Andy: big, shaven-headed, tattooed fella in his mid-thirties. Likes to tell a story.
Jim & Neil: Andy’s credulous mates.
Act 1, Scene 1: Belfast City Centre. Pub interior, late 1990s. The three lads are sitting round a table drinking pints. It is 11 on a Friday night, and the bar crowd has thinned out a little. The lads are well on, having had a good few drinks.
Andy: Did I ever tell you about the time I got stranded in the Sahara Desert? When I was in the French Foreign Legion? Boys, I’ll tell you, I don’t scare easily, but I thought I’d had it that time. You know I was in Special Forces, I told you about that, surely: sniper, 3 headshots. [the others nod their heads] Aye, thought so. Well, this one time I was sent on a top secret mission, this high-priority target, a Touareg chieftain who was causing trouble, and the only way to get to him was through the desert. It was too risky to send in the army, or drop a bomb on him. It was all covert, black ops, no publicity. A helicopter dropped me like a day’s march or so from where they thought the target would be, and then I had to infiltrate their perimeter on foot.
Jim: Jesus. Real cloak-and-dagger stuff. You’re some boy. I never heard about this before.
Neil: Here, they don’t call him Andy McNabb for nothing, Jimbo.
Andy: Aye well, I don’t talk about it much. So anyway, I was all by myself, going along on the floor of this big wadi – that’s a dry streambed – when all of a sudden I saw this wall of sand hurtling towards me at like 70 miles per hour. Some sight that is, I can tell you. Make you shite yourself. But here, I remembered my training, got straight out of the wadi, and as high up as I could. You see, sometimes those sandstorms can bring rain as well, and you don’t want to be on the streambed if a flash flood comes along. Easy way to go for your tea, that’d be. The thing to do is get up high, and out of the wind, but not so as you’d get buried in the sand either. So I got my respirator on, and climbed up to a decent spot to wait out the storm.
When it hit, well boys, it was like a hundred high-speed trains going past. I was trying to call in, and the wind whipped the radio out of my hand easy as you like. There was all sorts of debris and rocks flying past me, so I just hunkered down and got out of the road. Couldn’t see a thing. It was like … you know when a pint of stout’s just been poured; it was like being in the middle of that. After a few hours it was over, and I’d survived one of the biggest sandstorms they’d ever had down there. Sand everywhere, so there was. In the crack of my arse; everywhere.
Neil: Wow. That’s amazing. Scary alright.
Andy: Wait till I tell you. That wasn’t even the best part. I carried on with the mission, of course, but when I reached my destination the Touareg were long gone, and I’d no way of finding them with the radio gone. Couldn’t call in for evac either. So I was stuck in the middle of the Sahara with no means of getting home. Not a helicopter in sight; nothing. They were hardly going to come looking for me, and I knew it. Frenchies would just wash their hands of you like you never existed; didn’t want an ‘international incident’ upsetting the delicate balance of power in the region. So I reckoned I’d just have to walk it. Like ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ or something, so it was. Except that I was all on my Jack Jones with no transport. Now. I only had enough water to keep me going for a couple of days, if I was handy with it. I didn’t have much to eat either. Probably five day’s march back to civilisation, and I couldn’t look for help from anyone in the desert, without compromising the mission. So I was going to have to fend for myself.
Jim: Unbelievable. What did you do?
Andy: Well, we’re highly trained in desert survival, so I called on that, you know; eked out the water, travelled at night as much as possible. Here, you want to see the night sky in the desert. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. But it was freezing cold too, at night. You’d think it would be warm, but it’s not. Frigging Baltic. Freeze the plums off you. And then roasting during the day, so I that’s when I slept to try and save water. You get dehydrated out there and you’ve had it; get all disorientated, lose your way, start hallucinating then that‘s you. Jackal’s breakfast in no time. It didn’t take long for the food and water to run out, even though I was careful with it. After the third day I knew I’d had it if I didn’t find something to drink soon.
Jim: You didn’t …
Andy: Drink my own piss? No. That’d just dehydrate you faster. We were taught that. But by the beginning of the fourth day my piss had just about dried up anyway. That’s how I knew I was in trouble.
Neil: So how did you survive?
Andy: Give me a chance, and I’ll tell you. Fuck’s sake, yous are wild for interrupting. Let the dog see the rabbit, eh? Actually it was an antelope saved me. I hadn’t seen much wildlife, but I came upon this herd of them, more by luck than judgement at that stage, I can tell you. I was wary of using my gun, not wanting to give away my position, but I knew that if I didn’t do something this time I was tatie bread, and no mistake. So, cut a long story short, I shot an antelope. And I drank its blood, and ate its meat, raw of course, didn’t want to compound the situation by starting a fire. It was dangerous enough out there after firing my revolver. Tell you what, it was delicious. Best meal I ever ate, no question. Quick as I could, I cut up as much as I could carry, slung a leg over each shoulder and started back for … Jesus!
[A girl at the bar has just thrown a pint over a man she is standing next to, and slapped his face. There is shouting, and an altercation. Others join in, bouncers arrive. After several minutes the conversation resumes].
Andy: So where was I?
Jim: You had a leg over each shoulder.
Andy: Ah right. So there I was, pumping away for the life of me, and these four – I don’t know what you’d call them, handmaidens maybe – waving palm fronds over the two of us to keep us cool, and her squealing and imploring me with her big brown eyes, and so I reckoned she’d had enough pleasure and I let fly.
And that’s how I impregnated the Bandit Queen of the Kalahari.