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-by John Urie-
A Spontoon Island Story
By John Urie
On Your Marks...
“And that,” said Katie, straightening up and taking another bite of the sugar-cane, “was when I first learned you BETTER have some respect for Polynesian culture...or any other damn culture that isn’t your own...Coz you never know.” Ymmm, but this was good cane...even better than Hawaiian and lots better than New Guinean…
Both the fox-pups and the cats just nodded slowly at this...as if to acknowledge the foolishness of those malihini who, unlike Katie, regarded their way of life quaint at best and inferior at worst.
After the two youngsters had departed, Katie turned to the pair of felines in charge of the hangar.
“Okay, boys...how about helping me get my little girl inside the hangar? Should be a few of my furs showing up in a minute or two to keep watch on her, and then you guys can go ahead and take off.”
The NEXT thing she said was, “All right...you wanna tell me what you’re looking at me that way for...or not looking at me, should I say?”
The two felines just exchange uncomfortable glances again.
“Uh-huh.” said Katie, and strode past them, towards the side entrance to the hangar. Ooo, she had better not find what she thought she was going to.
There was no window in the door. With an irritated snuffle, Katie grabbed the knob, muttering, “This damn thing better be unlocked.” It was. She felt the knob turn easily in her hoof, but when she tried to open the door, it refused to budge.
That was when she noticed the padlock.
“All right.” she demanded, wheeling around with her hooves on her hips, “Which one of you’s got the key to this damn thing?”
Neither cat answered, and Katie neighed in angry North Papuan: “Fine, fella! You hook fish, now YOU bring it in!”
She spun around and dropped into a half hand-spring, her cocked rear hooves aimed squarely at the center of the door.
“No, wait!” cried the smaller cat, “Don’t kick it down! They make us pay.” He hurriedly produced a key ring.
Katie heaved herself upright and snatched the key so quickly from his paws, they appeared to vanish into thin air.
“I DON’T have time for bullshit.” she muttered, jamming the key in the lock and twisting so hard, it must surely break off...but it didn’t.
The lock snapped open and Katie yanked the door open
Then she just stood there, tapping a hoof on the dock’s thick planking and breathing VERY evenly.
After short, tense interval, she turned and smiled at the two cats – actually half a smile and half pursed lips; the way a teacher might smile while looking over the shoulder of a troublemaker who doesn’t know she’s there/
She crooked a finger and beckoned.
“Come heeeere, boys.” she told them in a sickly-sweet, singsong voice.
The two cats began to shuffle forward. Katie stomped her foot on the boards
They made it the rest of the way at a fast run. Katie promptly caught the larger cat with an arm around his shoulder, swinging him in a fast doh-see-doh, and bringing him to a halt facing through the door..
“Okay,” she purred, in that same saccharine voice, to which she began to add droplets of vitriol with every subsequent word she spoke, “Now, you want to tell me what someone else’s plane is doing in the hangar that I reserved for my use eight yiffing MONTHS ago?”
The aircraft that had usurped The Little Engine’s place of repose was clearly not another Schneider-Cup Racer...not unless the Schneider was going back to biplanes, which seemed pretty unlikely at this point.
Not that the Beech Staggerwing had NEVER been race-plane. Two years previously, in 1936, one of them had captured the Bendix Trophy, the same race Katie herself had won in 1934.
But given that the Staggerwing’s victory had been achieved at the lowest speed ever recorded for a Bendix winner, it was highly implausible that this one was a Schneider entry. Which meant that it had exactly ZERO business being on this part of Eastern Island, much less in this particular hangar.
It was at once an odd and beautiful aircraft, with the smooth lines for which Beech aircraft had long been noted, and a big, humped cockpit. The Beech Staggerwing took it’s name from the fact that it’s lower wing was actually canted ahead of it’s upper wing. This particular variant was painted a glossy, brick red, with canary-yellow piping, and rested on two long floats instead of landing gear.
Katie let go of the cat strode over to the plane leaning close; studying the cabin door and the cowling, searching for the owner’s name. None was there.
