Thursday, July 31, 2008

Buzz Kill

I hate mosquitoes. I hate the buzzing sound they make. I hate the itchy welts they leave behind after sucking the blood from my body. And I hate how these filthy insects spread disease!

The puddles left over from the flooding have become spawning grounds for these blood suckers. That means I become a buffet for these disgusting critters the minute I step out of the house. I'm one of those people who attracts mosquitoes. I could be in the middle of a crowd and still be the one with the most bites. I've read studies that people who drink alcohol attract more mosquitoes than the non drinkers. But long before I even drank alcohol, I remember being bitten by more mosquitoes than any other kid in the neighborhood.

My friends tease me for being a mosquito magnet. I tell them that they're just jealous. It's not my fault I was born with such silky, soft skin and that my blood is so tasty. I should count myself lucky that I've not been attacked by vampires.

Still, I'm keeping some wooden stakes, in case Buffy or Faith can't get here in time to save me from a vamp attack.

I hate wearing insect repellent, but it's the only thing that works. Once I tried Avon's Skin So Soft; within ten minutes, mosquito bites made my soft skin look like something from a biblical plague. So, I've got to keep using the insect repellents or risk looking deformed or ending up with some deadly disease.

Besides, these aren't just regular mosquitoes I'm dealing with now. These are Texas size mosquitoes. HUGE! And they fly real slow like they've got nothing to worry about. One landed on my arm recently, and I smacked it. It fell off, but then it got back up and started flying again! I had to smack it much harder to kill the bastard! It's a wonder they haven't carried me away! Though, I sometimes think I may need a blood transfusion after seeing the amount they suck from my body.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As it is written!

A few weeks ago, Tara tagged me to do a book meme, and I finally got around to doing it. The rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book:

There are no books in the living room, other than the telephone book. I've some magazines in the living room, but I don't think they count. Also, I don't think those people listed in the phone book would appreciate my using their information on the internet without their express consent :) So I walked into the nearest room and picked up the first book I saw. It is perhaps the most famous book of all time (and no, it's not Harry Potter!). It is the Holy Bible, by God through various prophets and scribes (secretaries and temps) over the years.

It was a gift from a old party buddy of mine. We got plastered together during the St Patrick's Day festival in Savannah, GA years ago. After miraculously surviving a wild weekend of hedonism and recklessness, he reaffirmed his faith in God (he was a missionary before he ended up in Georgia). And after seeing my sinning ways that weekend, he thought that I needed some Jesus, which is why he gave me this book :)

2. Open to page 123:

And I find the Book of Numbers (which surprisingly, has a lot more letters than numbers!), chapter 28.

3. Find the 5th sentence:

*And on the seventh day, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.

I shall translate for you heathens and pagans and nonbelievers (aka wood for the flames of Hell!):

It's the weekend! Parrrttttyyyyy!

4. Post the next three sentences:

*On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the LORD an offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.


The day of firstfruits occurs in late May or early June, during Shavout or the Pentecost. It's also the time for Gay Pride Week, when firstfruits (closet gays!) come out and celebrate! So make sure to set aside a weekend in the summer to enjoy new bottles of grain alcohol, i.e. vodka, whiskey, gin!

Present a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.


Find some steaks, lamb chops, and break out the grill! The good LORD loves the scent of barbecue!

*With each bull there is to be a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths


You can't have a barbecue and drinks without some desserts! Custard and puddings utilize flour and oil; thus a 2/10 to 3/10 of an ephah (21L), means at least 4 to 6 liters worth of custards and pudding!

5. Tag 5 people and acknowledged who tagged you:

I'm not tagging anyone; just feel free to let me know if you did it so I can come read it! And it was Tara who tagged me :)

There you have it, your Bible passages for the week! Now get to barbecuing and drinking this weekend as the LORD commands you!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I was craving some toast today when I realized that I was out of butter. So I went to the grocery store. While I was there, I found a lot of great deals. It's amazing the sales that happen after a hurricane. When there's a hurricane, everyone rushes to buy canned goods and bottled water. Which means there's an overstock of frozen goods and meats. I spent a good hour and a half wandering down aisles, checking out the sales. Even better, it was still early enough that there were hardly any other customers crowding the store. I loaded up on ice cream and meat. When I got home, I was excited about my finds. I was all ready planning what to eat for lunch and dinner; I was salivating at the thought of cold vanilla ice cream to cool me down. But first, I was going to make myself some breakfast. And that's when I realized that I forgot to buy the butter...

Everyone Knows it's Butters!

Butters: That's me!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mud and Puddles

The aftermath of the hurricane has left a little flooding and a lot of mud and puddles. This morning, I went for a short jog. Mud and puddles plagued my route. And with so much water still covering the roads, it was only a matter of time before some idiot tried to drive into a puddle to splash me.

As I rounded up on a bridge, I could see a little white pickup truck at the intersection up ahead. At the end of the bridge, I saw a large pool of water. It covered most of the lane closest to the sidewalk I was jogging on. The pickup was at the inner lane, the one farthest from me. I got bad vibes warning me to look out for this pickup. For a few seconds, I pondered if it would be wise to just wait on the bridge and let the pickup pass first. But then I decided to just run full steam ahead. And just when I reached the pool of water, I saw that pickup changing lanes to drive right into the water to splash me! Bastard! I could only make out the teeth and evil grin of the demonic driver!

I jumped to the far left and ran off the sidewalk! I ran on the grass to get far away from the oncoming splash of dirty water. The pickup accelerated towards me, the splash getting closer and faster. I was about to run into the tree line, thinking I was going to get drenched for sure! And as I started to feel like I was going to slip on the wet grass and fall, the wave reached me and splashed me...right on the shoes!

Something wasn't right, I turned to see the pickup; it was swerving to the right, but it kept sliding sideways in the pool of water. It was hydroplaning! The bastard had lost control of his truck! And then the driver's side front tire hit the sidewalk and I heard a loud crunch--a satisfying sound to my ears. The truck stopped moving, the headlights still on. I jogged in place, wondering if I should go see if everything was all right. Then the driver's door opened, and out stepped the driver. He leaned down to look at his tire; the wheel was bent out of place. He cursed and kicked his door.

And I laughed heartily and continued my jog, feeling very happy and smug. There was spring in my steps and I had a smile on my face. The road gods had smiled upon me this day. I had an extra bounce in my jumps as I leaped over the puddles in the sidewalks on the way home.

Related Links:
Running the the dark
Running with the devil

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hello, Dolly!

"It's a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I'd be a drag queen."
~Dolly Parton

Hurricane Dolly has pounded the area with terrible winds, torrential rains, and tornado forming thunderstorms. The resulting flooding has me wondering if perhaps I ought to build an ark. It worked for Noah.

But then I got to thinking, man that's an awful lot of work. Who the heck has the time and energy to round up animal kinds two by two; there would be a lot less animals if it was up to me--so long cockroaches and mosquitoes and rats! I'm sure even Noah eliminated some animals from his ark. Why else are dinosaurs and unicorns extinct?

Not that I blame Noah; can you imagine cleaning up after brontosaurus poop? I don't think they make litterboxes big enough for that mess. I sure as hell a'int going to spend the rest of the flood cleaning up after animal crap. All the more reason why I should forget the ark venture. What's even worse is what if I end up like Noah, stuck with his family on a raft for months til the waters recede? Is it any wonder Noah was an alcoholic? I go crazy after spending three days with my family--with some of them, it only takes three hours before I lose it! I'm afraid I'd've jumped off the ark before the week was over. Then there is the crucial problem of using gopher wood to build the ark. Where the hell do I find gopher wood? What the hell is gopher wood?

Oh, well, by tomorrow night, Dolly would've moved inland and break apart as thunderstorms. I'll just have to wait and see if I need to reevaluate the need for an ark. But I've decided on a new plan to weather out the storm. I'm going to play some Dolly Parton songs

and I'll just have to make a hurricane that I can enjoy.

- 2 oz light rum
- 2 oz dark rum
- 2 oz passion fruit juice
- 1 oz orange juice
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp simple syrup
- 1 tbsp grenadine
- Garnish: orange slice and cherry

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

Invented during World War II at Pat O'Briens bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans; it got it's name from the shape of the hurricane lamp.

I'm sure Noah would approve; the lush probably had a few to pass the time on the ark.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Feast of Predatory Beasts: Feeding Frenzy


One of the reasons why I enjoy going to Hostess's parties is because the Asians she mingles with love to party. It's a different kind of party, though, but it's fun. And most of these get togethers usually means a karaoke machine and games and food...lots and lots of food. And when I walked into the living room, I saw that the guests were all ready setting up the karaoke machine, picking the line up and the songs they were going to sing.

I find it funny sometimes when I hear them sing. Not because they sound terrible, but for the very fact that some of them sound very good. It's strange how some people can sing flawlessly, drawing out certain notes just right, that make you think, wow, what an awesome voice. Then when they stop singing and start talking, it's like they have this heavy accent and you notice grammar errors that make you realize that English is not their native tongue. Like Celine Dion for example.

