Tanner's Tiger Page 24

The time wasn’t completely wasted. Arlette’s wild-goose chases at least kept her out of my hair while I taped up the pouches of heroin and sewed them into my clothing. The jacket got the greater portion of them. I took up the lining, flattened the pouches and sewed them here and there inside it, then replaced the lining. The end product of all this effort was nothing geared to win hysterical applause from a tailors’ convention – I wound up with a pretty lumpy jacket. Still, it was a way to transport the junk with some degree of secrecy, and it left my hands free.

It took the Frankenstein mask to convince me that a removable disguise was an unrealistic goal. I put it on and Arlette went into a laughing fit. I couldn’t see the expression on her face – I couldn’t see anything because my eyes didn’t happen to be placed as close together as Frankenstein’s – but the laughter came through the mask. The air didn’t; I was sweating furiously in less than ten seconds. I took off the mask and told Arlette I didn’t think it would do.

“But it is lovely,” she insisted. “You must someday wear such a mask when we make love.”

I sent her out again – it was that or hit her – and she came back with a long list of things and helped me use them to remake my face. We started off with my hair, cutting off quite a bit of it, raising the sideburns three-eighths of an inch, and working black dye into what hair remained. I thought I looked pretty terrible, but Arlette insisted that it wasn’t that bad.

“I myself could become a blonde,” she said.


“But otherwise they will recognize me.”

“Arlette, they’re not looking for you. That’s the whole point.”

“But they will not recognize you at Point X, and they will recognize me.”

“They’re supposed to.”

“They will see us together and wonder who I am with. They will-”

I shifted gears. “Arlette, the picture on your identification card is of a girl with dark hair. It wouldn’t do to-”

“I could wear a wig, then-”


“-or we could have a new photograph taken. Evan, is something wrong? You feel I would appear unattractive as a blonde? You do not think I would have more fun?”

Fool, I told myself, you’ve been trying to reason with her! I said, “We shall someday find out, my apple of love. We will taste the fruits of love together, you with blonde hair and I in my Frankenstein mask.” I swallowed. “But you must help me now. I am not finished with my disguise, and you must help me.”

I didn’t need her help. I just needed her to shut the hell up. I sat in front of her mirror and played with all the nice toys she had brought me. I used theatrical putty on my nose and ears. I had once read somewhere that ears are the most difficult feature to disguise, and that trained law-enforcement officers always pay close attention to people’s ears. They’re way ahead of me on that score. I hardly ever notice ears unless they stick out or one of them is missing, or something like that.

So I puttied my ears. I didn’t want to do anything too extreme. I figured that funny-looking ears would attract attention almost as well as the Frankenstein mask, but on second thought I decided that all ears are funny-looking to a greater or lesser degree. I enlarged the lobes of mine, and built things up here and there, and gave the tops a slight peak. The hard part was making them both come out the same, which, now that I think about it, was probably unnecessary, as few people see both of one’s ears at the same time. I did a good job, though, and when I was through, Arlette told me I looked different. I didn’t see it myself. “You mean my ears look different,” I said.

“So it must be, but I do not recall how they looked before. No, your face has changed.”

I guess the police know what they’re doing, at least insofar as ears are concerned.

I fixed my nose, too, making it a little longer and straightening out the slight bump just below the bridge. I preferred my ears as they had been before, but I had to admit that the new nose was more becoming than the original model.

“Your eyebrows, Evan.”

I had forgotten to dye them. I did this, getting only a little bit of hair dye in my eye and swearing only for a few minutes. I tried on the clear glass spectacles Arlette had bought me. The only trouble with them was that they looked fake. The light reflected oddly off the flat surface of the glass. The sunglasses were much better and hid my eyes in the bargain but might look odd after dark, assuming I still wanted to be disguised by then.

I put my new cap on my head. It was similar to the wino’s cap but infinitely cleaner. Too clean, I decided. It looked as if it had been hatched that morning. I threw it on the floor and stepped on it while Arlette looked at me as though I had gone suddenly mad.

The phone rang. I grabbed it, and it was Seth. “Oh, no,” I said. “It can’t be six yet. It’s impossible.”

“It isn’t. You okay, man?”

It was three thirty and once I found that out, I was okay and said so. I asked him if anything had gone wrong.

“Nothing serious. We’ve got twenty-three bodies for sure and a batch of maybes. From past experience, I’d say one out of three maybes will show. That’s in the States, in a typical antiwar march. It could be different with Canadians for a Modonoland protest, but I don’t know whether it would be more or less.”

“You’ll know in a couple of hours.”

“I’m hip. The reason I called-”

“How are you doing on boats?”

