I found a campground much like the one pictured above, a bunch of camping trailers mixed in with space for tents and tons of people everywhere on their much anticipated summer vacations. I picked a spot and put up my bright blue two person tent. Inside I lay next to my belonging and everything was suffused in blue but it was not restful. It was hot and airless and bright under the southern sun under a blue plastic flysheet. I stood outside the tent and breathed in fresh,untainted hot summer air.
"Hey! You hot?" the man in the cool shady awning stretched out next to his roulotte waved a piece of delicious looking red fruit. Sure I said, sucked in to his orbit by the shade and his smile. I was young and innocentg and took everything and everyone at face value. We sat and talked while his wife, unseen, clattered dishes in the travel trailer behind us.
We talked about where we were from, me from Italy he from Paris. We talked motorcycles and I told him how bored I was by life down on the farm. "I escaped that," he said, "by joining the Legion." Huh? "I've been everywhere," he said. He talked about the Congo and Algeria, he talked of fishing in the Indian Ocean and driving trucks in jungles and deserts. He saw me looking at his hand. "That was never a problem," he said and I could believe it as I had not noticed his weird lobster claw fingers for the longest time. "I grew up like that," he said looking at the huge deformed pink thumb and the wadded up single finger that grew out of the stump of his hand. "The Legion never minded when they understood I could do anything anyone else did." He spoke in answer to my unspoken question.
His wife, a pretty, slim woman in a summer dress with the good manners of a middle class Frenchwoman came out and invited me to dinner. We ate at the table under the awning by the light of a gas lamp and the conversation continued late into the night. My host was what we call a "contractor" who ran his own company providing services and "personnel" around the world. I was fascinated and a little scared. "He isn't always so kind," his wife said smiling, as he told a story against himself of some close shave in as former French tropical colony. Implicit in her comment was the suggestion of severity if not savagery. he grinned the mirth of the amoral.
Had the Internet existed back then I could have looked up the hereditary condition called ectrodactyly which is caused in hands or feet by some chromosomal alteration. I could have looked him on faceboomk perhaps, under gunmen for hire, governments overthrown on demand... As it was I watched his lobster claw in open fascination and admiration of his ability to ignore daily complexity even when using a deformed hand. He was amused by my fascination at his stories of derring-do and by his dexterity with the hand. "You need to get out of the farm and see the world. Come and work for me." The suggestion shocked me.
He renewed it the next morning. "I'll show you the world," he smiled as he poured me a coffee. I got on my motorcycle and fled after thanking him profusely.
I wonder what might have happened to me had I thrown my customary caution to the wind. Probably nothing much as I never did see myself as a dog of war. On the other hand...who knows what lies within any of us and perhaps I would have made a bloodthirty mercenary with the best of them. How odd are the crossroads we pass, and ignore, in the journey of life.