3 weeks later…
The man in yellow flipped his hand across James’ face. James stretched back in his chair and cried a note of sadness (G#) which absorbed into the truck stop’s overstocked toilet paper storage area along the back of the cleaning supply closet. The room smelled like sawdust on vomit. A smoky haze filled the air from the slot machines outside the closet door. James sat, tied to a metal chair. Behind him sat three ugly faces. A dim light bulb hung from the ceiling on a dry-rotted electrical cord.
“What do we have to do to make you talk?”
The man in yellow shoved his hand into the front breast-pocket of his tracksuit and revealed a banana. He said in an awkward Disney villain voice, “I’m so addicted to these things. The way they feel; the way they shine; the way they taste. It’s magical.”
James wiggled his arms behind him.
“Don’t waste your time trying to escape,” He leaned closer to James and whispered, “cause you’re not stealing my banana.”
A henchmen laughed.
Yellow tracksuit guy lifted the fruit by its stem and initiated the peel cycle.
“You’re doing it wrong,” James said.
“Excuse me? Did you finally say something?” Banana Man asked, as he yanked the stem of his organic snack pouch.
“I said, you’re peeling it wrong. You’re supposed to do it from the other end. Like the monkeys do.” James said, regurgitating something he had read in a trivia book.
Banana Man paused for nine and 3/11ths of a second, “Well, good. I like doing things the wrong way.”
“Here we friggin’ go again,” a henchman groaned behind James.
“Shut up, Eddie!” Banana growled with squished banana pieces squeezing through the gaps of his teeth. “Listen, James, you know those little packages that come with new shoes that say ‘do not eat’?”
“Silica,” James said.
The banana man threw his hand in the air pretending to toss one of the little anti-humidity packets in the air.
“I eat ‘em,” he said, as he snapped his mouth at empty air like a shark massacring a fat boogie-boarder. As he fake chewed an overly crunchy part, he said, “And sometimes I rip big farts in crowded elevators and look at all the people say, ‘Deal with it.’”
James squeezed the rope tied around his wrists with his fingers as the yellow highlighter droned on about ridiculous decisions he’d made since his birth.
“When I was a little boy, I wore my short-shorts backwards.”
“I bet he pooped out the zipper.” A henchman snorted.
Banana smirked and winked at James. “Once.”
James examined the texture of the rope between his fingers. He assumed it was twisted polypropylene as he worked the core braids loose while the yellow track-suited man continued his dissertation of dirty deeds.
“Even when we made our plan for kidnapping you, I just had to do it in a weird way.”
“Yeah, he came up with some freaking doozies!” Eddie, the henchman said.
“Our people first noticed you in the truck stops. They watched you go to the restroom, and then they saw how you’d always fill your truck with—whatever you fill trucks up with, and then you’d buy—two coffees? That’s strange—even for a truck driver—right?”
James scanned the room for hidden cameras.
“Oh—sorry.” Banana man said, “I’ve been talking away and not really paying attention to what I’m saying. My stupid phone keeps going off in my pocket and I’m just about ready to chunk it against a wall. And I‘m sure it’s just the stupid daycare calling to tell me my wife won’t take them some diapers.”
Eddie spoke up, “That kid’s too old to be wearing those diapers.”
Banana Man gained some composure, “Like I was saying, we had this amazing plan for how we were going to catch you, but it kinda fell apart.
I was hiding in one of the men’s room stalls, the one next to yours. Mike was spying from the sinks, and Eddie— Eddie, where were you?”
“Two stalls down—taking a friggin’ dump.” Eddie said. “Hey, we’d been waiting a long time in there? There’s no way on earth I’m just sittin’ on a toilet, for that long, without making a charitable deposit. It’s like my butt knows what’s up.”
“I’m the same way, dude,” another henchman said. “My colon is like a GPS or something. Every night, on the way home, before I get to my driveway, my stomach’s churning. By the time I’m coming up the driveway, I’m bargaining with God hoping He’ll keep me from pooping my pants. Now that I think about it, at this point, I’m probably due a couple of kids from Africa.”
