"The Gypsy Girl and the Soldier Boy"Mature

A young soldier gets a new outlook on the world after his palm is read.
He goes from skeptic to believer in one night.

"The Gypsy Girl and the Soldier Boy"
When I was a younger man, another version of superman as many young men in their twenties are, I was serving in the United States Army as a radio-man, excuse me, as a communications specialist.

My squad and I had set up our trucks and radio equipment on one of the hundreds of wooded hill-tops in the lush, fairy-tale land that is the Black Forest, or as the locals called it, Der Schwartzwald.

We had been set up there since the night before and now it was a sunny and warm fall afternoon. I threaded my way through a stand of young pines on the way to the road outpost. As I strolled along on the soft quiet pine-needle floor I took in the sights and smells of this famous old forest. I thought of all the other soldiers who walked through here. Since before the Romans and through time all the way to now, this land had seen so many people of so many nationalities and origins. If only the stones could talk.

I also thought about the soldier I was about to replace on guard duty. His name was Witt but everyone called him Witt-less. We called him that because he didn't always have both oars in the water if you know what I mean. He was a nice enough guy and always eager to please, but he never knew what was going on and was always slow to understand when people told him things.

After a few dozens yards into the thicket I could make out the gravel logging road I was supposed to be meeting Witt-less on. I looked at my watch and saw I had about 20 minutes til I needed to relieve him.

Just enough time to scare the piss out him, I thought to myself.

I began my slow stalking through the trees, carefully placing my feet on quiet things and scanning the greenery ahead of me. I moved slowly and any small animals I disturbed pretty much went about their business without alarm. After a while I was squatting about six feet from the road hidden by ferns and the lowest over-hanging pine boughs. I stayed still until I could see Wittless just a little ways down the road leaning against a tree and fiddling with the strap of his weapon, oblivious to the world around him. I silently withdrew deeper back into the forest and made my way nearer to him. I crept back close to the road again, this time only stopping until I was only about ten feet from him.

Again, from the cover of the woods, I watched the twenty-year old from suburban Connecticut for three or four minutes while he stayed concentrated on adjusting his gear and never once looking up. Just when I was about to rise and reveal myself in an abrupt and shocking fashion, I heard the sound of bicycle wheels crunching on gravel. After way too long, Wittless looked up as well to see a young woman dressed in a blue skirt, grey knit sweater and light-blue head scarf come riding up the road towards him. I stayed put to see how he would deal with her.

He stepped out into the middle of the road with his weapon at port arms, the shoulder strap hanging sloppily in the dirt, and said in a bored tone of vioce, "Halt".

The girl squeezed the brakes and came to a sqeaky halt a few feet away from him.

She had long dark brown hair that she wore loosely tied up in the scarf. She pulled her sweater off her shoulders and said something in a language I had never heard before.

"Huh?", said Witt stupidly, as if her repeating it was going to make him understand better.

"I'm sorry", she said in heavily accented, but soft and lilting, english."I'm sorry. My English is not so good. I may not ride here?" She bent her knee as she moved the pedals into position to leave. The skirt fell away from her shapely calf which ended in a black leather ankle boot.

"Um, ya. I mean, no....", stammered Witt.

"Is your friend in the trees going to shoot me?", she asked, surprising the heck out of me as I thought I was pretty well hidden from the casual observer.

"Huh?", said the Einstein again.

I rose from cover and slung my weapon over my shoulder. "No ma'm, I'm not going to shoot you.", I smiled at her as I noticed that not only did she have nice legs, she was an olive skinned beauty from somewhere other than here. Her deep brown eyes were leveled at me with more calm than most women would have had when being confronted alone in the woods by two armed men. Even if they were supposed to be the good guys.

"Ma'm? I'm only seventeen and have no children. This word sounds wrong for me.", she beamed at me.

"I'm sorry, I'm only trying to be polite. We're not allowed to let you pass through here."

She ignored Witt and looked me up and down. Not brazen or flirty or anything, just like she was checking out a museaum piece or some other curiosity.

It made me uncomfortable so I did what most people do, I started blabbering, "Ya um, you can turn around and then take a right on the next path you see, it leads to the village just like this road does. That is, if thats where your going."

"The right path you say?", she asked turning her bike around and once again putting her foot on the high pedal, this time her skirt fell past the top of her thigh.

