Tag: camouflage


I hope I’m not misleading you on the subject of your research. You’re ready to record? All right—I’m trying to remember when it began. Probably with the usual things, like imitating my father’s voice and style with a note to the principal of the elementary school, excusing me from gym class, then from arithmetic because of my brain tumor, then from lunch period—so I could go out behind the baseball backstop and slip into the woods, where I smoked Philip Morris cigarettes and met with girls too brain impaired to attend school.

How did I get them to come there? By imitating the principal, with invitations to join a softball team that would consist equally of elementary school children—without concern for mental development.

Later, when I was in high school, I studied, then submitted—without return address—unknown works by Hemingway, Emily Dickinson and the Brontë sisters. I submitted them to publishers, claiming they had been discovered in this or that archive nook or rare book library.

At first, there were nothing but rejections. Then, gradually, experts began to pay attention. A letter here, a short story there, a poem, even a thin novel hitherto unknown. Literary and library journals could not resist the fact that priceless pieces had been discovered, and they began to publish them and attribute them to the Brontës, Emily Dickinson and Ernest Hemingway.

I studied other languages and with the years managed to place essays by Camus and Thomas Mann, in clotted Courier type. Once even a pornographic piece by Richard Wagner. The submissions were always anonymous, but written with such skill—on blank pages ripped from old books—that academic journals fought with each other over who presented the best argument for their authenticity. All the while, I worked as a quiet librarian in Orange, New Jersey.

In time, I grew bored with these shenanigans and began submitting work of my own—with the result, over and over, that I was accused of borrowing, i.e. stealing the style and vocabulary of known authors.

I had a few successes with small literary magazine, where the gatekeepers—usually severely male—were so schooled in mimicry and where so many of their submissions were youthfully imitative, that my own lingering trickery went undetected.

I married and had a daughter—a delightful child with equally generous measures of intelligence and heart. When she went away to camp, I wrote her news and stories I had not made up. By college, she began to complain to her mother—we were no longer together—that she no longer knew me and—more troubling—that there was something inauthentic about me.

When my ex-wife told me this, with an expression between gloating and reprimand, I spent the rest of the day and night drinking enough whisky to kill an elephant.

I didn’t know what to do. I went to a psychiatrist, who told me to explore my relationship with my parents, both of whom had had careers in persuading people to trust them. My father, a financial advisor, had been warned a few times by his firm, for irregularities. And my mother had been a painter of modest talents, who openly painted copies of Breughel, Rembrandt and the Impressionists for clients in Santa Monica, California with blue hair and rooms to decorate.

After some years of therapy, I joined an ashram to learn how to meditate and give up wants in the material world. I spent time with a number of the lovely apostles of the promised more spiritual life, practicing the arts of defense and rendition. While my daughter, though always polite, grew ever more remote from me.

When my granddaughter was born, my daughter softened and allowed me to play my role as grandfather. She even allowed me to tell the child bedtime stories. And over time, something happened whereby I began to tell stories that were different from my earlier ones and clung more to the questions my granddaughter asked me. About whether bears could talk with children, and had I ever talked with a bear or an elephant. I did not want to lie to her, so I said I hadn’t. She was three or four, and so she suggested we could go to the zoo and try to talk to a bear and maybe an elephant.

And so we went to the zoo. And then we went again. And then, again. We tried other animals as well. None of them actually talked to us, but we made up stories about what they said and laughed because some of the stories were funny. And besides, we were happy to be with each other.

I began to go back alone, and when other people weren’t around I talked to the animals by myself. And something changed, and I learned something that seems too trivial to say. But I will. That there is no reason to disguise who you are. My granddaughter and the elephants were who they were—and pretended nothing more.

My time to leave the earth has come now—as you can see for yourself. On her last visit, my lovely ex-wife held my hand and said it was too bad we had not spent more time together—in every aspect—over the last twenty or thirty years. My daughter weeps uncontrollably when she visits. And my granddaughter—now a wonderful writer at the age of twenty-five—sits beside my bed and tells me in many different ways which animals I should visit and what I should say to them when I go to join them.

That is my story about forgery. It may not have been what you wanted. But there it is.

The Police Retreat

Right on schedule the weather changes. It’s not even February and it’s suddenly warmer. For two days, people have been hanging out in the callejón, alley, right at the entrance to the privada, the side alley where much of the trouble seems to focus. A lot of drinking, a lot of hand motions while talking. We try to identify the figures through the closest camera. We can’t figure out why the sudden activity. Young men with a lot of swagger, more when they’re drinking. M and Q are among them.

Today, at the end of the second day, someone called the police.

D burst into the room. “A bunch of people just ran up to our door, then ran back down,” she said.

