Saturday, April 4, 2015

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 22, Part 11 - "She Does Not Need to Be Wasting Her Time on Me"

Dear Gentle Readers,

Today we pick up Fei's recollection of the very long day that Professor Clete spent as he finished up his jail sentence for the crime of getting Qin Qin a merely OK, close-enough, set of prescription glasses. You probably forgot about all of that didn't you? (It's been months since I covered that part of the story...)

We left off just as Clete decided to do something very counter-intuitive and do a nice thing for Qi, his tormentor in chief. I'm not rubbing it in your face, but the time he spent with the Sea Witch and her own devoutness to the weird rituals she follows reminded him to pay attention to his own beliefs, that one needs to bless those that persecute you. He of course has to downgrade what little virtue he exercises with his usual coarseness and ass-holiness.

Hoping to start a fight between Clete and her Mother, hoping that they'll get into some heightened banter, she fails and is in danger of being exposed for being a slacker student of late. She gets the idea to fetch his up-until-now confiscated satellite phone and divert his attention to a woman Fei assumes is maybe the Professor's girlfriend back home who has been trying to get ahold of him. Fei does not get it quite right, but her intuitions are not too bad.

Clete sees that a colleague of his has been calling and he decides he'll return and leave a voicemail.

The purpose of this next conversation is to answer the question, "Is Professor Clete a jerk just to these  oddball foreign women whose culture he has yet to figure out, or is he just socially inept to everyone?"

Your instincts will probably be affirmed ... as our story continues ....

