When most think of a spy, the famous and infamous James Bond, 007, Licensed to Kill, comes to mind. Or perhaps a Jason Bourne, who is Robert Ludlum's take on spies in the 1970s. Look at his name, and it says it all. Jason Bourne is born into a state of amnesia where there are no allies, only enemies and temporary alliances. Both series of books, though dated within their own eras, where Bond's rather racist and chauvinistic, and Bourne is filled with the distrust of systems, especially governmental ones at that, are more than just spy thrillers. All the while, they struggle with who they are, and why they are so good at lying and killing their way to get anything the mission, whatever it is, needs done, done. Bond is shit at everything else in life, except being a spy, and Bourne knows nothing else because he can't remember it. Both are trapped human animals struggling to survive with the tools they were born with exploiting.
So, what's a real spy?
The story goes...
.....A Thanksgiving visit to Phoenix to visit my grandparents was where I overheard this tale. According to my grandfather, who was the one telling the story, his older brother, Celestine (whom was the only brother he mentioned, and he had six older brothers and one older sister - he was the youngest), had been stationed in El Paso, Texas, when he had gotten orders to transfer to a language school in San Francisco. After almost a year there, in 1942, Celestine was sent to Germany, and didn't come home until after the war. He never spoke about what had happened to him in Europe for three years, but shortly after he was home, in El Paso, he was sent back to San Fran again, and supposedly off to Korea and didn't come home again until after the armistice of 1953. Again, he never spoke about what had happened. Finally, he was sent to East Germany for a number of years, but when Celestine came home, he came home with a Russian wife. How he managed that in a era of where anything Russian or Communist was seen as the enemy because of the Cold War, no one had a clue. The last time my grandfather had seen his brother was in 1981, when Celestine would make his yearly trek from El Paso, to Phoenix, then onto Los Angeles, and back again.
These are some outstanding claims. Were they real?
After Celestine passed away, his eldest son had made that final trek from El Paso, but after stopping in Phoenix to see his aunt and uncle, my grandparents, he had shown them a small chest that had three passports, a stack of unsent letters, and three thick notebooks. The passports were his picture, but one was honestly his, another was as West German national, and the third was as an East German national. The unsent letters were accounts of his adventures that he was supposedly unable to send, and the three notebooks were an extensive family tree tracing the Braun familial line for several centuries, and something that was an interest of his all along.
Celestine's son was unsure of what to do with all of it, but he had said that once he'd reach his home in Portland, Oregon, he'd let my grandparents know his decision. And that was that, but once home, his son was unable to find the small chest. He'd called every place he stayed at or stopped along the way, but somewhere between Phoenix and Portland, the chest with a familial secret became a familial conspiracy, and legend, for the small chest of my grand-uncle's mysterious past vanished.
And that's all there is. So I keep my imaginary grand-uncle as the real James Bond or Jason Bourne. At least the surname matches the theme. Celestine Braun, real American Spy?