Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Believe, Part Three

OK: I beleive in the Flappy Duck and The Famous Five. I believe in Ratty, Toad, and all the rest of the Windy Willows boys. I believe in teaching our kids that reading is fun, that dreaming is funner, and that true happiness can be found between the covers.

Of a book, PK.

I was reading before I started school. Having two older siblings meant that I absolutely had to find ways of vanishing and entertaining myself. Taking the latest Famous Five book to the piney Woods down the back, or (a little later in life) the latest Carter Brown out to the dunes near the airport, or down to the beach... this was escape. This was a different life. I learnt what it meant to by upper-middle-class British from Enid Blyton and Gerald Durrell, I learnt about the seamier side of life in the States from Mickey Spillane and Dashiel Hammett. By the time I was 12 I'd read The Lord of the Rings, the Bible, the Autobiography of a Yogi, by a chap called Paramhansa Yogananda, a million comics, The Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa (actually, a greasy little English fraud from Tottenham) and I'd started on Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.

Even though I went to the movies every weekend, it was books that ruled my life. Because my folks shifted around the Island a lot while I was at school, I didn't keep many childhood friends - and, in fact, still have difficulty maintaining friendships. I have to work at it.. and happy work it is. If I don't ring you, blame my Dad. Actually, blame me: I'm a lazy sod at times. But my relationship with books has been long and constant.

There was a time when I'd make a statement at work, and people'd ask me how I knew whatever it was I'd just pompously pontificated on. Even more pompously I'd say "I read books." This was true. Nowadays, however, people just sigh, and make little "let's humour the geezer" signs at each other.

Reading. It rocks. And I really can't wait for the perfect E-Book reader to come along. It looks like the i-Pad might be it.... the moment it supports a half-decent video programme, that is.

Reading now: "The Night Gardener", by George Pelecanos. GP is the writer behind the TV series "The Wire", which every TV critic in the world said was the best thing to ever screen on tele, ever. Which is why TV One put it on at 11.45 at night, and never once trailered it. I think three New Zealand residents saw it.

Listening to: The Greg Matthews Band, "If I Had It All". I keep on forgetting just how frigging brilliant Dave Matthews is.

Word of the Day: Conversion. I never understood why car theft was called car conversion. I always understood why the act of changing someone from rationalism to Catholicism was called conversion, because the person changed. But the car never changed. it was just a car. Unless it got religion, and featured in a Stephen King yarn.

RATS! Yay, my Notebook got fixed. Took the wee man two minutes. Time to do a back-up....

Good shooting, but not good enough.
Then came the final test: prone, four hundred yards. At this distance the target itself was little more than a tiny white patch. The bull’s eye was invisible.
Arthur grunted, and lay down, waiting for the target-rats to get into position, and hoist their red flags. Arthur looked at a flag that flew near him. No more than two feet across the top, twelve inches down. He looked down the range to the flags the target-rats were now flying. He shut his eyes, clenching them tight against his eyelids. He raised the rifle to his shoulder, adjusted the sights, and fought to find himself. He was a tiny entity, and his target was so far away. He listened to his heartbeat, ka-thump, ka-thump, and willed it to slow down. His vision narrowed, tunnelled: all he could see now was the speck of white that was his target.
His breathing slowed, and when he had exhaled, he squeezed the rigger. Time itself slowed down, and he could swear that he heard the pin hit the brass, the crackle as the primer flared, then the hard, rushing bellow of the powder exploding.
He was not aware of the excited shouts of the men behind him as the target-rat’s pointer came up, and fixed onto the white speck that was his target. He wasn’t conscious of Ken Swain’s own rifle firing, and the waving of the target-rats pointer: Maggie’s Drawers, a clean miss.
An eternity later, Arthur fired his last bullet. When the targets came back, Arthur had scored four hits on-target, one through the bull’s-eye. His fifth bullet had nicked the side on the target. Swain had hit the target twice.
Arthur stood, and helped Swain to his feet. He shook the man’s hand firmly, and grinned at him. The applause, when it started, was timid, but it soon swelled. Arthur looked about him. Crikey, he thought. There must be most of the Battalion here.
The Battalion Clerk later figured out that over a thousand pounds had changed hands that morning, and one fist-fight had started.
And that afternoon Arthur was taken to meet the colonel, who told him that he was promoting him to sergeant, and putting him in charge of training the Battalion's snipers. This would also mean he would become a sniper himself.
“But Sir!”
“No but Sirs,” the grim-faced man had said. “We’ll be shipping out soon, to England, and you are coming with us. Then we shall probably be shipped to France or Belgium, where you will have one simple job: to shoot, and kill, the enemy.”
Arthur was aghast.

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