I was surprised Hitler had that much time to worry about me:
I was surprised Hitler had that much time to worry about me:
Bombs! Explosions! The fate of the free world!
BQB here with a review of Christopher Nolan’s World War II flick, “Dunkirk.”
It’s May of 1940. The Nazis have swept into France and pushed allied British and French troops to the sea. 400,000 troops await evacuation while being pinned down by Nazi fighter/bomber warplanes.
The stakes are high. The loss of 400,000 troops would be a terrible loss for the allies, hindering their chances of victory. However, Churchill has surmised that to send in Navy warships to pick up the men would be a suicide mission, essentially sinking the much needed ships.
Thus, it’s a death defying escape mission. The film switches back and forth between various parties. British Fighter Pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) patrols the scene, shooting down German fighters and watching the backs of those on the ground below. Meanwhile, Mark Rylance plays Mr. Dawson, one of the many private citizens who volunteered to take their commercial/fishing boats into the war zone to help rescue the troops. He dukes it out with Cillian Murphy, a battle weary soldier he’s picked up who, for obvious reasons, is scared to return to Dunkirk.
Soldiers trapped in the hold of a ship hunker down to avoid the constant gunfire piercing the ship’s hull. Kenneth Branagh, the highest ranking officer on the scene, makes a lot of sullen facial expressions every time one of his subordinates delivers bad news, essentially capturing the fear that death might be certain and imminent.
If you’re looking for a plot driven film, you might be disappointed. There isn’t much intrigue. There aren’t any twists. There isn’t much in the way of getting to know the characters or their backstory. It’s basically a battle reenactment caught on film.
It’s a pretty intense ride. Nolan makes ample use of ominous music, making you feel as though a Nazi fighter pilot might drop a bomb on your head at any minute. He also works wonders with sound, the explosions are so loud and jarring you can feel them rattle you, probably the closest experience to war that can be provided through a film.
History flicks are always a risk. The general public does not want to be educated. They want to be entertained. However, Nolan earned his bones through Batman, giving him the ability to preserve this heroic tale on film, one where the military and private citizens came together in a swift, massive effort to avoid a defeat that could have been staggering.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Worth a trip to the theater.
So, after I visited the 1970s and busted up a gang of ninjas in a disco, thus making all bushes in the future 25% bushier, I then went back in time to the early 1900s with one goal in mind – I would stop World War II from happening.
I arrived in Austria, where a dopey looking young man named Adolf Hitler was sitting on a park bench, trying to draw a picture of his bratwurst (not the one in his pants but the one he was intending to have for lunch later.)
“That’s a fine piece of art, Herr….”
“Hitler,” Hitler said. “And nein! I have applied to every art school around and they all tell me my work is nothing but goosenpoopen.”
“Really?” I said. “That’s terrible. Everyone with creative talent should be able to pursue it.”
“That’s what I said,” Hitler said. “But if I don’t get into art school I will have to go to my fall back plan.”
“What’s your fall back plan?” I asked.
“To scheme my way into the German Chancellorship, declare war on the entire world and gas six million Jews to death,” Hitler said.
I was shocked. I mean, I knew the history but still, to hear him say it out loud. It was disturbing, to say the least.
“That’s your back up plan?” I asked.
“Ja,” Hitler said. “Also I might bang my niece.”
“What?” Hitler asked.
“Well,” I said. “Is there no happy medium with you dude? Most people who don’t get into art school say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go be a janitor’ or ‘I guess I’ll go be a plumber’ or some other noble occupation. I have literally never heard someone say, ‘Well, if I don’t get to do what I want then I’m just going to become the leader of a country and use my power to gas all the people I don’t like.”
“Undt bang my niece,” Hitler said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve never heard anyone say they want to do that either.”
“Undt I won’t gas all of them,” Hitler said.
“You won’t?” I asked.
“Nein,” Hitler said. “Some of them I’ll push into ovens, or I might line them up against a wall and have them shot, or send them off to camps where they starve to death, or use them as forced labor and work them until they die of malnutrition and exhaustion.”
“Dude!” I said.
“It’ll be a mixed bag, really,” Hitler said. “I mean, ja, most of them will get the gas chamber or the oven but I’ll play it by ear and see how it goes.”