Yowsa, I though to myself, biting my tongue. I did have a girlfriend after all and wasn't the cheating type. But if I was that kind of guy....whew!

"Thank you!", she called cheerily over her shoulder as she stood on the pedals and began to ride away, the skirt falling back over those gorgeous legs.

"Wait!", I called out impulsively. She put one boot on the ground and turned to looked back at me, a piece of her hair had come loose from her head-scarf and hung down the side of her lovely soft face and rested on her collar in a pleasing gentle curve.

"Is there a bakery in that village?", I asked. Army rations are terrible and any chance to buy better food is always welcome.

"Yes there is, a really good one, I'm on my way there now. Would you like me to get something for you?"

"Oh no, No. I can go later when I'm off duty. Thank you very much for asking though.", I said.

"It's no trouble. I've got a basket." she offered.

"No really, it's ok. I can go later."

"When are you free to be going?", she asked.

My heart skipped a beat.

"Not until like four hours from now, but seriously, I wouldn't want to put you out."

She smiled at me again and shifted her weight, "Please, I'll do it for you. I have nothing to do around here and no friends. And I would like a chance to practice my English."

I reached for my wallet but began to have second thoughts. She was cute and all, but what if it was a scam to rip me off?

"I'm not going to steal from you. I promise.", she rummaged around in her handbag for a moment and pulled out what looked like a passport.

"Yes its my passport. You can hold it until I return with your food"

The logic was sound and so we traded her passport for my fifty dollars in German Marks.

"Ooo you must be very hungry!", she giggled.

"Well there's four other guys up there and I don't want to eat in front of them. Is that too much money?", I asked naively while tucking her valuable document away in my top pocket.

"Yes", she smiled again and peeled off a few bills and handed them back.

"My name is Roxanne", she extended her hand. I clasped it in mine, hers soft and warm.

"My name is Jeff", I replied goofily. I remembered my manners and turned to introduce Wittless. The friggin' kid was gone.

"Your friend left as soon as you started talking. I think he is shy"

"I think he's a retard. But he means well. So how long will you be?"

She scrunched her forehead in concentration.

"So I can be sure to be back here at the right time", I explained.

"It will take me awhile, I have to return home before coming back here. But when I do, I will have some real good food for you and your friends. Not the awful army things you must eat."

I was pleased to hear that and shook her hand, realizing I had never let go from the intro. I dropped her hand and stepped back. Nodding and smiling like a goofball.

"See you later Cheff.", she said.

"Later Roxanne, thanks again!", I called out to her back as she rode away for real this time. She waved without looking back and disappeared around the bend.

"Whew!", I said out loud to the trees, "That girl is smokin'". Then my smile faded as I realized I just gave 30 dollars to a total stranger. Cute girl or not, it was not a thing I would normally have done.

"Must've been the skirt", I thought to myself forgetting all about being pissed off at Wittless for leaving me alone on the road with a civilian. I was busy imagining what goodies my pretty friend would bring back. If she came back. I took her passport out of my pocket and opened it.

Stupid stupid stupid! I thought. She was an Iranian. Great.

Not only did I just tell a citizen of an un-friendly country, (remember reader, this is 1986 and the US and Iran were not exactly bosom buddies), exactly how many men were on the hilltop and when we changed guards, and I friggin' paid her on top of it! God what an ass I am.


Well, it seems I did get ripped off after all. I had trudged back down to the spot a few times all day long until about sunset, kicking myself for being fooled by the oldest trick in the book. The pretty girl. Shit.

But I did have her passport. And if she was an Iranian spy she really wasn't too bright to give me her passport. This thought led to another, this girl was definitely not stupid. She's must be just a lonely immigrant in a strange new country and glad to be able to at least speak a language she was familiar with, even if it was a group of young and hormonally charged soldiers. But I did my best to behave like a gentleman and maybe she simply sensed we were cool and really did want to help us and visit for a bit.

The sun was now behind the ridgeline and a cool breeze fell down off the hill-sides and stirred the tree-tops as I walked down the gravel road one more time to see if she came back.

I came around the bend to see her straddling her now fully loaded bike and talking to Alvarez, a short and shy Mexican-American from Arizona. She saw me and waved excitedly. "Hallo Cheff!", she called out, "I bring your dinner!"

