Poor Charlie (Part Three)
A Short Trip to Dover
Another very short story about Charlie Thomas
by Jim Pack
Jim's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright October 17, 2012, all rights reserved
Sometime in the spring of 2007:
Two days before being shipped out to Afghanistan, I went on a day trip on the ferry boat from Calais to Dover, England. It turned out to be an over night trip, because I decided to break the ferry boat rule of returning to your point of embarkation, in this case Calais, on the same day as your departure. Which is the cheapest return trip pass they sell. Evidently, the French don't want their tourists staying over night in Dover and the Brits don't want theirs staying over night in Calais; if they do so on the cheap. So in the spirit of Anglo/Franco cooperation they force their respective citizenry to return to the boat and come home, before the last one leaves the port, on any given night. I guess, they get turned into pumpkins if they fail to do so. But I'm an American so screw the rules.
Anyway, I was walking down this street in Dover and I noticed this, I hate to use the word charming but it was, charming, little bed and breakfast, on this quaint little street. Sorry I can't remember name of the street. In fact, I can't remember the name of the bed and breakfast either. It was called "Le Maison something or another"; I know that sounds French, but it was definitely British. I was allowed to inspect the place, before I made my decision to stay there, by the lady who ran it. She assumed that I was just an ordinary American tourist. She did until I showed her my passport with an assumed name, given to me, excuse me, given to Jerry by the FFL. Wait a minute; it was actually Rodney who originally enlisted. And yes the Legion does change your name when you enlist; at least they did back in 2007. My new name, the one on the passport is Daniel Delacourt. But I digress.
I was not in uniform. And I didn't tell her I was off of the ferry on a one day fare pass. I didn't want the ferry boat police to show up and make me go back. I'm being flippant in case anyone has trouble recognizing sarcasm. So since the place was so clean and so nicely appointed, I decided to pony up with enough British poundage to spend the night.
"I need to ask before we complete our transaction sir, but are you coming to us from off today's ferry boat from Calais, via a return same day pass?" She said smiling to me, as I handed to her the last of my, excuse me, Jerry's British currency, and she handed me back my passport.
"What would happen, if I told you I was?" I asked.
"Well, I would have to void our transaction and remind you of your pending agreement to return to the last boat before it leaves tonight".
"Perhaps you shouldn't ask me that question then".
"Right you are Sir. Here's your key. I hope you enjoy your stay here in our humble establishment".
The place had a very nice dinning room, with real white linen table cloths. It was almost like being in a old British movie. All I needed was a beautiful woman to share it with. I settled for the lady who runs the place to keep me company. She served me a very nice dinner, even though it was English. No offence to any Brits reading this, but your cuisine, compared to the French is,… well, maybe I'd shouldn't not go there. The coffee was very good.
"So sir, is 'Daniel Delacourt' your real name?" She asked pouring me some more coffee.
"No ma'am, it is not".
"I thought not. So how long have you been in the Legion?" Obviously, my short hair cut was also a helpful give away.
"I've had Legionnaires here before. But you're my first yank. I hope you don't mind me calling you a yank?"
"No, I've been called worse things".
"So you're in the Legion, are you?"
"Well, actually no. I'm not. I'm still a civilian. Jerry's the one in the Legion".
"I'm sorry, I'm not following the train of this conversation?"
"I have a multiple personality disorder. One of my personalities is named Jerry. He's the one in Legion. I'm just along for the ride". As I told her this, I could tell she thought I was pulling her leg, or as the Brits say, having her on. Either that, or she was dealing with a complete nut; which could be argued as not being far from the truth. So much for that conversation, she served me mostly in silence from that point on.
Having already paid my bill in advance, I left the next morning without enjoying the complimentary English breakfast. I felt the morning conversation might be a bit awkward, so I decided to avoid that scene altogether and return to the ferry. I then boarded and sailed back to Calais. Whereupon, I returned to the training facility, to return the helm back to Jerry. But before I reached the base, Luis, another one of my many personalities, had a complaint he wanted to lodge. However, before I relate what that complaint was, I think it important to note that I am curious and want to witness some of what Jerry is experiencing.
I know I have said, or indicated this before, but it bears repeating; not being like the others, I can't look over Jerry's shoulder when he's running the show. Why? Because I am the primary personality here, numero uno. The other guys are just add ons; including Jerry. Now Jerry is what you might call, numero dos (number two). It is possible from a psychiatric stand point, I assume, that he might someday become numero uno, but I think I would have to acquiesce that position to him. And I'm not ready to do that. Not yet. I don't want to stop existing. And I think I might, if I handed over the helm completely to Jerry. For now, he's the pilot in the wheel house, and I'm the captain; a captain who spends most of his time asleep in his cabin, but nonetheless, the captain. I might someday relinquish that position to Jerry, but not this day. So for now, Jerry and me need to coexist. And we're both okay with that. And more importantly, we trust each other. And most importantly, we don't trust any of the others. The other guys inside of me. It's us against all of them. Okay, with that in mind, here is Luis' complaint. I found it hand written, on a slip of paper, in my right shirt pocket while riding on the bus, traveling from Calais to Marseilles.