“Hitler,” I said. “Not for nothing, but why do you hate Jewish people so much?”
Hitler sat back on the bench and closed his eyes. “One time, when I was but a little kiddenheimer, I vent to lunch at mein school and a Jewish boy he…”
“Beat you?” I asked. “Tortured you?”
“Nein!” Hitler said. “He ate mein lunch!”
“Mein sausage! It was all gone!” Hitler said. “He said it was an accident. He mixed up his bag with mine. He apologized profusely but at that very moment I said to myself, ‘Adolf, you must really gas all these people and push them into ovens and only then will you get your revenge for your lost sausage!'”
“Hitler,” I said. “Honestly, it sounds like the kid just made a mistake. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes we accidentally offend someone and all we can do is apologize and move on. Even if he did it on purpose, it’s one kid. You can’t denounce an entire group just because one member of the group did something you like. One member of a group doing something wrong doesn’t mean the entire group is bad. Seriously, what group in the entire world doesn’t have at least bad apple in it?”
“You sound like undt pussenstein,” Hitler said.
“No, really Hitler,” I said. “You’ve got to listen and maybe I can help you screw your head on straight here. If you’re just going to start killing groups of people just because one of them did something you didn’t like then you’re going to have to just kill the entire world.”
“Das est mein intention,” Hitler said. “First the Jews, then the world. Mein armies vill spread out across the globe. All vill either obey me or vill be shoved in the oven.”
“Where are you even going to get a people oven?” I asked. “It’s not like there’s a people oven store.”
“I’m going to make a people oven,” Hitler said. “I have some rudimentary designs. You want to see?”
“Not really,” I said. “But Hitler, have you considered the fact that on the whole, Jewish people are good eggs?”
“Nein!” Hitler said.
“Good food, good culture, music, arts, inventions, industry, hard work ethic,” I said. “Historically, the Jewish people bring a lot to the table.”
Hitler began scribbling something on a piece of paper.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
“A note to myself to have you pushed in an oven when I’m the chancellor,” Hitler said.
I sighed. “You’re hopeless, Hitler. Come on, let’s get you into art school.”
At that point, I found Hitler’s favorite art school. “Das Skoolen Fer Peepzen What Wantzen to Drawzen Not Like Scheizen.”
I brought a thousand bucks back with me, a lot for me even in 2017 but it was like a small fortune in the 1930s. I handed it off to the Dean and made him promise that he wouldn’t just accept Hitler, but that he’d also heap massive amounts of false praise on anything Hitler made, no matter how shitty it was. Further, I made the Dean promise to really promote Hitler’s work, get all his friends in the art community to become Hitler’s patrons. Set the guy up with a good living off of his art so he wouldn’t have to resort to his fall back plan of world domination and ethnic cleansing.
I arrived back in 2017, only to, you guessed it, learn that I had really cocked things up.
“Heil Hitler! Video Game Rack Fighter said to me upon my arrival to BQB HQ.
“What the hell?” I asked. “Video Game Rack Fighter, my beloved nerdy girlfriend! Why are you in a Nazi uniform? I’ve never known you to be anything but sweet and kind to all people! Are you a Nazi now?”
“Ja!” VGRF said. “Everyone is a Nazi now, thanks to the leadership of Steve Hitler!”
“Steve Hitler?” I asked.
“Ja!” VGRF said. “Heil Steve Hitler!”
“Something’s amiss,” I said. I turned on the TV and found a documentary. The announcer summed up what happened:
“All hail our beloved World Chancellor, Steve Hitler, who is alive and well over 140 years old thanks to creepy and disturbing Nazi scientific methods! Steve was but a modest little boy from Austria who used to sit back and dream of becoming a pig farmer. He would overhear his brother Adolf talk about his fall back plans of world domination and ethnic cleansing and think that sounded like a real neat-o way to make a living. However, he had doubts about Adolf. He thought Adolf would probably just cock the whole thing up and eventually lose the impending war. However, when Adolf was accepted to study at an acclaimed art school, Adolf gave Steve his blessing to pursue his goals of world domination and ethnic cleansing. In fact, Steve was so good at world domination and ethnic cleansing that Nazi historians are assured that Steve was the best choice to run the Nazi party whereas Adolf was better off behind the scenes. Also, the art school helped Hitler become such a great artist that Hitler drew all kinds of propaganda posters that inspired the masses to become super racist and evil! All hail the Nazi party and hail that random asshole that helped Adolf Hitler get into art school. Because of that guy, everyone in the world is either dead or a super racist evil Nazi now!”
