The Proceedings

Ian Richards

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All that way across water. Hard to believe it, find a little island like here after all those thousands of miles, even with an airport on it. And this building, oh man. This is where the better life starts, eh--in this rabbit warren. All these exposed girder-things, fancy I guess. Man, even that glass-wall elevator we got in. Take some rummaging about to find anywhere in this place. Big. God, wish the bloody package would keep up. Cutting into my wrist.

Ten hours till the Beijing flight. Ten hours. The bloody Superintendent could have forked out for accommodation, but too stingy that's what. Clear Customs and Immigration and wait. Ten hours. And the airport security, they don't give a bugger. Didn't arrange nothing. Crazy paperwork, not even sure we're in 'in-transit' any more. Oh well, long as we're here when the flight's called. Wish I'd been able to wear the uniform. People would be able to tell who--but no. Bloody Super. Get into mufti, he says. Outside our jurisdiction. Looks like a detective, he says, but I don't think so.

Millions and millions of them, bloody Asians. Hullo, what's this? Something in English instead of gobbledygook: 'Kansai South Wing.' Cripes, that means there's a North Wing too? Come on, boy--why does he have to whimper all the time? Handcuffs hurting?

Sergeant Tommy Lloyd saw a coffee-shop at the end of a long row of counters. He hauled the package towards it. He checked to make sure the jacket was still draped properly, covering the handcuffs. Trouble if it slipped off. Bother people who don't like to see. Even with it covering we look like we're holding hands.

Bloody Asians, it's like I'm the only brown fellow here. They couldn't deport him to somewhere nice, what about Hawaii? Japanese, Chinese, what's the difference, really. Money, I suppose. Look at him, head all limp, clothes all baggy. Lloyd remembered that no one seemed to think a handcuffed Chink at Auckland airport was strange. Should have got the uniform. And those little, warmed-up plastic things they give you to eat on the plane--fucking stupid. Even though he was just laying there and I got his. Too busy crying, I suppose. Spilt milk. Me and him--now, if I had the uniform here, everbody'd know which was which.

'You hungry?' Lloyd asked. But the package still just looked depressed in his second-hand Chink clothes.

There was a glass-case outside the coffee-shop. Lloyd saw that it had all these wax models of the dishes you could get in it. Handy, that, smart. There wasn't much Lloyd liked the look of--man, he could eat his Uncle Wallace's whole hangi on his own, almost. Inside the shop when he got the package in, the ceiling was low, the lamps dangling down in your face, and it was crammed with people in two-piece business suits like the one he was wearing himself. They were coming and going and the staff were yelling things. He managed to find himself and the package a small table.

Almost immediately a waitress bustled over with glasses of water. She took a menu from under one arm, but Lloyd couldn't read it. Not a single word. He looked at the package, maybe for a bit of help. But the bloody fellow was slumped in his chair, moaning softly in Chinese, and Lloyd didn't guess that would mean anything to anyone--even if the guy did look exactly like everyone else. The waitress was still standing there fidgeting like she had better things to do, so he gave it a go.


'Sando? Sando setto?'

'Sandwiches,' he nodded. She nodded back.

'Futatsu? Futaribun?'

She held up two fingers, so Lloyd nodded again. Then she picked up the menu in a hurry and disappeared. Well, that did the trick. Lloyd looked over at the package.

'What'll happen to you when you get back to China?' he asked. But the package didn't react, so he repeated slowly, 'Back in China, you okay?'

The package looked up at him and said nothing. Obviously not bloody okay, or the guy wouldn't have paid those fellows to get him out to Auckland in the first place. Stupid question, really. Local Chinese charging huge sums in return for work visas. A cute trick, Lloyd thought. Getting people hired as specialist cooks for an Asian restaurant. He sipped some of the water in his glass absentmindedly, straightening his back and looking around the shop at all these Chinks. Was it all right to drink the water here? And why did these people, why did they all want to go to other countries? Even Asians wanted to get away from Asians. It was like a club, a spread-around-the-Asians club--Lloyd giggled to himself--they could have secret meetings. Someone taking the what-do-you-call-them minutes.

'But Tommy,' he said to himself out loud, disagreeing with himself because there was nobody else to. 'You can't have a country if everybody just lives everywhere.'

The waitress was approaching again among the tables. He recognised her. Now she was carrying a large tray in her thin arms. It wasn't true that they all looked alike. She put down two plates of perfectly cut sandwich-triangles: white bread with their crusts taken off. Also two cups of coffee, a small jug of cream, sugar, spoons, knives, forks--boy, the table was cluttered just for sammies. Lloyd could hardly wait. The waitress put the bill down in what looked like a silver napkin-ring. He peeked at it and was amazed at the price. This was going to do in almost all of the yen he'd been given.

'Eat up,' he said to the package. And then, realising that he was feeling a little lonely and the package was the only familiar face, he said, 'The spread-around-the-Asians club meeting is closed.'