I said hello to some of the other guests that I hadn't seen earlier and walked over to the sitting room on the other side of the house. It's actually a second living room, and I've wondered why the houses in this neighborhood have two separate living rooms. The minute I walked in, I ran into one of Hostess that I didn't particularly care for.

I had been told she was 40 something, but the she looked like she was 60 something. She didn't just have crows feet; the entire bird kingdom had stampeded on her face. It didn't help that she smoked either. The stench of cigarettes was pungent. And the toxic fumes of the used urinal cake scent she wore made me want to vomit. She also had a grating voice, low, growly, like an elephant seal during mating season. The woman was also an alcoholic; rarely have I seen her without a beer can in her hand. I called her Sour Milk, and it wasn't just because she was passed her expiration date; I had a terrible taste in my mouth after the first time I met her. And that's a stench and foul taste you never forget!

When I first met Sour Milk over a year ago, she drilled me with questions about my personal life. For some reason, when she found out that I was single, she decided that my life was sorry until I married someone. I told her that I was fine being single, but she launched into this speech about how being married was so much better. The more she talked, the more irritated I got. She then went on to tell a drunken story about how she got married late, and all her friends had children in middle school by the time she had hers. And that if I wait too long to settle down, I might miss out on having kids; blah, blah, blah...The funny thing was, the more crap she spewed, the more I got the feeling she was really trying to convince herself, not me, about how being married was somehow so much better than being single. Finally, her husband stepped in and told her to back off; he told her if I wasn't interested in getting married, then that's my decision. The husband I called Saint, because I thought one needed the patience of a saint to put up with Sour Milk.

And here was Sour Milk, again, with a beer can in hand, having apparently alienated the other guests, she moved on to me to strike up a conversation. Blah. But I had my fake smile on my face and I was all ready planning my escape. As soon as she saw me, she started asking me about being single again. Then she said, "I know it's tough being single. It can be so lonely."

I looked at her red, blood vessel popped eye and said, "Being single doesn't mean I'm lonely. Being married doesn't take that away. Loneliness is a feeling, and I don't feel lonely at all. Besides, I like being single. I can do what I want, whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it, and it's a fantastic, happy feeling."

She just looked at me, unsure of what to say, and I seized upon the moment to make my exit, "Oh, I have to go set up some of the games. Excuse me."

It was a lie, of course, but I saw Hostess going into the hallway closet where she kept some games. I grabbed a small card table, set it up in the sitting room and got the Mah Jong tiles ready. Then I grabbed another small table and set up some cards on it and laid some board games on the coffee table. Soon, a small crowd had formed and gravitated towards the card table. A poker game started, and I found myself talking to a group of people who were more of Hostess's acquaintances than mine.

Two of them, a married couple actually, I had met before a few months ago at another party. The fella was of average height, thin, some slight graying at the temples of his blond hair, and he wore glasses. I learned he was very smart. Like geek/nerd smart. He was a computer programmer; had his own consulting business. He was very laid back, and seemed nice enough. I called him Mac. His wife I called Apple. Apple was one of Jade Dragon's girls. Apple had light brown skin and long black hair. And like Mac, she was thin and smart. Like most Asians, she was short; but both she and Mac look very good for a couple in their 40s. I've heard they were very active people who enjoyed jogging, hiking, camping, kayaking and a whole a lot more. I'd've taken them to be in their late 30s. The other people in the group were either work buddies or church members.

We had started a conversation on hobbies and recreation. Mac and Apple talked about their latest hiking experience. Another fella spoke about his recent trip to Las Vegas, where he not only hiked but also saw some shows. When the subject of entertainers came up, Sour Milk entered the group and started to brag about her kids, and how talented they were, just like world famous entertainers.

Did I mention how much Sour Milk irritates me? She often brags about how her kids (and by extension, she) were so much better than everybody. She had 3 daughters, and she entered each one in the Lil Ms Tx pageants before they were even out of diapers. Those are the creepy pageants where little toddlers are dressed up like street prostitutes--complete with wigs, heels, and enough make up to mistake them for midget whores in a low budget porn. Her oldest is in her last year of high school, a cheerleading team captain. "She is the first to be squad captain as a junior and senior at the high school!", Sour Milk bragged, "Their squad is good enough to compete on a national level."

'Um, no they're not,' I thought, 'I've seen national level cheer squads, and her daughter's cheer squad was going to need a whole lot of talent and skills to even rank at the local level.'

Sour Milk then bragged about her second daughter, who took dance classes. "She's going to be a ballet dancer."

The rest of the group didn't know what to say; some nodded; a few said, "Oh," and "that's nice."

Sour Milk then said about her youngest, "She was the second runner up in the Jr Ms Pageant. She should've won but those judges have their favorites." She didn't mention, however, that Runner Up dropped her baton three times during the talent portion of the pageant.

I wondered just how clueless Sour Milk was when it came to her daughters. Cheerleader was a party animal. Hostess and I were eating out one night when she got a call from Cheerleader. Cheerleader was Hostess's dog sitter. And she often looked at Hostess as someone she could trust outside her family. When Hostess and I went to pick Cheerleader up from a party, I found out just how much Cheerleader trusted Hostess. Cheerleader and her friends had a few drinks at the party. Earlier, she had told her mother that she was going to a sleepover at a friend's home. During the drive, I noticed in the rearview mirror the two cheerleaders making out. When we dropped them off, they left my car holding hands. I looked at Hostess with an eyebrow raised and Hostess confirmed my suspicion, "Yeah, that's her girlfriend."

I think I saw this as a plot in a porn once or twice. I queried, "Her lesbian girlfriend?", to which Hostess said,"Yes. She hasn't come out to her parents." Okay; none of my business whose business Cheerleader gets her nose in.

As for second daughter, Dancer, well, I noticed she often wore long sleeves; even during the summer. Once I saw her roll up her sleeves and noticed a number of thin, line scars running horizontal above her left elbow. I recognized the cutting scars, made by a razor blade. I've detected the scent of cannabis on her, too. I saw a blunt in her opened purse when she forgot it in the bathroom once.

As Sour Milk bragged on about her daughters, I couldn't help but imagine her nuclear meltdown if she ever knew the truth. Her eldest was a lesbian and her second was a pot head with cutting scars. As for youngest daughter, I cringed at how Sour Milk pushed her into the limelight. And when the karaoke singing started, Sour Milk left the group (thank goodness) to look for Runner Up to sing.

The rest of the group scattered. Some to the games; others, karaoke. I decided to go out in front of the house for a little bit. When I got to the front, I found Oaf talking to Saint and two other guys. One of them I recognized as the spouse of one of the guests. The other worked for the Sheriff's Dept; him, I called Deputy; Deputy was also a martial arts instructor. With the recent popularity of cage matches and Ultimate Fighting Championship, a lot of idiots were signing up for martial arts courses. Oaf was one of those idiots. He was even wearing his Tap Out t shirt. He idolized Deputy as his instructor.

I walked up, nodded hello to them, and took in the current discussion. They were talking about gas prices and cars and the up coming action pack movies. Typical guy stuff. When the conversation stalled, everybody just stood there and looked at their feet. I jump started on a new topic. I asked Deputy, "So how're your students coming along? Taking any of them to tournaments?"

Deputy replied, "I've got some really great ones. In fact we just came back from a tournament last month." He went on to explain how well his team did and how much more they had to train to be stronger for the next match up.

Oaf jumped in and said, "Oh, man, you should see the video they took. Deputy kicked some fag's ass in under a minute! He knows a lot of ways to take down a man!"

Another reason why Oaf gets on my nerves is his blatant use of the word fag. Though he's said in some circles that he didn't have a problem with gay people, when he's drunk or around just a few guys, he starts making homophobic comments. Truth is, I think he is homophobic. But gay people have nothing to worry about; as much as Oaf brags about working out or taking martial arts classes, he tends to run away from confrontation.

I told the group that I was going inside to get something to eat. I also said if they hadn't eaten, they should come in with me. They told me they'd grab something later. So I returned back inside to find Mac and Apple by the stairwell.

Mac left to go to the bathroom, and Apple started to tell me about their recent home renovations. She talked about updated kitchen cabinets and new tiles. Then she talked about an addition.

"We've had a hot tub put in," she said.

"Oh, that's nice." I like hot tubs,"They're very relaxing."

"You should come by and try it out," she said.

"Sounds good; I just might." I thought she was being polite. Then she reached out and put her hand on my shoulder. It lingered there for a few seconds; then she slowly let her fingers slide down from my shoulder, pausing at my chest for a few seconds, before continuing their downward slide down the rest of my shirt. Her voice had dropped to a whisper,"You can come by and we can enjoy relaxing in that hot tub...have a little fun."

I was stunned. I think she just made a pass at me! "You're telling him about the hot tub, hon?" Holy crap! That was Mac speaking! How long had he been standing there! My heart was beating fast.