“Aww crap sandwich,” I said. “I guess I know what I have to do.”
I returned to early 1900s Austria and found the version of myself that had time traveled to that time. I kicked him in the nuts and instantly felt the pain myself. I told him how his plan to stop World War II works out and he gasped.
After that, we scrapped the whole plan to stop Hitler and went to get some strudel instead.
The moral of the story? If you try to fix something, you’ll just make it worse, so just shut up and go get a strudel.
War! Intrigue! Nazis vs. Zoo animals!
BQB here with a review of The Zookeeper’s Wife.
Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, owners/operators of the Warsaw Zoo who used their property to save persecuted Jews during World War II.
Before the war, Jan (Johan Heldenburgh) and Atonina (Jessica Chastain), live an idyllic life. They love animals and they take care of zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, all sorts of exotic animals on their sprawling property. They even do a good business, charging admission.
Alas, all this changes because of the Nazis. Oh you dirty Nazis, you’re always the turd in history’s punch bowl, aren’t you?
The Zabinskis’ zoo is partially destroyed by Nazi bombs dropped all over the city. What’s left is confiscated. The animals are shot and turned into meat and soap for the Nazi war effort.
Sidenote: Whether it’s during World War II or more recently in Venezuela, once the government resorts to shooting zoo animals for food, shit is not good.
Back to the review. Long story short, what’s left of the zoo is turned over to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a German zoologist who had once been a friend of the Zabinskis in happier times. Sadly, once Lutz puts on a Nazi uniform and becomes Hitler’s official zoologist, he gets a little too drunk on power and becomes an insufferable douchen-dorfer.
You know you want to see this movie just because the villain is a Nazi zoologist, don’t you?
Anyway, being the good people that they are, the Zabinskis begin rescuing and hiding their close Jewish friends. Pretty soon, they realize that with underground tunnels once used to house tigers, buildings and trucks, they have all the means necessary to run a Jewish rescue/hiding/smuggling to safety operation.
The danger comes from the fact that they must do all this right under the nose of their ex-friend turned Nazi.
Will the Zabinskis be successful? Will they be caught?
You’ve got to watch to find out.
Overall, it’s a touching story. So many stories came out of WWII and they continue even today.
Much credit is due to the Zabinskis. They probably could have relied on their friendship with a Nazi to ride out World War II by just keeping their heads down and going about their business. Instead, they put themselves into great danger and in doing so, saved the lives of hundreds of people.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. A good movie, sort of an Oscar-bait film designed to show off Jessica Chastain’s acting chops. Not necessary to rush out to the theater but it’s worth a rental.
Sometimes a conscientious objector can still be a badass, 3.5 readers.
BQB here with a review of Hacksaw Ridge.
OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING
This film tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic who became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor after saving seventy-five men during the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge in World War II Japan.
Having experienced too much violence as a young man, the devoutly religious Doss vows to never commit violence and would rather die than hurt anyone, even if that someone is about to hurt him.
Naturally, the Army is puzzled as to why the hell he voluntarily signed-up if he won’t carry a rifle.
His superiors, played by Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, go out of their way to get him tossed out of the army as they can’t fathom the idea of a soldier who is unwilling to learn how to shoot a weapon.
Will Doss earn their respect in the end?
The first half of the film is a tad hokey. Lots of war movie cliches mixed in with Doss’ battle with the brass to pass basic training without touching a gun.
The second half is a blood and guts fest. Explosions and gun fire galore. Stabbings, mutilations, flame throwers, grenades, missing limbs, all kinds of gore.
Movies are able to speak with images and the message the director is giving us is, “war is hell.”
Some films and the overall media try to capture what it is like to be a soldier and fail. Patriotic movies are all well and good but this movie takes us onto the battle field in all of its “Holy shit my friend just got his face blown off and now a guy is stabbing me and holy crap my face is on fire and my leg just got blown off!” butt puckering glory.