     “It’s not a convenient time back in L.A. for her. I’ll probably just be leaving her a voice mess …” He said as he punched in her number and waited for the connection. The phone rang once and it was almost immediately picked up.
     “Kind of a rude greeting. Who is this? You have to speak in complete sentences since there is about a three-second delay.”
     “Don’t patronize me. This is Laura!”
     “Laura who?”
     “YOU are messing with me Wong. Ehrenbock! How many Lauras do you know?”
     “Since I’m a teacher, probably about 500. I’m just glad your name is not Tiffany or Taylor.”
     “You teach engineering. Cut that by two-thirds. How many of them have this phone number?”
     “I quit my job and am fronting a cyberpunk band now. I got lots of groupies.”
     “Grow up! Where are you?”
     “I’m on vacation. Didn’t Sally tell you?  I also informed the dean. Isn’t it past your bedtime there in L.A.?”
     “Forget about the time. Where ARE you?”
     “Persistent bastardette aren’t you? I think I e-mailed you that I’m in a foreign prison.”
     “Do you need a Midnight Express rescue? I have connections. I’ll arrange it. I’ll do it.”
     “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Relax. I have Navy Seals at me beck and call. My sentence ends today. Why are you calling?”
     “THAT PICTURE you sent me!”
     “Yeah, it’s not quite the same as sexting, but I thought you’d get a kick out of me in that that fundo …”
     “The birds, Clete, the BIRDS! Do you remember what I do for a living?”
     “Yeah, you promote grade inflation in the undergraduate industry as I recall. That’s why half the interns I interview don’t know a damn thing about anything. Oh, and then there are all those division surveys that you devise for faculty that really don't tell you what you want to know. Oh, and you didn’t publish something about water fowl about a decade ago?”
     “Go eff yourself you sniveling adjunct.”
     “I believe the word you’re searching for is ‘fuck.’ It won’t kill you to say it. I say it all the time.”
     “Yes, and many people think less of you because of it.”
     “Hit a nerve did I? I think I’m going to terminate this call.”
     “On that fancy-pants satellite bush phone of yours, push the button that calls up the app for GPS coordinates. Tell me what it says.”
     “Sorry girl. No can do. Don’t try to trace the transmission signal either. I’ve asked for it to be scrambled and secured.”
     “My research subjects have me under an anonymity agreement. They are a very private people. And they’re kind of like Andaman Islanders. If you come here with the Measles on your breath, you’ll wipe out the population.”
     “How did you rate to make it on there?”
     “Bureaucratic error is all I can account for, but hey, I can’t help it if I’m bacterialogically pure. Why do you care so much? I sent you those pictures of those weird birds so you can have some fun showing them to your upper division classes.”
     “NO ONE is seeing those photos until you give ME an exclusive introduction to view those birds, in person. And if you value your academic career, no, make that your life, you will not show them to anyone else.”
     “Come on! They’re just a bunch of common, stinky, beach-loving, land vultures.”
     “They eat carrion?”
     “And fruits and nuts. But they kind of thrive on the carcasses of elderly or sick sea mammals that beach themselves here to die.”
     “They eat dead cetaceans?”
     “Pinnipeds too. Everything that washes up on the beach actually. Myself included.”
     “That doesn’t make sense. Wait, what did you just say?”
     “Y’know if I lived on a desert Island, I’d adapt pretty fast to eating what was plentiful. What do you think we’ve got here?”
     “Clete, in that stupid fun-house photo you sent me ... oh by the way, did you really have to moon me in that fundoshi get-up? I have to admit, you have a decent tan for once. You should really have the red spot on your right buttock checked out. I’d be surprised if it’s non-cancerous. But I digress. Listen and listen well. You have got your arms around not one but two, LIVING Dodo birds. And it looks like there are more in the background?”
     “You really need to take a sabbatical Chairman Lau. You’re getting desperate. You don’t need a geologist to tell YOU that Dodos went extinct centuries ago. They’re not even the right color compared to the historical pictures I’ve ever seen of them.”
     “Nobody knows what color they were. By the time anyone cared to wonder about them, they were gone. There is not an intact carcass either.”
     “Trust me. They’re not Dodo birds. I admit the head looks pretty similar. They’re probably a distant cousin.”
     “Clete! Even if they’re a distant cousin, nobody’s ever seen these.”
     “They’re pretty kooky. Friendly too. My hostess here has a whole flock of them. They call them ‘Soul Birds.’”
     “There’s a FLOCK? How many individuals?”
     “I’ll count them and send you an e-mail. Can I go now?”
     “NO. You HAVE to give me an exclusive. My academic career can finally get out of the doldrums with these so-called kooky birds of yours. I can quit all those damn committees. If I publish on the recovery of the Dodo, I can probably get a 1-0 position anywhere I damn please.”
     “So nobody’s giving you any grants on gut bacteria in cranes, eh? Life is sure tough.”
     “Stick it up yours, Wong. Puh-LEEEEEEZE! Tell me where they are! I’ll get on a plane tonight. I’ll give you anything you want.”
     “Laura, you don’t have anything I want.”
     “And just WHAT is that supposed to mean? You used to like looking down my smock.”
     “And see what?”
     “OH. That’s MEAN!”