She gestured towards the baskets on her bike that were stuffed with towel and clothed wrapped parcels.

"Oh wow!", I exclaimed, "You really didn't need to do that Roxanne, I just wanted some pastries and some breads!"

"Oh it was no bother really. As I told you before. I just moved here with my parents and I haven't met anyone to be friends with."

"Well thats hard to believe", I said, taking the bikes handle bars from her and leading her up the hill to our post."A pretty girl like you should have no problem making friends", I ventured, making the polite catholic Alvarez blush for me.

"I'll save you a plate Alvi", I called back over my shoulder.

"Thanks bro", he said, disappointed that fate had given him guard duty at that moment.


It turns out our new friend Roxanne was not really Iranian but a Gypsy. A Kochi Gypsy. Most of us thought gypsies were just invented people for circuses and fortune-tellers. We told her that we had never met a real gypsy before, but all of us had seen some on TV. She chuckled at that while she unwrapped her home-made meal. Bowls of still steaming hot vegetables and rice. A platter of the most delicious baked chicken I had ever tasted. Warm soft bread and butter. Two bottles of wine and a home-made chocolate cake for dessert.

At the moment of this writing my mouth waters just thinking about that meal of more than twenty years ago. We had all sat outside the hexagonal tent on the tailgates of the trucks and having a great old time eating and answering her questions about America and she our questions about Iran and all the other places she has seen. She was beguiling and she knew it. She lit up from within at all the attention we were giving her.

Sergeant Bobby Hicks had asked Roxanne if the whole gypsy fortune telling thing was for real. Her eyes widened and she said with much seriousness, "Oh yes Bubby, it is most certainly real"

"Can you read palms?", He asked.

"Yes", she answered matter-of factly. "Would you like me too read yours?", she asked him, flipping her hair and looking him in the eye.

"Um...ok", he said, with a tinge of nervousness.

I made a face and Sergeant Hicks looked at me and said, "What?"

"Nothin' Sarge."

"Mm-Hm", he replied, meaning, "Likely Story", in Southern-Black.

"Well I just thought you'd be the last guy to buy into this kinda stuff." Everybody was staring at me.

"What?", I said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't see how someone can tell you the future by looking at your hand.", I blustered.

Everybody stayed staring at me. Roxanne looked like she had made a decision and spoke up, "Just because you don't see it, does not make it un-true."

She was right, but it was just so darned crazy. Why people kept buying into this kind of junk was beyond me. Obviously.

"I know but....well, it just seems like the palm reader says general things about the person they are 'Reading'. These things can be right about most people. Besides you- I mean, the palm reader, if they are perceptive enough, can notice a few things about their subject and make some good guesses. Add all that up with the subjects willingness to believe, and,'Presto', the guy gets his fortune, the fortune-teller gets her money and everyones happy."

A single cricket chirp broke the heavy silence.

Roxanne spoke again,"This is true what you are saying. People do make money from fortune-telling, but you do not understand the way it works."

I shifted in my seat uncomfortably, trying not to be too impolite about my dis-belief and staying quiet to avoid insulting her any more than I already have.

"Will you let me read your palm after Bubby and I are finished?"

I gave in with a sigh, "Yes", I breathed.

"Very good my friend, you won't be disappointed. Now Bubby and me need privacy. Can we go inside?", She made a gesture towards the tent.

"Naw", said Sergeant Hicks, "It kinda smells in there. How about the cab of the truck?"

She thought for a moment. "The one under the plastic bushes?"

"Good a choice as any other", he drawled cheerily.

I called out to her as they walked toward, well, he walked, she sort of strolled in the best way a woman knows how.

"Hey", I said, "How long is this going to take? I gotta go on shift in awhile...."

"I'll still be here when you are done", she replied.

I looked at the sarge and he just shrugged.

"Um, ok then see you in awhile I guess.", I said to the air, as they had already forgotten me and were ducking under the camoflage netting.


A few hours later we were sitting in the front cab of the truck. I looked at Roxanne in the reflected green light of my shielded flashlight that she was using to see my palm.

She was holding my hand palm up and running her fingers along the lines and folds.

"You are a sensitive man"

"I guess"

"You have a strong sense of.....justice"


She dropped my hand and looked me in the eye."Cheff, you must be a little more co-operative."

