24 May 2007

In Which Sarge is Full of the Sorrow and the Pity...


The days are numb. Barely measurable. I have been in an opiate haze for weeks now. A trap. Canucks, but I remember killing that bastard dealer with my own hands while around me howled Cody and where is Cody I wondered and then I didn't wonder but I slept and it was the needle that made me sleep and I saw that they wanted to make me slave to it.

After awhile I drooled and nodded my head. Some dead-end hotel in Sydney, yellowed walls and urine stains against the walls near the steps where they would take me out to some sessions with somebody I only knew as "the Medicine Man," he wore white corduroy suits and spoke Spanish to me as if he wanted to hide his English or French accent. I noticed this only at the end, but automatically answered him for weeks. In the room, the television on constantly, Australian talk shows are the worst, the hussies from Townsville or Cairns going on about some bloke who, surprise! turned out to not be fixable. He was hurt and I felt so sorry for him turns mighty quickly into he hurt me, he's selfish. Ah, daytime tv, in the end they did not have to feed me the needle to make me take it. I reached for it and it soothed me and blanketed me in release from this ugly truth of cinderblock and cockroach.

And they tried to make me talk.

I told them everything I knew about Canadian history, I told them over and over again that I didn't care, I still loved the Queen, still thought of her as part of Canada. Sentimental I said, sentimental but proud.

And there was torture. Withdrawal, the television turned to maximum volume, myself strapped down. Other things not so nice as even that but perhaps sometimes easier to endure. And where was Cody? I figured him dead and thought about how we should not become attached to the living who are not like us.

We kill them more surely than the enemy, I thought. I wept as they beat me with knotted rope and as they poured sand into my pried open mouth, but I wept for Cody. And they laughed and did not know they were not the cause of my suffering.

In this way I controlled the meaning of the torture and waited for the next fix and when it came, I knew the Medicine Man was close and I would talk to him in Spanish soon. He would be kind and fatherly, then angry and terrible. He showed me his pen made from bone. "Tanzania," he said by way of explanation. "I know," I answered, but it was just to acknowledge Tanzania. "No, Ghana," he said. "Impossible," I said, and then he had me beaten.

The jungle would unfold for me in their tortures and again I was running in my mind, Nwargo there, constantly telling me this way, that way, the trees there are dangerous! We must hide here until dark!" And then the Medicine Man asking me about Ottawa, about Calrissian. About Ranger. About Smitty. About the others.

About you.

"Where are your comrades now?" He would ask. I would not answer.

"They believe you a helpless addict. They want to kill you. They know you will talk!" And he would laugh and laugh, then stop and slap me.

"Come now, argument like this is useless."


They broke my nose and broke it again. I never hoped for death. Only to see Cody, and walk him on the ocean's edge where arguments and sentimentalities gain the proper perspective of being nothingness itself. I dreamed of shipwrecks and those dreams saved my life. I thought of the waves and Cody, with the gulls crying their song to the end of the world and the beginning of the water.

"Come now, good Sargeant," he would continue, "you do not have to work for us, but we will not let you go." And he would lean over and peer into my face, so that we were centimetres apart, and I -- tied down -- would think about tearing out an eye with my teeth and he would laugh again.

"But you are a professional," he would finish, reading my thoughts into his argument. "You...are a professional."

The odd assortment of dead things he always had there, and photographs. They showed me Ahmet. They showed me a shattered body in Talinn. "He did not make it," Medicine Man said, "we found him in a closet. He was still alive, his ribs on the left side shattered like clam shells when they break. He could not stop screaming."

Ahmet's death was simpler, and he did not comment on it. But they had blown up the picture and it greeted me at the hotel room they stowed me in. Sometimes I would talk to the dead body in the night. Not out loud of course, biting my lips to know where my tongue was, then I would talk to Ahmet, and tell him how sorry I was.

They claimed they had killed Nwargo. Described his death. Traced it for me. But nothing could convince me of it, as they said they had gotten him in Egypt, but I did not let on and allowed myself to weep for Cody then: the one time I cried.

Medicine Man carved a map on my arm with a knife, of the Ministergarten. He laughed and told me how it was so simple when their man told them everything they needed. How could I hope to fight them, when they knew exactly when we were going to punch. I finally talked, I said,

"Tell that to Aglionby."

He slapped me. It was my turn to laugh.

Then I was silent.

They did not trust me with needles, obviously, and when I dosed myself with the heroin it was always powder, but as I began to dream more often of killing Medicine Man I found I could not make myself and they began to force me to take it. Torture was increased. The truth was more desperately needed by them as the time wiled away, and I was a tougher nut to crack than they had thought.

Medicine Man would say, "The Maple Leaf is crumbling even now. Don't you know how we despise you?" Silence.

The Medicine Man would say, "Guards, saltwater." And I would choke and he would intone over me the whole time, "This is the Maple Leaf that has made you thus. This is the water that spills from the Maple Leaf. And it will rain forever." And this would go on for hours, his voice soothing so that I didn't wonder if the guards hated him too. But they were always silent.

One night I was dreaming. Sweating. The heroin had not been given to me in a day and a half. Medince Man was gone apparently. Sam stood over my bed. He was talking but his words bent and fell, darker clouds in the darkness. He was gesturing and it felt like we were below the ocean. Echoing and crashing.

He shook me.

"For Christsake, boy-o!"

A guard stood crumpled against a dresser, a trail of blood running from his neck. The door was open and outside I saw another lump as my eyes adjusted to the light. I needed to throw up and get more blankets. Sam pulled me up.

"Nwargo's dead," I said in a monotone. I know not why.

"Nwargo's not dead you idiot, but we will be!" He hissed at me. "Come on!"

He helped carry me out as I staggered and threw up on the corpse of the guard right outside the door. He was one of the ones who had been most cruel to me when we were with Medicine Man.

One more brilliant gift I received that night: Cody ran up to me, I fell into a heap, crying, laughing, ecstatic, suddenly not sick. I began to run.

"That's better now!"

Cody ran beside me, and then we were in a van, then a helicopter, flying low over the outskirts of Sydney, where the lights stop. And then a car, driving now, Cody asleep against my leg.

I am at a safehouse now and Sam tells me I must back to Africa quickly. Cody will come with me. I will keep my job at the restaurant, Sam says, for when I need it, for Australia is still hot.

Two mornings later, we raided an orphanage and killed three French bomb makers and one of their propaganda experts. The orphanage had been used for making bomb parts because the children's hands, so nimble and small, could fit certain parts together without as great risk of blowing themselves up. Those missing hands, feet or eyes, were kept for cleaning and record-keeping. It was a terrible sight to see, and sticking the knife into Fourait, the bombmaker, not the sabateur, I had said to him, "please sir, I want some more." And I put the knife in deeper. I felt I had finally returned.

So it is to be Africa again. I know not why. I shall see Nwargo soon though, and that fills me with happiness. He will meet Cody and we will play chess. Never let Nwargo take a bishop if you can help it.

Be careful of yourself. I only wish we could have killed Medicine Man. I wonder often, as I prepare for Africa, who he is.

with best wishes,


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