Desert Flowers

Desert Flowers

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Idle Hands

Water is running.
  I'm sitting on the edge of a bed, in a hotel room. The vent is blowing dust, with a smattering of hot air.
The wall paper is peeling in long strips, as if some enormous clawed beast had scratched at it. The panel roof is stained yellow, from the years where smoking had been allowed in every room. The lights from the transport trucks running their mid night duties along the airport highway cast a beam on the wall above the creaky queen size bed, echoed by shadows tossed around the room. The only constant light in the room is the one 25 Watt bulb by the door, enough light to follow the trail of her clothes to the washroom. She had started top to bottom.
 I picked up her shirt, breathing in the smell of her perfume. It wasn't overbearing; you could only smell from in close, if you were to place your lips on her perfectly accentuated collar bone.
 With only a glance, I stepped over her bra. My head was swimming. Her jeans bore the signature of a quick, careless departure from her body, strewn haphazardly on the worn shag carpet. One leg inside out, the other with a sock attempting escape. Hmmm....wonder where the other is....
She had left the door slightly ajar, to let the light in. I hastily discarded my own garments, allowing myself only a minute to gather my thoughts, and to catch my breath. I pushed open the door....
 Her back was to me as I manoeuvred my way into the shower, her head slightly cocked to the right and facing down, eyes closed. I stood motionless to take in the sight of immaculate body.
Her hair gave way to a light fuzz on the nape of her neck, which traced its way down the  beginnings of her spine, before the willow tree tattoo back piece took over, its branches seeming to sway with the rise and fall of her breath. My eyes feasted on the curves of her hips, over her ass cheeks, scalded pink from the hot water of the shower, down her shapely legs to her feet, and back up again. Perfect.
 I took a half step towards her, slowly running my finger tips up the sides of her rib cage, while my lips found their way to her shoulders. Her skin was soft, and I indulged to the fullest.
My hands did not stop, taking her body parts in them, and I tingled with pleasure as she let out a gasp as I did so. I could feel her own hands reach behind her, her hands on my flesh driving me mad with the most intense desire...

“Hey Jabroni, car from the East. Get off your butt. Time to work.” She giggled.
I looked at Nabi, my favourite ANP, who seemed to be watching me with a curious expression.
He flicked his cigarette into the ditch, one more butt to be added to the thousands.
“Come Seitan. Shiesta Zan.” He gave me a knowing smile, as we followed her onto Lake Effect.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

You Will Never Read This....

My Dearest,
 You will never read  this. I will never give it to you. I will not walk across the courtyard to where you now sleep and hand it to you. I will not leave it somehwere you could stumble upon it in passing. Many years from now, you will not receive this in the mail. You will never read this letter.
 I suppose that I write these words than to myself. Perhaps, for me to understand this series of complex emotions that seem to take hold of me every time I'm in your pressence, or I see you walk happily around the corner with the sat phone, or even if I just think of you. Maybe, I write this letter to myself, to admit that I have indeed fallen head over heals in love with you.....

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Road Known As Lake Effect

"TPT One, Loud and Clear, Over."
I looked at Ryan, strapped into his driver's seat, his 5-point harness, helmet and dark issued glasses making him look like he was about to fly a Herc instead of making the most dangerous 14 hour drive of his life.
He kissed his wedding ring, crossed himself, and touched the roof of the 30 tonne vehicle, reverantly with his gloved hand.
"You crossed yourself backwards, you unfaithful twit."
"Go fuck yourself. Doesn't matter if I don't believe. You know we are going to die, right?"
I laughed. He was probably right.
"Do something lucky. You have to. I don't give a fuck what it is, find something."
"Don't tell me what to do." But to appease him I snapped the rubber band I wore on my wrist...For luck.
"There. Happy?"
"If I die, tell my wife I love her."
"If you die, probably means I'm dead too. But I will. I will tell her. And than I will take her to the Keg, be her shoulder to cry on at the funeral, and when she collects your benefits we will drive a Viper with  JODY ONE as the license plate."
"I hate you."
"I know."
"I love you."
"I know. Now...Can we catch up to the packet?"

