another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Quotidian x 2 by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | APRIL 2017
Quotidian x 2
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
Amsterdam in late May of 2007, replete with tulips, windmills, canals, coughing, and another perspicacious IT (Information Technology) specialist. Even though he didn’t know ten words of Dutch, Dave had gladly accepted the six-month programming assignment for his company’s new client in the Netherlands. His small studio apartment, not that far from Centraal Station, was on a nondescript alley named Niuewe Nieuwstraat. A fellow American ex-pat had told him that it translated to New Newstreet. He thought: Just as bad as my hometown’s [Charlotte, NC, USA] Park Road Park.
Dave was a 27-year-old, still single, trim, brown-haired Caucasian, who dwelled in his apartment most of the time during the workweek, as his binary tasks were much easier to do there. He had set up his workstation in front of the 3rd-floor sash-style window, which offered an impossible-to-ignore view of El Guapo, a little coffee shop that legally sold marijuana. Dave could quickly tell the cannabis tourists from the local weedheads (marijuana users): The locals didn’t stumble, wobble and laugh hysterically when leaving. Moreover, it was a frame of endless entertainment.
Now, Dave wasn’t beyond a puff or two himself in times of uncharted leisure. The herbal dispensary’s hashish was a cut above the best that he had experienced in the States. He always kept a stash in a small jar, but was disciplined enough to only indulge on weekends.
In his first week in Amsterdam, Dave checked out several must-see sites: The Vincent van Gogh Museum, The Anne Frank House, and yes, the infamous Red Light District, where he had one too many Grolsch beers on his first Saturday night. Alcohol-emboldened Dave couldn’t resist; he paid for sex with a dark-haired, ebony-eyed, smiling-inside-a-window-box prostitute whom he later found out was from Syria. He then fretted over having a sexually transmitted disease. There would be no return engagement; he was a oner-and-doner. [sic] Dave wouldn’t visit De Wallen again.
By the third week, Dave’s new life had fallen into a pattern. He would awake at 7:47 AM and make some strong black coffee. Then he would drink it while alternating his gaze between his window with the curious street scene and the morning news on an English language cable TV station.
And there he was below again at 8:08 AM: a 50-something, slightly limping, Caucasian man of slight build in a gray pinstriped suit, donning a fedora. Dave’s mind started to ponder this recurring personage. That man has passed by here at this exact time every day this week. I guess that he has a job nearby that starts at 8:30.
After another productive week of algorithm tweaking, Dave fired up a small chunk of hash and looked out his favorite window. It was a delightful spring Friday evening. People were merrily strolling about. He mused on the scene. This sure is one cool country. The Dutch are quite a tolerant people. But, are they too tolerant? Are the new Middle Eastern immigrants really assimilating? Not sure if this experiment is going to work out for them. Another Dutch female was assaulted on a bus just last night. Islam in pluralistic Western democracies – that’s the challenge of this 21^st^ century. Wonder how it turns out. Guess I’m not very optimistic. Too bad that agnosticism is not sweeping the globe. Oh well, in 10,000 years it’s probably all irrelevant.
His mind meandered in a THC-infused surreal reverie. And then at 8:08 PM, there he was again – the man in the gray suit with the slight limp. He was passing in the same direction – not the reverse. Wow! Exactly twelve hours later. Why isn’t he walking back the other way? Where has he been all day? This is über-odd.
And then the next morning, a mid-June Saturday, Mr. Gray Suit passed by once again at 8:08 AM, moseying along in the usual west-to-east direction. That’s at least six days in a row. Wonder if he’ll return at 8:08 tonight.
After going out for groceries and doing some sightseeing and lounging in Vondelpark (and chatting with a 20-something, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dutch damsel named Helga – an Ajax-FC-loving, perfect-English-speaking, native Amsterdammer), Dave alighted on his desk chair at 7:59 PM. Nine minutes later, the fedora-topped man in gray meandered down the brick alley right on cue. This is whey-weird. [sic] Now, if he does this routine on Sunday …
And yes, the next day, the gimpy diminutive man in gray did just that: a pair of semidiurnal passings at 8:08 on the dot. Dave was incredulous. This is unbelievable. Seven straight days at the exact same times, and always going in the same direction. Is this some zany performance-art stunt? If he appears tomorrow morning at 8:08 AM, I’m going to … well, I’m not sure. What to do? Hmmm …
Sure enough, Monday morning at 8:08 AM, the man in gray appeared on schedule. It was raining. Dave could see the water running off his fedora. Ok, that’s it! I’m tailing him. I’m getting to the bottom of this charade.
