Gifts for Libya

by Stephenson Muret

Sven stepped back from the customs official. He watched the flexing legs and pumping elbows of the dark green uniform with wonderment and alarm.

He stammered, "But that's just a box full of phonograph records. I listen to them when I'm anxious. Why on earth would you impound those?"

The customs official did not respond.

Sven heard a clattering. He stooped and peered into his sedan. He protested, amazed, "But those are my golf clubs. You golf with them. They will do no harm to your country. Why are you taking those?"

The clattering ceased. A thump sounded. Moments later the dark green uniform stood erect, sweating, toothily grinning. Black sunglasses sighted on Sven now, penetrated him. Sven felt appraised, dissected.

Sven answered, "My belt?"

And the customs official, who will now finally speak aloud in this story, asked, amiably, "And what brand of shirt is that you are wearing?"

"My shirt?"

Sven bent his head. He shook it. From his lips puffed a mystified breath. Then he uttered, "Really, honestly. I don't understand why you are taking all these things. I earnestly want to understand what threat my golf clubs pose to Libya."

The customs official said, "Mr. Gudmundsson, this is not about the threat your golf clubs pose to Libya. This is not about Libya at all."

The official tugged the sleeve of Sven's undershirt. He inclined an official nod that invited Sven alongside the sedan. The two men stood then over the rear window of the car. The dark green uniform gestured within.

"Mr. Gudmundsson, what do you see in there?"

"Well," Sven said. "That is my daughter. Don't tell me you're going to impound her, too?"

"No, no, of course not," reassured the dark green uniform. "We are impounding these things in order to protect your daughter. It is possible that while in transit the golf clubs could shift or the phonograph records might roll over and injure her. We are impounding all these things as a protection of your daughter."

"Is that the custom in this country? Am I not allowed to protect my daughter on my own behalf?"

"You are allowed, indeed. But I, as a customs official, see that you are not doing so, and so I, as a customs official, am obliged to protect her for you."

Sven bent his head. He shook it. From his lips puffed a mystified breath.

The customs official said, "What size shoe do you wear, by the way?"

"My shoes?"

And then, as Sven stood in his socks, briefs and t-shirt, severely knobby-kneed, leaning watchfully over the open trunk of his sedan, the eventuality he had feared most from this customs review occurred. God! Sven thought. He caught his breath. The secret compartment hidden beneath his spare tire lie plainly exposed. The dark green uniform had unwittingly tripped its release mechanism while removing the spare tire for impounding.

"Why, Mr. Gudmundsson," the customs official hushed, seriously. "I find that there is a large black rubber bag hidden in a secret compartment in the trunk of your automobile."

Sven swallowed.

"Yes," Sven acknowledged.

"Would you mind if I withdrew that rubber bag from your trunk for further and more scrutinous inspection?"

The customs official reeked now of suspicion.

Sven said, "Do I have a choice?"

The toothy grin of the dark green uniform narrowed its Mediterranean gleam. The black rubber bag was withdrawn heavily from the trunk and stood on its end.

"My, my," commented the customs official. "Weighty."

The customs official frisked the black bag lengthwise, flattening his lips deliberatively at Sven.

Sven sweated.

The official asked, "May I?"

Sven said nothing.

The customs official unzipped the black bag from its top to its bottom. He extracted from the bag a long hollow tube. Affixed to one end of the hollow tube was a shoulder harness. Mounted toward the other end of the hollow tube was a sighting apparatus. Between the shoulder harness and the sighting apparatus two pistol grips hung. The rear pistol grip framed a trigger.

"Well, Mr. Gudmundsson. What do we have here?"

Sven said, voicelessly, "A bazooka."

"A bazooka?"



The dark green uniform fitted the bazooka's harness to his shoulder. He rubbed his cheek judgingly against the tube. The black sunglasses then squinted through the weapon's sighting apparatus. Beyond them, in the distance, an airplane rose. The official tracked the airliner's ascent through the sighting apparatus. He swung the bazooka smoothly, gauging its balance and weight. The official held the two pistol grips firmly, steadying the tube's ungainly length against his shoulder.

"Hmmm. And Mr. Gudmundsson," the customs official murmured distractedly, following still the jumbo jet as it climbed. "Why in heaven's name would you bring a bazooka to Libya?"

Sven gulped. He puffed out a breathless breath. Back and forth he shifted in his socks. But then, quietly and submissively, and not without hope, Sven offered, "To protect my daughter with it?"

The eyebrows of the customs official arched over the dark sunglasses. The customs official stepped back. He held the heavy weapon up with both hands. He nodded at it admiringly.

The dark green uniform then turned the bazooka again lengthwise. With care he slipped the tube into its black rubber bag. He zipped the bag closed from bottom to top. The customs official angled then the sheathed bulk into the hidden compartment of Sven's trunk. He righted the compartment's cover. He reloaded the cover's release mechanism. He shut the trunk of the sedan.

"That's fine," the customs official said routinely. "You can move along now."

And, relieved, Sven quickly claimed the driver's seat. He gripped the steering wheel still clad in his underwear. He sped off toward Tripoli.

BIO: Stephenson Muret lives and writes on the Gulf of Mexico. His numerous plays, stories, poems and essays have appeared in publications as various as Slow Trains Literary Journal, Alienskin Magazine, Bent Pin Quarterly, Unlikely Stories, The Medulla Review and Ducts.