(Continued from Chapter 2.)
Don and Dan go to Spain
August 3, 2017
“When Christopher Columbus made his epochal voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, vastly expanding the reach of Western civilization, he kept a diary of his voyage, like so many other great explorers have. And now that we, Dan, are retracing the same voyage, I think it is incumbent upon us to emulate that great man.”
“My teacher said Columbus was a genocidal maniac.”
“Oh, Chopin,” Bigote said. “How many times must I tell you? Everything you learned in school was a lie, meant to bolster the great conspiracy.”
So here I am, sitting on a boat a few dozen miles off the coast of Florida, writing this ship’s diary thingy. The boat we’re on is a cargo frigate. Since flying to Spain didn’t pan out, Bigote decided to hitch a ride in a transport ship.
“Why didn’t I think of it before?” he said. “How could I be so dull? Of course the conspiracy would impede us from flying! And though flight is one of our great Western inventions, the sea is far more integral to our history. Thus, as the preserver of our great European heritage and culture, it behooves me to experience this primordial experience firsthand.”
And so on. There’s definitely a downside to this plan, though. Going by boat meant we didn’t have to leave behind Bigote’s shitty old pickup truck, but could take it with us on the ship. It is sitting in a container on deck. That piece of crap will follow us to the ends of the earth.
So what should I report? The sea is… blue. There are waves. The wind blows a little. My room is small and uncomfortable. The sailors live down the hall. They aren’t exactly the typical image of hard-boiled sailors. Some of them are pudgy and bald. Others are nearly as skinny as Bigote. There are even a few women sailors—though not pretty ones.
Bigote is in the cabin next to mine. But he’s spent almost the whole time so far on deck, looking out into the ocean, and saying profound things like “The infinite vast expanse of primordial deep” or “The mother element from which we sprang” and similar things. He also told me to “keep an eye for the varieties of marine life as manifested in this voyage, for they have inspired both great works of literature and profound works of scientific analysis.”
Well, I’ve seen some seagulls and pelicans. That’s all for now.
Yeah, so I haven’t been writing in this the last couple days, since nothing is happening. I am bored out of my fucking mind on this boat. In the movies it’s so romantic and adventurous, but in reality it’s just water—on and on and on, and then some more water. With some clouds thrown in. The boat is so big that it doesn’t even feel like you’re at sea. Sometimes I even forget I’m on a boat, until I reach the end of it and realize that, yes, I’m trapped here.
It just sucks. There are no girls—none worth speaking of, anyways. I thought that the sailors would know how to throw a party, but when I sat down at their table after dinner they were all just quietly playing cards. There were hardly even drinking. So I just grabbed some beers and went off to my room, hoping to at least get a mild buzz before bed. But about three beers in I realized that it was all non-alcoholic. What kind of a boat is this?
Yesterday I was so bored that I tried to see how many times I could jack off in one day. The answer is four and a half. And even that got boring after a little while. I’m so bored I even considered having a conversation with Bigote. I bet he has a little bourbon snuck away in his bags. But that old streetlamp has been holed up in his room the last few days. Whenever I peek in he’s pouring over maps or lost in a book, with papers sprawled all over the floor.
“I am planning our routes of travel and exploration once we get to the continent,” he told me. “For we must employ our time industriously. There are many things we must research in the brief interval between our arrival and the impending catastrophe. Education, technology, philosophy, science—the scope of our precious Western culture, so perilously threatened, is vast and deep!”
I shut the door and went back to my room.
Anyways today finally something happened. The captain invited us to his private cabin for dinner. He’s sort of a swarthy fellow with a well-trimmed white beard. He wears this stupid-looking blue cap and a white suit. Very spiffy.
“So what brings you two to Europe, in any case?” he asked, as he was cutting his lamb chop.
“I’m afraid our task, such as it is, is shrouded in secrecy,” Bigote said, gravely.
“Secrecy, eh?” the captain said. “You guys working for the CIA or something?”
“The CIA? Absurd!” Bigote spouted. “They are the last people I would be working for!”
The captain scrunched up his eyes a bit.
“So, are you like a terrorist or something?” he said, grinning slightly.
“If ‘terrorist’ is a name for somebody violently opposed to the current order of things, then, yes, I am a terrorist.”
