Dearest Mother

Page One

17 November 2005
Forward Operating Base -- Iron Thumb
Baghdad, Iraq

Dearest Mother:
I've been ~~~~ well, not lying exactly, protecting is the more accurate word ~~~~ protecting you from the awful truth. I know when I left the secure bosom of your home I told you it was to bring honor to the family by capturing the Guinness Book World Record for watching consecutive Jerry Lewis, Muscular Dystrophy Telethons. While I would have encountered life threatening danger had that been my acutal task, the truth is so much more perilous that I am finally compelled to be a good son and come clean. (Clean in this context is a relative term. I come as clean as I can considering all the repeated and seemingly uncontrollable thoughts I have about that American heroine Lady Bird Johnson and that carnival midget we saw in Luckenbach. Remember that little guy? Oh my, he was so . . . but then, I digress. That, and there's just no good reason to be graphic about all that, especially in this letter.) 

As you've likely noticed my many correspondences are postmarked "IN". No doubt giving the appearance of having been posted in Indiana. (You'd be surprised how little it takes to bribe a postal worker to change the "r" to "n", but that too is a story better left for another letter.) Anyway, Mother ~ I am in Baghdad, IRAQ, not Baghdad, Indiana.

Page Two

I trust you were able to eradicate any sand fleas that might have inadvertently found their way from here to there. Here, the little buggers are everywhere. I spray my hooch daily with a mixture of DDT, rubbing alcohol, and warm coca-cola (when room temperature gets to 103° F, some manner of chemical reaction occurs that releases a toxic plume which, according to local legend, causes the pesky varmints to lose their sense of smell and wander back to actual sand.) It was only after sending you several loving missives, I realized they'd been seeking refuge from my eradication effort in the creases of envelopes headed State-side where DDT and the plume of excessively warm coke have been outlawed. I swear this was not like the effort I undertook in high school to save the Austin Blind Salamander; these pesky fleas are on no one's endangered list. 

Notwithstanding my underlying misdirection, I have not misled one iota as to the importance of my work. I am in a position of enormous responsibility; one that has and will continue to bring honor to the family name. Believe this or not, I directly support our "contact" troops involved in their in-country indigenous conversion mission. (The work is so secret I shouldn't be writing about it, but my guilty conscious has bore a hole in my soul and I can hide this from you no longer.) We have, to date, converted seven to Hare Krishna, three to Latter Day Saints and nineteen to Little Sisters of the Holy Mirror. All were lifelong Sunni . . . or maybe Shia, anyway, what they were is of no import as their conversion has let it be known unto them, true peace. Like I said, anything to 'honor the family name'. All this and we've been in country only these 18 months. 

Too, we have enrolled another 13 former Baath Party officials in our upcoming video seminars on flipping blighted property in East L. A. (If you're thinking we shouldn't be encouraging these agents of Satan to come to the States, worry not!

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Each time the actors say "L.A." we've dubbed in "Baghdad". This makes it look like our project is located right here in the capitol city. It is possible the smog-filled scenes will raise a proverbial eyebrow, but with an up-tick in car bombings we will credit that carnage should an alert student question the persistent haze.) The videos serve quite ingeniously as a bait and switch. Once in the door, God's real message will be subliminally transferred to their subconscious. By the time they finish three days with us, they'll be asking for the current address for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, having completely forgotten about rehabing  a crack house. 

It is possible I'm confused and the message isn't about Christ's address, but instead the more nebulous question of how they can find our Lord and Savior in a more general way. In any event, after just three days, BAM! We got 'em. 

Current recruiters are confident the numbers will improve after the passage of February. (There is something Muslims don't like about a month with too few Fridays. I don't understand all they tell me about this crazy stuff, but the short of it is, we are looking to better our numbers soon.) To that end, there is more good news. We are expecting the arrival of Catholic missionaries. They'll parachute in and their presence should make our jobs much easier. 

Before your blood pressure reaches boiling, worry not. We've convinced them they're here to help out in the orphanage. In fact, they'll be used as diversionary targets. With Catholic boots on the ground, those fighting against our holy cause will have a more visible target at which they can direct their car bombs and RPG's. This will give us the added benefit of a protective cover under which our clandestine work for the Lord can go on unmolested . . . well, at least less molested. (You know how gullible Catholics are. We only had to tell them they'd be working with young orphans, and they pledged funds sufficient to pay all operational expenses for six months.

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Also, they're sending a couple of priests that are supposed to have lots of experience with children, one ~ I think ~ out of Boston and another from San Francisco. Oh Mother, how does one spell gullible?) 

I've personally witnessed with 4 beautiful souls and am working tirelessly to meet more Iraqis with whom I can have . . . um . . . personal, private sessions. If you think that too dangerous, worry not, it is much better than it sounds. Tutelage on such a private and individual basis requires the student agree to enter the sanctuary unclothed. Yes, completely naked before my eyes and the eyes of Christ. This way we are certain they haven't adorned their young, supple, sometimes voluptuous bodies with weapons of mass destruction. (Here they call them WMD's) These sessions have proven an effective way to bring both souls to a plateau of personal satisfaction that at times approaches a spiritual experience. We are all closer to realizing our true and full ecclesiastic potential. And the Catholics haven't yet arrived. Upon their arrival, I will verify this as they seem to have extensive experience with such things. 

Yes, yes. The work is dangerous, what with all the communicable potential. That and the explosive nature of the indigenous peoples, but it is you from whom I draw the necessary resolve to awaken each morning and face the nearly incalculable odds of completing a successful mission. Remember, it was you told me if you don't put your pole in the fishing hole, you can't expect to catch anything. I'm compelled to stay here, follow your spot-on advice, and work, work, work. Do not fret for my safety, as your love and years of unwavering tutelage in the ways of the world have and will continue to serve me and our mission well.

Page Five

There is a swelling in my chest, (the doctor says it has something to do with poor diet and a local infectious disease, but he is only a medic, so pay no attention to that diagnosis, I certainly have not) that is almost certainly a manifestation of my love for you and the pride I feel at sharing that love with those around me in this place so obviously laden with evil. This place is so evil Mother, that I spend a good deal of time in self flagellation. It is such a relief, but I've not the skill you had and still miss your delicate, yet effective strikes. To that end, I am trying to teach one  young convert ~ she's a haunting resemblance to your graduation photo, not the one from Brother Tommy's School of Redeeming Grace, but an earlier version. You so young and nubile then. I think it the eighth-grade version of your eternal beauty ~ how to tickle my back with tips of leather straps ripping away strips of skin while limiting blood loss. I shall keep you advised of her progress.

Mother, I am so sorry I was less than honest about my mission, but please know it has nothing to do with the love I have for you and was done only out of a sense that  exposing you to such ugliness might taint your vision of the Middle East as the Garden of Eden I know you think it to be.  

I remain your loving (if somewhat secretive) 


P.S. The one with scars running the length of his spine.

PP. SS. The one with the big, black mole shaped like Texas on his left butt cheek.

        Love ya Ma, see ya in Paradise . . . um Michigan (it is Michigan, is it not?) at the reunion.  

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