I played it cool, kept a calm face, "Oh, yeah, sounds like you guys've done some pretty cool things with your house."

Mac smiled at me and said, "Well, we'd love to have you over to check it out."

I thanked them for the invite and then excused myself to get something to eat. I needed to exit quickly. I saw that the aunts had finished dining and were now in the sitting room. The three dragons would hold court at the Mah Jong table. The open fourth player position would be for people with requests or seeking their counsel. I saw Hostess's little sister, Debbie, as the current fourth player. A few others were waiting their turn with the dragons, perhaps for chance at fortune, forgiveness, or a favorable hand in fate.

Act IX
I grabbed something to eat and headed into the dining room; a few people were there. We talked as we ate. Then I headed out to the yard, where I sat and talked with some other guests. Afterwards, I headed into the sitting room and played some dominoes and a few rounds of poker. When I went to use the restroom, I found the ones downstairs occupied, so I went to use the ones upstairs. Though it was all ready passed 8 pm, the sun had just started setting. I looked out the window at the twilight after washing my hands. Then I scanned the whole neighborhood, marveling at how it seemed to look beautiful in the dimming sunlight.

A movement in the side yard caught my eye. I looked down and saw two figures by the privacy wood fence. They were hidden on each side by some tall bushes. One of those faces was blocked off by a tree branch; the other face I recognized as Deputy. I was going to leave when Deputy leaned towards the other person and kissed them. I didn't think much of it; then I saw Deputy do something that shocked the hell out of me. He got down and unzipped the other person's jeans, and took out a penis!

Holy crap! Deputy was getting busy with some dude! I thought about Oaf, and what would happen if he ever found out his idol Deputy was a peter eater. And boy did he eat it like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day! I wondered, was this one of the ways Deputy took down a man in cage matches? Because I don't believe I've ever seen this move in the Ultimate Fighting Championships. And just when I thought I couldn't be more shocked, the dude pulled Deputy up and pushed him against the fence. When the dude got down on his knees, his face became visible. It was Saint!

Son of a gun! Sour Milk's husband was going down on Deputy's night stick like it was a lollipop! The man was obviously a pro at this; and this Saint was definitely a sinner. Well, at least now I know which side of the family Cheerleader takes after. I knew it was wrong to spy on people in private moments (especially when it involves their very privates!), but I couldn't look away. It was like driving by an accident. You know you should drive on, but you can't help but slow down and assess the carnage! Summoning my will power, I closed the curtains and returned downstairs. I saw Sour Milk talking to one of the neighbors and I got this smug feeling. Well, I really should pity her; the woman had no clue about her family. But it sure was hilarious to find out that her perfect family wasn't so perfect after all. Then I saw Oaf and had the same smug feeling. It was too ironic; the man he looked up to belonged to a group that he looked down on. Oaf came up to me and pulled me off to the side wanting to talk.

We went back upstairs and into one of the guest rooms. He asked, "Dude, can you believe that they're saying I was rude today?"

I played stupid, "Who said you were rude today?"

"My sister in law told me that I was rude to her family," he said.

I raised an eyebrow, feigning ignorance. He continued, "She said that her cousins didn't feel welcomed and that I acted like they shouldn't even be here."

I wasn't sure if he was playing the fool or really didn't understand his faux pas. So I asked him, "Well, what exactly did you do to piss 'em off?"

"She said that when they first got here, I pointed them out and acted like I didn't want them here. But I didn't do that at all!," he said. "All I said to Hostess was I didn't know they were coming. This is stupid! What do you think I should do?"

I carefully considered my response. I asked, "Have you talked to the cousins?"

"No," he replied, "They won't even look at me!"

"Well,"I said,"try talking to them again. Explain that you never said anything about them not being welcomed; apologize for the misunderstanding."

"Apologize!?!," he burst out,"I've done nothing wrong! I'm not apologizing to them!"

Clearly, he wasn't getting the point. So I explained, "I'm not saying you did anything wrong," Well, he kind of did, "but all I'm saying is tell them what happened. And you're only sorry that they misunderstood the situation."

"Why should I apologize? I don't think it's my fault they think I offended them! It's not my fault they can't understand English!", he ranted. This was another reason why Oaf got on my nerves. He makes fun of people with heavy accents. I'm impressed by people who speak English as a second (or third, etc) language. But to Oaf, these people were beneath him; what made it worse was that he often put down Hostess's family for speaking with accents and making grammar errors. How convenient that he forgets that it was these people, his sister in law actually, who helped him get his current job.

"All I'm saying is to make sure the air gets cleared tonight with the cousins. Just let them know that you never said they weren't welcomed," I said.

Oaf replied, "Why should I have to clear the air? They're the ones with the problem!"

Clearly, I was getting no where. Oaf was being stubborn and stupid and I sure as hell am tired of trying to help him out. I should've just sold him out to the aunts. Let the dragons annihilate his pathetic ass! He's been with Hostess long enough to understand the right way to deal with in laws and a new community. Furthermore, he should've picked up by now what it meant to be a good host, especially in the South! I told him to do whatever he wanted, because really, I didn't know what else to say. Well, actually, I wanted to cuss him out and punch his lights out. But that would upset Hostess, so I just left to rejoin the party the downstairs. I found myself joining a guest for a karaoke duet, then playing a couple of hands of UNO and gin rummy and some dominoes. I also had one game of Mah Jong with the dragons.

No interrogation this time. But Snow Dragon made an observation, "So, you've been friends with Hostess since grade school."

"Yes. We go way back," I replied.

"Such loyalty," said Moon Dragon, "Such strong friendship. Nothing more?"

I knew what she was asking. How come I've never hooked up with Hostess, "Just really good friends," I paused, "She's my family. The one I got to pick. She's one of my best friends."

Jade Dragon said, "She's a lucky girl to have such a good friend."

I laughed, "No, I'm the lucky one to have such a great friend. She's a great person."

Jade Dragon then said, "She is a truly wonderful girl. She really cares about people. So strong and smart. So much potential."

I felt that there was something deeper in what Jade Dragon had said. I had thought about what would happen if the Dragons pass on to the next life. Who would take their place? Who would protect and keep order in the community? Whoever was going to ascend in their place was going to need great will and wisdom. They would also need the incredible strength forged from surviving unbelievable sorrow and tragedy. Then an incredible thought came into my mind, 'Did the dragons think Hostess had what it took to become a dragon?' Sure, Hostess was clever; strong; and she knew many secrets. But when it comes down to it, I wasn't sure if she had it her to destroy people with the severity and totality the dragons used in meting out judgments. Would she be able to make the tough choice when it mattered the most?

A few hours later, the party was over. The guests had left. I was helping Hostess and Oaf clean up most of the mess. Oaf then said he had taken my advice and approached the cousins to clear the air. He said that it was little awkward, but for now, he did make a sincere effort. Well, I thought to myself, maybe there was hope for him after all. Oaf then said he was tired and went to bed; this left Hostess and I to put up the food in the kitchen.

Afterwards, we sat outside on the deck and looked at the stars. I started our conversation, "I think Apple hit on me tonight."

She laughed, "You, too?"

"Why, she's done this before?", I asked.

Hostess explained, "She and Mac are swingers. They have people over when their kids are at camp or sleepovers."

I was speechless! "Did they ask you guys to join them?"

"Yes," said Hostess.

"What did Oaf say?," I asked her.

"Well, nothing," said Hostess. She looked at me and in a low voice said, "They only asked for me; I haven't told Oaf anything."

Holy crap! Mac and Apple were some kinky freaks! Too bad I don't do couples...anymore. It can get pretty complicated and messy, no matter how much fun it was at the beginning. I started laughing at the absurdity of what I had just learned. Hostess joined me in laughter. It's always the quiet ones!

When the laughter finally stopped, Hostess was quiet and she had a look on her face, as if she was pondering a hard choice. I thought about telling her what I saw with Deputy and Saint, but then decided not to say anything. Some secrets should never be shared. After sitting there in silence for a while, Hostess finally said, "I'm late."

"For what?," I asked.

She looked at me in the eyes and I saw her face full of worry; she said, "No, I mean I'm late. It's been almost a month now." She could see that I was still not grasping her meaning, so she continued, "I've haven't had my period for almost a month now."

Ewww, I thought. "Oh," I said. Then it dawned on me, "OH!", my eyes got a little wider.

She had a sad, weary smile on her face, "Oh, indeed."

I had so many questions. So many thoughts running through my mind. Was she or wasn't she? "Have you seen a doctor?"

"I've got an appt on Monday," she said. There was a heaviness in her voice. I could tell she had been under great stress dealing with this.

But in my head, some thoughts were starting to make some noise to get my attention. I pushed them aside and just sat there, enjoying the silence of the night and the beauty of the starry skies. Still, some of those thoughts could not be suppressed for they were urgent and alarming; I wondered if Hostess had told Oaf. Then I another terrible thought came unbidden, whose is it? I wanted to ask Hostess these questions and so much more; but I chose not to do it. She was all ready under a lot of strain. She would tell me what she wanted to tell me, and I would not press her for more. I was her friend, and she needed my support. And that's what I decided to do. No questions, no pressure; just be there for her. So, I told her, "Well, whatever you want to do, I'm here for you."

