Three names and a haircut : part 3 by thadeusz
After completing my punishment, I joined my new comrades … and Kowalsi. We received our kit and were told to put on our Legion fatigues and to place all the rest in a big bag we got. It was not easy to put everything in the bag, especially the precious White Kepi, the"Képi Blanc" which we were not yet allowed to wear. Once the bag was full, it was heavy. In any case, my head was now covered by a green beret and my "filthiness" was no longer visible.
We were then told to board a truck and we started instruction immediately. Some parts of it were easy for me: I had done it before and could help the others. My only problem was that at my age, some parts of instruction had become more difficult: I had been a wealthy untrained business man and no longer a very strong 18 year old.
Kowalski continued to hate me and he constantly punished me, whenever the Sergeant and the Lieutenant could not see it. After one month I had lost my unwanted weight and had regained all my former strength. We had the famous Kepi Blanc march. Some of us failed but I did it without problem, even helping others. I got my Képi Blanc (my second, but I did not say it). We were now officially Legionnaires. Instruction continued, more comrades decided either to desert or to ask the permission to "go civil". Since I had no choice, I stayed and I was considered as excellent recruits by the Lieutenant and the Sergeant, but the "book of punishments" showed that I had often been punished for weird motives … always by Kowalski.
When instruction was over, all the new Legionnaires were ranked in function of their scores during instruction. The first ones were called first in the office of the Colonel to choose or be assigned to a regiment. I had worked well, but thanks to the nasty remarks made by Kowalski, I was ranked last. When I was called, I could see my the Lieutenant in charge of our instruction seated there and keeping track of what was said. The Colonel, was obviously present and told me:
"You have been punished many times. More than any other. Moreover, there is a risk that you will desert. The General has decided that you will be assigned to 2 REP, the para regiment: the discipline there is more strict and more rigorous. You are not allowed to leave Corsica except during your leaves. In your case, the General has added that you will be confined to the Camp Raffaldi during your first year in Corsica, and then confined to the town of Calvi until further notice. This means that you will have no leave outside Corsica and that you will have to be in uniform 24h/24 and 7d/7. Moreover, your pay will be strictly controlled, this means that before spending a cent you will have to ask for an authorization. UNDERSTOOD ?"
I did not like that: I had hoped to be sent to the more comfortable 2 REI, but I knew what I had to say:
"YES Colonel". I saluted and started to leave this office according to the rules, but the Colonel interrupted me:
"I did not say ‘DISMISS’. Stay here and in the position of attention."
I regained my former position and the Colonel went on:
"Can you explain me why the man who is considered by the Lieutenant in charge of your instruction as the best and most promising Legionnaire ends up with such bad reports ?"
I knew but remained silent. The Colonel looked at me and said:
"How come that all these negative remarks are signed by the assistant corporal Kowalski ?"
I still remained silent but the Colonel wanted an answer, so I dared say:
"Sir, I don’t know but maybe Kowalski has seen in me a behavior the Lieutenant did not see."
The Colonel called Kowalski who was waiting and he asked him:
"Is it true that you called this Legionnaire by a special derogatory names ?"
"Well, the Legion invents new names, that’s none of your business. You think you will soon go to the corporal course, am I correct ?"
"Yes Colonel, I have served twice as assistant corporal and I was told that I would now go on this course."
"Well, Kowalski, that’s a mistake. You will now go to 2 REP as simple Legionnaire, not even First Class. You will stay there under the same strict conditions as this fine Legionnaire and you will not be promoted before he is corporals. Moreover, I heard that you made this two Legionnaire do a Croatian bridge just after he had had his induction haircut. You will now go to the barber, have an induction haircut and give me a Croatian bridge during 30 minutes, reciting the Legionnaire Honor Code which you seem to have forgotten. Now Kowalski, DIMISS."
It had been said in such a way that I realized that I had to stay, stiff as a pole, my head high and looking towards the horizon without a single move. The Colonel had something to tell me, without the two others:
"Pissaro, today and until your departure to Corsica, you can communicate with the outside world. If you tell somebody that you joined the Legion, don’t forget to tell that person that after your 5 years, you still owe the Legion 3 years and 4 months as Legionnaire Piletti. UNDERSTOOD ?"
