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To Each His Own: A Short Story

Updated on December 13, 2016
wingedcentaur profile image

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.

Source

Naram-Singh looked over the preparations. He was pleased. No, not five-star accomodations were these. But it was difficult to arrange accomdations of absolute luxury for their guests, under the circumstances.

He walked about the underground compound, from cell to cell, constantly muttering to himself, "Yes, yes. Quite reasonable. Quite reasonable under the circumstances. Yes, yes, this will do."

His team had done a good job outfitting the cells with somewhat personalized, specific touches. For Naram-Singh wanted his multinational patrons to feel as at home as possible. Had he not gone through the trouble of putting together a first-rate culinary staff that would prepare their meals, each according to his own national habit?

Naram-Singh heard one of those accursed drones fly by and blow something up. No doubt it had been a highly surgical strike, only killing "terrorists." Surely no women and children or peasant farmers had been hurt during the production of this "Shock and Awe."

His wasn't even a Muslim country, the supposed source of world terrorism. Naram-Singh like the vast majority of his people were of the Sikh faith. But that didn't matter to THEM, Naram-Singh knew. To THEM he and his people, together with Muslim and Arabs, were all turban-wearing... moon-worshippers or something.

That American leader -- the one from Texas, whom everybody thinks is dyslexic --- used the word 'crusade' to describe what's happening. Everybody acted as though he'd misspoken. That word had not been a mistake, Naram-Singh knew. The word 'crusade' had been a dog-whistle signal to the Christain far right of his country; and it had reflected a deeper truth in it.

There was a way in which THEY had never stopped fighting the War of the Crusades. THEY had never really forgiven Islam for its imperial encroachment into their continent. This is so whether THEY are consciously aware of it or not.

One never wants to excuse imperialism, of course. But as Naram-Singh read history, the imperialism of Islam in Europe had been far less destructive, far less rampaging, far less mean-spirited than the imperialism THEY would later visit upon the lands of Islam and of the Global South in general.

But enough of that, Naram-Singh told himself. He took out a pocket mirror and looked at himself. "Don't frown," he said to his reflection. Naram-Singh did not like to frown. Frowning put lines on the face, made one age prematurely.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Their American guest was the most beautiful man Naram-Singh had ever seen. He wished their encounter was happening under different circumstances. A time and place far away from here. A cafe in Paris, perhaps? Before World War One.

There had been a battle, a 'skirmish,' as it is more technically called by THEM. The young man had been unlucky, their unit made to retreat, leaving him behind by necessity. Now, the beautiful American was one of Naram-Singh's guests. Fortunately, there was not mark on that exquisitely beautiful Slavic body.

Oh well... Naram-Singh cancelled his daydreaming with a shrug. His duty to his country came first. First, last, and always.

Naram-Singh entered the beautiful American's cell with a bow and seated himself on the room's only chair. The American sat on his bed.

"You honor us with your presence," Naram-Singh said.

The guest's name was Roland Hapcheck.

Roland Hapcheck: age 29; U.S. military; career soldier, eleven year veteran; attached to the U.S. Army Rangers. No regular infantryman here. A G.I. Joe type.

But he didn't look like a G.I. Joe now, not to Naram-Singh's eye. He just looked like a man. An ordinary man, albeit an exceptionally beautiful man. "G.I. Joe" was just a man, now, in a scary and vulnerable situation.

"My name is Naram-Singh," the host said, in unaccented English -- which he spoke in addition to about a dozen other languages.

Initially, the American, on his guard, would say nothing but his name, rank, and serial number over and over again.

Naram-Signh smiled through this routine tedium. He explained to Roland Hapcheck, that he would be well treated. He would be well fed and rested. He was only being detained until the war's end and everybody concerned reached a negotiated settlement.

Naram-Singh and his people had provided the beautiful American with things to pass the time: books, magazines, newspapers, a radio, and a television.

Naram-Singh rose to leave. "The cable for the television goes in and out, I'm afraid. No doubt its due to signal interference from all those drones."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next day Naram-Singh visited the American, just as Lieutenant Hapcheck was finishing his breakfast of huge triangles of powdered-sugar French toast drowning in marmalade and honey, scrambled eggs and bacon, and strong black coffee.

The coffee was a blend specialized in by Naram-Singh's own country -- something they primarily grew for export on the advice of the World Bank.

Lieutenant Hapcheck made an approving grunt as his took the last swallow.

"Is there anything else I can get for you?" Naram-Singh said.

The American responded by saying that THEY were there to liberate Naram-Singh's country from the vice grip of radical fundamentalism, which gives rise to repression at home, and terrorism abroad.

