Plants, birds & plugs

This morning.

After assaulting three arrogant bougainvillea bushes and two of their allies with sharp clippers early today, I rested on the downstairs terraza, atop a rocker, and enjoyed what remained of the morning. As I sat there with a juice my child bride had made, a black-vented oriole landed on the edge of the birdbath for a sip. I did not have my camera.

He flew away.

I remained on the rocking chair. A few minutes later he returned for more water. I still did not have my camera. I cursed my luck. He flew away. I remained on the rocker. A few minutes later he returned and sat on a bougainvillea near the birdbath. Still, no camera. I cursed. He flew away. I stood up and grabbed the Canon which was on a table just inside the front door. I sat on the rocker again. The bird never came back.

Also this morning.

Spring has been strange. After about a week of warmer, stuffier weather, which is normal for spring, it changed its tune and got cool again, so my wife caught a nasty cold three days ago because she was dressed at night for a normal spring. She’s feeling better today.


And now, a plug

Few passersby notice, I think, but there is quite a list of links nearby to other fascinating elements of The Moon. It’s to your right on a PC, but I suspect fewer people use PCs these days, favoring phones and tablets where those links are less obvious.

One in particular that ran as a series here years ago but now has its own website is The Old Marbol, which is the name of a hotel in Dark City. Many strange people work at The Old Marbol, people like Billy Lancing who’s a red-headed negro; Lenny Slick, a dim-witted desk clerk addicted to phrenology; Maxence, a retired mercenary who loved Chloë Jomo-Gbomo; and Beauregard Lee Johnston, a gay guy from the Old South.

Most importantly is Kristanbel Wasoo who was born bad, beautiful and heartless. She loves dark ale and bloody roast beef sandwiches. She murders people. Here is a full cast of characters. I used to write short fiction, but I have stopped because my well ran dry.

But the Old Marbol Hotel lives on in Dark City.

The old man and Sammy

HE LIVED IN the original part of town, which is to say the neighborhood the conquistadors created after landing their boats on the beach. But that happened a long time ago.

french-bulldogHis home was on the second floor, which is actually the third floor the way the Spanish say it, and it was nothing to write home about as if he could write home, which was right there where he lived with a French bulldog named Sebastian or Sammy for short.

Once happily married, she had died 10 years back, and he’d sold that big home where they had lived and bought this apartment on Calle Mango downtown. There was a balcony overlooking the street. He’d paid extra for that, something he regretted due to the noise. It faced the second story of the building that housed the restaurant across the street, a ground-floor spot whose specialty was chicken and rice.

The restaurant was called El Pollo Gordo, and he ate there once a week, sometimes more, and he always ordered chicken and rice because he liked it, and he was a man of hard habits. If there were leftovers, he returned home across the street with a greasy paper bag which made Sammy smile. The dog liked chicken but not rice.

The old man’s days did not vary. He awoke at 7 without a clock, drank black coffee with honey and nibbled toast on the balcony because it was still quiet at that hour. Sammy ate dog food from a can. It never took long to make the bed and tidy the place — he was a neat man — and noon arrived soon enough and the need for lunch, which sometimes was chicken and rice, as mentioned, but often pork tortas he purchased on the street.

After the death of his wife, he’d taken to smoking again, cigarettes, cigars, a stained Meerschaum pipe he’d bought from a Swedish seaman who was short on cash four years back. The old man would sit in a coffee shop on Calle Calypso most afternoons, re-reading novels, biographies and histories he’d brought from the big house after his wife had died 10 years ago, as previously mentioned.

Sammy liked the coffee shop, so he sat at the old man’s feet. Sometimes he slept and snored. Other times, he watched the people, which is also what the old man did in those moments he looked up from a book to order another coffee or to rest his eyes.

About 8 or so, the two would walk the three blocks back to the apartment and climb the wooden steps and into the sitting room where they would listen to radio music from the Dominican Republic. The old man would think of “the old days,” and Sammy would think or not. Who knows what French bulldogs have in their heads?

This routine never varied. One warm morning, the old man did not get up for black coffee with honey and dry toast. He did not sit on the balcony, which no one noticed, and he did not open a can of dog food for Sammy. The old man had died in the night.

And Sammy was on his own.

