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Memories: poppin' up like posies--or punji sticks, whatever ...

Most people take casual strolls down Memory Lane. Me, I tend to trip and plunge off the north bluff of Memory Mountain, smashing into every boulder, tree stump and frozen dead Yeti on the way down.

You know how it goes. You get a fleeting glimpse of a face; hear a voice, a scrap of song or some distinctive sound, like helo rotors pullin' hard; catch a certain scent on the breeze. Instantly, your cranial cogs are kicked into gear, and ...

I was pullin' wadded newspaper out of a package, saw a photo an' Bang!--that's Ank!--exactly as he looked in the '80's. An old photo? He'd be in his late 60's now. But it was him, absolutely, in every detail. I read the blurb. No, it wasn't Ank. It's an American actor named Adrien Brody. I Googled him, just to make sure it wasn't somehow Ank in disguise. Nope. Seems he's famous, though I hadn't seen any of his movies. I woulda been freepeen gout if I had. It isn't just a resemblance, either. Add broader shoulders, more muscle, a French accent and we're talkin' doppelganger for Ank.

The Real Ank

The real Ank, a French-Moroccan, served in the French paratroops and then became a "contracted representative of French and other Western interests;" the sort who humps a ruck and rifle; a good soldier. His given name was Henri, pronounced Ahn-ree, but after learning the diminutive for the Anglicized "Henry" was "Hank," he insisted on using it, because, he said, "Eez Americain neek-name, oui? And I will be un Americain someday!"

The problem was, like many French-speakers, he couldn't pronounce the H-sound for beans. No matter how hard he tried, "Hank" always came out '"Ank." So, we called him 'Ank. After much de rigueur teasing by our multinational crew, he gave a Gallic shrug and accepted it. Why, he was asked, did he want so badly to be an American? He would look shocked.

"You kee-deeng me? More free! Very big, purple mountain majesty, wave of grain, cool! 'Ot dogs at baze-ball game! Yankees, Indians of Cleve-land! Cruising in Chevy Camaro! More pretty chick-ladies, all kinds! Cheeseburger, chili! Taco! America! Ronal' Reagan, President, keeks ass! Land of free, home of brave! Bon temps!"

Another problem: 'Ank learned sorta-English phrases only by what they sounded like to him, with poorly-connected meanings. There was an incident ("Bones in the Bearded Barley;" no space to tell it here) in which one of our guys had a little nervous breakdown. 'Ank reported on his condition.

"Ehhh, 'e's freepeen gout, but 'e will be okay." Huh? "You know; freepeen gout, like,"--"Ank bugged his eyes, stuck his tongue out and wagged it, spun an index finger around one ear--"Creh-zee, okay? Lost marbles; gone boogla-boogla-boogla!" Took one minute to laugh our butts off, another to figure out he meant "freaking out" or perhaps "flipping out." That was not how he'd heard it. Again with the Gallic shrug. Ahh, 'Ank...

Mo & The Kek

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a hereditary tribal chief sent his youngest son to live with relatives who ran a bakery in New Jersey. He wanted at least one son to survive. When his father and brothers were killed, Mo returned to the rockpile to lead his clan's fighters. He told them to call him "Boss Man." They didn't know English, but presumed it was a title of respect. They trusted him implicitly.

"But you," he said, "We are equal. You call me Mo, hokay? Name is Mohammed, but," he waved his hand, "Half dese guys named Mohammed. Look!" He raised his voice slightly, called "Mohammed!" A dozen heads swiveled attentively. "See? Much confused. Wotchu gonna do, hey?" He waved them off, like "Never mind," and they went back to cleaning rifles and sharpening knives.

Squatting over an ops plan, maps and drawings spread out on a flat rock. Many questions: Can your guys get from here to here, without being seen? In how long? Is the river too fast, too deep to cross here? Mo frowned, squinted, asked hushed questions of his XO, who looked like a backwoods Abraham Lincoln with an AK. At each juncture, Mo would nod, grunt and mutter, "Shoor. Pitt-suh kek," and each time, those men closest nodded to each other with half-smiles and repeated, "Pitt-suh kek."

Finally Mo stood, spread his arms over the maps and plans, fired some unintelligible word-salad in Dari and loudly declared "Pitt-suh kek!" Smiles bloomed like opium poppies; the men grinned, their heads bobbed, waves of words, "something-BossMan-something-Pitt-suh KEK!" rolled from man to man downhill. Huh? What the heck is pitt-suh kek?

"Oh," Mo explained. "Means easy; no problem. I teached them. Good plan, good fight, but not, you know, suicide thing. Is American saying, pitt-suh kek. Like, you bake a kek inna bakery; frostie outside, candle on top for birthday? Don' you know KEK? If something is pitt-suh kek, means easy."

"Piece of cake," Mo. Gotcha, buddy.

Ah, man. So much more: Wattaboo; Chip TUbeeg and the OO-Lung; the Russian's sincere but mangled and misapplied farewell wishes "Break your leg!"--and no room to tell 'em. Untold, they'll rattle around in my head for days ...

For most people, strolls down Memory Lane are typically brief. Me, I'm still gasping at the bottom of the bluff, with a sack fulla lumpy memories. And a frozen dead Yeti. Connor OUT
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Author:Connor, John
Publication:American Handgunner
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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