Questions for the speaker

shelleywood-caughtandbloodiedA friend of my brother’s was invited to a posh fishing lodge located in Haida Gwai for a pricey fund-raising event that included a surprise celebrity speaker.

“Guess who it was?” my brother’s wife asks me.

My mind leaps to George Clooney. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that he’s turning up all over British Columbia these days, filming a movie.

“George Clooney?” I pitch, gamely.

Nope. Her eyes are already bugging out with the excitement of telling me.

“The navy SEAL who killed Bin Laden!” she exclaims. She’s already laughing.  How can you not laugh in wonderment? It is so unreal that the man who crept through a dark lair seeking the World’s Most Wanted, his heart hammering in his throat, would now be on the speaker’s circuit. Weren’t his actions considered somewhat illegal?

How is that even allowed? I want to know.

My brother’s wife is still gaping over it, her eyes wide, enjoying my surprise. Mirroring it. It is amazing every time she tells it. You can tell she’s told other people this secondhand story and it’s still astonishing.

Apparently my brother’s friend was just nursing a beer in the bar at the fancy fishing lodge and got to chatting with a guy who was about his age. Actually, probably not his age — I’m sketching that in myself, along with the beer and the bar, which is how stories become bloated and eventually airborne.

But my brother’s friend is chatting to another man, and asks him how he got invited, and lo — the man admits he’s actually the secret celebrity speaker.

I know my brother’s friend: I think of him as even-keeled. Not easily rattled or stunned. But there he is, with the navy SEAL, who answers his questions and gives him the dress rehearsal on his tale before he’s even got up to tell the rest of the paying guests his jaw-dropping story.

Actually, I’m just assuming it’s jaw-dropping. Perhaps it’s not. Maybe we already know the whole story because we  saw Zero Dark Thirty and we’re correcting this guy when he tells a part of his story that doesn’t square with the movie.

“Are you hearing this?” I ask my dad. My dad is sitting with me, my brother, and his wife, but my dad is hard of hearing. I also have the sense that he tunes out certain narratives — deciding early on that he’s not interested in this one or that one. And from Dad’s look and they way he’s watching my face, and my brother’s, I can tell that he’s on the fence. He both wants and doesn’t want to hear this particular story.

At the end of the night, when my brother, his wife, and their young, clattering family have gone home and left us in quiet, I ask my dad how much of the evening he’s actually heard.

“I get about one word in 25,” he admits. But this is enough. My brother doesn’t come visiting so often. “It was a very nice night,” Dad murmurs.

Me, I’m wondering what kind of questions my brother’s friend asked the navy SEAL. I myself am bursting with questions, but I’m not the sort of person who gets invited to fundraising dinners where they fly you in by float-plane, treat you to hot stone massages, help you heap your boat high with salmon and halibut.

  • “Who gave you permission to go around telling this story? Isn’t that dangerous for homeland security?”
  • “What type of fabric were you wearing? Is it breathable?”
  • “Did you feel bad when Bin Laden’s wives started screaming and the kids were in the room?”
  • Were those wives and kids actually in the room or was that just in the movie?
  • “Was your stomach a bit upset? I’ve done triathlons and I definitely get a nervous stomach before things get underway.”
  • “How many push-ups can you do?
  • “Did you always want to be a navy SEAL, or did men in dark glasses recruit you out of college?”
  • “What does your mother think about what you do for a living?”
  • Do you ever have bad dreams?”

Here’s what my dad would have heard.

Surprise fact: Bugging laugh throat (gaping people and a bar) asks even-keeled–story? Jaw-dropping tells my brother certain narratives. Face end, my dad, visit navy SEAL by float-plane. Story: Bin Laden’s wives, the movie. Push-ups–can mother?