"Yes, of course," Naram-Singh said

The American said that THEY would also help Naram-Singh's people organized a political democracy.

"That would certainly be nice," Naram-Singh said.

The American said that political democracies are democratic (small 'd'), accountable to their people; and they don't tend to become seed beds of misogynistic extremism, wanton aggression, and international terrorism.

Naram-Singh choked back a case of the giggles, and received all of this as though it were some kind of profound wisdom. "As you Americans say," Naram-Singh said, "you can't make an omlet without breaking a few eggs."

The next day's visit ended with a game of chess, which Naram-Singh allowed his guest to win.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next week Naram-Singh visited the American -- Naram-Singh no longer thought of him as the 'Beautiful American' -- who was in the middle of lunch: a spectacular burger topped with melted cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoe, and onions. French Fries and ketchup were everywhere. The jumbo-sized chocolate milkshake had made him smile. Both cake and pie were standing by as desert, along with coffee.

Naram-Singh had come in, this time dragging a big chest along.

"What's that?" Lieutenant Hapcheck asked.

Naram-Singh shrugged. "Oh, just some more books."

Naram-Singh just sat there and watched his American guest eat for a while. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

At one point Naram-Singh leaned forward and cleared his throat. "Roland?"

"Yeah," Roland said, mouth full of food and taking a sip of his milkshake.

"Roland, I'm going to have to ask you some questions."

"Sure, ask me anything you want."

Naram-Singh shook his head. "No, no Roland, you don't see. I'm going to have to ask you some questions that you won't want to answer. Understand?"

Roland put down his milkshake, suddenly losing his appetite. He understood.

Naram-Singh looked at the floor and waited for it.

It came. "You don't have to do this," Roland said.

"You know that I do, Roland. What is it you Americans say? 'Don't blame me, I don't make the rules. I just work here.'"

"I won't talk," Roland said.

"I know, Roland," Naram-Singh said. "But I'm obliged to try. Its my job, my duty to my country."

"But we're on the side of your people," Roland said. "We're here to bring democracy..."

Naram-Singh held up a hand. "Please, Roland. Let us both try to hang on to a little dignity."

"I'm 'specially trained to resist extreme torture. You'll never break me."

"I'm just going to interrogate you, Roland. Nobody said anything about 'torture.' I'm going to ask you some questions, and while its true that I may have to use 'enhanced' means of asking those questions, should you prove recalcitrant. But nobody said anything about 'torture,'" Naram-Singh said.

The American, Lt. Roland Hapcheck, had nothing to say to that.

"It shouldn't be too terrible," Naram-Singh said, opening the chest. He took out a book of some kind, looked at it, and said, "French," throwing it to one side.

He did this with another book. "German," and threw it aside.

"Swedish," and threw it aside.

"Flemish," and threw it aside.

"Italian,"..... "Belgium,".... "Danish,".... "Russian,"..... "Bulgarian,".... "British"... "Spanish,".... All countries in the NATO alliance that was tearing Naram-Singh's country apart.

"Ah, American," Naram-Singh said. "You shouldn't find the questions very terrible, Roland. Since you are an American I am going to limit myself to those techniques authorized by this book," he said, thumping the book with his finger.

"You know, your President, Leader of the Free World, gave me the idea ," Naram-Singh said. "He was making a speech in the wake of one of those scandals of the U.S. military forces. Your leader said that from now on, American military forces would be restricted to interrogation techniques found in the U.S. Army Field Manual. When I heard that I immediately thought to myself: What a marvelous idea, to each his own!"

"See, Roland?" Naram-Singh said, holding out the book for the American to see it.

The title read: The United States Army Field Manual of Interrogation Techniques Including Enhanced Measures.

The fear came over Roland and he vomitted.

The End.

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    • wingedcentaur profile imageAUTHOR

      William Thomas 

      5 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      My, but this is quite a mutual admiration society we've got going on. LOL, as they say.

      But seriously, Frank, thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it.

      Take it easy.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      Winged what I liked about this short is it's clean, crisp and highly satisfying.. excelleny..well-opaced, well written and I was pleasantly surprised :)

    • wingedcentaur profile imageAUTHOR

      William Thomas 

      6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Hi DeanCash (great name!).

      I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for stopping by.

    • DeanCash profile image

      DeanCash 

      6 years ago

      It is quite unique - I can remember my grandpa for this, thank you. voted up.

    • wingedcentaur profile imageAUTHOR

      William Thomas 

      6 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Hi P.W.! You are far too kind. Thank you so much for your generous remarks.

      Take it easy. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      PWalker281 

      6 years ago

      This is a good one, WC! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Love the irony. Voted up, awesome, and shared!

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