When Jack did military service in the eighties, he often spent time at a small base in the dense bushveld near the Angolan border, in the very north of what was then South West Africa. The base had two remarkable occupants—His Tits, and Terry.
His Tits was the regiment sergeant major, RSM Tittlefitz, a stocky, ruddy man with a large moustache. He was rumoured to be the angriest man alive. Men who make discipline their business are often angry types, given to redness, but His Tits had a special problem. When he spotted something wrong on the parade ground or during morning roll-call, he lost his temper and started shouting. This was normal for an RSM. As he screamed and shouted, he became redder and redder. This, too, was normal for an RSM, perhaps even a requirement. But then His Tits turned purple and passed out. This was not normal. It interfered with his ability to function as an RSM. When this happened, the men he’d gotten angry at picked him up and placed him under a tree where he lay in the dust until he woke up a few minutes later. By then matters had moved on and he’d have to find something new to get angry about.
Terry—short for terrorist—was a male lion. He had grown up around humans. Soldiers on patrol had found him when he was a cub, abandoned by his mother. They brought him back to the base where he was raised as a pet. At first, Terry was a cuddly kitten, given to playing with socks and nibbling ankles. As he grew, things got a little more serious. He ate a cricket bat and destroyed a field toilet. To discipline him, the men spanked him with Hang Ten flip-flops. From early on, Terry was afraid of a flip-flop. When he crapped in the wrong place, out came a flip-flop. When he wouldn’t move off someone’s stretcher, a flip-flop did the trick.
“It was the sound, really,” Jack once told me. “You could smack it against your thighs and Terry would flatten his ears and back off.”
When Terry was fully grown, he became a real problem. Sometimes he roared at night. He stole meat from the kitchen. He stalked people and pounced on them during Friday parades. When he ate a rooster that belonged to His Tits, it was the end. Terry had to go. The Colonel liked the idea of having a lion around, but His Tits was adamant. Terry was put onto a truck and driven deep into the bush. There the men let him go. Terry tried to get back onto the truck but the men chased him off with flip-flops. A few hours after the men returned to the base, so did Terry. He sauntered in through the gate and flopped onto a stretcher in a nearby tent. The Colonel saw this as a sign, and so did all the men—Terry was meant to stay. But a week later, when another rooster went missing, His Tits insisted again. This time he went along. They drove much deeper into the bush, until they crossed a stream. This, His Tits argued, would confuse Terry. But he’d also planned ahead and fed Terry a steak he’d laced with sleeping pills.
“That should do it,” he said. “Now we wait.”
They waited around until Terry lay down, and then they drove off. It was late and His Tits was in a good mood, having finally rid his beloved base of an undisciplined lion. He suggested that they camp out for the night, tell stories about Terry, and drink a little. They camped out, told stories about Terry, and drank a lot. The next morning they were slow to start. The men were tired and hung over and a little sad. They drove onward to the base in silence. It was getting really hot by the time they came across Terry walking in the track.
“What the—?” His Tits said as they pulled up alongside him.
“Hey Terry!” the men called out.
Terry ignored them and kept walking.
“He’s sulking,” His Tits said. “Give me those things.”
One of the men handed him a pair of flip-flops they’d brought along the previous day.
“Hey!” he shouted and jumped off the back of the truck.
Terry stopped and looked over his shoulder.
“Go back!” His Tits roared and slapped the flip-flops against one another. “Don’t just stand there! Move!”
He walked up and smacked Terry’s thigh. Terry moved aside with some reluctance.
“He’s not himself,” His Tits said as he got back onto the truck. “Still groggy from the pills.”
When they reached the base an hour later, Terry was there.
“When did he get here?” His Tits squeaked, swaying unsteadily on his feet.
“He was here before sunrise,” a soldier said.
His Tits blinked and swallowed.
“But—but I just saw him—” he stammered.
“Then something happened that never had before,” Jack told me. “His Tits turned pink and passed out.”