Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4133)

Sitting Thirty-Two

Sergeant Minioz lay on his bunk, confined to his barracks, awaiting the outcome of the charges levied against him: absent without leave and dereliction of duty.

Plenty of time to think.

The first realization was that if he had used the time two weeks earlier to be just a little more reflective, he might not be sequestered, trying to figure out if the stink was coming from the room or from him.

Fresh in his mind was the questioning he endured from his major, a petty young officer with a jaw of granite and the disposition of a camel (if it had hemorrhoids.)

He remembered it well.

“What is your rank?” barked the major.

That one was easy. The stripes on Minioz’s shoulder told it all.

“Serial number,” came the next demand.

The sergeant had that one memorized. He also got the right platoon, company, commander and the days of the week complete and accurate.

Then the questions got tougher. The major drew in a deep breath and released it slowly, as he queried, “Have you now, or have you ever lost any military issue?”

Now there was the heart of the matter. Minioz paused for a second and decided it best for his cause to focus on the word “lost”—because certainly, he had never “lost” anything. After all, having something snatched by a little brat was not having it “lost,” right?

Minnioz spat out as quickly as possible so as not to appear tentative. “No, sir, I have never lost any military issue.”

The major spit right back. “Are you presently in possession of your entire weapon stockpile?”

Once again, the sergeant breathed a sigh of relief, thankful for the words “presently” and “in possession.” For Minioz had rectified his lack of a hand grenade by purchasing one at an Army surplus store in the city. It did not work—disarmed—and he hoped he would never have to demonstrate its purpose and power. But still, it hung impressively from his belt.

So the answer was simple. Yes, presently he was in possession of all of his military weapons. Of course, he did not volunteer the considerable span of time he was absent some hardware, which he had tracked down in the desert to two little punks who had outsmarted him and nearly killed them all.

The delay between questions was maddening. A bead of sweat broke on Minioz’s brow. He tried to stop the dribble but after all—how does one do that?

And then, the next challenge: “If you are in possession of all of your weapons, why was a report filed that you were attempting to retrieve a hand grenade which you alleged had been stolen from you?”

The brain of Sergeant Minioz exploded like a volcano. Report filed? Whom had he told? Who knew? Who had the evidence to derail him if he lied?

Of course, it’s very difficult to contemplate the correct answer without appearing evasive, so as quickly as possible, the sergeant retorted, “I know of no report, and know of no alleged charge and know of no one who would make such a claim.”

Minioz managed to stop himself before incoherency took over his reply. The fussy major stared at him but said nothing. Had he gotten by with it? Was his answer so twisted that the major was afraid to disassemble it?

But apparently, it was not enough. Obviously, the major knew more than Minioz thought he knew. Now it seemed that his superior officer was just stalling to watch him squirm.

The sergeant chose silence, limited his squirming and suffered through what was now a stream of perspiration.

After a long pause of scrutiny, the major spoke again. “So that is your answer?” he thundered.

Minioz widened his eyeballs to try to keep away some tears of fear. “Entirely, for now,” he piped back.

The major didn’t miss a beat. “So why were you absent from your post without leave?”

Minioz was not prepared to answer, but grateful to get away from the subject of the hand grenade. He cleared his throat and spoke slowly to the major. “Personal problems forbade me, sir, from arriving at camp at the designated time. Poor judgment prevented me from reporting my status, and utter stupidity kept me away a little longer out of fear of punishment.”

Sudden silence. The sergeant muted a smile. It was quite an answer, threatening truth. Matter of fact, in the history of all military justice, it might have been the best response ever offered.

The major nodded. The answer had even impressed Old Sour Britches. “One final question,” he posed. “Is there any truth to the rumor that a hand grenade is loose and available among the citizenry, which found its point of origin in our camp?”

“Sir,” said Minioz, “I do not know the whereabouts of every hand grenade in this camp. I do not want to be so presumptuous as to suggest that such an absence is not possible. All I know is that my hand grenade is hanging from my belt, and ready for further orders.”

Minnioz felt horrible. He knew he had lied. It wasn’t a big whopper, but certainly, a stinky fish laying on the dock.

But he thought to himself, “Is it really a lie, when the alternative is so dastardly and detrimental to all parties involved? Sometimes the truth is just a sword ready to behead everyone in the room.”

Sergeant Minioz was busy trying to make sense of his own failure. Whatever the answer, he was going to stick to his story. He chuckled to himself. After all, he had just purchased one dud to replace the dud the government had issued him. 