She turned around, wiping her brow with the back of one hoof. Damn, it was hot in here. Who the heck had closed up all the ceiling vents? Well, never mind, it was about to become downright searing in this place. Crossing her arms, Katie began to tap her hoof on the concrete of the hangar floor, regarding the two cats out of her one blue eye.
“I thought I asked you a question.” she said, “What’s this plane doing in my hangar?”
The two felines just looked at each other. Katie’s ear laid back, and she stomped one foot into the floor. In the confines of the hangar, this time the report was like a rifle shot. Both cats jumped a good six inches.
“Well?” she demanded, baring her teeth in equine rancor as she spoke.
“It...It’s not our fault...” the smaller feline, the calico started to say.
Katie’s hoof smacked the concrete again.
“That’s not what I asked you, boys. I want to know HOW this plane got in here...and right now, no more yanking me around.”
The two cats looked at each other again...then sagged in defeat and turned to face her.
“This malihini girl show up,” the larger cat, the ginger tabby said, “An’ tell us open up the hanga’ so she can put her plane in. We tell her she no can’ do this...that this hanga’ reserved, but she no take no for answa’. Say she no take back-talk like that from likes of us.”
“Meaning not from any heathen, backwards Polynesians.” Katie thought but did not say. She could almost sympathize with the cat...but only almost. From what Zeke had told her, Spontoon Islanders were not noted for allowing western furs to use them as doormats. Just the opposite in fact.
“Yeah.” His smaller companion now joined in. “She real bossy...spoutin’ orders like she’ sea-god Moana come out of Pacific. Tell us we better not mess up her plane or we be really sorry.”
“I see,” said Katie, still regarding them with folded arms, “And now may I ask, why’d you two let a malihini female push you around like that, hmmm? It’s news to me if Spontoon Island became a US or European colony while I was on my way here.”
This last barb struck home with a nasty sting. Both cats winced...and both their ears went back.
“Good,” thought Katie, “Get angry at me all you want, long as you take a little pride in who you are.”
Finally, the tabby spoke.
“It wasn’t coz she was malihini, Miss.” He began to shuffle his feet, “It coz she...she...”
“Coz she very beautiful.” his companion blurted out.
Another smile crept it’s way around Katie’s face, a wicked, nasty smile...the way a vampire might look before sinking her fangs into an especially succulent throat. Ohhhhh, so THAT’S how it was, was it?
"Well, TWO can play at that game, sister!"
“And what am I?” murred Katie, reaching up to undo the top button of her tunic, “Chopped liver?”
She began to walk towards the cats in an undulating strut, pulling her flying gloves off slowly, one finger at a time. The pair began to regard each other even more uncomfortably than before and she saw the larger one drop his paws in front of his tropic area.
Fish in a barrel.
“Now,“ she told them, in a voice laced with equal parts honey and venom. “let’s just settle this right now, ‘kay? This is MY hangar...I paid for it in advance, right?”
“Uhh, right!” said the smaller cat, almost swallowing his Adam’s Apple.
“Mmmnnn-Hmmnn, That’s right.” said Katie. She was now almost nose to nose with both cats.. Raising a finger, she laid it atop the larger ones’s muzzle and pressed lightly downward, forcibly lowering his gaze to meet hers, “So...why don’t you just do me a nice favor, and get that plane out of here and bring mine inside? Okayyyy?”
The cat’s next words might more properly have come from a mouse, as they were delivered in a high squeak.
“Miss...I would have take it out already, but...but...”
“But...what?” queried Katie, in that same VERY soft and silky voice.
He swallowed hard, twice and pointed a trembling finger at the water below the Beech’s tail section...and now, for the first time Katie saw the stout chain encircling both a float-strut and one of the pilings.
“W-We come heah this...this m-mornin to get the hanga’ ready for you...uh, an’ found th-that chain up...a-an’ a note saying...uh, ‘You betta not cut dis, or...or else.’
“An’ we did try!” chimed in the other cat, in a plaintive, ‘please-make-it-stop’ voice, “But she won’t cut with saw. Need oxy-torch.”
