We are unusually quiet as we speed west on I-10. Boner mumbles something about César and Chui seems to be repeating what sounds like a rosary over and over. I break the silence with, “So what do we do when we get to Phoenix? I suppose I could look up my old drug contacts … but it’s been many years since I …”
Boner interrupts with, “Kubisha mbali bullshit.”
“Boner’s got a point,” Chui says again as if he now understands Boner. “I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember the names of any of my colleagues in Phoenix. Maybe something will come to me.”
Chui is our only link to the drug underworld. I’ve got to get him thinking, but how? I know — a couple of beers will fuel his brain cells, it always works for me when I have a complex problem.
“Vipi kuhusu pombe?”
“Yeah, I could go for a cold one too,” Chui chimes in.
I pull off of the interstate and into a so-called convenience store. I wonder what they mean when they use the term, “convenience”. Is it because the stores are convenient to get to or is it …
“Come on, Señor Bob, I’m thirsty.”
I join Chui and Boner and we all storm into the otherwise empty store. Boner goes directly to the potato chip display while Chui and I stare at the large selection of beer. Chui goes for the Mexican beer and I help him pull out two six packs of Dos Equis. Damn, these things are hard to get out of the cooler.
Boner has chosen three kinds of potato chips and joins us in our parade to the cashier. The young woman behind the counter is whispering into the phone as if she’s reporting a holdup or something. She drops the receiver and stares at us with a look of total terror. I know we look a little rough for wear but I wouldn’t think that our shoddy appearance could instill this much emotion, when I notice her gaze is fixed on Boner’s boner. I should have known. He has this effect on strangers, especially women of all ages.
She rings up and bags our purchases without taking her eyes off Boner’s boner. I’m really impressed that she can do all these simple chores, including making change, without the benefit of any visual stimuli. She’s amazing.
As we bundle up our purchases and start for the door she just stands there rigidly transfixed. No “thanks”, “have a nice day”, or “come back and see us” ― just her eerie hypnotic trance-like fixed gaze. Wow, she went from amazing to creepy in a heartbeat.
Just as we’re filing out the door, a Maricopa County Sheriff’s car screeches to a stop a few inches in front of us.
Chui jumps back and crashes into the closed door exclaiming his usual, “What the fuck?”
The two deputies have their guns drawn and pointed directly at Boner.
“Up against the wall and spread ‘em, assholes,” yells the female deputy.
We drop our purchases and comply with her request. Chui seems to have done this before so Boner and I follow his moves. They pat us down and turn Boner around with his hands in the air. The woman deputy drops Boner’s sweat pants, gasps and then yells to her partner, “Hey Rodney would you look at this. It’s the biggest damn pecker I’ve ever seen and it’s as hard as a rock. Where’s this guy been all my life?”
It’s obvious that her partner is not as enamored with Boner’s boner as she is; in fact, he seems outright hostile. Maybe it’s envy or maybe it’s jealousy but I suspect it’s her admiration for someone else’s pecker that has him in a snit.
“We had a report of someone with a drawn, concealed weapon,” he stammers in anger. “The clerk called us saying that this guy was walking around with a gun in his pants pointed directly at her.”
“Officer, the phrase ‘drawn, concealed weapon’ is oxymoronic. If a weapon were drawn it couldn’t ...”
“Shut the fuck up!” yells the female deputy.
I try again. “Officer, as you can see, my colleague here does not have a weapon. An erection of this size might be considered a weapon in some hopelessly pathetic cultures but not in one as enlightened as ours. As far as I know, an erection, no matter what the size, is not a crime in Arizona or anywhere else …
“Shut the fuck up!” she yells again.
The female deputy takes her eyes off Boner’s boner for the first time and says, “You, cover that big thing up before I ah, ah ... just cover it up. Okay everyone, break out your IDs and you beaner,” she says pointing at Chui. “Show me your identity papers.”
She quickly glances at my New Mexico driver’s license and Boner’s Duluth, Minnesota, library card before she turns to Chui.
“Okay, beaner whata ya got?”
Chui fumbles through his pockets and says in his best English, “Deputy, I must have left my wallet at home. You’ll just have to take my word and the word of my associates here that I’m a legal resident of these United States.”
