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Deferred Gratification

by on September 4, 2021

Deferred Gratification

by Marco M. Pardi

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Bertrand Russell.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

As Tonio cleared through Immigration & Customs in the Tangier-Boukhalef airport, soon to be known as the Tangier Ibn Battouta airport, 15 km southwest of the city center he made two quick stops. First he entered a gift shop and purchased an English – Berber dictionary and phrase book, then he went to the men’s room. The book was to bolster his cover. He knew the main dialect of Berber was Danja, with three sub-dialects Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Central Atlas Tamazight and he was curious to see how any of them differed from the Hamitic Arabic he had learned hundreds of miles to the east. But he also strictly adhered to the operational principle of never letting on that one understood a local language. Volumes of precious information floated in the air as people assumed he could not understand. In the men’s room he quickly ascertained it was empty and then took a prepared “Robert Redford” mustache from his book bag and applied it. Then, a Stanford University baseball cap and a large pair of Serengeti aviator’s sunglasses.

Stepping outside he heard the recorded ṣalat aẓ-ẓuhr, thecall tonoonday prayer issuing from the nearby mosque, just as he spotted the cab with mismatched hubcaps he knew would be waiting. Immediately on entering the cab the driver sped off toward Tangier souk dakhel, near the Ancien Medina. Still silent, the driver cruised down Avenue Sidi Bou Arraqia and turned right onto Rue de la Liberte where he came to a stop outside a sporting goods store. Tonio’s ultimate destination, the small villages in the Idaren Draren (“Mountains of the Mountains”) region of the Atlas mountains would require some equipment.

As Tonio entered the empty store a stunning young woman rose behind the counter, deep honey hair, slightly tanned complexion and brilliant hazel eyes. She immediately stepped back into a corridor and disappeared. He thought of his life companion, Maartje, waiting for him at home and heard her in his mind chuckling, “Enjoy the garden….”. He never doubted they had some sort of psychic connection. As he waited he thought again of how he had quoted to Maartje the 9th-century Arab poet al-Buhturi as they had first met years ago:


طلعتَ لهم وقتَ الشروقِ فعاينوا           سنا الشمسِ من أُفْقٍ ووجهَك من افْقِ

وما عاينوا شمسينِ قبلَهُما التقى          ضياؤهما وَفقاً من الغرب والشرق

You appeared to them at dawn so that they saw the rays of the sun from one horizon and your face from another


Never before had they seen two suns whose lights met in concord from west and east

The woman silently returned with a medium sized box, setting it on the counter. Opening it he saw a pair of worn hiking boots, some socks, a canteen, and a First Aid kit. In the kit he found a 9mm Fabrique Nationale FN509 Compact Tactical with threaded suppressor barrel and suppressor, and three full 12 rd magazines. Rolled into the boots were large wads of Moroccan Dirham, the national currency. He nodded to the young woman, collected the box under his arm, and left the store.

Once back in the cab the driver turned for 17 Rue El Oued, the address of Dar Imzdan, the small hotel reserved for him. This drive was more difficult, winding through narrower streets, avoiding donkeys laden with towering loads, and children darting across the path. Their eventual arrival was announced by other loudspeakers wailing out the call to salat al-asr, the afternoon prayer. As the mosque was two streets over there was no need for Tonio to wait in the cab while the faithful performed wudu, the ritual cleansing at the fountain out front. The less he was seen the better. The driver declined money, saying only “La” (No), so he slung his overnight bag over his shoulder and his box under his arm and went inside.

He went through the registration process and, as the clerk was turning for the key to his room, requested a change of room. This done, he went upstairs and scanned the room for electronics and pinhole cameras before opening his bag. In a couple of hours he would order room service from the dining room, settle in with a book, and wait for his early morning tourist flight to the village of Tifawt, high in the Atlas mountains.

Room service arrived with a bowl of harira, with chicken instead of lamb followed by a large order of rfissa, again with chicken instead of lamb, with a small glass of iced mint tea and a carafe of Italian coffee. All was accompanied by the salat al-maghrib, the call to sunset prayer issuing from the mosque.