The captain sat up straighter and eyed Bigote narrowly. Then, deciding that such a silly-looking person could hardly be any danger, slapped him on the back.
“Or something like that, in any case,” he said.
“Oh,” Bigote said, evidently pleased. “I forgot, I brought a gift for the table.” And like some kind of magician he pulled a bottle of wine out of his sleeve.
“It’s an excellent vintage, I assure you,” Bigote said, laying it on the table.
“Oh no, oh no, I’m afraid I don’t drink,” the captain said. “But thanks for the thought. You two are welcome, of course.”
Bigote seemed surprised. He leaned back in his chair and stared hard at the captain, who was engaged with a potato. Meanwhile I grabbed the bottle, yanked it open, and poured myself a big glassful.
“This is really good!” I said.
“It is, indeed,” Bigote said, gravely. “Is the captain certain he wouldn’t like some?”
“Oh yeah, I don’t drink wine or something, in any case,” the captain said.
“How strange…” Bigote murmured to himself.
I could tell that Bigote would muck things up if I allowed him to go on, so I decided to cut in.
“So, cap, what you got on this ship?”
“Oh, it changes every trip, in any case. But usually we have at least a few shipments of cars, some electronics like smart phones and computers, something like that, and some other consumer products like shampoos and soaps and makeup, something along those lines, and also we have been taking across lots of beer and spirits, lately, in any case.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, lighting up.
“Yes, we got about 15,000 containers or something on the main deck.”
“And who takes care of all that stuff?”
“You mean, like guard or or something like that?” the captain said. “Well, nobody really. It’s not like there’s anywhere to go, in any case.”
He laughed to himself while Bigote continued in his weird, gloomy silence. I don’t know what Bigote is up to, but I had an idea. It is 11:15 pm at the moment, and when I’m finished writing this I am going to get my hands on some of that beer the ship is carrying over.
What a fucking night. I have a hangover so bad it could kill a purebred stallion. It’s past noon and I just woke up. So here’s what happened.
The captain was right. Nobody guards or watches the containers on deck. It’s totally empty out there. The containers are just sitting in giant stacks, with narrow passageways between them. It’s like walking through a labyrinth with giant walls. Pretty claustrophobic. Obviously I could only reach the containers on deck level. They were closed, of course, but opening them wasn’t tricky. There’s a big bolt you need to pull out and the door swings open. I tried to do it as quietly as possible but the old rusty things makes a clanky, creaky sound no matter what you do.
As soon as I figured I was safely far away, I opened one at random. It had a few cars in it—boring ones, hybrid sedans. The next one had piles of laptops. My laptop is kinda old so I made a note of this one. I went on like this, opening and closing the containers, until I began to give up hope of ever finding what I sought. Finally after about half an hour I unbolted one door and slowly pushed it open. I shined my phone inside and—behold!—beer! Stacks of it!
But the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a sharp something pressed against my throat. Someone had tackled me and was pressing me to the ground. A sweaty hand was covering my mouth, preventing me from screaming. I looked up to see the face of one of the sailors—a mild, doughy man with a bald head. His eyes were wide with fear and he was holding a screwdriver to my neck.
“Who the fuck are you?” he hissed in the darkness.
“Mmmm, hmmm, hmmm,” I said through his hand.
“What?” he said.
“Mmmm nnnnn mmmm,” I said.
“Oh right, my hand,” he said. “I’m gonna move it, but don’t you fucking scream or I’ll shove this into your neck.” He moved his hand from my mouth.
“I’m sorry, I was lost,” I said.
“Well what are you doing here?”
“Uh, nothing,” he said.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Alright,” I said. “I was looking for beer.”
“Seriously, the crap that serve in the cafeteria has no alcohol.”
“Who are you?” he said, relaxing his grip a little.
“I’m one of the passengers.”
“You with that tall guy with the crazy mustache?”
“Yeah he’s my boss.”
“So you’re not searching for thieves?”
“I am a thief myself.”
“Well, fuck man,” he said, finally getting off me. “You scared me shitless.”
“Me too,” I said, and got up. “Were you actually going to murder somebody? I mean, how could you have gotten away with it? We’re on a ship, dude.”
“I guess I didn’t think it through,” he said. “It’s just, my momma always taught me not to trust strangers who come round at night. Well, you want a drink?”
“I need one now.”