“No fuckin’ way beaner, you’re coming with us. And you two assholes, do you know that under Arizona SB 1070 it is a crime to transport illegal immigrants? I’m taking you all in. Cuff ‘em Rodney.”
“Miss, may I remind you that you cannot arrest us unless you formally charge us with a ..."
“Shut the fuck up!”
The ride to the sheriff’s office is uneventful with the three of us in the backseat, Chui and I in handcuffs and Boner with his hands free. They apparently only had two pair. We’re ushered into the sheriff’s office, photographed, fingerprinted, and strip searched. In the interest of good police work, our arresting deputy has every woman in the building come in and check out Boner and me in a nude two-man lineup. We look like the before and after models for some penis enlargement drug. Woman after woman parades by, some with a snicker others with licentious grins, and all with a deep sense of lustful awe.
I thought I’d stir the pot, “Officer, my colleague has yet to complain but I’m sure you will agree that this flagrant display of our genitals, as exceptional as they may be, shows a complete lack of …”
“Shut the fuck up!”
We are soon decked out in pink underwear and goofy black-and-white striped prison coveralls and transported to this tent-city jail. Years ago, Maricopa County’s publicity-hound sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was ordered to release some prisoners early in order to deal with the serious overcrowding that seems to plague every city, county and state in the U.S. That’s everywhere ― everywhere except here. Rather than let his prisoners out early, Sheriff Joe has built these temporary tent cities in Phoenix’s 120-degree desert heat. His tent-city jails became such a part of the Arpaio folklore that they became a permanent part of the County’s penal system. Back in 2003, when the Phoenix temperatures exceeded 110 degrees, the self-promoting Arpaio said to his whining inmates, “It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents, have to wear full body armor, and they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths.”
It’s just my luck to get thrown in the toughest jail in America for two very serious crimes ― terrorizing a sales clerk with an erection and a properly clothed erection I might add and having a beaner, to use the deputy’s word, as a passenger. Wow, do you think I’ll have to do chain-gang-like hard time for these crimes against …
Boner interrupts my contemplation with, “Takatifu shit.”
A prison guard leads us through a huge tent cluttered with bunk beds and partially clothed inmates. Boner’s boner sticks out prominently in the front of his jail-house jumpsuit. Many of the inmates whistle catcalls as Boner passes by. No one seems to notice either Chui or me. Finally we find three empty bunks, settle in and watch the weather channel with our new tent mates.
Boner is just lying on his back in a lower bunk with his boner sticking up like a tent pole watching the weather channel’s lengthy dissertation on the subtle aspects of the weather in Muncie, Indiana when every prisoner seems to have an excuse for walking by and taking a sneak look at the large bulge in Boner’s pants. They parade by like mourners getting their final viewing of a deceased loved one. I don’t know what to do. Should I stop this or should I pull down Boner’s coveralls and let everyone see the object of their curiosity? I’m debating this when a tough looking, heavily tattooed black guy comes up to Boner and says, “What’s up bro? You’ve had that hard-on for a couple a hours now whata ya takin’ bro, some kind of Viagra?”
“Mimi si kuchukua chochote.”
“Say what, motherfucker?”
“Mimi alisema, mimi si kuchukua chochote.”
“Fuck you man. You gonna talk that shit to me.”
“Fuck wewe pia!”
I am proud of Boner; he held his own in his first encounter with what was surely a hardened criminal. But then Boner with his erection might be the ultimate ‘hardened’ whatever you call someone falsely accused. Chui is making contact with the large Hispanic element in our tent. They all shake hands in their jive-ass fashion and giggle and laugh like a bunch of school girls. I feel a tinge of jealousy as I watch Chui maneuver around the tent like a politician running for reelection.
Finally a guard comes into the tent and shouts, “Lights out,” as he pulls the switch. We lay in total darkness listening to the clanking and squeaking of the inmates as they settle into their bunks. Soon it is quiet except for the sound of labored breathing and the growing roar of snoring.
“Señor Bob, I found out the name of the guy we need to see here in Phoenix,” whispered Chui. “He is Emilio Sanchez and we’ll find him at El Cerdo Rosado.”