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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Man with the Perfect Hair

This was about five or six years ago.

I was languishing by the pool at a dodgy, four-star hotel up in the Philippines, a lousy pina colada in hand, when I was approached by the Man with the Perfect Hair. It had been an uneventful couple of days until earlier that afternoon when one of the greeting card salesmen who had been staying at the hotel for the Convention had been repetitively stung by a box jellyfish, or something like it, whilst swimming. The concierge of the hotel, ever the entrepreneur, had decided that betting on whether the hapless victim of the jellyfish attack would survive or not would prove to be a light bit of morbid entertainment for the hotel guests and a fair bit of money had exchanged hands. Since I was up here avoiding persecution for a credit card scam back in Melbourne anyway, I had a bit of money to play around with and had placed a small fortune on the salesman's eventual demise.

'Mind if I join you?' asked the Man with the Perfect Hair. I grunted noncommittally. I had assumed that the greeting card salesman would croak before five but it seemed that his body was a lot more resilient to the nematocyst toxins than I had hoped. 'That's the danger of swimming in a body of water infested with poisonous Cubozoa,' he continued.
'Let's hope he pulls through,' I lied as I glanced angrily at my Tag Heuer replica.
'What do you think it was?'
'What do I think what was?' I ask irritably.
'The thing that stung the man. A hydrozoan perhaps? A Physalia physalis?'
'A Portuguese Man o'war? Perhaps. Let's hope it's not a Carukia barnesi. What's the mortality rate of Irukandji syndrome? Like, two? You get a mild headache, stomach pains and throw up a bit. If that's the case he'll be back swimming by Tuesday.'
'Would that make it a Black Tuesday for you?'

I stare at him. Could he be referring to October 29, 1929- five days after Stock Market Crash in the States that began the Great Depression? Or maybe he's got some knowledge of Bahamian history and is referring to Pindling's actions on April 15, 1965. Maybe it's just an offhand remark made by an idiot tourist. But somehow I know he's talking about my father.

'Who are you?'

To this question he just sat there and smiled smugly. I immediately wanted to hit him in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher but I couldn't risk it. I hadn't seen Dad in a while but I knew then and there that he had been captured.

'He's quite safe. For now. To tell you the truth Bloated Panther (I assume that this was spyspeak for my Dad) had eluded capture for quite some time. But he started to get sloppy with his aliases. Started to use joke names.'
'Harry Balzac (Hairy Ball Sack)?'
'That's the one.'
'Quite. But lucky for you he's not our target. Frankly our department do not care about short con operators who habitually beat up Amish people. We are after someone bigger. And you will help us get him.'

Just then one of the porters of the hotel came out to the pool. 'It looks like the dumb foreigner is going to make it,' he informed a bunch of us gravely in Tagalog, 'Now how am I supposed to afford college for my youngest?'
I turn to face the Man with the Perfect Hair. 'Looks like my meal ticket is gone. When do you want me to start?'
'Tomorrow will do,' he says as he gets up to leave, 'No sense in wasting the rest of the day. Be at the airport at 4am. I'll fill you in then.'

Nachoholic Anonymous,


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