“Will y’all be quiet? What the heck is wrong with you people?” Banana asked while he shook his head. “Anyway, James, when you walked in that stall, I would wrap a telephone cord around your feet, tie you up, and carry you into the cleaning closet. But, seeing as I love to jack things up—I instead, hung the cord across the top edge of the stall, and then I reached under the bottom and loosely secured it around your feet. And once the cord was in place.” He ducked his head in shame, “that was when I lost all self-control.”
“Gotta have some to lose some.” Eddie said.
“Shut it,” Banana said. “I got excited, man. Once I got that cord around your feet. I just yanked that sucker real hard, and yelled, ‘I am the Baker’s Dozen!’ which was stupid because nobody’s ever called me that; that’s also why it’s brilliant because no one ever calls me Baker’s Dozen.”
“I swear, you need checked in somewhere,” Eddie mumbled.
Banana continued. “Now, after we cleaned all the pee off you; poor thing, you were midstream when I swept you up off the floor. Sorry, I swear to God it sounded like you were wrapping it up in there, and so I got antsy.”
James barely recalled the moment he went inverted while simultaneously reaching maximum urine flow, while his feet rocketed towards the brown stained ceiling and his face plowed against the chrome toilet seat rim. The sudden possible concussion caused an incredible increase to his already extraordinary pelvic muscle squeeze; this caused his urination governance to blast into hyperdrive. The worst part, it could have all been avoided if it wasn’t for a phobia that James had suffered with since childhood, which to be clear is not ouritiriophobia, the fear of urinals. James isn’t afraid of urinals. He actually admires them for the clever inventions they are. He’s also convinced that women, being social creatures, would probably appreciate the open-air concept more than most men.
Solitudinous men, like James, consider their urination process a completely private matter intended for his non-public parts. Basically, James refuses to urinate shoulder to shoulder with a stranger. He’s even lost a few job opportunities because he couldn’t perform while a doctor closely observed the specimen collection for a pre-hire drug test—and the doctor’s hand patting him on the shoulder didn’t help either.
So, James has always stuck to using toilet stalls and jobs without pee tests.
“I have an itching feeling you could be a huge help to us; word on the street is, you know your stuff.” Banana checked his watch. “But I have to leave at 4:30. My kid’s got soccer. It’s only a practice night, but he needs all the practice he can get—If you know what I mean—I mean he sucks. Like shove-your-head-in-your-hands-and-hope-he-doesn’t-wave-at-you-during-games bad. He’s five years old, but he kicks the ball like my eighty-year-old Maw Maw.” Banana rolled his eyes and brushed dandruff off the puffy shoulders of his vintage 90s windbreaker.
James loosened the rope enough to slip out one of his wrists.
“We have a special mission for you.” Banana leaned towards James. His breath smelled like a dried out frog. “but you gotta answer this one question.”
“One question?” James shook his head in disgust. “That’s all? You trapped me, bashed my head against a toilet, and let me pee all over myself for one question?” James waved his freed hand in the air while complaining. He returned it, hoping no one had noticed; someone did.
“The pee thing was a complete accident.” Banana said.
“An accident?” James asked.
“Well, more like an unfortunate incident that evolved into an accident.”
“But you went through all this trouble, you orchestrated a real abduction, and tied me to a chair, for one question? Couldn’t you of just knocked on the stall door and asked? Or hit me up while I pumped fuel? I mean you could have even written it on a note, folded it real pretty, and left it on my truck window.”
“I know how to fold lots of things like that,” Mike yelled. “Ninja stars, airplanes, and even those future-telling ones that you do with two hands.”
“He let try it the other day, and it said ‘You will die in the third book’ Whatever that means?” Eddie shrugged.
Mike looked over at Eddie and winked.
Eddie turned away and took a few moments to audit his shameful life decisions.
“Ok, if it makes you feel better, it’s like five questions, but the first one sets up the other ones. So I guess I should have said, ‘I need to ask you a few questions. If it all works out, we’ll have more thorough questioning. And, I’m sure our HR department will have like a hundred forms for you to fill out.”
