“Do you understand this?!” barked the immigration official. A vein the size of a body builder’s bicep was bulging from his right temple.
Having already escaped the bribe demanding customs officer, who had informed us that without the police stamp it would be impossible to bypass immigration and exit Kazakhstan, we had been called into a cramped interrogation office.
I wiped the specks of his spit from my face and tried to read what he was pointing at but Michael was distracting me.
“He looks like an angry version of Mario, from the Mario brothers,” he whispered in my ear.
“Not now Michael, I’m trying to concentrate,” I hissed back.
The official was pointing at the back of our departure card which stated something along the lines of:
“All immigrants are required to register with the police within five days of entering Kazakhstan”
I tried to focus my mind and all of a sudden I had a flash of inspiration, a moment of clarity. I turned to Michael.
“One, you mean Wario, not Mario and, two, he looks more like an angry version of Barry Chuckle, from the Chuckle Brothers”
“Was Barry the fat one or the skin-”
“Understand?!” the official barked again, irritated that we weren’t answering him. It was clear that he was trying to figure out what to make of us. One of his brushy eye-brows sloped over his eye in an expression of rage; the other sloped upwards, as if in confusion. Both eye-brows alternated between rage and confusion as if they were caterpillars doing the worm in a dance-off on his face.
I squinted at the words that Barry was pointing at and, as if in a Hollywood dream sequence, my surroundings started to shimmer and my memory was cast back into a previous time…
Bangkok, Thailand: I was sat with Michael reading something seemingly important…
“Hey Mike, it states here that when we enter Kazakhstan it is of vital importance that we regis-“
“OH MY GOD! LOOK AT THAT,” Michael shouted, snorting a bit of coffee out of nose. “Check it out: that cat looks like Hitler!” he said, pointing behind me.
“Bloody hell you’re right,” I replied, “the sneaky critter has tried to disguise himself with a centre-parting, but that’s him alright. I’ll get the camera”
After we’d taken a few photographs of Kitler, who, I remember thinking at the time, seemed suspiciously amenable to having his photo taken, Michael turned to me and said, “Sorry to interrupt mate, what were you saying?”
I winced in concentration, but all I could think about was bloody Kitler, marching the goose step through the streets of Berlin, with an army of stern looking cats behind him doing the same.
“I’m sure it’ll come back to me if it’s important enough”
“UNDERSTAND?!” Barry Chuckle barked again, bringing my consciousness into the present with a slam of his fist on the table.
“Dam you Kitler,” I thought to myself, shaking my head, “first you try to exterminate the Jews and now this. Is there no end to your evil deeds?”
Barry Chuckle studied my face as I searched for a way to explain to him, through actions not words, due to his lack of English, that Adolph Hitler, the infamous leader of the Nazi Party in World War Two, had for some reason deemed it necessary to return to the mortal world, in cat form, sporting a flash new centre-parting, with a dastardly mission to distract us from Kazakhstan immigration policy.
“Well eerrr, well, you see… there was this cat…” I started, but that’s how far I got before Chuckle stopped me in my tracks. Apparently my concentration face must have been mistaken for mental impairment because he decided to treat us with leniency (presumably on grounds of diminished responsibility).
He waved a letter, written in Kazak, or maybe Russian, that said something along the lines of:
‘you must pay $ x if you ever show your sorry faces in Kazakhstan again’.
“Understand?!” Barry Chuckle barked for the fifth time.
Michael looked him straight in the eye said, “Look here Mario, Wario, Barry, Chuckle or whatever the hell your name is. I’ve just spent a week in a city that has about as much charm as a prison rape. If I ever feel the need to pay an extortionate amount of money to visit a freezing cold, featureless wasteland devoid of all signs of intelligent life or discernible civilization, I’ll give Richard Branson a call. UNDERSTAND?!”
He didn’t really say that. Instead, we both gave him a wide-eyed nod. I think Michael may have even thanked him. We took our letters and went on our way.
“So long Kaz-kack-stan!” sniggered Michael.
“Ha ha! Nice one Mike. That’ll show them”