Archive for August, 2013



I’ve seen the movie “Hunger Games”, me and my wife.  I wasn’t impressed.

I guess it’s hard to gain an impression of that lifestyle when you’ve lived one as a kid, courtesy of the United States Army and a few other folks.

I grew up in a wartime culture, as lot of my peers did: steeped in the consequences of Vietnam, our father’s fresh from the horror of Korea (and the PTSD symptoms that followed – at the time unrecognized, but visited upon their kids and immediate family sometimes).

I well remember the hunger games.  The real ones.  The ones that WE played – for real.

Kids, gathered or ganged, platooned or assigned, guardian and guerrilla – we came in all kinds, and all kinds of us had our own specialties.  We’d gather in squads or platoons in the woods under the guidance of some counselors, be they military men or civilian, it really didn’t matter.  I even had a Scout Master – Colonel R., from the time I was 14 or so until I grew up and went into the military myself.

We were all a bunch of Army kids – always ‘fighting’, often playing war.  Our Scouts skills consisted of learning a bunch of survival; our overseas training, even more.*

Often the ‘award’ from such a fight was a can of C-Rats – C-Rations, to you civilian folks.  The favorite was fruit cocktail, pound cake (in a can) fell behind as a distant second.

A stack of “Silver Bullets” co-offered by some counselor (gathered from us, of course!) – would be enough for a reward.

To the spoils goes the victor.

They would set the “goody” somewhere (perhaps), divide us into battle groups (divisions, platoons – squads).  Generally the ‘armies’ were divided evenly, but not always.  Sometimes the ‘smart’ kids would be given the little kids to fight with – and the other team would be a lot of big boys.

Very big boys indeed.

I remember laying curled face down in a ravine, knees against my chest as dozens of kids, charging, dove across the ravine, their heels hammering along my spine and ribs.  I served as kind of a footbridge for a lot of them, or so it seemed.  Not that I was there for that, mind you!  I was a spy, and these were my enemies.  They had come up the hill (stealthily, you know), but I had ‘a-spyed’ them, lurking through the bushes, taking little ‘rushes’ from cover to cover, and had sent my young ‘aid’ a runner, about an eight year old kid (I was 14) to go and fetch help, give warning, do something.  Assemble the troops or whatnot.  Set off the alarm.  For I wasn’t the commander – just an infiltrator into enemy territory seeking a few goals.

Often the rules were uneasy.  You were allowed to hurt other kids – but not too badly.  Nothing that needed first aid (and we’re talking here in the serious days, where a small burn or scratch would get you a look of contempt were you to bring it to their attention, much less whine about it.  Kids today are so ‘tender’ . . . but there again, I had such a high pain tolerance (gee, wonder where that came from?  LOL!)

We “played” hard for that little treat, that can of syrupy sweetness, all swathed in green . . . O.D. green, that is, the color of war and canvas.  (How I like the smell of fresh tinted canvas – that military ‘stuff’, thick, green, and sturdy . . . there’s something about it that says . . . something.  Like ‘welcome home’, somewhat . . .)

I remember (and now this was in my older days, when I was 16 and had learned a lot about survival – and torturing folks) – we caught a kid.

He was from the other team, and he knew where in these deep woods (bounded by a highway and stream on one side, a tremendous lake on the other, bordered by woods and mud, and cut-through with ravines like an old man’s face . . .)

So I had him – or rather my helpers – tie him up.

At the first they were amazed when I took his shoe laces and wrapped them tight around his thumbs.  I tied a noose-knot, one that wouldn’t come unbowed, and would tighten whenever he drew it.

And then I showed them how . . .

to tie him up (to a stump) – and then to torture him . . .

without ever leaving a mark.

(That’s kinda funny, seeing as his name INDEED was Mark; Mark T. is all I’ll say for his own protection here . . .)

He had been boggle eyed and incredulous when I had tied him by his thumbs, sneering and saying:  “I’ll get out in no time!”  He was sure of himself, and that he could break those shoe laces.

While he was struggling with his bounds, I turned to my ‘men’ and began telling them – rather, teaching them what to do.

“We’re gonna tickle him,” I said, glancing over my shoulder.  He was sweating now, and his thumbs were hurting – I could seem them turning blue.

He, overhearing that, stopped struggling (whilst I went over and loosen his thumb braces a bit there) – and laughed again.

