Dag slapped another magazine in and lined up his sights, squeezing off a short burst that caught a Fidel irregular who had been busily setting up a mortar. Guy thought he had camo’ed up real good, but he didn’t even have time to be surprised when three rounds sent him straight to Allah.
I looked to my right, where Monty was pulling the pin out of a grenade with his teeth. Nerdy looking guy, but a damn good fighter. He had 34 confirmed kills to his credit, and as the grenade sailed off into the panel just north of us, I knew that a few more would be added momentarily.
WHAM! The concussion would have knocked me off my feet, if I had been on my feet. But I wasn’t. I was crouched down, serving a mini-mortar. The rounds contained the usual shrapnel, plus a bonus. Shredded pork.
Pig hadn’t died in vain, I thought. Even in death, he continued to fight for us, with us. The Fidels didn’t fear dying – that was the main problem with their nutty death-cult, anyways – but they feared pork. And dying with pork embedded in their bodies was the worst. Too fuckin’ bad.
Hagar Diksson and his platoon were rampaging two panels west of us. They had more dogs in this hunt than most of us, being Danes and all. Well, Vikings are Danes, aren’t they? Berserkers, they were, and they lived up to their fearsome reputation, laying waste to entire villages. Lucky Eddie, though, he wasn’t so lucky after all. Raggie popped out of a word-balloon with a scimitar, swung it once, neatly taking off the top of his skull. In a vengeful fury, Hagar swung around with that chopped up, rusty sword of his and disemboweled the raggie. He’d mourn his sidekick later; just then, there was killing to be done.
After a few hours, things quieted down and we had a chance to snag some grub. Dag had done some wheeling and dealing and gotten hold of a few extra MRE’s, which he proceeded to take apart, using the components to build himself one of his trademark massive sandwiches. Fuckin’ thing even had a toothpick and an olive in each half. How the hell does he manage it, I wondered.
We had been fighting for months. Years, it seemed. All of it torched off by some drawings of Mister M his ownself, in some dinky-ass Danish blat. The Fidels went nuts.
I had been jawing with Plato the other day about it, and I think he had it scoped. He said, “Here, if a newspaper prints a cartoon you don’t like - for whatever reason - you write a nasty letter to the editor, you cancel your subscription, you bitch and complain to your like-minded buddies. Potentially blasphemous pictures of Moses and Jesus included. It’s called ‘freedom of the press.’”
Plato sure do like to use the fifty-cent words. And he continued:
“What you don’t do is go running off, full-tilt boogie, blowing shit up, threatening people, and boycotting entire countries.
“Until Muslims learn to develop a sense of outrage about the things that really matter - like ‘Why don’t we have 50 Nobel Prize winners?’ or ‘Why do we countenance honor killings of women?’ or ‘Why do we tolerate the death-culture of suicide bombers and people who kill thousands of innocent human beings by flying planes into buildings?’ all of these protests ring hollow. Start acting like civilized human beings, and you will be treated as such. If you don’t, you will be cut off from the rest of the world and driven out of Europe and the Americas, back to your old enclaves in the sand.”
Civilized, pah. They went apeshit.
And since this was a Cartoon Jihad, it was only a matter of time before us cartoons got involved.
War had its surprises, sure. Who would have thought that Dag could turn himself into a real, honest-to-Gawd fighting machine? Or Rob Wilco? Rob, now he got pissed off because the raggies were always calling his buddy Satchel “unclean,” threatening to blow his whole strip away. They got this thing about dogs, ya know. Well, guess what? Rob didn’t wait for them to make the first move.
He told me, “Only guys that can insult Satchel are me ’n’ Bucky.” And then he proceeded to take out a whole Sunday page all by himself, losing his left leg in the process. I hear there’s a Purple Reuben waiting for him when he gets out of the infirmary.
More surprises. Did you know Egypt had its own knockoff of Superman? Nabil Fawzi, he was called. For a while, we were worried...until we found that there was something that would take him down faster than a Kryptonite Dinner would give the real Superman a bellyache. Burning lard. We hosed him down with it.
Sarge is rousting us. Looks like coffee break’s over – back on our heads. Yeah, I know it’s an old joke.
Hell, all of us – most of us, anyway – are old jokes. But even we believe that there’s something worth fighting for.
Freedom. It’s hard to define it, until someone tries to put a box around it. But in the world where I grew up, freedom meant you could say or draw whatever you wanted. You were free to be an asshole or a saint. Those are just opinions, anyway, aren’t they? Everybody has one, and everybody thinks everyone else’s stinks.
And wouldja believe? Sarge hasn’t beaten the crap out of me since this thing began. Of course, I don’t goof off any more, either. Not when there’s real work to be done.
Wish me luck. While you’re waiting to see what happens to us, go over to Shoe’s old hangout and have a drink. My tab’s good there – just tell ’em Beetle sent ya.
[This post is dedicated to Laurence Simon and aaron.]