She looked me in the eyes again, and she squeezed my hand quickly, "Thanks." Then we sat there in silence and continued looking at the stars. The night was mostly quiet; a soft breeze was blowing in the yard. Most of the houses had turn their lights off. For now, the suburban jungle was quiet. The predators have had their fill for the evening. The hunters have retired to rest, to contemplate, to dream. The feast was over.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Feast of Predatory Beasts: Stalk, Pounce, Kill

Act VI

I had gotten cocky and overconfident; as a result, I got careless and walked right into the dragons' ambush. The aunts were staring me down, and I could almost see the wheels turning in their heads. I tried to buy time,"You want an example of their arguments?"

The aunts just looked at me and didn't say anything, waiting for my answer. Their silence was a message that I got loud and clear. They were testing me. I had to tread carefully. If I told the aunts about some of the arguments between Hostess and Oaf, it would only give them more reason to move against Oaf. Oaf had developed a reputation as being rude and had offended a number people over the years. While most people would give any newcomer in the community a chance, Oaf had run out of chances. And the dragons only had so much patience until they would correct Oaf's offenses. The problem was, that correction was often harsh, and Hostess would feel the sting. I was not going to let any harm come to Hostess.

Even though I knew the dragons were only protective of their people, including Hostess, their methods could sometimes be cruel and severe. I recall last year, how a young Thai girl married this older divorced man. They opened up a small gas station and convenience store. They were doing quite well, until one day, the husband made the mistake of getting drunk at a wedding. He was a mean drunk, and started to cause a scene, accosting the waiters and some guests. When Moon Dragon told Thai girl perhaps it was time to take Drunk home, Thai girl scoffed, and said they would leave when they felt like it. Big mistake. By the end of the year, people had stopped shopping in their store, even driving a litte farther to buy gas elsewhere. All their merchandise was mysteriously either held up at the port, or was never delivered on time, if they were delivered at all. They were also ostracized from any parties or gatherings in the community. When I asked at one cookout where Thai girl was, Hostess said, no one knew, and no one really cared; then she told me what had happened. Eventually, Thai girl and Drunk were forced to sell their store and home to cover their mounting debt and move out of town.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like the dragons had a problem with those who weren't of Asian descent. No, in fact, two of them married white men. A lot of their children had also married other races. But the dragons took it upon themselves to protect their community, and they've kept their people safe from dangers outside and within the community. They represent order, and in some ways, they were the very backbone of the community. Their actions, however vicious and extreme, have always been made to protect the community. They inspired fear and that fear kept the peace for the most part. It also served to maintain their power over the community. But their might was also tempered with mercy and kindness. The dragons were quick to welcome outsiders into the fold; they were just as swift to punish and exile those who harmed their people.

In a way, I think the dragons had come to the same conclusion that I and some of my friends had reached: Hostess deserved so much better than Oaf. He was just useless and lazy. And as much as I wanted to see Hostess move on to someone better, I couldn't deny that she loved Oaf for some reason. And if that made her somewhat happy, then I would try to support her decision. Unfortunately, that meant defending Oaf, almost constantly, and I do admit that I was getting tired of it.

I'm not sure if Oaf is stupid lazy, you know, the kind of person who needs to be told what to do. Or if he was just a malingerer, always making up excuses to get out of work. I was once asked to drop them off at the airport one day. I had just gotten off work that morning, and I drove right to their house. Their luggage was by the front door, and Hostess was on the phone, giving her housesitter some last minute instructions. Oaf was standing by the stairs, next to the door. When Hostess reached for her suitcase, I told her, I would get it for her. We walked out to my car, and put the luggage up. Then we waited for Oaf.

After ten minutes, I started to wonder what was holding him up. I went back in to look for him, but he didn't answer my calls. I picked up his suitcase and carried it to the car. After I put it in the trunk, Oaf came out of the house. I thought, well, maybe he had to use the bathroom. When we got to the airport, however, Oaf put on his iPod then walked into the terminal, leaving Hostess and me with the luggage! That's when I started to think, 'That mofo! He thinks that just because I'm dropping them off at the airport, I am suppose to carry his damn bags!'

And it wasn't the first time he's run off from doing his damn job, either! When I helped them move some of their belongings into their new place, Oaf took a few of their stuff inside the house. Then stopped to talk to his buddies from the gym. His buddies were suppose to help move their crap, but no, Oaf and the gym b*tches just stood there while Hostess and I moved most of the stuff. When we got to the heavy furniture, I was like, "Yo, how about a hand moving in these sofas?" They moved one small loveseat...then stood around and resumed talking. I was thinking, 'Oh hell, no, mofo! I ain't moving the rest of your crap! These are your freakin sofas and mattresses, and I a'int here to do all the work while you just bullsh*t around!'

I told Hostess I had somewhere I needed to be, and she said they would get the rest of the stuff moved in. I left and went to a bar. The next morning, I was woken by the telephone; Oaf was calling to see if I could come by today, and help him move the rest of his furniture into the house! I was flabbergasted! 'What the hell did they do after I left? Just sit around and talk gym instead of moving the rest of his crap? Oh, hell, no!' I told Oaf that I was a experiencing a hangover, and I wouldn't make it today. Then I hung up. Bastard!

Sometimes, I blame his mother. Oaf was the youngest of 3 children. He had an older sister and brother. He was the youngest, and his mother babied him way too much. While the older siblings left the home shortly after high school to go to college or get jobs and their own places, Oaf stayed at home until he was 26. What's worse, he didn't pay any bills, as his mother paid all his bills and balanced his checkbook for him. This often caused arguments between his parents. Oaf's father kept telling his wife that Oaf was old enough to take care of himself and to stop babying Oaf so much.

The only reason why Oaf finally left the home was because his father threatened to cut off paying Oaf's tuition at the local university. So at 26, Oaf got an apt (his mom found it and signed the lease for him, and paid some of his rent!). He finally graduated after 7 years in college with a Bachelors Physical Education. He met Hostess during his senior year (7th year). They were both in the same fitness club, and eventually joined a group of workout fanatics. Then they started dating.

I've always been a little suspicious of Hostess's relationship with Oaf. Hostess had just broken up with her college boyfriend of 4 years. Most of us thought that boyfriend was the one, because Hostess lit up and I could hear the smile in her voice when she talked about him. They lived together for over 3 years. He was from Wyoming, and he was in the National Guard. I called him Soldierboy. None of us who were childhood friends of Hostess had ever actually met Soldierboy. We all were scattered in different parts of the world at the time. But we all agreed that when Hostess said Soldierboy was the one, we all believed her. He made her happy, and that made the rest of us happy.

The terrorist attack on Sept 11, 2001, changed everything. Soldierboy's unit was activated and before he left for Afghanistan, he sat down with Hostess and discussed their future. He had given her a promise ring the year before, planning to get married after grad school. But on their last night together, he told her he couldn't keep his promise, and he feared he may not come back. He didn't want Hostess to wait and worry nor suffer should he not return alive. He wanted her to move on with her life. He thought breaking up would free them to move on, though they would always love each other. Then they cried until he left to report to his unit at midnight.

I was living on the East Coast at the time, so when Hostess called me, it was all ready past two in the morning. I didn't recognize her voice through the sobs, and my sleepiness vanished immediately when she said my name. It took a minute for me to realize what had happened. It was a long, terrifying minute, as I thought she was physically hurt and maybe her life was in danger. Though, I was somewhat relieved when I found out she was physically fine, I ached for her, because I felt her pain, her loss. Her sorrow was deep, and there was nothing I could do to ease her pain. For over four hours, she cried, and I felt a heavy pain in my heart. I've never seen nor heard her cry like this before, so I was quite at a loss about how to handle the crisis. I could only sit there and listen to her sobs; offering the occasional cliches; and finally confessing that I had no idea what to say or do to make her feel better. I was just sorry it happened.

When we finally hung up, her voice was hoarse and she said she was glad she could talk to me; I told her that's what friends are for, and that I would call her during lunch. I didn't get any sleep that night, and I don't remember what happened at work. But that was a long month of long phone calls and crying and sobbing and praying...for peace, for hope, and for Soldierboy to come home safely.

So when Hostess met Oaf, I was sure Oaf was the rebound guy. At times, I think he still is the rebound guy. When Oaf and Hostess got engaged, news came that Soldierboy was coming home--at least for a little while. It had been two years since Hostess and Soldierboy last saw each other. Hostess took a weekend to go visit Soldierboy, give him a hero's welcome. She never told me what happened that weekend, and I never asked. I don't think Hostess has ever told Oaf just who Soldierboy really was. And Oaf is either really confident in his relationship with Hostess, or just really too ignorant to realize that Soldierboy was not just any friend. Soldierboy was the one!

