Ryan Dilbert
 
Ryan Dilbert isn’t creepy at all. Whenever possible he is a teacher, writer, rapper and comedian. His work can be seen in FRiGG, Bartleby-Snopes, White Whale Review, and decomP.
 
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Coup (June 20, 2009. Issue 6.)

Of course, I had reservations about accepting a colonel position over the internet, but when I stepped out of the jeep and saw Professor Praksukcharem wading knee-deep in an algae-soaked river waving around a prosthetic penis, it felt like my insides had escaped through a trap door.

“I’m fishing with it,” he laughed, pointing to the rubbery dong.

He was catching parasites that enter through the uretha to use as a biological weapon. He was going to overthrow the Thai government and crown himself. His motto, ‘First Thailand; Then The World’ was stitched across the back of our matching denim jackets. After we officially met, he rolled out a map on the jungle floor. Several countries had been circled in red ink. Canada. Antigua. Madagascar.

“Nobody goes after the push-overs,” he said, “but we will.”

The professor was a thin man with a Fu-Manchu. I wasn’t expecting him to be so short.

“Shall we eat first or take a tour?” he asked.

“I’m having second thoughts.”

Professor Praksukcharem told me not to be ridiculous. In no time, I would be Colonel of the World, he promised, patting me on the back.

I had traveled to the professor on unpaved roads where the jeep’s tires slid on sludge and the rush of waterfalls pounded out the rumble of the engine. As we toured the grounds, it still felt like I was on the vibrating seat. He showed me the canteen. It was full of cooks clanging pots and the smells of lemongrass, chiles and shrimp, but there were no soldiers. The professor didn’t wear a shirt. And he never stopped smiling. I told him that I didn’t think this would work and he laughed like I had quoted his favorite movie.

He handed me my weapon, a Beratta 87 Cheetah, giggling.

“I call this my Cheetah Girl.”

When I didn’t respond, he confused my growing fear with confusion and proceeded to explain the Cheetah Girls TV show to me.

“They’re in a band, they’re girls. Cheetah Girls.”

We walked past a piecemeal village. Rows and rows of tents swayed with the mild breeze. Nearly naked women pushed wheelbarrows full of a neon yellow liquid.

“That’s my own energy drink. Praksukcharem Power-Up. Gonna give us an edge,” he explained, winking for some reason.

I unfastened the gold-plated plastic star he had sent me in the mail and handed it back to him. I told him that when I answered the craigslist ad, I was going through a rough time. My wife had just left me. My teenage son wrote a paper on how I was a failure. He was right. I was always reliving the glory days of high school football or reminiscing about my short stint in the Coast Guard. This was a chance to do something now, something big. But it had been a mistake. When I said the word “resign” the professor’s smile snapped off. He looked me up and down as if he was scanning my body for cowardice.

“Well, you’ve chosen your side then.”

He slid his gun out and pressed it to my collarbone.

“Ten,” he said.

I tried to calm him down, but he only said, “Nine.” The professor counted down, each number getting louder and shouted with more disdain. I ran into the rainforest. The dense greenery made an arch above me and barely let in the sun. As I came barreling down the trail, animals scampered away. I couldn’t see them. The sound of monkeys swinging away was unmistakable though. I had pictured myself appearing on the new Thai currency, a watermarked portrait of me in uniform with a wry smile passing through the hands of every Thai. Praksukcharem counted down to one with delight. He didn’t run. He probably knew the jungle like family.

Stupidly I had forgotten that I had the Beratta. I unholstered it and made sure it was loaded. I scampered under low hanging vines with no clue of where I was going. I thought of being killed out there, of being buried and forgotten, of a bright red, dime-sized bullet hole right above my eyebrow. But what saddened me the most was the thought that no one would come looking for me. I never even considered world takeover before my email exchanges with the professor, but it was nice to have a goal.

My mind should have been focused on escape then. I should have been ready to shoot, alert and aware. But instead I was engorged with thoughts of whether it was better to fall short of some ill-conceived exploit or maintain a steady pace of mediocrity. A rope trap swung around my legs and lifted me upside down. A flock of birds scattered away in fear.

Professor Praksukcharem found me and pulled on my hair. He put his lips against my right ear and whispered how much he hated a traitor. He stepped back, pointed his gun at the center of my face and squinted to aim. I had dropped my gun. I couldn’t help but cry. Tears streamed down my forehead.scarecrows

 

Then he laughed.

“Like I would get my hands dirty, ha.”

He tied my hands tight enough to cut off blood flow and cut me down from the tree. And then the little man dragged me. My head banged against rocks, and my eyes skidded in dirt. My mouth bled from his careless transport.

“I am going to let my army kill you. You will be the first of many.”

He threw me down face first in a clearing. He was surprisingly strong. The professor cut the letters from the back of my jacket and left me to die.

I waited there, quivering, awaiting a hot bullet. I looked up and the Professor was long gone. His massive army stood at attention. The silent soldiers were standing with the aid of wooden stakes. They were scarecrows made out of banana leaves with pearls for eyes.