“Tickle me?!!”  He barked a laugh again.  “That’ll never work!  You can’t hurt me, you know!  Not really.”  And he smiled with a show of self-satisfaction, and leaned back, confident.

I smiled grimly.

He knew little of what was coming.

Turning to my three or four young charges, I looked over my team and said:

“Like this.”

And we began.  We all took turns in tickling him – him bound against the rough bark of an old (and somewhat soggy) tree stump, and those kids taking turns tickling his ribs, and up under his chin – using every trick in the book, even leaves and soft branches.  We had his shoes off, so his foot soles were bared.  At first he couldn’t stop laughing.

Then he couldn’t stop crying.

Then he couldn’t stop himself from peeing himself.

While we all stood around laughing at him he gave us the information we need . . .

Such is the fate, and the victor’s spoils.

He was only a little younger than me, by a year or two.   After ‘extracting’ our information (and me having two swift young runners go back bearing the news, by different ways should one of them get caught) – we found their camp and made havoc on them, taking care not to snap any of their tent poles, but otherwise ‘destroying’ their tents, and pity he who left a bit of food laying out . . . we would take it, every last drop and crumb . . .

Hunger games.

Yeah.

I’ve played them.

.

.

*We were being ‘trained’ to be infiltrators and ‘helpful little hands’ (in some terms guerrillas) for NBC war.  Those skills included, but were not limited to, learning to fire the minigun from a Cobra’s co-pilot seat using a HUD.  Just in case too many Army pilots got wounded . . . during a nuclear war.

The Girlfriend

“You wanna go together?”

“Huh?”, I said, not understanding the question.

“Girlfriend and boyfriend. You wanna be my boyfriend?”

I looked at her, a mushroom shaped girl with long dark hair draped below her shoulders. Her face was fat, a bit like mine, and she sat on a low bench, scuffing her feet in the schoolyard dirt of the playground.

She was fat, like me. I had gained a lot of weight during my trip to this ‘new’ land. The food was great, and the pastries to die for. There was lots of candy in my diet – I was used to doing a lot of work now, hustling to get jobs, anything where I could earn some money. I cut grass. I watched kids. I hauled garbage on a predetermined schedule – and this was back in the old days before plastic bags, and they put everything into paper. Paper could bust out and drop everything on eight sets of stairs; I had learned to be careful.

I thought about it. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about ‘sex’ – I’d done some reading, too. One of the most valuable books I’d found was in the school library: “Everything A Boy Needs to Know About Sex” – and it pretty much covered it. I read the Girl’s version, too. I wanted to be sure I knew both sides, including their point of view.

Those books were pretty good, too – a lot better than the coach we had, the one who taught sex education in the basement. It looked like the boiler room: dim and dark, stacked with pipes and dark shapes running this way and that, the boys stacked wherever they could fit in the darkness. The coach sat in the middle (it was a poorly lit place, that’s a matter of fact!) and made a few raunchy jokes – just one or two – and set in with a five minute explanation of everything, as if that should cover it. In his mind, anyway. He sort of expected us to know and we did. So for the next thirty minutes or so we sat there – there was a lot of joking, nothing to be done, sat around and then got outta there.

That was the extent of the Army’s ‘to-the-point’ explanation of a sexual education. If you couldn’t get it on the run, you weren’t going to get it anyway else.

So I’m looking this girl in the eye, trying to wrap my head around my feelings – and I don’t have any, not really, not for her. But I’m lonely and bored. Lonely, in a way. I’ve got three months or so left to go (more or less) before we’re shipping Stateside (back home! My other way of life! If anything is left . . . providing dreams don’t come true . . .)

“Okay,” I say, my voice guarded. “I’ll be your boyfriend.”

Because, to put it quite simply, I am not sure. Cultures are always changing – people are in and out of my life like roses, blooming and fading – and I’m not sure how this ‘relationship’ will go. I’ve been bitten and burned by quite a few of them. I’ve lost all of my friends. Either we or they have all moved away . . . But what else are we to do?

Her name is Debbie, by the way (a wonderful coincidence later, you’ll see. Much later, in one of the stories I’m going to be writing.)

She’s a fat girl, just like me.

And lonely, too.

