I’ve always said that my dream job is to be a television writer for some dumb, formulaic show on basic cable.
This is because I’m not only lazy, but I’m also intrigued by entertainment that wants to have it both ways: it wants to display violence in a gritty, realistic manner while simultaneously ignoring the consequences. An example is SEAL Team and SWAT.
I find these shows delightful: many people die, friends get killed or mangled, yet every episode ends with the cast laughing over drinks or in despair over a romantic relationship. It’s completely hypocritical, it wants to show real violence while also numbing us from the true horror of it all.
But all of these programs have identical story beats: the team (SEAL or SWAT) causes disruption, a male lead is banging a female superior, the superior’s superior rips into her, the team is given an imperative to fix the issue, moral quandary ensues, some people die, the day is saved, the team slaps each other on the back, the female superior informs the male lead that their relationship can’t continue, male lead is sad, executive producer credit is shown. (Sometimes there’s a “B” story featuring a secondary character, but no one gives a shit)
These stories can be written sitting on the toilet. And I spend A LOT of time on the toilet.
Damn it! I wish someone hadn’t stolen my copy of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
It’s my favorite holiday movie!
Seriously though, it’s probably my favorite POW film. The first time you watch it, it’s kinda underwhelming. Certainly not the kind of thing you’d expect from the director of In the Realm of the Senses.
But it’s actually one of the rare films that get better the more you watch it.
David Bowie plays a British soldier, Jack Celliers, who is taken captive by the Japanese during WWII. The camp commander, played by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, becomes obsessed with him. Bowie and Sakamoto, not known for their acting, actually carry the film quite well.
Meanwhile, Tom Conti’s Col. Lawrence and Takeshi Kitano’s Sgt. Hara have a contentious yet mutually admirable relationship.
The emotional highlight of the film is when Lawrence and Celliers get locked up and scheduled for execution. The two confide in each other some of their regrets. We’re shown flashbacks of Celliers high class upbringing and his relationship with his younger brother. Lucky for them, it’s Christmas. Sgt. Hara gets drunk and grants the two of them a reprieve.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” Hara says.
At the conclusion of the film, the shoe’s on the other foot. Hara is a POW yet Lawrence is unable to prevent his execution.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is unusual for a war film in that rather than focusing on death and carnage, it explores human relationships, understanding, love, and regret.
I just wish whoever borrowed my copy would return it 😢
“Well shits assholes,” I said to Dr. Sí. “We’ve been looking for you. I guess the search is over! Can I go now?”
“Not so fast,” he responded. “I need to know where your Kill Squad is going.”
“First I want to know what happened to Angelika,” I demanded.
“Fair enough,” he said. Then Dr. Sí turned to the corner of the laboratory. “Angelika, come join us.”
Angelika stepped out, all dolled up with her red hair flowing down to her shoulders. “Sorry James,” she said. “You’re not my type because Dr. Sí is my type.”
The two kissed passionately in front of me.
“I do want to thank you, Colonel James, for returning her to me,” Dr. Sí said.
“Hey, not a problem,” I replied. “Can you return the favor by removing this explosive collar from around my neck? Once when they realize Angelika’s missing, this thing will blow my head off.”
“First, where is the Kill Squad going?”
“They’re probably coming here!”
“We are certainly not at where they are going.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
The doctor turned around and looked at a computerized map of the Hawaiian islands. “I am a man of science, colonel. In order for my experiments to work, I need EXACT measurements. I cannot afford unpredictability. So again…where is the Kill Squad going?”
I was running out of time. The collar was going to detonate at any moment. Then I remembered…
“$2 million,” I said.
“Yes, $2 million and I give up the coordinates of the Kill Squad plus any other state secrets you want in order to sweeten the deal,“ I replied.
I was bluffing about the state secrets part. I didn’t know shit.
“$1 million,” Dr. Sí responded.
“Deal. The coordinates are 113.998N 737.746W. Now get this collar off of me!”
