Despite my best efforts to resist the facile temptations of war punditry, I have become a war pundit. An alterna-pundit, to be sure, but a pundit nonetheless. For the latest example of the art of hipster punditry, which I am currently trying to perfect, please read this piece in the current Stranger, Seattle's only newspaper that dares to publish me.
And now, a treat. Actual fiction! By an actual fiction writer! Nealpollack.com is proud to present an exclusive excerpt of the Gulf War novel The Pearl Of Kuwait, by Tom Paine. The excerpt starts now. Enjoy.
Anyway, one evening we three were sitting around shooting the shit, and suddenly we three see the lights of some vehicle in the distance barreling toward our camp. Krebes had just completed writing KNIGHTS WITHOUT A FIGHT in the sand with his M16 when we saw this vehicle. Me and Trang and Krebes look at the words and give each other a nod like there it is, and then raise our eyes to the oncoming vehicle. It was a limousine. It slowly slid to a halt before us three, and the tinted passenger window slides down, and this voice from within says, “Private Carmichael.” I kind of recognized the Arab voice, and then I see the face with these dead black eyes in the window, and it is old Colonel Fawwaz!
Colonel Fawwaz was kind of rude to Trang, he just kind of nodded to him. Then he turned his big face to me and said, “Care to go for a pleasure ride?” And I’m like no thanks, on account of his rudeness to Trang and to Krebes too, who was sitting there and who the colonel ignored also. But Trang like says, “Go with him man,” and as Colonel Fawwaz’s face slips back in the limousine to answer some question from his driver, Trang whispers to me in a stoked way, “You go with him, and find out the status of Princess Lulu.” So I now have like this mission, and the limousine door is opened by the driver, and I’m like, “I can’t just go without asking Captain Pettigrew.” So Krebes is sent off on the double by the Saudi colonel to get Captain Pettigrew, and when he shows up Colonel Fawwaz goes off for a walk with him, and when they come back I am like cleared to hang with Colonel Fawwaz for as long as the big Saudi dude needs me for his special mission.
So then we are in the limousine, and the colonel calls me Cowboy, which he made up on the spot and said like we were old buddies. And he hands me a drink of Jack Daniels on ice, and puts some Donna Summer on the cassette player, and starts wagging his finger at me telling me I should of told him of my important father long ago. I take a sip of Jack, and like say, yessir, I should of told you. But I have no idea what the hell he is talking about. And he rattles on about how now he knows I am that son of that Carmichael from that certain city in Texas. And it is all wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and a good laugh was had by we two about my hiding that I was that Rich Son of Texas Oil!
I am like not as good as Trang about surfing a wave of shit, but for the good of the mission of finding out about Princess Lulu from the big drunk Saudi colonel I do what I can, and it was kind of easy, but still, at first I wasn’t all that comfortable with all the lying.
I guess because I wasn’t a good liar, our like conversation came to an end. He had been telling me about his time at Oxford, and had the idea somehow that his imaginary Cody Carmichael the rich Son of Oil from Texas had dropped out of Yale to join the marines, and that this imaginary Cody Carmichael had known the colonel’s brother Abdul at Yale, and that me and Abdul had hammered back the beers and chased American sluts together. His brother Abdul had told Colonel Fawwaz I was A-OK, and so Colonel Fawwaz had decided to let the past be past and take me away from the war for a few hours. This was all totally nuts, but I decided to go with it for the sake of, as I said, finding out more about Princess Lulu for my man Trang.
Plus, it was getting interesting. I was a couple of drinks into it now, and Colonel Fawwaz slapped me on the shoulder and told me we would have fun! I don’t know about his idea of fun, because the first stop wasn’t much fun! We pulled in front of this like huge old-looking concrete building, and from the animal-looking Arab guards at the door, I was wondering if I had been tricked and was being sent to a nasty prison or something on account of what happened in Kuwait. We walked past the guards and into a courtyard. I was almost running to keep up with the big Colonel Fawwaz. And then he braked his bulk in the middle of the courtyard and clapped his hands and yelled in Arabic. Strange, but right then I was thinking about the earth erupting with like fiery gas plumes. Maybe it was kind of the nasty vibe of the place was giving me a walking nightmare. Colonel Fawwaz squeezed me on the shoulder and said he had promised his brother from Yale to keep an eye on me while I was in the gulf.