"I want to go back LA. So does everyone else", wrote Luis on the note.
I wrote back to him, "Luis corresponding with me like this, is like posting on Twitter or Facebook. Jerry is going to know what you are writing about immediately" Then I blacked on the bus, giving Luis time to respond. He did so, almost immediately, as the time on my watch, a Timex, not my lost Rolex, unfortunately, advanced only two minutes before I came to again. This is how we all communicate with each other. Writing on a note pads. A word processing program would probably be more efficient, but not all my personalities know how to type. In fact, I believe I'm the only one of us who possesses that skill. It had not yet occurred to any of us, as to the simplicity of employing a recording device, such as a flip camera, or even a smart phone to record voice messages to each other. It will take a young woman from the U.S. Military to point that solution out to us; but we haven't encountered her yet. So at this point, we are still employing the arcane method of pad and pencil.
"In that case, Charlie (and Jerry), everybody here", wrote Luis, meaning everyone of my personalities except for Jerry, and myself, "took a vote and we don't want to go to Afghanistan. We want to go back to L.A.".
"Did Rodney vote too?" I wrote at the very next opportunity.
"We can't find Rodney. He might not exist anymore. The clock is ticking Charlie. What's your answer?" Continued his next message.
"This isn't a democracy Luis and I've given command of the ship", another euphemism for my body, "over to Jerry, because he is the only one who can maintain control. You guys can't take advantage of him, like you did me back in L.A. We're all going to Afghanistan with Jerry. If you don't like it, tough".
"He's gonna get us all killed. Why don't you want to go back to L.A. and work as an adjuster again?"
Normally, I don't like blacking out and coming to so much, over and over again, but I was really starting to enjoy this ongoing conversation with Luis.
"You mean the place where I get to pay all the bills and you guys get to have all the fun. Like getting me into hock with loan sharks, who hire goons in lieu of collection agencies? That L.A.? No I don't think so. I'd rather take my chances in Afghanistan with Jerry".
"Hear! Hear!" read the next message. But this time coming from Jerry. Not Luis.
Personally, I would actually prefer to stay here in France, but being a realist I had enough sense to know that obtion was no longer possible. Like Jerry said, orders are orders. Where the Legion wants Jerry to go, we go.
That would be the last time I would hear from Luis for quite sometime. Instead of only a few minutes, my next black out lasted possibly three weeks or so. Don't worry, I have no sense of the passage of time when I black out. But I know it was a long black out this time; because I found myself sitting in, what appeared to be a rather large Quonset hut, somewhere east of the City of Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. I was there, in this structure, all by myself. Then from the other end of the hut, entered a rather young and very attractive looking female soldier. I could tell she was attractive even though she wore baggy fatigues, along with body armor; and donning a Kevlar helmet. All that excess paraphernalia could not hide her face. And her face was exquisite. She had large, sultry, dark brown eyes. There was a U.S. flag patch sown onto her fatigues, indicating she was someone in the U.S. military. She obviously couldn't be in the Legion because, even to this day, women are not allowed to serve in that institution. She was also caring some kind of rifle. I don't know what kind because I don't know anything about weapons. Again, I'm Charlie the civilian, not Jerry the Legionnaire. I'm sure Jerry could tell us, but he's not writing this narrative. She approached me directly and stopped and smiled. Then, after unloading her weapon and placing it down upon a table, she removed her helmet, causing her long luxurious brown hair, to flow down upon her shoulders. She was very petite, standing only five foot, four inches tall perhaps, give or take an inch. But my, she was stunning.
"Hello, Charlie. I'm so very glad to finally meet you. My name is Mandy. Jerry has told me so much about you. I'm your date for tonight. I'm also going to teach you how to be a soldier. The first thing Jerry wants me to teach you is how to march. Not the way I'm used to however; but the way you boys in the Legion do it. Since you Legionnaires love to be so different from everyone else. 88 steps per minute", she then produced an iPod attached to a small speaker device. I heard Le Boudin coming from it.
"Who are you again?" I asked in astonishment, wondering how she knew who I was; and more importantly, how on earth she knew who Jerry was.
"I am Ohio National Guard Specialist, Mandy Adams, from the 37th Infantry Brigade Transportation Team and Jerry's new girlfriend. Now stand up and I'll teach you how to march, and after that, if you are a good boy, I will teach how to dance".
"Why does Jerry want you to teach me how to dance?" I asked, still bewildered and confused.
"He doesn't, that's my idea silly". Then she smiled that killer smile again. "Now stand up. You know, you're almost as cute as Jerry".
I stood up.
(Author's note: For other Poor Charlie Stories, please click the links on the upper left hand portions of the screen)