Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mysterious Ways

Well, blow me up and down, Brother/Sister. Life sure can turn on a dime. One minute, you're grimly resigned to your mild-mannered pre-Moment existence. Then — WHAM-O! (click that link, Brother/Sister, and another dime drops into Phutsie's World Domination Fund) — Life pulls up on the curb in a black rented limo and calls your name.

Some setting of the scene would be desirable, Phutatorius.

Right you are, Brother/Sister. Right you are. And so, it was around 11 p.m. last night, the U2 concert (set list here) had just let out, and I had just tumbled down several hundred escalators from my Section 303 balcony seat to the sidewalk outside the BankNorth Garden. I rounded the corner onto Merrimac Street, and a black limousine with livery plates pulled up along the sidewalk. A rear window powered down, and a man called my name.

"Yoo-hoo! Phutatorius!" (For the sake of accuracy, I should say that the person in the limo did not, in fact, cry "Yoo-hoo! Phutatorius!" Nor did I, as you will read below, get into this car voluntarily. As it happened, I was grabbed from behind by a big bruiser of a man who cuffed my hands behind my back, pulled a hood over my head, and tossed me headfirst through the open car door into the back seat. But the facts don't cross-promote quite as well as the Yoo-hoo story does — and helicopter gunships don't come cheap, Brother/Sister.)

I approached the car with the intention of looking through the window crack at who was inside. The window powered up to about 95% closed, leaving only a slit that admitted very little light.

"Who's in there?" I demanded to know.

"Why don't you get in and find out?" asked my Yoo-hooer.

Well, this was a no-brainer. The circumstances here — long black car pulling up after a concert, back-seat passenger playing coy — were identical to those presented to me back in July 2005 when I took the Limo Plunge outside the Middle East with the result that I totally hooked up with the lead singer for Bow Wow Wow. (She had liked what I wrote about her band in my last novel.) Based on that experience, I calculated even odds that Bono or the Edge was in the back seat of the stretch in front of me. Not that I had it in mind to hook up with either of them. But I figured U2 and I could talk over coffee about the geopoliticus, and maybe they could put me in touch with some African freedom fighters I might be able to hire away and mold into some kind of Republican Guard. You know, since this Peru thing had fallen through . . .

Long story short, I got in the car, and it sped off downtown, I think toward Congress Street. With the sack on my head, I couldn't see where we were going. Nor could I see who was in the car with me. We sat in silence together for a long, tedious minute, until I decided to try to break the ice.

"Great show back there," I said. If it were Bono next to me, he'd eat that up. If it weren't, it was harmless conversation. "Finishing with '40' like that. Old school, you know?"

"I didn't have a ticket," said the man next to me, soberly. AHA! I thought. He DIDN'T say he didn't go to the concert. He just said he didn't have a ticket. Oh, Bono — you sure know how to play it cool!

We sat in silence for another minute.

"I should introduce myself," Bono said, in what was obviously not an Irish accent. "My name is —" and the person I was increasingly thinking was not Bono embarked on a string of fourteen or more alien syllables.

"Can you repeat that?" I asked, when he finished.

"That was my Quechuan name," [Unpronounceable] said. "Why don't you just call me Frankie?"

"I used to date a girl named Frankie," I said. "It ended badly, with guilt and recriminations. She bit the hood ornament off my car."

[Pending Frankie] may have cocked an eyebrow. With the sack on my head, I couldn't tell.

"So how about I call you Ed?"

"Ed works."

"You're my connection through Jimmy Atahualpa?"

"I am," Ed confirmed.

"You never called me," I said. "How did you manage to find me?"

"We never intended to contact you over the phone. We were using your cell phone to track your movements."

"You can do that?"

"Haven't you seen 24?"

"Wait — you work for the Counter Terrorist Unit?"

"No," Ed said, in a voice indicating strained patience. "But it's a common tracking method. We had a bead on you for several days. We just didn't have an opportunity to get hold of you. Then Sunday night you fell off our radar."

"My charger plug's broke," I offered, by way of explanation. "I had to turn the phone off to conserve the battery."

"Then you cropped up inside the Fleet Center tonight," Ed said. "But just for a few minutes."

"BankNorth Garden," was my correction. "They just changed the name." Per the instructions of the guy two seats down from me — "What you do is, you turn it on and wave the lit display up in the air, like you used to do with cigarette lighters in the 70s" — I had expended my phone's last five minutes of battery life during U2's encores. "So what do you want with me?" I asked.

"Nothing," Ed said. "We just wanted to give you a ride home." The car pulled to a stop. The passenger's side door opened, and strong arms lifted me out of the back seat and held me steady while somebody's keys unlocked my cuffs. By the time I pulled the hood off my head, the limo was down the road. I was standing outside my apartment.

Well, I said to myself. Now that didn't make any goddam sense at all. All that drama just to get me in a car to drive me home? I hadn't learned anything, no arrangement had been made for a second meeting. I didn't get it. Ah well, I shrugged. At least I saved train fare home.

Then I reached into my jacket pocket to pull out my keys, and I found a plane ticket. Made out in my name, for a Wednesday morning departure. Continental Airlines to Lima, Peru.



ggc said...

Boy, and I thought OUR ride home from concert was exciting (with my bride fainting on the T into some sweaty fat guy's arms).

Phutatorius said...

Well, Brother, at least she expressed her deep commitment to fidelity in so targeting the trajectory of her swoon.