There Are Worse Things Than Incoming Mortars (Updated)

Luck is a relative thing.

Take, for example, a summer vacation.  You arrive at the hotel and the front desk clerk tells you,  “You’re lucky.  We ran out of regular rooms and had to upgrade you to a suite.”

Or you go outside to the hotel pool and the pool attendant tells you, “You’re lucky.  We’ve had rain all week, and today is the first sunny day.”

But luck is different in Afghanistan.

“You’re lucky,” said our military escort as we got off the plane, “The base hasn’t been attacked in weeks.”

See, that makes me feel about as lucky as I would checking into a motel and being told, “You’re lucky.  Guests here are kidnapped from their rooms a lot less than they used to be.”

As if that wasn’t enough, our military escort then delivered a more devastating bit of news.

“You’re rooming with Jeff Keane.”

As though having a bomb dropped on my head wasn’t enough.  Now I’d have to stare at the creator of Family Circus standing around in his “Kiss Me, Dolly” underwear.

And don’t take my word for it.  Just look at him in this pre-removal-of-pants shot and imagine for yourselves.

All that separated me from him was that little desk on the right.  See, here was my bed on the other side of that desk.

That’s a mere four feet between me and The Jeffy.  Almost close enough that he could reach out and hold my hand during the night.  I finally understood the meaning of the phrase, “War is Hell.”

But I am a trooper.  So I took one for the team and roomed with The Jeffy.

Our first step was to unpack.  I took out all of my cool clothes and put them in drawers.  He laid out his “I Love Billy” underwear for Tuesday, his “I Love PJ” pajamas for Wednesday, and the “I Love Dead Grandpa” thong for Thursday.

When we finished unpacking, we sat on our respective beds wondering what we could do for the next couple hours.  He was thinking about getting something to eat.  I was thinking about how I could change the locks while he was gone.

We compromised and each sat at the desk signing a bunch of the postcards with our characters on them that the USO had given us to hand out to the troops.

There we sat, me and the creator of Family Circus.  Him doing his patriotic duty by signing the postcards.  Me doing my patriotic duty by not pushing him out the window.

And that’s when the air raid sirens went off.

“GET DOWN.  GET DOWN.  GET DOWN,” shouted the garbled voice across the base’s PA system.

And at that moment, my greatest fear was not my possible demise.  It was that my last vision on this planet, the one that would have to carry me toward the afterlife, would not be of a nude supermodel begging me to make these last few moments count.

It would be this:

So much for being lucky.


UPDATE:  Jeff Keane responds in the comments section below.  But keep in mind, his version of events is one-sided, biased, slanderous, exaggerated and wholly false.  Unlike mine, which is the God’s honest truth.


40 thoughts on “There Are Worse Things Than Incoming Mortars (Updated)

  1. If ever there was a time to jump out of the window while doing your Three Stooges imitation, that’s it.

  2. First you had to sit next to Gary, now bunk with Jeffy. Then you have to wonder is that how your life will end. While truly not as bad as our soldiers face, I still say the President of the good old USA should give you a medal for your heroics!

  3. “Dead Grandpa Thong”!!! OMG! If I were you, I’d be more worried about closing my eyes at night and finding “the Jeffy” with his pillow over your face so you can join his dead grandpa!! You are so awesome….

  4. You are merciless, Stephan! But truly hilarious. If I wasn’t feeling so bad about you having to fear rolling over and seeing “I Love Dead Grandpa” negligee, I’d be feeling a little bad for The Jeffy for having to room with the man who aged his character from Family Circus into a parole officer shooting convict and chain smoker. Between the two, I’m on your side.

  5. I had surgery last week and have roughly a gazillion staples between my belly button and…um…. nether regions. I just laughed at the visuals of the various items of clothing and now my stomach hurts. A lot. So if you could arrange to be not funny for a while I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  6. OMG…Stephan you are hysterical! Just the mental image I have of the whole situation makes my day so much better! I’ll bet that he’s got “I Love Pearls” tattooed on his butt or something. 🙂

  7. Funny stuff!!! I was laughing out loud!! Your changing the locks line was what did it for me.

  8. If you die, can I get a free plush doll of Rat? And maybe a couple free books. Oh, and all your money. Whichever works for you!
    Hey, would you sue me if I made a human version of Pearls Before Swine and made a vid and put it on YouTube? ‘Cus if that is the case, I could give you ten percent of any income instead…

  9. Looks like “The Jeffy” has seniority, seeing which bed he got. He gets the nice Full/Queen where he can stretch out in comfort and you get the gradeschool bunk bed. Did you bring a flashlight so you could read your comics under the blanket at night?