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4126)

Sitting Thirty-One

And then all at once, an interruption came to rob the attention from the cause. The priest sank to his knees, seemingly overcome by the desert heat. He grabbed his head as the perspiration poured off his face. The gathered horde of critics moved to his side, deeply concerned for his well-being.

“You see what you’ve done, boys? I’m very tired of your disrespect,” said the suit.

The robe stepped forward threateningly. “You must learn to hold your tongue, young man.”

And the priest, still on his knees breathing heavily, voiced his objection. “My collar does not pinch me.”

He turned to those holding him up, finishing. “I will be fine, my brothers. Just a little too much heat.”

All the adults turned with one disapproving gaze in the direction of the pair of renegade escapees.

Pal stepped forward. “Listen, you should not be here. He’s sick. Just leave us alone. If you are truly men of God, as you say, you need to realize that there’s nothing wrong with love between two friends.”

“Honor your father and mother,” replied the suit.

All the men vigorously nodded their heads in agreement. They had finally found a common axiom which they could all agree upon.

Iz and Pal looked at the four men and then back at each other. Trying to talk to these immovable statues was a fruitless task. It seemed they were speaking different languages.

“Understand this,” said blue jeans. “We were sent to resolve this peacefully. We mean you no harm. We’re not trying to overtake you. But when they come with the rally, they will not be as nice as we have been to you.”

“Why can’t you just leave us alone?” demanded Pal.

“Because you are children,” responded the collar.

“Weren’t you a child once?” queried Iz.

Now standing solidly on his feet, he replied, “Yes. But I’ve put away childish things.” His face was still flushed with crimson.

Iz stopped and held his hands up in the air, requiring a reprieve. Several times the collar, the robe, the blue jeans and the suit tried to speak, but he covered his ears.

When Iz saw that their lips didn’t move any more and silence had settled in, he said, “I guess we’re just not ready to put away childish things—because you grown-ups pack away all of their dreams along with those childish things. We are not ready to be dreamless.”

The robe screamed at the top of his voice, “Is it true there’s a hand grenade?”

Pal was very nervous, but somehow or another managed to remain cool. He glanced over at Iz, who displayed an unsettling, icy stare. “Would you like to see it?” he asked. “Or would you like to hear it?”

The men were not willing to overwhelm the two boys—not at the risk of their own lives. The meeting was over. The committee stared at the unflinching features of the young men. One by one, the invaders turned and walked slowly down the hill.

Collar spoke as he left. “May it never be said that we didn’t try to warn you.”

Pal yelled after them as they trudged along. “How about Joseph and his brothers? They lived in Egypt and lived in peace—Jew and Arab. Did anyone hold a rally and try to stop them? Were they wrong, Mullah?”

There was no more response.

After all, the mission was not about discovering the truth or even discussing the facts. It wasn’t even about redeeming the time. The whole goal had been to get the little boys to do what little boys were supposed to do.

Yet what do you do when you’re old and the young will not listen? What is your recourse when boys grow into men without your permission?

Iz and Pal stood and watched as the men finished their walk and disappeared.

The rally would be in two days. That meant there were forty-eight hours of freedom left—guaranteed space for Iz and Pal.

They decided not to waste a second of it thinking about religious figures who frowned and never smiled…and also resembled melting snow that had no place in the desert.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4085)

Sitting Twenty-Five

As it turned out, orange construction cones make great soccer goals for runaway boys in the desert, dreaming of football stardom.

Iz and Pal were desperate for a diversion—a way to physically explode with energy, allowing their muscles to stretch and ache. With the arrival of the cones, the soccer balls, the tennis shoes and the hamburgers, they had the makings of a deliriously exciting life.

Sweet play.

They vigorously kicked the ball, imagining acclaim and cheers in the great arenas of the world capitals as renowned soccer players, drawing applause and the favor of men with the pleasure of many women.

They fell, exhausted, in the sand, laughing, liberated from conventional restraints, simply content to live in the moment’s lingering bliss.

Nothing seemed wrong. Therefore, nothing was wrong.

During one of these respites, Iz posed a question. “Pal, what do you think will become of us?”

Pal, still ablaze from the fervor of the game, asked enthusiastically, “Do you mean before or after we win the World Cup?”

Iz frowned. “No, really. Where do you think this is going?”

Pal realized his friend was once again turning serious—an attribute he didn’t favor much but decided to tolerate from his more melancholy partner. Settling into some solemnity, he replied, “I don’t know.”

