Don Bigote: Chapter 3

Don Bigote: Chapter 3

(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.”

“Ah, right.”

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.

 

August 5

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.

 

August 6

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.

“Bullshit.”

“Well what are you doing here?”

“Uh, nothing,” he said.

“Yeah, me too.”

“Bullshit.”

“Alright,” I said. “I was looking for beer.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Seriously, the crap that serve in the cafeteria has no alcohol.”

He paused.

“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?”

“Yeah.”

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.

“Ah.”

“It’s… it’s just… it’s about a girl.”

Oh boy.

“What 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?”

“Nah.”

“Lesbian?”

“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.”

“Huh?”

“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.”

“And then?”

“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.  

 

August 7

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.”

“Uh, okay.”

“Is there anyone around?”

I looked left, right, behind.

“Nope.”

“Good. Well, Chopin, I am beginning to suspect that we are, even now, in the clutches of the conspiracy.”

“No way.”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.”

“A test?”

“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.”

“A 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.”

 

August 8

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.”

“Anything, Dan.”

“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.”

 

August 9

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.”

“Alright.”

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!”

 

April 10

“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.”

“Go figures.”

“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?”

“Yeah.”

“So let’s go.”

“Okay, wait, just hold on and let me think.”

“Well?”

“It’s, what, around two now?”

“Yeah.”

“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.

Don Bigote: Chapter 2

Don Bigote: Chapter 2

(Continued from Chapter 1.)

Don and Dan Take a Flight

Next Monday, as usual, I walk in Bigote’s front door. Also as usual, I’m hungover. I’m wearing sunglasses and everything is still too bright, it’s a quiet morning but the birds chirping nearby are deafening. My stomach feels like it’s full of acidic foam, and I have a crappy taste in my mouth that won’t go away no matter how much water I drink or how many times I spit, and every once in a while something shifts uncomfortably in my intestines. And do I regret a thing?

Bigote’s place is even messier than usual. A book is splayed open on the floor, right in front of the door, so I accidentally kick it as I walked in.

“Fuck!” I say, bending down over my stubbed toe. “Fuck, shit, bitch!”

I was wearing flip flops, and the book was one of those big hard-cover tombstone books that nobody reads, so my toe hurt. A lot.

“Fucking shit,” I say, as I flip the offending book to see its title. It’s called The Decline of the West. Of course.

“Dan, is that you?” comes a voice from the kitchen.

“Yes, it’s fucking me. Why don’t you clean up your damn house when you know people are coming over?”

“Sorry, Dan, I can’t quite hear you from out there. Would you mind coming over here? I have something cooking, and the crackling oil is causing quite a ruckus.”

I come into the kitchen. Don Bigote is stooped over a frying pan, spectacles down on his nose, a grease-stained cookbook by his side, surrounded by dirty measuring cups, a ripped open bag of sugar, an empty carton of milk, and of course his mustache thoughtfully standing guard over the whole scene.

“I thought that I would prepare some breakfast for you, in thanks for getting me out of that perilous situation last Friday.”

“Uh, oh yeah, cool.”

“It’s just finished!” he says, and begins scrapping the contents of the frying pan onto some plates nearby. He walks over and puts one in front of me. It’s full of bacon burnt to a crisp and a rubbery fried egg.

“You needed a cookbook for this?” I say.

“Pardon?”

“Oh, forget it,” I say, and take a big bite of the carbon meat.

“Is this in reference to the plan of building a shelter? Because, if so, I quite agree.”

“Huh?”

“You’re quite right, Dan. My original idea was seriously flawed. For one, building a shelter in the United States leaves us too open to detection and attack. We need to distance ourselves some more from the center of the conspiracy. Besides, how could I hope to preserve the treasures of Western culture from here? What a blockhead I am! Clearly, we need to go to Europe—to the motherland, so to speak—if we earnestly wish to gather the fruits of European cultural achievement.”

“Huh? Go to Europe?”

“Yes, Dan, it’s a far better plan. We can simultaneously isolate ourselves (to some extent) from the grasping reaches of our enemies, while putting ourselves in direct contact with the civilization we hope to preserve. It’s perfect!”

“You’re talking about ‘us’ again.”

“Well, of course, you must come with me. As you demonstrated in Home Depot, you are invaluable to me. Without you, I would have succumbed to my own foolish impulses.”

“You’re saying you’re gonna take me to Europe?”

“That is an adequate summary of my proposal.”

“Woah, dude. Where in Europe?”

“Excellent question, my dear Dan Chopin. I have considered all the political entities, both large states and small, and there is one clear best option: Spain. Spain is geopolitically unimportant enough to make it a safe hiding place. It has a great deal of historic depth, possessing some fine Roman ruins, to name just one example. It is the birthplace of some of the most excellent architects, artists, musicians, and writers who have ever lived and breathed. And, most importantly, the Spanish already have experience in fighting the Muslims and the Mexicans.”

“Uh yeah?” I say, as I struggle to chew the fried egg, which has the approximate texture of a car tire.

