Friday, June 17, 2005

Sergeant Bleak and his Nictitating Furies

Most folks think of me as a jocular sort, easygoing, witty, frivolous, quick with the sort of popular bon mot that has your wife running from the room in tears. But there's another side to my character, one I don't reveal to every tom, dick, and hairball. Tough. Rugged. Manly. Strong. Absorbent. Surprisingly inexpensive. Long-lasting. Large or extra large. Soft-spoken in a profane sort of way. The sort of guy you want on your side in a jam. The kind of guy who, when you drop in for a surprise visit, is lifting barbells clearly labeled "4 TONS," and who says, "Hang on a minute, wimpo...nine-hundred-ninety-nine, one thousand...Whew...Took me ten minutes today...I must be slippin'" The sort of guy who drops so many "g"s you can hear them breaking on the floor, and whole populations of stammerers pay big money for the undamaged ones. The sort of guy whose muscles ripple with such lethal potency they named a cheap wine after them. The sort-- Well, enough of this. I don't like to brag.

This morning, my new assistant, Zuleika Mole, showed in an unexpected visitor. As part of her duties here at Bleak House, she transcribed the ensuing conversation so that I can share it with you -- at least until her "coffee" "break," but there's enough here for you to get the general idea:

VISITOR. I'm sorry to intrude--
BLEAK. Hang on a minute, wimpo. Nine-hundred-ninety-nine, onethousand...Whew...Took me-
VISITOR. Can the tomatos, Sergeant Bleak.
BLEAK. ?!?#%@+$!!!!!
VISITOR. At ease, Sergeant. Well, it's been a long time.
BLEAK. Since the Gulf War. Can I get you a steroid latte?
VISITOR. No thanks, Bleak. I'll just smoke three of your cigars.
BLEAK. Well, this must be important.
VISITOR. That's putting it mildly, Bleak. It's top secret.
BLEAK. My seals are lipped.
VISITOR. This is an emergency so vital to the nation that the mission can only be carried out by a Living Legend of the Big One, by the Most Decorated Man in History, by the Finest All-Around Soldier in This Man's Army, by the NCO of whom Patton said, "Damn, this fellow makes me feel like a fuggin fairy. Give me two more like him and I'll wipe out the European Theatre, Beckett and Ionesco and all, and eat the Pacific for breakfast."
BLEAK. I'm familiar with my record, sir.
VISITOR. This is for the benefit of your readers, Bleak. You're so modest and unassuming, I doubt they're familar with your glorious past.
BLEAK. Wouldn't this be a breach of security? I can tell Ms. Mole to stop transcribing--
VISITOR. A breach of security? With YOUR readership? I can't think of a better way to keep a secret, unless it's attaching it to a nuclear-weapons trigger, then firing it into space to orbit around Neptune, ha, ha, ha.
BLEAK. All right, all right. I suppose you'll want be to gather together the old unit once again.
VISITOR. We're already working on that. They're all in -- Private Meeting, Private Property, Private Hell, Private Partz...
BLEAK. All the old PFCs. Damn. The Howling Easies, back together one last time. What sort of a mission will this be, sir?
VISITOR. Nighttime mission.
BLEAK. I can see this punchline coming a mile off, sir.
VISITOR. Of course. You always could. This is a Class E assignment.
BLEAK. But of course. Only the Commander-in-Chief can authorize an E-class. Must be important.
VISITOR. It's vital. And there can't be any leaks. You'll have to insert your unit without being detected, Bleak. The pullout is up to you. You'll be on your own.
BLEAK. Will my PFCs be exposed to--?
VISITOR. There's always that chance. If they get cut off, we won't be able to help. But I don't have to tell you, a mission like this, comes once in a generation, if that.
BLEAK. You don't have to tell me, sir. But, sir -- it's hard. My own privates involved in a nocturnal E-mis--
MS. MOLE. I hope you two are enjoying yourselves. I'm taking my break, now.