My son moved out and I have a workout room, a library and smoking chamber all in one. I came back from walking my wife to work and I could smell smoke coming from the back bedroom window. Going in, I opened the back room door and there was Mitchell, puffing on his eternal pipe.
“Did you know this THC is supposed to delay alzheimer’s disease—senility.”
“Mitchell.” I almost glared at him, “To what do I owe—?”
“Another picture for your bloggings,” he tossed a photo on my chair, “Down over there in the left, up above the low tree-line but below the far timberline is the summer camp where I learned to kill a man with my swimming trucks string. At midnight.”
“I remember.” I looked at the blurred picture, “That looks a little like—”
“Right.” Mitchell frowned, leaning back in the cushioned chair, “My Mentor there was our Leader, former military grunt turned cadet handler.”
I put the picture aside for later inclusion.
“My first mentors were of course, my Mom and Dad, teaching me to read, write and handle simple tools. At four. But my first military MENTOR was Jimmy, a Sarge, who took me all over the air base, let me look at everything, sit in vehicles, play with high altitude O2 gear. He wore a dark side-arm, probably a GI .45 in a khaki holster, very prominently. Answering my every kid-question, he was my constant companion from the week after I ‘ran away’ until we moved south. One time my Dad took me to the base, we met with a larger grey haired man with a silver pistol in a leather holster who let me sit in a B-17 while they talked about refitting it for Atomics. ‘Too risky.’ my Dad said and the older man agreed. We went home.”
I waited while Mitch did the staring bit.
“One day, when I was 5 1/2, my Dad returned from LA with a pro football linebacker, locked me in the hall lined with pillows, rolled up blankets and cushions, and this monster guy, as a game, taught me defensive tumbling, how to roll with a punch, how to ride a punch, Judo and Pressure Points from hand-to-hand combat. I had a BALL! From then on, I got to visit every kind of technical facility imaginable, train-repair yards—I got to drive a switching engine 25 feet—factories, old abandoned military sites, I got to sit in every kind of airplane, tank, and vehicle, with whoever (military) carefully explaining how it worked. I was only 7. I learned the rudiments of flight from the first pilot to fly over the ‘Hump’ (the Himalayas) in 1946, taking recon photos deep into unknown southern China. While my Dad worked on my Survival/Escape skills and I learned History and writing from my Mom, we moved south and I entered true Basic training. Besides the guy who called me Sarge, I learned bomb-handling from a real Sarge who spent two weeks with my family camping in the mountains, teaching me how to sneak up on an enemy guard and tracking.”
He took a puff.
“And then I was taken to the ‘experimental’ desert airbase where my Mentors were humorless men in long white coats with flashing lights, needles, armbands and a headband they attached to me while I watched the flashing grid. We joined a private swimming club, where my Mentor was a gorgeous girl who used to swim in the Navy, she said, and I had daily lessons at 8.am. For speed. And endurance. And a lot of holding my breath under water while relaxing and looking at how cute this older girl was.”
Mitchell watched me but I was silent.
“We moved to the land of wet, where I learned ham radio from my Dad, and from our Leader, advanced first aid, advanced wilderness survival skills, how to build a rope bridge, fish for trout with simple gear, and kill a man with my swim-trunks string. At midnight. So far I had nine Mentors teaching me basic Shadow Ops skills and I was only 12 years old. But my MOST important and memorable Mentor was Karen, after my Dad died. More about her and horses another time.”
“When we moved to the Rockies and my Mom married a minister, I had two Air Force Intelligence Ops, two ONI (Naval Ops), two Army Intel guys and a guy just back from the ‘Peace Corps’, which we now know was CIA as my High School instructors...and helpful in other areas. Military/survival areas. Plus a gay State Department Psy-Ops handler who followed me to Theatre Spy school and then back over the mountains to the oil-patch. I had so many Mentors at Spy School (Tramway Tech) that I would pick one that wasn’t. Call him ‘Bob’ a scruffy, fringe-jacket wearing, red tennis shoes below dirty jeans theatre student, who popped out at me in the Gardens near Christmas time, dressed in—I shit you not—Commando jacket with padded arms, a nick scarf and thick wool pleated and pressed pants tucked into Paratroopers boots. I stared and he said he was actually a Operations’ pilot for Gates/Lear Jet, ‘The flight arm of the CIA.’ he informed and asked if I wanted to fly to South America, help kidnap some people who would be flown out, and then I would stay, working my way back up across the Panama Canal. ‘You can have gun, if you want.‘ I continued staring, then walked off.”
“I got home for Christmas break, told my parents and my Stepfather said, ‘We could send you to Vietnam, without a gun.’ He was in on it. When I got back to college, I was dead. No course, no registration, no dorm room. I was listed as dead. Erased.”
“I one time counted up the military Mentors I’ve had and got bored after 39 folk.” He smiled at me. “If you google ‘Mitchell Calkins Hinman, 522 64 3353, you’ll get a crashed computer and a visit from guys in cheap suits, no sense of humor and they’ll insist that you not speak to me. If you press them for information, they will tell I was erased in 1968. Which is true.”
He go up to leave, stopping at the bedroom door.
“Next time I’ll tell you about Solace. And Karen.” He left, but stuck his head in the doorway, “And the Horse Path.”