 We were departing Kandahar Air Field for the first time. We had been in theatre all of an hour before we had been informed by our Chain of Command that we were going to Patrol Base Belanday, to be attached with Delta Company HeadQuarters. This was a good thing. During build up training, Ryan and I had trained with all the companies in First Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and we had established that DCoy had the most competant troops and leadership, a biased opinion since our old platoon and Sergeant Major were members of the company.
The butterflies had started to creep as we had sat in packet form for hours, waiting to to roll out through the Estonian guarded gate, but as we took the left at the ancient MIG fighter jet onto Highway 4, it felt more like a vanguard of birds were flying around inside of me. My heart raced, pounding against my chest like Tommy Lee on a speed binge. Ok, now I'm nervous. It was also terribly exciting, as I sat there, riding shotgun, my life completely out of my hands. Sickening, Exhilerating...
We had made it 400 meters outside the gate before we saw the first Nyala in the packet go up in smoke.
"Holy Shit. Holy Shit. Holy-"
"Shit." I interupted him. "Dude...There are dudes with AKs 50 meters away on our right."
I nearly pissed myself with laughter, as Coca Cola sprayed from his mouth.
"You thought it was time for a Coke break? Really?"
"What!?! It helps me concentrate while I drive! Are you serious? Men with guns? Shoot them!"
We were as green as the grass on a freshly mowed Ontario soccer pitch. The Nyala was being driven by Reservists out of British Columbia, and they had failed to service it properly. Hence the smoke spewing like dragon's breath from under the plated hood. The "insurgents" to our right were actually security guards for a petrol depot owned by the Afghan government. To us though, we felt that the entire might of the Taliban was about to reign 7.62 death down upon us. We were surely going to be dragged through the streets of Kandahar by white Toyota trucks, and CBC would report on our deaths somewhere between news of a Nova Scotia sex scandal and a feel-good piece of some small town prairie boy awarded for saving his neighbours 14 year old Labr-Doodle from asphyxiation. Due I am sure to The Han's (the not-so loving nicknamed given to Ryan) backwards non-faith and my rubber bands, we escaped death. After two hours, several Cokes and a vehicle swap, we began to roll again, down that ashphalt goat path to Kandahar City.
  There is no way to describe that fabled city, named after Alexander the Great, who once called it "The City of Dogs," after all the strays that fed on the garbage and decay. Not much has changed since he was there. Still garbage.Still decay. Still filled with dogs.
  We drove. And we'd stop. Drive. Stop. Traffic. Culvert sweep. Drive. Stop. IED threat. Culvert sweep. Traffic. Kid throwing rocks.IED. Pigeons released. Stop. Roof top threat. Nevermind. It's a pipe. Drive.
We drove to Camp Nathan Smith. We drove to Forward Operating Base Mas'um Ghar. At one point the 19 year old reserve lieutenant had us driving continously around a traffic circle in downtown KC. We finally drove to the Dand District Centre, where our Delta escort waited impatiently for us.
 "Look. This is simple. See that dirt road. That's Lake Effect. It leads into the boonies." The burly Jack spoke with a Welsh accent, watered down from years of living in London and Alberta. "You follow us, we drive until we get to the gate with Maple Leaf flag. Any problems, not that I give a fuck?"
Ryan and I shook our heads. We were drained. The sun was going down, in the exact direction we were going to be driving. We'd been up since 4am. Our brains were scrambled. And Johnny, as we'd later find out the Jack was named, scared the "bloody piss" out of us. We had no problems.
"Right. Well, let's get going. EOD found 3 IEDs on Lake Effect, so we are gonna be checking all the culverts." Great. That is "bloody good" news.
Lake Effect is appropriately named. Driving it feels like bucking over Lake Simcoe  on the back of a SeaDoo. By the time we reached the pitiful gate of Belanday, perched right across the street from the largest pot field I've ever seen, my insides felt like soup. My brain was so rattled that I felt like I just taken a concussive blow against the boards. And tracer rounds were screaming over the roof of the truck as we parked in the Helo, the sandpit at this time located OUTSIDE the small camp.
Excellent first day outside the wire.
I could barely feel my legs trying to adjust to standing again when Ryan cheerfully piped up.
"Dude, check that out!"
"What could possibly be more important than getting the fuck to bed?" I was cranky. The days' adranline was spent. I turned around to look anyway.
Four months later, in a remote village camp, 15 km southwest of KC, 5 km north of the Afghan Red Desert, my heart stopped again.
 There she was.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cogs In The Wheel