Iz perked up. “I think I do.”

Pal drew a deep breath and inquired, “Well, tell me what’s gonna happen.”

“They’re going to take us back,” said Iz. “They’re going to make us go home.”

Pal shook his head. “They haven’t been able to do that so far.”

Iz shifted to his knees, grabbing his friend by the shoulders. He stared into his eyes. “That’s because they still think we have a hand grenade. When the soldier tells them the truth, they will come for us.”

Pal’s eyes welled with tears. “I don’t want to go back.”

Iz settled down on his backside and looked at Pal carefully. “Don’t want to? Or won’t? Which is it, Pal? You know we have to decide. It could happen at any moment. We have to decide.”

Pal was confused as to what Iz might be referring—very concerned. “We have to decide what?” he posed cautiously.

Iz didn’t miss a beat. “We have to decide what we’re going to do if they come here and try to make us go back.”

“Well, we don’t have a hand grenade,” Pal said flatly.

Iz shook his head vigorously. “Don’t be stupid. Did you think we were going to use the hand grenade?”

Angry, Pal rose to his knees. “Don’t call me stupid. I hate that. If we weren’t going to use the hand grenade, why did we have it?”

Iz scoffed at him. “To scare them away. That’s why. But they won’t be scared anymore. I can just feel it. They’re coming for us.”

Suddenly Pal was overtaken by a streak of tenderness. “Iz,” he said, “I won’t let them take you.”

“How will you stop them?” demanded Iz. “My father is so angry—so mean. I can still feel his anger pouring all over me, making me shrink before his eyes, becoming a little ant that he could step on at any time and mash with his foot.”

Pal was shocked by the words. It was a true revelation into his friend’s soul, but a sudden one that left him bewildered. He reached out to touch his comrade’s arm. “Listen,” he said, “No one’s going to mash us anymore.”

Iz looked up with a glassy stare. “Are you with me, buddy?”

“You know I am,” said Pal.

“No,” insisted Iz, gaining an unnatural intensity. “Are you with me?”

Pal was startled. “With you for what?” His friend’s reactions sometimes seemed chilling, foreboding. There was something frozen, perhaps dead, in the heart of Iz that never quite warmed or showed life, no matter how much joy came into their situation. Pal felt equal—but still overwhelmed.

Iz continued. “Are you with me to the death?”

“Death?” Pal lurched back, unable to hide his shock.

Iz shook his head. “I won’t go back alive.”

Pal drew a deep, ragged breath. “Iz, I don’t want to die. I came out here because I wanted to live.”

Iz rose up and pointed his finger at Pal, screaming. “But what if they won’t let us live? What if they just come out here and act like we’re silly little boys and spank us, ridicule us, and take us home? I’m telling you, Pal. I can’t go back to Pada. I will not be that scared little ant anymore.”

Pal nodded his head in agreement, if not understanding. “So what do we do?”

Iz scrambled to his feet and ran over to the portable toilet. He opened the door, reached in, grabbed something and returned quickly. He held a pink stick in his hand. Breathlessly he explained, “Pal, these came with the toilets. They are poison. If they come for us, we will break this stick into two pieces and each one of us eat our half.”

Eat it?” Pal shouted.

“I won’t go back,” repeated Iz calmly.

Pal wanted to object. Pal needed to reason with his perplexed, confused friend. But Pal was just twelve years old. So a sense of allegiance swept over his heart.  He felt no need to resist. The plan was made, and it seemed to make sense.

Time would tell.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4043)

Sitting Nineteen

Karin was perturbed at herself—“perturbed” being the most civilized word she could come up with after rejecting some more colorful choices.

It seemed she had totally lost perspective. No, that diagnosis was much too clinical. She had just downright screwed up. Plainly, she had let sentiment take over her better judgment.

There was nothing wrong with being sentimental—as long as the work you set out to do gets done, the children are safe in their beds, the fire is lit and all the cows are in the barn. (She had no idea whatsoever why she had chosen such a rural metaphor. She was trying to be completely practical, and nothing seemed more “earthy” than a farm.)

After all the excruciating activity of the day, it turned out that she had not improved the situation whatsoever. Arrogantly, she had tried to solve all the world’s problems. She was aware that this was not her job—her actual job was two-fold: to keep from being a problem to the planet and try to keep all the crazies around her from doing outrageous things.

She considered—if each person with a lick of sense would just try to stay out of trouble and take a few moments to care for friends who couldn’t make things work, well, to quote the old song, “what a lovely world this would be.”

