by David Gower
The nights in the Middle East are cold beneath clear sky. Two figures huddle as they peer into the darkness of the desert. A sliver of Moon tonight giving a feeble glow across an arid landscape. Desert may have romance and beauty but not from a hole in the ground far from home. Not on Christmas Eve.
Frank ‘When I get out of this God forsaken lot I am gonna use all this mob has taught me and make a telly series. Just like all them other smug geezers. I will bite the tail off a scorpion, dip a biscuit made of flour made from grain milled under me size 10 boots into a bottle of water filtered from a muddy pool and then jump into the Land Rover back to me bleeding 5 star hotel.’
Nobby ‘Been a long day then? You are never happier than when you are complaining. How long have I known you? If you stopped griping we would think you was dead’. I have to sit in this OP all night with you. There are people I would rather be in bed with right now than sitting with you in an ‘ole. Did you ever see that cartoon from the First World war? Some geezer with a moustache called Ole Bill sitting in a shell hole. The caption was ‘if you knows a better ‘ole go to it’’
Frank replies grudgingly. “You know what I mean. Sitting here looking like a pair of Peeping Toms, hoping to God no one sees us and breaks our cover. Ready for a firefight but the job is to slip away with intel and no one know we was ‘ere’. Leaving not a sign. Only if we see Target 1 do we act otherwise. Join the Special Forces and be invisible!’
Nobby whispers urgently ‘Quiet. If she’s is gonna scream and shout all night all the women will be in that hut. The blokes will keep to themselves until the kid pops out. Then they will either jump around firing guns in the air if it’s a boy or commiserate with each other and wonder what sin the father committed to deserve a girl. Poor cow.’
Frank ‘How do you pass the time on observation when you do not have the likes of me to brighten your day?”
Nobby “I think about the Meaning of Life. About what I am gonna do with me pay and invent crosswords.”
Frank “Crosswords? Well, you never do!. How do you do it?”
Nobby “I like the cryptic ones – you know they make you think a bit. I used to know a bloke who did The Times ones every day in his head on the train. I never believed he could do it but when I asked him he gave me every answer and told me how he had worked it out.’
Frank “I never understood those cryptic ones. I can manage the simple one in the Sun and the telly magazines.’
Nobby “If you are gonna mix with the nobs and film producers of this world you will need to ponce about with the Guardian crossword. At least until you con Piers, Julian or Tarquin to send you and a crew to some flash hotel when you have your scorpion for starters. They like officer class, mate.’
Frank “So give us a lesson then. We got sod all else to do but sit here freezing while she wails through the night.”
Nobby “Blimey, I thought I was the only Wise Man round these parts tonight. Let me see if I can get you to use that blob you call a brain’. Ready for your first clue? Remember these things work in about three different ways. You have your anagrams where you mix letters in a word or phrase to make another word. Let me think now. Here’s one ‘In a hurry on the gent’s lip - 9 letters’.
Nobby “Think of how you might say in a hurry. Must dash - puns so moustache sounds like must dash on a gent’s lip”.
Nobby “Or there’s anagrams where dogs might be turned to gods’
Another groan from Frank
Nobby “Quotes from Shakespeare and his mates but I never go there!”
Frank “Thanks be to God for that!”
Nobby “Try this one. Sounds like a local alien at Christmas, 8 letters”
Silence in the foxhole and they are unnoticed in the camp below.
Nobby “Have I found a way to keep you quiet at last? Another word for local might be native. An alien could be E.T. Put them together at Christmas and you get Native ET, gettit? Nativity! Just like what’s going on down there.”
Frank spits in disgust but then makes an urgent hand gesture for silence.
Frank whispers; “The women have brought the baby out and given it to one of the men. He’s in better light now. Bugger. It’s Target 1. Orders are if we see Target 1 we take him out. What a birthday for the poor little kiddy.”
Frank breathes out slowly ready to squeeze the rifle trigger.