“And lose half of ‘em,” Mike said.
“Ain’t that the freakin’ truth!” Eddie said.
Yellow tracksuit guy continued. “Which concerns me because you put your social security number on those things. You’ll also need a few decent work references, but no relatives and no jail bondsman, that’s just trashy, and you gotta pass a drug test.”
“Multiple choice, though!” Mike interrupted.
“They’ll need a urine sample. I guess we could have gotten that by wringing out your shirt.”
“Nope. Tried something like that a couple weeks ago. They said ‘they gotta see the source.’” another henchman complained.
Banana started a miniature disco dance, “Oh-oh-oh! I’m so excited! I almost forgot what I was doing?”
“You were about to ask him if he was a spy!”
“THANK YOU MIKE,! NO NEED TO YELL! I’M STANDING RIGHT BESIDE YOU! PLEASE. SHUT. UP.” Banana Man shoved his head in his hands. He took a few quick breaths, shook his hands like he was trying to dry them, turned and shrugged to James. “I’m sorry, too harsh? I’ve been under a lot of stress with everything that’s been going on. The guy above me has been on edge since…you know…with what happened to his mom.
“And your wife.” Eddie said.
“Oh lord, talk about a train wreck. Don’t even get me started on the kid. Which, you know? It is what it is. So, are you a spy?”
James slipped the rope back around his wrists—escaping a hostage situation would remain on his bucket list a little while longer.
Why do so many people drive without pants?
Driving a big-rig involves lots of lonely hours of just the driver and the road.
Whenever he lost count of the miles; and his eyes grew numb; and cities blurred together (because that’s what cities do in New Jersey); He found himself, lost in thought, imagining what it would be like to strap himself to a windmill or whatever.
Many times, James tapped into his philosophical side, (located about two inches from the feminine) and pushed his thoughts into the dark oblivion; he did this all while hauling a loads of diapers; taking them one more step in their journey towards their nasty end.
Thankfully, during those diaper runs, James had spent at least two and a half minutes, on a Wednesday afternoon, working through the details of how he would hypothetically answer the question, “Are you a spy?”
James found himself weighing once more on the subject when, without warning, the world double-downed its identity as a strange and majestic place.
A dark brown light flashed before his eyes as a wave of energy gripped his entire being. James compared his previous life status with the new situation and assumed he must be dead. The room exploded inside of him. The awful light, once again, stole his body. A surge of electrons flailed his back against the metal chair. The tiny photonic army contracted his muscles, excited his atoms, and distorted his worldview. His mind even found the fourth dimension.
The light released its dictatorship over his shallow existence and sent him back to whence he came. Never had he been so happy to be tied to a chair, wearing nothing but his boxers, and breathing the moldy, smoky air of the cleaning closet in a truck stop.
His butt hurt.
James could form no tangible noise. He had mentally trained himself for torture, but had never injected high voltages across his checks. He had been shocked a few times before, but the location of this anode and cathode made a significant difference to the hole ordeal.
“I hate to be a pain in the rear,” Yellow said as Eddie triggered another shock across James’s doo-doo door.
“Full steam ahead. We’re off to Uranus!” Yellow laughed.
“Tell me, what do you know about the cheese manufacturing process?”
James couldn’t answer.
“Oh, now you’re a man of few words? I can’t say I’m shocked. I figured you were a tough one to crack. Eddie, turn up the juice.“
“I’m a spy!”
“What!? Eddie juice him one mo’ gin” Banana said in a high pitched voice while holding up a gang sign.
“No! Wait! I’m a spy! I’m a spy! They weren’t lying. It’s true. I definitely do– the spy thing. Yeah…I do the spy thing, all the time.”
“See Mike, you were right!” Eddie admitted while accidentally charging James’ abyss.
“I’ll tell you everything!” He screamed. “Just please, for the love of God, stop shocking my butt hole!”
And he would tell them everything, just as soon as he made up a cool story.