     “You know, this is all very nice of you to check in, but this phone call is costing me a fortune. Leaving me 150 messages is really running up my tab. It costs to receive them. You should know that.”
     “I’ll pay your damn phone bill.”
     “Yeah? What’s Ron going to say about that? He’s a bigger cheapskate than I am.”
     “You’re not going tell me where you are, are you?”
     “Sorry, no. These people don’t want to be bothered. For some reason they have a lot of other weird-ass animals that are endangered elsewhere BECAUSE people like you aren’t here. Last thing they want is the science circus come to town. They absolutely hate me being here. Why do you think I’m in jail?”
     “Knowing you, some kind of illegal smuggling scheme that went wrong because YOU are a poor planner. You know, I really hate you Wong. You get all the breaks.”
     “What breaks?”
     “Everything you do turns into money.”
     “Don’t believe that for a second. I just save what little money I make.”
     “Right! Why do you think everybody puts up with your saying ‘Go to hell’ left and right? Ron says you’ve never drilled a dry hole, ever.”
     “I wish that were true. Laura, want some career advice? Stash one year’s income into a savings account and you’ve got your license to say ‘Go to hell’ to anybody you like too. It’s amazing how refreshing people find honesty. They hate you, but they respect you.”
     “If I want you to be my personal Charles Schwab I’ll say so. It’s easier said than done. Sigh. I’m just doomed.”
     “Who isn’t? Hey, are you OK?”
     “It’s just the same ol’ … you know. I guess I was just wishing I could be on a tropical island when your picture came in.”
     “Not this one. It’s too hot here. Just tell Ron you’re going to Tahiti for your next vacation. The resorts have A/C there.”
     “He does not like hot, wet places. We never do what I want. Snow sports are his thing. What’s that? Ron wants to talk to you. I’m putting him on.”
     “Damn it Slants! I’m trying to sleep here. Would you guys wrap it up?”
     “Kick her bony ass outta the damn bed yourself you fuckin’ pantywaist. Your girl wants to go to Tahiti or somewhere like that …”
     “Is she crying foul to you about that? Vacation is the only territory I have not ceded! Tell you what. You take her to Tahiti for me—on your nickel mind you. You’d be doin’ me a favor ’cuz she needs a fuckin’ heat sink. Just gimme one of your oil wells, I’ll take a small one, doesn’t have to be big, and you can enjoy her favorite hot, wet place all you want, OK? OW. I just got hit.”
     “Are you surprised?”
     “What do you know about women? You probably don’t even remember how many holes they’ve go in ’em let alone what each hole is for. Looks like I’m pretty safe with my offer. Hey. Just give her the damn bird. I’m moving to the couch. G’night Doctor.”
     “Hey, you take better care of her. G’Night Doctor.”
     “So why do they call them Soul Birds?” It was Laura again.
     “They believe that in consuming the flesh, the souls of the beasts of the sea are transfigured to beasts of the air. That whole idea is in disrepute to me since they're flightless bird, but they didn't ask me. ”
     “Are they indigenous?”
     “Nope. Nothing here is. Everything is a castaway or an emigrant. My hostess tells me that the birds arrived sometime in the 17th century when a Dutch trader got blown off course and shipwrecked here. He had picked up several of these birds from what I guess is what we call Mauritius and was going to try to sell them to collectors as well as use them for food on the way back home. The Royal Family here thought they were pretty cool pets and so they got a protected status. That Dutchman never left. He settled down and married a local girl and raised copa.”
     “You idiot! Mauritius is where Dodos are from, and they were recorded to have been very friendly birds. You’re strengthening my position. But it doesn’t matter. You are not going to help me. Prick.”
    “It’s not that I don’t want to help you, but don’t think your motives are a little less than, uh, honorable to the whole project of scientific inquiry?”
     “Wow. An oil man is lecturing me on exploiting nature for my own gains.”
     “A lot of people need oil Laura. Who needs Dodo birds, if they are even that, when we’ve perfected chickens, turkeys, and ducks for food. Find something else.”
     “Why do you get to find everything good in the world and profit from it?”
     “I don’t.”
     “Hey! I DO happen to know where there’s enough sweet crude to power the State of California for the next 30 years, even adjusting for population growth. But do you see me cashing those chips?”
     “What? Where?”
     “California, Texas, Kansas, Gabon, … and no I haven’t told anyone, but I’ve just told you now.”
     “Again, I need GPS coordinates. Are you waiting for the price to go back up?”
     “Guys I know and respect are drilling all around these spots and missing. How would it look if I went in with one shot and pulled the gusher when they’ve been spending millions on dry holes all around?”
     “Hey, those are the breaks.”
     “Man, you’re more of a hardass than I am.”
     “Cause you’ve already got your piece of pie Mr. Free Market.”
     “I have to live with these people in my industry. Plus somebody might need that stuff later rather than sooner. We shouldn’t be pumping all of it. If anyone knew I had my treasure map of magical spots to drill, I’d get shot and robbed.”
     “You have it all on a treasure map? You need a backup location. I’ll keep it safe for you.”
     “Can I ask you just a small favor?”
     “You can try.”
      “Could you just bring me a feather? A little bone would be good.”
     “I’ll have to ask permission. Uh, Laura, hold on a second.”

