Dyes & Gulls
© 2011 by Walter D. Reimer
Mororua swatted him against the back of his head.
“Sorry, Mororua . . . I mean, a fur who looks like they can be had . . . *FWAK* . . . that looks like they have . . . “
“What he means is,” Lur’paka supplied helpfully, “is dat youse is supposed to find it.”
“I am, hey?” George said. “This land belong to anyone?”
“What you mean, mate?” Mororua asked.
“Well, we can’t do any searching without permission from the bloke who owns the property.”
The three articulate foxes looked at him a moment, then went back into a huddle. A short conversation ensued, with Lur’paka getting smacked across the jaw. While the butter-colored fox felt for loose teeth Mororua said, “Is simple matter. You pay contribution to island charity, we give you permission.”
“What charity? Laura! You got the checkbook, love?”
“Of course I do, George.”
“Well give it here, will you? There’s a girl,” and he took the checkbook from her paws before she could voice an objection. He started scribbling in it and asked, “Who do I make it out to?”
This question prompted yet another huddle. “Is important charity,” Mororua said. “Dedicated to keeping all Gull Island archeological treasures here, so not stolen by greedy outlanders.”
“Right! What do I put down, then?”
“’Keep Antiquities Safe Here.’ Just put down initials; bank know where to put money.”
George nodded, obediently scrawling the letters. “How much?”
“One hundred pounds.”
Laura’s ears went straight up.
Lur’paka started talking at a high rate of speed, “OneoneoneisthebiddoIhearonefiftyonefiftyonefiftywobid’snowattwohundredamIbidtwo-fiftytwo-fiftytwo-fifty . . .”
“Two-five it is, then!” and George wrote in the amount.
“SOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLD, AMERICAN!” Lur’paka shouted, only to have both of his brothers start beating him.
Mororua accepted the signed check with a flourish while Laura looked on, thunderstruck. Lararua was still kicking Lur’paka, and Tiny just stood by doing his impassive impression.
The white-nosed fox gestured at the small knoll. “Is all yours! Dig, and let us know if anything found!”
“Crikey! Laura love, can you get a shovel out of our gear, there’s a love?”
“George . . . “
“I figure we’ll start at the summit, and start working our way down – eh? What’s that, love?”
“You just paid two hundred fifty pounds – “
“Too right I did! Gives us permission to dig. Get the camera set up while you’re about it, dear, and I’ll get to digging.” With that, the kangaroo shouldered his shovel and ascended the promontory.
“Why I put up with him, I’ll never know . . . “ Laura dug into her equipment and pulled out her Speed Graphic. She checked the film and snapped a few establishing shots, noting through the camera’s viewfinder that a small house sat amid trees a short distance away.
After about an hour George had peeled back the top of the knoll, setting aside the various plants he’d found there, and was digging while Laura shot perhaps half a roll of film. The doe was setting up another shot when her ears swiveled and she looked around.
A plump canine woman was coming from the direction of the house, waving and yelling in the native patois. Laura couldn’t understand all of it, but what she did understand was enough to scorch the fur in her ears. “Um, George,” she said as the woman started up the hill toward them.
George had methodically cleared one level, and was carefully scraping away the last of the topsoil. “Yeah, love?”
The canine moved straight past Laura and started haranguing George, who barely paused in his digging and smiled up at her. “’Sokay, Missy,” he said cheerfully, “I’ve got permission.”
The woman yelled at him for a few more minutes, then whirled and stamped off, muttering to herself.
“I think she’s angry.”
“I think I know why.”
“You’re digging up her garden, love.”
George paused, the boomer taking a pawkerchief from a pocket and mopping his brow. “Shouldn’t matter,” he declared, squinting up at the sun. “I mean, I paid for the right to dig here.”
“Well, you didn’t get a receipt. Or a bill of sale.”
“That’s your end of things, love, and a damn fine job you do, too.”
Laura glowered at him, but before she could retort the canine woman brushed past her again.
This time with a hoe in her paws.
What followed could best be described as a professional demonstration of best-quality Oriental staff-fighting, as the woman laid about her with the implement. To his credit, George tried to use the shovel to defend himself before being driven yelping away from the garden, the woman in hot pursuit.
Laura made sure there were plenty of pictures.
“Hold still, love.”
“That iodine hurts, Laura!”
“Well, Skippy, you should be used to how it feels by now.”
“Oh, ha ha.”
“There, all patched up. Do me a favor next time, Skippy.”
“Try not to find such a tough row to hoe.”
The next day George was healing up, but moving a bit slower than his usual headlong pace. Nevertheless, to his wife’s chagrin he insisted on setting out again. “My calculations can’t be that far off, love,” he said as he gingerly mounted his bicycle (the woman with the hoe had struck him in one area not covered by PRICK’s insurance), “so we’ll come at it from the opposite direction.”
Naturally, he set off and was soon far in front of Laura, who followed with the pedicab containing their gear. Fortunately, she’d offloaded a good part of it, mostly camping equipment, at the hotel before they’d left.
Still, she caught herself muttering to herself in Old Tasmanian as she put her weight to the pedals.
They followed the road leading west from Komo, the morning sun at their backs until the road headed north past a few small villages. Locals watched them curiously as they passed.
