Read Part 4 here
I had minutes to spare before the curfew getting back to my room this time. Yet again the lights were on and the door ajar as I approached. “So ok, let’s see what’s on the other side of this Let’s-Make-a-Deal curtain.” I pushed the door open and… termites!
Thousands of them in a huge cloud swarming everywhere but mostly near the ceiling light. I left the door wide open, turned out the light, and dashed through the cloud into the bathroom slamming the door behind me. I hoped that with the light gone they would migrate to the brighter outside.
I remained for about 15 minutes spitting out and brushing termites from my clothes. While confined to the loo, I took the opportunity to reel in my Chapstick concealment device and update my report. Done, I tossed out the stick and cut the light out. I cracked open the bathroom door and looked and listened. I peered into the main room. It looked devoid of termites, but there was a figure sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Can I help you?”
“You wanna date?”
“Aw Jesus… you again; no, I don’t want a date. Out, out! And for future reference, I’m not going to want a date tomorrow or the next day either!”
“What about after that?”
“OUT, OUT, OUT!!”
I stepped close behind her as if to hasten her departure. I encountered them immediately outside, the suits that is.
“We see you’ve made a new friend, Mr. Hand.”
“Yeah me and her, we only have eyes for each other. Come on inside please, so you don’t spook the neighbors.”
The usual aggressive search and line of questions ensued.
“It seems you were absent from certain scheduled meetings today, Mr. Hand; why didn’t you initiate your emergency lost contact plan once you became lost?”
“Emergency? Lost?? I had everyone right where I wanted them today. No emergency here.”
Less amused than usual, the suits issued me instructions that would put me back in-pattern the following day. I memorized them behind the locked door of the bathroom and flushed the paper. As I grabbed the doorknob I paused highly annoyed and thought: “If that Goddamned hooker is back sitting on my bed I swear I’ll shoot her in the face with a B-52.”
That thought alone made me chuckle and knocked the edge off my irritation. Satisfied with my whore-less room, I brushed the last of the dead winged termites from the bedspread, and I in my night-cap just settled down for a long Winter’s nap.
The next morning I walked from the public library rubbing my palms together symbolically in the name of Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave; no one was saved. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.” I mused as I glanced about the street.
My first task that morning had been to translate the Preamble to the US Constitution into Russian. I had failed miserably. Now I understood why I was asked months ago to list all the foreign languages I was proficient in, to make sure they tasked me with one I didn’t know, so as to make me toil instead of breeze. These days we just Google it:
“Мы, люди Соединенных Штатов, чтобы сформировать идеальный Союз, создать справедливость, обеспечить внутреннее спокойствие, обеспечить общую оборону, содействовать всеобщему благосостоянию и обеспечить благословения свободы для себя и нашей постыды, посвятить и установить Этой Конституции для Соединенных Штатов Америки.”
I first had to look up the preamble, as I only knew the first line. Then I word-picked through a dictionary to craft it. That was in the days before I had studied the Slavic language of the Balkans, and as I said, no one was saved.
Now I waited impatiently at the location of my next scheduled meeting. I had a rolled up newspaper in my left hand as a recognition signal to my contact. He was supposed to be in a vehicle with just the passenger visor down as his recognition signal. A vehicle punctually arrived at my location, visor down, and the passenger window came down:
“What did the kinfolk say?” queried the driver.
“The kin folk, what did the kin folks say?”
“Oh… Jed, move away from there.”
“What else did they say?”
“They said Californi is the place you oughta be.”
As I got in, the driver lifted a bouquet of flowers from the passenger’s seat until I was seated, then lay them in my lap.
“Those are for you…” the driver started.
I smile sweetly at him and batted my eyes, causing him to awkwardly continue: “…to give to Ms. Easton… the flowers… for Ms. Easton!”
Ah, Ms. Easton. I won’t even ask him who Ms. Easton is because that would show weakness. I remained silent as we drove the relatively short distance toward the water and finally stopped at a wharf where an impressive boat was moored.
“You’ll find Ms. Easton on the boat. Don’t forget to give her the flowers.”
I took the bouquet and stepped onto the boat. “Ahoy, Ms. Easton… permission to come aboard!” I sang out. From the cabin stepped a stunning woman of approximately 30 years old with long dark hair. She was wearing an oversized men’s button down collared shirt with nothing else detectable below. She was barefoot and toting what I divined to be a Mimosa.
