Monday, October 28, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 17

When I left Mr. Freeley he was still pontificating at length on some subject of apparent national importance but of no use to me.  He was on his fourth V-8 and feeling it.  I don’t think he even noticed me leaving and I wasn’t going to tell him. 

I waded through the muck back to the police station to collect my bags and my partners.  Briefly entertained the idea of not collecting either.  Decided I’d be nice. 

It bothered me that I still didn’t know why we had come to this country.  Other than experiencing the ambiance of the local drunk tank and the thrill of white water rafting sans raft, I hadn’t learned anything and felt no closer to my quarry than before.  If there were any clues to be found here, they were now buried under several feet of mud.  I dig for clues, but not with a shovel, so if there was something to be found here other than a one-way ticket to someplace else, I didn’t have the motivation to look. 

Jimmy & Simon were entertaining the cops by doing their mime routine, and the uniforms were red faced & rolling on the floor as they watched Simon try to help Jimmy escape from an invisible box.  I tolerate few things well and no things French, so this little pantomime came to an abrupt end as I pushed through the double doors.  I glared across the room as my two Cirque du Soleil rejects put their imaginary tails between their legs and grabbed our things.  I told the cops they were idiots and we walked out. 

“That was pretty rude, Dick,”  Simon told me. 

“Why?  They were idiots,”  I said. 

“No, not that.  I meant interrupting our show.” 

“Yeah dude,”  Jimmy said sullenly, “They were getting into it.  And we’re good at it too, you know?  I mean, just because you had a bad childhood experience with – ” 

“I said never to talk about that,”  I snapped.  “Never.” 

“Sorry man.  It just doesn’t seem fair to us is all.” 

I looked at them both, two grown men standing there moping.  Heads down, kicking aimlessly at the ground.  Jeez. 

“Hey guys,”  I said, “How about a Slurpee?” 

As expected, they both immediately brightened and were soon chatting amiably with wide eyed anticipation as we headed down the street to the 7-Eleven.  Jimmy and Simon each got a 34-ouncer, though they were different flavors. 

Like you care. 

I passed on the refreshment and picked up a newspaper instead, going stock still as I looked at the front page.  I couldn’t read it of course; foreign countries apparently never figure that they will have a visitor who doesn’t know their local language.  Not like in America where we pander to every race, culture, and ethnicity by providing more media for people too lazy to speak English than we do for those of us who took the damn time to learn it. 

But I didn’t have to speak the language in this case.  Much to everyone’s surprise – including my own – I had managed to stay conscious in high school geography long enough to recognize a map of the world when I saw one.  And my current experience with one certain international spy moose gave me enough insight to know what he looked like.  Throw in my skilled deductive powers and it wasn’t a great jump for me to figure out by looking at the picture on the front page that my mammalian villain (I like the way that sounds, don’t you?) had just struck in Columbia.  That’s Columbia South America, not South Carolina. 

Interesting that there’s a Columbia in South America, South Carolina, and North America, but not North Carolina.  Hmmmm.  A puzzle to ponder another day. 

Judging from the photos, mighty antlers and churning hooves had apparently laid waste to the entire agricultural industry of the country.  Not really a big deal where foodstuffs are concerned, but the hit to coffee & cocaine had already resulted in a ripple effect of lowering SAT scores by 73 points and causing unemployment in the states to rocket up three percent due to layoffs in the DEA coupled with the mothballing of half the ships in the Coast Guard. 

I whistled in appreciation of the mayhem caused by this one act and was suddenly slapped by some chick walking by who had apparently thought I had whistled at her.  If she had looked half decent I probably would have let her get away with it, but she didn’t so I slapped her back. 

Then, of course, her boyfriend got mad and decided to do the honorable “man”  thing and come to her defense so he punched me in the stomach.  I’ve hit people for a hell of a lot less than that, so I did my best David Copperfield impression and turned him into a meat blanket on the sidewalk. 

