas.”
“Good then. We’ll have them for every meal once we land in the capital.”
The sun came up while we were on the plane, and the horizon looked like the sediment on the bottom of a tomato juice glass. You couldn’t see sky or ocean anymore. It all melded together to form a beautiful image like an abstract …
“Are you daydreaming again, Hunsacker?” screeched Chad. He put his boot sole on my face.
“No sir, I’m a bad ass Ghazi warrior, sir.”
“Lick my boot, Ghazi Hunsacker.”
“That’s good. Lick it up. Taste it! Tell me it tastes like wine.”
“It tastes like a fine Bandol Mourvedre, sir!”
“1995, sir. With a hint of Grenache and not too much tannin on the back end.”
“You piece of shit. Fifty crunches.”
I was so out of shape and he was giving me so little water that eventually I got dehydrated and blacked out.
Odd thing about physical trauma. I think it was playing havoc with my sight. The next thing I knew, it was dark.
“Holy Jesus, you worked me too hard and I’ve gone blind.”
“No you haven’t Hunsacker. I blindfolded you. I want you to disassemble this M16. And by the way, it’s loaded. Watch you don’t blow your head off.”
I gingerly felt around and started taking apart the weapon he’d handed me, feeling around what I’m pretty sure was an M16. There were several pins and coils and a magazine. While I fumbled about, sometimes crying out whenever I thought I’d made a dumb move, the two mercs laughed at me.
“OK,” said Chad. “While you take the gun apart, I want you to repeat the core values of the Ghazi warrior.”
“Um … did you ever tell me what those were?”
“Did you not read the book I left you?”
“Chad, that was 500 pages.”
He kicked me in the chin.
“What are the 12 core values, rat face?”
“You have 12? The U.S. Army only has seven!”
“You’re not just some grunt in the army,” he said. “You’re joining an ancient military tradition going back to Mongols, the Turks and Zoroastrians.
“OK. The 12 core values are courage, loyalty, service, respect, asceticism and banging your mother high and hard, sir.”
“Drop and give me 20 or I’ll jam this grappling hook into your ribs and pull one of them out.”
I was running in place with my M16 over my head pretty soon while the two mercenaries made bets on whether I’d make it and played around with a dummy claymore that I was going to have to learn how to rig.
“Tell me another joke,” said Tor, and when Djoto wrote another out for him, he said, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”
They got bored writing jokes and when Chad went to sleep, they started asking me questions.
“Kid, what in the hell are you doing with this guy? You should be at school banging cheerleaders.”
“This here’s a Knuckler,” I said.
“What’s that?” asked Tor.
“Some fag-ass fraternity,” said Djoto.
“It’s not a fag-ass fraternity,” I said. “I took a vow to do anything for this man until we graduate. Either to be his wingman at a bar, help him cheat on a test … or even go help him reclaim his dynasty as president of Krazikistan.”
“Jesus, man, you can’t be that close.”
“A guy’s got to stand up for something. Loyalty to my fellow frat douche is as good a thing to live for as anything else. I’ve read a lot of existentialism see…”
Then they started booing me loudly until I shut up.
I knew what it sounded like. OK, here I am. Twenty-one years old. Gotta prove myself to some rich father who sits on the board of a Blue Chip S&P 500 company and who comes from a military family. I’d read too much Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt and now I was putting myself in harm’s way for an ill-thought-out plan to wrest control of some Central Asian country just so I could hand it from one political cadre back to another. And for what? For glory? For power? Because it would make people’s lives better?
I sat looking at the picture of Chad’s sister, the one he’d given me in the dorm room back in New Haven. Two bright, pre-Raphaelite eyes as big as emu eggs and just as blue in the iris. A caramel, triangular face. Was I doing it for love? I didn’t even know the woman. But she just looked so perfect. Like a small diamond I could never buy.
“Your sister got a beau?” I asked Chad.
“You can think of her like your own sister,” he said. “But that’s all.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
He threw me back against the white painted brick of the hallway in Jester Hall (where I was going to be taking my last BC calculus exam before investing Krazikistan on my summer vacation). Threw me back against the wall and looked into my eyes.
“You’re coming to save her, not marry her.”
“What, I’m not good enough for her? I thought we were blood brothers.”
“Here in New Haven we’re brothers. But Krazikistan is different. I’ll get you a 100 different whories. But not that one. She’s untouchable to you.”
I was feeling kind of hurt, and thought of telling him to stick his father’s dictatorship and his ruling dynasty up his tight white ass. But after a while I forgave him. Because as much as it was about him, it was also about me. I kept his sister’s picture close, and decided that whatever she was, whatever she meant to me, whatever ideal she was to me, I’d live up to it somehow. I’d become worthy of it.
While I was sleeping, Tor and Djoto put my hand in a cup of warm water and I pissed myself. They were playing cards when one of them descried land out the window. We were just about to pass over the Levant. Chad took a big sniff.
“Chick peas,” he said. “Big aching mounds of chick peas to come falling into your mouth and out of your ass like love.”
Tor read another joke and shook his head.
“Funny … like testicles in a blender.”
“Funny like a dead American college student.”
He pointed at me and drew a bit “X” over me with his index finger.
You can read Part IV of this story here:
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