Thus, if you want to join the army, make sure you’re joining for the right reasons (not just because a spiffy uniform is involved) and understand there will be many butt puckering moments you won’t be able to even comprehend until you face them.
Further, politicians should consider what soldiers must go through during war time and avoid war at all costs.
That’s the message I took away from it, anyway.
It’s definitely an underdog story as Doss takes heaps of abuse from his unit for his non-violent ways only to prove his bravery and save tons of men on the battlefield.
Speaking of underdogs, Mel Gibson’s career is also on the line here.
You remember Mel, don’t you?
Beloved actor/director. Starred in and directed a lot of great movies. Had a reputation of “Well, if Mel’s in it then it will be good” and then he had some, well, I won’t get into the details but let’s just say some well documented breakdowns.
Since then, he’s starred in some films that were sort of blah. This is Hollywood letting him at the helm with a big budget and a great script so…I mean the film is fabulous Oscar bait and though I don’t wear my emotion on my sleeve, even I found myself crying as Desmond proved all the naysayers wrong…
…but, it is still hard to get over those nasty rants, Mel. I don’t know. You might have to cure cancer or something.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy and worth a trip to the theater for the explosions, but skip the popcorn if you don’t want to hurl once the guts and limbs and assorted body parts start flying.
Hey 3.5 readers.
Just wanted to share an interesting article I read in The Guardian:
The article features an interview with Brunhilde Pomsel, who worked as a secretary for Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda during World War II.
At 105, Pomsel is a living bit of history. The article describes her as unrepentant, that her job as a secretary was just like any other job, that “a combination of ignorance and awe” “shielded her from reality.”
She discusses how after the war she was jailed by the Russians for five years. Only then, she claims, did she learn about the holocaust.
The article further explains that she had a friendship with a Jewish woman but wasn’t able to find out what happened to her until she visited the Holocaust Memorial in 2005.
“Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.”
I don’t know. Obviously, I can’t/don’t want to condone Nazi-ism or even working in the Nazi typing pool but I guess the fraulein might have a point. If that was where you lived and you needed a job and you weren’t exactly working for people who shared all the details…and if standing up to them meant you’d surely end up taking the big dirt nap…
I have no idea. I don’t want to pin a medal on her or anything but from a historical perspective the article is interesting and I imagine A German Life, the film in which she recalls her story, has a lot of history told by a rare person still alive who lived during that time period.
For the first time in twenty days, I felt comfortable enough to sleep in. VGRF was snuggled in close to me, her mouth wide open as she snored and blew a strand of her red hair up and down with each exhale and inhale.
There was someone I needed to check in with. I was way overdue.
I punched a number into the space phone and a few moments later, I found myself staring at a video feed of a blonde woman. She was all class and elegance. Her hair was such that it looked like she visited a salon daily. Her dress was one of the finest that the Beverly Hills boutiques had to offer.
She spoke with style and grace with an undertone of Old Hollywood glamour.
“Hello Ms. Donnelly.”
It was my attorney, Delilah K. Donnelly, Official Lead Counsel for the Bookshelf Battle Blog and my chief advisor on all legal matters.
“Are you quite alright?” Delilah asked. “I must say I haven’t heard from you in quite some time and after viewing the news reports regarding the tragedy in your hometown, I’ve grown dreadfully concerned.”
“I’m good for now,” I said. “But listen, I need your help.”
“I’m being targeted by a crooked general, one Thomas Morganstern,” I explained. “He’s none too pleased that Jake spilled the beans about Operation Fuhrerpunschen and intends to use the zombie apocalypse as a cover to blow me up, thus shutting the Bookshelf Battle Blog down for good.”
“Good heavens,” Delilah said. “The 3.5 readers would be lost without you, sir. What ever shall we do?”
“Tell Jake he needs to write down a rough draft of everything he can remember about the mission he went on to punch Adolf Hitler in the face,” I said. “Then get it to a secure location. Let Morganstern know that if anything ever happens to me, no, to any of us, that the manuscript will be self-published.”
“Shall we price it at ninety-nine cents on Amazon?” Delilah asked.
