Notes from GobHobblin: So…Girls Und Panzers is a…thing that exists. And to my utter shock…I enjoyed it. Very much. And yet, watching it, I couldn't help but watch it as me (I mean, what choice did I have?), as well as assuming what my friends would be saying should they have sat down and watched it with me. So I thought, 'Well, hell, what would we do if we or guys like us were in the same universe?' I know that feminine activities in Japan tend to get more of a gender-diffusion in the States, as far as martial arts are concerned, and, let's face it…tanks!
Now, I have to apologize in advance: some of my favorite satirical war films (MASH and Catch-22) tend to use a form of dialogue that is…rambunctious. 'Lot of people talking over each other at the same time' kind of rambunctious. It affects how I approach these things, and it was all I could think of while watching the series. So, it may be confusing. If it is, please tell me: I want to learn how to write this kind of dialogue while still keeping the reader invested. More to the point, though, I hope you find it funny.
Special thanks to the Gorgeous Shut-In for giving a beta read (with snarky comments, to boot!). One last thing: I do not think poorly of the Cavalry (though I feel compelled to give my friends in the branch grief when and where I can...).
St. Matthews Preparatory School was that particular kind of institution where boys were supposed to be shaped into men, or some such hokum. Truth be told, it wasn't a bad school. It possessed programs of a good stature and faculty of a certain quality. Boys from across the country and across many economic strata found themselves pulled, one way or another, to St. Matthews and its hallowed, ivory halls. It was the kind of institution that put colleges to shame, with a middle school to high-school class acting more as an incorporated town than an actual educational institution. It was where leaders were crafted, pillars of the community propped up, and other such inspiring things that all of the press material loved to pump out. It was kind of an institution, is the point.
All in all, it wasn't a bad place to go to school, once everything was weighed and measured. Osprey LeRouche generally enjoyed the experience, having found a niche, so to speak. A place out of the way of the higher-ups, the faculty, the ones who ran things. The preps, the jocks, the general elite. He made good grades, did his activities, and generally avoided trouble. He was a good kid. A bland kid, but a good one.
How he had made friends with the likes of Rufus Copp and Cajun Grier was beyond him (as much as it was beyond anyone that someone named their child 'Cajun'), but friends they were, more or less. It was why they sat and had lunch together every day, even on the weekends, which consisted of Rufus and Osprey being the only ones to get a meal and Cajun happily and non-ashamedly eating their leftovers. It was the rhythm of things, the way they had settled into normalcy. It was how Griffin found them when he burst into John P. Sinclair Dining Hall, scuttling among tables of boys in navy blue blazers, looking for his friends. Before he even arrived at the table, Osprey had detected the approaching storm. He looked up with slight dread, to see the smaller boy weaving between the tables. He was rushing towards the three with a look of utmost enthusiasm on his face.
"What? What do you want, you weird little kid?" Osprey asked, exasperated. Griffin Tulley was one of his oldest, dearest friends, but when the short, bespectacled boy had that look on his face, something was coming. Something that would involve Osprey. Something he would regret, of that he was certain.
"Sensha…do!" Griffin said, thrusting a small booklet into Osprey's face.
"Sensha-do?" Osprey took the pamphlet in two fingers, with about as much enthusiasm as a man approaching a precarious ledge. The sounds of the school cafeteria around him buzzed lightly, and he studied the image on the cover. A pair of cute girls in short skirts saluted over brilliant smiles, with an immaculate tank in the background behind him. The word 'fetish' drifted through his mind for a moment, and he turned a scrutinizing eye towards Griffin.
"It means, like, 'Way of the Tank,'" the other boy was saying, excitement dripping through his voice. "Think about that. It's a martial art...with tanks!"
"I don't think that's what it means," Cajun mumbled, continuing to eat French fries off of Osprey's plate.
"No, it totally does. Look, over in Japan, right? They have this League and everything. Schools fight other schools in these massive tank battles. They've been doing it since forever." Griffin practically climbed on top of Osprey in pointing out details in the reading material. Cajun protectively snagged Osprey's plate.
"…this says it's a woman's martial art. This is a woman thing," Osprey said, turning to look at Griffin. He then paused, and glanced back down. "Wait a minute, girls do this? What is…what is feminine about tanks?"
"My dad always said tankers were effeminate," Rufus observed from across the table.
"Your dad was an Infantry guy, though," Cajun observed, pointing at Rufus.
"This is true," Rufus agreed, pointing right back, "And he also thinks that hot water makes you weak and the moon landing was fake."