A few locals in the vicinity took offense at this and jumped in to try their luck.  Jimmy & Simon then noticed the commotion and came back to the 3rd dimension long enough to jump into the fray too, and before you could say “Sprechen zie deutsch”  there were people slapping and punching each other all over the place. 

I was having a good time but feared a possible return to the local jail if the cops showed up, so I nodded at the boys and we slipped out of the bedlam and got a cab to the airport. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 16

So the thing about Finnish jails is this:

You mean Dutch jails, Jimmy thoughtfully inserted. 

Hey, get out of my head, you freak. 

That guy.  Sometimes, I swear .  .  .  .  Anyway, the thing about DUTCH jails – there, are you happy? 

Yeah, dude.  Thanks for the moment. 

Don’t push it surfer boy.  So.  Dutch jails are very unlike jails you find in America.  Sure they have some things in common; steel bars, cots, criminals, etc.  But other than the obvious, the similarity stops there.  Foam pillows instead of feathers, a puny 19”  TV (can you believe it?  And black & white no less), only two HBO channels (no Showtime at all), and a remote control with only five buttons on it.  Like living in the stone ages.  Or the 70’s even.  To top it all off, they made us wear these ridiculous looking coveralls of the ugliest institutional green fabric and took away my gun.  Foreign prisons had definitely digressed since I saw Midnight Express.  I was all set to hit the law books in the library and work on my lawsuit until they told me they didn’t allow that here either.  Sheeesh. 

We did, however, get to make a phone call each, but since no one really knew where we were (including us), or what we were doing (also including us), we were skeptical of getting any sort of positive outcome. 

Simon called a pay phone that was located right next to the one he was calling from.  Having nothing better to do, I answered it and we talked for a while until the guards got wise and told us to knock it off.  At least that’s what I think they said. 

For my call, I dialed the hot little number from the airplane but got her machine.  I left a message saying that I was in Rio finishing up the purchase of a new hotel chain and told her not to be a stranger. 

Jimmy called his lawyer friend to get him started on a business license for his staple company.  He was on the phone for an hour and a half, and I was rightly impressed with his burgeoning business acumen, but found out later that the actual conversation was only three minutes long; his lawyer had then transferred Jimmy to the multiplex theatre in Daytona where he listened to movie information for the rest of the time. 

The remainder of our night there was fairly uneventful and quite boring except for the orange stuff that came with our dinner that none of us could guess what the hell it was.  We still don’t know. 

The hours passed slowly and a normal progression of moods occurred as the minutes ticked by.  First, the apprehension & fear of being incarcerated, slipping into boredom & impatience, and then, finally, into thoughtful personal reflection. 

As usual, around 6:30 in the morning, Simon became convinced once again of his black ancestry, and after wailing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”  a couple of times started calling me “G-Money”  and saying “word up”  a lot. 

As the sun came peeking over the horizon, Jimmy was still playing the air guitar in his sleep and I had come to the conclusion (after much deep thought) that Einstein was totally out to lunch on the Theory of Relativity because MC2 actually = E, not the other way around.  And I can prove it. 

We were stirred from our reverie by a visitor. 

“Yo, G”, Simon called to me, “check out the homey.”  I checked him out, but not because Shaft told me to. 

The guy was obviously a local from the wooden shoes he was wearing, but I sensed an intelligence about him that I hadn’t felt since entering this country. 

“Good morning gentlemen,”  he said. 

Thank God, somebody that speaks English. 

“Whazaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,”  replied Simon. 

Showing unexpected good taste and breeding, the mysterious stranger ignored Simon.  I looked for antlers, but found none. 

“Richard Lassiter?”  he asked, looking at me. 

Since I’m a figuring kind of guy, I figured this was more of a pleasantry than a real question, so I told him I was indeed said Dick.  He produced something from his pocket (thereby marking him as a producer, though whether an executive or an associate I couldn’t tell) that I was very glad to see – a key – and unlocked the door. 