“Jesus Christ, Delilah,” I said. “What am I, a teenage girl hocking her love poems? We’re talking about the scoop on a top secret government operation to punch history’s greatest monster in the face. Surely we can get at least 2.99 for it.”
“Of course. I shall recruit Detective Hatcher’s assistance immediately,” Delilah said. “I must say it won’t be easy, Mr. Battler. He remains invariably displeased that you continue to withhold the secret of his sixty year nap from him.”
“You sound like you have something to say,” I said.
Delilah lit up one of her long filtered cigarettes and took a puff. I could tell she was stalling.
“Do you think its fair?” she asked.
“That I string Jake along like a circus monkey, making him dance for the info he wants to know?” I asked. “No, not at all.”
“He views you as some type of absurd villain,” Delilah said. “Toying with him just to drive your site’s readership higher than 3.5.”
“Then let him think that,” I said. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Delilah flicked some ash into a ceramic tray on her desk.
“Tell him the truth?”
“What?” I asked. “That a maniacal alien despot is threatening to conquer Earth unless my writing career takes off and that running a website featuring regular posts from a hard boiled noir style detective full of stories of his exploits might just be the one thing that puts me over the top?”
“I suppose it does sound foolish when you put it that way.”
“You’ve got a bigger heart than you’re given credit for Delilah,” I said. “But you know for the Pop Culture Mysteries posts to work, we need to insulate Jake from aliens, the Yeti, Dr. Hugo, really all the ridiculous nonsense that happens in the Bookshelf Battle world.”
“Very well, Mr. Battler,” Delilah said. “I must say I fear that Detective Hatcher may be in for quite a letdown when he discovers how he ended up here.”
VGRF stirred, stretched and yawned.
“Did you feel letdown when I told you how you ended up here?” I asked.
Delilah’s large eyes looked down.
“At first, yes. And for quite some time thereafter.”
“And now?” I asked.
She looked up.
“I feel eternally grateful for the gift you’ve given me.”
“Jake will eventually share that feeling.”
“I doubt that indubitably. Detective Hatcher is hardly as open minded as I am.”
“Hi Delilah,” VGRF said.
“Good morning, Ms. Fighter,” my attorney said. “Did you sleep well?”
“I’m ever so glad to hear it,” Delilah said. “Will there be anything else, Mr. Battler?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Halloween is coming. Can you see if Jake will find out why the hero in a horror movie just clubs the bad guy one time and assumes victory, only to find that the baddie has just discovered his second wind and is ready to fight again? I’ll send you the details. Tell Jake there’s a cool fiver in it for him.”
“Ever the big spender,” Delilah said. “I’ll deliver your requests to Detective Hatcher right away. Good day Mr. Battler. Ms. Fighter.”
“Good day,” I replied.
I hanged up the phone.
“You’re lucky to have her,” VGRF said.
“The top lawyer in Hollywood representing a guy with a blog that caters to a mere 3.5 readers?” I asked. “Uh…yeah, I think so.”
“She’s very loyal,” VGRF said.
“True,” I said. “And if there’s one quality you can’t get enough of in the zombie apocalypse, it’s loyalty.”
I dialed another number on the space phone.
“That reminds me. Time to call another zombie author.”
PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…
“Certainly, Sir Rupert.”
Lord Blackburn, barely distracted by my exit, continued to bore my wife with his chest puffery.
“Now my dear, have you ever wrestled a boa constrictor?”
“God,” I thought to myself. “I hope he’s still talking about the jungle.”
As my old friend and I made a swift exit, I was bumped into by Signora Bellavenuti, who was just returning from the bar where one of Count Rickard’s numerous servants had just poured her a robust red wine.
It was now all over the left breast side of my white tux.
“Merda!” the Signora shouted. “Scusi! Oh, Signor Hatcher, mea culpa.”
She brushed her red nailed hands over my chest, trying to remove the stain, but it just made it worse.
It’d been the fanciest set of threads I’d ever treated myself to, but Ma Hatcher raised a deferential gentleman.
“Think nothing of it, Signora.”
Not one for personal space, Bellavenuti opened up my jacket, took one peak at the label, and emitted a disgusted, “Ugh!”
“I have done you a favor! This is so last year!”
Rupert and I excused ourselves and headed down a hallway.
“I believe this is the third time I’ve saved your life, Hatcher,” Rupert said.