“Yes, indeed. For seven whole centuries, Muslims lived in their country—a long, dark night of oppression!—until the brave Spanish Christians rose up and pushed them out. And of course the Spaniards are responsible for toppling the ancient Mexican empires in the Americas.”

“So, wait,” I say, having finally finished swallowing the egg. “Let me get all this straight. You are offering to pay for me to go with you to Spain?”

“Yes.”

“So we can, like, learn about Europe and all that?”

“That’s it.”

“Hell yeah!” I say. “Let’s get our asses out of Alabama!”

* * *

Four days later, we’re in the car on the way to the airport.

I’m driving—I don’t trust that whack job behind the wheel—and Don Bigote is sitting in the passenger seat, the window rolled down, his mustache fluttering in the wind. Through the ventilators I can smell the burning chemical odor of the old truck’s worn-out transmission. Several cars have honked at us because of the trail of impenetrable black smoke we are leaving behind us. Well, they can go to hell.

I’m feeling a little weird about the whole thing. Bigote is one strange dude, no joke, and I think his relationship with reality is worse than my relationship with my ex-girlfriend, Sharona, who once threw my phone in a public toilet. Is this really a good idea? What if he does something equally crazy as he did in Home Depot and gets us thrown into Spanish jail? Well, Spanish jail doesn’t sound so bad. I read online somewhere that they’re co-ed.

My dad was totally against the idea.

“What?! Go to Europe with the Colonel? That’s totally insane!”

“But, dear,” mom said. “It’s just for a few months, and maybe it can be really good for him.”

“I’m getting paid,” I said.

“Yeah, but have you seen that guy? He’s a crank, a loony, a crackpot. What’s he going to do in a foreign country? Does he even speak Spanish?”

“There’s Google translate, dad.”

“Oh, honey,” mom said to dad. “I think this is a great opportunity! Danny can travel, get some work experience. And, after all, Bigote isn’t all that bad. He’s a bit of a hippie, sure, and eccentric, but I don’t think he’s at all dangerous.”

“I don’t feel good about this at all,” dad said. “Danny, listen. If anything goes wrong, just get on a plane and fly home. Don’t worry about the money.”

That’s roughly how the conversation went. So yeah, I suppose I have an escape option if worse comes to worse.

I see the sign for the airport, and take the exit.

“Where should I park?” I say.

“Oh, just over there.”

“But the sign says 72 Hours Maximum. Isn’t there a long-term parking or something?”

“Oh, Dan. What’s it matter? I’m never coming back!”

“What?!”

“Well, maybe some day, far in the future, after the great Cataclysm.”

“I don’t remember you telling me this.”

“No need to worry, Dan, we can just leave this old thing anywhere.”

“You’re the boss,” I say, and pull into a spot.

We get out and begin getting our bags. It isn’t much. I have a duffle bag and a backpack, and Bigote a brown leather briefcase and one of those rolling suitecases. We shut the doors and lock the car.

“Goodbye, old friend,” says Bigot, tenderly touching his shitty pickup truck. “You’ve been good to me.”

And we turn and walk through the parking lot towards the terminal.

“You know, Dan,” Don says, “apart from being a necessary means of transportation, this voyage also provides us an excellent opportunity to investigate air travel, one of the West’s most triumphant achievements.”

“Ever flown before?” I say.

“Actually, no. This will be my first aerial experience, and I must say that I am tremendously excited. The only thing which prevents me from being positively jubilant on this occasion is the unfortunate, but inescapable, global conspiracy.”

“Well, we’ll get away from that soon enough,” I say.

“Ah, don’t be so sure, Dan, don’t be so sure. The conspiracy reaches everywhere. Even this whole business of tickets, passports, visas, security—all this tyrannical nonsense!—it’s just a way for the conspiracy to control our movements, and by doing so, our minds.”

“I thought it was because of 9/11 and stuff like that?”

“Dan, sometimes your ignorance pains me. 9/11 is connected to this, yes, but of course you must realize it was a false-flag operation.”

“A what flag?”

“You see, it is true that the Muslims were behind it, as everyone already believes. But what is not true is that it was the work of a relatively small band of Muslims, without the government’s notice. You see, the Muslims are the government now. They tricked some poor fools into hijacking those planes, in order to distract the populace, to scare us, allowing the executive branch to expand its power, and the security state to extend its tentacles into every aspect of our lives. Just like we find here!”

Bigote gestures grandly at the airport.

“So, you’re saying that Muslims, who own the government, destroyed the Twin Towers in order to expand the power of the government, and then blamed Muslims?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, I just hope they don’t do it to our flight,” I say. “Alright, let’s double check. Do you have your passport?”

“Right here,” Bigote says, taking out a blue booklet and handing it to me.

“Good.”

“Well done, isn’t it?” Bigote says, winking at me.

“Huh?”

“Pretty convincing, eh?”

“Convincing?” I say, blinking in disbelief. “Don, is this a fake?”

“Why, of course it is. I am traveling under a fake name, so I can’t use a real passport.”

“Are you kidding me?!”

“Don’t worry, Dan, I followed an instructional video. They said it’s guaranteed.”

I flipped through the pages, and immediately noticed that the edges were coming apart, like the whole thing was held together by Elmer’s glue.