Dr. Sí laughed and ordered the guards to remove the collar. “Thank you for your cooperation colonel,” he said. “But as an insurance policy, I’ll place this collar on one of your acquaintances.”
The guards rolled in Mr. Ree, strapped to an upright gurney.
“They kidnapped me too,” Mr. Ree said. “Can you believe that bullshit?”
“Ohh come on,” I said. “Don’t kill Mr. Ree! He’s cool! Besides, that thing will detonate before the squad reaches its destination!”
“That’s just a chance I’m willing to take,” Dr. Sí replied.
“Look, I don’t give a damn about Admiral Majors or the Kill Squad. But there’s a woman that’s traveling with them: Izzy. Please don’t kill her,” I pleaded.
“Colonel, relax,” he said. “I’m not looking to kill anyone, except for Mr. Ree over there. I just want to see that thing go off.”
“I don’t understand.”
Dr. Sí put his arm around my shoulders and started walking me around the laboratory. “I understand your confusion. You see, has anyone told you the truth about that missing nuclear scientist?”
“To be honest doctor, for this entire mission, I’ve kinda been asleep at the wheel. I don’t even know that scientists’ name.”
“Ah, let me show you.”
Dr. Sí opened a door and out walked an old man in a lab coat. I think I was supposed to be impressed by this.
“I don’t know who this is,” I said.
“That’s J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
“J. Robert Op…the father of the atomic bomb?! What are you? Some kind of fucking moron?”
“You cloned him?”
“No asshole! I brought him from the past into the future! Don’t you get it yet? I invented time travel!!”
I walked up to Oppenheimer and looked him up and down. “Welcome to the future,” I told him. “We killed Hitler.”
“I know that, dumbass,” he replied. “We should have dropped the bomb on him!”
I looked back over to Dr. Sí. “So what? You invented time travel. Big whoop. How can you use that against the Kill Squad?”
“That’s why I brought my friend Oppenheimer to the present. You see, we created a new kind of weapon: a time weapon.”
“That sounds pretty fucking stupid, Dr. Sí,” I said. “How can you weaponize time?”
“Well you see, if you can triangulate the space time continuum, the quantum field fluctuations will…”
“Okay, sorry I asked,” I interrupted. “That science shit is boring. Cut to the chase. What’s gonna happen to the Kill Squad?”
“I will fire a plasma energy weapon at their coordinates. When the weapon reaches them, it will generate a quantum field around them and they will be transported to a different time and place.”
“My god,” I said. “A non-destructive weapon. You’re a genius Dr. Sí.”
“So you’re not a complete fucking idiot after all,” he replied. “It is far more humane than the nuclear weapons of the last 80 years. Imagine: no more nuclear fallout, no more mass death…we simply transport our enemies to a different time, different place.”
I looked around the laboratory…at all the scientists running around, to Oppenheimer, to Angelika, and then over to Mr. Ree.
“I cannot deny your genius, Dr. Si,” I said. “But it appears that the only one in danger here is Mr. Ree. If you’re really are humane, you’d remove that collar.”
Dr. Sí nodded. “I suppose you’re right, Colonel.” He looked to the guards. “Remove the collar.”
The guards walked over to the gurney and removed the collar. As they were about to dispose of it, it detonated, killing and maiming several of them.
Out of the confusion, Oppenheimer attacked one of the guards, grabbing his machine gun.
“Put down the gun Oppenheimer,” Dr. Sí said.
“No,” he replied. “You’ve been holding me hostage here. I’m not your puppet!”
“But Bob,” Dr. Sí pleaded. “We’ve been building something special here. Don’t you want to finish our work?”
“No! No more weapons!”
More guards rushed into the room, forcing Oppenheimer to drop his gun.
“Sorry Bob,” Dr. Sí said. “It appears your time is up.”
Mr. Ree was released from the gurney. The two of us were ordered to raise our hands and were rounded up with Oppenheimer.
“I’m Amish now,” I said to Admiral Majors and Izzy. “I don’t believe in violence anymore.”