  10. Tough break for both of you…….not! But seriously, what you cartoon artists are doing is a truly wonderful thing. You will brighten the day of many a trooper, and for this I salute you all. (See, like Bil Keane’s doing!)

  11. How come Jeffy gets the big Mommy and Daddy bed and you’re stuck with the bunk beds? Did you at least get to sleep in both the upper and lower one? Maybe you could’ve terrorize JK by threatening to cannonball him from the top bunk.

  12. Hahaha! I love it! You made me laugh. I laughed through 7/8 of this post. It really was funny. With that in mind, I think I rate a postcard. From the both of you. I have some of your cartoons in almost all of my journals. If that doesn’t make me a “sane-#1 Fan-unlike-the-fan-in-Misery,” then consider this: My nephew is a Marine. He’s done two tours. He and all the ones who serve and have served are part of the reasons you and Bob are able to visit Afghanistan, write about it and make us laugh. 😀

    Now do it again. Make me howl some more!

    P.S. Bob’s kinda hot.

  13. Stephan, I am a little disappointed in your “story” but I salute your effort…
    I feel it is my duty to all the FC fans to correct a couple of your statements as they leave a rather bad impression on myself and my feature.(To be honest, I thought what happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan) …
    First, they weren’t “Kiss Me, Dolly” underwear, they were “Kiss My Dolly” underwear (big difference)…
    and second, Grandpa’s thong is not for Thursday but is a Sunday exclusive, that’s why they are in color and tear-away…
    Also, I see you ended it at the start of the Air-Raid part… You didn’t mention what happened next. How you quickly shot to your feet, yelled in your best Southern belle accent, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”, dove under your bed and stayed there, softly whimpering, till I was able to coax you out with a plate of warm-milk and a cracker…

  14. What Stephan doesn’t mention is that his other roommate was me. Not only did I have to witness to Jeffy’s undies, but had to put up with Stephan talking in his sleep all night–with the Croc accent. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he woke me up every morning with his face right next to mine saying, “Good morning, Ricky neighba.” Good thing I had the earplugs from the helicopters, or I never would have gotten any sleep.

    I thought being in a war zone would give me nightmares. Believe me, that was the least of it.

  15. See, its because your Military escort said they haven’t been attacked in weeks is why the base got attacked. Its a little unspoken rule we have in theater. You never say “Mortar” or “Rocket”. And you especially never say, “Mortar, mortar, mortar, rocket, rocket, rocket”.

  16. You’ve got to ask yourself, why America would want to concentrate so many talented cartoonists in such a dangerous place. There may be an underlying plan here. Just keep checking over your shoulder. Nuf said.

  17. So we see (the hilarious) Mr. Keane knows the Golden Rule: “If you can’t keep it in your pants, keep it in the Family Circus.”

  18. Oops, Freudian slip Jeff. I didn’t mean to say “Bil Keane”…………or did I? Could he have been there, too, in spirit? Wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

  19. Now Stephan, I thought your mom taught you better than that. Diving under the bed, shame on you. 😉 Next time just shove Jeff out of the window and then hide. xD

  20. This was brilliant. You are a comical genius. This is why Pearls Before Swine is my favorite comic strip of all time.

  21. If the general would just turn you boys loose on the Taliban, all our troops would be home in a week.

    Keep up the good work. And thank you.

  22. Stephan, if you zoom in on the picture of Jeff, you can see that the tips of his vampire teeth are showing. If I were you, THAT is what I would be worried about, not his underwear. (I’m not kidding).

  23. cool post. I remember running afoul of the new Sergeant Major as a Marine. For six months in Japan I was assigned to room with the most despised and prudish, wet blanket of a Gunnery Sergeant. I would have welcomed incomming mortars.

  24. Stephan has managed to get on the last nerve of Cathy GuisewHite, The Family Circus Guy and Gary Trudeau’s lives within the last 3 months. At least he’s helping out the troops in Afghanistan with his humor…….just hope it’s Guard Duck with mortars and not live ammo back at the base…….or RAT stealing art brushes…..

  25. “But I am a trooper.” Then you shouldn’t be billeted in civilian quarters. Or are you a trouper?

  26. Well all I can say is, truly funny from both of you, and bless you both for all your support. Glad you had safe trips and thank you for cheering up our men and women!

  27. That is awesome. It would’ve been cool if y’all could have spent more time in Mosul last year! It was great to meet you and ‘the other guys’!

  28. My family is looking at me like I just grew some kind deformity on my face because I’m laughing out loud in the car right now…

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