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The nine of you who actually read my scribbles know what's goin' on, right? I'm trying to tell a story called "Bones in the Bearded Barley," but it's problematic. First, it's too big, and I refuse to squash it down to roadkill, so I have to tell it piecemeal. Second, I won't tell UH it without talking about the people involved. I introduced you to 'Ank, a principal player (Guncrank, July/ Aug 2017), and then to Collie in the Nov/Dec issue. If you read the latter, I ask you--How could I talk about Collie without telling you his father's story? Can't. Wouldn't.

"Bones" is a complex tale taken from what was supposed to be a four-hour truck ride followed by an easy 10-12 hour dress rehearsal/training refresher. Instead, it featured two days and nights marooned in floodwaters, a buncha stories shared among us, and a third "memorable" sorta-horrifying night. I 'splained some of it in Odd Angry Shot in the September and October issues of GUNS Magazine, plus the twisty-strange story of Milo, Ren and Isolde. If you don't get GUNS, you might want to read the story on the web site.

More On Collie & The Crew

Got a mental image of Collie? A big mobile knot of hairy muscle, with thick, curly black hair to his shoulders and a matching full beard ravens could hide in--if they dared. He was physically imposing, but by far his most striking features were his big, slanted, half-lidded eyes, with porcelain-like whites and jet-black irises. People often remarked his eyes appeared to be burning with rage. He was actually extremely even-tempered; he just looked like he was simmering on the edge of boiling all the time.

Collie never yelled, never cursed and never verbally flayed anybody. He didn't have to. He could burn you to the ground with a goblin-glance. If you fumbled some task or direction--as long as it wasn't repeated--he might call you "daft," or ask "Are ye daft, mon?" If you in any way shirked, tried to cut a corner, or did or said anything out of anger or meanness, he might say you were "actin' a booger," and say, like, "Doona be a booger; not ever again, lad." But if he even once pronounced anyone a "daft booger," they were toast; outta the unit or off the planet, whatever.

You could choose "work names" for the unit--I used John Connor, for "reasons"--but in addition to work names, Collie appointed "call tags," and when you got one from Collie, it stuck, and you didn't ask why. I don't know if it was another Collie quirk, or his obsession with double-blind security. He started calling me The Connor from the first. Some were easy to figure out, like "The Buckle," whose surname was Belt. "The Watcher" threw me at first. He was an Asian representing France, and I supposed, maybe a surveillance-and-observation specialist. That wasn't it. I inquired. He was amused.

"You do not know my work-name, do you?" he asked. I admitted I didn't. "It is Wa Ching." He waited a second, but I was still stumped. "I am Chinese. Wa Ching means some Chinese guy; like, a random Chinese man. It is clever, yes?" Yeah, I agreed; pretty clever. But why "The Watcher"? He explained that went back to the day he reported to the unit--to Collie. He knocked on the frame of the duty office door, and said a strange, earth-rumbling noise like "COOM!" boomed out. He saw a large, hulking, hairy something at a desk, head down, looking at a dossier The Watcher assumed was his. He H9 entered and stood front and center. Collie looked up.

"Wah! Those EYES!" Watcher blurted, "Belong on a dragon boat, not on human, you know? If my grandmother saw him, she would run, hide, burn incense, call up ancestor spirits for protection." Watcher paused, looked up, added "My mother too, I think. I could not look into them; made me nervous. I am grown man, but he, those eyes, umm ... surprise me, okay? I looked out window to left, yes? He says You are? I still looking out window, and nervous I say fast, like, I-am-Wa-Ching." He says to me, I see. And so you are, with very small laugh. So he calls me The Watcher."

Runners & Dullards

Philip P. Phillips was called "The Runner," pronounced Rrroonerrr, in Collie's Scottish burr. He was the oldest of our mob, a marathoner, and could run us all into the ground over distances. P.P.P. was our quintessential Englishman; a Brit, sure, but pure Old School Englishman, with his fair hair, clear blue eyes, patrician nose and rangy frame--and his oh-so-English speech and mannerisms. All his "verys" were veddy-veddy; his "rathers" all raw-thuh, with the odd upper-crust English habit of chopping personal pronouns off the front of sentences. He used his briar pipe like an orchestra conductor's baton, or for pointing and poking, and often addressed comments to invisible third parties. That made for some interesting conversations, like, when I asked him about his work-name: Why the "Philips"? He poked his pipe at the air to his right.

"Boy is curious, eh? Sign of intelligence, p'raps?" Turning back to me, he said, "Of Macedon. Philip II. Overshadowed by his pup, Alexander the Great. Deserves better. Wrote thesis on him, un homage." I asked about the middle initial P--another Philip?

"Nay," he said. "Gift from Collie; raw-thuh insisted 'pon it. Knew I'd once run a marathon on historic ground." He looked at me quizzically, waiting for me to figure it out, but I was drawing blanks. "Historic ground? Eh? Eh?" My gears spun and clashed for a moment, then ... "Pheidippides/" I cried. "Marathon to Athens!" He was delighted; turned back smiling to his invisible friend, pipe poking. "Oh, bright boy!" he laughed. "Not the dullard he appears, eh? Yass."

And his droll, dry sense of humor: There was a base maintenance guy; good kid; not the brightest bulb, scared spitless of Collie and would scuttle out of sight when their paths crossed. Phillips always treated him with the kindest indulgence, but sometimes twisted his tail a bit, for fun. Among other peculiar pastimes, PPP was known to have been a professional hunter in Africa. The kid asked if Phillips and Collie had worked together there.

"Fabulous man on safari!" Phillips exclaimed. "Cape buffalo worship him as a deity, you know; rather a god of hate and murder. Respect that, they do. Lie down in the tall grass and avert their eyes 'pon his approach, they do, not wishing to attract his attention and p'raps offend him. Smashing, yass?" The kid's eyes saucered and goggled. His jaw dropped open. "Reeeaaalllyyy?" he breathed. Phillips patted him gently on the shoulder.

"Off with you now, laddie. Work to do; be about it! That's the good boy!" The kid wandered away shaking his head. "True-hearted boy," Phillips said, "But," tapping his head with his pipe. "Insufficient bandwidth. Story of his life could be titled Gullible's Travels."

Note: I cut this by 1,000 words, but still maybe too much for you? Demand my expulsion NOW, or I swear, I'm gonna tell you more! Connor OUT.

Caption: "Collie in the Dork"--Original artwork by Connor. Worth $Bajillionz$ when he's dead. Current appraisal: SI .37.
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Author:Connor, John
Publication:American Handgunner
Date:Nov 26, 2017
Previous Article:THE ROAD TO GOOD LIGHT.

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