Soldierboy eventually married another girl and had a son; when his tour of duty was over, he finished college and got a job working for some gov't agency. He and Hostess often keep in touch. I always get a weird feeling when I look at Hostess's fridge, and I see a pic of Soldierboy (with his family, of course). Sure, it's a Xmas card, but I don't keep momentos of old lovers attached to a public space that anyone, including a current lover, might see and question. But, for now, Oaf seemed to be in the dark, and I wasn't going to tell him a damn thing.

Now, I looked at the dragons who were waiting for my response. They wanted to know the kind of fights Oaf and Hostess had. So I gave the aunts my answer,"Oh, yeah, like today, when we were setting up for the party, Oaf wanted to turn the A/C cooler; he said it was too hot. Hostess refused, saying it would get too cold. But, Oaf is from Colorado, and they get really cold up there; he's not used to the humidity. And you know Hostess grew up in a hot environment."

The dragons gave me a puzzled look. I think I had thrown them off. Well, they wanted an example of a fight, and I gave them one; it just wasn't what they expected. So I continued on,"But eventually we settled it by bringing out the fans. That way, if someone gets too hot, they can turn on the fan," and I gave them this brilliant smile, meant to convey,'wasn't that a genius solution?'

Then I saw Snow Dragon form a small smile on her lips. 'Oh, crap!', I thought,'now what?' And before she could open her mouth, I heard my the voice of my salvation saying,"Oh, Aunty Phine! Aunty June! Aunty Rose! It's so good to see you!"

Hostess had arrived, beaming with smiles at the aunts. She gave me a quick look, and in less than a second of eye contact, we exchanged vital information. As she was hugging the aunts, I started to spill out to Hostess a condensed version of the interrogation/conversation that had taken place. Their momentum broken, the dragons had to regroup and form a new attack plan. Only now, they would face a much tougher challenge.

With Hostess standing at their sides, she and I formed an impressive force ready to meet the dragons challenge. They tried to trick Hostess with the same line of questioning about the fight, but I had given Hostess enough info to fend off the attacks. When one of the aunts asked for Oaf's whereabouts, I jumped in and said I could go look for him, as he's probably talking with the other guests. Seeing the opportunity, Hostess asked them where were Moon Dragon's and Snow Dragon's spouses?

It was our standard deflect and redirect defense. It was a skill Hostess and I learned and practiced in high school debates. By the time we graduated, we perfected it by exposure to so many different social and scholastic circles. Those public speaking skills led to leadership positions in many clubs as well as release from trouble on the rare occasions school officials caught us skipping school or cutting classes. Take the focus off by putting it on something else. Flattery can be a powerful tool. Answer a question with another question. State an observation we could all agree on, then follow up with a question.

When the dragons finished answering Hostess's question, I jumped in and declared Hostess and I were going to get them some food. The aunts tried to protest, but Hostess insisted that she and I serve them as honored guests. It was our exit strategy, and it worked. We left the dining room and went into the kitchen to fix up the plates for the aunts. We set their plates and brought out some extra trays loaded with more food and drinks for the aunts. They asked us to sit down with them, but I told them to go ahead and eat, as I was going to help Hostess fix some more plates for the other guests. It was a total lie, but the aunts gave in. The dragons started to eat. We had reached a truce for now.

When Hostess followed me back into the kitchen, she let out a sigh, but then she looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. It was just like the old days. But then that troubled look reemerged on her face; earlier she said we would talk after the party. I thought about talking about something else to take her mind of her troubles. The only thing I could think to bring up was the first thing I saw on the fridge door. "So heard from Soldierboy lately?"

Hostess had this startled look on her face. She was quiet, and I thought that was curious. She said,"Oh, yeah, I saw him last month when I was up in Seattle."

"He moved to Seattle?", I asked.

"Yes; about a year now," she answered. Wow, I guess I've been a little behind on the news, but it's not like Soldierboy was someone I kept tabs on. He was an old part of Hostess world, never a part of mine.

"How's his family? They like Seattle?", I asked.

"He said his family is fine," she paused,"but they're not in Seattle."

"Oh?" I was a little confused. His family stayed in Wyoming while Soldierboy moved to Seattle?

"He got divorced last year, before moving to Seattle," she said.

"Oh," I replied,"Well, I hope it turns out all right for them."

I had more questions on my mind, and there was something significant in our little exchange; but at the moment, I didn't want to push it. Besides, she'll tell me whatever she wanted to later. I took out another bottled water and headed towards the living room.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Feast of Predatory Beasts: Moon Dragon

Act IV

The last person I turned to greet was Aunt Rose. Of the three aunts, I knew the least about Aunt Rose. She was also the shortest and the darkest of the three. But she was Filipino, and most Pinoys I've met are short and brown. She had caramel colored skin and dark eyes with irises so black, it was sometimes hard to make out the pupils. Her hair had been cut to shoulder length, and a red hibiscus flower was tucked behind right ear. "Aunty Rose," I said,"Did you get a new haircut? It looks fantastic, especially with that flower!"

Aunt Rose reached up with both hands and touched her hair, smiling, "Oh, I did cut it two weeks ago. Thank you."

I wasn't really sure about the information I gleamed about Aunt Rose; there was a mystery as to her origins, and the few stories I've heard about her seem to change depending on who was telling them. Thus, I called her the Moon Dragon, ever changing, sometimes unseen, but easily recognized in whatever form she presented.

I've heard rumors that she was gifted. As a child, she was able to see spirits. The nuns who raised her once found her dancing in the cemetary deep in the woods; when they asked her what she was doing, she told them that the spirits were playing songs and singing and dancing with her. This frightened the Sisters, as this cemetary was used to bury those the Church considered lost and unsaved--the ones who committed suicide, the unrepentant pagans, and the excommunicated.

One of the Sisters grabbed Moon Dragon and told Moon Dragon to stop making up stories, and that Moon Dragon couldn't see Spirits. Then the Sister let out a scream and covered her eyes with her hands. The other nuns panicked and asked the Sister what was wrong. Holding her hands out in front of her face, the Sister screamed that she had gone blind. Moon Dragon told them that one of the Spirits was angry at the Sister's dismissal of the Spirits existence and had taken the Sister's sight as punishment.

At the orphanage, a doctor was summoned and he confirmed that the Sister was indeed blind. The cause was a great mystery. That night, loud sounds of singing and dancing were heard in the orphanage. The frightened nuns could not find the source of the noise. The next day, they found the chairs stacked on the kitchen table all the way up to the ceiling, all the cabinets opened, and all the kitchen knives were stuck in the rafters. Convinced the orphanage was possessed, the nuns asked the priest to do an exorcism; it failed. That night, laughter was heard in the gardens and blue flames were seen dancing in the dark.

Moon Dragon told the Sisters that the Spirits would only leave if they were given passage into the next world. To achieve this, the cemetery must be sanctified. Driven by fear, the Sisters and the priest went with Moon Dragon into the woods towards the cemetery. There, the priest blessed the grounds and performed the last rites. When the ceremony was over, a murder of crows emerged from the trees and circled overhead, darken the skies for several long, terrifying minutes before moving westward. When the group returned to the orphanage, the blind Sister's vision was restored.

The first time I heard this story, I thought, eh, maybe that Sister had diabetes and it caused her to be temporarily blind; the children probably made all that noise and stacked those chairs and stuck those knives in the kitchen; they probably had flashlights and sneaked out in the garden, too. But the people who've told me this story believed it. They also claimed that when Moon Dragon was 15, she met a young American missionary. She married him and joined him in his work in the countryside and jungles. Eventually, they were reassigned to Africa, where they not only spread the teachings of Christ, but performed several exorcisms as well. When they came home to America, they took to ministering to the streets, often towards the forgotten and seedy elements of society.

Now, while I do doubt some of these stories about Moon Dragon's gift, I do confess that there are two incidents that shook my cynicism. Last Thanksgiving, Moon Dragon was present at the dinner presented by Hostess's aunt. Hostess's aunt was a workaholic and high maintenance; now she was a nice enough woman, but often exuded a high and fancy attitude. It made her seem like a snob, but she wasn't really one. Aunt Fancy was married to a quiet, friendly fella, I'll call Uncle Job. It was an interesting marriage, as Aunt Fancy took charge and did all the talking, while Uncle Job was in the background. Though Uncle Job had retired, his wife encouraged him to get another job, because she wanted the finer things in life for them.

Anyway, at the dinner, Moon Dragon told Aunt Fancy to take some time off and enjoy spending some time with Uncle Job. Aunt Fancy laughed and said she and Uncle Job would have a lot of time to spend with each other in a few more years once they've made enough money. Moon Dragon got this faraway look in her eyes and said, sometimes, we have less time than we think, and they'll never be enough money to take the place of a loved one. Aunt Fancy replied that while it's true money couldn't replace a loved one, it can buy a lot of things one loves.

