Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Running from Abaddon (Part III)

We landed in Yaoundé after sunset.  Cpl Moye met us at the airport with a Cameroonian driver named Ambrose who piloted our Chevy Blazer, diplomatic plates. At 2500 feet above sea level, it was cooler here than at the coast.  We drove north in the African dark, up the winding N2 highway on a bouncing three-mile trek from the airport to the embassy.

We were tired, dehydrated, and hung-over – not only from our recent night at the Command Post, but from the half-dozen Bloody Marys we’d had on the flight.  I rationalized that a combination of “hair of the dog,” tomato juice, and celery sticks was the perfect prescription for a genius flying into central Africa with an open head wound.

After a stop at the embassy to drop off our orders, Ambrose drove us to the Marine House, a walled compound that served as residence to the five Marine watchstanders.  Just inside, we found a beautiful hand-tooled bar, 20 feet long, images of Africans threshing and plowing, scrolled and carved into the dark and varnished wood.  The mirrored back wall was fully stocked with bourbon, scotch, vodka, rum, and tequila. Whatever you want.  Moye opened a fridge and popped the caps on a couple cold bottles of beer with “33” on the label.

“Tron-twa,” he said, handing an iced bottle to me and one to Wertjes and taking a long pull off his own.  “Vietnamese brew.  Pretty good stuff.”

We were looking forward to dropping our trash, showering off, kicking back with our new best friends and some drinks, and getting to know the lay of the land. 

A three-tone alert went off on a radio in the upstairs hallway.  “Dogwood, Dogwood... this is Sawmill.  REACT.  I say again, REACT.”  I heard Cpl Jon Wood answer the radio. “Sawmill, this is Dogwood.  REACT.  Copy.  En route.” 

Moye set his beer down on the bar and said, “C’mon.  Gotta go.”   Dark of night, 14 hours on a plane, five airports and two layovers, hung over, beer percolating in our bellies, scalp split open and probably still seeping, and we take off running through the side streets of some African town three degrees north of the equator.  Splendid.

“The fuck we doing?” Wertjes and I interrogated Moye as we hot-footed it down the street with the other Marines:  Cpl Wood, Sgt Milton Hogan, and Sgt Dwayne Scott.  I noticed that even now, running in the dark and in the spur of the moment, five Marines running together tend to form into two columns and synchronize their step.  Left, right.  Left, right.

“REACT,” Moye said between breaths. “Simulated riot, embassy intrusion, bomb search.  Supposed to have one every month.” He huffed, but kept a good pace.  “CO’s coming in two days for inspection and we haven’t had a REACT since March.  Fucking staff sergeant waiting t’the last goddamn minute.”

“How far?” I said, my mouth dry and my head throbbing and that Tron-twa starting to bubble up my gullet.   “’Bout three miles. Play it worst-case scenario. No vehicles.  Gotta run it,” Moye said.  I heard Wertjes mutter “goddammit.”

(to be continued...)


     Part IV
     Part V
     Part VI


     Part I
     Part II

No comments: