Monday, December 6, 2010

Skinwalkers Part 2

Lawrence's main antagonist is a hick, a redneck. Country through and through. Cliff Jenson does not hide his disdain referring to him as "Tonto."  Jensen has no love of the 'Indian' especially since one ran off with his mother. All adulterers and thieves. "Filthy whorin' fuckers, ain't got the intelligence of a mule," said well within earshot but elicits no reaction. Jenson is aggressive, strong and the most accomplished of the whites. His prowess, although falling short of the Navajo, is also noticed and he’s summoned by command. Unsure whether this is to be a debrief or discipline for his insults he is sheepish on approach.

"At ease." commands the officer, "Take a seat."
 Obediently Jensen sits and awaits his fate. "Jensen, you're aware of this Code Talking initiative?"
"Yes Sir," he replies as his superior continues, "The survival of the talkers is paramount. They will transmit essential information to aid the war effort. This places them in an unusually vulnerable position. To counter this risk, we are assigning you to one as protector."
Jensen's displeasure is not hidden as his freckled face reddens with rage. He thinks himself above protecting an Indian and has blood lust for real fighting not babysitting.
 "I know you don't get along with these men but this isn't a school picnic. These talkers need armed support so abandon whatever grievances you have and stick to the man like glue."
Jenson nods obediently, hiding his displeasure as the commander lowers his voice, "However," Jenson likes the 'however' despite being mystified, "Should the talker be even threatened with capture, he must be dispatched. Do you understand me son?"
Jensen can hardly hide his delight. A licence to kill a motherfucking sonofasquaw, this is just too good!
 "Of course sir, I understand completely."
And the conversation ends.
 
In training camp, Lawrence is assigned a shadow, a protector, a fellow Marine. Cliff Jensen.

His taunter will keep him safe, protect the secret of the code.  Both men have much in common despite their ethnic difference.  Both are young and fit, keen hunters, laden with testosterone and longing for the kill. Both are skilled in combat and stealth, whether armed or not.  Both longing for adventure but neither tainted by action. Both share an animosity approaching hatred of each other but only one discloses. "Yo Tonto!" yells Jensen, "I'll be your Kimosabe, lick my boots!" Lawrence flicks him the bird, says nothing. "Ha! I'd like to take your squaw out for a good steak dinner and never bring her back!" Again the Navajo ignores the taunt. His race are used to abuse but he will not forget.

The evening before deployment, enemies of a different kind lie on cots, side-by-side. Gleaming tags on green T shirts, their hands clasped behind their heads. Eyes focused on an invisible and elusive target high above.   "You scared?" Lawrence asks. "Fuck no. Can't wait to kick some Jap ass, the sneaky fuckers.  We're Marines Tonto, kick ass is what we do." Both  roll but neither sleeps a fitful sleep. Lawrence feels the eyes of his reluctant companion burning holes into his back, imagining a blade between his shoulders. He dreams the wolf is at his door, a Skinwalker come to claim his soul.  Jensen dreams of treachery. He can't wait to ship out.

Huddled in their landing craft, they encounters scattered fire as the beach speeds into view. They're unaware of the labyrinth of tunnels beneath this stinking hole, protecting their aggressors, secluded deep, like rabbits and shielded from aerial attack. They make landfall on Iwo To amid ash and black volcanic sand. Halfway between Japan and the airfields of the Marianas, its strategic importance is well understood. The vulnerability of his comrades, immediately comprehended. It is an altar prepared for the immolation of seventeen thousand men.

Marines scramble onto the beach and the bloodbath begins. Japs open up and men are pinned by withering fire. Their Amtrack, accompanied by Ducks among the first assault, Lawrence's shadow is omnipresent, pushing him forward onto the beach taking his arm and stabilizing him as waves lash at his waist. Lawrence holds the field phone and radio above his head. He's a target and he knows it.   This is an uneasy partnership with protector and protagonist as one.  Made all too real by a beach already littered with the corpses of blackened amphibian tractors and green-clad marines, still helmeted and twisted where they fell. One more Navajo  body would barely change the toll. A mortal garden of exploding shells. For now, Jenson is his Lord Protector his brother in arms.

A spigot mortar lands and propels both men.  Their flight limp and helpless before landing hard upon damp sand. Lawrence scrambles for his equipment, crawling to take cover, feeling numb. He shakes the ashen dirt from his head, shoulders, face. Ash is a funeral right and he wants none of it on his body. Shell deafness rings in his head as he tries to get his bearings. A Pillbox rises above. Japs fire at will within its protected walls, wild and random. He crouches at the base to avoid detection. "You OK Tonto?" whispers Jenson close behind, barely audible above the Japanese fire. He keeps one eye on his charge, the other on the tower. "Fine! Deaf but fine!"snaps the other, still shaken but alive.   Jenson reaches for a grenade, removes the pin and hurls the missile amid the blood-lusting sentries within. Both hit the deck and silently count, wait, for the inevitable smell of burning flesh, acrid metal and falling rubble.  Scrambling below fire, they clear a way, drag body parts beyond it's perimeter and secure the Pillbox.  This is their bunker now, home for a while. It’s time to talk.


Lawrence sets up his radio while Jensen blocks the tunnel extruding from the far interior wall of the Pillbox. The Nips will be back if the Marine's can't hold position. Hard to tell with Nips, they're crafty little shits and tough adversaries. Guerrillas all and full of surprises.

A Navajo conversation begins between Lawrence and a fellow talker the US Hunter off the coast. Instructions are relayed, positions marked all in Navajo tongue, coded to disguise meaning. Their messages are fast, less than 2 minutes each they code assaults, warn of danger and find a safe place for bivouac along the littered beach. He is a link in the Navajo net keeping everything connected like a spider's strands spanning distant branches. The talker talks while Jenson, ever present, watches.

2 comments:

  1. Wind Talkers meets The Defiant Ones.

    I sense a change of climate coming...

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  2. Ooh... I just noticed the ash foreshadow. Nice touch.

    You change how you spell Jenson/Jensen quite a bit. :P

    ReplyDelete