But she had not helped two boys stop their insanity. She had made it worse. After all, before she came on the scene, they were two young dudes out in the desert, chomping on food and giggling. Sure, they had a hand grenade—but they didn’t know how to use it. No, she was the one who provided that information to them. She brought the soldier. She caused the conflict. And she got those two friends spitting mad at each other.

Karin realized that she could work a lifetime and not tally such a disaster again. Yet she had done it in a single afternoon—not to mention losing the respect of her editor.

What perturbed her most of all was that she could not figure out why she had acted so “girlie.” She had been trained better and had certainly learned better. Frankly, she had never bought into the lingo of the day, which claimed that men and women were hopelessly non-communicating misanthropes. If men were from Mars and women were from Venus, why couldn’t they just build spaceships and travel to this good ole’ Earth and live together as humans?

The whole thing was rather ridiculous. But—and a very important “but” it was—she needed to do something. Her soul and conscience refused to stay out of the affair. It was frightening, considering this was how she got into trouble in the first place. Yet Karin Koulyea had a heart to be part of the solution instead of remaining a jagged edge of the problem.

So she pondered—a rather exhausting task after completing such introspection.

Then she remembered what the editor said. He was going to make some calls. Well, she knew how to use a phone. And God knows she would be safer in her apartment contacting people instead of in the desert, threatening to blow up little boys.

She opened up a book she had never used before:

The local Yellow Pages.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4022)

Sitting Sixteen

The editor sat, staring her in the eyes. He refused to avert his gaze, so she continued hers, hoping to win the standoff.

She could hear herself breathing. The quiet between the two of them made it possible for her to feel her heart beating.

After a moment, he leaned back in his chair. “No,” he concluded. “You’re wrong. The truth is, we don’t ‘got to do’ anything. Just because you’ve lost your objectivity doesn’t mean I’m going to follow you over the cliff.” He shook his head. “Young lady, you’ve got to remember what your job is. I just hate it when people try to do other people’s jobs. Hell—I don’t want my butcher talking to me about tomatoes, and I’m not particularly pleased to have my dentist comment on my haircut.”

He continued. “Here’s the thing. I don’t want my reporters, or in this case, you, pretending that she is really privately working as a social services agent. You’re a reporter, so start acting like one.”

Karin stood tall, walked over to the chair and sat down. “A reporter’s first duty is to find the story,” she said. “Try finding a story without becoming involved in the lives of the people who are dictating to you what you must write on the page. How antiseptic do you think you can become before doing all your work wearing kid gloves? Yes. I won’t deny it. This story reaches me. I guess from your perspective, you would claim it’s dirtied me. But nevertheless, it is a story. If you think I’m too passionate, edit my copy. Or isn’t that what you do?”

He smiled. The editor was always amused at Karin’s spunk—sometimes even drew it out or exaggerate it by generating fictitious conflict. He waved his hands in the air as if surrendering and said, “Okay. What’s your angle?”

Karin paused. She didn’t want to come across too verbose, or worse, off-point. What was her angle? She had already lied and had appeared too high-strung. So where did she intend to go with a story like this one, which was begging to become an obsession?

“Let’s help them.” That’s all she said.

The editor ferociously shook his head. “There you go again, back to saving the world. Don’t you understand, girl, if the world were to blow up tomorrow, I would put out my last edition of the paper ten minutes before the explosion, and have my sales team on the street drumming up advertising—until we were all dead.” He pointed at her. “I’m a newspaper man. I don’t care about solutions. Sometimes they get in my way. I know you don’t want to hear that, and if you ever told anyone that I said that, I’d call you a disgruntled employee and a liar. But I don’t dare care about solutions because if I do, I’m gonna miss the next juicy problem that needs to be addressed. It is not my intention to give you a sermon. I’m just trying to get your head back on straight. I need my good reporter back.”

Karin felt a quick flush of pride over being dubbed “good.” The editor’s compliments were infrequent. He was as cheap with his praise as he was with his pocketbook. But she pressed on.

“Let me go back out there. How about this? Let me see who comes to them. Let me just report how it plays out without trying to affect it in any way.”

“What is it they want?” the editor asked.

“I thought you didn’t care,” chided Karin.

He snorted. “Isn’t what they want part of the story?”

