When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
© 2014 by Richard Messer
Hsu Chuan stood up from the washtub, rubbing her lower back, trying to ease the kink there. She looked around the yard once again, noting how the chickens were interested only in scratching at the ground or picking insects off of the garden plants. From the broad back stoop of the cabin came the clang and rattle of a chain as her grandmother was busy cranking the extractor drum around on its stand.
Ten years ago Siripool Wanee and her mate, Direk, had moved to the Archipelagoes to escape the rising antipathy towards the Chinese population of Siam. They settled on the blunt peninsula of Main Island, across from Meeting Island, in a semi-isolated portion of the forest where they could reestablish their beehives. And in those intervening years the sale of honey and beeswax brought in a tidy sum to meet their needs, and then some. They used part of the profits to establish flower gardens around the village close by and to help those who needed it. Now Wanee was spinning the opened frames, allowing centrifugal forces to separate the golden nectar of the bees from its wax cells.
The young tri-colored Siamese femme began pulling the clothing out of the tub into a basket. With that in hand she carried it over to another extractor where she stuffed the washed material into it and began to pump the long wooden handle on the side back and forth. Soon water began pouring from a tube under the tub. When no more water came out. Hsu Chuan began removing the clothing a piece at a time to pin to a clothesline strung between trees. A soft breeze came up from the bay to stir the colorful material to dryness.
There came a soft creaking from among the trees. The young orange, black and white feline turned to where an older brown feline came out, pulling a small two-wheel cart. Siripool Direk was bringing another load of frames filled with honey to his mate to open and extract.
It was a family business that had stretched back for several generations and had kept the family fed, housed and clothed during times both good and ill. However, the rising political climate in Siam was making some families think about their futures and what they would have to do to secure a better life for the next generation. And many of them, like the Siripools, left their homeland for a better atmosphere. Thus the middle-aged Siamese couple left for the Spontoon Islands and restarted their business. And the natives were grateful for the honey, wax and pollen.
<Let me help you with that,> Hsu Chuan called out after hanging the last shirt on the line. She dashed over to lend a hand.
<Thank you, grandchild,> smiled the elder Siamese. <And these are the last ones for the day. There’ll be more to extract tomorrow and those will be the last for the season.>
Together the two hauled the cart across the rough ground to the stoop where the gray-furred Siripool Wanee finished separating the honey from the frames. Between the three of them they removed the empty wooden frames from the extractor and set them into a stand where any honey remaining would drip into a basin. Then from the cart a new frame was brought forth. There the elder Siamese femme took a flat knife with an offset blade from a small alcohol burner to carefully uncap the cells to release the golden nectar within. This frame was then set into the extractor as another empty frame was removed and the process repeated.
When the last frame was set in and the lid closed and latched, Hsu Chuan offered to work the extractor. Her grandmother smiled her assent and turned to pick up the basin under the machine. With her husband’s help the two older felines bore the basin to a table with jars and lids, where they began ladling the honey into the jars and screwed the lids on.
As Hsu Chuan began turning the great wheel to get the extractor up to speed, she glanced around the bay at the fishing boats, water taxis, and the pleasure craft that dotted the dark waters. But it was two boats that she always looked to first and let her gaze rest on them the longest. The occupants sat at opposite ends with their fishing lines dangling in the water. They dressed the part and acted like the other fisher folk, but they weren’t true to their occupation. These four were part of the local constabulary who had been assigned to the role of protecting the young Siamese. There were at least four more in the village. And as residents of the village they would not be out of place among the locals. So for the past four days they acted their parts naturally without raising suspicions.
The rattle and clang of the chain, within its sheet metal cover, began to lull the young tri-colored femme into a dull mood as Hsu Chuan continued to turn the iron spoke wheel. There was a little nagging in the back of her mind, something that hinted at the growing frustration within her being over the whole Cong Zhoma affair. The police should have caught her by now. If not caught, then cornered to where they could slap the handcuffs on and haul her away to jail. But she was proving to be elusive; no one has seen this black-furred Siamese with the white patch over her left eye.
A noise out on the water snapped the young feline from her drowse. Hsu Chuan glanced out towards the bay and saw one of the fisherfurs standing up, shouting something and pointing to something farther out. The occupants of the other boat looked out towards the indicated spot and shouted back their reply. One of them stood as well and brought a conch shell to his lips. The long low moan sounded across the waters to the shore. This brought a rush of villagers down to the shore to see what the matter was. And there were a couple of the undercover constables among them. Soon a shout rose from many throats as many arms pointed towards the bay.
There was a great wake working its way towards the beach! And as it drew closer a dark object slowly rose from the waters, and those on the shore cried out when that object was recognized! The sea-soaked figure of Cong Zhoma was heading towards the crowd, a hate-filled scowl twisting her black countenance. The villagers quickly gave a scream as the feline rose ever higher, to reveal the glistening black and green serpentine form that grew from her waist!
<Hsu Chuan! I’ve come for you!> shouted the dark lamia as she made her way ashore. <Teng Ningfu was mine, and you stole him from me! Now I’ll make you pay for that transgression! He never loved you, it was me he wanted – ARRGH!>
The painful shout was the result of gunfire aimed at the creature from the fishing boats close by. The constables in them had drawn their revolvers and were shooting at Cong Zhoma. But only one bullet struck its mark as the wake of the creature rocked the boats, as well as the nervousness of the furs in them doing the shooting, spoiling their aim. The dark-furred lamia clutched at her side before turning a snarling face to the offending furs. The tail shot out of the waters to come crashing down on the frail craft. Boat and constables vanished in the splash. Cong Zhoma snapped her head around to the other boat, but it was beating a hasty retreat as both fisherfurs bent to their oars with a will.
Hsu Chuan stood rooted to the sand, fear freezing the blood in her veins, as that hideous creature once more made its way ashore. The tri-colored femme could only stare in horror at the death that was hurtling towards her with maniacal glee stamped on that white-patched black face.
<Move your ass, granddaughter! Go, we’ll handle this devil spawn!>
Hands gripped the young feline femme’s shoulder and roughly shoved her aside. Hsu Chuan glimpsed the harden features of her grandmother as she was propelled away from the crowd.
<GO!> The older Siamese turned back to the coming lamia as two of the undercover constables took the younger femme by her arms and began to guide her towards the safety of the trees. A quick glance over her shoulder showed the other villagers running for their lives as that half-fur, half-snake abomination bore down on the single figure set in its path. Then there arose a droning sound from that direction, a sound that seemed to be coming from deep within her grandmother’s being. And Hsu Chuan’s last look of that lone femme was of her arms spread wide as the lamia reared up as if to bring its great bulk down, to crush its victim, as it did to Teng Ningfu.
“Shit!” The exclamation came from one of the constables as he dropped to the ground, dragging the young Siamese femme down with him. The other constable followed suit. There came a darkening of the air above them as a loud buzzing roared by. The last thing Hsu Chuan remembered seeing as she and the constables dashed once more towards the village was a great maelstrom of bees passing over her grandmother and swarming about a surprised Cong Zhoma. Her screams of pain and frustration faded behind the trees as the three ran for all its worth to safety!