Sunday, March 17, 2013

Captain Keith Stack and the legend of how Simply the Pest held the line.

And so, I rewrite the story. Even if you have read the deleted version, this is better. It needs a bit of editing but I pushed my creative writing almost to my limits. (And that is saying a lot.) It helps if you know your films.  I move back and forwards in time.
Weird, but very funny…

But the time we were 11 years old, our little balls were dropping, hair appeared under our arms, our voices got gruffer and the alpha male hormones injected the feeling of pure aggression. It had to be relieved.

At Blakistan Junior School we did participate in a rather rag tag game of rugby at every break period. With only 20 minutes of playing time there was no such thing as changing sides. The rivalry was fierce. This was brains against brutes, some with limited mental capacity beyond recognising the shape of a rugby ball and which direction it should be going. A bit like that scene in Forrest Gump.

As usual I was in the middle, a B streamer, but at this moment in time, (Standard 4, 1969), in my class we had a budding super star – Keith Stack. He was our Captain. It was never questioned. I hero worshipped him. Strangely he always had time for a screw ball such as me. I wasn’t surprised that he went on to become a doctor. It was in his nature.

Back to that fateful day. The line up was always the same. A stream against B plus C stream. Numbers were both irreverent and irrelevant. A referee was neither at hand and nor necessary. These extremely savage games were played on one of the football pitches with a ball provided by one of the kids.

For some strange reason I joined in. Suffering from malnutrition and weighing not more than a half a dozen eggs I desperately should be consuming, I tended to hang around in some form of defensive position. This was of course strategically very clever.

Our team usually kept the clever-clevers well in their half fighting for their honour, so most of the time I spent lolling around alone doing not a lot besides listening to my empty grumbling tummy.

Then one day - something went terribly wrong. Our marauding lions made a mistake and suddenly a terrifying site came down the right wing. The kid must have been almost twice my height and certainly triple my body weight. His pounding feet made the earth tremble as if a herd of elephants were charging at me. I think his name was Eliot or something like that. (I think he went on to MP.) He was Jewish and didn’t look very gentlemanly as he bore down on this gentle half gentile standing in his way.

Suddenly an amazing thing happened. I went back to the future. My memory brought up in graphic detail Quinton Tarintino’s film Inglourious Basterds and the character called the ‘Bear Jew’ (Eli Roth). He is the one who dashed out NAZI officers’ brains out with a baseball bat.

But I wasn’t a NAZI - just a nasty gnat in his way.

As this awful apparition approached, my brain struggling to return to the present through the mists of time; it picked up an order from my leader - Captain Keith Stack.

“Stop him! Karl – Hold the line.”

I now had other problems almost beyond my control. My adrenal gland had decided to work overtime and I had a desperate urge to wee and poo simultaneously. But this most terrible of hormones was now playing more tricks with my mind because everything slowed down. Just like that film The Matrix. I am sure everyone has experienced this phenomenon some time in their lives. What I dislike about it is that it is always connected to flight or fight and never when you have met someone nice and having a great time. (Does that mean there is an opposite hormone to adrenalin but it hasn’t been discovered yet? It would sure come in handy to speed up nasty times like learning Afrikaans.)

So with the whole scenario running at about one frame per second, I contemplated on my orders. The first bit even I could reluctantly understand, but the bit about ‘Hold the line.’? What was that all about? Somehow I didn’t think that we should all go off fishing.

Click, click, click… the picture kept running  through the projector to be screened in my confused cortex, as jerky step by jerky step, the monster approached. I didn’t have long and I was inextricably being dragged to the present. So I went mentally online to the The options did not bode well. Obviously I soon sort of clocked between the various nouns, verbs, adjectives and all the other rubbish that makes up the technical side of the English language. But some awful definitions came apparent, and I quote from the bits my frightened brain now saw in terrifying black and white - complete with the scantily clad girl on the left advertising her underwear. As far as I could gather this was a collection of euphemisms to contemplate euthanasia.

These seemed to fill the criteria -

- To keep from falling or moving, such as being glued to the spot in mortal fear.
- To keep from departing or getting away from big bad monsters.
- To avoid letting out or expelling urine or faeces.
- To have as a responsible position or a privilege as by hanging around doing nothing at all besides picking one’s nose, scratching at an itchy anus and yawning in the proximity of a try line.
- To maintain occupation of by force or coercion whilst being brutally murdered.
- To stop the movement or progress of terrible monsters hell bent on brutally murdering you.

