Don Bigote: Chapter 8

Don Bigote: Chapter 8

The story so far:

  1. Don and Dan Build a Shelter
  2. Don and Dan Take a Flight
  3. Don and Dan Go to Spain
  4. Don and Dan Do Drugs
  5. Don and Dan Find God
  6. Don and Dan Find Themselves
  7. Don and Dan Find Happiness

The Coronavirus Chronicles, Part I

“Wuuhhhuh,” I say, waking up with a start.

My head hurts, my stomach feels shitty, and my left knee is throbbing. Where am I? The light hurts when I open my eyes, so I keep them shut and try to think. What happened? I remember… a kind of trippy cave, a bunch of hippies, some German dudes, and… and… a police raid! How did we get out of there? Last thing I can clearly recall is piling into this sort of weird helicopter thing and taking off through the brush.

I try opening my eyes again, rubbing them and squinting in the sunlight. Everything looks green, very green. It’s some kind of field with lots of trees and bushes around. Okay then… But where’s Bigote?

“He… hello?” I try calling out, but my voice is weak and kind of whispery, like when you’ve smoked a lot and have a bad hangover. I try again: “Bigote?”

“Ah, hah!” I hear a voice from nearby. “It appears that my faithful squire has finally awoken from his slumber.” It’s him.

“Sir?” I crawl toward his voice, still unable to see very clearly. “What’s going on?”

“Well…” This is another voice, a German guy. “It appears that the landing mechanism had a slight malfunction, causing us to impact the ground at a speed that was higher than optimal.”

“How are you feeling, my friend?” This was another German voice—younger. I feel a friendly arm pat me on the back.

“Well, not so great I gotta say. Where are we?”

“Galicia!” Bigote says.

“Ga-what?”

“The northwest of Spain—an ancient land, once populated by celts. A land unconquered by the Muslim invaders and one of the most venerated seats of Catholicism in Europe.”

“Yes, my contraption did not carry us a great distance before we ran into technical troubles,” the older German voice says. I catch a glimpse at the speaker and my memory starts to come back. It’s professor Allesprachen, the guy from that paradise place who we met in Portugal. “I’m afraid there must be a design flaw that I overlooked.”

“Don’t be harsh on yourself, professor,” the younger voice says. I suddenly remember him too: the prince named Franck. “If it weren’t for you, we’d all be in jail right now.”

“Does anybody have some water or something?” I say, sitting back down, holding my head. 

“I am afraid not, my long-suffering companion,” Bigote says. “We have virtually no resources available at the moment.”

“Oh, don’t worry about resources,” Franck says. “We’ve got money to spare. Maybe we ought to find the nearest town and buy some supplies.”

“An excellent idea!” Bigote says. “Should each of us take off in a different direction and return here by sundown?”

“Unnecessary,” Allesprachen says, gesturing to a little black thing in his hand. “I have a device here that can find our location from any point on the earth, and direct us to where we want to go.”

“Marvellous!” Bigote replies. “But how does such a thing work?”

“It uses satellites to triangulate our position on the earth’s surface. I call it ‘Locational Ordinate Specifying Technology,’ or LOST.”

“Brilliant!” Bigote says.

“Isn’t that just GPS?” I say.

“GPS?”

“You know, like Google Maps and all that.”

Before Allesprachen can respond, Bigote cuts in:

“Do not be a fool, Chopin. GPS is a tool of control used by the Muslim-Mexican conspiracy. They use it to monitor the population and enforce that people observe the Call to Prayer and the fasting rules of Ramadan.”

“Well, I cannot say I have ever heard of this Google Maps,” Allesprachen says. “Nor do I know of how it is related with any such conspiracy. But I assure you my device is perfectly safe.”

“Let us go!” Franck says, and soon enough we’re walking through the countryside.

Maybe if I didn’t have a terrible headache, and I weren’t hungry and thirsty, and my stomach didn’t feel kind of like I drank some hydrochloric acid, and my knee didn’t feel like someone hit it with a baseball bat—and if I had clean clothes, a shower, a decent night’s sleep, the prospect of sex anytime soon, or maybe even a nice massage and a tightly-rolled blunt—maybe, in that case, I’d be enjoying this walk through this countryside towards wherever we’re going. But as it is, I feel like absolute garbage.

