Thursday, May 14, 2009


For Thou Shalt Heap Coals of Fire upon his Head

The year was 1988. I was a young enlisted troop at my first duty assignment in the Philippines. Widely known as the religious guy who didn't party, I would later be awarded the "Goody-Two Shoes" trophy at our unit Christmas party.

Milt sat across the aisle from me, and was among the most openly hedonistic and crass people I would ever meet. From his mouth poured an endless stream of profanity- and obscenity-laced filth. His audacity seemed to have no limits, as one day he boldly asked me if he could borrow my car so that he could go downtown and pick up a prostitute (the area off base was essentially a red-light district, and Milt was a frequent customer). This didn't seem to be a good use for my car, so I refused.

I had mostly learned to tune Milt out, but for whatever reason, one day turned out a little differently. That day, he was in rare form ... especially loud and obnoxious. Then, for no particular reason, he turned to me and called me a "bastard." As usual, I ignored him.

Jeff was Milt's buddy, but he was also his supervisor, and this one day he felt compelled to speak as such: "Hey, man, you shouldn't talk that way to him. He doesn't like it."

If this turn of events was odd to me, it was downright stunning to Milt, who immediately began arguing with Jeff. They went at it for about a minute, until Milt finally decided that Jeff really was his supervisor. Trying to save face, Milt looked over his shoulder at me, grinned sarcastically and mockingly, and said, "If I offended you, man, I apologize."

The entire scene was surreal, and I hardly knew what to say, so I said the first thing that came into my head: "Thank you, Milt, I appreciate that."

Milt was dumbstruck. He stared at me with his mouth open, but before he could say another word, Jeff erupted: "See man, I told you! You listen to me! I'm the only one keeping you out of trouble ..."

Milt turned back to his terminal sullenly: "Shut up, man. Don't talk to me."
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat;
and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head,
and the LORD shall reward thee.

Little did I know that my "reward" on that day would be a few precious minutes of silence from that side of the aisle.

* NOTE:  Something about the idea of heaping coals of fire on someone's head makes me gravitate toward the King James translation ...

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