Precisely at dawn Tonio was awakened by the muezzin chanting the salat as-subh, the call to morning prayer. He reached for Maartje but found only sheets cooled by the sea air. Dressing quickly he put on socks, boots, an over sized T-shirt and different cargo shorts. The shorts were equipped, inside the small of the back, with a sewn in cloth holster. A web belt with a wide, rectangular stainless steel buckle, inlaid with wood and diagonally crossed with a stainless steel bar was already threaded through the shorts. A flick of the fingers released the bar which became the handle of a flip-out 2 1/3” scalpel blade used for slicing the carotid arteries of knocked-out sentries. Only fools and movie characters leave a sentry unconscious. With mustache and hat in place he slung his overnight bag, with its added contents, over his shoulder and left the room.

Outside, the cab with mismatched hubcaps pulled up and they sped off to the airport where a dubious twin prop airplane waited to take him and six other tourists to Tifawt. Private companies didn’t bother with any kind of airport security and patrons came in by an unattended gate.

Tifawt had only recently been dragged into the 20th century, by the man Tonio was coming for. Agency analysts had identified him as the financier who diverted and washed funds from various charities before parceling them out to various terrorist groups operating against Israel and surrounding countries deemed murtadun, or apostate. He had renovated an old fort on a rise about 1 kilometer from Tifawt and had electrified most of the village. Though he had his own heliport, he had added a single paved runway to the village.

Tonio watched the approach to the runway, feeling as if they were landing on someone’s driveway. The walk into town was short and delivered him to various shops catering to tourists. One of these rented dirt bikes and he quickly arranged one, with saddle bags, for a week. Since, upon completion of the job, he would use the dirt bike to travel by night to a much larger village for a flight out, he would wipe a small roll of dirham with gasoline and leave it for the shop. He found the idea of washing money amusing in this case. In any case, the name under which he had taken the tourist flight and rented the bike had been drawn from the Topeka, Kansas phone book.

Emptying his overnight bag into one saddlebag, then folding the bag into the other, he was off to see the village. He cruised through the more modern area and headed for the outskirts. Should anyone ask, he was researching the effects of modernization on the local culture.

It being late afternoon he stopped in an open area among some houses, got out his phrase book, and exchanged greetings with children playing make shift soccer. He rounded his pronunciation to fit his appearance. In moments a man stepped out of a home and walked to some sheep standing nearby. He grabbed a lamb who bleated loudly as an ewe (the mother?) called frantically along with the others. Setting the lamb down near the children he slit its throat. The lamb gargled a bleat and staggered in circles as blood pulsed over a foot from the wound, pooling on the ubiquitous red Moroccan dirt. The children giggled and looked at Tonio as the lamb fell over on its side and its little legs came to a stop.

Tonio was outraged, though he kept a flat affect. He, and Maartje, had long campaigned against the brutal slaughter of lambs, calves, piglets and other young animals that unspeakably self-centered humans craved for their tender flesh. They had gathered and circulated information and photographs of such young animals as calves torn from their mothers and locked in cages too small for them to turn around, sows locked into gestation crates until delivery of piglets for “gourmet” dining, chickens, ducks and geese overfed in small cages to the point they could not hold up their own body weight. “Factory farms” was the term. The range and diversity of the victims, even including dogs and cats, was almost too long to list. Yet people flocked to the restaurants and the markets, picking and choosing parts of animals they had no idea how to assemble into the real, breathing, feeling beings. Commodity. A lifeless term applied to living, sentient beings.

Tonio and Maartje knew that campaigning against such practices, trying to change such values, was almost pointless. The world’s craving for meat was increasing with the rising standard of living; what an ironic concept. They also campaigned against the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns, bush meat, and bones, such as tiger, used to make trinkets, food, and traditional medicine. That trade was managed by highly placed individuals in various countries, people who could finance the use of armed helicopters to bring poacher teams to elephant and rhino kills, deploy chain saws to strip off tusks and horns, and leave the carcasses to rot, families to mourn, and orphans to starve and be taken by predators. Exterminate the people at the top and, eventually, the trade would be much reduced if not eliminated.

They often wished that the resources devoted to putting Tonio and the very few others like him into the field against terrorists could be at least partially diverted into the elimination of the top financiers of the trade in these items. Shooting individual poachers was simply turning back the sea with a teaspoon. They had often made the case that much of the money from this trade went into the coffers of terrorist organizations. And yes, they had seen the unpublished photos of the shredded Israeli schoolchildren blown apart by bombs on their buses but had unsuccessfully tried to include the upper tier animal parts traders into the target matrix. Maybe when he retired he and Maartje could go into business on their own.