Rounding a walled compound Laura had to put on the brakes or she would have gone past Skippy, who had halted his bike to talk with the same quartet they’d encountered the day before. The taller one, Tiny, seemed to be as laconic as ever, while the other three were engrossed in crouching by the wall, muttering and casting what looked like knucklebones at the base of the wall.
“What’s this then?” Laura asked. “Crap game?”
“Naaaah, dis here’s onea dem . . . y’know, rites,” Mororua said.
“I shoot wit’ me left,” Lur’paka protested.
“Shaddap,” and Mororua smacked his brother fox across the back of his head. Lur’paka whined and his throw went awry.
“What he means is,” Mororua went on, “is that we all got our point in life, y’know.”
Lararua remarked, “Yeah, an’ mine’s a six. C’mon, baby, don’t fail me now . . . “ A yelp signaled that Lararua, as well, had earned a buffet to the ears from his brother.
“We dug where you told us to dig,” George interposed in an aggrieved tone, “and I was viciously attacked!”
“By the actual owner of the property,” Laura added.
“Er... well, she had no right to object!” Mororua declaimed. “Th’ ancient ruins of – what’d ya call it again?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, that place. Ennyway, th’ ruins of Lemuria are the province of people like us!” The fox tapped his chest, eliciting a brief coughing jag. “We’re th’ Priests of the Great Legend, after all!”
Laura reminded herself to occasionally change the expression on her face. Getting hit in the head might make her face freeze in a skeptical expression forever, and scare their son when they got home.
George, however, was looking eager. “The ancient legends, they say where we might find a better spot to dig, then?”
“Sure!” Lur’paka said with almost equal eagerness. “The legends say that there are ruins all over the place. You can’t swing a dead cat – but if you want to, there’s the Dead Cat Ritual, which goes for ten pounds fifty – OW!” The fox rubbed the back of his head and glared at Mororua. “What’d you do that for?”
“Amscray, oobsbay,” the older of the group growled, and then smiled up at George. “You’ll have to forgive him. He just got promoted from senior acolyte.”
“I ain’t got my badge yet!”
“And one more word outta you, and I’ll dock yer pay!” Mororua said sharply. Lur’paka promptly dissolved into tears, and Lararua patted him on the back.
“So, where are these ruins, then?” Laura asked.
“The legends say that they’re a bit over there,” and the vulpine waved in a vague direction that managed to bring in a guano quarry, a nearby stand of palm trees, and Tiny’s nose. “Most of them are undersea, though.”
“An undersea kingdom?” George asked.
“Oh, it didn’t start out that way,” Lararua said, “but that’s what happens when you don’t take care of the place. Goes to seed quick, and next thing you know you’re under water.”
“I thought it was cuz our ancestors didn’t keep up the payments,” and Mororua smacked Lur’paka across the muzzle.
“What he meant was that our ancestors didn’t sacrifice to the gods, y’know,” Mororua said. “So the gods, like, sank the place.”
“So it’s underwater? We didn’t bring diving equipment,” Laura said.
“Naw, we know where part of it is.”
“If it’s an undersea ruin, what’s part of it doing on land?” George asked.
Laura was certain that if she rolled her eyes any more, they’d fall out of her head.
George, however, was undeterred. His compulsive persistence made him endearing to her, though, which was why she hung around. Well, that, as well as certain physical attributes.
“Hmm,” her mate said, his ears laying back as he thought. “Most of it underwater...but parts of it are here...buried somewhere, is it? And how do we find it?”
“Lur’paka, get yer mask on,” and the younger priest fumbled for his carved tiki face as Mororua said, “We shall consult the gods. Lur’paka is, er, our medium.”
“Yeah, cuz he ain’t well done,” Lararua interjected. He ducked Mororua’s slap and added, “He’s also what you call more orthodox. He’s a fundie.”
“Hey!” Lur’paka said, his voice muffled by the wooden mask. “I ain’t orthodox – I’ve got fur! And what the hell’s a fundie?”
"It means watch yer wallet." Lararua didn’t duck fast enough, and whined as he rubbed his aching ears.
Mororua rubbed his paw. "What this dope...I mean, brother, means, is dat he's in charge of all our whatchamalit, eeelyomissionary endeavours. He collects funds fer 'em." He and Lur’paka sat down on the sandy ground and the two foxes started to chant in low, singsong tones.
Mororua then asked, “Magatualoo ohneeah ohnyeda ohlayoff whereisit?”
Lur’paka intoned, “Bulalolalala beetsmi.”
Mororua smacked him, then flipped his paw in pain from striking the hard carved wood before looking up at George. “The medium, sacred and wise – a real wise guy – says that the ruins are hidden near the shore.”
“Makes sense,” George said. “Can he point the way?”
Mororua nodded and asked, “Magatualooloo pekkipikkipavvi point?”
“Bullibulliwullibulli totheright hah!” Lur’paka pointed to his right.
Mororua, facing him, pointed to his right, then sat back and slapped Lur’paka again, dislodging his mask. “It’s off that way,” he said, “near the shore.”
“You sure?” Laura asked.
“I’m sure it’s the shore!”
“Sure!” Lur’paka echoed.
“All right, show us where,” Laura said as she brushed past Tiny on the way back to her pedicab. She paused and looked back at the tall fox, sniffing.
Tiny had looked back at her, seen her sniffing, and smiled.