“You mean to tell me we drove all the way to Pennsylvania from Los Angeles just for you to say you’ve taken a vow to never kill again,” the Admiral asked.
“Yes. I killed a man in cold blood. Not out of justice,” I replied. “I felt pure hatred. And I hope to never feel that again. That’s not God’s way.”
“The man you killed was a bent cop AND a serial killer. Fuck that guy!”
“No,” I said. “You see this,” I pointed over to the wide green pastures. Off in the distance, Amish brethren were erecting a barn. “This is God’s way. Hard work and community. That’s what will get us to heaven.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this bullshit,” the Admiral replied. “So you wanna play hardball eh? Fine. $2 million. I am offering you $2 million of tax payer money to join my force. One of our top nuclear scientists have gone missing, and we have reason to suspect that the Ionian Liberation Front is behind it. You’ve dealt with those guys before. If you change your mind, you know where to reach me.”
The Admiral stormed off. Izzy bashfully stood around.
“What’s her name,” she asked.
“Miriam,” I replied. “She’s a good woman. She’ll make an excellent mother.”
“I’m happy for you,” she said. “I’m seeing someone too. I gave Admiral Majors a hand job on drive over here. He’s taking me to dinner tonight.”
“I wish you two the best of luck.”
“Thank you,” she said. “Goodbye James.”
After I finished tending to the cattle, I washed off the bull semen then went to the homestead for supper. Miriam served me up a plate of beans and cornbread.
Miriam was a plain and simple Amish woman. We married during the fall harvest. Her father was Ezekiel, one of the community leaders. He was generous enough to take me in.
“Didist thou havest a good day,” she asked.
“I did Miriam. This is a well-earned supper after an honest day’s work.”
“The Lord hath blessed us. I am pregnant with child.”
“This is swell news indeed. The community with rejoice at the announcement.”
We smiled and held hands while we sat around the fireplace. I was loading tobacco into my pipe when Ezekiel stopped by.
“The Lord has brought forth good news,” I told him. “Miriam is pregnant with child.”
“Praise the Lord indeed,” he replied. “I am going to be a grandfather.”
The two of us went to the porch to watch the sunset. I took a match to the pipe. “So what brings you by Ezekiel,” I asked.
“I’m afraid Brother Peter is not doing well,” he said. “He won’t likely survive through the night.”
“That’s a shame. Miriam and I shall pray on it.”
“Unfortunately, I bring more bad news. Bandits have returned and stole four more chickens. We don’t have the funds to replace them. I’m afraid that we are having trouble feeding the children and the harvest isn’t bringing what we need. Times are hard indeed.”
“The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away,” I said.
“I wish someone would do something about these bandits. They have drained all of our resources for the winter,” Ezekiel said.
I puffed on the pipe and rocked in the chair. “I’m sure the Lord will provide.”
That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I sat up and kissed Miriam on the forehead while she peacefully slept.
I grabbed a shovel and hid behind the chicken coup while I waited for the bandits. I heard twigs snapping and bushes rustling. They were close.
“Stop right there or I’ll bash your head in,” I told the two bandits.
They laughed. “You’re Amish,” they said. “You can’t hurt us.”
“Grab my cock and find out,” I replied, referring to the rooster.
We had a stare down. I waited for one of them to make a move. One went for his pistol and I smashed the shovel right on his dick.
“My dick,” he yelled.
The other one leapt at me and I knocked his clean off his shoulders. Blood sprayed all over the coup. I went over to the other man laying on the ground.
“Don’t kill me,” he yelled. But I smashed the shovel right into his guts.
I buried the bodies deep in the woods.
I took the shovel and began digging behind the barn. Out of the dirt I pulled out an old oak box.
The warm breeze blew through the trees while the sun beamed down. Dead and mangled bodies littered the jungle floor.
I rested beneath a tree, waiting for the Angelikas.
A chopper rattled in the distance. The trees rustled as it hovered overhead. Four ropes dropped down to a clearing in front of me.