“You better not get us arrested,” I say.

“Dan, have some faith in me. We only need this to get into Spain. Once there, I’ll make another one.”

“What? Why?”

“Well, because I’m going to need to forge a visa, of course.”

“Forge a visa?”

“And you too.”

“Why?!”

“Dan, I feel like I have to spell everything out for you. On a tourist visa, you can only stay for 90 days, which is of course not nearly enough time. And I can’t exactly obtain a working visa or a residency visa—for the aforementioned problem that I am traveling under an assumed name. Satisfied?”

“Oh, God, I’m going to jail, I’m going to Guantanamo Bay!”

“That’s another false flag, I’m afraid,” says Bigote.

* * *

We check in successfully—the woman at the front desk looks a little too long at Bigote’s passport, but finally lets us go—and now we’re on the line to security.

I am sweating like a pig already. Fuck, I am such an idiot! Dad was right, I should never have tried to take a trip with this nut. Look at him: bobbing his head up and down like he’s brain-dead, walking like he’s got a stick up his ass, with those stupid thin glasses on the tip of his nose—does he even need glasses?—and that ridiculous mustache. Oh God, why doesn’t he trim that thing? His mustache makes him look even more suspicious!

I look ahead to the security guards. Oh no, they’re ethnic! Bigote is going to think they’re Muslims or Mexicans or something. Fuck my life!

“All liquids must be put into a sealed plastic bag,” says one of the guards in a mechanical monotone, “and separated from your luggage. Please take your laptops out of your bags and out of their cases, and put them into a separate tray. All cell phones, keys, jackets, belts, shoes, and metal objects need to go into a bin and through the machine.”

The people ahead of us are all doing that awkward scramble where they unpack half their luggage and get half-undressed, only to be waved through the machine to the other side, where half of them are stopped anyways to have their bags searched or their bodies waved with the metal wand, or something.

“Okay, so, just like we practiced, okay?” I whisper to Bigote.

“Of course, Dan. No need to worry. I have done thorough research.”

“Ok, well, just stay quiet.”

We get to the conveyor belt thing and begin doing the undressing dance. I put my little duffle bag on the conveyor belt. Soon I’m being waved through the metal detector, which thankfully doesn’t beep. I look behind me, and see that Bigote is fumbling with his belt, which is really difficult to take off because wearing a giant brass belt-buckle shaped like the state of Texas. Jesus…

I turn back and look for my bag. Some bald security guard, wearing white latex gloves, is standing over it.

“Sir, is this your bag?” he says.

“Yep.”

“Okay, I’m just going to do a quick chemical test.”

“A what?”

“Wait right here, sir.”

He pulls out a little white cloth thing and begins whipping it all over my bag. He goes over to a machine and puts the cloth inside. He looks down at it, and frowns.

“Sir, would you mind if I searched your bag?”

“Um, kinda.”

“Sir, the machine gave me a positive reading for marijuana, so I have to perform a search in order to let you through.”

“You can detect weed? No way!”

He quickly unzips the bag and begins ruffling through my stuff. Shit, shit, shit. Try not to look nervous. Ah, but it’s too late! I’m fucked! My weed is in an old pencil case in one of the side-pockets…

SIR, STOP WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!”

Someone behind me shouts this at the top of his voice. There is a confusion of screams and shouts, as people around me start running away in all directions. The cop searching my luggage immediately drops what he’s doing, jumps over the conveyor belt, and pulls out his gun.

I look and see Don Bigote standing in the metal detector, his hands on his head, which makes it easy to see his old revolver strapped to his hip. Of course.

He’s surrounded by about five security guards, all of them with their pistols pointed at him. One is radioing for backup.

“Sir, I need you to lie down on the floor, slowly, without moving your hands. Alright?”

“But I have an open carry license!” Bigote says.

“Sir, lie down now or we will have to shoot.”

“It’s my constitutional right!”

SIR, GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!”

“Get the fuck down, Bigote!” I yell at him. “Get your mustachioed ass down!”

Several tense moments pass. Bigote appears torn. A part of him seems to be considering having a shootout. But finally, deciding that he’s outgunned, he follows the cop’s instructions and lays down on the floor. One of the guards approaches carefully and takes the revolver out of his holster. The gun removed, all the guards close in, pinning him on the floor while they put him in handcuffs.

While they’re all busy, I decide that it’s the best time to skedaddle. But just as I’m about to walk off, I hear Bigote say:

“Dan, don’t wait for me!”

The idiot!

“Hey, are you with this guy?” one of the guards says, as he grabs my shoulder and spins me around.

“Uh, him? No…”

“I’m afraid you have to come with us, sir.”

“Oh no!” Bigote shouts, as he’s being dragged off. “Dan, not you too! The monsters!”

Next thing I know, I’m in handcuffs, too, being led off to God knows where. Great.

* * *

This is a nightmare. Wake up, wake up, wake up. Oh man, I should have went to the bathroom before this. Beer and burritos was a terrible idea for breakfast.

I’m sitting in one of those sterile interrogation rooms, like you see on television, except it’s real. The walls are plain white, and there’s a mirror on one side. And I just know a bunch of cops are on the other side, watching us through the glass, probably making fun of Bigote’s mustache. Better not be saying anything about me.

