Unclassified Memories From an Old Declassified Pilot
Among Tosh’s skills-set is the gift for creative-writing, which, in another time and place, might have led him to become Hemingway’s successor. Over the years, he practiced the development of that talent in his spare time, writing about his personal recollections of the events he experienced as a pilot contracted by various government agencies. Many of these were based on historic facts, while others reflected his “creative writing” skills as a budding novelist. These columns will present some of both genres.
THE DAY BEFORE THAT DREADFUL DAY
A sinister undertone filled the air. Hundreds of theories—wild speculations circulated through the rank and file—something frightening was riding upon Florida’s autumn winds this November day. You could feel it in the air. An undertone, a sinister feeling, something dreadful you sensed was in the works. You knew it was not right, and you knew the outcome was going to be bad, very bad.
The Major approached the flight crew. You could tell he was agitated. Most of the pilots were muttering, whispering among themselves about the assassination rumors circulating in Miami. They wondered if the meeting with the Major was about those rumors heard via the pilot’s reliable underground ‘grapevine.’
The Major shouted.
“Gather around assholes. Thomas. You and Sandy take that Twin Beach” — he pointed toward the far tarmac to a red and white twin-engine airplane — “to Opa’ Loca, drop it off and pick up a DC-3. Get back here fast as possible. There has been a development, and things are not going, right.” The Major motioned toward a Lieutenant, who came rushing over with a stack of papers in hand.
“Rojas! You and Pearson go to Lantana, wait there until Sandy and the other ‘Gooney Bird’ get back from Jacksonville. You will be dispatched to New Orleans — after I find out what the hell is going on around here.”
The Major took a few pages from the stack of papers in hand and handed them to Rojas. He gave the rest of the documents back to the Lieutenant.
“That’s your pickup list. That person, Col. Ralston, we know?” He pointed to the name on the document.
“He’ll be at the Congress Inn in Tampa with a few others which match those coded names you have there. Check ‘Um’ close. That’s all you need to know at this point”.
The Major looked around, pointed to the paper now in Rojas’s hand. He continued.
“Dispatch to Tampa’s Congress Inn, and get those names onboard your aircraft. Got IT?” He turned and looked at the old DC-3 with the flat tire. But, you can’t go in this bird.”
The major, in disgust, kicked the tires.
“Delays, damn delays.” He turned and stormed off the tarmac, muttering to himself.
The Major was having a terrible day. Whatever was not going right for the Major this day would affect me for the rest of my life.
THE LADY SABOTEUR
Seated cross-legged on the jungle hut’s dirt floor, singing a fiery Latin song, was a beautiful young Cuban girl, the lady saboteur.
Silently, sneaking like a black cat, I approached her and concealed myself near a darkened doorway. Hiding in the shadows, I watched her slender body rhythmically sway back and forth to the music. Her dark Cuban eyes sparkled, reflecting the nearby firelight. Her music, to me, spoke of love. It was passionate, alarming. Her firm breasts expanded with each breath. Her hands, delicate as they were, continued their task. I can almost feel her touch; I hear her voice whispering to me.
I watched from the doorway and wondered what it would be like to make love to her. Reluctantly, I brought myself back to reality. I continued to watch as she, holding the duct tape, delicately wrapped the four sticks of dynamite, then cut the red wires. I silently counted:
‘One-two-three-cut, strip. One-two-three-cut.’
I watched as she secured the wires to the fuse. Her movements happened in one continuous motion. There was no doubt she knew what she was doing. I surmised she had done this many times before. Intrigued, I continued to watch as she went about her task. She appeared to be unaware that I was watching.
Unseen, I moved from the shadows, but she sensed my approach. Startled, she quickly rose, turning toward me, fire raging from her dark Cuban eyes. In one swift clean motion, she pulled a knife from somewhere in her tight-tight pants. Screaming like a Comanche warrior, she charged wildly toward me.
Suddenly she stopped her approach, her knife inches from my throat. She smiled.
“You shouldn’t sneak up on a person like that. You might get hurt.” She winked at me, laughed, a warm, heartfelt laugh, then slipped the knife back into her tight pants.
“I saw you watching me—from over there by the doorway.” She pointed toward the shadowed doorway from where I had come.
“I knew you were there.” She delicately placed the explosives into a backpack sitting near the table. She heaved the pack onto her shoulders.
“Perhaps, someday, I’ll see you again.” She smiled, turned, and quickly left the hut—disappearing into the thick underbrush of the jungle trail.
I watched for a moment, then tried to follow. Only a sweet captivating scent, drifting here and there along the jungle trail, was left behind.
A tropical bird, flushed suddenly from the vine-tangled path, screeched an alarm. It quickly flew away, disappearing into the approaching dawn. For a moment, I thought it was my friend, my new lover, the lady saboteur, but I was wrong. She was gone.
My memories of the ‘Lady Saboteur,’ the jungle hut, and my desire to have her, still today haunt me.
THE GRINGO AND THE WORM(S)
The abandoned airfield at Poco Solo, next to an unnamed river, was hidden deep within the Nicaraguan Jungle. I found the place by accident. I adjusted the aircraft’s engines and made a slow descending approach to its’ muddy runway—the landing? Yes. It was rough.
I taxied the Twin Beach to the far side of the field, parked, and got out of the cockpit. Hector was there to greet me.
“Me sentía un poco solo antes de que aparecieras.” Hector removed his hat.
“Sorry, Gringo. I’ll speak English. I was feeling a little lonely before you got here.”
He turned, looked around, pointed in the distance toward the lush emerald green jungle mountains and the river valley below.
“I love it here. Few are those with eyes who have ever seen this place. It’s the place of the quiet, crazy, but gentle wolves.’
He handed me an almost empty bottle of Mescal. The golden worm lingered near the bottom of the bottle.
I took a large drink, the worm lodged in my throat, but I gulped it down anyway. That bottle of Mescal was now empty. Hector turned to me, holding up another bottle.
“I am a true Yaqui warrior,” he said. “I never worry about the worm or the childish thoughts of a young gringo like you.” He smiled and put on his hat.
“Open this one, Gringo.”
I took the second bottle and opened it. Hector quickly grabbed the bottle from me and blew into it. He took a big gulp from the bottle. He smiled and handed the bottle and the floating worm back to me.
“I saved him for you, Gringo.”
The next day was the first time I woke up in Central America, in jail, wondering how I got here.