Everyone at the table started laughing, including Moon Dragon, but I saw her eyes had darken and seemed to shimmer, like she was on the verge of tears. No one else paid attention, but I got the chills. Then later on, I saw her walk over to Uncle Job, and asked him if he was happy. Uncle Job smiled and said that he was. He was the proud father of 3 girls, and he was just blessed with his first grandson last month. Uncle Job was in a celebratory mood and had a few drinks all ready. Moon Dragon smiled and touched Uncle Job's shoulder, though I could see that it was a sad smile on Moon Dragon's face.

That was on Thursday night. Saturday evening, Aunt Fancy was at her shop, selling household goods. She got a frantic call from her 2nd daughter. Uncle Job had been admitted to critical care in the hospital. Sunday at dawn, he passed away. He had cancer, and it was extensive. The hospital was unable to stabilize his condition, and he literally bled to death.

When I heard about Uncle Job's passing, I was stunned. I also recalled Moon Dragon's expression that last dinner. I wondered, could she have seen his death coming? After the funeral, Aunt Fancy did not feel like celebrating Xmas, so there was no tree set up and Xmas lights were off at her house. She was in mourning; her daughters had to band together to work through their grief. A few days before Xmas Eve, I was over at Hostess's house for dinner, and she had invited her Aunt. Moon Dragon was also present. Aunt Fancy was still grieving. She made a comment that this was the worst Xmas ever, and that she did not know what she going to do now that Uncle Job was gone.

Aunt Fancy was afraid she was going to lose her home. It was a new home she and Uncle Job had purchased three years before. This was a large home in a gated community, and it was going to be their retirement home. With Uncle Job gone, the money coming into the house was significantly slashed. Moon Dragon had that faraway look in her eyes when she took Aunt Fancy's hand. Moon Dragon told Aunt Fancy that for now, it was still her home, and she should celebrate Xmas because Uncle Job loved Xmas. She told Aunt Fancy to hang Uncle Job's Xmas tree star this year. It was an old tree topper that had been replaced years ago when Aunt Fancy started to buy more expensive angels to top her Xmas tree. Aunt Fancy had tried to throw away the star, but Uncle Job refused. It was the first tree topper he and Aunt Fancy bought during their first Xmas as a couple.

That night, when they were going through the attic, Aunt Fancy and her daughters found the box that kept Uncle Job's star. Aunt Fancy wasn't sure if the star would still work, but even if it didn't, it would still go on top of the tree. When she opened the box, she found a folder. Curious, she opened the folder. Reading the contents, she let out a gasp and tears flowed from her eyes. Her daughters were alarmed, and asked her what was wrong. But Aunt Fancy could not stop crying and was unable to answer her daughters. She gave her daughters the papers while she held the star in her chest.

I was still at Hostess's house, talking to her when her cousins called. I was worried that something bad had happened to Aunt Fancy. When Hostess hung up the phone, she told me the incredible story. It seems the papers they found with Uncle Job's star was a life insurance policy Uncle Job had taken out years ago, without Aunt Fancy's knowledge. It was more than enough to pay for the house and have some left over. It would seem that Uncle Job had made sure his family was taken care of when he was not around. Hostess cried, saying that it was a Xmas miracle. I got goosebumps thinking about Moon Dragon. Did she know about the life insurance policy? It was a little eerie that she insisted that Aunt Fancy use Uncle Job's star and put up the Xmas decorations.

But as unsettling as her supernatural abilities were, I was more concerned with rumors that Moon Dragon had connections to the underworld of society. In her time ministering with her husband, she was a comfort (and some say a safe house) for a number of street criminals. I've heard whispers that she still maintains contact with the criminal elements, and many sought her out for refuge or advice. And these criminals have often served Moon Dragon's purposes in return. Among the several people who adopted her as their mother, I counted former convicts, thieves, and thugs. While some of them seem to have achieved normal lives working normal jobs, a few of them never specified what exactly they did or where they worked. But I did get the feeling that they were fiercely protective of Moon Dragon and her husband.

I've often thought it was strange how Moon Dragon sometimes wore a rosary, especially since she was a Protestant minister's wife. But I suppose it's hard to give up the Catholic roots, considering the Church did raise her in their orphanage. And she was wearing her rosary now, white metal and black stones.

Act V

I stepped back, smiled at all the Dragons, and asked them to follow me to the dinner table, where I would serve them some food and drinks. As we made our way into the dining room, several people came up to greet the aunts, some bowing, some hugging them, and others waved from across the rooms. The dinner table was round, and it was a good thing, as it would mean that I didn't have to worry about seating positions. The round table worked for King Arthur and his knights because it showed they were all equal, no one better than the other. This dinner table served the same purpose for the aunts.

However, I made a note that since I greeted Jade Dragon first, it would be appropriate to seat either Snow Dragon or Moon Dragon first. I decided on Snow Dragon, as the other two aunts were still greeting some of the guests. Then I helped Moon Dragon and Jade Dragon to their seats. I asked them if they wanted some tea, soda, water, or some wine. I also told them there was beer available and winked at them; the dragons laughed and requested water. So I go up and fetched them bottled water from the fridge. I made it a point to serve Moon Dragon first, then the other two. There, I thought, now I've made sure not to favor any of them. I then told them about the food and asked them what they wanted to eat.

Snow Dragon said,"Oh, we can get our own food in minute, but let's just talk for now. It's been a while since we've last spoken." and the trap was sprung!

I was pinned down and the dragons launched their assault. Before I could say anything else, Moon Dragon asked,"Where is Hostess?" Those black eyes boring into me.

"Oh," I replied,"she's out back visiting with her cousins from out of town."

Snow Dragon asked,"and where is Oaf?"

"I'm not sure," that part was true enough, but I fibbed,"I think he was with one of his neighbors talking about lawnmowers."

"Where are they talking about lawnmowers?", Snow Dragon pressed.

Oh, crap, I thought, she can smell my little lie. Time to sell this lie! "The garage is where Oaf keeps his lawnmower." That part was true.

"Oh," now it was Moon Dragon again,"but the garage was closed when we arrived."

Son of a bit--, those damned black eyes saw everything. So, I pressed on with my lie,"I think they went in through the laundry room door. But I'm not sure." Then I thought about the perfect escape,"But I can go look for him to let him know y'all are here."

I proceeded to stand up but my escape was cut off by Jade Dragon who said,"I heard there was fight earlier with Oaf and Hostess about the party."

Dammit! One of her spies must've reported the scene from earlier. I was amazed at how fast Jade Dragon came across this information, when it took less than five minutes to get from the foyer to the dinner table. When did she receive this news? Was it during her meet and greet with one of the many guests? Or when I went to get them water? Regardless, I had to spin this favorably. "Oh, it wasn't a fight. Just a little misunderstanding."

But Jade Dragon was relentless,"I heard he was not happy with some of the guests," all three aunts had their eyes on me now, gaging my reaction. I made sure my face remained calm. Tricky, tricky old ladies. I pondered my answer quickly; I wasn't sure what the old bitties were after, but I couldn't let them think that Oaf had a problem with Hostess's family or guests. It would earn Oaf the wrath of the Dragons and it would cause some damage to Hostess's reputation.

Now, while it's true that Oaf did have a problem with Hostess's family and some of the guests, that wasn't my concern. The only thing that mattered to me was protecting Hostess, even if it meant defending her idiot of a husband. God that guy got on my nerves sometimes. So I lied some more,"Oh, no. Oaf doesn't have a problem with the guests. What happened was that he and I went to get some chairs and we thought we had enough. When we got back, we found out there were more people than we expected. When Hostess asked us why we didn't bring enough chairs, Oaf said because he thought we had enough."

The Jade Dragon's eyes narrowed,"Really?" Oh, oh, I thought. She continued,"I heard that he pointed out the cousins saying he didn't know they suppose to be here."

Ah, crap. Think, man, think! I thought to myself."Oh, no, he was just surprised that the cousins showed up and that he and Hostess hadn't prepared any of the guest rooms for the cousins. He thought they might all be a little crowded over at Hostess's sister's house. He was just worried the sister's house wouldn't fit them all. And he wished they had time to prepare some of the guest rooms." It was a blatant lie, of course, but I looked at each dragon's eyes without blinking as I told them this crap.

The dragons sat there, assessing the truthfulness of my answers. And I sat there, trying to exude calmness and confidence while planning my next move. Snow Dragon started again,"How nice of Oaf to worry like that."

"Yes," I replied,"well, they are his family now, so it's kind of the right thing to do."

Moon Dragon said,"Oh, yes. That is nice." She smiled at me,"You know, sometimes, it's hard for some people to accept Asian culture."

I smiled back,"You know, you're right, but some people can learn to adapt," I paused,"like me, for example," then I laughed.

The dragons laughed, too. Ha, I thought, I think I've managed this pretty well so far. So I continued,"You know, it's all about understanding that sometimes, people have different ideas and cultures, and the important thing is to respect those differences and treat each other well". I was smug, thinking, yeah, I should run for public office; I've lied and spewed enough crap in the last ten minutes.

