Agony. The moments of my consciousness stretched out into days, months, ages of pure pain and misery. I lay in a dank hole and writhed on the stone floor, incapable of trusting the input of my eyes and ears, terrified at every noise real and imagined.

I wanted drink. At first, I remembered, I had called out for it. I had requested, demanded and begged for rum, for vodka; then gin or whisky; and then I abased myself further. At my nadir I remember pleading in a cracked voice to be brought a non-alcoholic beer – yes, so low I fell. And then the madness took me.

I sweated and moaned, striking out all around me, clawing the stone floor and kicking over the food and water they delivered. I saw crazy things, impossible things. Eventually I saw the stones at the back of my cell ripple like the surface of the ocean. I laughed and pointed at them, my face a mask of perspiration.

The stones undulated again. Or, rather, one stone towards the bottom rippled. No, it pushed outwards, grinding in its joint an inch at a time until it could be pushed aside. A tiny monkey face peeked through.

I laughed again. "Sorry, Churchkey," I said, "there's no booze here. No work for you. Go find a beer, monkey."

Chattering, Churchkey scampered up on my chest. He had a small bottle around his neck. In my state, any bottle was an object of great interest, but my fingers lacked the skill to unscrew the top. Churchkey did it for me and poured the bottle's contents in my mouth. It smelled heavenly, of cherry juice and coconut and rum, and something else.

"Blue Hawaiian," I croaked, my tongue stained cobalt. "Blue, blue blue, blue like the waves." Somehow I found the presence to summon up the ancient techniques, and I was water, a blue wave, coursing down the tunnel in the stonework, splashing and lapping at the sides with chattering Churchkey wetting his feet in me. I poured out a hole and reformed into myself, lying panting on the ground in a storeroom with Churchkey on my shoulder, and Chuck Badd and Ululani staring, amazed.

"Rum," I croaked. "More rum."

Read more... )
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.

Read more... )
Meanwhile, at a luau on the wrong side of Tikitown, Pimp Jules held court from his bamboo throne. He presided over crooks, pushers, grifters and fish smugglers – the worst kind of refuse. He adjusted his floral-print cape over his zoot-suit.

"Who beat up my loanshark?" he demanded. The cartilaginous fish gasped, broken and bruised at his feet.

The crowd parted, and a strong black brother appeared. His multi-colored daishiki highlighted his Herculean frame, and his high-volume afro was perfectly spherical.

"I did," he purred, massive arms folded. "Name's Badd."

The parrot on his shoulder stretched. "Chuck Badd!" it squawked sonorously.
I was leading exercises at Fat Sam's Tiki Dojo when Moogy ran in. He was breathless and looked worried. Our eyes met across the room full of students, practicing punches and kicks in their floral-patterned gis with the masks of our tribal ancestors looking down upon us. I tapped a senior student on the shoulder to direct him to continue instruction, then crossed to the front where Moogy was. From his overstuffed papa-san in his raised alcove, Fat Sam puffed on his pipe and watched me inscrutably.

Despite his windedness, Moogy managed a proper salute and bow. "Jumping Spider," he gasped, "it's Hibiscus Sue! She's at the South Pacific Empress – and she's in trouble!"

I grabbed Moogy by the arms and shook him. "What do you mean?" I demanded. Hibiscus Sue and I had, well, a special relationship. She wasn't my girl, exactly, but I think she wanted to be. I just hadn't gotten the courage up to ask her yet. I may be the baddest street koa in all of Tikitown, but when it comes to girls, I'm downright shy.

"It's Cargo Phil!" said the exhausted Moogy. "He wanted Hibiscus Sue to dance for him, and he wasn't taking no for an answer! Some goons dragged her back into the private area at the South Pacific Empress – I saw it with my own eyes!"

I let go of Moogy, who chafed his arms. Cargo Phil was a bad man who made his living running dirty contraband into and out of Tikitown. You couldn't get a trained monkey or pufferfish venom unless Cargo Phil had put his hands on it. I'd had trouble with Cargo Phil and his hired gorillas before, but this time he had gone too far.

"Just a moment," croaked Fat Sam, waddling out of his alcove. All the students stopped their exercises and dropped to the mat, prostrate; even I saluted and bowed. Fat Sam put a hand on my shoulder.

"Favorite student," he said tenderly, "I sense you are needed elsewhere. The ancestors must give you strength. Drink this." He handed me a ruby-red Mai Tai.

"It will give you… special powers," Fat Sam observed shrewdly.

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