Massive Quest is Hell.

I knew this was going to happen. Each time my co-conspirator and I have deployed a Blue Helmet in a new location, the question nagging us has been this: How can we place the little figure such that casual passersby will spot it (and shriek with delight at their find), while leaving it protected from individuals with malevolent intent, urinating dogs and errant children?

Since the platoon arrived from the Netherlands (as described in a previous post), I've become attached to the wee blue-topped soldiers. I want them to succeed in their Massive Quest, and I want other people to notice them and to appreciate their brave peacekeeping mission.

As we've spent time together, each has become a distinct personality. No longer do I see them as interchangeable and anonymous green beings (with blue helmets). While we have become a band of brothers, I've learned to accept that deployments such as theirs are risky, that loss is inevitable and that we must accept impermanence. Still, I worry.

Just one week ago, a Blue Helmet was deployed to guard Portland's Armory in the Pearl District. A few days later, I was perambulating through the neighborhood and took a few moments to check on him. To my dismay, I discovered that his post had been abandoned. The ashes in his figurative campfire were cold as ... well, as cold as ashes.

All that remained were his humble base, the cable tie that had secured it to a bike rack, and a faint aroma of garlic. Had he been abducted? Had he ventured away from his post, perhaps to carry out a reconnaisance mission? Or had he succumbed to the call of Portland's wild night life and gone AWOL?

Using a secret coded communication system, I contacted the soldier's commanders to report his disappearance. The officer in charge, Brigadier Commander O'Flaherty, asked detailed questions, took copious notes and kept assuring me that my worries were unfounded. "Don't you know, most of these cases are resolved without anyone seeing a bit of bad fortune," he said with a reassuring pat on my back.

During our exchange, an aide-de-camp was preparing a letter using a portable manual typewriter which clicked and dinged, providing an anachronistic accompaniment to the interview. Just as my questioner reached out his hand saying, "Thank you, Mr. Cannon, you've been grand--a true blessing to our cause," the stenographer zipped the letter from the machine and set it before his commanding officer who signed it using a vintage Mont Blanc fountain pen.

"Excuse me," I ventured. "Would you be willing to share the contents of that document with me?"

"Why certainly, Mr. Cannon," he replied, adding "Might I be calling you Mighty Toy as a gesture of friendship?"

"I'm not accustomed to being addressed as such, but I am at your disposal," I replied.

"Right, then," he said, giving a slight bow, lighting a cigarette and pouring a shot of Jameson as he handed me the document. "It's but a letter to his poor mammy at home in Milano. How good is your Italian?"

"Good enough, " I answered as I pulled my reading glasses, a pocket-sized Italian-English dictionary, and a notebook out of my rucksack and began transcribing the letter.

Dear Mrs. Gigliello,

Gentile Signora, it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that your son, Antony “Little Tony” Gigliello, has been reported missing in action and is now classified as Duty Status-Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN).

As you are aware, your son was stationed in the Pacific Northwest Theater of Operation, serving on behalf of the Blue Helmets. What you may not know is that he was part of a Massive Quest. The strategic objectives of that Quest cannot be disclosed at this time, but I assure you that it is a most noble and brave quest of global proportions.

On August 21, 2009, Lt. Gigliello was assigned to observe the Armory Building located in the Northwest Quadrant of Portland, Oregon. The Armory is the home of Portland Center Stage (a theatrical company of modest repute) and an important cultural center (relatively speaking, this being America).

On the afternoon of August 26, 2009, a local resident with whom we are liaising sought out your son, only to discover that his forward base of operation had been abandoned. We do not know whether Little Tony is being held by hostile forces, or if the abandonment of his post was voluntary. I assure you that we are doing our utmost to locate your son.

There is intense international media interest in every aspect of our worldwide mission and, because of what has happened to your loved one, the media will almost certainly contact you for comments. We recommend you do not talk to the media at this time. The American media is particularly notorious for inventing fictions, especially when doing so is likely to engender disrespect for uniformed personnel.

In addition to avoiding the mainstream media, we strongly recommend that you abstain from announcing this situation using so-called "social media" outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, FacciaBlocchetto™, Cinguettare™, Twittarinni™, Froozle™, FlipJack™, HippityHoop™, GiggleSnitch™, GesichtsausdruckSchm√∂keror™, and FaceBlotter™.

In our experience, posting a video plea on YouTube is likely to be ineffective should your son be a captive of hostile forces. (Except for that one case in which the plea was delivered by a talking cat, which seems unlikely to happen again).

Please accept our assurances that our highest priority is to locate the whereabouts of your Antony as soon as is practical given our miniscule dimensions.


Commandante Seamus O'Flaherty

"Now that you've read the letter, Mr. Cannon, I propose the traditional toast of the Blue Helmets," he said as he handed me a shot of Jameson and began pulling a set of uilleann pipes from a battered leather case.

The small band of soldiers gathered around as Seamus raised his glass. "May your troubles be tiny. May your quests be massive. And may your helmet be the only thing that's blue," he said with a wink as we threw back our drinks.

Readers, I have a feeling we'll be hearing more about Little Tony in the days to come.

A guide to the Blue Helmet Story:

If you're new to the story of the Miniscule Blue Helmets, you might consider reading these additional posts:

My original, long-form story of how I became involved in this mission.

An abridged version for those with low attention spans.

A letter to home from Ingvar, a Blue Helmet from Sweden.

A plea for financial assistance from Charles Remmy, a Blue Helmet from the Benin Republic.

As I add more reports about the Blue Helmets, you can find them by clicking on the “Blue Helmets” label over in the right hand column.


LicketyGlitz said...

When Big Tony finds out, there's gonna be hell to pay.

MightyToyCannon said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that Little Tony may not be in any danger at all--except from Big Tony.