“What?” I asked. “Bellavenuti’s a clutz but I don’t think she was trying to kill me.”
“Not her, you daft blighter. Lord Blackburn. Had he chewed your ear off any longer you’d of blown your bloody brains out.”
Rupert pushed a door open and led me into one of Rickard’s many bathrooms. It was the most spacious crapper I’d ever seen. A man could really stretch out whilst doing his business in there.
“Has he really explored Africa?” I asked.
“That lecherous liar hasn’t even explored Liverpool,” Rupert answered. “He just wears that foolish safari costume so he can pretend to be interesting.”
Rupert locked the door.
“Rupert,” I said. “I’m flattered but I don’t swing that way.”
“This is not the time for jokes, Hatcher. Are you aware that MI6 has issued a standing order that you’re to be arrested as soon as you step off American soil?”
“Uh…no. Would have been nice if someone had warned me about that. Too bad I don’t have an old war buddy who’s a high ranking member of the British government.”
Rupert put a hand on my shoulder and made the face that people usually reserve when they’re about to deliver bad news.
“Hatcher, I’m afraid that MI6 has issued a standing order that you’re to be arrested as soon as you step off American soil.”
“Damn it,” I said. “And I just spent the whole night making a spectacle of myself at the poker table. What do I do now?”
I removed my jacket and ran the faucet. I sprinkled some water on the stain and rubbed away with my hand.
“I don’t know,” Rupert said. “Legally, I should arrest you myself right now.”
“You can try.”
“I did a spot of boxing myself, Jersey Jabber.”
“I don’t follow Queensbury rules, limey.”
“Be reasonable, man.” Rupert said. “You must tell me where the phage is God knows what you’ve done with it.”
I rubbed harder and harder. The stain. Not Rupert. Just making sure you 3.5 readers understand that, since this scene took place with two men in a bathroom after all.
“You doubt my integrity?”
“I doubt your country’s. Any country’s when it comes to this. If some big shot finds out you know, they’ll torture you until you talk.”
The Brit closed the toilet lid and took a seat.
“At least tell me it’s safe then.”
“The case AND the key?” Rupert asked.
“Both of them,” I replied.
“Surely you’ve had the good sense to store them far apart from one another?”
I stopped scrubbing and turned to face Rupert.
“You think I’m that stupid?”
Rupert shot back a “you don’t want me to answer that” look.
I poured some more water on the stain and gave it my all. Rupert, consummate neat freak that he was, got up, grabbed my jacket and a towel off the rack, and took the entire cleaning operation over.
“Oh, sod off! You’re just making it bigger! Give it to me!”
Again. The stain. Clarity is everything here, 3.5
It dawned on me that all that washing could be destroying my check, but then I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered Bellavenuti had bumped into the side without the pocket where I kept my prescription for moolah.
“You should destroy it.”
“You know who will destroy me as soon as I do.”
Gently, the Brit dabbed away at the mess with the towel, carefully lifting up a bit more red with each motion.
“This is bigger than you, you twat. It’s bigger than all of us.”
My impromptu helper grabbed a second towel off the rack, dried the water up, and handed the jacket back. There was still a slight trace, but I had to hand it to Rupert.
“You’ll make someone a fine wife one day, RR,” I said as I put my evening wear back on.
“Shut up,” Rupert said. “Is this some kind of game to you?”
“Because it’s the fate of the world to me.”
“And for me.”
A lock of black hair had fallen down over Rupert’s forehead. He pushed it up.
“Any other man I’d have in cuffs beating the snot out of him right now.”
My pal stared at his face in the mirror for awhile, waiting as if the reflection was going to advise him what to do.
“Cut your holiday short and head home on the first flight you can board tomorrow.”
“Yes. Tomorrow morning, I’ll feed them a tip you were spotted in the casino of the Hotel Rondileau and were overheard telling various barflies that you had immediate plans to jet set off to Istanbul. Our men monitoring the area won’t bother to keep an eye on the airport as they’ll believe you’re already gone.”
“You could get in a lot of trouble.”
“Especially since we’ve been hanging out at the same dinner party all evening.”
“I never saw you, Hatcher,” Rupert said. “And if anyone ever says otherwise, I was too blind, stinking drunk to recognize anyone tonight.”
