Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Enchanted Place - Chapter Four

If you just stumbled in, I'm apparently writing a book or something. Start here: Some Enchanted Place
Then here: Some Enchanted Place, Part Three
Then here: Part Three, Episode Two
Then here: Part Three, Episode Three

Jayzuz, not the Portuguese.

Angel would get this way every once in a while when he was really loaded. He'd start in with the rat-a-tat dialect that doesn't signify much to anybody that was born even one island away from his family's stony portion of Cape Verde. His people had lived in the US before it even was the US, I think, but his mother still spoke that weird creole mess that's officially Portuguese, but sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. Angel learned it backwards and forwards from her. It would probably sound the same backwards or forwards, now that I think of it. Even the Brazilian guys couldn't understand him. I'd just tune it out, order another round, and wait for him to slur out something I could understand: Te vejo segunda-feira -- see you on Monday -- and then I'd head on home. Lapsing into it sober, in broad daylight, was a bad sign.

"Look, Angel, I admit that guy looks like a voodoo doll made from a dragon's earwax, but let's be adults for a minute. All these places give me the willies, to tell the truth. There's always a stack of corpses in their bank accounts somewhere. Slave traders. Opium wholesalers. Bronze age arms dealers, for Christ's sake. I don't much care, as long as some of the corpses' dandruff ends up in my bank account eventually. Get a grip."

He gave me an odd little look, like a guy that had put a frog in your lunchbox and was waiting for noon for the payoff.

"You don't know jack about dragons, you stupid harp. I'll tell you about dragons."

I looked back at the blank face of the house. There was no sign of the butler from hell, or anyone else for that matter. These people are never home. They're like royal retinues, squatting in their own possessions now and again and then leaving a few of the help to keep pedaling while they go off to another of their haunts. It's like the whole world is their tram and they get on and off on a whim. The hell with it.

"OK, you little troll. What the hell are you on about?"

"Listen, I know you goddamn Irish. You're always bowing down in front of anybody with an English name. You shoot up barrooms full of Protestants at night and then shine their shoes the next day. Well, my people were here taking Nantucket sleighrides and humping Indian broads when the WASPs you hate and worship were still kissing King George's ass for a handout. "

I thought the animated corpse that answered the door was kinda creepy, and Angel was one of my best friends, but he had a look in his eye right there that made me want to go in the house and sit in Pecksniff's lap.

"Dragons? You talking to me about dragons? The dragon tree is on my island, you stupid jerk. My people humped under the full moon in the shadow of the dragon tree. They'd cut the bark and smear themselves with the red goo that came out, dragon's blood, and make their deal for a baby. They'd pass that stain on down, oh yes. When my father died before I was born, my mother knew I'd come out touched, man. She put her coat inside out over me in the crib, put the ivory finger around my neck on a ribbon, and lit candles in church for my dead drowned daddy, but that shit's no good. I got the second sight, brother. O mau-olhado. The evil eye. It works coming and going, and I'm telling you that guy, that house, and whatever demon owns the whole mess is bad, bad, bad."

Angel was practically snorting and pacing back and forth like a panther in a zoo at this point. My morning's gone from trying not to break any hummels while I'm attempting to scratch out a living, to choosing between working alone with a second-class vampire watching over me or dragging a guy that thinks he's a fifth-generation witch doctor kicking and screaming the whole time. I had to think fast. When in doubt, dangle money.

"I'm not covering for you. You bug out on me, and I'm telling young Charlie you didn't show. You need the money even more than I do."

Angel took another look at the house, then me, and seemed to calm down a little.

"Money? You expect me to go in there for money? Si tchuba tchobe, morre fogadu. Si ka tem tchuba, morre di sedi."

Angel walked past me, climbed into the cab of his pick-up truck, turned the key in the ignition, and slammed the door. I went up to the window and glared at him. His hand hesitated over the gear shift lever, and he rolled down the window.

"What in the hell does that mean, you little pygmy?"

"If it rains, we drown. If it doesn't, we die of thirst."

He turned his head away, murmured, "Good luck," and sprayed me with gravel.

(To be continued on Monday)

1 comment:

Red said...

You had me at "meandering tributaries".