"Why are you showing me this, Griffin?" Osprey asked in exasperation, making a point to ignore the side conversation.
"They're thinking of starting a team. Here. At this school," Griffin slapped Osprey's shoulder in excitement. Osprey stared at him, and slapped Griffin's shoulder back, in a much lass fraternal manner. Rufus and Cajun were still lost in their own conversation.
"I think that's less 'Infantry,' more 'mental illness,'" Cajun observed.
"I'm pretty sure his high school and college football career had something to do with it," Rufus agreed.
"Look, wait…look," Osprey turned towards Griffin. "I have so many questions right now, and I can't even begin to think of the first one to ask…"
"Os, Os, Os," Griffin said, sitting back down and adjusting his glasses patiently. "They are starting a Sensha-Do team. Here. At St. Matthews. And they will need crews." Griffin smiled triumphantly, and waited for the response.
Osprey gazed at him, then leaned over. "We are boys."
"These are tanks!" Griffin snapped, snatching the pamphlet and whacking Osprey in the head with it. The taller boy straightened at the blow, and glared indignantly. "What is wrong with you? This is the opportunity to drive a tank as an extracurricular activity!"
"He has a point," Rufus observed, sliding back into the first conversation. "That would be totes amazing."
"What would GI Dad think of that?" Cajun asked.
"Eh, he'd hate it. All the more reason to do it," Rufus noted.
"Hold it," Osprey snapped, "More questions. I thought this was a girls only thing."
"In Japan, it is," Griffin agreed, "But, they have all-girl high schools on super-carriers there: rational thinking has not entered into this equation."
"That doesn't answer my question!" Osprey yelled.
"Rules overseas are different. We have a whole different set of league rules here. Most are similar, but gender isn't," Griffin said. "It's all good. It's all good!"
"No, it is not," Osprey pleaded. "Don't they actually shoot at each other? With guns? And other things that...shot?"
"What? It's safe, it's all safe," Griffin insisted. "No deaths or casualties…recently."
"Recen...How is this safe? This seems very reckless!" Osprey complained.
"He said reckless," Rufus mumbled.
"This is serious," Cajun agreed.
"Look, there's…carbon lining. Carbon is involved, you have to trust carbon." Griffin slapped his chest insistently. "We are made of carbon. Why don't you trust us?"
"You. I don't trust you," Osprey snapped. Griffin looked hurt by that, shrinking down into his chair. Osprey grimaced, feeling guilty, but refusing to concede the point. "Why are you so psyched about this stuff, anyway?"
"What kind of ladylike virtues does this stuff promote?" Rufus interjected, swiping the pamphlet.
"You know…virtuous…virtues," Cajun mumbled. As Rufus continued to read the pamphlet, Cajun reached across the table and snagged some onion rings from his plate.
"Can you imagine the women that come out of this sport?" Rufus pondered.
"Maybe…psycho crazy ladies," Cajun mused.
"You know very little about women," Rufus decided.
"I know nothing about women," Cajun sighed.
"You guys!" Griffin snapped, grabbing the attention of all three with his insistent whine. "Think about this! Aside from the fact that we get to drive tanks around, this is a sport with a high female ratio of competitors." He let that linger in the air for a moment. Cajun, for once, was the first to pick up the inference.
"Oh! Oh! We can meet girls!" he declared. He held up his hand for a high-five from Rufus, who had offered a fist-bump instead. For a few awkward moments, they tried to make the exchange work. Success was marginal.
"Okay, you won Click and Clack over," Osprey muttered, "But I'm on the fence…"
"Osprey, ever since grade school, you have been the rudder to our little collective. The heart and soul of our mutual venture, the, shall we say—"
"Get to the point."
"All tank teams need commanders, and that should be you."
Osprey blanched, and glanced down at the pamphlet. "Uh…I…no, no…uh-uh. Look, just because you have your little Patton fantasy is no excuse to go hooking the rest of us poor plebes into this. Or more specifically: me. I know nothing about tanks, okay? I am not the kind of person you want doing...that."
Griffin glared at the taller boy, and stood to lean against the table. He crossed his arms and looked out over some faraway place, transcending the mere boundaries of the lunch room. "Do you remember that time Cajun wanted to see if he could make mercury fulminate?"
The skinny boy in question held up a hand. "I try not to remember," Cajun offered, "But, I do. All the time." He looked down at the table, suddenly depressed
"We all do, Cajun," Rufus said, reassuring.
"Or," Griffin continued, "The time that Rufus accidentally declared a vendetta with the football team?" Rufus turned and held his hands out.
"Hey, how did I get involved in this?" he protested.
