Dan Pipes - No Hab
I didn’t hear about the downing until arriving at the “Oh! Crub” on the night of the 25th.
On the way there, looking about my Tahkli surroundings, Dorothy had little room to wank on Oz’s fair weather surroundings, my skin puking sweat seconds out of my hooch—damn I missed the Tennessee breeze—goodbye yellow-brick road, hello yellow pine shipping pallets in sucking mud turned runny by rains and stained with heavy foot traffic through an airbase heavily supporting an air war in North Vietnam.
Us Captains and the lesser rank’d lived on south side Tahkli low country in a slight valley at the foot of a hill on the edge of the jungle and when it rained, even drizzled just a bit, the mountain runnels engorged like spider veins on a fat woman at a chocolate buffet then dumped water on us along with critters and monkeys coming by twos out of the bush to ride our walkway pallets like Noah’s life raft.
On said night, on the way to the crub, I thought I was being taunted by Thai guards cussin at me from the jungle—pissed me off. Complained I did? Not so much—learned it was the fuck-you lizard mating calls out in the bush, loins energized by the rain, perched on his little leaf bobbing up and down having a good ole laugh antagonizing me.
Flying monkeys—really. Not Oz here.
Rich Waters, “Dick Dribbles” an IP from Nellis and two faces with him I didn’t recognize directly glared at the sounds of a thin panel door slammed hard by an overbearing spring.
The looked through me, Rich glaring at the whole damn world beyond the door I entered, then turned his head back to a soda, four hardboiled eggs and an unsightly piece of dribbling red meat, likely water buffalo, his left hand clutching a clip from the Engrish paper rolled around a white plastic dinner knife.
He looked up again when I got to the table, rolled the paper off the knife then used his palm and fingers to flatten the crumped paper onto the table into its original 12x4 folded form about the size of a thick envelope.
We were all in flight suits.
“Look.” He said.
I took it and got sick. “You gotta be fucking shitting me!” I blurted, right hand on my hip like a runway model.
Raising the paper in my left hand, I positioned it arm’s length as if fixed on the end of a stereoscope, and squinted at a precursor to our obit at a headline from the Bangkok Post reading: AIRCRAFT, TWO CREW LOST TO RUSSIAN MISSILE OVER NORTH VIETNAM, Strike Planed.
Dick crossed him arms, the others followed.
I felt dumb.
“Read the end.”
McNamara said the Air Force would attack the anti-aircraft sites in Nghia Lo and Hoa Binh province within a week, quoting “We can take out the Surface-to-Air threats at any time we desire.”
What we couldn’t figure was Strange decided we’d strike two sites when only one had launched.
The paper felt thick in the pads of my fingers. I became aware of its rough under-processed third world texture. I fought throwing it to the ground and dancing on it as a child would a bug, crushing the talisman—I couldn’t release the ink from my fingers if I tried, the heat and humidity had them glued to me like flypaper.
Damn but this place didn’t have all of the strange.
We had two dwarves, a man and a woman.
Dunno if they were a couple.
Had a few polydactyl too—speaking of that.
The six-finger’d waitress came for my order. Left hand, six fingers—extra pinky. Postaxial polydactyl they call it—didn’t look out of place like a gangly branch of a gangly junk tree choking an unkempt yard. Hers had symmetry yet you couldn’t help but notice it because it held her pad and was in your face when ordering. It moved independently from the rest of her fingers and cocked accusingly at your eye with a tea drinker’s mannerism.
Wanted sugar now. “I’ll have pancakes.” I said.
“No fancake.” She said.
“Wapple no hab.”
“Got egg. Got ham. No facon—no hab.”
“Three eggs, fried over-easy, ham and rice.” I said slowly.
“No-oh’ber easy. Big blue say fry egg hawd onry. You want fry lice too?”
“Sure. Top the rice.” I shook my head. Thing is, topped fried rice came with an egg over easy but you couldn’t order eggs straight fried over easy.
“Coffee.” I added.
“Ok.” She said, stabbing her pen at the fold of her apron three more times before finding its sheath.
Dick smiled at my displeasure then watched her butt saunter away. “I don’t think I’d get past the extra dedos.” He joked then got back to business. “I reckon we’ll see an order for this in a day or two,” he said tapping the paper. “—and I guaran-damn-tee you, this’ll be a goat rope.”
I enjoyed my egg over-easy on top the fried rice. Returning to my hooch, I took a short cut through the Thai barracks and steered towards a commotion of jabbering guards.
Around the corner, I found twelve of ’em surrounding this 5’2” fella struggling with a black Thai chicken clutched by its spindly legs.
I don’t think I’d ever heard a bird scream.
Maybe a far eastern bird dialect or something? But this bird was going batshit—and then I saw why. The coterie swarmed ’round the calamity and its handler, carrying it towards a six foot by two-foot screened cage of a pet jungle python.
Chicken fuckin knew bigtime.
Closer they got, more the chicken, clawed, clucked and tried to fly—faster they moved at the cage, the handler being shit-n-pecked, hands jerking about like he’d pissed off a wet bobcat in a burlap sack.
Instant they threw it in with the python, it threw its body around the cage like a trapped Wham-O Superball, or a cartoon bullet in a metal cube.
How long would it take the chicken to wear out?
The snake minded its agenda and after ten minutes of thrashing, the bird surrendered in a corner, chest heaving, blank eyes staring at the dark to sounds of fuck-you lizards mocking the bird’s resignation to its fate.
Dr. Strange had us caged.
Should I have felt so bad for a chicken?
Maybe I didn’t like the helplessness.
Maybe I sensed the possibility for my own where I might resign to die.
I’d avoid that route from then on and eat at Charen’s next time, an off base restaurant with real silverware and a full menu available 99% of the time with no US government control over the consistency of an egg-yolk.