For The Blood of Pigeons
Sitting here in this park in Tunis, the warm sun on my shoulders, the ocean breeze rustling the leaves above, it's easy to take myself back to Calvi. I used to run and hide from my grandfather in the olive grove. It's simple when I close my eyes and breathe easy on a day like this.
I can hear his slow crunch amongst the dry olive leaves, never hurrying, but never stopping. That is a metaphor for how he raised me. In the olive grove, he knew he could find me quickly and easily, but he also knew it was important for me to feel that I was a good hider, that I was able to outsmart a grown-up. I miss him and the wisdoms he gave me.
The park where I sit is in direct opposition to the environment I have been in for the past two years. The campaign against the Nazi incursion efforts here in North Africa has been and continues to be a difficult one; one rife with hardships. So many ways to be killed; the unshielded sun with its broiling rays cooking you in your tunic, blistering your skin, the cold that turns so brutal in the night during winter, wild Tuareg warriors on horseback who yearn to use their swords on any interloper either Axis of Ally, sand vipers who bring the painful venom death, then thirst, and of course the aerial strafing or the machine gun salvos spraying their small packages of death promiscuously.
There are more ways to die here than I can imagine and after six years in the Legion I canimagine a lot.
I've been called from the defense of Nazi incursions to a meeting here with the French Ministry of Intelligence. I don't know what for and I am of two minds with it. Yes, I am grateful for the respite from the battle lines yet forming, and more so from my frequent intelligence gathering behind the lines such as they are; and resentful for having to leave my brothers on the field of battle and some jobs undone. But, I go where they tell me and do what is demanded of me.
"Balbozar, are you listening?"
"Yes sir, I am, I am evaluating what you have said." In reality I was wondering about the small trickle of reddish sand that seems to have come from my trouser leg. The Minister of Intelligence had been delivering a sermon about how the French were the true warriors and the deserved leaders of a soon-to-be free Europe. When would he get to the matter at hand, why am I here?
"Something has come to our attention" he finally said. We locked eyes and he took a deep breath. "This mission I am going entrust you with may be the most important effort of the war. It is quite different to what you have done before and it is extremely delicate and dangerous at the same time."
He was warming to the topic though still a bit circumspect. I dared not hurry him along, touchy bastard that he was. Inspector Michel Bousquet was a bit of a martinet. Wait, I am being over polite. He is a French pompous prat from Paris. Yes, France is occupied by the Bosch. The Ministry of Intelligence is thus an unsanctioned operational body by the Nazi suzerainty. So they say. We of the Legion operate virtually autonomously and according to the Nazis, illegally. At any rate, Bousquet seems to think this situation lends him some air of mystique and he often carries on with more drama than is warranted.