“You’re free to go,”  he said.  “Your friends too.” 

With that he turned and started to walk away, but I wasn’t going to let him go that easily. 

“Hey, wait a minute,”  I called out, following him out of the cell area.  “I need some answers.” 

He stopped.  Turned.  Looked at me.  Damned near triggered a ‘Nam flashback, which would have been especially weird since I had never been there, or anywhere else in Africa for that matter. 

“Yes, I suppose you do.” 

We fell in step and walked out to the main counter.  The cop behind the desk was stacking our personal belongings so that we could inventory everything and sign that nothing had been taken.  This was always a good time to make a stink about something being stolen so you could get free stuff on the taxpayer’s dime. 

Or so I’ve been told. 

This one guy I know had scammed a cellphone, a subscription to Sports Illustrated, a new bike helmet, two puppies, a complete bedroom suite, and a gold ingot simply by throwing a snit at the police checkout counter.  I could certainly have used a new watch but I didn’t want to lose sight of the one guy in this entire country who had the courtesy to speak English. 

The same guy who was currently headed out the front door. 

I left Simon at the counter trying to explain why his duffel was filled with lacy purple bras & panties.  As I bounded out the door, I yelled at him to remember to go back and wake up Jimmy.  Kind of guy I am.  Don’t be impressed. 

I caught up to my guy on the sidewalk, took him by the arm, and led him out to the parking lot.  I did this partly so we could have some privacy and partly so I could punch his teeth down his throat if he gave me a hard time.  You didn’t want to do that kind of thing in front of the police station, but next to the police station was usually okay. 

“So, what can I do for you?”  my unknown Samaritan asked. 

“Let’s start with your name and play it from there,”  I replied. 

“Very well.  I’m Freeley,”  he said.  “I.P. Freeley.” 

“Get out.” 

“You’ve heard of me?’

“Duh.  Like for years.  You’re the guy who wrote The Yellow River when I was in the third grade, right?” 

“The same.” 

“Small world.” 

“Yes, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” 

“Hmmm.  I guess not.  You’re a deep thinker I.P.” 

“I try to be.” 

“What do you know about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?” 

“Enough to know that he had it backwards.” 

I gave him a knowing half smile and nodded.  This was a guy I could definitely relate too.  Or barring that, tolerate for a few minutes. 

“How about we get a drink?”  I offered.  “No fag stuff, just a cup of coffee.” 

“That would be good,”  he said. 

We found a nearby sports bar and knocked back a couple of high protein energy bars & a pitcher of Jolt Cola. 

“So tell me,”  I said, “What the hell was all of this about?  One minute we’re sitting in a bar having a couple of drinks and minding our own business, and the next minute we’re doing hamster impressions.  And not a single explanation as to why.  Well, none that we could understand anyway.  What gives?” 

Old I.P. then talked at length, outlining the events leading up to our arrest and subsequent release.  I faded in and out, only listening to about half of it – hey, I was up all night – but catching the pertinent portions.  Nice guy, but he was boring me to tears. 

The gist of it was this: they blamed us for effectively destroying the entire country by dis-enabling their flood control mechanism.  First, I thought this to be a great overreaction.  Okay, sure, we were knee deep in mud & debris, the roads & bridges had washed away, and 80% of the population was now homeless, but the country was still there.  I mean, the borders might not be visible anymore, but I’m sure they hadn’t shifted or anything. 

And, P.S., I think that if the entire infrastructure of a country can be completely wiped out because some kid gets whacked in the nuts with a surfboard, it probably wasn’t in the best of shape to begin with and excuse us if accidents happen. 

We also underpaid our bar tab a wee bit, but I considered that to be entirely their fault. 

The interesting thing – and I started to completely ignore I.P. once he mentioned it, even though he seemed pleased enough with his own conversation not to notice – was how & why we were released.  Someone had paid our bail.  Someone large and fuzzy with a strange hat. 