At this point Mother leaned over to Dr. Wong and whispered something to him.

     “Her Royal Highness, the Qilin Guardian Princess of the West, is willing to hear your request for a feather of one of the Soul Birds of which she is the custodian and protector. She does not normally talk to anyone of lower than noble rank.”
     “She just told me that right now.”
     “She’s a princess? Oh my God! What do I say?”
     “Yeah, she’s royalty here. And she also is the equivalent of Chief Justice John Roberts here in her land. She has a condition on hearing your petition.”
     “She said you must make your request in chuko nihongo. I hope I’m saying that right.”
     “I guess that’s a dialect of Japanese? She’s been listening in so she knows what you want. I think it’s a protocol thing because of her rank so you probably just need to come up with a couple of proper sentences. So I suppose you’re going to have to consult someone over in …”
     “Why would she ask that? Are they Japanese there?”
     “It’s kind of a mix here. I’m not surprised. Languages are their big thing here. They’re natural polyglots. It’s like a linguistic preserve.”
      “Oh god, I know exactly what to say. PUT HER ON! Or patch me through, or whatever.”

Dr. Wong made a formal introduction, presenting Doctor Laura Eiko Kimura Ehrenbock, Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and Department Chair and noted ornithologist, to Mother. I then heard Mother speak in a type of Japanese I have never heard anyone use before here on The Island. They exchanged several statements and then it was over.

     “Laura? Are you there?” asked Dr. Wong. There was no answer. “I think we lost the connection for the receiving line. If you can hear me, hang up and I’ll call you again.”
     “Don’t hang up! I’m … I’m just overwhelmed.”
     “Did she say something mean to you?”
     “Mean? What are you talking about. No. Far from it. Describe the princess for me as she looks now.”
     “What do you think she looks like?” the Professor returned.
     “She must be extremely elegant and refined. Perfectly robed. Tons of embroidery and silk. Every hair tied into place.”

The Professor took a good look at Mother who had only just wrapped her bottom in a sheath for supper and her hair was long and loose, still drying from its washing not too long ago.

     “She’s everything you imagine her to be and I daresay she is most beautiful woman on this Island where she rules. What is her response to your request?”
     “She will tell you when she decides. But thank you for introducing me Clete.”
     “What dialect of Japanese was that?”
     “The language of Genji Monogatari, Clete. It would be like your speaking to the Queen in Chaucer’s English. I felt as if I had an audience with Lady Murasaki. It was a living example of hearing every nuance of noble, archaic speech. It was transcendent.”
     “You speak ancient Japanese? How on earth? There are no Renaissance Fairs for Asian people.”
     “A Renaissance Fair but set in the Heian Era? That’s a great idea!”
     “Yeah, you and three other people will buy tickets. Just go to Anime Expo in July with my interns, it’s the next best thing. What’s with you and knowing the Japanese dead-language equivalent of Latin?”
     “I was a double major undergrad—biology and Japanese Language and Literature. I even spent my junior year on a special exchange program at Tokyo University. I was total Genji nerd-otaku. Still am it seems. I understand from Her Highness that I interrupted her dinner appointment with you? I apologize for that. I will try to be a better person for you. I have to get going.”
     “Well yeah, no worries there. Take care. I’ll check in when I get back to L.A. next month. Tell Ron I’m sorry for waking him up. Ciao.” He shut off the phone and turned to Mother. “She said you had come to some agreement on something?”
     “I told her that if during your time here one of the Soul Birds dies, you may take the body to her.”
     “I’m not sure how easily we can get an animal carcass into the U.S.  That’s a tall order, but it’s also pretty generous Qi. What are you getting from her in return?”

Before Mother had a chance to answer, Auntie Feng stamped into our presence, locked her eyes on Wen and said harshly,

      “WEN! Go to The Classroom. NOW.”

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

Be truthful and frank, but be polite. If you use excessive profanity, I'll assume you have some kind of character flaw like Dr. Wong. Tks!