"Invaluable training..."
That was he had said. When I heard those words pass his lips, I almost laughed out loud, as I am sure every single member of my Company did.
A few of us sat around on milk crates and camp chairs, as one of the last days of Exercise Maple Guardian came to a close. Over a month of stupid-ness in Wainwright, possibly the most miserable place in Canada, doing nothing...sleep in overcrowded mod tents, reeking of body odor and other secretions, was interupted by daily gate duty, a movie or a game of dice. I was sick of hearing the beep beep beep of my Laser tag Tactical vest telling me I had died when the damn thing had been under my cot the whole time, so I took out the battery. No more techno death. I had smoked numerous cartons, ate every can of Chef Boyardi, mastered solitaire on IPod, and read every book on camp....Invaluable training for Afghanistan, a place that had already claimed the lives of over 140 Canadian soldiers by this point...
I shook my head as I sat there, debombing my mags, every single round still acounted for. Fuck..
I had my back to her as she began to walk past our little clan of disgruntled infanteers. However, when  6 or 7 soldiers stop bitching and start doing the nudges and head gesturing, it means only one thing...a woman.
Now...I use this term loosely... I am not saying that every female soldier in the Canadian Forces is an overweight, penguin-like wadler who can barely squeeze into her pants, and fights both button and stubble alike. But it seems that a great percentage of our female compatriots fit this description. But, after spending a few months laying inches from another man, with little or no contact with the fairer species, an elephant like lady will start to take the shape of Lindsey Lohan or Scarlet Johanson. Its the way it my expectations were not high for this CadPat wearing disturber of the force, as I slightly shifted my seat to have a better vantage point for when she walked by.
 Every single day, without fail, I have thought of that moment. I imagine, that memory, that I keep inside me like a prize from a Kinder egg, will be my last thing that passes through my mind on my dying day.
 I can vividly picture  the mid-June sun dancing off her green eyes, catching the oranges and browns in them, forcing my heart to come to a complete stand still. Her short cropped hair and her thin lipped grin complemented her swagger, a confident gait born presumably of many of years of living day to day in a male dominated sub-culture, knowing full well that she was a thoroughbred in a world of spotted ponies. Her dress was immaculate; boots bloused high, shirt tucked and held firm, while the colorful half sleeve tattoo on her lower left arm screamed that the soldier in her only made up a part of who and what she was.
 As the others started in with usual vulgarities, describing in detail what they would do for her and to her, given the chance, I noticed that I had not breathed in some time. My throat was dry, my stomach twisted in knots, and it seemed that my own boots had decided to become one with the dry Alberta dirt. I couldn't move, I could barely think. I could faintly here my comrades prompting me for my own perverted thoughts on the masterpiece of female form that had just galavanted past. Admittedly, normally these type of promptings would have inspired a tiredless and endless devulging of the deviant I kept barely beneath the surface, but I couldn't for the life of me find the words. Truth be told, I didn't know if it was right to speak of what was surely God's work in those terms. What I am trying to say in laymen's terms, is that the mere pressence of this woman, had fucked me up.
 This woman had stopped my whole world on its axis, as if a child had spun a globe and dropped his finger on the Arctic circle. I would be forever indebted to my creator for the moment of peace and tranquility that had erupted so quickly out of one of chaos. I felt at ease, comfortably nervous in my own skin, as if my mind and body had just met each other. Enlightening almost.
 And as quickly as she had ceased time, time took her away.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Part One- Dust and Dogs

 Screaming...My son is screaming. By the sound of it, he is one octave away from shredding his vocal cords to pieces. I've never heard him, or any other human for that matter, make a sound like that. And here I thought I could sneak some much needed guitar playing on the patio. I place the butt end of my Export to my lips for one last pull, and finger a descending C scale before placing the cheap Yamaha on a dirty lawn chair. Ready. As much as any young dad can be anyway.
 I bound up the stairs, with only a minute pause to reflect with four letter expletives upon my newly earned Iron Man toy-inflicted injury. The screaming is becoming vehemently worse as I near his bedroom door. Deep breath, than I push the door open...

 My eyes flash open.
It takes more than a minute for the receptors in my brain to allow me to come to terms with where I am.
I'm laying on my air mattress, half deflated, still in my boots. Wrapped in my favorite camo Ranger blanket, the lucky one from Battle School, I'm kept warm mostly by the fine layer of dust that covers me from head to toe, and has found its way into every crevice and orifice of my body.
 I reach for the CamelBak tube that snakes down the pole from the top bunk, to slag the thirst, but mostly to dislodge and wash down the ball of sand that had accumulated in my throat in the two hours since I had been relieved from Gate duty. Yet, still the screaming was there.
Reluctantly, always reluctantly, I roll out of bed, not so gracefully, and trying not to wake Aaron, who seemed impervious to the screaming that I could only imagine was coming from one of Satan's subjects who had somehow managed to find his way to the impromptu CDU that had been set up across the court yard.
 I strapped the issued Browning to my leg, and more importantly shaded my eyes with a set of Oakleys before opening the door to the blazing sun. I knew it would be retenae assaulting and skin burning, even if my shitty watch read only 0745. Eyes covered. Onward.
 The square angled horseshoe courtyard, that usually was the gathering area for the men, and few women of Patrol Base Belanday, was almost completely empty, save for two Afghan National Police, sitting dejectedly on my stoop. The pungent smell of their Pine cigarettes hung in a thick cloud right in front of my door, held close by the thick dusty air. As disgusting as they smelled, they tasted even worse. I bummed one anyway. Someone had fucked with the Canadian imports, so fuck it, when in Rome....
 And still the screaming filled the silent air, eminating as I had suspected from the Med Station.
Did I miss something??? I thought torture was forbidden by the Canadian Forces!! Whatever the docs were doing to the source of those sounds must constitute torture, as I'm sure the patient would also agree with me. God, Pines are gross. Cheap fuckin' Paki darts...Screaming.

Love. War. And Other Things...

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs....and returns home to find it.

I knew a soldier once. She was as hard as the sun-caked mud, and as beautiful as the desert flowers, that every now and than, bloomed from the arid landscape. Sometimes, when she thought you weren't looking, she could be as soft as her eyes showed her to truly be.
In just over 120days, she did more to turn the growing tide of anti-Western ideology in a small Afghan community, than an entire Infantry Battalion was capable of achieving. When she patrolled the maze of villages, the children screamed her named and thronged and clamoured about her. The men stared longingly and joked with her, and the women stood silent, in open mouthed admiration, at this "doctor-soldier," her eyes hidden behind darkened lenses, her assault rifle at the ready...Neither able to conceal her natural compassion towards the often misguided people of that soiled, yet wonderous nation...
I play a small role in this story, and as I came to love her, I shall attempt to be unbiased. I shall try...
This is HER story, after all.....