Bigote is right next to me. We’re both seated in these awful metal chairs, our hands handcuffed behind our backs, with an equally metallic table in front of us. Really, it’s just like TV, except on TV they usually separate the terrorist suspects. Also, on TV the terrorists usually don’t need to take a big, probably smelly dump while they’re being interrogated.

“Dan, I’m so—”

NO TALKING!” cracks a voice on the loudspeakers, interrupting Bigote.

Silence resumes. All I can hear is a ventilator and Bigote’s breathing, which sounds like another ventilator.

Right on cue, a detective enters. He looks the part: big masculine jaw with five o’clock shadow, big buff shoulders underneath a black suit, and all the rest. He closes the door behind him, walks over to the empty seat across from us, and sits down.

“My name is Detective Murky,” he says, his voice all gruff-like, “and I’m here to find out what the hell you were doing with that gun.”

“We’ll never talk!” Bigote shouts, his voice choked with enthusiasm. “Never!”

“Can’t we like, get a lawyer or something?” I say.

“Terrorists don’t get lawyers!” says Murky.

“A lawyer, ha!” Bigote says. “They’re some of the most heinous conspirators!”

“Jesus Christ, Bigote,” I say. “Will you shut the fuck up?”

“Enough playing around!” Murky says, slamming his fist on the table. “Who are you? Muslims extremists?”

“Oh, please,” Bigote says. “Is this your plan? Frame us as Muslims conspirators? We’re not even circumcised!”

“Speak for yourself dude,” I say.

“Dan, let me handle this.”

“Not circumcised?” Murky says. “Who are you, then?”

I hear Bigote inhale slowly.

“I suppose at this point,” Bigote says, “there’s no use in trying to keep a secret.”

“That’s damn right.”

“You see,” Bigote says, “we’re on a mission, a mission to save civilization.”

“Save civilization from what? American tyranny?”

“Don’t be a fool!” Bigote says. “From the international Muslim-Mexican-homosexual-feminist-Marxist-scientific conspiracy!”

Murky’s eyes widen, and he sits up even straighter in his chair.

“Explain,” he says.

“Well, there is no time for details. But suffice to say the conspirators have already penetrated every layer of government, and are now very near their goal: the total collapse of Western civilization. I wouldn’t be surprised if you yourself were an agent.”

“Okay…” says Murky, his eyes narrowing. “What’s your mission, then?”

“You see,” Bigote says. “If my calculations are correct, it’s far too late to prevent the conspiracy from succeeding. But there is still some time—a few years, maybe—to prepare for the inevitable. That’s why I’m trying to go to Spain, to gather up the fruits of Western civilization and preserve them for the scattered bands of survivors who will survive the collapse.”

Murky sits for a few seconds, saying nothing, rubbing his temples with one hand. Meanwhile, the pressure in my intestines is becoming uncontainable. The inevitable happens. A fart begins to escape my insides, seeping out slowly at first, making a whirring whistling sound, but quickly accelerating into a roaring flapping explosion that fills the entire room with its rumbling.

A few seconds of dreadful silence pass—the interval between the explosion’s report and the explosion’s effects—as the sound disappears into an echo, and then into a dreadful memory shared by everyone present. And then, finally, the smell hits.

I detect it first—it’s even worse than usual, a mixture of rotten eggs, vinegar, and old ham that’s gone bad—and then Bigote catches a whiff (I can tell because he starts coughing), and finally it reaches Murky, whose only reaction is to blanch paper white.

“Excuse me,” he says, and quickly leaves the room.

“Dan, that was brilliant,” Bigote says, between coughs. “Excellent diversionary tactic. Now, help me figure out how to slip out of these metallic restaints.”

“You know they can hear and see everything we’re doing, right?”

“That’s just what they want you to think, Dan. Now hurry! There’s not much time.”

Suddenly, the lights go out. Someone has pulled the alarm! The sprinkler’s start drenching us with water, a siren is whirring, a bell is ringing, and red lights are flashing. As if my headache wasn’t bad enough already.

Murky bursts in the door.

“Quick!” he says “Come with me!”

With his left hand he jerks me to my feet, and with his right hand he takes Bigote. Soon we are being pushed into the hallway, around a corner, through a corridor, as people all around us are running left and right, carrying folders, bundles of paper, laptops, and crying babies, trying to protect what they can from the sprinklers.

“Is there a fire?” Bigote says.

“Just shut up and move!” Murky answers.

After what seems like a long time, Murky slams us both against a wall.

“Wait,” he says, as if we have a choice. He gets out a big bunch of keys like janitors always carry, fumbles a bit, finds the right one, and then opens a nearby door.

“Come on!” he says, and grabs us again.

Now we’re outside, somewhere in the airport. He puts us both in the back of one of those little golf cart things that security guards use, and begins to drive.

“What on earth is going on?” Bigote screams.

“Sorry about the alarm,” Murky yells back as he’s driving. “There wasn’t anyway else to get you guys out of there.”

“What? You pulled it?” I say.

