Bin Laden’s Garden Of Earthly Frights
What does a resourceful malefactor do when nearly all of the world is searching for him and he has nothing more urgent to do than hide out? Why, what else? He takes up gardening. At least, plants and vegetables can’t reveal his whereabouts. They’re also unlikely to be covert members of the CIA.
And so we join Osama Bin Laden, as he tends the little plot of earth he can call his own, at least, until he is sent off to an unexpectedly sudden meeting with his Allah.
Into the ground he carefully nudges his spade. He examines the divot and does not notice the presence of a surreptitiously planted explosive device. So he reaches into his treasured bag of seeds, bought in a local market by a servant of one of his wives, since neither he nor any of his four subjugated mates can go shopping for fear of being turned in by a checkout clerk in quest of an easy $25 million.
He places a seed caringly in the hole. We won’t say lovingly, because anyone who can order the killing of as many civilians as he did, infidels or not, is unlikely to experience anything akin to that tender emotion. It more likely a perverse affection for his hate for the world – the very sentiment that condemned him to be a spoiled rich kid in the most explosive way.
Now, he drops a sardine into the hole, canned, of course, since he cannot arrange delivery of the fresh finny creatures in his remote location. The oil-soaked remains of the little swimmer from the sea will, he knows, help the plant grow faster – in this case, an olive tree.
He dearly wants the majestic plant to grow as fast as possible, because he would like to witness the fruits of his backyard hobby, and he cannot help but recall that an olive tree usually takes 25 years or so to produce its first tasty oval.
Thinking twice, he adds a second silvery dab of fertilizer, all the faster to make the tardy tree sprout. Even if he evades capture or an unexpectedly zippy flight to eternity, lasting 25 or so more years, given his health, no doubt made even more shaky by the perpetual anxiety he experiences over his life expectancy, is decidedly a long shot.
Now, he covers the sardine-topped seed with handfuls of earth and caringly pats the fertile compost down.
Just then one of his wives comes running from the house.
“Osama, Osama!” she calls, holding up the hem of her burka so as not to trip and fall into his arms. She knows he’d be upset, because today is not the day he usually makes whoopee with her. He must give his waning physical prowess to one of his other dearly enslaveds.
“What is it?” he asks, feeling his heart thump in his chest like a bowling ball smacking into the headpin.
“There’s a stranger in town!”
Bin Laden stands.
“There is?” His throat thickens from tension. “How do you know?”
“How else? The servant I sent shopping for groceries today saw him.”
“Him? It’s a him?”
“That’s what she said.”
“Was he wearing a turban?”
“What does that matter? You know the CIA. If they thought wearing a turban would help them get you, they would all wear them. Even Bush would wear one.”
“You’re right. Did he have a beard?”
“Wouldn’t they all grow beards, too?”
“Hmm, right again. Where did she see him?”
“Standing outside of the supermarket. She said he looked suspicious because he didn’t seem to have any interest in going in. And who hangs around outside of a supermarket unless he’s getting ready to go shopping or waiting for someone to shop with? What should we do?”
“Nothing. The less, the better. Remember what the Prophet said, 'He who has lived well has hidden well.'”
“I don’t remember reading that in the Koran?”
“It’s not in the Koran. It was said by an infidel named Rene Descartes. But I decided it’s too wise a saying to grant to an unbeliever. So remember, from now on, Mohammed said it.”
“Yes, dear. I like the way you think.”
“Thanks. Now, just go back in the house, and I’ll get back to gardening.”
Then another one of his devoted wives came running out of the house.
“Osama! Osama!" she called. "There’s a stranger at the door.”
He swallowed big time.
“At the door?”
“What does he want?”
“He asked to speak to the sheik.”
“The sheik? Hey, that’s me! Did he say what he wants?”
“No. What should I tell him?”
“Tell him there is no sheik. You’re a widow.”
“What about me?” asked the first wife to arrive with the day’s most arresting news.
“You, too. You’re all widows.”
“Oh, don’t even say that, Osama!” the first wife wailed. “It makes me think – “
“Never mind,” she replied. “It’s too awful even to imagine.”
Now, there was an unexpected rustling in his garden of earthly frights. His heart jumped way up past his Allah’s Apple. To test if the cause might have been a breeze in the trees, he wet a finger in his mouth and held it up. One side did not grow cooler. He knew the wind had not sounded the alert.
“Who goes there?” he asked, and reached for his AK47, which was propped against a fig tree. He always took the rapid-fire defender with him when he went to garden or anywhere else.
“Hassan,” the voice called back.
“Hassan who?” Bin Laden’s asked.