Karin sucked in a deep breath. Maybe she was tired. Maybe it was her religious training. Or maybe she was just being softened by the editor calling her a good reporter. Who could say? But she was plagued by a guilty conscience. She couldn’t go on. Her presentation to her boss was built on sand—the granules of a lie. She had to tell him the truth—so Karin took a few minutes to relate the whole story—the broken-down vehicle, the angry sergeant, the boys, the hand grenade, the confrontation and the fact that the weapon ended up being a dud.

She explained that the grenade was buried in the desert, and how the one boy seemed plagued with some craziness. She finished up by describing the wrestling match and the ride back to the city.

The editor listened quietly and carefully, conscious not to appear alarmed or disapproving.

“So you see,” Karin concluded, “I feel a little responsible for the two fellas. I know there’s a story here, but God forgive me, I need to be part of how this story pans out.”

The editor eyed her for a lengthy span of time. While he mused, she offered one afterthought. “Let me take it just a little further.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head, but then changed it to a nod. He grumbled, “Let me make some calls.”

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4008)

Sitting Fourteen

Left alone.

Young boys run on energy, not smarts. They are fully capable of performing the duties of an army but are minus the insight to know where to march and when to struggle.

Pal paced around the tiny campsite. He flailed his hands in the air, enraged with everything he saw. “Somebody is gonna know we don’t got nothing!” he screamed.

Iz sat quietly, stilled by the circumstances, in what seemed to be a mountain of resolution, but most probably was just a crumbling hillside of destruction.

Karin stood stunned, staring at the two boys, trying to decide what her duty was going to have to be in this youthful fiasco. She needed to be decisive, yet she didn’t trust her own take on the events.

She realized that she should try to talk the boys into going home.  But then she considered Iz. What causes a twelve-year-old boy to contemplate death? Could any of that responsibility be laid at the doorstep of his family?

Then propriety chased down her musings. They certainly needed to go to their parents. These boys did not belong in the desert. If she left them there, the soldier might return with his buddies, to drive them back into town in disgrace, or even for punishment.

The whole thing was so crude and so nasty. It all could blow up and just promote more smugness in this region already permeated with piety.

But in her heart, Karin was a journalist. Her ethics forbade her to be a party to façade. She couldn’t allow herself to become the third wheel in a doomed game destined to produce nothing.

She considered—who would everybody blame? Of course, her. Here she was, out on a lark, trying to get a story. Some scoop to help her maintain her edge as a lead writer for a dead periodical. But she wasn’t looking for a cause. She didn’t want to become “Mother” to the Middle East version of Leopold and Loeb. All she wanted was a story.

Unfortunately, she had fumbled her way into a tragedy.

Pal finally wearied himself of pacing, leaped upon Iz, and the two boys were rolling in the sand, fighting, growing more angry with each flip and punch. So Karin shook herself awake from her deliberations and ran over to pull the boys apart.

“What are you guys doing?” she screamed. Somehow she managed to squeeze her body in between the wrestling pair.

“He won’t talk to me!” Pal spat.

Iz said nothing, just continuing to thrust at the air with his arms.

Karin lost all patience. She threw both boys to the ground and straddled them. “You’re going to listen to me!” she proclaimed. “I don’t know what you think you’re achieving by beating each other to a pulp. Hell, I don’t know why you’re disappointed that the hand grenade didn’t blow you to smithereens. I don’t know why you’re both so damned nuts. But here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sit here until everyone is calm and I can sprout some sort of an idea.”

The boys were mad, their chests heaving. They wiggled and squirmed, but Karin’s firm thighs held them in check. They tried a series of insults.

“I hate you.”

“You really are fat, lady.”

“You smell bad.”

Karin laughed at them. At length, the twitching ceased as the young gents lay panting in a pile of exhaustion.

Slowly Karin released, dismounting her captives. “Here’s what we’re gonna do,” she said. “First, let me tell you what I think. There is nothing we can possibly to do determine what that soldier is going to tell or not tell. Secondly, I think the best thing is for me to get a ride back to town—somehow or another—and just talk to my editor and find out if I can get someone else with some brains, or someone maybe willing to share the pain, to become involved in this whole mess. And finally—this is the most important. You guys need to rest and promise me that you won’t claw each other’s eyes out.”

Iz was insulted. “We are friends,” he retorted.

Karin was relieved. He sounded a bit more normal.

Confident that they could no longer kill each other with a grenade and might be too worn out to box each other to death, she headed down the hill toward the nearest path that resembled a road, hoping to find some vagabond with wheels, who might be willing to pick up a disheveled female.

It could be a wait.

But she knew the next stop was her editor.

 

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