DINNER WITH (AND POSSIBLY FOR) A DRAGON
Recalling war stories, as I have been doing recently, reminds me of one of the more unusual evenings I have spent in my life. It all arose from a Special Operations exhibition in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which I was attending as part of an effort to educate myself in the weird and wonderful ways of the U.S. military. A colleague once called the U.S. Army “A curious anthropological institution” and I have never heard a finer description. That said, I have no idea precisely what he meant by it, but I can certainly relate to the word “curious.”
Fayetteville is Fort Bragg’s home-town and Fort Bragg is home to the 82nd Airborne, Delta Force, and sundry Special Force’s units. Lump all that highly trained violence together and the consequences can be—for want of a better word—unpredictable.
During my various visits to Fort Bragg, I met all kinds of interesting people including a Special Forces sergeant who I will call David Burns. David and I had various adventures—most involving unusual characters and weaponry—which will have to await my memoirs, but the most outrageous occurred when I was invited to dinner at his home. There I found that he had a formidable collection of ferocious pets—including a vast iguana. And as an aside, I should probably mention that his TV had a fresh bullet-hole.through its screen. David was a man of direct action.
Now, iguanas, I’ll have you know, can run to six feet, nose to tail, and weigh well over twenty pounds, and they look—for want of a better phrase—decidedly scary; and as if they want you to be their next meal.
Nonetheless, just to liven things up, David brought his iguana into the dining room—just as his wife was serving dinner—and then, for my entertainment, put it on his head. I doubt he had ever done that particular party trick before, because the next thing was that the humungous iguana, who wasn’t used to being treated as headgear, and was feeling insecure on this small landing zone, dug his claws deep into David’s scalp to avoid falling.
Head wounds bleed dramatically and alarmingly, so blood spurted and a more bizarre sight would be hard to imagine as multiple streams of gore flowed down David’s face, making him look as if he was undergoing some medieval torture. But Green Berets are not put off by such minor details. David didn’t swear or shoot the beast—though he was armed and I have more than a suspicion that the thought crossed his mind—but instead displayed commendable stoicism.
Later, he put the dragon on the floor, cleaned himself up, and we ate a very enjoyable meal—although I was somewhat distracted by this monster hovering less than two feet away. I couldn’t avoid the feeling that after I had finished my chicken, the iguana was going to take a bite out of me; and maybe come back for seconds. Appreciate that in Ireland, where I come from, we don’t even have snakes (other than the human variety). Saint Patrick drove them out.
And so, my readers, when you think of my books, and wonder where I got this or that detail, appreciate that I am prepared to dine with dragons in order to hold your interest—and have.