Things were getting curioser and curioser. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 15

Though it pains me to admit it, I was baffled by the events that had taken place so far, which was in itself puzzling.  Compounding this was the ever growing despair that all of these things would make just as much sense – that is to say, none – when this whole mission was over, cleverly and maliciously avoiding the neat tie-in that would explain everything. 
Kind of like the movie Eye of the Beholder, where you watch it the whole time thinking that it’s stupid and makes absolutely no sense but you stay with it till the end because you know that it has to be a good movie since Blockbuster had a whole section reserved for it and you’re confident that if you just see it through something will happen to make it all come together and make sense and you’ll say “Ahhhhhh!  I get it!”  but then it just ends and you wind up staring at the TV as the entire credits roll by thinking “What the hell was all that about?”  and simultaneously being pissed that you just wasted $3.00 plus two hours of your non-refundable life and yet greatly relieved that you didn’t blow $7.50 and the same amount of your life (plus gas for the car) and risk having someone you know see you coming out of a public theatre where the same credits happened to be rolling.  And I’m in Europe so that is the correct spelling for “theater”  over here so pack sand. 

“Hay,”  slurred Jimmy. 

“Thas ‘Hey’, not ‘Hay’ you shtupid .  .  .  ,”  Simon corrected, kind of. 

They were both seriously drunk.  Jimmy was as polluted as the Hudson river and Simon looked like a manatee that had recently been hit by a speeding Boston Whaler. 

“I was thinking,”  Jimmy continued, “how many boxes of staples have you thrown away?” 

“What?”  I replied. 

“Staples.  Boxes of staples.  Don’t you think people wind up wasting them?” 

“Jimmy, what are you talking about?” 

“I’m talking about staples, dude.  You know, staple, staple, staple.  Where you click paper together.” 

“I know what staples are, I just have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

“It’s so simple,”  he said.  “What I mean is that staples come in boxes of like, what?  Five thousand, right?” 

“Yes,”  I replied cautiously. 

“Well, does anybody ever use all of the staples in a box?  Heeelll no.  You wind up loading your stapler one time and then you put the box in a drawer somewhere and you forget where it is.  So then when you need some more staples you can’t remember where you put them so you buy a whole new box – another five thousand – and go through the same thing all over again.  And then before you know it, you’ve got, like, boxes and boxes of staples that you can never use in your whole life and nobody else can use them either ‘cause they’ve all got boxes and boxes of staples too.  So you wind up throwing them all away.  I mean, what else are you gonna do with them, right?” 

“Maybe build a steel Barbie fort?”  Simon offered. 

“I mean, if you keep them,”  Jimmy continued, “they’ll just all wind up in the same drawer again since you won’t need them right now and then when you do need them you’ll have forgotten where they all were and buy another box.  I’m telling you guys, it’s a vicious cycle man.” 

“Jimmy,”  I said, “you’re starting to frighten me.  What the hell are you talking about?” 

“Well, here’s the deal.  I’m thinking about this problem and how to fix it, right?  And the only thing that I can think to do is to fix it myself.  So I’m gonna start my own staple business.” 

“I thought you just said that the world is already overpopulated with staples as it is.” 

“No, no.  I said there are too many staples.  But that’s because they make you buy them in boxes with thousands of staples in them, and nobody needs that many.  That’s how they get you.” 


So, with my business, you’d only buy the amount of staples that you need.” 

I felt like a kid in a grocery store who spent too long looking at the back of the Cap’n Crunch box and then suddenly looks around to find that his parents are nowhere in sight. 

“They buy what they need,”  I echoed. 

“Yeah, man!  Isn’t that an awesome idea?  Like, say you’re this dude and you need, maybe, I don’t know, eight staples.  Instead of buying a box of 5000 and throwing almost all of them away, ‘cause you only need eight, right?” 

“We got that part.” 

“Well, with my business, you could just place an order with me and I’d sell you – guess how many?” 

“Uh, well, I’m going to think outside the box on this one and say, I don’t know, maybe, eight?” 