“Not only that, but I disconnected the security footage so they wouldn’t see us escape.”

“This must mean that my worst fears are confirmed,” Bigote says. “He’s an agent of the conspiracy, Danny. We’re being taken to one of their brainwashing facilities where we’re going to be forced to watch gay porn and global warming documentaries until we lose touch with reality.”

“You don’t understand,” Murky says. “I’m helping you escape.”

“Sweet!” I say. “Thanks! Hey, did you also manage to get my weed?”

“Why would you help us?” Bigote says.

“Listen,” Murky says. “I got this job because I wanted to keep my country safe from foreigners. But the more I see what’s going on in the world, the more I think that our own government is on their side! First that scumbag Obama was elected, a secret Muslims who was born in Kenya—that birth-certificate was an obvious forgery!—and then all these Syrian refugees? The whole world has gone crazy!”

“Exactly!” Bigote cries.

“So when you told me what you what you were doing, I thought, ‘Well, here’s a man I got to help’.”

“Oh, rejoice, rejoice!” Bigote says. “Thank heavens for the few remnants of decency in this godforsaken world!”

We arrive in the parking lot, and Murky takes off our handcuffs and lets us go.

“Now get in your car and drive off quick.”

“I can’t thank you enough,” Bigote says, clasping Murky’s hand.

“Don’t mention it,” Murky says. “Now go, fast!”

Bigote and I jump in the pickup truck, drive straight through the parking gate (no time for the fee), and onto the highway, leaving a cloud of black smoke trailing behind us as we speed away towards our next misadventure.

(Continued in Chapter 3.)

Don Bigote: Chapter 1

Don Bigote: Chapter 1

Don and Dan Build a Shelter

In a little town in Alabama—where exactly I won’t tell you, since my dad says the internet is full of creeps—there lives a man who wears a grey smoking jacket on hot summer days, who has a loaded antique revolver on his hip at all times, and who keeps an arthritic greyhound out back. This guy is my neighbor, Don Bigote, who everyone calls “Colonel.”

Despite his nickname, I doubt he ever was in the army. I think he got it from his habit of wearing a gun all the time (though God knows he isn’t the only person to do that around here). Or maybe it’s the stiff, sort of soldierly way he walks and moves around, like he’s a windup doll made of wood. In any case, it’s clear that the guy was never a soldier, since he’s so skinny and light—basically a skeleton with some skin stretched over it—that a bumblebee’s sigh could sweep him away.

This gauntness, combined with his enormous height, makes him look like a human streetlamp.

But I forgot to mention Don Bigote’s most striking feature: his enormous white mustache. I don’t know how he maintains that thing, since his hair is thin, and the top of his head is totally bald; but the mustache sits proudly and nobly, completely covering his mouth, sneaking up towards his ears, shivering in the wind, perfectly brushed, trimmed, and sculpted. It is a work of art.

Don Bigote isn’t working now. Nobody’s quite sure what he did before he retired. My dad thinks he was a schoolteacher, since “All teachers are useless hippies! And besides how else could he have such a good pension? The good-for-nothing, stealing from the government!”

Most people agree that Bigote’s a bit off. He doesn’t seem to have any friends or family. His social life is confined to his greyhound. The two of them make quite a pair during their walks through the neighborhood. The poor whelp is almost as stiff, skinny, boney, and haggard as Don Bigote himself. The old girl walks slowly, limping slightly, with her head bent down, not pausing to sniff at anything, while Bigote marches forward to an invisible drumbeat.

You get the picture. Well, Don Bigote has been our neighbor for a long time now; and aside from a few neighborly interactions, and aside from the usual commonplace hellos and all that, and aside from the occasional jokes about his weirdness, we haven’t had much to do with him. Not yet, anyway.

Lately I’ve had much more important things to worry about.

I just graduated high school, which is a big deal. That’s something you only do once. You can graduate college multiple times, and you can get married to many different people—consecutively or simultaneously (depending on where you live)—and you can have as many kids are your sexual potency permits and your wife’s (or wive’s) fertility allows, and you can exclude as many of those kids from your will as your heart desires, and you can even die over and over again if someone is kind enough to bring you back to life with a defibrillator—but graduating high school is a one-off thing. So I’m savoring the experience.

To get particular, this savoring involves a lot of drinking and as many girls as I can convince to be a part of the celebrations. I have carefully budgeted, planned, and I have convened counsels, secret and solemn, with friends and acquaintances, and I have run careful reconnaissance missions, sent invitations, bought supplies—beer and condoms, mostly—to ensure that this savoring goes on without any interruption for as long as possible. So far so good.

Last night was no exception. I won’t go into details, but I had a proper debauch. I’ll just say that this morning I woke up on Jimmy’s couch next to someone, needing badly to pee and vomit (not in that order), with a terrible headache and a slight burning sensation in my loins that I hope is just from friction. After taking care of business, I do what I always do: throw on my clothes and sneak out, leaving everything for Jimmy to clean up.

