Dyes & Gulls
© 2011 by Walter D. Reimer
She did a double-take.
Through the window she could see a billboard advertising Spontoon-produced Union Maid beer.
The stone bas-relief George was studying...
The two looked quite a bit alike.
Laura toyed with telling him, but discarded the idea. He’d find out eventually.
As George started to laboriously copy the inscription, Laura noticed that the tour guide was slipping out a side door. His hat was left behind, perched on top of a nearby wooden tiki that looked like another cigar-store Indian.
He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry.
Laura frowned and eased out of the building, following the guide at a discreet distance.
He headed for a small folding table set under a tree. Around the table six foxes, four tods and two vixens, sat and played dominoes. Money, mostly coins but some Spontoonie pound notes, were changing paws.
The tour guide ran up to one of the vixens and leaned close to whisper in her ear. Laura’s ears swiveled to catch the conversation, which was difficult because of a nearby radio tuned to the island’s only station, LUKR.
To the sound of relentlessly cheerful hula music a group of women sang: “You pray to ocean gods/ you think you go the right/ you trip over the tikis/ in the middle of the night...”
The song faded out and was replaced by the show’s announcer, who said cheerfully, “Weren’t they wonderful, folks? And so nice to look at since their rhino fungus cleared up. And if you get rhino fungus, folks, be sure to try Snouto, the magic way to a more attractive muzzle!”
“Yeah,” another voice mourned, “and they used up the last pumpkin, too.”
“Yeah. It was being used to store inferior cuts of salmon. Some criticize that, others don't. It really depends on whose lox is being gourd.”
A sound of hammers striking wood followed, accompanied by yelps to the tune of the Anvil Chorus.
The woman at the small table looked up at A’alati, irritated.
“Damn it, A’alati, speak up!” the woman snapped. She was a very broad vixen dressed in a tatty floral print sarong. “Whaddaya want? I’m tryin’ to bet here.”
One of the men laughed. “An’ ya know numbers ain’t her strong suit.”
“Sez you, Benny. Out with it, A’alati.”
Laura watched as A’alati spoke to the group. When he finished, all six furs at the table laughed, their vulpine brushes waving. She took advantage of their laughter to return unnoticed to the museum.
Which was a pity.
Benny tapped a domino on the table. “Okeh, people. Th’ government of Gull Island’s in session, so shut up. We’ve seen these PRICK types here before, so the question is can we make it interesting?”
The other woman said, “Sure. But we gotta keep it, like, intimate. A’alati, ring up the Kolad’nee brothers, an’ tell ‘em we got a caper for ‘em.”
“You’re kidding,” Benny said.
“Hell no,” the vixen declared. “Them little rugsuckers are tops for this. It’ll be the sweetest scam since we took Hanoi Xan for ten grand back in ’29.”
Benny and another man snickered. “Yeah. Volcanic diamond mine – whatta load o’ suckers.”
“I get the feeling something’s going on.”
“I mean, our guide snuck out of here, and there’s a group of people out there. It seems suspicious.”
Laura stamped one large foot. “Dammit, Skippy! Are you even listening to me?”
“Huh? Wha?” Her mate looked around and finally focused on her. “Oh, hi Laura! I’ve been decipherin’ this, and I could be wrong – “
“ – but I think the inscription points to Lemuria’s location,” George said, ignoring her comment. “From what I can make out, the inscription reads ‘All those . . . make festival . . . Goddess . . . and then there’s a set of numbers.”
“Yeah.” George scratched his head, deep in thought. “Could be a date, or - a set of coordinates!” he said, snapping his fingers. “Crikey, why didn’t anyone think of it before?”
“I guess they don’t have your way of thinking about things, Skippy,” Laura commented with a straight face.
“Too right! Hmm, now let me see... Figure the ancient Polynesians had the same base six maths as the Babylonians...” His eyes crossed a bit as he thought furiously for almost a minute.
Suddenly he yelped, “We need to be on the opposite side of the island, Laura!”
“The northeast side of the island? You sure?”
“Sure I’m sure!” he said in definite tones. “Only place they can be, by my calculations.”
Laura refrained from pointing that his calculations had once led them to Lagos when they were supposed to be going to Lhasa. Upon reflection, having George read up on Madame Blovatski had probably been a bad idea.
“So, shall we head on over there, my love?” he asked.
They walked back to the hotel, and Laura paused before walking into the lobby.
A familiar beagle-patterned fox was pedaling away furiously on a rusty bicycle.
The Patagarangs rented a bicycle and a pedicab from the bait shop, and set off on the north road out of Komo.
It was quite a nice day, with the roads well-graded. Once or twice they were passed by trucks hauling phosphate rock to the port or acting as buses, hauling people and goods from place to place. Despite the back of the pedicab filled with their equipment, Laura enjoyed the feeling of the sea breeze in her headfur.