“But you’re sober.”
“And it’s time to change that immediately.”
We left the bathroom and walked back to the sitting room.
“Congratulations on the election, by the way,” I said.
“Worst decision I ever made. Never get into politics Hatcher.”
“It makes me yearn for the war, back when at least it was easy to spot the enemy.”
“You’re a good man, Double-R. England’s lucky to have you.”
“Yes, now go sit somewhere far away from me, will you, Yankee imbecile I’ve never met before?”
Image courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.
Copyright Bookshelf Q. Battler. All rights reserved.
In theory, if Jake were to write a second novel after Mr. Devil Man about his time in World War II and specifically about how he punched a certain dictator in the face, these three chapters might be how it would begin.
Feedback, criticism (especially negative) welcomed and appreciated.
The last drop of water tumbled out of my canteen and onto my tongue, providing momentary refreshment until a grim reality set in:
None of us had a clue where our next source of hydration was going to come from.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
“I hate your guts Dag,” I said as I laid down across the side of the M4 Sherman Tank under my command. “Before we all die of heatstroke out here I just want you to know that.”
Clank. Clank. Clank.
Victor “Dag” D’Agostino was my mechanic, a fast talking Italian fella from Brooklyn, not all that far from my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey in the grand scheme of things. He was a decent enough guy, though a little twitchy. He was a real bundle of nerves, able to fly into a blind rage at the slightest provocation.
Luckily, he was a small fry so he wasn’t able to do too much damage.
“Got any 7’s?”
On the opposite side of the turret, a no holds barred game of Go Fish was underway.
“No. Look, right here. You have a seven. If someone asks you if you have a seven, you’re supposed to fork it over dummy.”
I closed my eyes and listened to the Southern drawl of my second-in-command, Corporal Samuel T. Calhoun. He was a big fella, at least 6’5” and packing two-bucks and some change of solid muscle. It was a bitch to share a tank him on account of his massive size, but I was glad he was on our side.
“Larry,” Sam said. “I can’ t for the life of me figure out how we’ve been playing this all damn day and you still don’t know the rules.”
“I can’t figure out why two red blooded American males aren’t playing poker,” I interjected.
“Nothing to bet with Sarge,” came Sam’s reply. “Except sand, sand and more sand.”
Clank. Clank. Clank.
“I can’t gamble anyway,” Larry added. “I promised Lorraine before I left that this war wasn’t going to turn me into a disciple of the devil and by God I’m going to keep that promise.”
Sam and I groaned. I don’t remember what we each said, but it was along the lines of “Oh for the love of” and “not this again.” We made our lamentations at the same time.
Private Larry Torkilsen was a freckle faced, red-haired Iowa boy, straight out of the corn field and as naive about the world as he was goofy looking. None of us had the heart to tell him that Lorraine had probably run off with a Good Time Charlie as soon as he shipped out.
“Does this girl even exist?” Sam asked.
“Of course she does, here’s a picture.”
A moment passed. A few more clanks and then a, “BLECH!.”
Larry walked around the turret to visit me. I was feeling feint from being baked alive under the hot North African sun so naturally, there was a part of me that wanted to tell the kid where to shove his photograph.
On the other hand, the private’s scrawny carcass blocked the sun’s rays, giving me a little relief, but not much.
“Wanna see my girl, Sarge?”
“Give it here.”
I opened my eyes to see a snaggle toothed walrus of a gal, but even under the stress of the predicament I was in, I recalled two of Ma Hatcher’s most important lessons:
1) It’s what’s on the inside that matters.
2) If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
“Top notch broad you’ve got there, Larry,” I said as I handed the photograph back. “If I were you I’d be all over that like stink on a monkey.”
Clank. Clank. Clank.
“Thanks Sarge,” Larry said. The kid sat down a few inches from my feet and allowed his to dangle over the side of the giant metal beast.
Crapola. He was probably going to want to talk.
“You ever get scared, Sarge?”
I could literally feel my flesh searing. I felt like a nice juicy porterhouse must feel when it hits the frying pan.
“Please,” Sam interrupted as he took a seat on top of the turret. “The Sarge has a big ole pair of brass clankers.”