Katie instantly dropped the vamp act and became Annie Oakley again.
“Well, hell’s bells, boys,” she said, tucking her flying gloves neatly into the side of her belt, “why didn’t you say so in the first place? Look, can one of you run over by Superior Engineering n’ see if they can help us out? Just tell ‘em Catherine MacArran sent you.”
The look of relief on both cat’s faces was enough to cool the air a few degrees.
“I go.” said the smaller one, and started to turn away. Katie immediately raised a hoof..
“Hold on a second first, son. What’s your name?”
“Maka-ti,” said the smaller cat.
“And I’m Paoluu-ti.” said his larger companion.
Katie reached out to shake with both of them. Each one took her hoof hesitantly, then shook it vigorously.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you boys. And you can call me Katie...to my face. Out of earshot, I guess anything’s fair game about now.”
For the first time since her arrival, Maka and Paoluu actually grinned. Then, the smaller cat was out the door and away. Katie watched him go, and returned her attention to the staggerwing.
“You catch the name of the girl this plane belongs to, by any chance, Paoluu?” she asked. The cat grinned sheepishly.
“Hard to catch anything about that femme, ‘cept...” By way of explanation, he spread his paws open, as if to grasp a pair of oversized honeydew melons, and held them in front of his chest.
“Uh-huh,” said Katie, then turned halfway around, “But was her ass as nice as mine?”
This was meant good naturedly and the feline took it as such.
“Now you know why we no ask you YOUR name right away, Katie.” he said, and then grew serious, stroking his muzzle with a finger, “But I think she call herself...hmmm, Athena something. Hmmm, starts with M...Ah, ‘More’ something...More....More...Morefeeee...’”
“Moorefield?” asked Katie, taking a chance. It was a long shot, but jusssst maybe.
Paoluu snapped his fingers, “Yeah, that’s it. You know her, Katie?”
“No,” said Katie, “but I know her family...or at least I know OF them.” She gave her head a little toss of surprise. If it had really been a member of the Moorefield clan who’d lorded it over Haka-ti and Paoluu-ti, she was going very much against the family grain.
The only reason the Moorefields weren’t part of the Boston Brahmins clique was that they didn’t come from Boston. They hailed from Providence, Rhode Island, where the family had been prominent since before the America Revolution...and wealthy since the American Civil War. Living and working as she did in Burlington Vermont, ( those rare times when she wasn’t either off globetrotting, or in Britain ) Katie couldn’t help knowing about them; New England is not a large place, after all. Furthermore, during Grandpa Joe’s days as a Senator, one Gerald Moorefield had been his biggest political nemesis...and yet the two had always maintained a cordial fursonal relationship. These days, the Moorefield family were all staunch New Dealers...not surprising since they had all been staunch Abolitionists in the previous century. They were supposedly so committed to the ideal that Abraham Lincoln had laid down in the Gettysburg Address, that all species are created equal, they had reportedly incorporated it into the family crest.
So what the Hell was one of their number doing acting all superior like that...and on Spontoon island of all places? It just didn’t fit...unless perhaps that name had been a mere coincidence.
“What species was she?” Katie asked.
“Skunk,” answered Paoluu immediately, “But with real unusual colah pattern...”
“Kinda yellow-gold body-fur...with a white front and stripes, and really pale, blue eyes?”
Paoluu crossed his arms and nodded, “Yeah...that her.”
“And that’s a Moorefield all right,” said Katie, nodding back and looking thoughtful. “They don’t all get that color pattern, but when they do, it’s pretty damn hard to miss...”
At that moment, Haka reappeared in the doorway, out of breath.
“Well, that was quick.” said Katie, ears rising to point at each other. “Did you bring a cutting torch?”
Haka just gasped and said, “She here, Katie.”
“Wha...? Who’s here?” Katie asked, and immediately realized who the cat must be talking about.
She stepped out of the shed, with Paoluu following behind her, and saw a skunk-femme matching Paoluu’s description advancing towards them with clenched fists, and an irate expression on her face. She was younger than Katie...early to middle twenties, somewhere around there.