I expected something nasty, although I had hoped that I could avoid this last addition. So I dared ask a question:
"Yes Colonel, but I thought that after my five years as Pissaro, my desertion would be forgotten."
"Forgotten, yes, but not the contracts you signed as Piletti."
"At your command Colonel"
"Pissaro, I will add that you are apparently a damned good Legionnaire. Once you are out of the restrictions Kowalski and your former desertion provoked for you, you will rapidly be promoted. I am glad that we forced you to stay in the Legion. DISMISS."
I saluted, partially happy and partially unhappy, I made a perfect about turn and left the Colonel’s office.
In the courtyard I wanted to help Kowalski with his Croatian bridge, but our Lieutenant came and reminded us that we were here to obey and not to change an officer’s order.
I also sent a long letter to Miranda, telling her about my forced enlistment, about the additional 3 years and more, and also how she could reach me now as Legionnaire Pissaro.
After a few days all new Legionnaires, called "young Legionnaires" during two years, assigned to 2 REP, left by boat in order to join Corsica. Two of us were under very strict supervision: yours truly and Kowalski. In my case because of Kowalski way of treating me (and because of my former desertion) and in Kowalski’s case because of the way he treated me ! We rapidly became friends, despite his brutality. We went through para training together and I came out first of the group. The Colonel me thus, before the normal time, PFC after 5 months of service and Kowalski accepted that. The Colonel was astonished that one his "specially punished Legionnaire" was the best of all of them, but I offered no explanations. As of that time, I kept a very short haircut, nearly an induction haircut. I also rediscovered the brotherly friendship among Legionnaires. As "young Legionnaires" we had to accomplish many chores, and Kowalski and I had double dose of chores. I was kept under close scrutiny and often punished without a reason. Well, I knew why ! The Legionnaires hate deserter, even when they are serving a form of suspended sentence: everybody knew what my exact situation was.
I became, according to my chiefs, a "good Legionnaire": I was obedient, I had been drilled according to Legion standards and I had now really entered the box made for each Legionnaire. I was completely tamed and disobeying seemed unthinkable for me.
I went through several stages : skiing, mountaineering and I always got easily good results. My chiefs also noticed that I helped the others, especially Kowalski who was now my friend. I started to really like that life without responsibilities. I had completely forgotten my big house, with its huge bedroom and wonderful bathroom. In any case, I was not allowed to leave the Camp, which is luckily big enough.
After one year and 4 months of service as Pissaro, I was called by the Colonel who told me:
"Pissaro, altogether you have now served the Legion during 5 years, but for the time being we only count 1 years and 4 months of service. You are now free to go to Calvi with Kowalski, but your budget remains under strict control of the Staff Sergeant".
I sent a message to Miranda, since I was now allowed to go to town on weekends. She replied saying she would come and stay in Corsica during two weeks. When the moment came, I got free time for the Saturday and the Sunday, but I had to be back before 17:30 for the evening Roll-call and I had to sleep in the barracks, so I could not leave and join my wife before the morning Roll-Call was finished.
As soon as the morning roll-call was finished, I got dressed in "outing uniform", I let the Staff Sergeant inspect me and when he approved and gave his final permission to go outside the barracks, I asked him for money. He gave me very little, but that was irrelevant since I knew Miranda had all my money. I hurriedly walked to town and met Miranda in her hotel, the best hotel of Calvi. We rushed to her room. Miranda looked at me and sniffed, she then said:
"Robert, you smell like a soldier".
This appeared normal to me since I was a soldier, and in uniform. In any case I did not know what Miranda exactly meant by "smelling like a soldier" since she did not know any, except the officers with whom she was making my business. We undressed made wonderfully love. My first time since the Legion had arrested me. Miranda wanted then to go and eat something in the restaurant of her hotel. It annoyed me a little bit since I was in uniform: this was still imposed on me. But who cared. We were seated by the waiter who had a strange look at me and we ordered some food. Suddenly, the Legion Police came in and asked me the document authorizing me to be out of the Camp. I showed them what they wanted. They then told me:
"But we know you don’t have much money in your pocket. Who is going to pay for this meal ?"