The package reached out and pushed a sandwich into his mouth. Quickly, furtively, with his wiry yellow fingers. Probably the last decent meal he was going to get before…well, whatever got done to people who came back empty-handed. Lloyd picked up a sandwich and tried not to think about it.

'I'm only doing my job, eh,' he said aloud.

Christ, wasn't that what the Pakeha used to say when they put the surveyors' pegs in? But the package ate his sandwiches, uncomprehending, just like everyone else. Lloyd thought of the stories of his grandma pulling up those survey pegs, landing herself in strife. Hardcase. He had the sudden thought that he could do almost anything up here--no one would ever know. He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror on a far wall. Amongst the customers, the businessmen in their suits and the fussily-dressed women travellers, he was surprised at how tired he looked, how ugly his clothes were.

After the meal, there was nothing to do again. Feeling roused, though, with a full stomach, Lloyd took a walk among the duty-free shops, pulling the package along with him. Yes, he thought, the fellow was looking better for a meal and followed easily now. Lloyd liked seeing names such as 'Gucci' and 'Chanel' that he recognised, although he couldn't understand why there didn't seem to be any other foreigners in this part of the terminal. He wondered--again--if he'd drifted off into the wrong area, but he told himself that, as far as he knew, Kansai was an international airport only. They took in a couple of circuits of the shops.

Lloyd was just considering whether he could afford to call home when the package doubled over and started to retch.

It was right there, in the middle of the busy corridor. People were walking around them, trying to ignore them both. The jacket was slipping. The package had his free hand clamped over his mouth and seemed ready to drop to his knees on the lino and vomit. The handcuffs were pulling at Lloyd's wrist. He thought what a shame it was they weren't back on the airplane, so that he could just let the package go. Then he spotted a WC sign tucked into a corner--not too far away. He dragged the package towards it.

The toilet, at least, looked familiar: a long, tiled room. Lloyd supposed there was only so much cultural difference you could build into a bog. He pushed open a cubicle and bundled the package in first, but there was no toilet bowl to lean him over--only a low, porcelain trough sunk into the floor. Lloyd clucked his tongue with irritation. In any case, it was too late to get picky. The package was already starting to vomit into the trough and onto his own shoes. Best unlock the handcuffs--there was nobody about, and the package was groaning now and heaving up yellow bile. Lloyd got the key into the lock, felt it catch, then stepped back and pulled shut the cubicle-door.

There was a god-awful noise coming from the other side of it.

He hung the jacket up over the top of the door. It didn't matter too much if it got dirty.

Lloyd went and stood at one of the urinals. These, too, were odd: several urinals had an elaborate arrangement around them of iron railings. He guessed they were for elderly people to hold onto. And there was a mirror at head-height, so he could keep a weather-eye on the cubicle-door behind him. With the handcuffs dangling from his left wrist, Lloyd unzipped his fly--in the shop he'd drunk a glass of water and then his own coffee and the package's. The package didn't seem to care for coffee much. Lloyd was letting himself flow when two Japanese hoon-types came into the bog. He watched them in the mirror. They had punk haircuts and ear-rings. They were shouting and even noisier than the package. They moved jerkily, excitedly, waving their arms. One had what looked like a fancy Walkman in his belt, and a pair of earphones he'd taken off was draped down round his neck like a doctor's stethoscope. The other wore a silky-looking bomber jacket, and in one hand he had a cigarette-lighter which he scratched along the wall. As he turned, his jacket showed a red patch on the back that said, 'Harley Davidson'.

They came up behind Lloyd and stood at the urinals, either side of him. They spat loudly and showily. One flexed his shoulders. Pleased with themselves.

Lloyd concentrated on looking ahead. Trying to act unconcerned. Give them nothing to go on. Then one of the hoons, the boy with the lighter, leaned over the divider between them, looking him up and down: Lloyd felt pretty sure his cock was getting examined. And then the kid giggled. A silly, girlish, Asian giggle, the sort of thing that Lloyd hated. He stared across at the cunt and their eyes locked.

Lloyd felt a warm splash over his trousers as he planted his feet and turned and put some weight into his arm--he'd hit the kid even before finishing with his own piss. Hit him too hard. The boy slammed back against one of the cubicle-doors. Lloyd was over in a bound, the handcuffs flapping awkwardly, his fly still open. He hit the hoon again. He couldn't believe the rage inside him. The other one was already out the door.

Well, to keep this short--because it reflects no credit on anyone--I can tell you that three security guards soon arrived and the level of fuss just seemed to go on and on increasing. You can imagine: the nervous guards; the foreigner pulling out his passport and tickets, and objecting when they were taken away from him; the crowd of spectators who always seem to show up for these things. As I recall, one of the guards was drawing circles with a blue marker-pen around two small patches of blood and the cigarette-lighter on the floor, and another was taking down notes on a clipboard. It was clear there was going to be trouble. And the perpetrator was yelling something in excited English about the person he was supposed to be with--except that there wasn't anyone else.

The man he'd come with, it appears, had simply walked away.

Copyright Ian Richards, 2008

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