I walked into the cargo container. There was some space near the entrance where I could sit down on some of the beer boxes. On the floor were six or seven empty cans.
“Here,” he said and handed me one. “My name is Francis, by the way. My momma named me after her pa.”
“Dan,” I said.
“You can drink here—but don’t tell anyone.”
“Why would I do that?”
I cracked the beer open and began to drink. It wasn’t cold and it wasn’t good but it was alcoholic. He grabbed one, too, and started gulping it down. We drank in silence for a while, both of us chugging. I was pretty jolted up from the whole attack thing and I didn’t want to risk provoking this crazy guy again. A big part of me wanted to go, but beer is beer, and here was beer.
About five beers deep I noticed Francis was making some funny noises. It sounded like gargled words. Oh boy, I thought, this guy is really nuttier than Bigote. But then I listened and I realized that he was sobbing. Jesus Christ what a night. I tried to ignore it but it was kinda messing with my head, hearing some guy crying while I was trying to relax and drink. Finally I couldn’t take it.
“You alright, dude?” I said.
“I’m fine,” he choked.
“Sounds like you’re crying.”
“Yeah I’m crying.”
“So is this something you do when you’re fine?”
“Not usually,” he said.
“It’s… it’s just… it’s about a girl.”
“Her name’s Leslie. She’s on this ship.”
I mentally went over the female sailors on this ship. There were two, possibly three candidates. I shuddered.
“What about her?”
“She’s just, so, so beautiful. She reminds me so much of how my momma looked when I was a kid.”
“I bet she does… So what’s the problem?”
“I’ve been working with her for months now, and she hardly noticed me.”
“Maybe she’s married?”
“No, she had a fling with one of the other guys.”
“So what’s your problem?”
“I try to talk to her, you know at meals and in the halls and stuff, but she just blows me off when a few words. Barely even looks in my direction. Oh, my momma always told me that I’d never find a girl like her! And now I did, but she doesn’t like me!”
“Just go for someone else, bro. Like, probably there are some nicer looking girls on shore.”
“Maybe to you. But to me she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Those arms… those legs… her anchor tattoo. It drives me wild.”
I gagged a little. But a bro is a bro and you’ve got to do what you can to help.
“Alright, Francis. Here’s my advice.”
“Pfft, what do you know? You’re just some kid.”
“I don’t know Leslie but I do know a thing or two about getting laid.”
“Ah, even if you do, it’s no use. My momma always told me that I wasn’t ever gonna find a girl to marry me. Said I cry too much.”
“Shut up and listen. You need to spike her drink.”
“What?!” he said. “I’m not a rapist, man. My momma taught me to respect women.”
“No, no, no,” I said. “You tell her you’re going to do it.”
“The captain doesn’t give you guys alcohol, right? So take a bottle or two of liquor from one of these crates, tell her you snuck it on board, offer to pour a little in her drink in the mess hall, but only if she agrees not to tell anybody. That way you two have a little secret.”
“Then you give her a compliment. But, like, a low key one. Like you don’t want to come off desperate, you feel me?”
“Tell her she has nice eyes?”
“No, man, that’s so cliché. Tell her she has really good teeth.”
“I think some of them are fake.”
“Perfect then. Give her the booze, tell her that, and she’ll be like putty in your palm.”
“It sounds skeevy, man. My momma always said alcohol is the sweat of the devil’s back, and that ain’t no good ever came of it. My pop died of it, you know, drank up all his money and then finally kicked the bucket, and my momma always told me I should never drink on any account or the same thing would happen to me, no doubt about it. But I get so sad and lonely when I’m out here on this ocean. Damn stupid boat. The only reasons I became a sailor is because my momma said it would toughen me up.”
“You really like to whine, Francis.”
“Oh, that’s what old ma always says.”
“Well, why don’t you try my plan and see what happens? You don’t have much to lose.”
“Screw it,” he said, sitting up a little straighter. “I guess it’s worth a shot. Mamma always said you couldn’t get nowhere in life without a little risk.”
“And listen, Francis, when you talk to Leslie, try not to mention your mom.”
We went on drinking for a while after that, but I don’t really remember too well what we talked about. Anyways, tonight at dinner he’s supposed to try out my plan. I guess we’ll see what happens.
