The kids just stand quietly and stare with open mouths. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see the Pacific for the very first time.
At home on Mars, “oceans” are empty wastes of iron oxides and dust. These kids struggle to stand at one G, and they look horribly emaciated by our standards. Here in Malaysia, the gravity is triple what’s normal for them, and I fear a fall that snaps one of their Martian-thin leg bones.
Just one more stop before they go back to the military hospital. “O.K. kids, who wants some McDonalds and Marlboros?”
It occurs that a little explanation may be in order–in Malaysia, kids are actively encouraged to become smokers. The cigarette companies wield enormous political and economic power over the Malaysian economy.
Simon tried to apply pressure to the crude bandage on his ribs without slowing down. Blood was seeping slowly through the cotton and every step brought a fresh knife of agony from the gaping wound.
Thrashing in the trees—they’re still coming. Grinding his molars, he kept moving as quickly as his feet could stumble. A break in the jagged wood ahead revealed a miniature white building, some sort of tiny chapel. A church meant hallowed ground.
Simon grinned and lurched at the chapel, shuffling his way to salvation.
The shadows closed in violently. The brass placard at the door read: “The First Reformed Church of Voodoo Pharmacology.” Deliverance denied and Papa Legba laughed.
Papa often took us punting along the shores of Lake Flathead. Spreading his tall tales and teaching my brother Jackson about fishing. “I found a dozen arrowheads under that hollow log just there. With an old scalp and two beaver pelts.”
“Really, Papa?” asked Emilia. Gullible as a newborn puppy, my youngest sister always had an unwavering faith in Papa.
Jackson was more skeptical. “Scalps? It’s not the Civil War.”
His “Honest Injun” poker face was how I could always tell when Papa was fibbing a little. At their ages I don’t think my siblings had caught on yet.
“Strike me down if it ain’t so,” Papa glibly lied. “We saw a big ol’ gator out there once, too.”
“There aren’t any gators in Montana.” Jackson was quite certain.
“Probably ain’t. But what’s that shadow under the water, just there?”
Jackson nearly fell out of the boat when the scaled back of the Spinosaurus broke the surface in the deepest part of the lake.
Papa laughed. “Guess it were mebbe a wee bigger’n a gator.”
Clotho dove under the awning, escaping the sheets of horizontal rain pelting the fairground. He panted and shook drops from his over-sized boat shoes. This was not a gentle, whispering rain. It thundered down so viciously that every raindrop shattered through the canvas into mist. Lightning slashed down against the coaster and an ear-splitting roar echoed through the darkness. This savage wasn’t taking prisoners.
Rubbing his hands against his sodden and drooping puffed sleeves, Clotho yearned only for warmth and comfort. That’s all he’d ever really wanted. The lost days wasted sleeping off hangovers, all of the boisterous, bright circus evenings and intoxicated, empty nights. He never sought fame or fortune, just a little simple kindness.
“Is that too much to ask, damn you?” Clotho the Clown shook his white-gloved fist at the uncaring clouds.
Wiping away his tears, he wobbled unsteadily through the rain toward his tent. The rapacious storm pounced eagerly with an actinic flash.