Three hours later…
The men marinated their ears in the stories flailing from James’ lips. Of course, they were mostly garbage. A mix of information James had mentally clipped from magazines, movies, and podcasts. He directly quoted numerous fantasy novels and had to explain, more than once, how he narrowly escaped the grasps of forest orcs. He also described in terrible detail concerning his short stint of espionage for the Lithuanian government. He also revealed his hidden love for boy bands from the 2000’s. The men could have charged their ears with perjury.
James struggled with keeping his story-line together.
Facts had always been a closer companion of James. He didn’t usually make up stories on the spot, but he was convinced that these guys wanted to exploit him, so he knew this grossly embellished autobiography had to be the best. He also fumbled through his tale because Eddie had accidentally launched multiple amps through James’ tale while fidgeting with the chair’s remote.
Right before the men’s brain-matter proverbially splattered across the wall, James looked up at an imaginary clock and said, “Would you look at that? I don’t want to keep you guys with all the boring details of my life . I’m sure you’ve got more important things to attend to—”
They insisted, “No way man! We gotta find out what happens to the dude who hid in your suitcase. And what about the professor who gave you the keys to the universe?”
James saw this as an opportunity for job security. “Guys, sometimes there are things a spy just can’t tell.” The men’s hearts chose this moment to come up for air.
James noticed an opening in the tension. He needed a second to calculate; he needed the correct approach to asking what they wanted from him.
Should I talk money first? He thought.
If so, he’d need to calculate his cost. He feared going too high or low with his price. If he “balled” too far in any direction it could cause Eddie to drop the chair remote and James’ butt may just flop to the floor.
He opened with, “What exactly is the nature of your proposal?” This didn’t quite engage his audience. Banana man had been looking at his phone and wasn’t aware of what James had just asked. When the banana finally looked up, the henchmen were breathless, waiting for his reply, but Banana had only heard the word proposal and wrongly assumed James’ intentions.
Thus initiating a five-minute conversation about how Yellow was flattered, but he wasn’t into that kind of lifestyle. James interpreted this to mean that Banana man was having cold feet. James, not wanting to lose the gig, rehashed his abilities, hoping to impress Banana; but this weirded out the yellow-clad man even more.
Banana kept saying “I’m really worried what my mother’s gonna say.”
But James continued to lather the charm
Until after four minutes, James realized where the confusion had initiated, so he attempted to bring the conversation back to the ground.
“Why me?” James asked
“Well, we’ve heard stories. A lot of people are real curious about you and your truck. So, we started asking around and a few people were convinced that you might just be a spy,” Mike answered from behind James.
A loud thud caused Banana Man to jump with a look of deeply concerning concerniness: he crouched, making with his head even to his kneecaps.
An obvious emotional disturbance fell across the henchmen. To prove he was an all-knowing spy, James cried, a strategy he perfected while watching documentaries about Emperor penguins.
The door screamed as its soul was reaped from its closed position. A small-framed silhouette stood in the doorway.
Through the counterfeit tears spraying from his face, James saw an average build, twenty-something male with a distinct understanding of pastel combinations walk through the door.
“Guys! Someone left an open milk jug in the car. It smells like…like…like someone left an open milk jug in the car.” He said in a voice that could have charmed a terrorist to volunteer at a homeless shelter. The henchmen to rolled their eyes. “Don’t you guys know what kind of pain those poor cows go through to produce an ounce of that gory stuff! I could burn this place to the ground right now!”
“Shut up, Markus. Inserted the man in yellow.
Markus noticed the monsoon churning in the corner of the room.
“Guys, who’s the guy tired to the chair, and why is he literally weeping?”
“This is that guy that we thought might be a spy,” said Banana Man.
“A spy? But spy’s don’t cry, right?” Markus smiled.
“He told us everything, Markus. I think he’s the real deal,” Eddie said.
“He bought me a bra!” Mike said pulling up his shirt.
“Whatever, we’re gonna need a freaking shop-vac to dry this place up or he’s going to drown over there.”
James saw the light, once more.