As I predicted, the plan went off a hitch. Not many people can resist the combination of free alcohol and smooth compliments. That Leslie woman couldn’t, at least. I watched Francis at work from across the room. Bigote and I have our own table in the mess hall, on the other side of the room from the sailors. But yesterday Bigote didn’t come to dinner for some reason, so it was just me, eating like some sad pathetic loser, all alone on my side. Well, at least I had some liquor that I took from one of the containers—so I felt pretty cozy pretty fast.
Francis is not a handsome sight in any lighting or at any hour of the day—and neither his his lady for that matter—and the way he acts is dopier than a suicidally depressed poodle. Trying to watch him sweet-talk this woman, as he stuttered and mumbled and shifted uncomfortably, was sometimes too much to take. But it was also kind of morbidly fascinating, like watching those nature documentaries about snakes and eels mating. Also, I have to admit that it’s nice to see my pickup tricks even work in this challenging situation.
I finished eating and left, since I didn’t wait to see any more beastiality. I figured I better check on Bigote before bed. But when I went down to his cabin and knocked on the door, there wasn’t any answer. Finally I just opened the door; but the room was empty, except for the usual books and papers and crap all over the place. I checked the bathroom to see if he got food poisoning or something, but no Bigote there either. I considered just going to sleep. But that guy really can’t be trusted on his own. So I decided to walk around a bit to see if I could find him.
Five minutes later I ran into Bigote standing on deck, leaning on the railing, looking out at the ocean. Strange thing, even for him. It was already dark so there was basically nothing to see, not that there was much during the day. Plus, it was cold and sort of rainy.
“Yo,” I said.
“Is that you, Chopin?”
“Yeah. Watcha doing?”
“I am contemplating the infinite expanse of the sea.”
“But you can’t see it.”
“The pressure of the wind and waves conveys to me a sense of endlessness that I find quite soothing. It is one of man’s most ancient sensations. Inklings of divinity came to us from the deep waters.”
“Seems like it’d still be better during the day.”
“Imagine what it would be like, Chopin, to be an explorer on this ocean. Night and day would come and go, the wind and the rain and the sun would alternate in the heavens above, and the vast blue would reveal no clue of what lay beyond. It is one of the Western mind’s greatest attributes: that yearning towards infinity, the urge to go beyond the bounds of knowledge.”
“Seems kinda boring to me. You sit on a boat for a few months and finally you find land that isn’t any better than the one you left. Probably it’s worse since you don’t know anyone there.”
“Enough of this babbling, Chopin. I must confide something to you.”
“Is there anyone around?”
I looked left, right, behind.
“Good. Well, Chopin, I am beginning to suspect that we are, even now, in the clutches of the conspiracy.”
“Yes, it is a grim possibility. But some actions of the captain have excited my suspicion, which has only grown upon subsequent observation.”
“Oh that captain guy? Yeah he’s sort of lame.”
“I did not notice any physical deformities, if that is what you are referring to, Chopin. But I am almost entirely convinced that our captain is, indeed, a Muslim.”
“It is a frightening possibility. But I have reason to think it is true.”
“Because he has a beard?”
“No, Chopin, many good and honest men are bearded. But the fact that he refused my wine was my first clue. He does not partake of alcohol.”
“That’s why I don’t like him.”
“Not only that, Chopin, but we ate lamb in his cabin. And we have not once been served any pork aboard this ship.”
“There’s bacon in the morning,” I offered.
“A diversion,” Bigote said. “Most importantly, Chopin, when I tried to subtly follow the captain’s routine, tracing his daily movements, I lost track of him several times during the day as he retreated to his quarters. These times corresponded exactly to the customary times of prayer in Islam.”
“So what if he’s, like, a very busy former alcoholic who doesn’t like pork chops?”
“Just listen to yourself! What are the chances of that? No, no, by far the most obvious conclusion is that he is a member of that powerful sect. If so, this would mean that the global conspiracy might already be aware of our movements. Think about it, Chopin. We might be headed right into a trap!”
“Wow this is some heavy stuff, dude. But try to calm down a little. I mean, we don’t know anything for sure, right?”
“That is correct. We must, however, take action quickly if we are to head off this disaster. I will soon make a decisive test to see if he is or is not part of this nefarious conspiracy. And if he is, we must strike without mercy, or suffer disaster.”
