I’m back. It’s been quite the tumultuous past couple of weeks. Fortunately I was able to secure another interview with Pete the Ranger during all the commotion that surrounded the launch of Immolation, the final book in the Paul Thompson trilogy.
Pete has a lot of yarns, and he was glad to share another of them the last time I saw him. We were in his garage, as usual, surrounded by tools and empty beer cans. Pete cracked open another one and began.
“This story is about the girl, the tiger, and the monkey.” My curiosity was peaked, as I had no idea what he was talking about. “The setting is Afghanistan, while living with the locals.” “I found strange things all the time.” I nodded, he was quite right. I thought immediately about some surreal incidents in my past.
Strange things do happen in those dusty villages, half forgotten by time.
“There were rumors of monkeys that ran around in villages, that people were scared to death of. One time on a patrol I thought I saw a tiger chained up to a house, on a second story balcony.” Pete didn’t see it again, but wheels were spinning in his head. “I got this idea that I needed a pet tiger… I already knew the Afghans respected me, but I wanted them to be afraid of me so I wanted a fuckin’ tiger.”
I laughed and thought about the wildly inappropriate Ranger Promo video.
For a couple of months, Pete sought the tiger. No luck. One day he sauntered down to the place where the dust-off helicopters called home. He discussed his idea with the pilots and ground personnel, and they thought it would be a great idea to have a tiger on a chain by their compound to keep the Afghans away at night. Also, the medevac guys wanted a monkey, and their rigger even volunteered to “sew a little flight suit for him”.
Pete added a monkey to his wish list, “because I’ve always wanted a fuckin’ monkey.” He added that monkeys were known to be a “pain in the ass,” but he thought that was appropriate because “I’m a pain in the ass to deal with, too.”
He started to seriously pursue his idea. As he patrolled the villages with his Afghans, he would stop people and question them about any monkeys or tigers that he might be able to claim for his own use. He would ask the people “Kujasti sheedy diawana (Where is the crazy monkey)?”
Pete kept this up for a while, confident that he would eventually get his mascots.
One day it all went south. Pete was at a meeting with provincial leaders, and a mysterious woman walked up to him. Pete thought she worked for the UN. “Her mother was French, and her father was Belgian, and she was smoking hot anywhere in the world, let alone Afghanistan.” He went on to add “women were few and far between.” This mystery woman, Pete referred to her as “Angela,” “would wear white, flowing baby-doll tops with no bra.” Pete was smitten. However, he also knew that she knew that guys on the grubby firebases drooled over her.
“She could sit at a picnic table, and she smoked cigarettes like a chimney…or a steel mill, but she never bought cigarettes. She could get them off of dudes all day long.”
So at the meeting, Pete was relaxing. To his surprise, “Angela” sat down with him. She said “Oh, you’re Pete the Ranger.” Pete confirmed he was that person. Then she unpacked a surprise.
“Do you know you’re going to jail?” Pete was taken aback, and asked her why that was. (As an aside, I can imagine that at this point Pete was going back through a long list of situations and incidents.)
She looked at him, dragged on her ever-present cigarette, and spoke. “Trafficking in endangered species.”
He put on his best choirboy face and said, “What are you talking about?”
“Purchasing a Bengal Tiger in Afghanistan or anywhere else is illegal.”
Pete hadn’t known that, but the conversation enlightened him. “I explained to her it was a funny joke… but she referred again to the letter of the law.”
He decided to put his supposedly good idea on a back burner. “Angela crushed all my dreams… I got no monkey, I got no tiger, but I still think it would be cool to own such pets.”
“Angela got no cigarettes from me.”
Pete took another swig, shrugged and chuckled.
More follows, readers.