Luckily we aren’t so far away. Soon, one of these crazy old European towns comes into view, the kind with big walls wrapped around the outside, and all these old stone towers sticking out of it (the pointy kind). We make our way to the nearest bar and shuffle into a booth.

¿Qué vais a tomar, chicos?” the waitress says.

“Ahh, the sweet sound of Castilian. What a beautiful European language!”

“I thought that was Spanish?” Franck says.

“Oh, no—no, no, no,” Bigote says. “Spanish is what they speak in Mexico. In Spain they speak Castilian.”

“But…” Allesprachen tries to say.

Cuatro cervezas,” I say, using some of the only Spanish I remember from Señor González’s class.

Vale, chicos,” she says.

“My word!” Bigote says. “Chopin, I did not know you can speak Castilian.”

“Only a few words,” I say. “I learned it in high school.”

“Astounding! I thought that the conspiracy had removed all European languages from our public schools long ago, replacing them with Spanish and Arabic.”

“Guess my school is a bit special.”

Soon the lady comes back with four big goblets of the good stuff. I gulp mine down almost as soon as I get it.

“So,” Franck says, after taking his own ginger sip. “My good doctor, does your LOST device tell us what city this is?”

“Ah, yes,” Allesprachen says. “We are in a place called ‘Lugo.’”

“Lugo!” Bigote cries out, mid gulp, his moustache dripping. “I have heard of this place. I read about it while researching the Camino de Santiago.”

“Ah, yes!” Allesprachen now cries. “The Camino de Santiago, of course!”

“What is that, my dear mentor?” the prince asks.

“This is an ancient pilgrimage route, established during the darkest ages of Europe. It consists of several different paths, some of them extending as far as our Geheimnisland.”

“But my dear doctor,” Franck says, “what is a pilgrimage?”

“It is a sort of religious voyage that one undertakes in order to feel closer to God, and to purge oneself of one’s sins.”

“I am familiar with the notion of God,” Franck says. “But what is ‘sin’?”

“Well, in this Christian faith, it is the embodiment of God’s disapproval for an action that has been prohibited in the religion.”

“So it is like a cosmic crime?”

“A very astute summary, my prince.”

“What a quaint place this is,” Franck says. “They worship a police officer.”

“Quaint is not the word, my dear friend,” Bigote says. “It is an ancient, noble custom, an homage to one of the pillars of Western civilization—the holy Christian faith. You see, in these dark ages, when this land was overrun by the evil Muslim hoard, Galicia was home to a small pocket of surviving Europeans. This pilgrimage was one of the ways they kept their faith alive, and regained their strength to beat back the invading barbarians.”

“Fascinating,” Franck says. Then, turning to Allesprachen: “You know, my dear doctor, perhaps this is a golden opportunity. I mean, after all, we are searching for a new way of life, a different concept of happiness. Maybe this will help us in our spiritual quest!”

“I think that is a wonderful idea, my prince.”

“Indeed!” Bigote says, newly wetting his moustache. “This is a golden opportunity! And as it is my mission to understand European culture as deeply as I can—before the dastardly conspiracy causes everything to sink into ruin—it appears not only desirably, but incumbent upon me to perform this sacred ritual.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” I say, a knot forming in my stomach. “What are you guys talking about? We only just got here. And I’m sure I would appreciate a few days to relax and eat and recover from all this craziness.”

“Do not worry, my dear squire,” Bigote says. “A pilgrimage, by its very nature, is restful and rejuvenating.”

“For one, I don’t really know what a squire is, or why you’re calling me that. And two—what is a pilgrimage?”

§

“This blows,” I say. “Pilgrimages pretty much suck, I guess.”

So it turns out that all this talk of spirituality and tradition and all that is just an excuse to go on a really long walk. That’s all this Camino de Santiago business is—a glorified stroll. All we’ve been doing is following these silly little signs with yellow arrows on them, which are leading us further and further into the middle of nowhere. 

“Do not be so censorious, my dear Chopin. We have only just begun the journey!”

“I’d like to stop and have a coffee and a ham sandwich or something.”

“Why, was our breakfast not ample enough?”

“A single croissant? No way, man. And also, we could’ve stayed in bed for way, way longer. I don’t know why you had to drag me out at six in the morning.”

“Ah, but my dear Chopin, you must understand that it is only wise to partake of a light meal before spending the day on our feet. And you must admit that it is worthwhile to sacrifice a little sleep if it means that we do not have to walk during the hottest part of the day.”

“I guess… But I’d still like to stop.”

