Sunday, August 21, 2005

Beckham's Song

With no wind, the dust has settled, and the sky is a washed-out blue. On either side of the road stretches long rows of shabby market stalls. A rusting heap of mufflers advertises a shop selling auto parts and petrol out of worn plastic jugs. Several dirty white sheep stand contently tethered to a wooden stump, while a skinless haunch hangs directly over their heads from the rafters in a slaughterhouse. A rough wooden bench is stacked high with cushions and blankets for sale.

The district we are driving thru is not a friendly one.

Groups of men standing outside the roadside market stalls stop and stare at the patrol with dark expressionless faces. Black veiled women move from stall to stall with worn, frayed plastic bags filled with produce. Children stand quietly on the side of the road.

There is no waving or begging for chocolates.

No cries of "Mister, Mister!"

No cheerful "thumbs up."

Not pleasant.

Fingering the handset for my loudspeaker, a thought occurs to me.

Twisting in my seat, I turn and face my interpreter. Beckham is sitting in the back seat, sweating despite the air conditioning. He is looking thru the window at the grim faces outside.

“Beckham, what is a popular song?”

“A song?”

He looks perplexed.

“Yes, what is a popular, traditional song?”

Beckham thinks for a moment, and then he smiles.

“I have one for you.”

His voice is strong and clear, and the Arabic song has an insistent rhythm. I can feel my foot unconsciously tapping in time with the music. The song is incredibly catchy, and his deep voice holds the tune.

I trade glances with my driver and he smiles.

Beckham is a great singer.

Passing the handset for the loudspeaker over my head, Beckham takes it in the back seat.

“Beckham, I want you to sing that song into the loudspeaker.”

Beckham stares at the handset for a second in thought, and then keying the button with his thumb, he begins to sing his song.

Thru the loudspeaker mounted on the front of my vehicle, comes the insistent, catchy Arabic tune.

The music has an amazing effect on the marketplace.

In astonishment, a black veiled woman stops her inspection of a stack of pale green melons, and turns to face the vehicle.

One mans glare turns to amazement, his cigarette dangling at his side, forgotten.

All movement in the marketplace stops.

Beckham, looking out of the window, sees the effect his music has had. His voice falters for an instant, and then he catches himself and he begins to sing even louder.

A small dark boy, no older than ten years old, stands on the north side of the road. He smiles, white teeth flashing in his dark face, and his thin body begins to sway in time with the music. His hands raise up above his head, almost of their own volition, and he begins to dance in time with the music.

As we roll down the marketplace street, I see smiles break out on normally dour faces.

A group of young men sway and clap in time with the music.

An old man, sitting in a blue plastic chair by a produce stand, is snapping his fingers and wagging his toothless head in time with the song.

Two little girls, one dressed in a black burkha, smile and point their fingers in delight at the American vehicle playing the unexpected music.

For an instant, the mood in the marketplace has changed completely.

A small bridge has been built by Beckham's song.

As we turn at an intersection and head north, we leave the marketplace behind. The long rows of stalls and people give way to arid desert and a murky canal running north and south along the roadside.

Beckham stops singing.

As his voice fades from the air, the air suddenly feels empty.

Turning in my seat, I give Beckham a reassuring smile.

“Beckham, keep singing. It sounds great.”

Beckham keys the handset again, and the patrol continues north thru arid, deserted fields, accompanied by the cheerful sound of Beckham's Song.


Blogger The D said...

Have you given any thought to publishing these entries as a full book when you come home? Even the title, "The Replacements" is a great title. I don't know how many people read this, but I think many would love it. Thank you for your continued writing,

10:12 AM  
Blogger Hwhipple said...

It is men, soldiers and officers like you that i wish everyone knew about. Your relation to the people, your compassion and overall nobility are that of such a great man, officer and most importantly leader. Your mother has raised such a wonderful son (i have a sneaky feeling she already knows this ;) ..) I am so glad to have your latest entrys..I was beginning to worry. And see...ALOT of people are reading this!! Who would have guessed this is what and how your great novel would come from.
Love & Safe Journeys~

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't it music, that soothed the savage breast... reaching out has to start somehwere candy and balls for children, music, a laungage that can cross the divide.

Stay safe son,

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to ask, is Beckham a soccer fan? Tell him I am too...


7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish that all the soldiers over there could have the heart of gold that you do. I miss you very much and enjoy reading your posts! Stay safe and keep your head up, we need more men like you in the world.

Love always

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is fantastic. I've passed it on to all my friends.

-A GI in Europe

1:21 AM  
Anonymous rerun said...

We're praying for all of you over there.
I hope all of you realize that the vast majority of us Americans back here at home believe in what you all are doing.
Please be safe and continue to make us proud.

5:43 AM  
Blogger MaddyMappo said...

Thank you for singing to us your stories about this bleak time of war in Iraq. How's Spider?

7:10 AM  
Blogger soldierswife0410 said...

Your Blogs were just sent to me, and reading them is wonderful. Keep up the good work, and I agree that you should publish these when you return. I am not sure if my husband is one of the men you talk about, but I am proud of all of you! Keep up the great writing!

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6:24 AM  
Blogger Pearl said...

Changing the world with tenderness, concideration, and an AK47. Keep up the good work; I believe you are making a difference.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Jeanmarie said...

Adam, that was so amazing of you! What a wonderful way to open up communication and respect, even if you were just driving through.

I hope you stay safe.



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9:15 PM  
Anonymous Douglas said...

I expect a recording of that tune when you get back!

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Leni said...


knowing you since years now, simply shows me that you are still the same guy, with a heart of gold...take good care and do not forget that someone in Europe is thinking very dearly of you!


12:28 AM  

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