"I will", said Miranda, "it will be on my bill."
"And you made love, you two ?" asked the chief Legion Police Sergeant.
"That’s none of your business," replied Miranda "he is my husband."
But I knew it was their business and I started to understand what they had in mind so I said:
"Sergeant, before joining the Legion, I was married with this lady and today we made love for the first time in many months."
"As ‘young Legionnaire’ you are not supposed to be married. So as far as I am concerned, you made love with this lady and she is going to pay for that. Come with us."
Once more I was handcuffed and taken to the Legion brig. There the brig Sergeant decided to give me an induction cut, and this time nothing happened: I was anxious about the consequences of my arrest."
I spent the complete weekend in the brig but luckily on Monday morning I appeared in front of the Colonel. My chief started to laugh when he saw me, in prison uniform and with a "special haircut and hat". He told me that in fact, I had done nothing wrong, but that to all appearances I had behaved badly, trying to lure a rich lady to pay for my meal. He could thus do nothing else than send me to the brig for a few more days, but he arranged it in such a way that I could see Miranda on Sunday. He added:
"Be aware of expensive places. Your budget is under strict control, so don’t go out with a lady, be it your wife, except in a place where a "young Legionnaire" can pay himself for it."
But his advice was not necessary: Miranda had left Corsica, she had probably not been well informed about my exact situation.
After two years of service as "Legionnaire PFC Pissaro", I was sent to the corporal course, which was early for a ‘young Legionnaire’ and proved that my chiefs considered me as a good element. I finished the course as first one and hoped to be placed on the list of future Chief-Corporals. But once again, the Colonel had to tell me that he could not promise such a promotion to an ex-deserter. Nevertheless, all restrictions were raised. I was Corporal now, I could use all my pay without control and i could go outside Corsica, in civvies, when on leave. I was also 34 years old.
I got a long leave, my first since I was Pissaro. I sent a message to Miranda who came to Paris where I met her in a beautiful hotel where I knew I could pay my share this time. When i received my leave, I was informed that all my names had been communicated to all possible databases, Interpol included, with the mention "presently active duty Legionnaire serving in 2 REP". The officer who told me that warned me that if tried to leave France, I would be in big trouble because of this. I did not care: I really wanted to fulfill my contract, and I liked doing it.
Miranda told me that she was not very well, but she was glad to see me. She also wanted to discuss about my business and she showed me several papers which required my signature. I was not interested by these papers, I wanted my wife. So I rapidly signed all these papers, without reading them and I tried to make love. This was not possible because of Miranda’s health, so we spent our time in Paris in restaurants and in theatres. Miranda loved all of it, but she had to leave Paris for London after a week. My leave was longer than that, but I did not want to risk going outside France. So we parted and I finished my leave alone and went back early to Calvi, where i had to be in uniform since it was my garrison, leave or no leave. Nevertheless i was happy: I had seen Miranda again.
After that my life went on, as Legionnaire and can even say as happy Legionnaire, liking his brothers in the Legion. We trained a lot, I became trainer, I was also sent several times to Africa where I had to fight and try to destroy France’s enemy.
After 4 years and 1 month of service, I was again called to the Colonel’s office. This time it was because the new Colonel wanted to send me to the Sergeant course. I knew that becoming Sergeant represented many advantages, but also that it required of the new Sergeant 3 more years of service for the Legion. So, before accepting, I asked for Miranda’s advice and she sent me immediately a message saying that it would be much better for me if I became Sergeant.
I knew that at the end of my present contract as CPL Pissaro, I would have to remain in the Legion for 3 years and 4 months, so I asked Miranda if she really did not mind me staying that long away from here: I might have tried something to avoid the additional time of service, but I must confess that I liked the idea of becoming Sergeant. Miranda replied that she wanted me to accept and I liked that.