The four Angelikas lowered down.
“You’re coming with us,” they said.
“Not today sisters!”
I attempted to fire off a clip, but my rifle jammed. I threw the weapon down. If it came down to hand-to-hand combat, I was fucked.
Three of the Angelikas attempted to corner me. One stood back. I threw a grenade, but one caught it and threw it back. The explosion knocked me back a few feet.
The chopper continued to hover overhead.
As I laid there in a daze, I suddenly remembered: Izzy packed my burst action Beretta. The Angelikas were inching closer. I pulled out the sidearm and unleashed the three rounds into the chopper.
I could see the pilot’s brains splatter across the glass. His body leaned forward and the helicopter came careening down into the jungle. As it exploded, fire rained down onto the three Angelikas.
They might’ve been genetically enhanced. But as I’ve learned time and time again, no one is immune to the destructive force of a fireball.
I walked towards the last remaining Angelika. She instantly cowered down.
“Don’t kill me! I’m the original, I’m not genetically enhanced,” she screamed.
“He’s holed up at the abandoned airstrip a few klicks away.”
“You’re taking me to him.”
I held her at gunpoint as we journeyed towards the airstrip. Franco was in the hanger while his private jet rested on the runway.
“Here’s your communist mole,” I told him.
“Excellent work, Mr. James,” he replied. “Now that I can trust you, I’ll reveal to you my secret plan.”
Franco turned around and removed his eye patch. A brilliant flash of gold appeared from where left eye once was. He laid a steel briefcase on the table.
Inside was a ridiculous looking retinal scanner.
“When I run my golden eye through this retinal scan,” he said. “50 scud missiles armed with nuclear warheads will fire from beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Each aimed at a major city in the Western Hemisphere.”
“You’re a madman, Mr. Werner,” I replied. “You’re not even gonna attempt to blackmail world leaders? What kind of villain are you?”
“Once when the world’s major cities have been destroyed,” Franco continued. “They’ll blame the communists, and leaders of the world will have no choice but to use my services to defeat them.”
“Billions of people will die, just so you can make a profit,” I replied.
I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: madman wants to destroy the world just so he can make a few extra pennies. People will do anything for money these days.
“With that type of destruction,” I interjected. “Nuclear winter could last ages. Are you sure that you completely thought the consequences of your plan, Mr. Werner?”
Franco pondered for a second.
“Shit, I guess I didn’t,” he replied. “Oh well, it’s a risk worth taking. But tonight, we feast!”
Franco left the hanger. Angelika was locked up behind a gate.
“James,” she said. “Franco killed my friends, my family. All I’ve ever wanted was justice. Please don’t let him do this.”
Franco returned with his servants. They were bringing in cartons full of local cuisine out of the jet. He poured a glass of bourbon, then lifted it to make a toast.
“If you stray a foot, I’ll murder you where you stand,” one of the Angelikas told me.
All the mercenaries, 40 of us in total, boarded the black hawks en route to the jungles of Honduras. The three other Angelikas disappeared hours earlier. Only one was left to watch me.
“Why are you after Franco De Werner?” I asked her.
“In addition to killing our comrades, he holds the key to a secret nuclear arsenal somewhere under the Gulf of Mexico. If we can capture him, we’d control enough fire power to destroy the Western Hemisphere,” she replied.
Well fuck me, I thought. Angelika(s) plan was to massacre the mercenaries in the jungle during their communist hunt, forcing Franco down to Honduras.
I was caught between a rock and a hard place: between a diabolical madman and a kill squad of four genetically enhanced clone-ladies
“But why me though?” I asked. “Are you aligned with the mafia? Are they still pissed because I torched the shit out of them in the woods?”
“Just shup and do what you’re told.”
The choppers dropped us off on the beach. We set up camp for the night. All the men gathered around the various fires, cracking open one Keystone Light after another.
It became a beach party.