“Everyone gets scared now and then,” I said. “Anyone who tells you they don’t is a damn liar.”
Finally, some silence….but not for long.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
“But the person who should be scared is Dag, who was given…”
I raised my voice to make sure the little twerp would be able to hear me through all the racket he was making.
“…A DIRECT ORDER TO HAVE THIS CONTRAPTION IN TIP TOP SHAPE BEFORE WE LEFT!”
Dag lifted his head away from the engine. He was still wearing his leather helmet with the goggles that made his beady little eyes look bigger than they wear.
“What do you want?! Do you think I asked for this?!”
I sat up. The three of us became an audience ready to take in a comedy show we’d seen plenty of times before.
“Do you think I was sitting there one day in my ma’s kitchen, gobbling up one of her delicious Sunday dinners, thinking to myself, ‘Holy Shit, I really hope that a bunch of shit head politicians will decide that I have to travel all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to some Godforsaken desert wasteland just so I can fight a bunch of Krauts who stole a wasteland from the Frogs who, by the way, stole it from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or whoever the shit owned this shit hole first.”
I apologize, modern 3.5 readers. People weren’t very nice when it came to talking about race back in those days. Looking back on it, I was ahead of my time in my progressiveness. I never used words like, “Krauts” or “Frogs” when “Germans” and “French” would do.
“You’re right, Sarge,” Dag continued. “This is all my fault, because after I wished to be snatched up and sent over here, I also got down on my hands and knees and prayed to God every single night to please, please stick me in the shittiest excuse for a tank in the Third U.S. Army.”
“It’s been three days, Dag,” I said. “Can you fix the engine or not?”
Ever the clown, Dag reached a hand down into the back of his pants and fished around.
“I dunno,” Dag said. “Let me see if I have any spare parts up my ass.”
“Probably not with your head taking up all the room,” Sam said.
Dag lifted up his goggles, threw down his wrench and put up his dukes.
“You wanna go, Hayseed?”
Sam unfurled himself to his full standing length. The Empire State Building with legs is the best description of the guy I can think of.
3.5 readers, it was the 1940’s, OK? I’m not excusing it, but I can’t whitewash history either.
“Enough!” I shouted.
The men piped down.
“Dag,” I said. “Do you realize we’re missing the war?”
“Yes,” Dag replied. “Hell, you should be thanking me.”
“Thanking you?” I asked. “Someday they’re going to sing songs about how Patton shoved his .357 Magnum up Rommel’s ass and the only thing I’m going to be able to tell my grandkids is that I sat around in the desert with a broke tank and a gallon of sand up my ass crack!”
“That’s if we make it back at all,” Sam said. “No water. We can start walking now and it’ll be days before we reach any kind of civilization.”
“Maybe we should of started walking while we still had some water,” Dag said with a smarmy look on his stupid puss.
“Maybe I thought you weren’t such a moron that you’d be able to fix this rust bucket!”
In the distance, there was the slightest sound coming over the horizon. Larry was the only one paying any attention.
“Well,” Dag said as he waved a finger in my face. “Maybe YOU’RE the moron for thinking I’M not a moron!”
Dag instantly regretted that statement as Sam and I bursted out laughing.
The sound got louder. It was a bunch of men yelling.
“Does anyone else hear that?” Larry asked.
“Quit your bellyaching and get back in there,” I said. “I don’t want to see your ugly mug again until this rattle trap is ready to roll, see?”
Larry was whiter than a ghost that had fallen into a vat of vanilla ice cream. We turned around to see what he was pointing at.
“No,” I thought. “It can’t be.”
I grabbed my binoculars and got a better gander.
There they were. Over a hundred Moroccan riders galloping their horses faster than bats out of hell right at us. They wore turbans, long flowing robes and scarves protected their faces from the sand that was whipping up into the air all around them.
They all had those fancy curved swords. Scimitars they called them. Every rider had one and was swinging it around in the air.
Plink. Plank. A few of them had even embraced more modern weaponry, given the rifle shots that were ricocheting off the tank’s hull.
Dag made a run for the hatch and popped it open.
We all piled inside.
The last thing I heard before I pulled the hatch shut?
“LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!!!!”
Copyright Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015. All Rights Reserved.