Her friends have all ‘moved’, she’s a short-timer, too. I had just lost my best-ever friend, DB. Later on I learned it was in part due to a betrayal by my father. I was lonely and bored. No one knew me, nor I them, and no one gave a damn. I hung out at the youth center, or in the bunkers, or over at the airport where the spying went on – hanging out, getting into things then getting out again. There was a lot of ‘snooping and pooping’ with the G.I.’s out in the field, plus our ‘games’ and training in the bunkers. There were several beneath the airport, and we became quite big fans of theirs.

Anyway, here’s this girl, asking me out to something . . .

I guess it was more in name than in something else; love (or even ‘like’) that is, if there were remotely any feelings involved. I didn’t love her, not at all – nor, I think, did she, I. I was something for her to hit on and hang onto – something to take up our time.

Having not had much experience with other kids (they kept on moving, shifting around) – she and I became a partners in the ‘permanent’ scene for awhile – going to the Youth Center, touring the woods, until someone gave up or someone had to fly. I think it was her, transferred back to ‘here’ (the good ol’ U.S. of A). A lot of my friendships (and acquaintances – and enemies) came to an end like that: all of a sudden, with the brute force of an Army Officer’s call (or some kind of Orders, anyway).

So we hung out together – bored in school, sitting around, that kind of stuff. There wasn’t a lot of romantic ‘kissing’ going on. There wasn’t any kissing altogether, not for a long time, not until

The Castle.

We went on a trip, one we had to get our parent’s permissions for. It was for a 3 day trip to a castle where we would be staying courtesy of some sort of Christian Fellowship. I didn’t know about the Christian thing until I got there and discovered this was the source (or one of the sources) of all those little religious pamphlets or “cartoons” that I kept discovering. Sometimes one would find one in airports, or in some restroom – they kept a pile of them by some cash registrars sometimes – and always there were ‘funny’ in some horrible tragic kind of way, featuring some goon or loser getting his just dues, maybe sent to Hell (or some other kind of eternal damnation) – then getting Saved (or else going on into Hell anyway). We liked them because they were kinda funny – in a way. Christ was always the Savior. I found them corny – one I remember featured a boy propped against a wall, smoking. I had been smoking for some time . . .

But Debbie and I had been planning this thing for a long time – or it seemed like a long time for kids like us. About three weeks or so I guess . . .

And so it was that her brother (and her BIG brother I’m talking about, mind you!) took it into his head to remind me that we were NOT to “do” anything with his sister (and this is his “little” sister, mind you, so he’s especially protective) – or he’s gonna “whip my ass.”

Fine, I’m thinking, because I’m not planning on “doing” anything or going there (though I probably would, had the opportunity presented itself). I’d already had sex on my mind. I had since I was eight or so.

So we go on this field trip with her.

And it’s a wonderful place, this old castle and all – and we’re given a tour of it, Debbie and I hand in hand, and they assign us segregated sleeping quarters (a long hallway with a bunch of bunks on either side) and/or a “day room” to ‘play’ in.

Now this day room is kinda cool. It’s in the center of a tower, or an old turret, so the room is kind of round and all, and there’s tall windows letting the light in – nice, big windows – and there’s a hidden circular stairway in the middle goes to the top of the castle turret through a square hole with a trapdoor . . . Nobody goes up in that dark old hidey-hole . . .

Except us.

So we do.

Eventually we end up making out – going on top of the turret where she shows me how to ‘do’ things (like rubbing her breasts, which were, I guess, just kinda budding – kinda hard to tell when you’ve got a fat girl there) – and she has me stick my tongue in her mouth, right between her teeth (something that I hadn’t realized, since it wasn’t covered in the book I’d read). So . . . I went along with it . . . but memories of her brother kept popping in my head.

But it was quite beautiful there on the turret in the spring air. And my friend taught me to play cards as well – “War”, it was called, the first card game ever I learned with standard playing cards. I ate my first ‘raw’ egg there – or rather, it was undercooked, or at least by ‘my’ standards (and my momma’s, so therefore I had judged it underdone) – and it was one of the best eggs I ever ate in my life. Boiled, and slightly done, cracked in butter and a whole lot of salt – stir it up . . .

yummm.

But we spent a lot of time in that turret . . . in the darkness under the trap door, groping, fondling, finding one another, not that a lot went on . . .

and discovering the beautiful countryside from on high, between the stones of the turret,

I found a little peace and beauty, holding hands with a girl who wouldn’t cry when I left her.