Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Guillotine Man

 All day long I wanted to talk to Mad Dog but there wasn’t the chance.  I kept going over and over in my head what I wanted to say, but it kept coming out wrong.  
 What was I supposed to do, walk up to him and say, “I met this little girl who saw you crying by the sea? “  He would have thought I was nuts, and coming from Mad Dog that’s saying a lot.  
 Or worse, a complete weird-o!
 So I did something even weirder and followed him around most of the day.  I stood three guys back in the coffee line while the dark skinned Lebanese with thin black mustache and little white apron dropped sugar cubes into the brown sludge, but Mad Dog seemed fine.
 In the cafeteria while the Saudi men sat at the tables scooping fistfuls of Kepsa rice into their mouths stopping only to pick their toes and belch, Mad Dog took a table with Flintstone and Scoops and talked deep sea diving and camel racing in the Rub al-Khali.  
 I don’t know why I wanted to dive into this person.  What I hoped to find while swimming into his depths.  He was just a man like any of the other men who taught these rough classes and rode through the desert every day for a dollar in his pocket.  Perhaps that was it.  After all the adventures of travel end, the greatest exploration is into the minds and lives of people.  What are their motives?  Their worries?  Their dreams?  How do they make us realize our own?
 These were my exact thoughts sitting alone at a round table in the cafeteria when suddenly I heard a voice behind me.  “Aye Boy-yo!  Feeling a bit lonesome now are we?”  Wee Scott Bob placed his tray next to mine and sat down.  “I was wondering,” he said, “did you get the lesson plan I put on your desk this morning?”
 I loosened my necktie and sat back.  There were four hours of teaching after lunch and wasn’t about to give ‘Mr. Welcome to Saudi Arabia’ even an ounce of my time.  I was about to tell him to go hump a camel when he said, “Thing is, I know you got it Boy-yo, cause me seen ya toss it in the rubbish bin.” 
Wouldn’t you know it?  Wee Scott Bob had been following me.
 I spoke first.  “Here’s a question for you, Bob.  What makes you think a guy like me, needs any teaching advice from a guy like you?”
Wee Scott coughed up a laugh.
“I saw the article.  What was the title?  How to Build Confidence in Arab Speakers through Vocabulary Games… something like that?  Is that what these guys need: Word Searches and Hang Man?  Really, Bob?  Why not just play Guillotine Man?  
Bob was furious.  Eyes blazing.  Festers of blotchy red flesh surrounded his neck.  A thin vein in the top of his forehead throbbed.  He gripped his fork like a dagger and for a split-second I wondered whatever happened to those happy little white plastic picnic forks the cafeteria started the semester with?  When did they switch to these pointy metal ones.  Bob got up.  “You just be careful Boy-yo, or you’ll be on the chopping block next.”
He picked up his tray and walked to the other side of the cafeteria where Hassan and the Admiral were sitting.  I saw him take a seat and begin laughing like a complete psychopath, as if he hadn’t been contemplating stabbing my eyes out with a table utensil thirty seconds earlier.  How do people do that?  Shake off the most powerful and vile set of emotions one second to embrace the most genteel and jovial affections the next?  Perhaps I was following the wrong man?  It was then I looked over and Mad Dog was long gone.

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