Then Moon Dragon said,"You know, my husband and I had some of these problems the first few years we were married. But I suppose that's natural when two people from different cultures get married. There will be some problems."

I nodded my assent as Moon Dragon continued,"I imagine it must be the same with Oaf and Hostess."

"Sure," I said.

"Really," asked Snow Dragon,"Can you give us an example?"

Oh, muthafuc-, I've walked into an ambush! I had to think my reply carefully. On the one hand, if I started to name some problems between Oaf and Hostess, the Dragons would have ammo to use against them. Not to mention I would be betraying Hostess's confidence. On the other hand, if I didn't name any problems, the dragons would take it that I was being dismissive in the conversations and they would know that I was lying to them. That would still raise more suspicions about Oaf and Hostess's relationship. Plus, I'd end up in some hot water with the dragons. I was caught in their trap, and my next answer would determine if I would escape unscathed or be devoured by predators.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Feast of Predatory Beasts: The Snow Dragon


After greeting the Jade Dragon, I turned and gave a quick hug to the next aunt in line, Aunt June, the Snow Dragon. At 5'3", she was the tallest in the group. She was also the whitest. She was draped in a red and gold silk dress. I remembered that she recently had a cold. So naturally, I asked, "Aunty June, how are you feeling?"

She smiled,"I'm fine now. Thank you."

"Well, you look very good tonight", I said,"I'm so glad you could make it. Your dress makes you look like a blossoming flower" Well, it doesn't hurt to butter her up. She laughed and gave a small bow. I knew less about Snow Dragon than I did about Jade Dragon. But what I do know is that the first time someone told me her story, I got the chills.

Snow Dragon's mother was from an important Chinese family in Shanghai. When the Japanese invaded, the family pressured Snow Dragon's mother into a liaison with a Japanese officer. It was an opportunity to strengthen the family's position within the new administration. The result of this liaison was Snow Dragon, and the family used their new connection to acquire their competitors' resources. And when the tides of war changed and the Japanese retreated, the family's fortunes were reversed. Snow Dragon's father was killed in the fighting; Snow Dragon's mother committed suicide.

In the years after the war, the family struggled to regain their influence. Snow Dragon's grandmother arranged for her daughters and granddaughters to marry into money and influence. It was planned that when Snow Dragon reached 14, she was to marry a rich, gov't administrator, an old widower, who was over 60 years old. When Snow Dragon was 13, she decided to escape her fate. She set her sights on the Son of the Chairman of the local Communist Party. He had been to America and he seemed to treat her nice enough. The Son was, however, arranged to marry Snow Dragon's elder cousin.

During the New Year festival, she sneaked into his bedroom and proceeded to have relations with drunk Son, who was ten years her senior. At dawn, she took a few things from the room and went straight to see her grandmother. There, she spun a tale of how she was lured into the room of the Chairman's Son and how he forced himself upon her. She proceeded to show his jacket and his now stained sheets as proof of how he compromised her virtue. Armed with the evidence, the grandmother summoned the Chairman and demanded justice (compensation). To settle the affair and save face, Snow Dragon was to marry Son, the elder cousin to take Snow Dragon's place and marry the old widower.

By the time she was 20, Snow Dragon had 3 children,2 died during epidemics and only the youngest, a son, survived. When the Chairman died, Snow Dragon convinced Son to leave China. It wasn't easy trying to convince Son, but years of late night hushed conversations revealed that Son was impressed with America. They made arrangements for a ship to take them to America. They landed in Seattle.

I'm not exactly sure about the details of their life in Seattle, but I've been told that Snow Dragon and Son started off working menial jobs. They were able to save enough to rent a stall selling Chinese food, cooking out of their apt kitchen. Eventually, they opened their own restaurant and had more children. But it was in real estate that they made a fortune. The Boeing layoffs of the 1970s and the recession of the 1980s each presented them with a unique opportunity to buy foreclosed homes and renting them out. Eventually, when Seattle hit the tech boon of the 1990s and Microsoft ascended the stock market, people flocked to Seattle, looking for homes. And Snow Dragon and Son had quite a few choice properties for sale.

Whereas Jade Dragon had an army, Snow Dragon had the finances. To have acquired such a fortune required an astute intellect and ambition. I was told the story of how Snow Dragon eliminated a competitor in the early days of the restaurant. Another restaurant owner decided to expand and open an Italian restaurant across from Snow Dragon's restaurant. During their first meeting at the local business association, the Italian made great show of his wealth and his expansion plans to the other members. He bragged about how great quality food was going to be available to the area, and he joked that it would be much better than the dogs Snow Dragon served at her restaurant.

Though she laughed outwardly, Snow Dragon was livid and prepared for war, biding her time. The perfect opportunity came a month later. The president of the local business association was impressed by the Italian, as the Italian was considered a big fish for expanding. Everyone else in the association were small business owners. The president was so impressed that he decided to host his upcoming daughter's wedding reception at the Italian's restaurant. Snow Dragon saw her chance.

The morning of the wedding, Snow Dragon went over to the Italian's restaurant to drop off her wedding present. She carried a large gift bag filled with tissue paper and two boxes. The big box was gift wrapped and tagged. A much smaller box had no identifying tags. She asked the hostess where the gifts were being kept in the restaurant, and the hostess pointed out a table all ready piled with some gifts in a corded off area.

Snow Dragon walked up to the table, took her gift bag and placed it on the table. She took out the boxes. She set the big gift box in the front, and the smaller box behind it, hiding it from view. Then she gently opened the top of the smaller box slightly. She also took a small cookie from her purse, crumbled it, and spread it behind the big gift box. Then she turned, smiled at the hostess and thanked her. Snow Dragon told the hostess how much she looked forward to the reception in two hours.

She drove out to a public phone and called the restaurant inspection service and told them about a problem that needed immediate attention. Then she called the president's home, knowing the service staff would be at home. She told the staff about the big problem at the Italian's restaurant and the president needed to respond urgently. When she got to the wedding, she scanned for the president and saw he seemed to be upset. She walked up to him and offered her congratulations to the president and his wife. She asked them if everything was all right, and offered her services if there was anything she could do to help them. The president thanked her and told her that everything was fine. His wife offered a strained smile.

Snow Dragon took the wife aside, and prodded her gently about what was going on. The wife, exasperated, said that there was a problem with the Italian's restaurant. Snow Dragon told the wife that if it was a matter of more space for more people, then Snow Dragon would be happy to open up her restaurant and take up the extra people. This surprised the wife, as Snow Dragon's place was closed on Sundays. Then the wife excused herself to go talk to her husband. Hearing Snow Dragon's offer, the president told Snow Dragon that he appreciated her offer, but he didn't want her to go through so much trouble, especially since he had to feed these guest as well.

Snow Dragon told the president that feeding the guests would not be too big of an inconvenience, as she could call Son and he could start cooking for the guests. The food would be ready by the time the wedding was over. But being that it was so late, Snow Dragon told the president that the food would be Chinese, of course, and she hoped the guests would be fine with that. The president was grateful, shook Snow Dragon's hand and thanked her; he went inside the church. He announced to his guests that the reception was now going to take place at Snow Dragon's place, across the street from the Italian's. There were a few murmurs in audience, but the president offered the excuse that Snow Dragon's was opening especially for the guests today and it would accommodate everyone.

Snow Dragon told the wife she was going to help Son get the food ready and used the phone to call Son, letting him know of the developments. When she arrived home, she saw there was a small crowd outside the Italian's restaurant; some people were agitated. She smiled to herself, went inside, and waited for the guests. The reception went well, considering the last minute venue change. But overall, the guests had wine, dined, and danced once the DJ arrived. Snow Dragon kept her place open until ten that night, when everyone started leaving. When the bill came up, the president was surprised that the bill was smaller than what he hand in mind. Snow Dragon told the president it was a special wedding discount for the president. That night, Snow Dragon won an ally in the president and his wife.

Though she lost some money that night by being so generous to the president, she gained something much more. She gained the gratitude and support of the president. In a few years, the president would become a councilman, and Snow Dragon and Son would be counted among those the future council man would favor. In addition, she had struck the Italian with a crippling blow. And how did she manage it?

Simple. Snow Dragon had acquired an effective weapon the morning of the wedding. The weapon was kept in the small gift box. This was the same gift box that she left slightly opened. She knew that it would only be a matter of time before the weapon did damage. She expounded that damage by calling the restaurant inspector and the president's staff. The distraught president at the wedding and agitated people she saw outside the Italian's restaurant served to confirm her plan's success. Of course that was to be expected with this weapon. And just what was this weapon?

It was a perfectly legal weapon, though, it wasn't classified as a weapon. In fact, it was manufactured for something else entirely. It's pretty common in certain stores. Some parents and children alike have bought scores of these numerous times. But when Snow Dragon bought and used them in her plan, they became a terrifying weapon. What else would you call white mice, bred and sold in pet stores to feed snakes? And who wouldn't be terrified and panic to find mice in a restaurant? God knows if they've gotten into the food you're eating, or what diseases they were carrying. And it didn't matter that they were small or white; their very presence in a place of eating was not welcomed and was very wrong and revolting.