Tonio snapped back to the task at hand. SIGINT and HUMINT determined that the financier would be at his fortified villa, preparing to host a party of like minded internationals. He cranked up the dirt bike and set off on his reconnoiter as evening fell. The animal parts trade would have to wait for another time.

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8 Comments
  1. jkent33 permalink

    Very engaging story from start to finish. As usual you drew me right into the narrative with your calculated step by step style of writing. It’s my style of living and breathing in my day by day activities. I live for the tiniest details of life to better measure how they appear for my acceptance. It’s a burden to see everything down to the smallest denominator. It takes me longer than the average bear to absorb everything within my grasp.
    As your story unfolds I pictured every device, method and movement. Starting with the Serengeti Aviator sunglasses that I infrequently wear because the lens make it heavy putting too much pressure on the bridge of my nose.
    Also, Tonio’s weapon of choice is the unfamiliar to me FN 509. A little research made me quickly fall in love, replete with the extended capacity magazine and possibility of a suppressor. If I find an extra $1,000 it would cause me to order today. Again anything connected to Browning and Belgium captures my full attention.
    I’m eager to read more. Thank you for sharing this; yet another, chapter in Tonio’s life adventures!

    Like

  2. Thank you, Jerry. I like to use episodes from Tonio’s life as a means to introduce what I consider important topics that people ignore or take for granted, in this case the horrendous treatment of non-human animals. Still, if we ever meet again I will bring you to an indoor range I favor and we can pass the time amusing ourselves with various handguns.

    Like

  3. Dana permalink

    Marco, I thought this would be a short excerpt from Tonio’s life as an introduction to a blog entry. It’s thrilling to have another chapter in a book I’ve seemingly always wanted to read. What a treasure!

    Your writing with its rich detail always paints the most incredible imagery. This transported me as a reader, and you have such a gift for doing just that. The tradecraft is fun and fascinating, and I hope we’ll see more of it.

    The introduction of Maartje was such a surprise, and meaningful beyond words. And the Arabic poem…………

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Dana. I did feel the need to conserve space but am so very glad what I did write had such pleasant effects for you. Yes, Maartje has been behind the curtain too long. I’m very glad to bring her out, but am also very protective of her.

      Like

      • Dana permalink

        I’m looking forward to more. And I have a feeling ithe episodes won’t be shared in a linear, chronological style. I could be wrong, but time is only an illusion regardless.

        I was thanking about this entry after I discovered a walking stick insect in the gardens at work. That led to researching more about the insect since this particular one flew away. I had no idea they could fly.

        Sadly, in some countries the larger ones, some up to 20″, become part of the pet trade. Not even insects are safe from human greed and the driving need to dominate other species.

        Like

        • Thank you, Dana. As you know, I devote much of my time to non-human animal issues and environmental issues in general. There is much to do, and hopefully this venue helps.

          Like

  4. At long last I have found the time to read and enjoy your writing. The fine details of your narrative make this offering one which creates a visual impact, almost as if I was there with you. I can follow the truth of the tradecraft, but I think we both know that my imagination will never be a match to your memory. I recall the sounds of daily call to prayer that I heard from a nearby minaret while in Turkey, and I can visualize the markets, and the children playing in the streets. I flinched when reading of the lamb slaughter, remembering the carts of roasted lamb (or was it goat?) skulls being sold in the streets there. It’s such a different culture there, one that can only be appreciated after experiencing it, and even then it cannot truly be understood.

    Did you know that in Turkey, a sheep or goat has more monetary value than a human being? If someone accidently kills one (on the road, etc), they are taxed with paying not only the value of that non-human animal, but of its potential offspring. That’s the difference between the beings which provide for a farm family, and the industrialized slaughter of which you speak so vehemently.

    I look forward to the next installment of Tonio’s adventures.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. Your life and travels would become a much in demand memoir, and I would dearly love to see it.

      That’s really interesting about Turkey. I wonder if this is still the case.

      I’ve been checking every day for new installments from you. This is fun, even if most readers don’t bother themselves to comment. But there is a limit to how long we go on. After all, we could just do a group email.

      Like

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