I asked to be allowed to speak to my Colonel, checked with him that I had indeed more than 3 years to serve in any case, and signed a bunch of documents accepting to be sent to the Sergeant course and serve 3 more years. This course was difficult: the responsibilities of a Sergeant are not the same as those of a PFC or a Corporal. I passed with flying colours and became SGT Pissaro.
When I came back to Calvi, the regiment had, as every two years, changed Colonel. The new Colonel congratulated me for my promotion and for having accepted to sign an additional contract of three years in order to become SGT. I did not understand since I knew I had in any case all that time "hanging on my head", but the Colonel explained that the 3 years and 4 months I owed the Legion were in fact owed by Legionnaire marc Piletti. As CPL Pissaro, I had only 7 months of contract left, so by accepting to go to the Sergeant course, I had automatically accepted to serve 3 more years as SGT Pissaro. I was dumbfounded and said so to my Colonel, explaining that these were not my plans: I had a business in California and hoped to be back there at the end of Piletti’s contract. The Colonel replied that I had signed the additional contract and that nothing could be changed anymore. I knew better than to contest that. The Colonel suggested that I contacted the lady he now called "your wife": a SGT in the Legion can be married. Up to a certain extent, I did not really dislike to have again been "forced". Being a Sergeant in the Legion seemed to be a good thing: more responsibilities, more freedom and still the Legion brotherhood. I was now addicted to this brotherhood !
I sent a message to Miranda telling her that inadvertently, while following her advice, I had accepted to become SGT and thus to serve three more years. I did not receive an answer from my wife.
About a month later, when I was already working hard as SGT in what was now really my regiment, the regiment that had tamed me, I was called to my Captain’s office. There this officer told me that the Legion had received a legal message for me, which seemed impossible since I was still under an assumed name. But it was indeed a message sent to Mister Robert Portiletto, aka SGT Joshua Pissaro of the 2 REP. This was a legal message warning me that my wife, the tender Miranda, had asked for a divorce on the basis that with my last additional years I had abandoned her. I was also warned that if I did not appear in court, either physically or through my lawyer, my wife would be legally divorced and have sole possession of the totality of my money, properties, companies and assets. The message finally stated that Miranda would in any case be allowed to marry her present companion, Captain Tranburry of the USMC and that the child she was bearing would legally be this Captain child, whether I objected to the divorce or not.
I nearly exploded: the money she was stealing me was in fact what I was keeping for her and for my old age. But worse, I understood now how she had realized that "I smelled like a soldier".
I asked my Captain to let me have a short leave, and a proof of my real identity, to settle my problems. The Captain refused, saying that this would be against regulations. I told him with rather nasty words that he was a brute and that he was also destroying everything that had been mine. He concluded that I had shown disrespect to a superior officer and send me to the brig, asking the Colonel to give me the appropriate punishment.
Once in the brig, I got the usual prisoner uniform and special haircut. This special haircut was administered brutally by a non specialist, usually another prisoner. This time again it was done rather brutally and inefficiently: my head remained full of stubbles of different length. The aim was obvious: giving the prisoner a baldy, or nearly a baldy, helped to easily recognize him as detainee everywhere he went. Nevertheless, for my own comfort and elegance, I decided that during the years which I still had to remain in the Legion, I would keep that special haircut, but administered by a real barber, so that if I ever was sent again to the brig, I would at least have a decent haircut.
The next day, I had to appear in front of my Colonel who told me:
"The reason invoked by your Captain to send you to the brig is serious. In the Legion, there is no bargain with the chiefs: the Legionnaire simply obey orders without asking questions. You are thus demoted to PFC. You should be demoted to simple Legionnaire, but I cannot go below PFC. Besides that you know that a Legionnaire does not own its rank, the rank is simply ‘lent temporarily’ to him by the Legion. You must be punished, and very severely since you are Sergeant now. You will spend 30 days doing specially menial chores in the brig. The 3 additional years contract is of course valid."
I adjusted my position, saluted and said:
"At your command Colonel. This PFC expected his punishment to be severe."