Actually, the list goes on and on and the more I rapidly scanned the explanations, the more I realised I either had to do a runner or die a terrible, violent death.

I was running out of time. But there, under idioms I found it –

- Hold the line - To maintain the existing position or state of affairs:

How stupid is that explanation? I just wanted to carry on picking at my nose and scratching my itchy brown eye whilst yawning with boredom, and then again, through the quantum physics of the universe, a voice called –

“KarlTenent linea – Tenent linea!  Prohibuimus eum!”

Now he sounded like the Roman General, Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the armies of the North, as when they were fighting Germanian troops. It was alright for him. His army were all in the north of the playing field leaving the south being guarded by little me! And, why the hell was he telling me this in Latin? Keith might be practising the language for a future career as a doctor but I didn’t have the slightest inclination of being his first patient. As much as I liked the bloke, I was not that enthusiastic to see his signature posthumously on my certificate.

Slowly my mind returned to the present but briefly paused and I instinctively reached for my trusty FN with Mk11 Zulu flying grenade. That will stop the bastard.  Alarmingly it wasn’t there and as the imminent confrontation bore down, the film frame started speeding up and I suddenly realised it would still be another nine years before I was kitted out to the teeth – if I survived this contact with the enemy – here and now.

I returned to the present and at the age of 11 I knew my coffin would be so small that even my father might pay for it rather than a used mielie sack for 50 cents. Or even worse, my teammates might dismember me and toss the bits to the circling vultures. I was, for yet once again in my short and miserable life – well and truly up shit creek without a paddle.

With the option well closed by returning from the future of shooting the rampaging creature, I thought out an option of appealing to our common Jewish blood –

“I will give you all my pocket money for a month if you desist.”

Obviously 10 cents was a poor bribe and was ignored. The huge Bear Jew, now being chased by our demented and desperate wild dogs, had moved up a gear and was pounding down through the wastelands of our half with serious and deadly determination. I was running out of time and alternatives.

I was now forced to crunch some serious megabytes of options through my cerebral cortex. I recalled a bit from one of the weird books I had delved into belonging to my historian step-mums collection – this one by a really clever bloke, Oliver Goldsmith (1730 - 1774), Irish-born British novelist, playwright, and poet,

For he who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is in battle slain
Can never rise and fight again.

In my present predicament I rather fancied the former two lines. As for the fighting bit, I had a yellow belt in the ancient martial arts disciple of Legitquick.

And once more Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, aka, Captain Keith Stack called out in desperation –

 “Karl…Hold the line, Hold the line.”

My Captain had spoken. Okay - this was an animal crash just waiting to happen. I, the giggling emaciated cowardly heyena was just desperate to run away. I was facing a one ton Rhino with a rugby ball mounted on a seriously big horn, legging it in full kill charge mode. Its beady eyes were now greedily seeing the exact point where he could give B + C the ultimate humiliation of scoring a try.

I didn’t have a clue what I supposed to do. I had no instruction on how to tackle apparitions you only see in your worst nightmares. But the captain expected me to do my duty. So I just kicked started my tiny engine, let out a huge fart to increase acceleration, closed my eyes and ran full tilt into him.

This wasn’t bravery, this was pure stupidity. 

The kids watched with horror as I flew away into the sky like the last flightless dodo heading for immortal extinction. So powerful was the ricochet I was close to have been converted. (Not to any religion, but over the goal post’s crossbar.)

I awoke to bells ringing. I thought I had died, had been converted and gone to heaven. The worried face of Captain Keith Stack was above me. The bells were actually end of break time.

“Karl, are you okay?”

I wasn’t really sure where I was. I sat up a bit groggy.
“Did he score?”

Keith’s face broke into a big grin of relief.

“Karl, you bounced off him with such force, he placed a foot outside the boundary line. He was out. You held the line.”

My little heart burst with pride along with a rather aching head. It turns out I was unconscious for nearly two minutes and the kids were starting to panic.
Of course, these days I should have been sent to hospital and checked in the head for any long term damage or concussion. Since it was generally acknowledged that I spent most my time chirping nonsense all through lessons, the teacher would hardly notice that my speech was slurred and I kept banging into the desks for a few days.

Captain Keith Stack decided to ban me from playing for at least a week, till what little sense I had had returned. Then I took up my usual position of wandering around, picking my nose and scratching at my hole - but with one small difference. I now kept a wary eye out for nasty scary things wanting to kill me. I had made a decision that would keep me alive during the war years and ultimately lead to one of the funniest quotes from The Gokwe Kid –
‘Gooks! Run for your lives.’


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