Fiction

Tank Talk

Overheard at the armoury

Illustration by Leif Parsons
Illustration by Leif Parsons

“What’ll we call this lot? ”

“Who are they? ”

“Dunno. They just showed up.”

“From? ”

“The 77th.”

“In? ”

“Tanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“No. Men. In bloody tanks.”

“Steady on.”

“Quite a few tanks, actually.”

“Effusive, then? ”

“Enlisted.”

“And what, may I ask, are we supposed to call ‘quite a few’ tanks? ”

“Isn’t it a Lanyard, or a Cotillion or something? ”

“You’re thinking Second Corps.”

“So I was.”

“As you were.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Carry on.”

“Armoured Dragoon? Would that work? ”

“A Dragoon? Doesn’t sound very tankish to me.”

“What about a Division? ”

“A Division’s more than quite a few. Quite a lot more. In imperial measure it would be half a Redoubt. There’s not even enough of them for a Seconded Platoon.”

“What about a Light-something then? ”

“Always a possibility. But there have been complaints.”

“From? ”

“From, you know, who’s-it, the one between Fourth Brigadier and the Two-IC.”

“At HQ? ”

“Expeditionary Command. First Salient.”

“Field azure with lion rampant? ”

“The sister regiment, actually. Eighth Army.”

“Complaints about? ”

“About all the Lights.”

“Can’t say I’m surprised. Women. Pansies. Low-fat bully beef will be next.”

“Squadron, then.”

“I beg your pardon. Did you say Squadron? ”

“If memory serves.”

“Hello. Ground control to Major Tom.”

“What’s the matter with Squadron? ”

“Not a thing, mate. Not a thing. Why not Flotilla while you’re at it? ”

“They can be Squadron if they’re marines. Just like they can be Horse if they’re personnel carriers.”

“But I keep telling you. They’re not in Airborne. They’re in apcs.”

“In what? ”

“Tanks.”

“My pleasure.”

“Men. In bloody tanks.”

“But can’t marines be in tanks? ”

“Only if they’re Sappers. Or Snipers. Or something.”

“Mobile Dragoons then.”

“Will you cut it out with Dragoons? ”

“How about a Brigade kind of thing? ”

“I don’t really see this in terms of Brigade.”

“You don’t? ”

“I find Brigade a little on the sheep’s-lung-and-shortbread side of things. Don’t you? ”

“Possibly you’re thinking musical. The one with all the kilts.”

“Precisely my point. The last thing we need around here is more tartan.”

“Okay. I’ve got it now…”

“So do I. Damned nuisance. Must have been that aide-de-camp.”

“Battalion.”

“Is it true what they say about your pecker falling off? ”

“Reserve Battalion.”

“Come again? ”

“Reserve Battalion. Second Troop.”

“Special? ”

“Could do.”

“Special Reserve Battalion. Not bad. Not bad at all. I like it. Oak casks? ”

“Wormwood. Special Ops.”

“Yes. It has a certain je ne honi soit. Do they get colours with that? ”

“And a swagger stick. Plus a regimental dog.”

“Excellent. That’ll please the brass.”

“The what? ”

“The brass. For the ceremonial march. You know. Next to the woodwinds.”

“Roger that.”

“Once or twice. In my younger days. Schoolboy snogging. Nothing more.”

“So. Is this Artillery then? ”

“Is what Artillery? ”

“The quite-a-few tanks we’ve got to give a name to.”

“Whatever happened to the anonymous donation, I wonder.”

“The tanks. Men in bloody tanks.”

“Steady on.”

“Are they Artillery? ”

“How should I know? Do tanks have guns? ”

“I think so. Isn’t that the point? ”

“Special Reserve Artillery Battalion. Second Troop. How’s that? ”

“Bengal Lancers would be out of the question, I suppose.”

“I’m afraid so. But we could throw in a Queen’s Own.”

“Nice touch.”

“Thanks.”

“So you were saying. Quite a few of them, apparently.”

David Macfarlane is touring a play this summer entitled The Door You Came In, based on his Newfoundland family memoir, The Danger Tree.

Leif Parsons has contributed to the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Atlantic.