And she WAS a looker all right...with a curvaceous figure, long legs, and what was up front REALLY counted.
However Katie was not, as she herself had phrased it, chopped liver by comparison. Not hardly. This time, Athena Moorfield would be playing on level ground. Already the pinto mare could see Haka and Paoluu exchanging sly, sidelong glances. They knew they were in for a show.
For her part, the skunkette was dressed in a knee-length tennis skirt and a short-sleeve blouse of powder blue chambray. On her feet, she wore a pair of rubber sandals that the Japanese called zorii. Whatever she was dressed for, it most certainly wasn’t flying...which meant that she had NOT come here to move her plane out of the hangar.
Walking straight up to Katie MacArran, she put her paws on her hips and lifted her nose as though she had just caught an unpleasant odor. (A gesture Katie considered mildly hypocritical in a skunk.) She was a good three inches taller than Katie and as Paoluu had indicated earlier, also a good three inches larger around the bust-line.
“Just what were you doing in there with my airplane?” she demanded, in a voice dripping with ice-water.
Katie’s ears disappeared from sight and her voice became even more unfriendly.
“You mean what’s your plane doin’ in MY hangar?!” she snapped back angrily
The skunk-femme seemed not to hear Katie’s words, only her accent.
“I don’t know who you are, Little Miss prairie-chicken, but I do NOT tolerate being talked to in that tone of voice...and you’ll keep yourself away from my plane if you know what’s good for you.”
“No,” said Katie, exasperation starting to overtake here, “You’ll get that plane out of my hangar if you know what’s good for you!” Christmas...how could this femme NOT know who Katie was, or at the very least that she was here to race in the Schneider Cup? It was only the biggest event of the year on Spontoon Island. And don’t you see that plane tied up to the dock behind me, missy-snot-nose? Hellooooo, what kind of plane IS that?
Athena Moorefield stamped a foot, and Katie’s nostrils flared. When a mephit did that, it was the first warning that they were preparing to spray.
“Don’t even think about it, bitch.” Katie hissed, under her breath, “Not unless you want to find out whether it’s possible to spray an enemy AFTER you’ve had your tail stuffed three feet up your ass.”
All the color drained from Athena’s ears. This was obviously language she was unaccustomed to hearing.
“That was just to let you know who you’re messing with,” said Katie, “First of all, unless you’re either competing in the Schneider Cup, a race-crew member, or you work on this part of Eastern Island, you’re not supposed to be in this area..”
The skunkette immediately drew herself up in high dudgeon once more.
“You don’t tell me where I...”
“Second,” said Katie, cutting her off, “By putting your plane in a hangar reserved for someone else’s use, AND paid for by them in advance, you’re technically guilty of theft. That means if I wanted to, I could call the sheriff n’ have you arrested.”
“How DARE you threaten me like a...”
“Third, if you don’t call a tug and have that plane towed out of here right now, I’m going right back inside that hangar n’ finish what I started...Then I’LL take your plane out, by way of the side door, piece by piece.”
“I will NOT...” Athena started to say, but then her diatribe, and her eyes, stopped dead in their tracks...and Katie could almost hear the echoes of the words reverberating inside the skunk-femme’s head.
Tug...? Towed...? Finish what I started...? Side door?
PIECE BY PIECE?!
“What did you do to my plane?!” she almost screamed. Katie just shrugged.
“Well,” she said, leaning a hoof insouciantly against a piling, “I needed to get that plane out of there and that damn chain just wouldn’t cut with a hacksaw...but the pontoon strut would, so I...”
That was as far as she got before golden-furred skunk-femme was shoving roughly past her and bolting full tilt for the door.
Perhaps, if she had not been so agitated, Athena would have noticed that Katie was right behind her. And no sooner had she gone through the door, than the pinto mare yanked it shut again and snapped the padlock back into place.
Then, she stepped back to wait.
It took a couple of seconds before the knob began to turn. Then the door rattled...tentatively at first, then furiously.
Almost as furiously as the harangue that followed.