Max the cutthroat

Maxence had once been a cutthroat but murdering was long behind him. Now, at 78, he was a bellman at the Marbol Hotel.

He was sitting on this dark night, 2 a.m., at the hotel bar sipping a Guinness Stout and talking to Bo the barman. Maxence’s shift had just ended, and big black LeRoy had taken over the baggage cart till 10 in the morning.

Maxence always ended his nights at the Marbol bar. Nobody was waiting at home. It was ever the same. He would talk to Bo a bit, and he would ponder the past even more. Maxence had been born in France — Sant-Amant, a small town south of Paris — and had been a mercenary man.

First, it was the Legion. Later, he freelanced.

After the second Guinness, perhaps even sooner, his thoughts always turned to Chloë Jomo-Gbomo, his long-gone lover from Sierra Leone who had been killed by a berserk jitney bus driven by a Mende man high on ganja along the main avenue of Freetown.

Maxence later killed that Mende man out of pure fury, but he didn’t feel any better for it because Chloë was still dead and gone. He cried and cried.

Maxence liked Guinness Stout because it was dark and savory like the women of the African men he murdered which was how he met Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.

Chloë’s man at that time had missed Maxence’s Jeep with a bazooka shell during a dustup in the Congo. Maxence’s aim was better with his .45.

Chloë dashed out of a nearby hut and kicked her man’s dead body and spit on it. Maxence knew right away there had been no love there, and Chloë was very beautiful. He immediately made her his own, and she was happy with that.

__________

The two of them fled the Congo together and moved to Freetown where they lived six years in a third-floor walk-up. Chloë found work plaiting hair while Maxence drank blazing café and smoked Gauloises.

a0a97920-1af1-012d-b949-0050569428b1Nights were spent naked and sweaty under the ceiling fan.

Maxence drank Castle Lager in those days because Guinness Stout was not sold in Freetown. It didn’t matter, he thought, because he already had something dark and delicious with Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.

On Chloë’s free day they often picknicked at Siaka Stevens Park where they would spread a blanket under the African sun shaded by a cercropia tree.

They drank Castle and ate cans of cashews. And sandwiches.

He would rub her silky bare legs beneath the skirt of kuba cloth, and she would caress the scar on his cheek.

Our spirits call you ghosts, she said one day, white and unsolid. But the scar is a good thing because it proves you’re a protective man.

He fell deeply in love for the first time in his brutal life.

And then she was dead on the main drag of Freetown as the jitney driver tried to escape, but a jitney jammed with passengers makes a lousy getaway vehicle.

She had only stepped out for a pack of Gauloises.

__________

Maxence wandered some years through Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean picking up piecemeal murders till one day he realized he was too old for that game. He retired to hotels, luggage and tips.

The Marbol was a good gig, and he intended to stay as long as they’d let him.

Later, he would kill himself. He knew the ropes.

Another Guinness, Bo. 

Coming up, Max.

* * * *

(The above is an excerpt from the longest and strangest thing I’ve ever written, The Old Marbol — Skullduggery in Dark City and Beyond, which was published hereabouts perhaps a decade ago. I just reread it for the first time in a very long time, was impressed with myself, so I put this here. The Old Marbol contains a cast of bizarre characters rivaled only by those in the famous barroom scene in the first Star Wars movie. Maybe I’ll do more excerpts here in the future.)

The silk scarf

JAECI MASHED the mushrooms into the river water with a smooth stone, and he drank.

He was wearing a white silk scarf he’d found years back in the jungle near where he sat this evening on a rotting kapok trunk astride the border between Brazil and Peru.

With the scarf he looked as if he’d be sitting in a P-51 cockpit instead of atop the old kapok as night fell.

He waited.

Moments later, he fell off the tree trunk and thumped to the ground as an unseen hand pushed the throttle forward, and he rumbled down the taxiway.

On reaching the far side, he veered left or right, saw the runway straight ahead as the throttle touched the end stops. The engine roared, but it was not a P-51 after all.

It was an F-22.  As it rose off the runway, Jaeci felt the tires fold into the wheel wells, and he smiled. The silk scarf whipped in the wind.

If only he possessed a pilot’s license.

He felt a stag beetle creep across his left leg just seconds before he became a black-winged heliconius.