Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chapter Twenty-Five

L.L. Bean, Freeport, Maine

I stood in the men's room stall and ripped open my backpack.  I withdrew the Burqa I'd altered and slipped it over my head.
What's that noise?  Its nothing … I must be jumpy.
I looked down at my hands through the mesh in front of my face.
I never realized my hands are so hairy.  Wonder if that's common in fundamentalist women?
I left the stall and ran right into a customer.
“Sorry, my bad.” I apologized as he stared back gape-mouthed.
Poor guy probably needed to wipe again.
I exited the men’s room. Nobody was looking. I slipped immediately into the women’s. 
Loud voices. Hand dryers whined. Toilets flushed.  About a dozen other Burqas milled around. 
What the hell do I do now?
I mingled and waited my turn to wash.  Then I thought better, remembering my hairy mitts. 
Too late, I’m next in line.
I set my backpack on the counter, and then realized the room had gotten quiet. 
Aw crap! Burqas don't carry military style backpacks!
I turned to face the cloaked women.  We stared at each other through our mesh.  An eternity.  The hand dryer whined to a stop.  One of the Burqas spoke hurriedly in a language that made no sense to me.  Then they all, in unison, started backing toward the door.
I'd better do something.
I coughed, and then spoke “Do any of you use Nair on your hands?”
One of the burqas, braver or madder, detached herself from the pack and came back toward me, scolding, her voice escalating.  I couldn't understand a word, but I got the message loud and clear.
I’m screwed!
A crash reverberated through the room. The door swung open with a boot kick. “FBI!  PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!  HANDS IN THE AIR!”  I could see several blue jackets outside the women’s room door.
Yelling, movement, confusion.  Burqas ran, some stayed.  I was the only one with my hands in the air.
Of course. I'm the only one that speaks English.
A petite woman in a navy blue wind-breaker entered, gun leveled, crying, “Halt!”
"Halt" must mean "run!" in Burqa-speak, because at that point all the remaining women but one pushed past the FBI woman and ran from the room.
I fled with the other Burqas, while the one who'd been about to corner me lunged at the FBI woman, smacking and shrilling at her. 
We burst out of the bathroom, past the shoe department and out the doors.  The real Burqas fled towards the bus, but I lingered a moment by the Boot, ripping the headgear off to clear my view.  Blue Jacketed FBI agents swarmed after the brightly colored gowns.
It was like something out of a Monty Python skit.  FBI agents chased multi-colored Burqas, one agent getting smacked after grabbing a gown.  Yelling in different languages.
Totally absurd.
Coming back to the moment, I realized I was likely to be rounded up if I didn't move.  I'd begun to head in the opposite direction from the bus when I spied the man with the clipboard trying to sneak away around the corner. 
I took off after him.
Why in the good Lord’s name am I running after a likely terrorist?
I flew around the corner after him and instead of gaining on Clipboard Man, fell as something caught me around the legs. I went tumbling. A dog yelped. My gown had snagged on the Labrador's chain. 
Poor dog.  He looked like I felt – very confused.
I ripped the fabric from the chain, scrambled to my feet, and bolted down the stairs two at a time, and landed beside Ben and Jerry’s.
Good, there, he is going down the back of Ralph Lauren.
Wait. Good? 
Why is this good?  What the hell am I doing?
I ran across the crowded street.  Horns blared as I belted past the Laura Ashley outlet.  I sprinted down the ramp beside it and spied Clipboard Man racing back towards the L.L. Bean Outlet Store.
I followed. The man headed toward the parking lots.
Two outdoorsy types walked smack in front of me with a canoe hoisted in the air, giving me only the briefest moment to slide beneath it, and then pop back up. I had dropped my backpack, bent to retrieve it, and took off again while trying to get a bead on Clipboard Man.
Damnit! Where is he?
I slowed to a walk, scanning the lot.  A shrill voice in the distance demanded, “Let go of me!”
Clipboard Man wrestled with an older woman. They were struggling next to a car as she shouted and beat him with her purse.
I took off after him again as the woman fell back.  Clipboard Man jumped into her car, gunned the engine, and took off the wrong way down a one-way street.
I veered to other side of the lot where my old truck was parked.  Voices yelled at me in the background.  I ignored them, climbed into the truck and fumbled beneath my Burqa to retrieve my keys.
Damn, these gowns are not practical.
Horns blared as Clipboard Man swerved to miss an incoming RV and plunged into a hedge.  He raced the car’s engine and managed to back out.  I started the truck with a roar and threw it into gear.
The man in the carjacked vehicle was heading toward Main Street.  There was only one way in or out of Freeport – and Main Street was it.  He turned south onto it.
I gunned it and flew onto Main Street in a sideways skid, downshifting to accelerate.  An angry tourist shook his fist at me. His kids stared from the back seat of his minivan in amazement.
There – he’s passing the firehouse.
I gunned the old truck again and it responded like an old friend.
Yeah. But what am I going to do when, if, I catch him?

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