I stood watch along the tree line. Angelika handed me an MK 556. She pushed me up against a tree and grabbed my dong.
“Remember,” she said. “I am always watching you.”
She then kissed me and disappeared into the jungle. I began to cry.
The men started to get rowdy. I told them to quiet down, that the communists could be watching.
“What are you afraid of, Carlos?” replied Tiger Tanaka, the most ruthless of the bunch. “You’re the most notorious arsonists in Eastern Europe. Quit being a puss.”
Tiger then pulled out a Henri Selmer saxophone and started rockin’ out like he was Clarence fucking Clemons. This noisy instrument was echoing across the bay and into the jungle.
“Damn it Tiger! If you don’t put that loud piece of shit away, I will shoot you myself!” I yelled.
“I ain’t afraid of nothin in this jungle!” he yelled back.
Ironically, a tiger then jumped out of the woods a mauled his face off. The men quickly scattered into the jungle, leaving their weapons behind. I fired a few rounds at the animal before it disappeared.
“There’s tigers in Honduras?!” one of the men yelled. I shrugged.
Angelika must have something to do with this, I thought.
The men attempted to retrieve their weapons. Every time they got close, the tiger would reappear and drag one of them into the woods.
“It’s an ambush,” I said. “We must fall back.”
“Fall back into the jungle?! WITHOUT OUR WEAPONS!” said Thomas Jane “Little” P.P., the explosives expert.
“Calm yourself, Little PP,” I replied. “Fall back and we’ll regroup.”
As the men retreated, trip wires began going off. A fireball would light up the sky and body parts would fall back into the trees.
“We’re gonna die!” screamed Little PP. He ran ahead a few yards in front of me before falling into quicksand.
I extended my rifle to pull him out, but he kept sinking deeper. “I don’t want to drown!” Little PP yelled. “Please kill me, Carlos!”
When I realized that I couldn’t rescue him, I lifted up my rifle and fired one round into Little PPs chest. I watched as his dead body sunk below the surface.
The screams of men continued to echo across the jungle. I heard growling behind me. The tiger was near. I fired a few rounds into the bushes and ran off.
I hopped across a trip wire and hid behind a tree. “Come at me mother fucker,” I said. The tiger jumped out and hit the wire. The explosion was brilliant.
Tiger blood rained from the sky.
I sat down and radioed in.
“To Angelika or whoever’s listening,” I said. “Tiger’s dead. Both tigers are. There can’t be very many of us left. But I’m still standing. If you want me, you’re gonna have to come down here and get me.
But be warned: it’s gonna take more than a tiger and a few land mines to kill me.”
If Michaela and her army wanted to lay siege to this cabin, I was fully prepared.
After Isabella said her final goodbye, I began work on a defensive attack. Booby traps, trip wires, and explosives were scattered around the perimeter. Thanks to my father’s arsenal, I had RPGs, M16s, M4 Carbines, AKs, AR-15s, Uzis, and all the usual weapons you’d find in these stories.
I climbed up into a deer stand, and watched. Waited. I stared down the scope of my rifle. A caravan of black SUVs was rolling down the dirt road.
The first vehicle struck a trip wire, causing a massive explosion. It obliterated the SUV and the one behind it. Eight people were killed immediately.
Men in the vehicles behind began fanning out into the woods, but they kept triggering the C-4, causing more explosions and death. The unlucky ones got caught in bear traps where they became easy prey for the mountain lions.
I realized that I created a horrible, if not tragic, death trap.
I climbed down from the deer stand and ran back to the cabin. I knew that the men who survived the initial barrage would eventually breach the defensive perimeter. So I armed myself with multiple automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, explosions kept going off. I grabbed the RPG-7.
I knew Michaela was getting close. One of her men yelled “you fucking bitch! You told us that we’d only be facing three people! Not the threshold of hell!”
Her men started to retreat. So my defensive campaign suddenly became an offensive one. I fired an RPG right at her gaggle of men, killing or maiming all 20 of them.
