Sep. 9th, 2011

The sunset wind whipped through my hair. I stood at the prow of the huge catamaran, gazing out to sea. Somewhere out there, Hibiscus Sue waited for me. And Cargo Phil waited with her.

The bar monkey screeched disconsolately. He didn't like the salt air or the spray of the ocean. I petted his fur. Either I had adopted him or he had adopted me – I wasn't sure which. I decided to call him 'Churchkey'.

The enormous vessel was crawling with crew and other passengers. There wasn't enough space to berth inside the hold of the central dugout; overflow space had been created with bivouacs out on the outriggers. Sailors in floral-printed navy whites scurried up ratlines and manned the paddles. Some of the passengers were playing shuffleboard amidships. There was even a small bar, tricked out like a thatch hut, tucked away near the stern. The ship was luxurious enough, despite the crowds, but I couldn't enjoy any of it. How could I enjoy anything ever again?

One of my shipmates joined me at the rail. He stood head and shoulders above me, and the bulk of his muscles under his rainbow daishiki seemed all but impossible for a normal man. Hours of meticulous grooming must have gone into the careful combing of his perfectly spherical afro. There was just a hint of a wry, world-weary smile below his thin mustache, and a vividly colored macaw perched alertly on his shoulder. Everywhere he went, I noticed, the air carried a faint hint of music – violins and scratch guitar.

"Hey there, little brother," said the big man. "Nice night for a sea cruise." I nodded but didn't reply. I'm aces at the tiki techniques, but when it comes to useless conversation, I'm fives – tops.

He forged on, undaunted. "Now somebody told me they recognized you," he said. "They said you're Jumping Spider, Tiki Master and street fighter. They got that right?"

"Maybe," I replied, looking sidelong at the stranger. "Who wants to know?"

"Only a big fan of the techniques," he replied innocuously. "One who digs that kind of style."

"I see," I said. "And what is this fan called?"

The man grinned. "Mostly, when I get called, it's by the ladies," he purred. "But when they call me, they call me Badd."

The macaw stretched out its neck. "Chuck Badd!" it squawked, its voice curiously deep. The faint strains of violin music exploded into a dramatic sting.

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