The demise of the Italian would continue at the speed of gossip. No one wanted to eat at the rat restaurant. Within a few months, the Italian was forced to shut down from a lack of revenue. The expansion (and his insult) had cost him a lot. In fact, his first restaurant struggled, plagued with a loss of customers when word spread of why he had to shut down his second restaurant. Eventually, he was forced to file for bankruptcy during the down turn of Seattle economy in the early 1980s. Snow Dragon had struck him a fatal blow, and he never even knew. Such was the skill and power of this dragon.

The lesson I've learned from this story was to never underestimate Snow Dragon. Never make her an enemy. And here she was, this powerful woman, standing in the foyer, scanning me as I was assessing her. I couldn't really read her intentions, but for now, I hope she came in peace.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Feasts of Predatory Beasts: The Jade Dragon

Act II

Dragons are powerful creatures of legend, whose origins are shrouded in mystery. And it was so with the aunts. Though, I've only heard of their history though whispers and rumors. But every myth has a grain of truth, and if you listen closely enough to the murmurs and sort through the riddles, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of reality. Not enough to paint the whole picture; but just enough to know the scene.

The entrance of the aunts had shifted the energies in the party. A keen observer of human behavior would've picked up on the change. It was a subtle shift, but for every Asian guest (and a select few non Asians in the know), the dynamics of the party had changed significantly. To the non Asian guests--some White, some Latino, and some Black--nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But for the rest of us, there was a heightened awareness of a new force that was permeating our surroundings.

I put the bottled water on an end table. Then beaming my most welcoming smile, I walked up to the aunts. I greeted them with as much sincere enthusiasm I could conjure up on the spot. I gave them a small bow, then I greeted the closest one to me, and hugged her briefly. Her head barely reached my chest, but it was a quick yet firm hug. It was just enough to express my gratitude for her presence.

"Aunty Phine," I said,"Hello." Her first name was Josephine, but everyone I know calls her Aunty Phine. I know her as the Jade Dragon. A quick scan of her head and I noticed she was wearing her jade earrings. "You're earrings look lovely! They're a perfect complement to your beautiful green eyes!"

The Jade Dragon let out a small laugh and gave me a light pat on the shoulder. She said,"Why, thank you!"

I called her the Jade Dragon, not because of her green eyes or her jewelry. Rather, it was because of what little I suspected were her true origins. Though her hair was gray for the most part, there're glimpses of gold that glittered in her coiffed bun, secured with a pair of jade butterfly combs. In the days of her youth, the Jade Dragon had golden blonde hair.

Her golden hair and green eyes may seem unusual, given the fact that the Jade Dragon is Vietnamese. But perhaps it is not so strange, as I've heard her ancestors were a blending of the French colonials who occupied Vietnam and married the local Vietnamese women back in the late 1800s. During the Vietnam War, the Jade Dragon's village was destroyed. She lost her husband and her entire family. It took her three long days to escape the jungle, avoiding the sounds of battles and hiding from armed patrols. She was not sure if she was safer with the Communists or the Americans. Both had annihilated her small village in their violent clash.

She ended up in Da Nang. A small Catholic Church offered her very little aid. They had nothing to give. There was no gov't assistance; corruption ruled the gov't, and the gov't was absolutely corrupted. With no education or relatives she could rely upon, Jade Dragon did what was necessary to survive.

She was beautiful, with her long blonde hair and green eyes; her petite figure and light skin made her a favorite of young American GIs. Young, teenage boys, homesick, looking for an escape, some virgins; others, a little older, but scarred from the experience of war; the dead walking, desperate to find some proof of life's worth. She offered them the illusion of living, fleeting moments of passion, mistaken for luv, the facade of a normal life with a pretty girlfriend, perhaps of a much missed wife. And within a few years, she had gone from the streets and using her small run down apt to owning a small but viable house of adult recreation.

She recruited a number of homeless teenagers; mostly orphans. Some sought her out when word spread of how generous she was to her workers compared to the other houses. And she was popular with the Americans. At some point, she became pregnant with her first child by an American--his identity she never revealed. Whether it's because she didn't know the father or his memory a source of sorrow, no one knows. But by the time the baby boy was born, it was evident that the Americans were losing the war. In a desperate gambit to give her child a chance at a better life, she gave him up to the Americans for adoption.

It must've been a painful decision to give up one's child, even if it was in hopes of giving the child a better life. How much more devastating it must've been for Jade Dragon, to learn that her baby never made it to America. He was among the dead when the plane carrying them crashed.

What happened after Jade Dragon learned of her baby's death is not known to me. But I was told that a few months later, she fled Vietnam when the Americans pulled out of the losing war. By the time Saigon fell and became renamed Ho Chi Minh City, she had landed in America, accompanied by a few of her girls who made the desperate choice to flee their homeland for an alien country.

Within a year of arriving in America, Jade Dragon made a living as a housekeeper, with some of her girls. San Diego, California was their new home. With her hard work (and no doubt her looks), Jade Dragon's clients included a number of military officials who lived in homes off military bases. One of these clients was a Lieutenant (LT) in the Navy.

LT was from a wealthy, pedigreed family from the East Coast. He was considered the black sheep of the family, having joined the military against his family's wishes. He was a Navy pilot, and he was just engaged to a social climber, a transplanted, bottled blond Kentuckian (KY) who moved to California to become famous in the movies. Upon announcing their engagement, KY moved into LT's home, and proceeded to declare herself queen of his kingdom. While LT was at work, KY would invite her sycophantic, spineless brother, Jelly, to come on over for a visit, and both proceeded to get drunk.

Showing off her new diggs and under the delusions of power, KY started to treat some of LT's workers like they were beneath her. She would order the gardener to plant new trees, only to ask him to rip them out to plant something else the following week. She was rude to the pool cleaners, making disparaging remarks about them as she and her brother drank by the pool. I am not sure if KY was aware that the workers knew English and didn't like her. But I don't think she would've cared. What I do know, is that she made the mistake of insulting Jade Dragon. During a drinking spree with her brother, KY demanded that Jade Dragon make KY and Jelly some lunch. Jade Dragon politely refused, reminding KY that she was only here to clean the house, not cook any food. In a drunken rage, KY called Jade Dragon a stupid lazy whore, and it was a mistake that would cost KY dearly.

True, Jade Dragon had a colorful history. But what she did was based on survival instincts in a terrible time of war. The next day, Jade Dragon put dissolved sleeping pills in the liqor. When KY and Jelly passed out in the living room after another drunken binge, Jade Dragon went to work. She undressed KY and Jelly, and putting them in compromising positions, she took some pictures--several rolls worth of film. This was on a Wednesday. The next day, Jade Dragon and her girls slipped these pictures in manila envelopes, and put them into LT's mail as well as a few of their influential and military clients' inboxes. By Friday afternoon, the Naval Base was abuzz with news of the seemingly incestuous pictures. That evening, LT kicked KY out of his house, despite her pleas of innocence. But the damage went much further. KY's agent dropped her when the fotos were anonymously mailed to his office. Without a friend or ally in her corner, KY was forced to leave California with Jelly, spurring more nasty rumors, presumably to return to the Kentucky mountains from whence they came.

But the Jade Dragon was not done yet. She lent a sympathetic ear to a torn, angry LT. Six months later, they started dating. Another six months and they were married. And within a few years, Jade Dragon surreptitiously arranged for each of her girls to marry American military officers. Jade Dragon bore LT 4 children, all of whom grew up to be quite successful individuals. Following her husband's relocation to several military bases around the world, Jade Dragon found opportunities to increase her power. Quite a number of young Asian women escaped poverty by marrying military men, all through Jade Dragon's intervention. I understand that a few of the marriages ended in divorce, but the majority lasted. In the end, these women see Jade Dragon as their mother, to whom they owned their loyalty, willing to do whatever she asked. Jade Dragon had amassed an Amazonian force ready to engage in warfare on her command.

I've met LT one time a few years ago. He seemed happy enough, and told us how lucky he was to have met his wife. He regaled us with stories of adventures around the world; and made us laugh with tales of raising his children and cultural misunderstandings. LT passed away shortly after that. But Jade Dragon still lives. Looking at this small, weathered woman, one might never have guessed the incredible tragedies Jade Dragon endured in life. But Jade Dragon persevered and overcame. Out of the searing flames of suffering and under the hammer of sorrow, Jade Dragon was forged into a formidable woman. Her power lies in her ability to do what needs to be done to remain alive against all odds. She is a survivor, after all. And she is a true Dragon of the West. And tonight, the fates conspired that I must deal with Jade Dragon. While I hoped she came in peace, in my heart, I knew that quite possibly, she may have come to hunt. And would I be an ally this night, or her next meal?