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"TUMORKA MUST DIE, Tumorka must die," the Evil Sister, whose name was Ne, kept repeating to herself as she trudged sullenly into the village that bright Spring morning.
But how?--that was the question. She was not sure how it could be done. She would have liked to have cut his throat right there on the beach. Oh, what a pleasure that would have been, she thought. But in front of those silly children who always hung around that stupid storyteller--no, that would not have done. And right there on the beach in mid day, well, that would simply have not been wise. Night time was the right time for dealing with the likes of Tumorka.
But how, she wondered, how could it be done? How could she guarantee that that mousey little man would never give other mousey little men the idea that they were more than, well, mousey little men? Turds, really. Mouse turds. Male-mouse, dark, disgusting pellet-feces in need of a lesson, so that they would recognize, once and for all, their true nature--excrement!--and hate themselves for it.
She walked through the village, keeping always to the shady side of its streets to avoid the warm, mid-morning sun which she feared would sear her pale skin. One of the Sister's most persistent nightmares was that of the sun burning and cracking her skin and some dark, thick fluid oozing through the cracks. Therefore she avoided the sun as much as possible.
In the middle of the village Ne came to the fish market with its large thatch roof that extended all the way over to the street to protect the fish from the sun. The fish market was Ne's favorite place. It was not only cool there and shady, but the odor pleased the Sister as well. She examined the day's catch which was huge--seven giant sword fish, many Mura-Mura, and piles of the little shrimp that were so good eaten raw. She looked at the sword fish with their frozen stare, then thought again of Tumorka. "You will look good that way, Turorka," she muttered to herself. "That look becomes you."
Leaving the fish market, at the edge of sunlight and shade, Ne nearly stumbled over Fuku, a small dog that spent most of its days lying in the dust in the shade of the market. "Nasty cur," she muttered, "move or you, too, will end up in that market with the solemn look. The only hand-out you will get from me is the bottom of my foot." Fuku got out of the Sister's way, then went into the street and raised his leg on the wheel of a cart.
Stepping out of the shade and feeling the heat of the sun, she remembered the Temple of the Rock God only a little ways away. True, she was not a believer but there was power there. "Why not go in and consult the Rocks. Maybe they will have a message for me today," she laughed.
The Sisters in fact ran the Rock Temple; they had gained firm control of it after Zamorka had left or been driven out, however that sad departure was to be interpreted.
She strode past the volunteer stationed near the temple entrance--a little old woman with frizzy white hair who smiled at the Sister in an empty sort of way, having recently retired from a life of counting shells at one of the big counting houses to the south. But Ne scarcely recognized her. It was not necessary, as retirees from the southern counting houses considered it a great privilege to work as volunteers in the Rock Temple.
Ne strode irritably into the temple sanctuary and stood before the Rocks feeling dumb, for she knew the temple's source of power was not in those silly images chiseled in the Rocks. They were only angry-looking male faces designed to scare people- -other people, that is--into doing what you wanted them to do. They were crude faces, ugly faces, she thought, as she in fact always thought but never said--for fear the volunteers would slip away in search of other idols. And those volunteers, they were useful, so very useful. Like the time the Inns & Eateries had been slow to contribute to the Festival of the Rocks. All it had taken was a few persistent volunteers--grey-hair, ex-southern-counters--to make contributions flow in like court-ordered restitution.
But while standing there before the Rocks, Ne suddenly got the notion to go visit Ojomorka. She was surprised to experience even a little sensation of pleasure with the notion, for it had been a long time since she had seen Ojo, and she wondered whether the Drug Lord had gained weight or lost weight. As a young man his body had been massive, firm.
"Tumorka, you are like a fly, Tumorka, you are going to die," sang the Sister almost gayly as she shuffled south along the path towards Dark Cove and the Ancient Abode, which the Drug Lord owned.
Coming down the hill into Dark Cove, Ne turned in at a gate bordered by somber, drowsy-looking flowers. She was not challenged at the gate by the silent keeper who recognized the Sister, though it had been some years since he had seen her. As she entered the gardens of the Abode, he turned his back to her.
She followed a path through the gardens and around to the back of the old three-story house; no one but customers used the front door.
Passing the garden of red and black and gold--the Garden of Our Lady of Enchantment, as some liked to call it- -she came to a narrow flight of stairs that lead to the "Tower," the room at the top where the Drug Lord lived. She began to climb.
Ojomorka, ever alert to the sound of the stairs creaking, heard the Sister coming.
"And what brings the fair and lovely Ne to Ojo today," said the Drug Lord as the Sister climbed the last step to the landing before the door.
"Well, come in, come in," he said to the Sister, who now hesitated before the door, one hand clutching the vine- entangled landing railing. She hesitated because, instinctively, she sensed a trap. While the Sister may have been "fair and lovely" some ten years ago, she was now beginning to show signs of age. Such words were male bait-- pleasant but deadly.
Ojomorka, a large fleshy man with a big belly whose bald head gleamed as though freshly anointed with oil, now waited for the Sister to say something.
"Ojo, I need a favor," said the Sister at last as she slipped inside the richly decorated Drug Lord's lair, faintly lit by two oil lamps, and smelling of dry, aromatic herbs.
"But of course, of course," said Ojomorka. "We all need a favor. I, for instance . . ."
"Ojo," she said cutting him off in a flash of anger. "I want that bastard, that storyteller--you know, Tumorka-- killed."
The Drug Lord, though a large, cruel, self-indulgent man who had nothing against murder--in fact he relished in dealing out death when there was some clear purpose in it-- looked surprised.
