Two truths for the price of one

by Thomas Twining © 2001

"You build them houses and they sleep outside. They put their damned animals inside and stand out in the rain! I swear I've never seen the like. You give them a microwave and they build a damned fire in it." He sighed. "You will have to rescue these people without me. They neither want nor need any rescue that you or I could craft." Pilden clenched the stem of his pipe in his teeth and looked determined. "If you were older and had more experience you'd see that." He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. "Get a hold of yourself man! I'll not jeopardize the regiment on these misguided whims and neither will you!" He put the pipe firmly in his mouth.

Straightening his jacket and putting his hands in his pockets he looked thoughtful for a moment. "Think of home and country and remember why you're here Mr. Jones, remember why you're here." He took the pipe from his mouth and pushed himself up in the chair with his elbow on the arm. "There now," he gestured, "you know the regiment wants the best for you lad. Listen to those of us who have served her long and well. You're amongst a fine company of men who'd willingly lay down life and limb for their comrades." "But not for the natives," retorted Jones acidly. He stood stiffly and tugged the hem of his regimental jacked briskly. "I suggest, Major Pilden, that you are the one who should remember why we're here." He slapped his hands together with a muted pop at his waistline. "Bringing new converts into the fold is the order of the day Major. And you won't do that by giving up on them."

"Humph," grunted Pilden as he removed the pipe from his mouth and uncrossed his legs, "religious poppy-cock if you ask me." He squinted and gestured, once, twice, at the young lieutenant. "You, my young friend, better let go of this God and Mercy balderdash and get a grip on the realities of the situation at hand."

"Such as?"

"Such as the fact that the last twelve missionaries sent here wound up on a dinner table and not in a church or administering colonial welfare. That's why we're here, lad." Pilden narrowed his eyes. "Have you ever been in the bush Mr. Jones?"

Jones looked at the floor and flushed ever so slightly. "No sir, my duties have never allowed me the privilege."

"Privilege!" Pilden barked with laughter. "Dear God man. Privilage?" He shifted in his well-padded chair. "Do you actually believe that?"

"Yes sir," Jones said evenly. "I do."

"Bwah-hah" Pilden barked again. "Stuff and nonsense. One of two things is true then. You're either eager to die," he paused and looked at the young man intently, "or you don't know a god-damned thing."

"Either explanation will do sir." Jones drew himself up and stood tall.

"Really." Pilden gestured to the window with his pipe-stem. "Go stand there then."

Jones looked at him strangely and then moved to the window. He turned to face Pilden. "What now sir?"

"Just stand there."

It wasn't twenty seconds before a native arrow crashed through the window and pierced Jones's head clean through. He fell to the floor with a heavy thump.

Pilden shook his head. "I'd say that it looks like both things were true Mr. Jones." He clenched the pipe stem in his yellowed teeth. "Two truths for the price of one. Rare thing that..."

x x x

Read more Flash Fiction? or Back to the Front Page?