“Not too bad. Randy’s out on a lead now, and there’s a chick from Nova Scotia who’s getting in touch with a friend who’s supposed to know somebody. You know how it goes. I don’t honestly know how many we have lined up, but I think we’ll make it. I’ll know better at six o’clock.”


“Uh, the reason I called-”

“How about money? Are you running low?”

“No, that’s no problem. Evan, why I called-”

“I’m sorry.” I was turning into Arlette. “Go ahead.”

“Well, this is ridiculous, but how the hell do you spell Modonoland? We’re lettering some signs now and nobody knows how it’s spelled, hardly anybody ever heard of it. It’s not in any of the reference books around here. Or on any maps.”

I spelled it for him.

“Good,” he said. “There’s this one sign I’m proud of. Where Do You Stand On The Modonoland Question? I love it. Randy’s personal answer is On My Head. Mine is Abashed.”

“I like that.”

“I thought you might. I’m sorry to call you with such a stupid question, but I figured it might be uncool to spell the country wrong. You’re positive there really is such a place?”


“I’ll take your word for it. People keep asking me where it is. So far I’ve been dodging the question.”

“That’s a good policy.”

“You don’t know either?”

“I used to, but I can never remember.” Arlette brought over a fresh cup of coffee and I swallowed half of it. “Tell them it’s near Kenya,” I suggested. “Most of Africa is near Kenya.”

“It is?”

“Isn’t it?”

“To be honest with you, I’m not entirely certain where Kenya is.”

“Well, we don’t want to get hung up on geography.”

“I’m hip. I’m sorry I had to call-”

“It’s all right. I was wondering how you were doing. Call at six.”


I cradled the phone. The hand that phones the cradle rules the waves. Britannia waives the rules. The hand that cradles the rock – I couldn’t even take a shower or I’d wash the dye out of my hair and the putty off my ears. Cradle, cradle. Children are starving in Hungary and you didn’t finish your cradles and bream cheese. Children are hungry in Starvaring and you didn’t finish your curds and whey. Little Miss Muffet was told to go stuffet –


“Something is wrong? Evan, what is the matter?”

I inhaled and exhaled, very slowly, very solemnly. “Nothing,” I said. “I’m on edge, that’s all it is.” Inhale, exhale. “I have to send you out again. This time you’ll have to go to the fairgrounds.”

“I will go.”

“You will have to find a certain man and make arrangements for later this evening.”

“Who is this man?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to arrange to meet with him in a certain place-”


“I don’t know. In a certain place and at a certain time.”


“I don’t know. This is terrible. Is there any more coffee?”

She peered into my eyes. I don’t guess she saw much. I was still wearing the sunglasses. She said, “Evan, I think you should sleep for an hour.”


“You have had very little sleep, Evan, and-”

“I’m all right. Coffee.” She brought it. I drank it. “Okay,” I said, ignoring the busy little rumble in the back of my head. “Okay, just let me think for a moment. All right. This is what you’ll do.”

I explained it to her. I guess it registered, because she repeated it all back to me, and it sounded all right when she said it. She was a little leery of leaving me all alone, though.

“I’ll be all right,” I said.

“At least take a nap.”

“If I can. I have things to do.” She went away. And I have promises to keep, said the rotten little voice, and miles to go before I sleep. And I have promises to break and miles to go before I wake. And I have Thomases to peep and smiles to look before I leap. And I have –

I went to the mirror and glowered at it. “You are probably going mad,” I told my reflection aloud. “Do you realize what you’re doing? You’re having verbal hallucinations. That’s what you’re doing. Do you realize that this may mean your mind is going? And if so, the competence of your whole brilliant plan is called to question. And since you haven’t told anyone what your plan is, nobody can check it to make sure it makes sense. Maybe this is an aftereffect of the pot. Maybe you’re actually still lying on the floor stoned out of your bird and it’s only six in the morning and none of this has happened yet. Maybe it never will. Why do you just stand there, you schmuck in the mirror? Why don’t you say something? Oh, Jesus God, what would I do if you did?”

I returned to the other room, sat on the floor, and folded up my legs in the full lotus posture. I began chanting the multiplication tables, first in English, then in French, then in Spanish and Portuguese and German and Dutch and Serbo-Croat and on and on, switching from language to language, babbling inanely onward and waiting for whatever was happening to either improve or deteriorate.

Very weird it was, believe me. I was in several minds at once, one of them chanting polylingual gibberish, one punning endlessly, one terrified that I was going crazy, one not giving a damn, and one little spark of sense somewhere in the background shaking its head at all the others. If I can just get control, it was saying, everything will be all right again. Let all the other fellows burn themselves out. I’m still here, fellow. I’ll take care of you.

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