I had just clicked the padlock for my bike shut when the border inspector marched up to me, red in the face.
I sighed. Setting my sack of sand on the ground, I folded my arms across my chest. “What did I do this time?”
“I’m off duty,” she said immediately. “I missed you this morning.”
“Yeah, Anthony searched me instead,” I said. “What, couldn’t stand going a day without seeing my beautiful face? Had to cross the border to come see me?”
“Anthony told me you told him today’s your last day coming through,” she said. “Is that really true?”
“Yep,” I said, popping the p. “I’m done with my job, so no more crossing the border every day for me. I’m going to New York tomorrow, going to see my family, you know.”
“It’s driving me crazy,” she said. “Every day I go home, I can’t stop seeing you on your bike with your bag of sand, with that smug grin you wear — yes, that one — and we never find any contraband on you, nothing’s ever in that bag of sand, but every day you bicycle past us, looking suspicious as anyone I’ve ever seen, and every day you walk back, still holding the sand, smugger than before with a wad of cash. I swear, I’m off duty, please — just tell me what you’ve been smuggling! I can’t stand it!”
I laughed. “You can’t be serious,” I said. “You think I’m just going to — what, confess to smuggling something that you can’t detect?”
“I won’t report you,” she said. “I swear to God, I won’t report you. It’s just, I spend the whole day wondering what you’re doing, I can’t sleep at night for trying to figure it out.”
“Real shame for you,” I said.
“Come on. Please,” she said. “Please?”
If I have one weakness, it’s puppy dog eyes.
“Fine,” I said. “Fine.”
The inspector blinked. “What?”
“Fine, I’ll tell you,” I repeated. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“It was that easy?” she said.
“But I’m getting my dinner first!” I protested. “We can talk over food.”
She let out a sigh of breath. “Oh thank God,” she said. “You’re serious. Oh thank God.”
We walked into the diner, her with a spring in her step, me carrying the sack of sand slung over my shoulder.
The diner was nearly empty and there was no line to order.
“The usual,” I told the person behind the counter, who nodded with the melancholy of an off-highway fast-food worker and slapped a frozen hunk of, er, something unrecognizable onto a grill.
“A cappuccino,” the inspector said.
“Don’t got any,” the worker said. “Milk went bad.”
“Just a regular coffee, then,” the inspector said.
A melancholy nod instead of a response.
The inspector was clearly waiting desperately to hear what I had to say, but I was beginning to enjoy myself, and I decided to drag it out as long as I could.
We sat down at a booth in the corner. I took a slow bite from my burger, chewed, swallowed, waiting for her to break, and–
“Oh, get on with it, you,” she said. “What are you, timing how long it’ll take me to break?”
“Tsk, tsk,” I said. “Very rude. I’m not telling you anything with that attitude.”
“Please,” she said again. “I can’t figure it out, I just can’t. Every morning: you, on your bike, holding your bag of sand, wearing that smug grin. We search the sand, search the bike, search you, your papers are always in order, and we let you through. Every afternoon, you come back, holding your sand and at least $100 cash, with an even smugger grin, and we never find anything. What is it? How have you managed to get by us for so long?”
I smiled. “You’re right. I am a smuggler,” I said.
“Then what, what are you smuggling?” she asked, coffee neglected.
I spat out a piece of lettuce that had been green a week ago. “Isn’t it obvious?” I said. “I’ve been smuggling bikes.”