And right then these huge metal doors opened, and in march guards in robes, and behind them come these like four black dudes. I mean they were not Arab, but black, like real African looking. And they looked bug-eyed scared, and I would have been too, as right behind them comes this huge mother of an Arab waving a big scimitar.
That’s what Colonel Fawwaz called it, a scimitar. The black dudes are like dropped to their knees, and then their heads are pushed down. And then I hear something overhead, and I look up and it is these gallery windows sliding open. And there are all these dozens of Saudis like gaping out through these windows. And when I looked down again at the black dudes, one of them like locked eyes on me, like as if to say, man, this is 1990, they don’t cut off heads in 1990!
I like take a deep breath, and was thinking what to do! when some official little midget dude starts reading this long riff, I guess on their crimes, from this scroll thing that looked real ancient. Then Colonel Fawwaz gets a sly look from the official dude, and the colonel nods, and the official dude nods, and like the dude with the scimitar pokes it into the first black guy’s back, and like just as his back snaps upwards in pain, whoosh, that scimitar had his head bouncing on the floor. The other black guys start like moving out on their knees like chickens running, but Mr. Scimitar went into swishing action, and Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! off go all the heads rolling around on the concrete floor.
And I shit you not, right then Colonel Fawwaz like looks at his watch and says: these official duties take so much time. And when we rush back in the limousine Colonel Fawwaz slugs back his whiskey and pours us both a couple, and then kind of snuggles his massive back into the seat with a cozy sigh. And all I can do is slug a straight drink back and say: What did they do? And the colonel is reading some papers and looks up as if surprised and says:
“They? They are rapists.”
“Who did they rape?”
“They have tried to rape some Saudi women.”
“Luckily, they were caught.”
Colonel Fawwaz made it clear he wanted me to ask no more questions, and shoved some papers in my hands. He said it was a recent speech by President Mubarak of Egypt about the war and that he had tried to get our General Schwarzkopf interested in it, and had translated it personally from the Arabic at great pains, but that our general had shown no interest at all. From what I could gather this brush-off from General Schwarzkopf was really bugging Colonel Fawwaz, and he started hammering drinks and rattling on about Showing Respect for Arabia and Arabs! Which led him as we drove into some historical territory. It suddenly became real upsetting that I had never heard of these Saudi dudes of ancient times called the Ikhwan. They were like some seriously whacked-out but important religious dudes, as far as I could tell, because Colonel Fawwaz was cranked up I didn’t know about the Ikhwan. So I’m feeling short-tempered on account of seeing the decapitations, and am like, “Hey, Colonel Fawwaz, tell me about the Mormons. We’ve all got our religious nuts.” But Colonel Fawwaz didn’t get the point about the Mormons, except when I said the Mormons had the option of a lot of wives, which kind of calmed him down and turned him on as he was imagining like a harem of blond-haired blue-eyed American sluts. But once he lost his erection, he got back on the topic of the Ikhwan, who were these ancient camel-hoppers who would cover their face rather than be looked on by an infidel.
Colonel Fawwaz put down his drink and covered his fat face with his hands and turned to me and said through his fingers, “You, Cowboy, you are the infidel. You see?”
I wasn’t sure I liked being called an infidel. Say what you will about the Mormons, the few I’d met going door-to-door in California were always extremely friendly guys, and not one ever covered his face rather than look at me or insulted me and called me an asshole, which is what infidel sounded like the way Colonel Fawwaz said it. I was thinking on these things, and Colonel Fawwaz lowered his hands and slapped me on the knee and said, “Cowboy, why do I go on like this? I am certainly not Ikhwan!”
“That’s cool,” I said. “I’m not Mormon. Can we drop the God thing?”
“The God thing?” said Colonel Fawwaz.
“You know,” I said. “Let’s just chill on the God thing, cease and desist that conversation, if you see what I mean.”
And here Colonel Fawwaz sat up his bulk and slapping his chest with a thud yelled out, “Never! I am a slave of Allah the Most Merciful!”
I was thinking yeah, yeah. Allah the Most Merciful who slays some black dudes whish, whish without a trial. It just really was becoming clear we as Americans were in bed with some crazy Arab mothers just off their camels civilization-wise, and it was becoming harder to keep on a party face. I was wondering if deep down they were secretly all these Ikhwan dudes who hated us Americans on sight. But Trang had sent me on a mission to help scout out the Princess Lulu situation, so I bit my tongue about old Allah the Most Merciful for the moment.