Have Beret, Will Travel
A character sketch of Paul "Caje" LeMay
"Encore une bouteille de cognac, sil vous plaît,"
and other critical French phrases
If you could pick any guy to go through France with, you
couldnt make a better choice than Pfc. Paul LeMay. "Caje," as everyone
calls him, has simply an amazing amount of knowledge about that trés belle place,
even though hes never actually been there before. The amazing thing about France is
that, in spite of the war, it still has a lot of, well, French people in it
endearing kids, stubborn farmers, little old winemakers, tricky mayors, mayors
daughters (ooh la la!), nuns, priests, widows, barmaids, Resistance fighters ... Just
imagine the potential for international incidents if you dont know the right way to
drink cognac, for example, or if you duck from some dotty old general whos trying to
kiss you on both cheeks. And whats a soldier to do the first time he has that most
embarrassing of cultural exchanges his initial encounter with a French bidet? Well,
worry no more, brother. When it comes to learning the customs of dear old France, forget
your G.I. Handbook just follow the guy in the beret.
No doubt about it Caje is one smart Cajun. Not only has he
learned to ditch his backwater Louisiana accent for a fancy French-Canadian one, but
somewhere, somehow, this man has learned to snow ski like an Olympic champion. Ill
bet that makes his amis in New Orleans proud. And well they should be. Besides
being an outstanding soldier (who never seems to complain about having to take the point
more than just about anyone else), hes a connoisseur of the finer things in life,
like good French mineral waters, cologne, fine French soap, i.e., the kind that
doesnt eat holes in your uniform, and, of course, cheese. No, not the gooey,
machine-processed stuff that comes in a can (mon Dieu!), but genuine fromage,
that of the 264 glorious varieties De Gaulle once bragged about. Needless to say, no
self-respecting Frenchman would ever be caught dead sucking cheese off his finger, no
matter what sort of oddly magnetic effect such behavior has on certain persons of the
female persuasion. Watch how Caje eats cheese and you will see how the natives do it.
When Caje is not around, he sure is sorely missed. Kirbys
Français is atrocious (forget the girl in the café ... its a wonder those French
Resistance fighters dont beat him up just for mauling their belle langue),
and while Braddock can sing French opera, he cant carry on a normal conversation
even with a couple of eight year olds. When push comes to shove and youve got
Germans hiding in a church cellar or an American deserter posing as a Frenchman or, worst
of all, a bunch of creepy skull-carrying nuns whove taken a vow of silence and can
only be addressed through their mother superior, theres just no substitute for a man
with savoir faire.
"Ôtez le crâne, sur; nous avons besoin du
docteur." ("Put the skull away, sister we need a doctor.")
Think of all the handy French phrases and cultural tips the guys
have learned from Caje. They know, for instance, how to sing lullabies in French to cute
babies, how to apologize to distraught villagers for having wrecked their houses, how to
spot German imposteurs disguised as friendly priests, how to properly wear those
weird-looking wooden farmers clogs and, most important of all, how to make passes at
pretty French lasses. You can bet that "Je taime, cherie!" is the
one phrase Kirby has actually learned how to pronounce like a Parisian.
There is, in fact, only one thing wrong with Caje, and that is the
fact that the warm heart, the handsome face and the flawless French are all wrapped up in
the same package. This walking mademoiselle-magnet can charm nuns (both the creepy and the
ditzy kind), feisty village femmes, middle-aged farm matrons, plucky Resistance
fighter-ettes, and even the most doleful of orphan girls, almost as soon as he opens his
mouth. Then, when he puts on that beret ... sacrebleu! The other guys dont
stand a chance. Because everyone knows, you just cant beat an homme with a great
Copyright © 1998 by Dorothy Spangler. All rights reserved.
Characters from the television series COMBAT! are the property of ABC-TV.