Well, as I’m walking home, bleary-eyed, head pounding, body aching, blinking in the bright day, pausing occasionally to spit up a little into the bushes, this infamous Don Bigote—who, I should make clear now before I forget, is the entire subject of this story, and the entire reason I’m writing in the first place, so pay attention—this infamous Don Bigote, as I was saying, with his mustache twinkling in the sunlight (he must’ve drank something recently, since it looks moist), walks over from his front porch to his fence and starts talking to me.

“Hello, good sir,” he says.

“Ugh,” I reply.

“Fine day, is it not?”

“Yug.”

“Yes, there is a northerly breeze, and the sun’s rays are dripping full down like a waterfall from heaven.”

“Gargle.”

He opens the gate of his fence and approaches closer. I can hardly keep my eyes open, and judging from the sounds my stomach is making, I don’t have long to get to a bathroom (we ate spicy burritos before the party).

“May I ask, sir,” he says, “if I have the honor of talking to the first-born son of Mr. and Mrs. Chopin?”

“Yurgle,” I answer.

“And is this first-born son bestowed with the appellation, ‘Daniel’?”

“That’s me,” I say. “Dan Chopin.” Stomach clock still ticking.

“Ah, what a pleasure,” he says, and stretches out his hand. I do likewise and he very formally and firmly shakes my appendage until he’s good and satisfied.

“And am I correct in the knowledge, recently acquired, that this very same son, Dan Chopin, is recently graduated from high school?”

“Mmmm.” Stomach can’t take much more of this.

“And is this same aforementioned son, the honorable Dan Chopin, currently in want of gainful employment?”

“Uuhhhhhuuuhh!” I scream. “Dude, just send me a letter!” And I run into the house and make it just in time (well, close enough).

I shower, nap, get up, shave, apply deodorant under my armpits and my legpit, and then I go again to the bathroom just to make sure my system is totally vacant, and then—cleaned up, spruced up, and emptied out—I go downstairs to enjoy the good and wholesome cooking of my wonderful mother, who is already busy in the kitchen, as my acute nose informs me.

“You got a letter,” she says as I walk in. “It’s on the table.”

“Oh yeah? What’s for dinner.”

“Chicken. You got a letter. It’s on the table.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of chicken?”

“Roast, with rosemary. The letter is there on the table.”

“And what’s on the side?”

“Potatoes and greenbeans. The letter’s right there on the table.”

“Oh yummy, potatoes and greenbeans!” I say, as I sit down at the table and absently open the letter, thinking it’s just the usual bullshit about college. But then I pause. It’s written in script, and the writing is all squiggly and fancy-like. I need to squint to read it, since who writes in script? It goes like this:

My dear Daniel, 

I hope this letter finds you in good health and fine spirits. I am sorry to have caught you at an inopportune moment earlier today, my sincere apologies.

I am writing you today to introduce a certain proposal into your hands. Recently I have been doing a great deal in my house, and it struck me that I badly require assistance, seeing as I am old and increasingly in need of haste due to events beyond my control.

My proposal is this. I wish to contract your services, for a few hours each week, to help me around the house. For your services, I will give you a suitable monetary reward, the exact amount being negotiable but certainly substantial.

If you wish to accept this offer, or if you are merely intrigued and wish to learn more, please come over any time tomorrow and we will discuss it further. If, however, you cannot or do not wish to accept this offer, be assured that I understand and respect your decision, and no further action need be taken on your part.

 Yours faithfully,

 Don Bigote

What a wackjob. Who writes like this? Well, what should I do? I’ve got so many parties coming up, I don’t think I have any spare time…. tonight at Jimmy’s again, then Thursday I’m with Jessica, then Friday we’re going to the old factory… But then again, if I work during the day, maybe it won’t be a problem. And some extra money could really help with the debauching…

“Hey mom,” I say.

“Not for another five minutes,” she says, stirring something.

“No, it’s not about dinner. But thanks for letter me know.”

“What, then?”

“This letter, it’s from the Colonel. He wants me to work for him.”

“That’s nice, dear.”

“Says he’ll pay.”

“Very nice.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, it sounds terribly nice.”

“Should I do it?”

“I think it would be a nice thing, Danny.”

* * *

Next day at noon, I knock on his door.

In three seconds Don Bigote opens it. He’s dressed the usual way: pistol on hip, grey smoking jacket, mustache looking as sharp as a razor blade.

“My dear Chopin, come in,” he says, gesturing stiffly.

“Yo,” I say. “What’s up?”

“I am so pleased you came.”

We walk to his kitchen. On the way I get a glimpse of his house. It’s a total mess. Magazines, books, and papers are strewn everywhere. It’s a weird assortment of stuff, too—the National Review, ¡Adios America! by Ann Coulter, a book of Latin grammar, a history of the Spanish Reconquista, and several books with the Twin Towers on the cover. Equally random are the pictures on the walls—Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, the Confederate flag, a map of Europe, a glossy photograph of a castle, and an old oil portrait of someone with a big chin who looks historical and important. And the whole place smells like cigars and sawdust.