“Well, why didn’t you say so?” Bin Laden replied, relaxing. “Come on out.”
His unexpected visitor popped from behind an ample bush, smiling in his usual idiotic way, and removed his disguise, which consisted only of an enormous plastic nose. He didn’t need big black plastic glasses or bushy black eyebrows to go with it, because he already wore such eyeglasses and looked out from under such darkly predictive brows. So he had clipped off those parts of his discount disguise.
“What do you say, baby?” Hassan asked.
“Congratulations!” Bin Laden answered in his forthright way. “That was a great war you waged against Israel!”
“Thanks, old buddy,” Nasrallah replied. "Lost a few of my countrymen, but, hey, what's war without death?"
He reached out to hug Bin Laden.
Osama returned the favor, while looking at his wives to show he was a bit uncomfortable with the unaccustomed contact, even from the most recent Muslim fundamentalist to become famous by the usual method of killing civilians, not only a certain number of his perceived enemy, but a far greater number of his own mistaken followers and adulators.
“You’re almost as famous as I am,” Bin Laden conceded.
“Sorry about that,” Nesrallah said. “That’s why I’m here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m on Israel’s most wanted list.”
“Yeah. Numero uno. And some of the Lebanese people, who realize the cost of my misjudgment, are also hot on my trail. So I figured, Hassan, you want to hide out and live on, there’s only one place to go. Wherever Osama is. This guy is the master evader of capture. Mind if I join you?”
“You mean, your most active days are over?”
“I’d rather not think so. I can still send out audiotapes.”
“I brought a video camera, so now you can upgrade.”
“What do you think of that? For a while now, my right-hand verbal cannonade and death-dealing physician, al-Zawahiri, had our only video cam.”
“Not anymore, good buddy. Hey, by the way, got an extra spade? Since I’ll be here for a while, I might as well dig in.”
“Sure, in the house. ”He looked at his wives. “Go get Hassan a spade.”
“Yes, Osama,” the first wife replied, and turned to Nasrallah. “Where are your wives?”
“I was just getting to that. Do you mind if they join me?”
Bin Laden’s willing chattel would never dare an opinion on such a consequential household question and looked to their husband, who couldn’t help shifting his feet before he prevaricated.
“Glad to have them,” he said, “but, you know, the house isn’t that big. If it was, we would attract too much attention.”
“I know,” Hassan agreed. “Don’t worry. We’ll make do. It’s bigger than a bunker.”
“I can’t wait to meet them,” Osama’s first wife volunteered, and turned to the second wife. “Come, let’s go get the spade. I’m sure the men have important things to discuss.”
“All right,” the other wife agreed.
Then the two proudly obedient ladies departed in the direction of the house, slowed a bit by the weight of their unrevealing garments.
Nasrallah turned back to Bin Laden and, extending an index finger, said, “First there was one.”
“Then there were two,” Osama joined in, raising two fingers. “And sometimes al-Zawhiri drops in. So that would make three.”
"Do you think there could be four?” Nasrallah speculated.
“Ahmadinejad when he goes on the lam?”
“And Kim Jong-II?” Nasrallah surmised, holding up all the fingers of one hand. “That would makes five. Hey, we’d be halfway to ten!”
Bin Laden wondered, and asked, with a trace of concern, “Is the Korean guy Islamic? As you know, I keep a strictly Islamic household.”
“I don’t know, but at least the name of his country is spelled almost like the Koran. Just take the ‘e’ out of Korea and add an ‘n’ at the end, and there you have it: Koran!”
“Then he can’t be all bad,” Bin Laden said. “Allah and the Prophet would never allow such a close spelling of any nation to the Koran unless the leader was at least a tolerable guy.”
“Right you are.”
One of Bin Laden’s wives returned with a spade for Hassan.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, and said to both, “Have fun.”
Then off she went, back to her ancient housewifely duties.
"So tell me about gardening,” Nasrallah asked, holding up his unaccustomed implement. “Where do I start?"
Bin Laden thought for a moment about the intricacies of digging in a garden that might contain an occasional object not the work of nature’s own hand. “How about if you hold the can of sardines while I plant?”
Nasrallah looked at the greasy tin and sniffed the sun-warmed contents. He agreed with a slight show of reluctance and Bin Laden handed it to him.
Hassan couldn’t help counting the slimy residents. He looked up.
“Little sardines,” Nasrallah said.
“And soon there will be none,” Bin Laden noted, holding up his trusty bag of seeds.
So a-gardening they went, with a watchful eye and a wary ear, while both found themselves unable to repress a glimmer of the timeless truth that advises us, be careful what kind of garden you plant, because you’re likely to spend a lot of time in it.
By Tom Attea