Eric G. Müller

 

Eric G. Müller is a musician, teacher and writer.  He has written two novels, Rites of Rock (Adonis Press 2005) and Meet Me at the Met (Plain View Press, 2010), as well as a collection of poetry, Coffee on the Piano for You (Adonis Press, 2008), and numerous short stories that have been published here and there.  www.ericgmuller.com

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Busted (July 20, 2010. Issue 19.)
 

Someone pulled my leg and I got yanked from sweet slumber. Pierre and I had been peacefully asleep in our beige, ’64 VW bug on the far side of a jungle-sheltered parking lot near Margate Beach, within earshot of the soothing sounds of the Indian Ocean. My leg was sticking out of the front window, which he’d used as a convenient lever to jerk me awake, the jerk. I opened my eyes, and was blinded by a searing spotlight. A gruff voice ordered us out of the car. Dazed, we stumbled to our feet, and with the beam still in our eyes were pushed and poked toward a waiting patrol car. “You know that you’re not supposed to be sleeping here,” the elderly officer said as he opened the car door, truncheon in hand, ready to clobber us. “We don’t tolerate vagrants.”

They drove us up to the local police station. We weren’t alone. A large family had been given the same wakeup treatment, although I’m sure nobody had tugged any of their legs. The man who’d manhandled my left leg and arrested us was in his fifties, with a deeply lined face and thinning, steel wool hair. He reminded me of our principal at Bryanston High School, who craved to flog us for the slightest offence. The clock on the wall read 3:11 am. At least we’d spent most the night in the car.

We waited on wooden benches while they booked the family of six. I wondered what would happen to us. We’d just graduated from high school and this long-awaited trip was supposed to celebrate the occasion. Would this ruin all our travel plans? Would we be locked up? Fined? Would our parents be notified? Would I now have a criminal record? This was already our second run-in with the law, here in Margate, that quaint seaside, resort town on South Africa’s scenic east coast.

A couple of days ago we’d sat on a curb drinking cold cokes and munching chocolate glazed doughnuts when a police car sidled to a stop right in front of us, mere inches from our toes. A cop jumped out, hand on holster and yelled, “Get in the car.” Too stunned to react he continued, “We know what you’ve been up to, now get in, or we’ll make you.” I wondered what they knew, because I hadn’t the faintest. Then I recognized the female cop, still sitting in the cruiser. She’d said hullo to me at the beachfront disco the night before, and I’d wondered why. But now, I figured, she’d wanted to determine how stoned I was. And all along I’d thought she was just hitting on me! “You’ve been buying drugs, ja?” the stocky, muscular cop asked, hustling us into the back of their patrol car, pushing our heads down. We didn’t answer. Without further explanation they drove off.

Once out of town, they veered to the left and drove down a narrow, sandy road to an isolated beach where they skidded to a stop (meant to intimidate us, I’m sure). “Get out,” the policewoman hissed.

“Now, I’m asking you for the last time: did you buy drugs?” I could see his muscles jut through his short-sleeved khaki shirt.

“No,” we both answered.

“We’ll see about that,” he said. “Come on!” They led us to a rundown brick building right on the beach. “Now get in there and strip.”

“But we’ve got nothing on us; we’re clean,” I said. There was no one else in sight and it felt a bit creepy.

“We’ve heard that before – after you.” He held out his arm in mock politeness, “and don’t try to pull any funny tricks.” He stroked his pistol, while the policewoman jingled her handcuffs. We entered the dark and dank changing room lined with a row of stalls and broken-down toilets. The stale air reeked of urine and feces. We felt humiliated undressing under their vindictive eyes, especially in front of the woman, whose raw sex appeal oozed right through the stiff uniform that accentuated her tight tush. I detested her for the shaming. And why did she have to be so pretty? As we began to pull down our briefs she said, “Okay, enough.” We stood, almost naked while they slowly ruffled through our clothes. They found nothing – as we’d tried to tell them.

“You were about to score, weren’t you?

“No, sir.”

“Don’t bullshit me. Who were you waiting for? Come on, give us some names.”

“We’ve got no names. We don’t know anybody,” Pierre said, angered by the accusation, his eyes narrowing.

“Don’t you focken lie to me. You were sitting on the corner where everybody deals. We saw you talking to some kaffirs. We saw you.”

“Well, you saw wrong,” I said.

“Now don’t get blerry cheeky with me.” He took a threatening step forward. He was smaller than me, but I knew better than to provoke him further. His razor thin, black moustache underlined his cold severity.

“Sorry, sir.”

He relaxed. “That’s more like it. Let’s try again, lighty. You were waiting to make a score, right?”

“I know you won’t believe us, but it’s not true,” I said, trying to sound conciliatory. “We weren’t. We were just sitting on the curb, passing time.”

“Oh, come on, don’t give me that kak,” the policewoman said, chucking our clothes at our feet. “So where are you staying?”

“We’ve got a place here in town.”

“Ja, right. Sure you have. What’s the address?”

We shrugged. She had us.

“Now, listen. We didn’t find any marijuana on you today, but we can get you for plenty of other things, you know, like vagrancy. So watch out! Now get dressed and get lost”

It took us an hour to walk back to Margate. But her words proved true. They did get us. Now we were in the police station and there was the self-same policewoman sitting behind the desk. When it was our turn she threw us a sharp told-you-so look and methodically recorded all the particulars. What she didn’t know was that we gave false names, addresses and telephone numbers (those were the days before computers became Big Brother’s little helper). I spontaneously came up with the name Eric Axe, which later became my stage name during my rock and roll years with the band Tokolosh, as well as my pseudonym for my first published book. In fact, for a while I used it exclusively. I even introduced myself as Eric Axe to my wife. It became the name of my alter ego. Even today I find occasion to use it. Funny to think that the name had its origin the night of my fledgling arrest in Margate.

They let us go with a stern warning at sunrise. On the beach that afternoon I saw the older policeman, the one who’d yanked my foot, buying an ice cream; he was standing in line right in front of me. I greeted him. He smiled back at me and said “Howzit,” adding, “I was just doing my job.”