"I'm just trying to give you as little information as possible."

"I can see that"

"So this frustrates you? You can't use your Jedi mind-tricks on me huh?"

Her eyes bored into mine. I looked away. "I don't know this word, 'D'Jed-eye', but this is not a trick"

She picked up my hand again and scrutinized it some more.

"Please relax. This is for you. I want to help you."

Not wanting to turn this into a battle of wills, I sighed and decided I had nothing to lose by playing along with her.

"Thank you. And by the way, I'm flattered by your attentions, but I know you have a girlfriend."

"Who told you?", I asked, a little pissed off.

"No-one, I don't have to read your palm to see that. It's all over your face. In your eyes."

I never understood how people said they could see things in others eyes. To me they were just.....eyes.

She continued.

"You have problems with others being your boss sometimes. This causes you great unrest."

"Well, some of these officers and sergeants aren't exactly the brightest bulbs in the box, if you know what I mean."

She smiled and went on.

"You have much love for human beings, yet you are a soldier. This also causes you unrest."

I made no comment.

"You have a good understanding of death, yet life confuses you often"

"Yup", I admitted.

"You have a big disturbance in your life right now. Someone close to you is struggling. You feel helpless because you can't help them."

I thought of my father back in the states lying in a hospital bed hooked up to machines with a tube stuck up his nose. He was dying of brain cancer. She was right. It sucked that I couldn't help him. My heart was beating faster now. My brow was sweating.

"This makes you angry, yet you understand he must go. You feel guilty for not being as sad as others."

True again. My sisters were pissed at me for not crying and making a big fuss about it. They didn't understand that my dad and I had discussed his upcoming demise the last time I went home on emergency leave. It was the single most emotional moment I ever had in my life. My dad and I said all the things to each other that we had always wanted to say. We were cool then. We understood each other better than ever before. I think he would have agreed with me had I said I wish we could have reached that level of intimacy earlier in life. But I guess neither one of us was ready until that moment.

"Cheff. Are you ok?", said Roxanne with genuine concern in her voice.

My eyes were watering and tears were rolling freely down my cheeks. I made a grunting sound and wiped my cheeks.

"It's ok, you must let these things out. I understand."

I stammered some bull-crap about being fine and she reached out and hugged me. And that was it, as though she had released a floodgate in me. I sobbed and heaved all those months of suffering and frustration and anger out of my eyes and down the back of her sweater. She held me tighter and stroked the back of my head, letting my sorrow run its course.

After an eternity I slowly calmed down and found myself sitting in an army truck and holding on to a strange woman with a wet face and a runny nose.

"Sometimes its best to cry with a stranger.", she said, wiping her own tears away.


I ended up walking Roxanne back down the road to a spot that opened up to a large field. The moon was out and I could hear little scurryings in the bushes nearby. We were each lost in our own thoughts but neither was bothered by the silence. In fact after that palm-reading thing I really didn't want to talk much anyway. She stopped walking and turned to me. both hands on the handlebars of her bike and said, "This is good. I can go on alone from here, it's not far."

"No I don't mind, really."

"My father would kill me if he saw me walking home with a soldier."

"Oh ya, sorry. Of course he would, I don't blame him. But um, you seem to be able to take care of yourself."

"Not always Cheff. No person can take care of themselves alone. Not all the time."

I nodded thoughtfully at that one. She certainly was quite a woman. Especially considering she was only seventeen.

"Your right again.", I replied. She had touched me so strongly and here I was with no way to pay her back. With no real good way to say thank you.

"Don't worry about thanking me my friend, I also did that for me. It makes me feel good to help others.", She smiled at me and I was once again a smitten little school-boy.

"How do you know what I am thinking all the time?", I asked.

"It's a gift. And sometimes a curse.", She answered, for once not full of confidence.

"Ah, I think I understand you better now.", I offered.

I impulsively grabbed her and pulled her to me in a bear hug. I kissed her like the sister she was on top of her head and then took her hand in mine. She stood there patiently waiting for me to act out my theatrics.

"I'll never forget you Roxanne. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

She looked at me with those gorgeous big brown eyes and said, "Oh yes, now you are already beginning to see clearer."

She kissed me full on the mouth and left me standing there speechless as she got on her bike and rattled off down the moonlit gravel road.


The End

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