When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
by Richard Messer
© 2014 by Richard MesserPrologue
The keel of the rowboat scraped along the sand as a figure in the bow leapt out to carry the line to a log set deep into the sand. Here the male feline took a couple of turns around the worn wooden mooring post before returning to help the two female figures out. The other male, a canine, pulled the oars in and began to unload a picnic hamper and some blankets.
The femmes, canine and feline as well, gathered the stuff and made their laughing way to a thatch-covered shelter that held picnic benches. By the light of the fading sun the quartet unloaded the food, along with plates, cups, and chopsticks, to enjoy a quiet meal.
It was towards the end of August and the tourist season was winding down. Now that the great air race was over, things were quieting down as the vast majority of those visiting the islands had left. And with the departure of the visitors came the departure of the dollars, pounds, francs, Reich marks, and a myriad of other currencies. As such the hiring of the summer help was drawing to a close as the young people now had to scramble for other, less paying, jobs to see them through the coming school year. But for these young furs they had nothing to worry about as they had steady employment with The Great Pagoda, the premier Chinese restaurant on all of Casino Island.
<Thank the gods for this day off!> exclaimed Teng Ningfu, the gray and black tabby who was working as a pastry chef at the restaurant.
<Amen, brother, amen,> came the reply from Kwan Yifu who bussed the tables. The young tawny chow nodded his shaggy head along with his words as he dipped into a carton of sweet and sour chicken with the back ends of his chopsticks.
Wei Yi and Hsu Chuan, a chow as well and a Siamese mix, respectively, could only nod in agreement, their mouths too full to speak. It was their first day off in nearly a month and a half, now that Speed Week was over and all the countries’ racing teams had left the Spontoon Islands. A sense of normalcy had slowing returned to the archipelagos as the native population and growing influx of expatriates breathed a sigh of relief with the departure of those visitors for the great seaplane race. For this quartet it felt as if the gods had answered their prayers for this solitary moment away from the organized chaos of the restaurant.
When it was announced by the owners of the establishment that time off would be granted to those on a first-come, first-served basis the four got together to determine how they would spend their brief reprieve. There had been quite a bit of haggling and arguing over how the four of them would spend this time away from work. It had been resolved in that the femmes wanted to do some shopping and not worry about the crowds of tourists making it nigh impossible to purchase their desires. And their boyfriends wanted to finish the day with a late picnic dinner on Kami Island, followed by some very private moments between the couples.
When the day arrived felines and canines arose early in the morning to get the jump on the store’s opening for the day. The young males grumbled good-naturedly about all the walking around the shopping district on Casino Island and toting the packages for their loves. And the girls got into the spirit of the venture by leading their lovers in circuitous routes all over. Before it was time to make their way to that ‘small pimple of an island’ between Main and Meeting Islands, they returned to the restaurant to prepare a meal to take with them. There had been good-natured ribbing from the staff on duty over the foursome’s final treat of the day before their return to the grind the next day. Afterwards they caught a water taxi to one of the Polynesian villages that line the inner curve of Main Island where they rented a boat to reach Kami Island.
Kwan Yifu had spent a part of his earlier life along the coast of China before his family made their move to the Spontoon Islands. Other members of the clan that had left years before to find something better and had sent letters for Yifu’s kith and kin to make the jump while they can. The Kwans arrived to find a whole other world than what had been left, but their cousins took them in and gave a crash course in how to survive this cultural shock. A young Kwan Yifu found his nautical skills a perfect outlet with the fishing crowd until he grew tired of it all and found a different job in bussing tables at The Golden Pagoda. There he met the others and the four of them became good friends. But his boating skills still came in handy whenever they could have time alone and rented a boat to visit the other islands of the archipelago.
Wei Yi looked to Teng Ningfu at the end of the table.
<Is Cong Zhoma still bothering you? > It was an innocent question but it got the wrong response.
The young tabby set his bowl down on the table without taking his eyes from it. The canine femme realized her mistake and bit her lower lip in anticipation of an outburst. The aforementioned Cong had been a thorn in Teng Ningfu’s side for most of the summer. She was a feline of questionable parentage and had single-mindedly pursued Teng into becoming her lover. Even after Teng began dating Hsu Chuan the incorrigible Cong Zhoma still followed after the hapless tabby, blatantly expounding that she was the better choice.
It came to a head two weeks ago when Teng Ningfu grabbed a quick kiss from the lovely Siamese in what they thought was a secluded moment in a corner of the kitchen. Just when their lips were about to touch that something hard caught the young tabby in the back of the head. It was a heavy stone pestle. In his dazed moment Teng caught sight of a maniacal Cong Zhoma charging with a butcher knife in hand, her eyes burning with hatred and spittle flying from her gaping mouth. But before any real damage was done a couple of the other kitchen staff managed to wrestle the screaming feline to the floor and disarm her. One of the yellow-throated marten brothers who co-owned the restaurant made no bones about what was to be done: The feline femme was unceremoniously thrown out into the street along with whatever belongings she had at the restaurant.