"Why, Sister?" he now asked, staring wide-eyed and curious at Ne. "Not that it matters, but what has he done?" He had trouble conceiving how this little storyteller, this male nanny who entertained children, was worthy of murder.
Ojomorka reached for a vessel on a shelf between a hanging plant and a parrot cage on a platform. The big, brightly colored bird watched as Ojomorka poured a line of pure white powder onto the back of his hand, then ran his nose along it, inhaling rapidly. The bird squawked, "Ojo wan som kwaki, Ojo wan som kwaki . . ." until Ojo went over and stared into the cage. "Torrop want to go nightie?" asked Ojomorka, holding the cage cover in his right hand.
"And you, Sister, would you care . . ."
"I am here on business, Ojo," interrupted the Sister. "I want this storyteller killed; I want this liar, this fabricator dead. He is saying vile things. If he is not silenced he will cause great harm."
Ne paused. Seeing she had Ojo's attention, she continued:
"He is saying, for instance, that your waiter Ni is handsome, that he is 'full of grace.' Imagine what will happen if Ni hears that or worse, that Ni believes it! He will no longer wear the hang-dog appearance so cherished by customers of the Ancient Abode and so carefully nurtured by the establishment--by you, Ojomorka. Think about that."
Ojomorka's features suddenly became twisted as he began to comprehend what the Sister was telling him.
"He'll begin to smile at customers," she went on, "and be like a friend. He will no longer put them in their place with his extraordinary knowledge of the herbs, and he will no longer make them feel inferior because of their own meager knowledge. He'll be saying, 'A good choice,' to anything the customer selects, Ojomorka. Surely that is wrong, surely we cannot stand for that," said the Sister, resting her case most forcefully with the Drug Lord.
"I see, I see," said Ojomorka darkly, though mostly what he saw was that Ne was very worked up. He began to suspect some other angle that the Sister was not telling him about. Though always persistent, she had never been really precise about what she wanted.
The light was growing dim in the tower. For the first time since she had entered the room, the Sister looked at the furnishings. The room had not changed much; it had simply gotten fuller, like Ojomorka's belly. There were hanging plants everywhere--dark stringy vines, bushy ferns, and grey-leaved plants with long, heavy, trumpet-shaped flowers that the Sister did not recognize. Ojomorka had always had many flowering plants in the tower, but now there seemed more than ever to the Sister. There were also woven mats on the floor--that had always been so. But now there were fur rugs tossed about as well. One rug--fluffy white with brown spots--looked to be that of the Tigoro lion, an extremely rare jungle cat that had once been hunted almost to extinction. Ojomorka had two of these. They looked lovely, new--not like the old ones you usually see in parlors these days, thought the Sister, those thin, discolored ones with bald spots. And there were cushions-- big comfortable cushions. Ojo had always liked cushions. Ojo, he was a cushion, thought the Sister, who rarely thought humorous thoughts. A large fat cushion, a perspiring, oily cushion, her thoughts went on.
And there were tables. One large one in the center of the room looked like it was cut from the base of some ancient tree. All were covered with "things": vases full of flowers; pots with plants with large, drooping leaves; bowls of dried herbs that gave off a rich, aromatic smell, in fact permeated the atmosphere of the tower with the fecundating smell of the vegetable kingdom, almost like decaying leaves on a forest floor; knick-knacks of all kinds: the boiled white pelvis bones of a monkey, a machete with gold inlay on the handle, various stones with carved images in them, mostly images of the cruel-looking Rock God Margulo; and vessels that contained a variety of substances: substances that could make you see god in a mound of maggots, substances that could relieve a tooth ache or numb any pain, substances that could lift your spirit gently for an hour or two, substances that could lower you down to subterranean regions of the soul, and substances that made every-day acquaintances look as insubstantial as ghosts. Ojomorka was wise enough that he rarely used any substances but those that lifted you up for an hour or two. But he liked the sight of all those vessels in the tower, knowing what they had the power to do. There was also a bowl of burnt grey ash, uncovered, that contained the remains of Ojomorka's predecessor. It stood as a warning to all who might think of crossing him in business.
Another bird, uncaged but with clipped wings, perched on a roost near an open window facing west. The molting bird paid no attention to the Drug Lord as he went over and looked out. The sun had just set over Dark Cove. The horizon appeared like a dying inferno, the glory of orange and red now quickly fading. Ojomorka shivered, closed the window, and lit the big lamp by the bowl of ashes, illuminating the Sister's tense features and the grey remains of his predecessor.
He thought about the Sister for a moment. True, she was no longer really attractive as young girls were--the Sister was getting old--but there was something seductive and dangerous about Ne that those young girls lacked. Oh, occasionally a thirteen-year-old was seductive but never really dangerous--not if you owned her, thought the Drug Lord.
"Yes," he said looking intently at the Sister, "I could do this thing, I could do you this little favor, but . . ." He trailed off, waiting for some kind of response, which did not come.
"It has been a long time since you have come to see Ojomorka," he said. "Would you like to have some 'kwaki' with Ojo." He reached for the small vessel on the shelf next to the caged parrot.
"Kill him, Ojomorka, kill him. When he is dead I will be back." The thought of the large, oily body of the Drug Lord lying on top of her body and perspiring made the Sister feel sick. She turned and quickly descended the stairs to the gardens. But on the trail back out of Dark Cove, she began to wonder: "In the dark, with some herb, and all that weight . . ."
The keeper in the gardens down below watched her until she was out of sight. This silent man liked few people, but the Sister he liked less than most. He knew that she brought trouble with her wherever she went, and that his services were likely to be required before the Sister's problems were worked out.
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