Between the Reeds

april 2012. short story.
a tale of Moses, a tiki bar and love lost.

Once upon a time, there lived a man named Walter Wong. He was born in 1989 on the island of Hawaii in an alternate universe. After a disjointed childhood he moved to Memphis, which in those days was a mysterious magical place. All sorts of folk all comin and goin, the great Nile even the desert’s sands alive with the commotion of men’s workings. And all that, why, they were there in the cause of greatness, to build the Pharaoh’s tomb, to make a man eternal.

Wong was party to that same ambition. On the seventh day he pronounced he’d build the greatest nightclub yet seen. It was a big todo. He had to secure a steady supply of coconuts, pineapples, mangoes, papayas, strawberries, apple juice, orange juice, lime juice, Coca-Cola, Sprite, fine rum, brandy, blue Curacao, Kahlua, fresh mint, milk, ice, ice cream, among other things. And back in Ancient Egypt, those were hard things to find. But he found’m. In just two weeks he opened up. Wong’s Waikiki Luau Lounge.

It was a hit. Every night every chair filled. He had to hire dozens of Nubian Warriors just to keep the line in order. But much to his credit, Walter made sure the Luau Lounge didn’t become just another overpriced joint for rich folk. He even made Wednesday night free for slaves. He called it Slaves Night. Real nice of him, considering they didn’t have much otherwise.

His favorites though, they were the odd balls, the eccentrics. Like he had this regular Adjo who was a priest who could transmutate fish into sand. Not very useful but a neat party trick for sure. Also this Phoenician merchant Ahinabad who’d traveled nearly everywhere and this activist Moses who was organizing an exodus type thing. All sorts of kooky characters.

Wong was real happy. He would sit in the corner behind the volcano mountain, with Moses, Adjo and whoever else he liked, and they’d talk the night away. Like Ahinabad would try to teach them his alphabet, but Adjo wouldn’t have it, saying, This alphabet is a stupid fad. Hieroglyphs are much more beautiful! Ahinabad, all clever, would retort, But with its phonetic abstraction the alphabet is much more sophisticated. Soon everyone will forget your priestly scribblings!

And everyone would argue and argue till Walter laughing would hand out pacifying rounds of coconut mango kisses. Moses loved them. The way the coconut and mango balanced to subdue the luscious 130 proof rum — it was a sublime beverage. But the universe has its immutable laws. The Egyptians have always been wary of outsiders, especially those who’d use their foreign magic to successful ends.

One night, Commander Akhom came and he brought his regiment with. It wasn’t pretty. The Luau Lounge was mostly outdoors, a garden court overlooking the Nile, palm trees swaying overhead. The center piece was a large bean-shaped koi pond and mini-Manchu castle surrounded by cabana style tables and oriental statues. It was kitsch but in its composed chaos and contrasts really beautiful too. Everywhere you looked there was something noteworthy. It had a magical feeling, like the whole place twinkled and maybe it did, just a bit, for the only lights were christmas lights. That’s actually what the Egyptians found most amazing, what they’d tell their friends all about, those countless twinkling little lights.

Commander Akhom was a powerful man, captain of the Pharaoh’s retinue, second officer to the Egyptian army. He was one of the ones who didn’t like foreigners. In fact, he killed foreigners. They of course skipped the line. Marched in under the twinkling lights and encircled the koi pond, their stout swords swinging gleefully from their waists. Commander Akhom was the last to enter. On his way in, he flipped a table, but he did so like it was unintentional, like he’s just so big and important that furniture and breaking glass are beneath his perception.

He took his time. I guess figuring out what to do next. He walked around the mini-Manchu castle, inspected it quite thoroughly and then real quick-like unsheathed his sword and sliced off one of its towers. I don’t know. Maybe something about its pseudo Chinese nature offended his righteous sensibilities. Maybe he just wanted to demonstrate his power. But you know, when tools of murder are wielded so casually, when destruction comes to a soul as easily as a smile, that’s when you know to be afraid.

(more…)