“It’s something I found on the internet after years of research. A foolproof test to determine whether somebody is a Muslim-Mexican-feminist in disguise. You see, members of the conspiracy have microscopic magnets implanted into their bodies, which they use in their global tracking device to coordinate their actions. Now, this magnetic attraction is much too faint to be picked up by ordinary compases. But a specially prepared strip of aluminum foil, floating in a cup of water, will inevitably turn towards these dastardly conspirators.”
“Listen, Bigote, with all due respect, I think this is a big mistake.”
“I mean, how can this work? The little piece of metal might turn in any direction!”
“Skepticism is a healthy habit of mind, Chopin, and I commend you for it. Yet this technology is tested and true. There is no doubting the results.”
“But you can’t trust everything you read on the internet, man.”
“You are no doubt correct. But the principal involved in this device goes back all the way to Archimedes, who used a similar contraption to identify disguised Persians.”
I opened my mouth but thought better of it. There is simply no talking sense into a guy like this. The best I could hope for was to stall him until we got to Spain, which would be in just three days.
“Alright,” I said finally. “I trust you. Just make sure to let me know before you do anything. I want to be by your side in your fight against the, uh, conspiracy.”
“You have my word,” Bigote said. “And now it seems we should both retire to our rest.”
Later last night, after Bigote went to bed, I snuck off to the beer container again. Francis was there already.
“Dan!” he said, already feeling it a bit. “You’re a genius! I got Leslie’s number!”
“Dude, you guys work on the same ship.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s true. But also she said she wants to drink with me again tonight. Oh, my momma would be so proud! I can’t wait till I can see the look on her face when I tell her that her boy Francis finally found a woman!”
“I’m happy for you, bro. Let’s have a toast.”
We clinked our cans together, downed the contents, and crumpled the cans.
“I really owe you,” he said, his voice cracking a little. “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. Better even than when my mom hired a clown for my seventh birthday party. I can’t never repay you.”
“Actually,” I said, “I do have a little problem you can help me with.”
“Well, you know that guy who I work for?”
“You mean the big old man with the big old mustache?
“Yeah, him. So he’s a little crazy.”
“What, like, he hears voices or something?”
“No, no, it’s not that. Much worse than that. He thinks the captain is a Muslim.”
“Captain Wellington? Why?”
“Because he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t let anyone else drink.”
“Well, the captain has the same affliction that took off my old man. He’s a drinker. Almost crashed a ship a few years ago, was so far gone. But your friend thinks he’s a Muslim? Does he have a problem with Muslims? I mean, my momma doesn’t like Muslims, neither, but she also says you gotta let other people live their own lives, since meddling never gets you nowhere.”
“Like I said, he’s crazy. Also a little racist. Also a little islamophobic. Point is we need to stop him from doing anything bad.”
“What’s he gonna do?”
“He has a gun.”
“Holy cow, man,” Francis said. “What can we do about that?”
“Here’s my idea. Tomorrow, after breakfast, I’m going to try to distract him. Keep him busy in the mess hall. Meanwhile, you sneak down to his room, look for his gun, and take it someplace safe.”
“Alright, sounds good to me. Do you know where he keeps it?”
“Just look everywhere.”
I drank a couple more beers and went to bed. Didn’t want to be too hungover in the morning.
I got up at the usual time, around eight, and made my way over to the mess hall. I already knew how I was going to keep Bigote distracted long enough for Francis to take the gun. Just take a map of Europe and ask him about his plans once we arrived. The only risk was that Bigote hadn’t left his gun in the room, but was carrying it with him. But I thought that was unlikely since we usually had breakfast in our pyjamas.
Normally the mess hall was already full when I arrived. But today it was completely empty. The lights were on and some of the chairs were pulled out, and there was food in the kitchen. But no cooks and no sailors. And no Bigote. Oh shit.
Suddenly one of the doors was pushed open.
“Dan!” It was Francis. “Jesus, man, you have to come with me!”
“What is it?”
He was already running down the hallway, and I followed. We climbed some stairs and then some more. Finally we reached the cockpit.
“Your boss,” he said. “He’s in there with the captain. He’s holding him hostage.”
“Oh shit, oh shit,” I said. “This can’t keep happening!”
I pushed the door open and went inside.
“Chopin!” Bigote said. “Thank heavens you’re here!”