“Open this door! Open this door, you little hussy! Do you know who I am?”
“Yeah,” Katie shouted right back, “You’re the girl who just got locked in a hangar by the Duchess of Strathdern.”
This produced a few seconds of silence...but only a few. Then a fair imitation of an enraged screech owl.
“What’s the matter?” asked Katie, all innocence, “Hot in there?” As if she didn’t already know.
“OPEN THIS DOOR AND LET ME OUT!!!”
Katie MacArran never could resist an opening that good. “Not by the hair of my snouty-snout-snout.” she said, in a bad parody of a pig’s grunt. Haka-ti and Paoluu-ti were almost doubled over with laughter.
Athena, for her part, was not so easily amused
“AGGGGHHH! OPEN THIS YIFFING DOOR YOU YIFFING CUNT!”
“My...my.” said Katie, “A Moorefield using cuss words? Betcha even Robert Ripley won’t buy THAT one.”
Athena said nothing to this. She just began to pound furiously on the door. Katie gave her a couple of minutes to deplete herself and when the hammering finally ceased, she leaned up close to the door and began to speak.
“You all done in there? Good...now let me explain something. I’m not going to unlock this door no matter what kind of ruckus you raise in there, so you only got two ways out. Number one, you can open the big door and swim out...which probably wouldn’t be such a good idea, what with all the oil and gunk that always collects in the water around seaplane hangars. And you’re not exactly dressed to go swimming either so as I see it, the only real option you got is to rev up that Staggerwing and TAXI out a there. Sound like a plan, Athena?”
“Fine” said Katie, stepping back from the door with a laconic shrug. “I can wait on you all day and all night if I got to girl. There’s plenty of other stuff for me to...”
From inside the hangar, there came the sound of a clanking chain. It was followed by the sound of the hangar’s big door being slowly cranked open, then the Staggerwing’s cockpit door opening.
But not closing...not did Katie hear the Beech’s engine start. Instead, she heard Athena’s voice from the other side of the door again, this time sounding tame, almost contrite.
“Uhh...Duchess?” she said, “I-I just want to ask you something...please?”
Katie stepped close to the door again. That wasn’t exactly the proper way to address her, but what the Hell?
“What is it?” she asked.
And the meek little sparrow on the other side of the door immediately became a harpy again.
“I was just wondering...are you going to cheat in the Schneider Trophy race the way you did in the Thompson?”
Katie’s ears snapped back until they were plastered against her scalp, and with blinding speed, she turned, dropped forward into three point stance, and kicked out hard with her left hoof, aiming squarely for the center of the door.
She didn’t break the door down, didn’t even dent it all that badly. What she did accomplish was what she intended. When her hoof hit the door, it sounded like the world’s largest oil-drum being dropped. This was quickly followed by two more sounds...a splash, and a shriek of high outrage.
“AHHHORRRHHHEEEE!!! YOU FILTHY, DAMNED...!”
Katie slammed a forehoof against the hangar wall, producing an even louder report than the first time. The tirade stopped at once.
“Don’t...ever...call me a cheat.” she said, in a voice like a steaming cauldron. “And get that plane out my hangar, before I get REALLY good and mad.”
She turned and walked away from the door without looking back, all the while keeping her eyes averted from Haka and Paoluu...so the two cats could not see them getting wet.
A moment later, the Staggerwing’s engine thrummed to life, and it emerged into the daylight and began to taxi away from the hangar...then it lifted off and wheeled away to the north, headed for who knew where. Katie watched it depart with a mixture of satisfaction and apprehension. Knocking Athena into the water like that, however indirectly she might have done it (and however much the skunk-femme might have had it coming) was an action that might very well come back to haunt her.
And one more thing...Athena Moorefield had behaved nothing like the way Katie’d heard her family conducted themselves. Either everything she’d heard about them was a load of baloney, or...
Or...perhaps Athena Moorefield was the black sheep of her family. It was certainly possible that they’d produced at least one rogue.
After all, the MacArrans sure as Hell had.
Beech Staggerwing ( Floatplane Variant )