When we get to his kitchen—chipped plates, dirty dishes, and greasy glasses in the sink, and pots and pans and cutlery strewn everywhere—a radio is playing:

“Nowadays, you can’t say you’re against immigration or the media immediately calls you a racist. Like, am I a racist if I don’t like Mexicans? It’s a conspiracy! The left is trying to open the floodgates, my fellow Americans, and they’re already in control of all the television, all the…”

Don Bigote turns off the radio. Then he pulls out a chair for me at the kitchen table, and walks over to the cabinet to get something. In front of me is a Bible (in the King James translation), and a book called Vaccines and Autism: Behind the Liberal Conspiracy to Poison our Kids.

“I understand,” he says, as he rummages through his shelves, “that nowadays it is illegal for people of your age to partake of alcoholic drinks. Government tyranny!” He pulls down a bottle of bourbon from the shelves. “Those ungodly communists!” He pours me a drink, and pours himself one.

“To freedom!” he says, and we clink glasses. The bourbon burns.

“Onward to business, then,” he says, crossing one leg over the other, sitting straight up as if someone stuck a stick up his ass. “Chopin, before I begin, I need your most solemn promise of confidentiality. What I am about to tell you is very sensitive information, and if you were to tell anybody, maybe even your parents, then things could get very bad for me.”

“No worries, dude. I’m no snitch.”

“Excellent. Well, to begin, surely you are aware, Chopin (not to put too fine a point on it), that the world is in crisis. This much is clear to everybody. Immigrants are pouring in and turning the streets into chaos, Muslim terrorist are sneaking into countries and killing untold numbers of innocents, and the media and the government are doing nothing to stop it.”

“You sound like my dad.”

“Yes, all this is generally known and rightly complained of. But it has lately come to my attention—how exactly, I can’t tell you, just know that it was the process of many years of painstaking research on the internet, searching through countless forums and chatrooms, as well as a huge effort of radio listening and book reading—it has come to my attention that the trouble goes far, far, far deeper than you think.”

“Oh yeah?” I say, and polish off the bourbon.

“You see, all of these events are connected. The Muslims, the Mexican immigrants, the Media, the Government—they aren’t separate phenomena, but are working in a close alliance. And they have been for a long time, Chopin. Now, I don’t want to scare you, but what if I told you that everything from the Twin Towers attack, to global warming, to vaccinations, to multiculturalism, to abortion, to evolution, to feminism—all of these, Chopin, are part of a carefully planned and perfectly executed conspiracy.”

“Is it alright with you if I have another glass?” I say, as I walk over to the bourbon bottle.

“Yes, yes, of course.”

“So, like, why?”

“Why?”

“Yeah, what’s the point of this conspiracy, then?”

“Chopin, don’t be naïve!” he says. “The purpose is as clear as crystal: to end Western Civilization as we know it.”

“Mmmhmm,” I say, mid gulp, mulling it over. “Are you sure about this, dude? Sounds pretty crazy to me. Like, isn’t the government busy killing the terrorists over there? And, like, why would feminists want to blow up the World Trade Center?”

“I know it may seem hard to believe,” he says. “But that’s just the brilliance of it—that’s why nobody but me has figured out the truth.”

“Well, alright. Then shouldn’t we stop it? Or like tell the police?”

“Chopin, Chopin, I wish we could. But I’m afraid the conspiracy goes far too deep. I mean, look at this.”

He pulls out a twenty dollar bill from his pocket.

“Just watch.”

He starts folding it very carefully, like its origami or something. When he’s finished the bottom is triangular and its been folded lengthwise in half.

“See?” he says, handing it to me.

I can see two parts of the White House with trees on the end.

“Can you believe it?”

“Well, I’ve honestly seen better. My friend can make a swan.”

“The Twin Towers!” he says.

I look again. I guess it does sort of look like two buildings on fire, if you squint.

“The twenty dollar bill has had this design since 1928. You know what that means? They have been planning this since before the World Trade Center existed! And at the highest levels of government!”

His eyes were wide with terror, and his mustache seems to be squirming around on his upper lip like a small animal.

“Wow, that’s pretty crazy,” I say. “Some real illuminati shit. So, like, when’s the last time you went to a doctor?”

“You can’t trust doctors either, Chopin. I’m afraid they are some of the most fiendish conspirators of all.”

“I see, I see. Wow, dude, seems pretty hopeless. So what do you want me to do?”

“At this point, Chopin, I think that there is no hope of preventing their success. Civilization will collapse entirely, in about five years if my calculations are correct. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to begin storing up knowledge for the dark times to come. If I cannot prevent this disaster, at least I can make it easier for future generations to rebuild civilization and regain what was lost. This is what I need you for.”

“Yeah, go on.”

“You see, I am building a shelter beneath this house, a shelter deep underground, where I will store up all of the knowledge, the literature, music, architecture, painting, poetry, all of the science and philosophy, and of course all of our theology and religion, where it will be safe, I hope, when society begins to fall apart. I can’t build it alone, so that’s why I wanted to hire you, as an assistant.”

“So, like, how much are we talking here?”

“Is this a monetary question?”

“Yeah. Cashwise, how much?”

“Well, since I expect money will lose its value in a few years, I am willing to be very generous. How about $50 an hour?”

“I’LL DO IT!” I say. “Let’s start right away!”

* * *

“Okay,” he says, “let me see here. How long did you say the basement is?”

