Harold was a ceibon tree growing straight out of the face of a cliff. Ceibon trees are native to Cuba. Because Harold was attached to the cliff, he could not attend the Xmas dinner at the naval station. Harold planned instead to spend Xmas day watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Harold was a great fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Harold’s one wish if he could leave the cliff was to travel to Belgium and meet Patrick Teugels. Patrick Teugels was the only man who in real life had defeated Jean-Claude Van Damme. Jean-Claude Van Damme’s kickboxing/full-contact/semi-contact record before he became an actor was 18-1. The one loss was a two-round decision to Patrick Teugels in 1979 in the second W.A.K.O. World Championships (Men’s Semi-Contact 69 kg). It nagged at Harold that Jean-Claude Van Damme’s record was not perfect. The “1” in his record cast a shadow over Jean-Claude Van Damme’s numerous film performances. Harold vowed that he would not let his Christmas be spoiled by this shadow. For once he would watch a marathon of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies without worrying about the flaw in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s record as a professional fighter.
Friends of Harold brought him presents and left them under him. The presents were hard-to-find issues of Professional Karate Magazine from the 1970s. Technically the presents were not “under” Harold but attached to the cliff face he grew out of. The presents were attached with long spines of the cactus Melocactus holguinensis. In textbooks on the flora of Cuba these spines are described as poisonous and not merely “sharp” but “sharp, sharp.”
Kumar was a smooth-billed ani, a very noisy and gregarious but peaceful species of cuckoo that feeds on termites and other large insects. Anis nest in trees, but not trees that jut straight out of the face of a cliff. Kumar enjoyed conversing with Harold while removing termites from Harold. Termites posed a very serious threat to Harold. In exchange, Harold would point out nuances of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s martial-arts technique as the two friends watched classics like Bloodsport and Double Impact.
Kumar pretended to be interested in Jean-Claude Van Damme, but in truth he was obsessed with Everclear, the alt-rock band from Portland, Oregon. When Everclear rocked out for base residents during the Sun, Sand and Sounds Memorial Day Festival at GTMO’s Ferry Landing Beach, Kumar had flown back and forth overhead in ecstasy until his wings ached. Kumar wanted to spend Xmas day flying back and forth over the base. The base personnel on their day off would be cranking out tunes from Sparkle and Fade and Learning How to Smile and other excellent Everclear albums. Kumar’s quandary was that he did not want to leave his friend Harold alone on Xmas day. Kumar whined ooo-leeeek and picked at a termite listlessly.
The quandary was not really a quandary. Xmas day at the base would not be nonstop Everclear. It would be Everclear and Chester “Memphis Gold” Chandler and Jennifer Langer and John William and Michael Paige, among others. In any case, Kumar had spent the last six Xmases with Harold. He could just as soon imagine Xmas without Harold as eating insects in the air, as many birds do. Kumar removed the termite’s legs one by one and chewed at them. Kumar again whined ooo-leeeek, thinking of the traditional dinner that was in store for him. Harold would be astute but somewhat obnoxious in his reverent critique of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Harold would feast on nitrogen. Kumar would pretend to listen to Harold while gently scrabbling in the soil for the tasty subterranean termites that threatened Harold’s foothold on the cliff.