“Yeah!  Exactly!  Staples to order.  You need eight staples, you buy eight staples.  You need  twelve staples, you buy twelve.  You need – ”

“We get it Jimmy.” 

“Yeah?  Well, what do you think?” 

“I think it bears more research into the marketplace,”  I said.  “Focus groups, risk analysis – ”

“I think it’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,”  said Simon. 

“Oh yeah?”  Jimmy said.  “Well, what do you know?” 

“What do I know?  I’ll tell you what.  Why don’t you make a list of what you know, and I’ll make a list of what I know, and then well compare the length of my list with the length of your list and – ” 

“Alright, alright, shut up the both of you,”  I said.  “Let’s square up the tab and find a place to stay.” 

I called for the waiter and he placed the check on our table.  We all looked at it but no one had a clue what it said.  Taking into account that we probably only had 12 or 15 rounds, and the fact that the U.S.  dollar was probably worth at least 20 times whatever they used for money here, we figured a cool five-spot would cover it and also provide a healthy tip. 

We walked outside and surveyed the street from the sidewalk. 

“So what do you figure a hotel would look like in this town?”  Simon asked. 

But before we had time to really look around, we heard a soft rumble in the distance which quickly turned into a loud roar in the near vicinity, and suddenly a massive wall of water came rushing down the street, sweeping away everything – including us – in its path. 

“Surf’s up!”  Jimmy yelled and he caught the front of the wave from a standing start on the curb and immediately started shredding the lip.  Simon and I cleverly clutched our bags in terror and just tried to stay afloat.  We moved down the street quickly, bumping into cars, signs, and debris, coughing & sputtering in the salty water. 

“Hey, there’s a hotel,”  Simon pointed out as we drifted past a Holiday Inn. 

Mile after mile we rode the torrent until we finally got dumped, bruised and dripping, onto a hillside in the outskirts of the city.  Jimmy, of course, wasn’t bruised or, for that matter, even wet.  As Simon and I were recovering from our shock and dragging ourselves to higher ground, he zipped up to the embankment, turned a final 360, and stepped gracefully onto dry ground. 

“Cool!”  he shouted, obviously pleased by the impromptu inland surf and the lack of locals to fight off. 

“What a weird country,”  I said, still coughing water from my lungs and dripping like a ....a....  a...  uh, I don’t know, a wet guy I guess. 

At that moment a boat came through the water and sped over to us.  Apparently a police boat if we were to pay any attention to the high pitched warble of the siren, the flashing red & blue lights, the big POLICIA sign, and the half dozen or so uniformed men on board all pointing guns at us.  A small boy – strangely familiar – stood on the bow pointing at us (he didn’t have a gun) and yelling a lot of gibberish that we couldn’t understand (big surprise). 

We were soon transported to the boat with much aggression and a general lack of hospitality.  Jimmy told them to quit it, but they didn’t.  We were unceremoniously plopped down on a bench along the aft end of the boat (yup, just like aft on airplanes) with plastic zip ties securing our hands behind our backs. 

The kid was still bouncing around excitedly and waving his finger in Jimmy’s face and the cops were jabbering away at us too; probably reading us the Netherlands’s equivalent of the Miranda warning and explaining what we had apparently done wrong.  But of course we couldn’t understand a fucking thing they were saying, so we just smiled, relaxed, and enjoyed the ride back into town. 

We spent the night in jail. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 14

“You mean he was on the plane the whole time?”, Simon asked. 

We were sitting inside a café in downtown Amsterdam.  As it turned out, our flight had been to Paris, but was forced to land early due to an abnormally high rate of fuel consumption.  That can happen when the plane has six thumb sized holes in the fuel tank.  Our beers glistened with condensation in the afternoon light, though the Dutchies called them ‘lagers’ for whatever the hell reason.  No Schlitz, Black Label, or any other decent beer available, we had been forced to drink the local stuff.  At least it was cold. 