Bigote was standing in the middle of the cockpit. He was clutching his revolver and pointing it at the captain, who was standing at the wheel. A group of sailors were crowded on the other side of the room, watching anxiously.
“I used the detecting device, Chopin. It pointed straight at him! My suspicions were correct!”
“Wow, that’s serious,” I said, playing along. “So what’s the plan?”
“I am afraid we are in somewhat dire straits, if you will pardon the nautical pun. As you can see I have this diabolical wretch here at my mercy, and I have instructed him to take us to Cádiz, an ancient Christian port. Doubtless it was his plan to deposit us in a Muslim country, Morocco probably.”
“This guy is crazy or something like that!” the poor captain yelped.
“Quiet, you!” Bigote barked.
“As usual, you’re acuteness astounds me,” I said. “But may I make one suggestion?”
“Of course, my faithful assistant.”
“Having all these sailors in the room is dangerous. I think we should get them out of here.”
“Capital idea, Chopin!”
“You heard the man!” I shouted. “Everyone out or he’s going to blow this infidel captain’s brains out!”
I walked towards the sailors, with my back turned to Bigote, and gave a conspicuous wink while waving them out of the room.
“Wait here, sir,” I said to Bigote. “I’m going to make sure they keep their distance.”
“I would truly be lost without you, Chopin!”
Out in the hallway I rushed them out of earshot of the cockpit.
“This guy is out of his mind!” one of them said.
“What do we do?” another hissed.
“Uh, lemme think, lemme think… do you guys, like, a stun gun or any weapon?”
“This is a cargo ship, man.”
“Hmm. But aren’t there usually, like, flare guns on ships? I usually see them in movies.”
“In the lifeboats there are some flare guns.”
“And what would happen if you shot someone with one?”
“I mean, if you were close enough it could knock someone over. But what are we gonna do?—have a shootout? I mean, that guy has a real, actual gun.”
“But maybe if we caught him by surprise,” I said. “Could that work?”
“How would we do that?”
“I’m thinking, at night, when it’s dark and he’s tired.”
“There are lights, though.”
“Can you turn them off?”
“Yeah, we could!” one said. “With the main circuit board.”
“Then I think we have our plan.”
Here’s what happened.
After making the plan I went back to the cockpit with Bigote, who raved on and on about the evil conspiracy while the poor captain stood shaking at the wheel. The day seemed to drag on endlessly with Bigote waving his gun and his mustache around in all directions. Finally the sun began to sink. At around seven it was properly dark. At 7:30, as planned, the lights shut off.
“What, what’s this?” Bigote said in the darkness. and turned to the captain. “What’s going on?”
“I have no idea or anything like that.” the captain said. “Maybe a circuit broke or something.”
“You feminist scum!” Bigote screamed. “This is some kind of trick, isn’t it?”
“I swear I don’t know, in any case.” the captain said, shrinking as Bigote stuck the gun at his face. “Please, point that thing somewhere else or something.”
“I’ll point it where I damn where please, which is usually at global-warming hoaxers like you!”
“Hey, why don’t I go see what’s going on?” I said.
“I have grave misgivings about this,” Bigote said. “I fear the crew may be planning an attack.”
“Well, if they do anything funny, just shoot the captain,” I suggested.
“Of course, my dear Chopin.”
The captain gave an audible whimper.
“I’ll be back in five minutes.”
“May the spirits of our illustrious ancestors guide you.”
Out in the hall one of the sailors was there waiting, ready with the flare gun. He was chosen because he said he took shooting lessons as a kid. A couple other guys were there, too, ready to rush Bigote.
“He’s standing in the same spot,” I told him. “Next to the wheel, to the left.”
After waiting some time I went back to the door and opened it.
“I’m back, sir. They said it was a circuit and they’re working on it.”
“Ah, what a relief to hear your voice,” Bigote said.
Standing right behind me, invisible in the darkness, was the armed sailor. I felt him aim the gun towards Bigote’s voice, and quickly got out of his way.
“So tell me again about the plan?” I said.
“Well first, my dear Chopin—”
Suddenly the cabin erupted in a bright red light. The flare fizzed across the room towards Bigote. But—it missed!—just grazing his right shoulder.
“What the devil!” he said, jumping away. But the flare had ignited the shoulder pad of his smoking jacket, which was now aflame.