“So nice to see you!” she smiled and rushed over with her arms outstretched. “Oh God, we’re going to hug,” I cringed. Nothing personal, just don’t like to hug. In fact, the name George comes from old Norse meaning: ‘does not embrace well with others’. Having endured the hug I stood for a pregnant pause.
“Are those for me?” Ms. Easton questioned?
“Oh shit, I’m sorry. Yes, of course, they are for you,” and I presented them to her.
“Come on inside; you’re just in time for lunch,” She invited.
I was down with some food because I just had not been eating much at all. Judging from Ms. Easton’s looks, I figured I would be having macaroni and cheese from a box, but I was more than ok with that as I stepped into the cabin.
“Would you like Grouper or Chicken Kiev?” She surprised me, as she poured two glasses of champagne and handed me one. The muffled roar of the boat’s engine and sensation of motion meant that the ship’s Captain, who I never saw, was taking us out to open water.
“I would die for some Chicken Kiev please.” And she busied herself with heating the dishes in the oven as we sipped our drinks and made pointless conversation. I hoped lunch would be ready soon, as the rocking of the boat, and the absence of a horizon to fixate on was making me slightly nauseous, and I really wanted to eat.
As lunch was served I tore into my chicken, sparing Ms. Easton any pretense of manners. After only a few bites of her own lunch, she randomly invited me to the back berth.
“No reflection on your charm and personality, Ma’am, but I’m really hungry,” I half pleaded.
“Well, I really need you to come back to the berth and see something,” she insisted tugging at my arm coyly. I kicked a tiny imaginary pebble with the toe of my shoe and slothed my way back to the boudoir with her, cheeks jammed like a chipmunk with Chicken Kiev. It was small and cramped and filled mostly with a large bed. That was the only place to sit.
Where I stood she handed me a booklet and told me to work the six puzzles in it. I saw that they were the type of puzzle that provided two versions of the same cartoon, and you had to point out five subtle differences from one to the next.
As I worked through the puzzles Ms. Easton sat close next to me, leaning heavily on me she put her arm over my shoulder and lay her head against mine. She caressed one ear and blew in the other, adding various other flirty yet platonic gestures.
Beads of sweat began to pop out on my forehead and upper lip. Ms. Easton may have entertained herself with the notion that she was ‘getting’ to me, but the fact was that concentrating on the puzzles was enhancing my nausea, and I feared I might vomit.
There had been a series of thumps and clatters from the dining room on the other side of the door, and a steady ‘bump…bump…bump’ noise had developed. I thought little of it. I finally finished all the puzzles at which point Ms. Easton handed me an eight by ten color photo and told me to study it.
Such an uneventful photo it was. I saw a crowd of people in an open lot of sorts. What should I note about the photo? Ok, I see men, women, and children. The day is overcast, and most are wearing light windbreakers. Many are wearing sunglasses so it must be partly cloudy and cool. Women’s hair is waving out away from them; it must be slightly windy, say, five to seven knots.
What’s in the background? I see power/telephone lines at about 75 meters from the crowd. What’s above the crowd? Only the power lines at about 60 feet, because that is the height of a telephone pole. What is under the crowd? It is concrete or asphalt, as if in a parking lot.
I heard the engine throttle back and the motion of the boat slowed. Ms. Easton took all of the materials from me and we stepped out of the bedroom. I saw in front of me that the champagne bottle, glasses, and both meals had slid off the table onto the floor. The carpet was soaked with champagne and the ‘bump…bump…bump’ had been the bottle rolling from side to side slamming into the starboard and port bulkheads.
I looked at the visibly embarrassed Easton with a grin and wink. We walked out to the deck where the first mate was tying us off to the dock. Oh no, and heeerrreee comes a goodbye hug from Ms. Easton. This too I shall endure:
“Be safe out there, you!” Ms. Easton stumbled with the failure to remember my name, because, I got that kinda effect on women… or at least so I fancy.
“Stay lucky, you nut!” I bid in return, stealing my favorite line from Big Joe of Kelly’s Heros.
Life would have to somehow go on without Ms. Easton. I would have to be the one to prove that, and I was more than willing to give it a go. If you’re reading this, Ms. Easton here’s to you, hon; you’re a class act!
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