I went up to the roof. Just as I got there, the troops arrived. Maybe twenty men, some in dark blue with combat helmets, one of them with a dog; the rest in camouflage. They are worked up. But it’s like coming into the middle of a movie; you don’t know what came before. They storm into the privada where the trouble brews. I watch the wall that the gangbangers usually use for an escape. No one drops down from it, escaping the police-Army, whatever they are. For all we know, Army has been integrated into the Seguridad Pública, the local police.

In the midst of all the excitement, I see a movement. It is the neighbor’s Siamese cat Ratón—mouse. He is a private, somewhat aloof, mostly outdoor cat that has survived all kinds of hungry street dogs. He is walking along the top of an unfinished wall in the vacant lot, stepping carefully over curved re-bar, getting himself nearer to the helmeted troopers. It is, after all, his territory. He watches from close-up the whole time they’re thrashing around looking for the gangbangers.

Then, surprisingly, another twenty or so men arrive, from uphill, all in camouflage. They rush down to the privada, then rush back up past our door. One of them kicks opened the locked metal door to the vacant lot. Breaking a entering into private property—a technicality of lesser importance since the registered property owner is dead. They search the lot, then the woods adjacent to the lot. One man in blue spends a lot of time looking down onto the roof of M’s aunt’s house.

It is hard to keep track of all the platoons of troops. They are upset about something.

I open the door and tell several troopers how the boys escape each time they’re pursued. I have done this before. They thank me. I am closing the door when I see Buddha Comandante passing—joining the attack.

“Comandante,” I say. He turns toward me. “Buenas Noches,” I say, and smile at him and wave.

He recognizes me and smiles back, from under his helmet. “Buenas Noches,” he says, and charges on down the callejón.

D goes to the computer and finds the recorded event that triggered the whole invasion. We see three troopers walking quickly up from the privada. We see a group of about seven gangbangers mill around, then charge after the troopers. The latter rush into R’s little store ten paces from our front door. Several boys—young men—are throwing rocks, a few of them bricks at the store’s open door. Then the punks—high on thinner—turn around a run back down the alley toward the privada. The three troupers in camouflage come out of R’s tienda, stand in front of our door and shout down at bangers, “We know who you are!”

That was the part we missed. We don’t know why the three were in the privada in the first place. I guess it doesn’t matter in this pageant. Now there are police and/or soldiers swarming all over the place. We play the digital tape over and over. We recognize a few of the stone throwers. Others, we don’t. They are outsiders, perhaps from another gang from another part of the city.

The doorbell rings. D opens the little wooden flap-door. It’s a man in blue. He asks if he can come in. D unlocks, the officer steps in. He wants to know if we saw what happened through the cameras. D—thinking much quicker than me—says yes but he will have to look at the recording in the offices of the Seguridad Pública; he shouldn’t see the recording at our house because it compromises out own security. Politically, it would be unwise. We tell him C, who installed our cameras, is in contact with the Seguridad Pública and has told them how to access the recording through the Internet. We give him the exact time: 19:47, military time.

He tells us the gangbangers injured one of the three, of which he claims he was one. I am a little confused. I thought there were three police in camouflage. He is wearing dark blue, with flak jacket, radio, the whole works–very professional looking.

I tell him I have a question.

“Why is it you flee?” I ask.

He pulls his jacket away, showing us his automatic.

“If I use this, there will be no end of trouble for me. There are human rights laws. I can’t use this.”

I nod, and pull my canister of pepper spray out of my pocket. It is pink, the most popular offering on Amazon.

“What about this?” I say.

He pulls his jacket away from a different spot. He plucks out a canister four times the size of mine.

“That’s aggressive, too,” I say.

He nods. Clearly, they don’t use it. D and I figure it would not be a good idea to give the bangers the same idea. If one of the police got sprayed and was rendered vulnerable, they might do terrible damage to him with a brick or two.

He introduces himself. We introduce ourselves. He thanks us. His behavior contradicts much of what you’ve heard about police behavior in Mexico. There are other police where you would be right—but not in our neighborhood. When the door opens, another trooper calls out “Good-night!” in English. A few non-police, neighbors, I hope, are watching the policeman emerge from our door.

We think there may be some good news in all of this. We think we did not see either Q—or M, to whom I sent the offer of university tuition help in among the attackers.

That would be very good news, I think.

The phone rings. Q’s mother, who has rebuffed any number of D’s offers to talk, wants to talk to D.

“Why now?” I ask.

“Because she knows her children were involved (the middle boy) and that the cameras recorded it.”

D makes an appointment to talk to her in three days. We are very busy until then.

“She’ll have to stew a bit,” says D. “Think a little bit about her three boys—and about what they’re doing.”