A young man passed her, going the opposite way, and she turned her head to admire the muscular form. She did a double take and almost veered off the road when she realized that the man was wearing only a skimpy loincloth.
“C’mon, Laura! Keep up, there’s my girl!” George exhorted from maybe fifty yards ahead. The doe gritted her teeth and started pedaling harder in order to catch up with him.
They stopped at a roadside eatery for lunch, and as they savored the leafy salad and toothsome steamed scallops Laura asked, “So, what if this doesn’t work out, Skippy?”
George looked at her, swallowed and replied, “Then we go back to the museum, love, and run the figures again.”
“Thought so.” George was like a feral canine with a bone at times.
That reminded her of Igor Blymee, who occasionally carried a small bone in his pocket to gnaw on when he was bored.
After lunch they set off again and Laura watched George’s tailfur as he pulled ahead of her. She smiled to herself and put more effort into her pedaling, coming off the bike saddle as her tail thrashed.
They rounded a bend in the road and narrowly avoided another truck loaded with phosphate. As the dust cleared, George halted. Laura caught up to him and also stopped.
Four figures, all vulpine to a certain degree or other, stood by the side of the road. Three were of roughly equal height, maybe as tall as George; the fourth was maybe seven feet tall and scaled appropriately. They were all dressed in loincloths, elaborate headdresses and furpaint. One carried a staff festooned with small carved amulets.
Laura blinked. All four had loincloths of equal size, which was all right for the first three, but sadly (and rather interestingly) inadequate for the fourth man.
The one with the staff poked at the others then shook the implement at George while intoning, “Manu-lu o tikki-tee-ah!”
“G’day!” George said cheerfully. “And what’s with ya, mates?”
The one with the staff cleared his throat and said, “You are he... who has been ... “
The second took up the slack. “He means that you are one prophesied.”
“Welcome!” said the third.
“Uhm.” That seemed to exhaust the fourth man’s vocabulary.
“I know what I was going to say!” the first snapped, and aimed a roundhouse swipe of the staff at the second, who ducked. The third man took the stout length of wood straight in the muzzle. He fell back a few steps, howling as the first one said to George, “I – we – welcome you to our island, Prophesied One.”
“’Prophesied One?’” Laura asked skeptically.
“Oh yes,” the second chimed in. “The ancients said that one will come, with feet and tail of great size, from a far land – “
The first interrupted, “And he will show us ancient secrets.”
Laura flicked an ear. “How convenient. Who are you guys? The welcome wagon?”
“I ain’t no Conestoga,” the third said indignantly. His outburst earned him another clout from the staff.
The first grounded his staff and struck a pose. “We are Priests of the Sacred Legends of Gull Island. I am Mororua.” His fur was black, but had a white blaze running from between his eyes to the back of his head.
“I am Lararua,” the second said. His fur color was exactly the opposite of Mororua’s, and the two looked like brothers.
The third, when nudged, mumbled “Lur’paka.” Oddly, his fur was the color of a brown butter sauce.
“And who’s he, then?” Laura asked. “Tall, brindle and oversized?”
“That’s Tiny,” Mororua said. “Don’t mind him – his mother was frightened by a horse when she was with child.”
“Is that what they call it around here,” Laura muttered, giving the impassive Tiny an appraising look.
George waved the conversation aside.
“Whatcha fannin’ the air for?” Lur’paka asked curiously. “Ya havin’ an episode or somethin’?”
“What? No! So you’re Priests of the Sacred Legend? Then you have to know about Lemuria!”
The three foxes exchanged looks. “Lemuria?” Lararua echoed.
“Yes! The ancient lost city of lemurs?”
The trio went into a huddle and held a fast, low-voiced conversation.
"It's a dope who don't vote a straight ticket."
"Dat's a leaner, ya knob."
"Oh, yeah, it's a PRImate, a primate it is."
"Whaddya spoze dey want wit' a high-rankin' Jesuit?"
"I dunno. Mebbe dey're talent spottin' fer da Vatican." Noticing the two kangaroos watching, they suddenly broke ranks and Mororua said, “Suuuuuure. Sure, we gotsa a lemur. Ain't we, Har – er, Lu’paka?"
"Yeah yeah, sure sure!" Lur’paka agreed, shaking his head yes so hard Laura fancied she could hear his brains rattling.
She was reasonably certain there was enough room.
“So you can help us?” George asked. Laura sighed to herself.
“Sure! Come on! This way!” Mororua exclaimed. He and the others scurried off, and George followed on his bicycle.
Laura laboriously got the pedicab moving again, hoping it wouldn’t get stuck in the sand.
The pedicab got stuck twice.
George, naturally, was already far ahead.