All around us was a bunch of Dutch looking shit.  Windmills, wooden shoes, and the like.  Dutch stuff on the walls, Dutch stuff on the floor.  Bunch of Dutch looking buildings outside.  Lots of Dutch looking people walking around saying “Uten, gleebin, globin, globin”  and such.  Couldn’t understand a fucking word they were saying. 

“Might’ve been”, I replied.  “Never got a good look.” 

“Come on, Dick”, Simon said, “First you see hoof prints on the ceiling, then a shady looking figure with antlers running away from you after an outright attack.  Zodar had obviously changed into human form.  Then he ambushes you again in the rear galley – probably disguised as a monkey – and then disappears completely.  It just makes sense.” 

Actually, I agreed with Simon this time.  Well, everything except the “it just makes sense”  part.  But there was no reason to let him know that, regardless of how plausible it sounded. 

“Could have just been a guy in a moose hat.  They’re popular these days, you know,”  I said. 

Simon scoffed at the idea.  “Moose hat,”  he said.  “Hmmmph.” 

I reached for my beer and saw that while Simon & I had been talking, Jimmy had been busy knocking back our drinks. 

“Hey, Dutch person!”  I yelled.  “Need another round of lagers over here.” 

I receded into my own thoughts for a moment.  Why would we have been on a plane that also happened to have the spy moose on it?  Coincidence?  Why had we been headed to Paris and what were we now doing in Amsterdam?  Why did I feel like the author had never been to Amsterdam?  And of course, what had happened to Chapter 10? 

Oh, and also, if the spy moose had been on the plane, how did he disappear into thin air when we landed?  And finally (I think), how could you possible know the answer to that last question when you have no idea what happened when we landed? 

Yep.  That was it. 

“Why don’t you tell them?”  asked Jimmy, who had a bad habit of sometimes listening to other people’s thoughts. 

Okay, as long as you realize that I’m not doing it because Jimmy told me to, I’ll fill you in on what went down at the airport since it does pertain to the story in a warm fuzzy sort of way. 

The plane landed on time & without incident, except for being at the wrong airport and almost completely out of fuel.  Jimmy, Simon, and I (notice the proper grammatical sequence of names) quickly got off the plane and setup a perimeter around it to make sure any spy mooses who happened to be on it (if any) would not be able to sneak by us.  We checked everything coming off of the plane; garbage, luggage, pets – everything.  Then we went back on the plane & went over it with a fine toothed comb from top to bottom (except for the last 15 rows in coach which were a little too scary even for us to search).  If there had been a moose on board, he had vanished into thin air. 

Puzzled and depressed at having what may have been a golden opportunity slip through our fingers, we re-entered the airport and made our way down the concourse to baggage claim, making the assumption that since we had no idea how we had gotten on the flight in the first place, perhaps some luggage belonging to us had suffered a similar fate. 

As we passed by the haggling fish merchants and their patrons, Jimmy posed a ridiculous question. 

“Hey dudes, what if the moose dude just got off the plane, like, with all the other passengers?  You know, ‘cause we weren’t watching them.” 

Ah, naiveté.  I was actually going to let Simon answer that one, but, techno-geek that he was, he had spied someone with a Palm Pilot iX and immediately cut over to discuss the finer features of the device and the future of something he referred to as “wireless technology”.  Whatever.  If he didn’t know that wireless technology went out in the early 1900’s, I wasn’t going to tell him. 

“Jimmy,”  I explained, “we’re dealing with a highly intelligent covert operator.  Disembarking the plane with the rest of the passengers, while appearing on the surface to be a sensible thing to do, is not the kind of thing these animals do.  It’s way too obvious.  No, mammals such as these avoid brightly lit public places.  Too easy to be spotted and have their cover blown.” 

“Oh, I guess you’re right,”  he said, stepping into a large pile of fresh steaming feces, “I just thought maybe he could have just disappeared into the crowd.” 