Several heartbeats passed before the tabby looked up towards the darkening waters of the bay.
<No, she hasn’t, since that day, > was the calm reply though the others could sense the suppressed anger underlying the words. Teng Ningfu shook himself, as if casting off the bitter memory, and gave them a smile. <But let’s not ruin this evening, shall we? >
The other canine and femmes mentally breathed a sigh of relief and finished their meal. In the gathering gloom they lit the torches around the shelter. Then each couple took up a blanket and drifted into the underbrush. Teng and Chuan went a little farther into the bushes, not far from the torchlight but far enough not to be bothered by the brightness. Together they spread the blanket down onto the sand and began to snuggle that led to kissing and hands roaming over each other. A couple of times the dark-furred tabby tried to slide himself on top but she managed to work herself out and scold him in hot Cantonese. Sheepishly Teng took the rebuffs and would lie back down beside her, staring at the stars, until the Siamese’ anger abated and she would allow him back into her arms.
A half hour had passed since the pair had retired to their seclusion. They lay side by side, staring up at the starry heavens when the tabby quietly announced that he had to find a place where he could relieve himself. Hsu Chuan said that she had to do the same so they went their separate ways into the underbrush.
Working his way through the dark Teng Ningfu had stumbled a couple of times over unseen roots that made him curse under his breath. Thinking he was far enough away the tabby unzipped his trousers and watered down a bush. It was afterwards when he was heading back to the blanket and the lovely Siamese waiting there that something caught his ear. Something was working stealthily through the growth behind him; something that sounded very large. Teng cursed under his breath again, wishing he had the moon out tonight to help in see what was there.
<Whose there? Show yourself! >
<What’s wrong, Ningfu, are you afraid of the dark? A big, strong fellow such as yourself? >
Cong Zhoma? He knew that voice, but the confidence in the words worried him, almost mocking him. And wasn’t there a kind of an underlying hissing to that voice? <We’re through, Zhoma, or have you not learned that when you were thrown out of the restaurant? >
There was a chuckle that ran an icy finger along his spine. It was her, the crazed feline femme who thought he was hers alone, but there was a sinister undertone to her words, something almost - reptilian. Fear began to twist his stomach such that the tabby male felt the meal just eaten would make a return engagement. Slowly Teng Ningfu took a step backwards, wanting to put some distance between them.
<What’s wrong, Ningfu, do you fear me now? Yes, you should, whether or not I had learned my lesson. But I have learned something recently that overshadows all that. Something so simple that whatever we could have had pales before it. And I promise you this: If I can’t have you, then no one will! >
With a cry Teng Ningfu turned and ran. He ran because he saw something rear up before him against the stars. And Zhoma’s words were spat at him from above! He hadn’t gone far when his foot caught a root and he sprawled into the sand as something impossibly large and heavy slammed into him . . .
Back at the blanket Hsu Chuan sat patiently for Ningfu to return. It seemed a very long time for him to take a piss in the bush, and she really wanted to get in some more snuggling and kissing before they had to return to their respective homes and the prospect of returning to work in the morning. The Siamese femme had drawn her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them when she heard something heavy hit the ground some ways away.
Her head came up. <Ningfu? > She waited for a minute before calling out again. When there was no reply she stood up and stared into the blackness before her.
<Come on, Ningfu, this isn’t funny! Stop clowning around or we’re all leaving without you! > Whether or not she could get the others to leave and strand the tabby here was debatable, but she was starting to get really scared.
Behind her came Kwan Yifu and Wei Yi, the former bearing a torch.
<What’s wrong? > asked the chow, <Where’s Ningfu? >
Hsu Chuan could only shake her dark head. Tears had started down her cheeks.
<I don’t know. He went off that way to take a pee, then I heard something hit the ground over that way, too.>
Taking a tighter grip on the torch Kwan Yifu headed into the undergrowth. The younger chow femme placed an arm around the other’s waist and held her close.
<Everything’s going to be all right, > she said though the words sounded hollow. <He probably fell over a bush and knocked himself out. >
Chuan could only nod in agreement.
In the distance they watched the torch bobbing about as the young chow worked his way through the brush. It was when that single point of light stopped suddenly and Kwan Yifu gave a muttered curse that the Siamese femme took off towards it, Wei Yi following as best she could calling after her friend.
When the tall dark-faced femme reached where the canine stood, he turned and stopped her, trying to force her away.
Yifu shouted, <No, Chuan, you don’t want to see! >
But Hsu Chuan did want to see and managed to break away, to pull up short of what was lying there. And all she could do was put her hands to her face and scream!