For All Nails #191: Mail Call

By David Mix Barrington, Noel Maurer, and Johnny Pez

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesian Protectorate
31 January 1975

Dear Pedro,

I hope you are all right, and that this letter is somehow able to reach you. The Australian papers say that ground fighting has just started on Tobago -- they're celebrating the "first blow against the archvillains". I know that cazadores are always in the thick of it, and I worry for you. If you get this, please write back if you can. I know they won't let you say anything about where you are and what you're doing, but it would relieve me greatly to hear from you in any way at all.

I can tell you where I am and what I'm doing. When the Christmas Bomb happened my Order put together a relief team from Quebec to try to help the casualties. I was picked to come for a month or so because I know about radiativity burns thanks to the good old AUSM, who wanted to be ready should the Tories throw any K-bombs at us. I'll miss a few weeks of classes but it shouldn't be too hard to catch up -- second year is easier than first anyway. We got here on a CNA airwaggon two weeks ago.

You've probably heard that it's horrible, and it certainly is, but there's a lot of good we can do. It sounds harsh, I know, but nearly all of the worst cases have died by now, and we can get to work on the ones who have a chance. I'm doing primary care for burns, mostly, keeping them alive while they have a chance to grow skin back, sometimes grafting skin from one place to another, using implants and things to make them look less disfigured. They will get better, most of the ones who have made it this far.

Then there are the orphans, from families that weren't together when it happened, or where some got cooked and some didn't depending on where they happened to be at that exact moment. The poor children -- I can talk to some of them a little though I've only learned a little Balinese, because they have English in a lot of the schools. A lot of them are going to the CNA to be adopted, and I can reassure them a little about what that's like.

I hate it when they say that all this is your fault, and try to punish your country for it. It's the fault of fanaticism, putting an abstraction above the lives of innocents. The madman in Coyoacán I used to work for, the madman in London sending his armies against you, all willing to kill for an idea. We need armies, I know that, but to defend our countries or to clean up a cesspool like the place where we met. The rest is just pointless destruction.

The people here see that. The canguro doctors and nurses talk with me about helping people, not about revenge like their papers back in Australia. Even the Tory officer I met on the airwaggon coming over (with intel written all over him) –- all the stuff about the Britannic people standing together sort of went away once he saw what real war is about. Looking at all this death clarifies things. I don't know whether we'll be judged and sent to heaven or hell like the Sisters say, or whether we'll be reborn as something else like most of the Balinese believe. But when you see enough people die you know there's something beyond this world, there has to be.

Please keep your head down, for me. I want to share another beer with you in this life. And I know we will, somewhere, when all of this is over.

Write back,
All my love,

Somewhere in New Granada
25 February 1975

Oh beautiful luscious gorgeous one,

Hearing from you, as always, makes my week. No matter how tough things are, or -- more to the point -- how bored I am, getting word from you makes it all worthwhile.

You know, the thing they don't really tell you about war is how boring it is. You wait, and you wait, and you wait some more. The danger won't dissuade an 18-year-old idiot from signing up for a chance at glory (and the hope of impressing a woman like you). The boredom, though ... that's enough to turn anyone into a pacifist.

The funny thing about letters is how much time can pass between the writing and the receiving. I'm sure that you know by now that the main action wasn't on Tobago. No, the limones snookered us but good. Tobago was just a diversion: their main force tromped ashore on Trinidad. I've always thought that military intelligence was an oxymoron; now I'm sure.

I can't tell you where I was, but I can say that the gringos' slick little move left us high and dry and extremely bored. All worked up with nothing to do. Well, that's not entirely true. I did manage to get myself grazed in a little dust-up with the limón equivalent of the cazadores, whatever they call themselves. Nothing serious, don't you worry. Right now I'm in a warm bed in XXXXXXX.

I can say that I'm amazed at the trouble the limones took to evacuate their guys. It wasn't anything we wouldn't do, but I was under the impression that they just didn't care. The things you'd hear from Africa certainly make you respect the limones' willingness to take casualties. And they -- or at least the ones I ran into -- are very good fighters. Seems strange to waste your best troops on XXXX XXXXXX XXX XX XX X XXXXXXXXX.

One of the things I love about you is that you're so serious. I could just see your cute little nose scrunching up in that way as you wrote your letter. That little crinkle you get, between your eyes ... God damn, I miss that. Along with your smell. Nothing has ever smelled so sweet, and nothing ever will.

Love, kisses, and much more,
planning on sharing way more than a beer with you, babe

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
25 February 1975

My darling Jo,

It has been several days since I have been able to write you, but I hope you haven't worried. As you must know by the time this reaches you, we have traveled fast and covered much territory. The invasion was far from clockwork, but we had the Dagoes completely outclassed. No one expects the British Expedition!

They hadn't expected us to start on Trinidad, I'm thinking. What they didn't count on was British ingenuity, pluck, bravery ... and an endless supply of German surface-to-air missiles.

We've got a German support battalion here, about 300 men. They came ashore after the initial fighting ended. Pompous asses, but the amount of material they can move is astounding! Typical German precision. I don't like the Wieners any more than you do, Jo. They may be cowards for not putting up any infantry or armor or airmobiles, XXX XX XXXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXX XX XXX XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXX. Bastards, but for now they're our bastards.

The fleet took a much larger battering than anyone thought it would. This has us worried. XXX XXX XXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX XXXX XXXXXXX XX XXXXXX XXX XX XXXXXX XX XXXX XX XXXX XXXXX XXXX.

I can't tell you where I am exactly, except that we're still on Trinidad. Sometimes we set up in towns; sometimes we are in the field. But the weather is friendly, so in the field things are far less bad than they could be. I have more interesting experiences to tell you than one could imagine. The first and most prominent thing we noticed was the definitely hostile attitude of the Trinidadian people, old and young. They stare at you sullenly, insolently, or just look the other way. Some of the kids, unable to cover their fiercer emotions, stick out their tongues, spit at you, or take mock pistol shots at you. The situation is much worse that I had expected. We had all been told we'd be greeted as liberators. Instead, it turns out that most of the population here speaks Spanish and spits in our eyes.

Experience already has taught us that we will have to be on guard at all times. It is a sad mischief that allowed the New Granadans to become the despoilers of this big and beautiful land. And it is beautiful -- in every way. But now those same descendants of the ancient conquistadors are finding out that war can be tough. When we move into a town, we take over a section of the place and move the people out. This plan works very well. I suppose they expected us to be as soft, the way we were back in the colonial days, but they are being surprised. I have experienced a trying day, and so I must hurry through this delayed letter. Will try to write tomorrow. Miss you and little Billy very much.

Yours forever,

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, UK
15 March 1975

Dearest Nigel,

I just received your letter from 25 Feb. I'm happy to hear that you're well and whole. I was puzzled to hear you say that about the fleet, according to the news the Navy only suffered minor losses. Ted Mason said in the Daily Mail that after the loss of Trinidad Colonel Elbittar will likely see that he can't win and agree to surrender his Mercator Bombs. I do hope so! I miss you so much, I hope the war will end soon and you can come home.

You'd be so proud of Billy, his Youth Corps troop have begun holding regular drills on the Green, and he looks so dashing in his uniform! Last week he brought home a drawing he did at school, it was of you, shooting Colonel Elbittar. It was so darling I had to paste it up in the kitchen.

We both miss you awfully, we both pray you'll be home soon.

All my love,

Forward to FAN #192: God's Smugglers.

Forward to 16 February 1975: What Dreams May Come.

Forward to American War: The Dingoes of War.

Forward to Carmen Valenzuela: Laylat al-Ragha'ib.

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