“Oh, my dear Chopin, you have no taste for romance! As I walk this hallowed path, my mind flies back more than a millenia. Think of the nobles, philosophers, saints, and kings who must have trod the very same ground you are standing upon now! Over hundreds of years, facing a relentless foe, these noble Europeans built a culture that remains the envy of the world—gothic architecture, contrapuntal music, three-dimensional painting! It is our sacred duty to preserve what we can of this heritage, before its inevitable destruction at the hands of the conspiracy.”

“I think we should let the conspiracy destroy really long walks…”

“You know,” Allesprachen cuts in, “I must admit, Mr. Bigote, that I am still rather fuzzy on this conspiracy you talk so much about. Can you help me understand better the history and purpose of this nefarious organization?”

“Why, of course, my erudite friend. The conspiracy against civilization has taken many forms in the long course of history. But the most convenient place to start is the Cold War. At this time, the forces of Western destruction operated more or less out in the open, as communists and socialists. But after America’s triumph in the 1990s, these enemies of capitalism, truth, freedom, and justice had to go underground.”

“Underground?”

“Yes, they decided they had to operate in secret, since they could not overthrow the West directly. By establishing a secret network of spies and operatives, they slowly took control—of the CIA, the media—and they set up centers of power in many parts of the less-developed world, like Mexico and the Middle East. This way, they have accomplished through stealth what one hundred years of war could not: almost total control of the levers of power.”

“My word!” Franck says. “But isn’t there some way to stop them?”

“Sadly, I believe it is too late. Yes, at one point I did think we had a chance. The election of our dear leader, Donald Trump, gave me hope. Even now, he is fighting a losing battle against the forces of destruction, buried deep within the United States government. But even a man as talented and brave as he is can never win against such odds.”

“Guys,” I say. “I think I’m going to pass out if we go any further. I’m not cut out for this shit… You know I failed gym class every year since the fifth grade? This is torture.”

“Cheer up, Chopin!” Bigote cries. “We’re almost halfway there!”

§

A few agonizing hours later—with sweat running down my back, blisters covering the soles of my feet, a bad sunburn on the back of my neck—feeling lightheaded, woozy, hungry, thirsty, and generally terrible—just then, we get to the hostel.

It isn’t much. Basically, it’s just a bunch of metal bunk beds in a big white room. They gave us a couple shitty pillow cases for the plastic pillows and also a couple blankets. The bathroom and shower and all that is shared. Luckily there aren’t many people there beside us, so at least it isn’t cramped. But, honestly, if this is what it takes to get God to forgive me, he can hold onto his grudge.

The town isn’t much either—just a few stone houses, some fields full of cows, and a single restaurant. Well, at least the restaurant has hamburgers and beer. After dinner, I crawl into my bunk and find it to be almost comfortable. At least I’ll be able to savor a few hours of being unconscious and away from these nutjobs.

The next morning, as usual, Bigote gets me out of bed by jabbing his bony finger into my rib cage.

“Jesus, dude,” I groan. “Can’t you just say my name or something?”

“Oh, my dear Chopin,” Bigote says. “You and I both know that a touch of physical violence is required to rouse you from your slumber.”

“You sound like my mom, except with a much better vocabulary I guess.”

I sit up and rub my eyes. I feel wretched.

“Honestly, guys,” I say, to nobody in particular. “I can’t believe this is how you want to spend your time. Here we are, in Spain, a country with wine, clubs, hot girls, and we’re out here, walking, like somehow this is going to solve any of the world’s problems.”

“Chopin, hurry up!” Bigote calls from across the room.

Somehow, I managed to brush my teeth and dress myself. But just as we’re about to walk out the door, the owner of the hostel rushes in front of us.

¿¡Qué hacéis!? No se puede salir ahora por el virus!”

“Chopin, did you catch that?” Bigote asks me.

“Nah…”

“Wait a moment,” Allesprachen says. Then, he pulls out a device from his bag. “Here is another one of my inventions, the Linguistic Omnidirectional Speech Translator, or LOST.”

“Isn’t the name of your other thing?” I say.

“Oh, you’re right…”

“And isn’t that just like Google Translate?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, Chopin!” Bigote says. “Google is a tool of the conspiracy!”

“Well, let me turn on the device.”

Allesprachen switches a button on the little black box and a green light pops on. He holds it up to the Spanish man and says, “Can you say that again?”