“Help! help!” he yelped, running around the cockpit. “Chopin, get this jacket off of me!”
“Yes, sir!” I said, running up to him. The orange flames of his jacket were the only light in the cabin. I ripped off the sleeve that was not on fire but I couldn’t get the jacket off his right side, since he was firmly holding onto his gun.
“Drop the pistol, man!”
“I can’t, Chopin!”
The flames were quickly spreading down his arm towards his hand.
“Drop the damn gun, you fool!”
“This is my eternal right and duty!”
Finally I pulled on his jacket so hard that I jerked the gun onto the floor. As soon as the captain saw he started shouting.
“The gun, the gun, he dropped the gun! Get him or something!”
With this the sailors rushed into the room. Bigoted dashed for the pistol but, thank god, the sailors got to him first and pinned him to the ground.
“No, no, no! We’re doomed! I’m so sorry!”
As instructed, Francis came in too and pretended to tackle me, so Bigote wouldn’t know I was in on it (I gotta cover both sides of my ass).
“They got us, sir! They got us!” I yelled.
“Throw him in the brig or something!” the captain barked. “Throw that madman in the brig, in any case!”
“What a day, eh?” I said to Francis that night. We were back in the container, drinking beer.
“Yeah, man. How did you meet that guy?”
“He was my neighbor.”
“Say, what’s gonna happen to him?”
“Oh, you know, same thing that happened to my Uncle Bob. They’ll throw him in jail for attempted murder. He tried to kill his ex-wife, you know, but he botched it up by forgetting to load the gun.”
“Ah,” I said. “About that. I kinda need my boss to, like, not be in prison.”
“Well it ain’t gonna happen now,” Francis said. “That man is jailbound. I think the Spanish coast guard will come and pick him up.”
“I mean, he totally deserves that, but… he’s my boss and there is no way he’s going to pay me from prison.”
“What do you expect, Dan? My momma always says that not enough people are put in jail, and half the world would be in there if they got what was coming to them.”
“Oh, of course this is what I expect. But that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out another option.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean we need to break him out, man.”
“Are you out of your mind?!” he said, spitting out his beer melodramatically.
“You owe me.”
“But why on earth would you want to set a man like that free? He could have killed all of us.”
“Listen, I got him under control. Don’t I?”
“I can’t do this, man, it’s just not right. If I got put in jail my mom would die right to death, that’s what she tells me.”
“Oh, is this it?” I said, acting hurt. “Is this how you’re gonna treat your friend, the one who helped you get your dream girl?”
“Don’t do that, man, don’t say that.”
“Is this the repayment I get for my kindness?”
“But we’re on a boat, man, where are you gonna go?”
“Put me on one of those lifeboats.”
“It’s just not right, man.”
“Look. When are we arriving in Spain?”
“I think the captain said tomorrow morning.”
“And I guess the cops are coming as soon as you guys get there?”
“I guess so.”
“So that means we’ve got to go tonight.”
“If they catch me helping you they’ll throw me in jail! And my momma told me never, ever, ever to break no law, since I’m not bright enough to get away with it.”
“Well, didn’t she tell you to stand by your friends?”
“So let’s go.”
“Okay, wait, just hold on and let me think.”
“It’s, what, around two now?”
“At four is when hardly anyone will be awake. That’s when you should go, if you want the best chance of getting away. Here are my keys. If anyone ever catches you, say you found them on the ground. I would go with you but… Oh, Dan I have a bad, bad feeling about doing this.”
“Don’t worry, man, I’m no snitch. How will we get to land?”
“All the lifeboats have a compass, maps, and some food—you know, survival stuff. There’s a switch thingy that lets you lower it into the water from inside the boat. You should be all set.”
“Thanks, Francis. Now I owe you one.”
“Just don’t get me in trouble, and we’re even.”
It is now three in the morning and I’m sitting in my room—waiting. I’ve already packed my and Bigote’s things into one of the boats. The weather is not too bad. According to Francis we should get to the shore by around noon tomorrow, if we go the right way and don’t capsize. To be honest I’m not very excited about this plan. The only time I rowed a boat was in summer camp in the eighth grade. But there is one good thing about this plan: At least we’ll leave behind that damn pickup truck. So much for this ship’s diary thing. Wish us luck.