Pinecones in the sandby Charity Tahmaseb
The first night I slept in sand in Saudi Arabia (not in a warehouse, not in the Khobar Towers), I found a pinecone in my sleeping bag. Of course, branches, pine needles, and leaves littered the sand around the tent, so a pinecone wasn’t that strange. We’d just managed to bring a little bit of Germany with us to the desert.
But the pinecone was inside my sleeping bag, not on it. Certainly I would’ve noticed that before now, what with weeks in country, not to mention weeks of sleeping in my sleeping bag.
I almost didn’t mention it, but at last I did, to Sergeant B. And I’m sure I was the picture of the naïve, perplexed lieutenant. Every scenario for how the pinecone ended up in my sleeping bag ran through my head except the obvious. The one that was now flat in the sand, unable to hold it in, laughing. At me.
“I’ll get you for that, Sergeant B,” I said.
“Sure you will, ma’am.” He looked smug. The implication? I was way too nice for anything underhanded.
But instead of tossing that pinecone into the sand, I tucked it inside my rucksack.
I’d like to say I remember this next part precisely, but I don’t. I’m not sure how I retaliated, only that I did. It could be that Sergeant B. left his shower kitbag on his cot in his rush to attend a very important game of spades. I might have been alone in the tent, writing a letter, when I noticed I’d arrived at the intersection of pay and back.
I might have slipped the pinecone into Sergeant B’s shower kitbag. In a few days, I forgot about it. In a few days, there were other things to think about. And when everything was over, we were still rationing water. So while everyone was thinking about showers, no one was actually taking any.
When he found the pinecone at last (and really, you don’t want to know how many weeks there were between showers), he was the picture of the perplexed sergeant (you could never call Sergeant B. naïve). Then it all came to him. The LT got him back.
But honestly? I don’t know if this is a true story, or simply the way I remember it. I’d have to ask Sergeant B.
From then on out, it was a free-for-all. Our motto: when you least expect the pinecone, expect it.
I vowed that I wouldn’t be the one to redeploy with it, but I ended up bringing the pinecone back to its native Germany. That Christmas, I mailed it to Sergeant B. A few months later, I got it back.
The last time I spoke to Sergeant B., it was October, 1996. My son was three-months old. Sergeant B. had just gotten engaged. He sounded so happy and excited about the future. I had the clever idea of sending the pinecone as a wedding gift.
But I hesitated. What if his fiancée didn’t think it funny? What if he didn’t? When it came to sand, pinecones, and time spend in the Middle East, my judgment was blurred. I didn’t send it.
I still have the pinecone, and despite a move a few years back, I know where it is. Someday, I’d like to send it to Sergeant B.
I wonder if he’ll remember.
Or, if like me, he can’t forget.