A digital voice then emits from the box, and says: “¿Puedes decir esto otra vez?

The man starts talking through the machine:

“You guys need to know that there’s a virus out there, called the coronavirus. Lots of people are dying and the government says that we can’t leave our houses anymore.”

“Can’t leave out houses!? That’s tyranny!” Bigote cries.

“I don’t make the laws, man, but if you leave here, you could get a big, big fine, and maybe even arrested. All the flights are cancelled so it looks like we’ll all have to stay here for the time being.”

I look around the hostel. Aside from us and the owner, there are about ten people with us.

“Well at least we don’t have to do any more walking,” I say.

“This is not the time for smart comments, Chopin. I’m afraid that this may signify the beginning of the end.”

“What?”

“I have research to do!” Bigote cries, and walks back to his bunk.

“Indeed, I believe I should do some investigating myself,” Allesprachen says, and also retreats.

From that point on, time has started to go pretty slowly. I spend a lot of time sleeping, and a lot more time laying in bed, looking at the ceiling. Among the people trapped here, there isn’t even one hot girl—the closest is a lady in her forties with a big nose—so there’s no relief in that department. Thankfully, we’re still allowed to go out to buy food and, very importantly, alcohol. So that’s helping. And one of the ‘pilgrims’ here has some playing cards, which has helped to pass the time. But that’s pretty much it, as far as my life goes.

Meanwhile, Bigote has disappeared into the internet. He’s been using the hostel’s computer to do his ‘research,’ all day and apparently all night, too. Allesprachen has set up a kind of lab in a supply closet. He says he’s working on a cure for the virus.

After about a week of this, Bigote emerges—his mustache even bigger, scratchier, and messier than usual—and calls a meeting.

“Everyone, gather together!” he yells. “I need to let you know the truth of what is happening.”

We all pull up folding chairs into a little circle, like an AA meeting.

“We have been told that there is a pandemic raging in the world. The mainstream media assure us that a virus, inadvertently transferred from wild animals, has traveled from China to the rest of the world. So-called experts have concluded that the only way to stop the virus from catastrophic spread is to shut us all in our homes and to close all ‘non-essential’ businesses. We are told that the only way to defeat this virus is a vaccine, to be developed by these same so-called experts in their laboratories.”

“Get to the point,” one of the pilgrims says.

“I am here to tell you that none of this is true. Indeed, this entire emergency is, in reality, a meticulously planned power-grab by the conspiracy to seize control of our society. Now, some people have already doubted the official story about the virus coming from wild animals, thinking that it was crafted in a Chinese laboratory. This is only half-true. The horrible truth is that the symptoms of the virus are really the effects of MSG, built up in the bloodstream through years of eating Chinese takeout. Yet MSG is only one half of the recipe. The recently-developed ‘5G’ wireless network is carefully engineered to activate the MSG that has built up in our muscles, nerves, and blood. The activated MSG produces the virus symptoms.”

“Are you sure…” someone says.

“But why would they do this? The answer is obvious. The communist Chinese government, like so many governments around the world, is really just a puppet for the Muslim Mexican conspiracy. You see, it is all connected—vegans, gays, communists, liberals, global warming scientists, identity politics—it is all part of a grand scheme to finally topple Western Civilization. And this fake pandemic is the perfect vehicle to accomplish their plan. The economic ruin alone will bring many governments to their knees. The manufactured disaster will weaken the leaders who have honest, liberal principles, like our dear Trump, and only strengthen authoritarian communist regimes. State control will seem not only desirable, but necessary, and personal liberties frivolous.”

“But what about…”

“When they finally come out with a ‘vaccine,’ it will be the last phase in their nefarious scheme. They will inject hundreds of millions with a devious concoction, laced with gay genes and mind-control chemicals, allowing them to turn us all into obedient subjects, praying to Allah five times a day and eating vegetarian tacos in polygamous relationships.”

“That doesn’t sound so…”

“Unfortunately, if they have been able to come this far, it is probably too late to stop them. All we can do is hunker down and try to ride out the storm of civilizational collapse. Then, it will be our task to start rebuilding what we lost…”

Bigote stops, and the whole room becomes silent. I can’t tell if it’s because these people think he’s really onto something, or if they think he’s batshit crazy, or if they’re just kinda bored like me. Just as the silence starts to get a bit awkward and uncomfortable, one of the pilgrims starts to talk. He’s stocky, bald, and clean-shaven, who looks like he’s about forty.

