TALES FROM MY YOUTH: (Author is another Lexican)
The Adventure of the Green Iguana
Now, I’d met Ivan on a couple of occasions – he was a fairly good sized, bright green iguana having a calm, phlegmatic attitude, as do you and I. Never knew exactly what he ate – Eightball suggested on a regular basis that the source of Ivan’s diet was somewhat more sinister than the insect life that abounded up north – but he seemed happy and well-cared for enough, so much so that on occasion we suspected Ivan was indeed a lot happier and well-cared for than Mrs. Eightball and their son. However, that night Eightball looked around the wreckage of his life and came to the conclusion that the only source of love, unquestioning devotion, and comradeship unto the end was Ivan, and Ivan, in unspoken eloquence, would share that end. Or maybe Ivan was just too damned cold to argue, being where we were, but never mind.
The Law Enforcement troops apparently missed Eightball by mere seconds, and immediately started asking the other residents if they had seen anything. And promptly disbelieving what they were being told. The gun – quickly confirmed as a BB pistol – made a certain amount of sense…but a lizard? Aw, hell no. Gotta be something else. This serene conclusion lasted mere minutes before an exponentially increasing number of calls came in from a few blocks away that someone was shooting out windows on parked cars. While raving incoherently and carrying what appeared to be a fluorescent green cat/dog/stuffed toy/unknown animal. The LE guys looked at one another, and their blood ran cold as they realized the awful truth: a nutcase with a BB gun was loose…and
El Lagarto walked by his side.
Or, more properly, was carried. But you get the idea.
Military law enforcement does not now, nor did it then have many of the cultural imperatives and impediments we see on the civilian side of the house – the rule and directive at that point was simple: GET HIM. (And his little lizard too, it went without saying.) Within minutes, the LE force was coming down like the wrath of God, aided and abetted by the far more serious firepower of the Security Police. The blue berets deployed around a cul-de-sac where screaming, popping noises, and busting glass was heard, and sure enough there was Eightball, drawing down on any expanse of car window that caught his fancy, and Ivan was firmly by his side. I was told by witnesses on both sides – SP/LE and in the houses – that it was a thing of tactical beauty to behold as the cops came out from between the houses just as Eightball and Ivan found themselves dead center in the middle of the cul-de-sac proper and cop vehicles, gumball machines blinking to beat the band, came roaring up the street. Even in his seriously altered state, Eightball knew the game was up – there was no escape, and although everybody knew it was a BB gun, this was a SAC base and these were SAC security troops. If he made a run for it, it could turn terminal right quickly – the men with the guns were angry and embarrassed, and the guy with the lizard had nothing to lose.
Which is why I’d like to think that in some part of Eightball’s disintegrating brain, a couple of synapses misfired in just the right sequence to explain what happened next…for Eightball looked at El Lagarto….and El Lagarto looked back with an expression of quiet understanding…an imperceptible nod…and an unspoken pact passed between them at that moment. It would have been that look that Butch and Sundance passed between each other that warm afternoon in Bolivia as their adventure came to an a close, and it spoke more eloquently than any words could ever do: If this was the end, then let it be so. One would sacrifice for the other, even if to buy just a few more seconds, and however it turned out, was how it would be. So, before anyone could move, Eightball swung up the BB gun, placed it to Ivan’s head, and cried, “Back off or I WILL SHOOT THIS FECKING LIZARD!!”
There was utter, complete, and total silence for a few heartbeats, not even the birds chirped, nor did a single sound from the flightline echo down through the trees and the houses. No one spoke – no one could speak – until one of the SP Lieutenants said, quietly, “…Guys….I think he’s serious….”
This apparently had two effects – first, everyone turned to the ell-tee with a “What the hell did you just say?” expression, and then one of the senior NCOs present gave that timeless expression known as the facepalm and ordered his men to rush Eightball. They tackled him with the ferocity of an NFL line defending their end zone with one second left on the clock, and I understand there were some minor injuries on Eightball’s part before he was wrestled into a LE cruiser and taken off to Building 180, SP HQ on Wurtsmith and a place with the same terror and dread that Winston Smith’s Room 101 inspired.
We never saw Eightball again; his gear at work was quietly boxed and sent to the squadron, his home emptied of the things that had once belonged to a family and sent elsewhere. I do know there were no courts-martial, but there was a very quick discharge, and the matter was dropped. Some quiet inquires some time afterwards were answered with long faces and reminders of the Privacy Act. Whatever happened to him happened fast, and he became as much an unperson as one of those poor Stalinists who is airbrushed out of a picture after the People’s Courts have their way. He was perhaps to a certain extent a victim of circumstances – a remote assignment, a personality disposed to problems to begin with, and easy/semi-tolerated substance abuse – and in the end there may have been no way around what happened. At the very least, I hope that this was as much of the bottom as he hit. I know Mrs. Eightball later married another one of the Ammo troops, and at last report (many years ago) had done well. In the meantime, Eightball’s Run became a legendary – and cautionary tale – in the 379th Munitions Maintenance Squadron.
Oh good heavens, I almost forgot – there are two versions of Ivan’s fate. The first was that he was scooped up by one of the SPs and eventually found his way to a pet store downtown – Mrs. Eightball wanted NOTHING to do with him. Hopefully, he found another owner to care for him, and he settled into a warm, well-fed retirement.
But others tell a different tale…how, in the tumult and shouting, Ivan escaped that day, and lived out a short, defiant remainder of his life in the lush woods until The Snows Came and enshrouded him in silent white Death.
Legend, though, told around missile stands and entry control points, whispered over pool tables and pitchers of beer at the Club, told of a silent, almost unseen form who walked a certain cul-de-sac, seen only fleetingly from the corner of your eye – then GONE – leaving odd footprints in the snow, and an alien hissing sound that you could never quite lock in on. You’ve seen that too, Newbie? Then count yourself fortunate that El Lagarto has passed you by…..