“25 feet and 3 inches.”

“And tell me the width once more?”

“20 feet 8 inches and a quarter.”

“Hmmm. This means, according to my calculations, that we need about sixteen hundred cinderblocks, eight bags of cement (I have the mixer machine already out back), at least half a ton of gravel, and several hundred feet of plastic tubing.”

“Why tubes?”

“My dear Chopin,” Bigote says. “The atmosphere on the surface will be unbreathable. We need to install an atmosphere purification system, to remove toxins and radiation, so we can survive long enough for the earth’s ecosystem to re-balance itself. Trust me, I’ve read several blogs about this.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Why, do you think I’d be so heartless as to leave you to fend for yourself during this cataclysm? The thought of it!”

“And my parents?”

“Well, uh, you see Chopin, space is very limited.”

“Ok, I hope you’re a good cook, then, if I won’t have my mom with me.”

“Have no fear about that. I have been practicing the ancient and noble arts of French and Italian cooking, so that I can teach the survivors how to make poulet cordon bleu and spaghetti—two vital elements of Western culture.”

“Alright, well then, just don’t light the place on fire.”

“No more time for small talk, Chopin. We must attend to business. Let us away to the pick up truck, to purchase these supplies and start construction.”

“Ok, but I’m driving.”

Bigote’s truck is a true piece of shit and leaves a trail of black fumes behind it as it coughs its way to the department store. The whole interior smells like gasoline and burning brake fluid, which pours in through the ventilators, and the seats aren’t even comfortable.

“I bought it used,” he explains. “No paperwork, paid in cash. For the past seventeen years, you see, I have been doing my best to live off the grid. No bank account, no government records, no paperwork, no signatures, nothing. I live invisibly.”

“But isn’t your name on your mailbox?”

“An alias, my good Chopin, an alias. My true name is not Don Bigote.”

“What is it, then?”

“Here we are!” he says, as the Home Depot pops into view.

We jump out, and I pick up one of those big metal trolleys for serious home improvement shopping. Bigote leads the way, his giant legs crawling like a giant spider over the flat parking lot, his mustache fluttering heroically in the wind. He looks ridiculous and I feel embarrassed, but money is money.

We walk through the sliding automatic doors and into the big, spacey interior, that always reminds me of an airport hanger.

“First, I suppose we should get the concrete,” Bigote says, staring down at his list through wire-framed glasses.

“Welcome to Home Depot,” someone says. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, do you—”

Don Bigote looks up at the assistant and freezes. I look at the assistant, too, and recognize him immediately. He’s my classmate Juan López, from Venezuela, a short, dark-haired boy with a nose piercing. Quite good at lacrosse.

“No, sorry, I’m not in need of anything, just browsing, thank you very much…”

Don Bigote turns and bolts down the nearest aisle.

“Yo Juan, you coming tonight?” I say.

“Dunno yet dude.”

“Ok, well see ya around.”

I follow Bigote.

When I find him, he’s leaning against the tires, pale and panting.

“Dude, what’s wrong?”

“Don’t you see!” he sputters. “They’re here! The Mexicans!”

“Who, Juan? He’s not Mexican, dude.”

“That’s what they want you to believe!”

“Who? His parents?”

“Oh, this is bad, Chopin, very bad. If they see what materials I’m buying, they will get suspicious and investigate, and my scheme will be ruined. No, it’s too risky, too risky.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s fine, dude. Juan’s cool, mostly. He did hit a guy in gym class in April. Got suspended.”

“Damn them to hell!” he says, pounding his fist into his palm. “Clever bastards! I will not be defeated so easily!”

And with this, he pulls his revolver out of his holster and starts dashing towards the front door.

What the fuck are you doing?!” I scream, and run after him.

He gets to the end of the aisle, stops, and aims straight at Juan.

“See you in Hell, communists!”

“Wait, wait, wait!” I yell, and tackle him from behind just as the shot rings out.

The bullet goes wild and hits the roof. Meanwhile the two of us slam into a shelf full of electric drills, which comes tumbling down. And then, like in all the movies, the domino effect: one shelf hits another shelf hits another, until the entire store is collapsing. Babies are crying, men and women are running for the exits, the alarm is sounding, red lights and a siren, the sprinkler too, everything is going totally nuts, and the string quartet is still bravely playing.

Finally the last shelf tumbles down, and the place is deathly still. The two of us slowly get to our feet.

What do we do? What do we do? Shit, shit, shit, Bigote will get arrested, and then who will pay me? And what if they arrest me to? Think, think, think.

Wait!

“Freeeee stuff!” I yell. “Get it quick, get it now! Before the cops come!”

The store explodes again, as every customer begins frantically looting, ripping open the cash machines, filling up their arms with everything they can carry, running this way and that, in every direction, and still the string quartet doesn’t stop.

“Now’s our chance! We’ve got to go!” I say to Bigote, and yank him towards the exit.

“But the shelter!”

“No time, dumbass! Let’s get our asses in drive, and skedaddle!”

And we run out into the parking lot, jump into the car, and zoom into the sunset.

(Continued in Chapter 2.)