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.”
“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?”
“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.