As Legionnaire Pissaro, I thus owed the Legion 3 years and 6 months, to which I had to add 3 years and 4 months owed by me under the name of Legionnaire Piletti. Once in the brig, I realized that I was in for good and that I had nothing left outside the Legion. I also realized that I did no longer mind being a Legionnaire for life.
When I came out of the brig, I started to function as simple PFC. I had had time to think in the brig: the Legion was now my only family and my only universe. I explained that to my Captain and asked him if I could start the long process needed to recuperate my real identity. He turned my request down, saying that I was too much a deserter risk. I knew I was still in probation and I did not insist.
I did my job as well as I could. In fact, despite being demoted, I liked my life in the regiment more and more every day. The Corporals who had seen me as Sergeant, and thus as their chief, during about a month did not make my life easy. I had more chores and was punished more frequently for minimal mistakes than an ordinary ‘young Legionnaire’, but I did not mind: I got used to it and it made me better in action. I never had news from Miranda, her child and my ex-fortune. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that the new Corporals, who had never seen me as Sergeant, started to behave with me like the other ones. After all, as Legionnaire Pissaro, I had now more than 5 years of service and as such, I was entitled to certain privileges … which were denied to me.
Despite all that, I worked and fought as well as I could and I helped the real ‘young Legionnaires’. I also started to make use of my ‘free time’ in Calvi to go and visit girls of my age.
One year and one month after I had been demoted I was told to go once again in the Colonel’s office for a special report. The Colonel told me that he had observed me carefully and deemed me now worthy of becoming Sergeant again, without going to the Sergeant course, but after signing once more an additional 3 years contract ! I signed with great pleasure since the Legion was now all that I had in the world. The Colonel promoted me to SGT and told me that I was now allowed to sleep outside the Camp and to marry, provided I asked for a special authorization. The Colonel also told me that he wanted me to get my real name back and to become a French citizen. I replied that if it was an order, I would obviously obey, but that I was so used now to be Legionnaire Pissaro that I would prefer to keep that name. The Colonel told me that he had given me an order, but that, once I was French, I could ask a French court to change my name.
After a certain time, I became legally SGT Robert Marc Pissaro. I had already 9 years and 11 months of service and I still had 8 years and 1 months of contract, out of a provisional total of 18 years ! It was more than most of my friends in the regiment, but it was something I had, a future for me !
After 11 years of service I was unexpectedly promoted to Staff-Sergeant and Captain Kingslow, who was a Lieutenant Junior grade when I was arrested by the Legion, suggested:
"Pissaro, you should start studying in order to have a French diploma. I could help you and you could do the same as I did: become a Legion officer through the ranks."
"Is it an order, Captain ? In that case I will of course obey"
"No, it’s only a suggestion".
"In that case, Captain," I replied, "with your permission, I will not study. I like my NCO life and would not exchange it for a more comfortable officer life."
I thus refused a friendly offer to help me simply because I did not want to have an officer’s responsibilities, responsibilities which were mine when I was a businessman. I perfectly knew that I had to remain disciplined and obedient: even as Staff-Sergeant I could be demoted in a few seconds if it was the Colonel’s whimsy. But as I mentioned earlier, I had been ‘harnessed’ by the legion and I had no fear of being disrespectful.
Nevertheless, every week I kept going to the Camp barber and asked him for a serious induction cut, and I also told him to give without showing any respect for my present rank. That gave me every week an excellent reminder of my first induction haircut, with a growing penis but no other consequences: I knew now how to control it, but it always gave me such a pleasure that even when the barber was brutal, I was smiling.
I hope to be promoted to Adjutant when I will have 13 years of service: at that stage I will finally own my rank and no longer be "demotable in a jiffy". I have decided to make a full career in the Legion and live now outside the Camp, which is expensive. I met a nice girl, my age. She is working in a shop and we live together as husband and wife, except that we are not married and that she has no proxy on my (small) bank account. Kowalsi is still my friend and he does not call me "Filthy" anymore. He is now back in 2 REP after spending 3 years in Guyana, in 3 REI. He is still CPL, hopes to become soon "Caporal Chef" but does not want to become NCO. He accepts me without any problem as his direct chief. We like to drink beers together.