21 November 2007

Ranger - Caduceus


One month in the Congo is interesting. Two months are torture. The fighting in the south has returned. Sarge was an unexpected casualty.

It wasn’t too hard to pick out the august white man the Red Cross brought into town after a tip by a Spanish photojournalist. “Lambchops” was the tipoff, though I had no idea how the Spaniard knew the idiom. He came into town with the remnants of the militia unit which had days later toppled Kabamba in North Kivu. What the hell he was doing there, I have no idea. But as always he was surrounded by an attentive crew – locals who he had somehow managed to charm while barely being able to draw breath and without knowing anything more than pidgin Kiswahili. One man in particular, gaunt, dark and battle-hardened was keeping a keen eye on him until I arrived.

“Fucking lung.” Were his first two words. “Had to borrow cigarettes from Zico to use the cellophane as a field dressing…flutter valve Corporal said.” As he lightly pretended to tap his chest. “Too bad…Project X…not real, hunh?” Asshole. I couldn’t help but laugh. I hadn’t stopped smiling since I saw the attractive field nurse look over at him four times. Four goddamn times.

His eyes started to roll back in his head. I checked his arms just in case. I have no idea where he was or how long it took him to get here, but I also remember your stern lecture about pneumothoraces. Bad survival rate, if its not handled right I thought. He mumbled something about Leopold and Mobutu, but I have no idea if he was still trying to make me laugh, if it was some kind of code, or if he had latched on to some kind of conspiracy theory.

They took him to the nearby hospital where I was replacing U-joints last week. The roads here are murder. I am recognized there and so was allowed to stay nearby during the surgery. I don’t recall how long went by before I was overtaken by fatigue. Three days passed and Sarge and I were able to discuss some of what has been happening here. “You know what the Romans did with wounds like this don’t you?” was one of his more memorable quips. And I haven’t read Dumas enough to have any idea what he was talking about half of the rest of the time. Then he took a turn for the worse again. After another long wait, the doctor came out to tell me Sarge was recovering and that I would be able to see him soon. But I was troubled, the man who I had seen before had reappeared to me in my dreams, or in something like a dream. I went straightaway to his room, which was empty.

“We did everything we could” a new doctor told me “but we cannot save your friend.” Show me the body, I asked. Given the new doctor’s genuine look of surprise on our visit to what passes for a morgue here, I decided not to kill him.

“Well you will certainly be hearing from the blue helmets for loosing this body” I told him, not knowing why. That bastard left a picture of Cody in my room before taking off again. I haven't seen the cute nurse either. I’m sure he will fill you in on the rest.

So long,


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