And with that line of thought, Dave raced down the narrow staircase. When his shoes hit the street, the gray man was only about 50 feet (15 meters) away. Got him. Just don’t be too obvious. Must not let him know that I’m following him.
Dave steadily closed the gap. The space between them was soon down to just four meters (13 feet) as they approached Nieuwendijk, another pedestrian, shop-filled, brick alleyway. The limping man’s gray suit appeared to be soaking wet now. Dave was getting wet, too; he had forgotten his umbrella. Drats! I sure picked the wrong day to tail him. Should I just go back and do this tonight? Maybe the rain will have stopped. Yeah, let’s retreat and resolve this later.
The man in the gray suit turned right as Dave turned to go back to his apartment. His mind raced. What if he doesn’t show up at 8:08 tonight? Well, that would just prove that I need to lay off the hash. He had an internal chuckle.
Dave changed into some dry clothes and settled into his usual work routine. The rain stopped at 4:44 PM. He then checked the local radar on his laptop. Good, that was the last of it. All clear over the North Sea. No more precipitation. A dry night. Maybe call Helga later. She said that she gets off work at nine. She seems really cool, and sure has one hot body. And Mr. Weiner is getting lonely.
After eating a microwaved frozen pasta dinner, Dave moved back to his window-front chair. It was 7:57 PM. Some low clouds raced by, but the rain did indeed appear to be over.
And then at precisely 8:08 PM, the hatted man in the gray suit appeared, plodding forward at his never-changing slow speed of 1.5 MPH (2.4 km/h). Dave immediately sprinted down to the street, nearly running into a bicyclist in his rush.
It was still light outside. Dave easily spotted the man in the gray suit. He tailed him, lagging three meters (about ten feet) behind him.
The gray-suited man made his usual right turn onto Nieuwendijk. Dave patiently trailed him for five blocks. At Dam Square, Dave sped up and passed him. He glanced backwards. The man in the gray suit was looking down at the cemented cobbles as he began to veer to the left (towards Damrak). Must think up some kind of ruse. Quick!
Dave crouched and lowered his right hand down to an embedded tram rail. He appeared to extract something from the adjacent recess. Dave then accosted the small man.
“Your coin?” [an American penny] Dave asked. Hope he knows English. My Dutch still sucks.
The gray-suited gent looked at him. His eyes were a steely hazel. “No, sir, that’s not my coin,” he stated in an emotionless monotone. His expression was hard to read. Is he really human? Is this some kind of test case?
“Ok, have a nice night,” Dave said as he stepped back.
“You, too, sir.” And then he continued on his seemingly preset way. Wow! That was strange. He’s either a robot, or from another planet. Wait until Helga hears about this.
Once back at his apartment, Dave called Helga and told her about the encounter with the gray-suited, fedora-hatted man. He even told her the whole observational history, stressing the exact time. She was quite intrigued and invited herself over the next evening. As Dave consented, he checked for his box of condoms in the sock drawer, anticipating a romp on the new mattress. Good deal – two left. / I bet he is wanting to have sex with me tomorrow night. Another horny American. Though, I wouldn’t mind a little action myself. How long has it been?
Dave had a meeting from 8:00 AM to noon on Tuesday. Helga arrived with some Thai takeout at 7:37 PM. They ate it in the kitchenette. Then Helga took the seat in front of the prime window. It was cloudy and mild at 8:05 PM. The foot traffic below was sparse to sporadic.
“Ok, it’s 8:08,” Dave announced behind Helga’s bare left shoulder. “Any second now.” She’s going to freak out, especially if she spends the night and sees him again at 8:08 tomorrow morning. Wonder what her reaction will be.
But, the gray-suited man failed to appear. At 8:53 PM, Helga left in a huff, thinking that it was just a wily ploy for sex.
The limping man didn’t materialize on Wednesday morning, either. Nor, ever again.