We were thirsty, the three of us. And hungry too. Jilli, petite and erudite, had come from class and, being a ‘dammer, had arrived on her bicycle. Tiger, tall and athletic and incurably mischievous, was restless. She had spent the afternoon in Vondelpark making new friends, 2 and 4-legged. Tiger was often restless, with a manic energy that exhausted everyone around her. With that energy she had once performed a prodigious feat of swimming. Circumnavigation of Australia or some such thing. Trying to shore up my dubious credentials as an intellectual, I had spent the day museuming.
We’d made plans for dinner and so we stopped at a place named Jubilee that had a little patio in front. I stepped inside the door and told the proprietress that we were sitting outside.
Jilli had stopped to look at a little rug that graced the entranceway of the restaurant. She looked down at it intently, closely examining its intricate design. “Such a pretty rug.”
I glanced down. “Yes, truly.”
The three of us sat down and our beer shortly arrived, courtesy of a lovely girl. We gave our dinner order amongst some good-natured banter. As the girl left us, Tiger leaned forward and whispered, “She was making eyes at you, Robbie.”
Jilli smirked, “She saw you panting and is hoping for a yank tip.” I narrowed my eyes at her in disapproval; she squinted back and crinkled her nose. I settled for a draw.
This marvelous triad of ambassadors of the Anglosphere proceeded to a game of heaping mock praise upon the others’ homelands.
“Your nation is clearly the grandest. After all, you have the Grand Canyon. “
“Yes, but you have the Great Barrier Reef. And the bush!”
“Yes, but you have had two Bushes, and legal reefer!“
“Well, you have the monarchy – that is certainly impressive.”
“True, but I would rather have good barbecue.”
“I prefer that tasty blood pudding.”
“What about your vegemite?”
“But you have Beef Wellington!”
“The Duke of Wellington!”
“The Duke, John Wayne!”
This went on for some time, until I delivered my masterstroke: “Ah, but you have ‘’National Sorry Day’!“
“I’m sorry to say, Tiger, but he has you there. You do live in the best place of all!”
Tiger admitted defeat- Jilli and I toasted our victory and, having exhausted ourselves with the silly game, we all sat quietly for a bit.
Jilli spoke up, “That rug would look just fine upon my threshold, methinks.”
“Yes, truly”, I added.
Tiger brightened. “Let’s steal it!”
Jilli raised her eyes toward the sky, “Yes, do steal it.”
Her command was aimed at me. Jilli had a knack for convincing men to do her dirty work for her, but I considered myself immune to her charms – mostly. I hesitated, wanting to demonstrate that I wasn’t one of her tall Mokummer boys, eager to do her bidding. Tiger jumped in and saved me, “C’mon, let me do it Robbie!” I gladly deferred to her – she would have persisted until I gave in anyway.
As we consumed a second round and our dinner, the plan took shape. Tiger would snatch the rug and flee on Jilli’s bike while I occupied the ladies inside. Jilli would be laying chickie a little way up the street all the while.
After the bill was paid we put the plan into action. Tiger nudged me, “Go bat those baby blues”. I grinned and rose from my chair. “Only for you, Tige, baby.” I went inside and proceeded to shower the woman and the girl with compliments on the food, service, and atmosphere of their little place in my rudimentary Dutch. The woman smile politely and answered in English, “Thank you, you’re so kind”. The girl just put her hand to her mouth and giggled. With a flourish, I bade them farewell and strolled casually outside, looking for my co-conspirators.
Down the block Tiger was pedaling furiously with one hand on the handlebars and holding the rug in the bike’s basket with the other. She swerved erratically, in genuine peril of plunging headlong into the canal. Jilli was in pursuit, her enormous cloth bag swinging wildly from her shoulder and her flip-flops slapping madly. Two realizations sprung upon me: We had not properly planned our escape, and Jilli was not appropriately accessorized for flight. Rather than be part of this absurd scene, I ducked into an alley.
I kept to the narrow streets and alleys, blowing kisses to the lovelies in the windows along the way. Back at Jilli’s flat, I encountered the girls solemnly regarding the rug, freshly laid at the doorstep. Previously, none of us had noticed that the intricate design woven into the rug actually spelled the name of the restaurant. Jilli frowned. “This is problematic.” I must admit to deriving some pleasure from her disappointment. “Yes, truly.”
A long silence was broken by Tiger, “I’ll use it back home!” She immediately rolled it up and walked off, presumably to stuff it in her suitcase. Jilli said quietly to Tiger, who was already out the door, “Right, off you go then.”
I felt a little badly, then, about feeling good. I touched her arm and said “Same time tomorrow, then? I hear the Café Ankara has a nice rug.” She smiled at me gratefully. “Same time tomorrow.” All was right.
The rug enjoyed a second life in Tiger’s surf party mega-van (named, appropriately, Jubilee) as it circumnavigated Australia. Or some such thing.