"I can't even begin to think of the number of times you got my fat out of the fryer," Griffin added. "The fact of the matter is, Osprey, you are the team dad, and we need you, Daddy."
"Don't call me that, and who says 'fat out of the fryer' anymore?" Osprey protested. "And...wait a minute, stop talking like these two agree with you! How can you assume any of us is going to check out this Sensha-Do crap?"
"Girls," Cajun said.
"Tanks," Rufus offered. "And the opportunity to keep irritating my dad, always a plus."
"Fight the system, bro," Cajun said, offering a fist-bump as Rufus held up a hand for a high-five. The two grumbled. "We need a signal or something," Cajun insisted.
"They have a meeting today, after school, in the gym for those who are interested. Can we…as a group…" Griffin encompassed the four of them with his hands, "At least go and check it out?"
"I'm hip," Rufus said.
"Ditto," Cajun replied.
"No," Osprey insisted.
"Osprey, I didn't want to have to do this," Griffin said, leaning over him. "If you do not promise to go, and you do not attend this meeting, I will eat a whole bottle of glue."
"Oh, God, Griffin, don't…not again," Osprey insisted.
"He'll do it," Rufus said. "I watched him do it the last time."
"And didn't stop him, thank you so very much," Osprey sneered. "Don't…all right. All right! I'll go…don't eat anymore glue, okay? It…your mom yells at me when you do. And she scares me."
"But she thinks so highly of you, Os," Griffin insisted. "The meeting is at five, so you have time to drop your stuff of in your rooms. Grab a pen and paper to take notes, this is gonna be…so awesome!" Before Osprey could ask anything else, Griffin was sprinting down the tables again, practically giggling with glee.
"Look at how happy he is. Can you besmirch that kid his happiness?" Rufus asked, leaning over next to Osprey.
"He can't," Cajun said, having finished half of Osprey's fries. "Osprey here is a saint at heart."
"Stop eating my lunch!" Osprey growled, snatching his plate back from Cajun.
Geoffrey Prosser removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He sat in the small common room between his and Osprey's cubbyholes, studying at the room's one table. He had been reading this algebra book for so long that he saw equations everywhere. He sniffed, replaced the glasses, and rubbed his short, wiry hair. The door opened, and Osprey barged in.
"Heya, Osprey," Geoffrey murmured, not looking up from his textbook.
"Geoffrey," Osprey grumbled, tossing his bag into his small, adjoining room. Geoffrey glanced up, his eyes owlish.
"Are we having a good day?" the boy asked.
"Grand. Grand day. Best day ever," Osprey grumbled. He stepped into their small kitchen took a soda from the small fridge. "I have to leave in a few minutes to go to a meeting. You need anything while I'm out?"
"A meeting? For what."
"Sensha-Do team the school wants to start."
"Sensha-Do? As in, the tank martial art stuff, right?" Geoffrey asked, removing his glasses.
"Yup," Osprey grumbled with a certain lack of enthusiasm. "How did you hear about it?"
"I read. Why are you going to the meeting?"
"Because I'm a masochist," Osprey snapped in irritation. He marched into his room and grabbed a small notebook and pen from his desk. "And, because Griffin threatened to eat a whole bottle of glue if I didn't."
"That sounds like Griffin," Geoffrey said through a wry grin.
"Yeah, well, now I get to go and look at this new little obsession of his. I swear, why do I do this to myself? Why do I let him push me into these things?"
"Because he's like a little brother to you and you're indulgent," Geoffrey suggested.
"We are the same age," Osprey insisted.
"Yeah, but you have much more maturity than him, and you're, like, a foot taller. He looks up to you…literally," Geoffrey insisted. "You're a foot taller."
"That doesn't mean I know anymore than he does," Osprey snapped. "I let him rope me into this stuff all the time. The badminton incident. You remember the badminton incident?"
"Everyone remembers that," Geoffrey sighed, waving his hand dismissively. "If it bothers you that much, why go through with this?"
"…Ah…" Osprey pointed at his roommate for a bit, worked his mouth, and grumbled. "Shut up."
"That's a great argument," the kid said. "Hey, hold up, I'll go with you."
"What!?" The taller boy recoiled, as if struck. That had come out of nowhere!
"This stuff sounds interesting, and I've studied enough tonight. Maybe I'd like to give it a look," Geoffrey insisted, pushing his book aside. He stood, grabbed his jacket, and pushed past Osprey into the hallway, leaving the other boy staring at the far wall.
"What is going on? Where did this sudden interest in tanks start?" Osprey griped.