The whole entire trip of mine and Jane’s was on an ever-escalating scale of ridiculousness – Burning Man was fairly special in itself, then working for Vlad the circus clown, crashing anarchist parties in San Francisco, taking up residence on a drug-riddled island of all manner of lunatics, being attempted-robbed by a trouserless man in the night… It went on and on, but I do believe that the ridiculousness reached its pinnacle in March, when I was shot by a crazed German. The story unfolded as so…
I’d been at work on a Sunday night in Babalu, the bar and restaurant that I worked in on Utila. That place is a story in itself, working for Dado, an old Italian lothario who stalks about the bar like a cat and has the moustachioed face of some 70s dictator, on the run from war crimes charges. He will ‘employ’ (tips only) tourist girls to work in his bar and quickly weed out any who don’t pass his tests: pretty, intelligent, constitution for drug and alcohol abuse. I’ve seen him find excuses to fire girls within a week under the pretence of inability to count or some other misdemeanour, but really it is because they’ve failed on one or more of these three trials. Apparently he has taken a few young, fresh-faced things and turned them out months later, addicts and emotional wrecks. Fortunately for me, I was nowhere near fresh-faced to begin with.
Magenta is another of Dado’s former employees, one who could keep up with his substance abuse challenges better than even I and therefore holds a golden place in his heart. An Amsterdam lass with an English mother and resulting perfect English articulation, Magenta is a true party girl a little older than me, straight out of the rave scene. Her and her man Steve, a jolly Welshman of similar demeanour, make a fantastic couple. They’ll spend Sundays, their only day off, in Babalu, and that night I was walking home with them when they invited me into La Cueva, the bar they were managing, for a wee drink.
Cueva isn’t open Sundays but Steve had the keys. We dropped off a borrowed bicycle then sat at the empty bar where I had my first drink of the evening – Steve’s latest concoction, a sugarcane and ginger-infused rum. We chatted about Utila life, our accents, families, friendships, relationships. Steve was getting agitated being in his work place and wanted to move on. We got our shit together and were about to head when we heard a noise in the alley at the back. The front door was bolted, the back door was not locked but shut – nobody should have been coming in…
The door flew open and a man entered – the barbecue man. Though I didn’t know the barbecue man, he’d been in my head that night because Kim, a friend of mine, had been in Babalu earlier and told me about an incident in Cueva the previous evening.
“The barbecue man spoke,” she said in a weighty tone.
“Who’s the barbecue man?”
“The barbecue man from Evelyn’s. He hasn’t said anything for four years, and last night he spoke!”
Evelyn’s is the restaurant next door to Cueva. Apparently there is some long-running dispute between the two owners, but that local stuff was little concern of Steve and Magenta’s. However, the previous evening the barbecue man, this odd-looking German bloke with a mass of bushy, dirty blonde hair, like some reject from Spinal Tap, who never spoke to anyone, who’d been on the island for years but didn’t have any friends, who just stood all night every night barbecuing meat and fish outside the restaurant, came in and caused a ruckus. He accused Steve and Magenta of trying to poison his dogs, and laughing about it, when in actual fact they were discussing the poisoning of a friend’s dog, and not laughing about it. But he was not to be convinced otherwise. “This is war,” he declared, and stormed off.
Something about the incident had really freaked Kim out – the way he spoke, something unhinged in his eyes – and she told me she hadn’t been able to get it out of her head, she couldn’t sleep for it and when she did she had nightmares. But still, nobody had taken his statement quite so literally as it turned out he did…