“You know,” he says, “a lot of what you been saying makes sense to me. You see, I ain’t trusted Muslims, Mexicans, or really anyone from outside the country for a long time. They’re always up to something, these immigrants, whether they’re stealing our jobs or our women. I swear. Hell, a lot of born Americans aren’t trustworthy either, if they’re from the wrong neighborhood, if you know what I mean.”

“I apologize,” Bigote says, “but I did not catch your name, good sir.”

“My name’s Derek,” he says.

“Well, I appreciate your contribution to the conversation!” Bigote responds. “Judging from your accent, it appears that you are, like myself, of American extraction.”

“I’m an American, for sure,” he says. “Minnesota, born and bred.”

“The real heartland of the country!” Bigote says. “What brings you all the way here, on a pilgrimage in Europe?”

“Well, that’s sort of a long story,” Derek says.

“Why, I think we could all use a long story,” Franck says. “After all, we’re stuck here for the foreseeable future. It would be nice to pass the time some way, maybe by sharing the story of how we got here.”

“If that’s what you want, little man,” Derek says, “I’m game. Here we go.”


The Police Officer’s Tale

Well, first of all, I want to set the record straight about my background. People these days talk about white privilege, like all we whites live in mansions and drive Ferraris. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We didn’t have much growing up, my family. You see, my dad worked at the steel mill, so when I was younger it was mainly my mom, my sister, and me. He made a good, honest living that way, but it was hard work, and he’d come back late, tired, sweaty, cranky. You know.

Well, the years rolled by, and I think work got to my dad a bit. He started staying out late, drinking. At first it was only on the weekends, but then it started to be almost every night. And he was a mean drunk. He raised us right when he was sober. He’d smack us into shape sometimes, but he never hurt us. But when he was drunk he’d take it a bit too far, if you know what I mean, and sometimes he’d hit mom too. I didn’t like that.

Well, I think my mom got a bit tired of it. When I was twelve, she took us to her parent’s house, and told us they was getting a divorce. It was pretty ugly. Dad came over a few times, beat on the door, yelling and screaming. One time he even shot his rifle into the upstairs window. I think he smashed up my grandma’s car a bit, too. That all stopped with the restraining order. Anyways, they had to go to court and all that. My daddy, he must have felt pretty bad by then, because he wanted paternity tests for me and my baby sister. Turns out, I was his son, but she wasn’t.

Well, the judge considered that, and decided that the two of them would get joint custody of me, but my sister would stay with our mom full time. So some weeks I’d go over to dad’s, some to mom’s. Mom got a job as an accountant to push us through. But she started going out with some new guy, Carl, who I guess was my sister’s daddy. I didn’t like him. He’d walk in like he owned the place. He’d boss my mom around. I’d fight with him. One time, when my mom wasn’t around, he smacked me. So then, whenever he’d come over, I’d just go to my dad’s.

Well, my dad wasn’t doing so good, either. Without my mom he started drinking more and more. Most of the time when I’d get there, he wasn’t home. I’d sneak in through the back door and just hang out there, all by myself. Sometimes he’d come home and he’d be happy to see me. But, when he was drunk, he was meaner than ever. I dunno, maybe I brought back bad memories of my mom, and he’d rough me up. One time, he came back with a streetwalker and kicked me out.

Well, this sort of continued for a while. But then, one day, there was a big hullabaloo in town. Turns out, the steel mill was closing down for good. They sacked everyone, including my dad, and boarded up the old buildings. Things went downhill for my dad pretty fast after that. His drinking got out of hand. He’d basically just drink from morning to night. The last time I came over, the house was a dump, liquor bottles everywhere, and my dad was passed out on the floor. When I woke him up he didn’t even remember who I was. So I just left him there. He was dead about a week later.

Well, that was pretty sad. Naturally, I wasn’t doing too good in school under the circumstances. I pretty much failed everything and eventually I just decided that it was just a big old waste of time. So I dropped out and started looking for work. Unfortunately, a lot of the jobs had dried up. Of course the factory was gone. But after all the workers lost all their money, a lot of other places went out of business, too. So the only thing I could find was being a dishwasher in the local diner.

