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The Good Stuff
Short Story
The Entertainer
by Jack Wodhams
Length: 691 words

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The Entertainer

“Anything to declare?”

“Nothing in particular,” I told the Customs Man.  “Just the usual couple bottles of spirits I’m allowed.  I don’t bother with the duty-free cigarettes.  I don’t smoke myself, and I don’t like to encourage it in others.”

“What’s in the box you’re holding back there?”

“Box?  Holding back? I’m not holding back.  It’s just an extra small case I have, that’s all.”

“And what’s in it?”

“Oh, nothing of interest.  Usual stuff.  Bits and bobs.  Do you want me to open my suitcase?”  I heaved my large suitcase up onto the bench, started to undo its straps. “I’ve got nothing special in here.”

“No, that smaller case, the one behind your legs now.  What’s in that?”

“Huh? Like I said, nothing of importance, believe me.  Just a bit of assorted junk.”  My fingers worked the fastenings on my suitcase.

“I’d like to check it, if you don’t mind,” the Customs Man said, very soberly.

“What?” I said.  “That? Really, there’s nothing of any consequence in ti.  An the lock sticks sometimes.  Believe me, it’s innocent of containing anything untoward.”  Which was a lie, of course.

“Let’s have it up on the counter, sir, please,” the C.M. directed, his face very deadpan formal.

“Must I?  Look, honestly, I’d rather not open it.  It’s … It’s something very personal.”

The C.M. was bleak.  “We can be very discreet, sir.  UP here, please, and open it if you would.”

With a show of great reluctance, I stooped and raised the small oblong case to the bench.  I paused.  I released its catches.  I paused again.  Then I partly raised the lid with my left hand, to thrust my right into the case, to complete the throwing back of the lid, to spring Meredith into view.  And, “What’s going on?” Meredith squawked. “I thought I told you not to wake me up until we got there?”

“It’s not my fault. Meredith.  This gentleman insisted that I open your case.”

“Why did you do that?  Didn’t you tell him I was asleep in there?”

“Ah, no, Meredith.”

“One day you’re going to have to pay full fare for me, you know that?”  I swivelled Meredith’s head to stare a the C.M.  “Are you going to dob us in?”

The C.M. looked to me, back to Meredith, and back to my bland face again.  “You could have told me that you had your dummy in there.”

”Dummy?  Who are you calling a dummy?”  Meredith said.  “I’m not the dummy.  He’s the dummy.  Only he’s not small enough to hide in this little case.  I’m the ventriloquist here.  Look, I’ll make him speak, and you won’t see my lips move.”

Here my head went up and , in three little jerks, bent to look at Meredith.  Widening my mouth to auto, “My, what a handsome boy you are, Meredith,” I said.

“There, you see?” Meredith said. “I bet you never saw my lips move!”

The C.M. raised a hand to shade his eyes for a moment.

When he straightened again, I made three or four jerky head motions again, to end cocked a mite quizzically.  Making utterances from a mouth as stretched and dummy-like as possible, I said, “Meredith wants to get back in his case again.  If the airline people see him they might want to see his ticket.”

And Meredith warned, “If that happens, I’ll hold you responsible, mister.”

The C.M. gave up, gestured. “You can go back to sleep, Meredith.”

“I should think so,” Meredith said. “I’m a growing lad.  I need all the rest I can get.”

Putting on my broad mouth again, and performing some mechanical movements, “There you go then, Meredith.  You can kip till we get home now.”

“Thank goodness for that.  Travelling is so boring,” Meredith got in before I withdrew my hand and reclosed the lid.

The look the C.M. gave me.  He shook his head.  He put his chalk mark on my cases, and so I passed through Customs agreeably, to be free to move on through the terminal to catch a taxi.

We had done it again, Meredith and me.  Another kilo of cocaine.

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