For a moment I felt a tingle in my neck as I considered what Jimmy had said.  It sounded as though he had put together a coherent thought that actually had a plausible ring to it.  But as quickly as it had arrived, it left as I remembered who I was speaking to.  Jimmy was, after all, a guy who had buried his flip-flops in his backyard when the strap on one of them broke and then mourned them for weeks afterward by refusing to wear anything but his black Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers “Damn the Torpedoes  tour shirt. 

The waffling aroma of raw cod tickled my nostrils & prompted me to look over to a vendor a few feet away offering a ridiculously low price on the fabled undersea creatures.  I could resist temptation no more. 

“Hey Jimmy,”  I said, “clean the moose-poop off of your shoes and hang tight while I get us some lunch.” 

I sauntered over to the stand, which looked as if it had just been erected; somewhat hastily and in the last few minutes in fact.  The proprietor had on one of those silly hats with the antlers.  Told you they were popular, even if it wasn’t until later in the day when we were drinking beer at that café.  I selected a few of the 20-ouncers and paid the man. 

“Nice hat,”  I said, walking away.  He just stared at me with his large brown eyes and oversized snout. 

Jimmy and I continued down the concourse, eating on the go since we felt it was in the best interests of a crucial mission to look as if you had no time to lose. 

Just as we reached the baggage carousel, Simon showed back up with a woman on his arm.  I won’t say she was a dog - because I did that once and caught no end of shit from every feminist group east of Texas - but when she saw the extra fish we had bought for Simon, she raised up on her hind legs and begged. 

“Hi guys, this is Susan.  I love her.  We’re going to get married.”  Simon proclaimed. 

“Simon, you’re already married,”  I replied. 

“Not in this country.” 

I handed him the fish.  “We don’t have time for this Simon.  Lose the Schnauzer; we’ve got work to do.” 

“Okay,”  he said.  Then, looking at Susan, “Hit the bricks Fido.”  He threw the fish across the concourse and Susan bounded after it. 

We never saw her again. 

As it turned out, Simon and I did have luggage on the carousel waiting for us.  It was easy to tell the bags belonged to us since each had our names stenciled on them in 6”  block white letters.  Jimmy actually had no bag, but there was a surfboard with a pair of socks taped to it which we assumed was his.  We picked up our stuff along with a couple of other suitcases that did not belong to us but probably could have. 

Outside we hailed a taxi, which is unremarkable in itself except for a strange thing that happened as we were getting in: Some kid was standing on the sidewalk with his finger stuck in this big stone wall.  Just standing there like a dork.  As Jimmy was putting his surfboard in the cab, he happened to hit the little vagrant right in the crotch, causing him to fall to the ground doubled over in pain (the kid that is; Jimmy wasn’t hurt at all). 

So, as this kid is laying there, water starts shooting out of the wall from this hole that he had obviously made with his finger.  I know this wasn’t my homeland, but I’ll tell you, I hate vandalism anywhere, in any form, so I started reading this little delinquent the riot act right on the spot. 

As I’m yelling at him, Jimmy noticed a ding on the end of his board that had hit the boy (although we now suspected nothing so innocent and wondered if in fact the boy had not thrown his balls at the surfboard in an attempt to damage it as well as the wall).  Jimmy doesn’t like people messing with his stick, so he started kicking the kid for a while until he realized that he was wearing flip-flops and it was hurting his feet. 

During all this, the little punk just keeps yelling about some dyke, over and over and over, but we didn’t see any lesbians around anywhere so we weren’t buying any of his excuses. 

Figuring that we had taught the youngster a valuable lesson, we bundled into the cab, motioned the driver to move along, and soon felt right at home as we discovered that cabbies here didn’t speak English either.  As we cruised down the streets, we gawked at the town, had a quick fart noise contest (Simon won; he’s good), and generally enjoyed the ride.  We eventually went down a street where a couple of drunks were puking at the curb; a sure sign of a pub. 

And that’s how we wound up here. 

Next Week:  Chapter 15