Well, that wasn’t too much fun. I worked six nights a week, ten-hour shifts, and the pay was total shit. I had the idea that I’d be able to move out, buy a car, maybe get a girl, just like my dad did at my age. But I barely had enough money for the bus, nevermind a car. And that’s when I started thinking. You know, working as a dishwasher gives you a lot of empty headspace. So I started wondering why things had gone downhill. Where’d all the good jobs go? 

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was we was getting fleeced. The government says they’re gonna take care of all us good, hardworking Americans. But what do they do? They send out jobs to China. Or they let immigrants in and take our jobs from right under our noses. Or they take our taxes and they support all these lazy welfare queens in the cities. Or they just let these criminals rob our money, rape our women, sell drugs—basically run rampant. Basically, I figured we was getting the short end of the stick.

Well, that’s when I decided that we had to fight back. And I decided the best way to do that was to become a police officer. But of course I had a problem: I didn’t graduate high school. So I quit my job, studied a bit, got my GED, and enrolled in the academy. It was a bit hard at first, but soon I started to really love it. Eventually I graduated, got a job in the city, and got to work.

Well, that was really great. Being a police officer has a lot of perks, you know. You’re on a team with a bunch of boys, and everyone has everyone else’s back no matter what. Whether it’s some nosy reporter, a politician, or some activist type, it don’t matter, because we never squeal on each other. Yes, at times the job can be a little boring, like traffic stops and whatnot. But sometimes it’s real exciting. Like sometimes you got to bust into people’s houses. One time, for example, we got a domestic violence call. We get there, the guy refuses to let us in, so we kick the door down. Turns out, guy’s got a gun, and he’s sort of stumbling, reaching for it, so I pop him in the shoulder. 

Well, even traffic stops can be a bit exciting. For example, you know you can basically just ask anyone you want to get out of their car, and you can just search it? So if anyone looks suspicious, or if they’re just giving you some lip, you can have them on the pavement, face down. Anything you find in there is basically yours to keep. Petty cash? Could be to buy drugs, you can put it right in your pocket. And sometimes you’ll find a bit of weed, or you’ll just “find” some weed. Half the time, the guy starts to get upset. He might be insulting you, or even struggling, or trying to stop you. Funny thing is, as soon as there’s any resistance, all bets are off. You can wrestle him to the ground, tear gas him, taze him, anything you want. You get out a lot of anger on the job.

Well, the most exciting things could be the drug busts. That’s when you get all armored up, grab a shotgun, and then just go in, guns blazing. You don’t even need to knock or anything, we can just bust right in. It’s exciting as hell. Admittedly, sometimes we made a few mistakes. One time a flashbang burned a kid, and another time we gave some old guy a heart attack. Yeah, and I admit we don’t always find drugs. But it makes you feel like you’re in an action movie.

Well, I do have to admit one thing. I really was never very good with the ladies. I feel kinda shy and I never say the right thing, so basically dating hasn’t worked out for me. But being a police officer fixed that, too. You see, one part of the job is dealing with the prostitutes. Technically, being a whore is against the law, of course. On the other hand, there’s not a lot we can do about it. We throw them in jail and, next week, they’re out again. Or another girl’s replaced the one we locked away. And of course the demand is always there.

Well, so we basically have come to an understanding with the street-walkers. We go over there once in a while, make a big show of busting them up, taking down IDs, maybe dragging a few to jail for some nights. But mostly we sort of tax them. There’s two ways we do this. A lot of the boys just take some cash and zip off. Me, on the other hand, I prefer to get my rocks off. And you know, I think the girl’s prefer it, too, since it’s their job and all, and they don’t have to lose any money. So it’s a win-win. This way, I’ve basically kept myself satisfied, as far as the ladies are concerned. 

Well, so I was really enjoying this job. Sure, I got into some tight corners. People complained. I injured a few people. I got reprimanded a bit. But they also gave me medals, like for tackling a drunk guy waving a bottle around. The money was good. I had my lady friends. Basically, I felt like I was all set. But it came apart a few weeks ago. 

Well, it started with a pretty routine traffic stop. Some guy with a broken tail light. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling too hot that day. You see, the night before, I had done quite a bit of drinking, not to mention a couple pills I pocketed in a drug bust a few days before. So, basically, I was pretty hungover and just looking to have an easy day. Know what I mean? The end of the month was coming up, though, so I figured I should do a couple traffic stops to make my quota. Best way to do this is to go over to the other side of the tracks, the bad part of town, since everyone’s car is busted up one way or another. Pretty easy to stop people for vehicle violations.

