Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'One of Our Boys Is Missing' Part One - Contractual Obligations

Ah were born fightin'. It were the winter of 1956, which were a bad one, an' ah made me appearance kickin' and screamin reet from the start, like. Me mam knew ah was ganna be trouble, ah were a twin an' me brother Tommy was almost blue wi' lack of air when they tek 'im oot. He was supposed to be born first, like, but ah gorrim in a ninja heedlock even then, an' ah swear if the doctaz and norses hadn't yanked us oot ah would've killed him. Ah discharged mesel from hospital that day, that's how hard ah were, ah fought me way past seven porters, marched oot the hospital, flagged doon the forst car, kicked the driva oot and wa' off.
Frae then on it were a livin' nightmare for oor neighbours ...wuz used to tear doon the fence between oors and the neighbours, piece ba' piece like, an' use them tae fight wi'. ..
…actually I’m getting bored of this already; my editor thought it would be a good idea to open this book with an explanation of how I was born into such straitened circumstances – as it’s what the punters expect. In fact you can look forward to this regular feature of the book, my editor butting in and adding ‘annotations’ of her own, apparently these usually take the place of something called footnotes but she said we didn’t have the budget and it’d be a bit too much like hard work for most of our readership anyway.
I wasn’t born in the Northeast or Clydeside or any of those places, but rather an anonymous midlands town (called Kenilworth). I wasn’t a twin either, but the youngest of four, two boys and two girls. We lived on the wrong side of the tracks, it is true, but all that meant was we often had to wait at the level crossing on the main London to Birmingham line if we wanted to go to the Coop, assuming we were going by car, which most of us were by then. There wasn’t anything in my early life which hinted at the steely-eyed deliverer of death and destruction that you know today, from those darkened-room interviews or lucrative tv dramatizations of the squadron’s deeds in the world’s trouble spots.
So how did I make the transition from comfortable middle-class roots to world-class killer? Well, keep turning the pages and you’ll find out, I realize reading might be something of a test of endurance in itself for some of you, but it’ll be worth it if you hang in there – you’ll almost be honorary members of the Squadron. And by the way, if you think you can answer the following riddle (and you can look for further clues throughout the book) write to me at the address at the end of the serialization, and Big Chief Terminal Moraine will send you a limited edition laminated Squadron badge, a signed photo (heavily pixelated out of course) and a year’s subscription to The Sand Shall Not Have Us , the newsletter of the friends of the Squadron Society. Here is the riddle: I can see at night, and eat mice, but I’m not a cat; I am clever, but I can’t write; I have pellets, but I’m not an air rifle; I can rotate my head 360 degrees, but I’m not a challenger tank; I scare children, but I’m not a ghost…Tough, huh? Well, good luck.
I hope you enjoy this book. Feel free to hold it up on the train or bus, when you’re commuting into your soulless office job, I’m sure you’ll look very tough reading it, and some of the glamour will rub off on to you, believe me. I’ll also allow you to use phrases like ‘slotted’, ‘taken out’, ‘or ‘clusterfuck’, and if you talk in a loud voice within ear shot of the fairer sex near the office water cooler ,with laddish bonhomie about how you could definitely kill someone, or parade your knowledge of the military incursions of the last 30 years, I hope you reap the rewards you deserve.

‘Charlie bang bang…’. Those were my first words, or at least first reported words, uttered as I sat on the lawn on hot summer’s day at our house at 14 Latvia Drive. I remember the scene quite vividly. I was wearing my yellow and red stripy T-shirt (this was before 'the occurrence', when I still had colour vision) playing with my older brother Ted’s cap pistols. I was enraptured by the skill and craftsmanship that Mattel toys had shown in putting together such a beautiful piece, and marveled at the working parts, the smooth grip of the handstock, the acrid smell of a spent cap. I think I’d already taken out a few apaches single-handedly when I ran out of ammo. This wasn’t to be the last time I would have to face overwhelmingly heavy odds against indigenous peoples on active ops and overcome them.
My mother certainly used to egg me on. She’d say things like ‘there goes my little soldier’, in her particularly creative moments, and I lapped it up. As well as Ted, I had two much older sisters. I didn’t really grow up with them and to protect their identities they’ll play no further part in the story. Imelda married the prominent biochemist, Eric Gulzynski. They emigrated to Australia thirty years ago when he got a posting at Queensland University and they live in Toowomba. Jane stayed in the area, she and her husband live in the village of Bishops Pruritus, in the second house along from the vicarage.
My mother’s family were of local artisan stock and had lived in the area for generations. My father’s ancestors were a more peripatetic lot, his father’s side were Huguenot refugees, hence the French-sounding surname which has been something of a millstone for me throughout my career. His mother was descended from one of the ponies on Ernest Shackleton’s 1909 Nimrod expedition, which got within an ace of the South Pole. So hardiness is in the genes.
I was spoilt a lot, and learnt to manipulate situations to my advantage. I’d do anything to get a some attention, pulling a face, falling over, dressing up…this could sometimes backfire: ‘Look at me mummy, I’m a Indian..’ I burst into a dinner party once to announce. '… but a proper one from America, not one of those ones you said are taking over all the shops’. Unfortunately for her the guest list including the family dentist, Mr. Maitra, and his wife.

To be continued..

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