The few survivors that weren’t screaming in agony began to fire back. So I let loose another RPG.
I looked out into the woods. Fires were emanating from the charred remains of hundreds of dead bodies. It was lighting up the night sky. Yet none of the bodies were Michaela.
I slowly paced through the woods. Then a bullet went right through my left kidney. I fell to the ground and Michaela popped out from behind a tree, doing all kinds of strange martial arts.
She round house kicked my face. She broke one of my arms, both legs and my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was helplessly crawling on the ground.
“Where’s Isabella?!” Michaela kept asking while punching me in the face.
“If she was up your butt you’d know where she was,” I replied.
Out of frustration, Michaela stood up and pointed her Glock 19 at me. “Goodbye, private dick!”
Luckily, I had dozens of sidearms on me. So I managed to rip a clip into Michaela before she got off a shot.
With fire all around me, I managed to craw back into the cabin. I might’ve been a fuck up my entire life, but at least I’d go out the way I wanted.
I lit up a cigarette and looked over to a picture of mom and dad.
“I’ll be with you soon Ma and Pa!”
And I closed my eyes.
Unfortunately I woke up in the San Bernardino Community Hospital. Isabella and an FBI agent were in the room.
“I couldn’t leave you there mister,” Isabella said. “You were sitting in a pool of your own blood with all your limbs broken.”
“Despite the horrendous injuries and the state we found you in, you’re expected to make a full recovery!” the doctor said.
I didn’t have health insurance.
“You somehow managed to slaughter the entire west coast mafia. There will be a federal investigation into this,” the FBI agent said.
“Do I need to lawyer up?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, BIG TIME,” the agent replied.
“Aren’t you so happy to be alive?!” Isabella asked.
“You know, I lost a testicle too in a savage kidnapping plot,” Dale said to me while we were setting up C-4 explosives.
“Did you get it back?” I asked.
Dale and I were putting up booby traps around his cabin outside of Norco. We knew Honda was going to strike again so we wanted to establish home field advantage.
Nicky (my alleged father) was sitting around the campfire staring down the barrel of his .44.
“No no dad,” I said as I took the gun out of his hands.
All three of us sat around the campfire under the Norco moonlight. The air reeked of cow shit.
“What a god forsaken place,” I said.
Dale took in a deep breath of shit stained air.
“I was born here. I grew up here. I lost my virginity here. I got married here. I got divorced here. Got married again. Got divorced again. Lost everything I had. And never gained it back. I’ll probably die here,” Dale said.
“Probably so,” I replied.
Nicky spoke up. “You know, I’m just glad that you boys are out here to protect me. When the FBI shot up that strip joint, I remember that I completely blew out my pants. Shit got everywhere. When they arrested me, they made me sit in my shitty underwear. Then I cried.”
“Don’t worry about it dad,” I said. “Dale and I have faced Honda before. We know what to expect.”
“By the way,” Dale chimed in. “Who the fuck is Honda and why are we in this mess?”
We all looked at each other and shrugged.
“It’s important to not think too much on this,” I said. “The important thing is that we are family, except for Dale, and that we are all going to help each other out this train wreck we find ourselves in.”
We nodded and started to enjoy the campfire.
Finally I asked Nicky, “So what do you remember about mom?”
He smiled and said, “what a lovely woman. Legs, ass, tits. The whole package. Eyes as blue as the sky. But a warm heart. She knew how to brighten up my day.”
I looked back at the fire and thought that doesn’t describe mom at all.
Finally Dick called.
“Aye lad, I’ve been tailin’ Anthrax all dee. I’m watching her outside a trap hoose n Pasadena,” Dick said. “I donnae think you’ll like who she’s with mate.”
“Randy,” I said.
That bitch, I thought. I knew she was going to double cross me and I fell into her trap. Instead of a battle, we were now facing a war on two fronts.
“Then you might get your M2s, M4s, AKs, AR-15s, 44s, 94, and 22s,” I told Dick. “We’re headed for a Mexican standoff.”