Well, so I see this guy with the broken tail light, I flash my sirens, and he starts slowing down. But then, the crazy motherfucker opens his door, jumps out, and starts sprinting away through a park nearby. Now, when I was feeling hot, I woulda just run after him. I was pretty fast in my glory days. But that day I just felt so dog tired. I wasn’t about to be running with a hangover. So I sort of hesitated for a moment, until I remembered something we was taught in the police academy, that it’s legal to shoot a fleeing suspect. That seemed a heck of a lot better than running, so I pulled out my gun and squeezed the trigger a few times.

Well, soon enough the rest of the boys came. I was a bit worried at first, since I figured he was almost definitely a goner, but they said I was right about the law. Any fleeing suspect is fair game. Of course I had some paperwork to do and all that, but basically it seemed all good. Turns out, the guy was running because he was driving with a suspended license, and that was because he was late on his childcare payments. So basically he was just some deadbeat anyways. Good riddance, I figured.

Well, the next few days were more or less normal. The chief got me on desk duty, since that’s the normal procedure after you kill a suspect. That was fine by me, though. But three days later, everything just went to hell. Turns out, some liberal jackass filmed the whole thing on his cellphone, and it was circulating on the internets—one of those viral videos, you know. Soon as that happened, it just exploded. The media were involved. Reporters outside the precinct. Protests in the street. It got rough pretty fast.

Well, even after all that, I wasn’t so worried. You see, the police, we got each other’s backs no matter what. So I was pretty confident nothing would really change. After all, it wasn’t the first man I killed in the line of duty. And the chief had my back. He gave them media people the facts—I was within my legal rights to shoot a fleeing suspect, he was some deadbeat, and so on. But the pressure kept on building. After a while, the chief told me to stay home for a bit, to help relieve the pressure. But then the reporters were hanging out around my house and I couldn’t do nothing.

Well, after a while the mayor got involved, and told the chief that I had to go. I admit, they gave me a pretty good severance package. Let me keep my pension. Decent unemployment. But that didn’t help the fact that I was notorious. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without getting funny looks. This didn’t make it any easier to try to find a new job, let me tell you. And you know what? These protesters, they weren’t even happy when they gave me the boot. They wanted me arrested. Imagine that! They don’t know the law. A police officer don’t follow the same rules as normal people.

Well, crazy thing is, they kept saying I killed the guy because he was black. But the truth is I woulda killed him no matter what color he was. I just didn’t feel like running that day.

Well, I got pretty bored all alone in my house, drinking and so on, so that’s when I decided I’d come on this pilgrimage. I had a decent amount of money tucked away, mostly from all the confiscating I did on the job. So now I’m here. And it’s pretty great. People don’t recognize me so I don’t get any dirty looks. And of course all the scenery is nice. But I do miss being a cop. There’s nothing like it. When you’re a cop, you are the boss of the neighborhood. Nobody can say shit to you. And everyone got to do what you tell them to do. Besides, when you’re a cop, you know you’re basically doing a good thing in the world. Without us, who would protect the people from thieves, murderers, and rapists? But do I get any respect? Nope.


Derek stops talking, and we’re all silent for a while.

“What a remarkable tale,” Franck says.

“Wait a second,” I say. “So, you can just take whatever you want from people you stop on the street?”

“Chopin,” Bigote says. “I believe you missed the most important lesson from this story.”

“Yeah?”

“This is a perfect illustration of how the conspiracy has undermined the United States. Through their wily machinations, they have managed to promote trade deals that, they knew, would have disastrous economic consequences for the country. This loss of decent employment, in turn, caused a wave of crime that required additional police to handle. But the conspirators have turned their dastardly ideology on the police, making it impossible for brave officers, such as Derek, to do their jobs. Now, they are demonized, as part of the so-called ‘white, patriarchal, Christian state!’ As the public’s trust in the forces of order erodes, the evil forces of chaos—the Muslim-Mexican conspiracy—get ever closer to their goal of destabilizing the society completely, and ushering in their dystopian world of vegan, feminist identity politics!”

“That’s damn right,” Derek says.

“You know,” Franck says, “I feel that I have learned so much about the world from your story. And this has given me an inspiration. Perhaps all of us should share our stories? After all, we have a lot of time to pass during the quarantine, and I personally am greatly eager to learn more.”

“Want a story?” someone says. “I got one for you.”

To be continued…

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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 they 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.)