I barely had time to register that they were not dressed like indigenous Guatemalans before I had to pull my feet up and I scraped across the bumpy gravel in my jump suit before coming to a halt. I stood up, looked around me like a spaceman on a distant planet, and began to unzip my flight suit to reveal my street clothes. Just then I saw someone approaching cautiously from across the street. He was probably in his 60’s wearing a thin tie and a sport coat. Pinned on his jacket was a silver star and he was carrying a baton. A couple of other men were behind him.
“Estoy un amigo!” I called to him, although he didn’t look like he was a native Guatemalan.
“Sir! Put your hands up and turn around,” he yelled to me, and I could hear fear in his voice. Surprised that he could speak English, I slowly stepped both feet out of the full body flight suit, leaving the empty shell on the ground. Then I put my hands on my head and slowly turned around. As I did so, I realized that I was in the parking lot of a drive up movie theater and the screen was now in front of me. Posters announced the newest movies showing which were “From Here to Eternity” and “Shane.” I had seen Shane once. With my grandfather, when I was a kid. My grandfather loved old westerns.
“Wow,” I thought, “This place must not be used much.” Although the posters looked like they hadn’t been up very long.
Just then I felt the cold weight of the handcuffs as they latched onto my wrists. I didn’t resist, not knowing what these people were doing here or who they thought I was. When I was turned around, I could see that the star pinned to the mans shirt was engraved, “Chief, Innisburg Municipal Police Force.”
“Who do you think you’re fooling, parachuting in like this?” He sounded mad, and was clearly more confident now that I was in handcuffs, although his companions still hung back nervously. “Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean were an easy target for you Communist invasion!”
“Communist!?” I exclaimed, almost laughing to think what my dad would think of me being mistaken for a communist. “I’m not a Communist! I’m just a photo journalist and I wanted to know what you guys were doing down here!”
“A likely story,” huffed the chief in disbelief, “Come on, boys!” he called to the men behind him, “let’s get him down to the jail!”
He grabbed the chain connecting my wrists and led me towards the street. I twisted around, trying to get my bearings.
“Hey, don’t try any fancy stuff,” he said, giving me a small tug. “I may be a small town chief but that just means I’ll have nothing better to do than to hunt you down should you try to skip town.”
“You’re awfully touchy about this being a small town,” I said with a small grin.
“Now don’t you be impudent with me, son,” he growled, shoving me roughly toward the sidewalk. When we got there, there were three or four men, a couple of them carrying sticks or other crude clubs. They nervously took in my leather jacket, jeans and Converse shoes.
“He doesn’t look like a Commie, Al,” said one of them, addressing the police chief.
“Why else would he come falling out of the sky? He’s got a fancy looking camera and this weird communication device,” said Al, holding up my iPhone, which must have fallen out my pocket.
“No, look, that’s…” I began.
“Yeah Doug just got that last year.” He seemed about to say more but his voice trailed off and there was an awkward silence. Down the street I saw a couple of girls and as they approached, they quickly crossed the street at the sight of me being lead down the sidewalk with a posse of men surrounding me. The girls were very cute but they looked like they were going to a costume party or something, with skirts that hung just below their knees and knitted button up sweaters on. As they got closer I noticed that they both carried books under their arms and I figured that it must be fifties day at school or something. They stared and gigged as they passed, and I threw a wink their direction, which only incited more laughs.
Within minutes we had arrived at our destination and the chief opened the door of the police station. There was a desk with a few papers on it, but it was the phone that caught my attention. It was tall and black with a separate piece hooked on the side for listening.
“Give me your backpack,” he said.I sighed, slipping out of the backpack. I had not known what to expect when I jumped out of the airplane only a few short minutes earlier, but this was not it. The police chief closed the cell door behind me and walked back into the station, closing another door so I could no longer see or hear him.