So. Here we are.
The Kickstarter campaign for Zobop Bebop is in its final stretch… sort of. We’re looking at 20 percent of the total requested with two weeks to go.
I’d love to see this become a going concern, and I’d really like to see the ebook side of the equation bump up as much as possible. After all, five dollars for a book is not half bad.
And the book is, if I dare say so myself, pretty solid.
Desamours spent the night in a vacant hotel room, trying to clear the smell of dead flesh and the rattle of plastic out of his head.
Je Rouj was wrong. How wrong, he couldn’t quite tell.
As he fell asleep, he could feel himself falling into a younger man’s skin, the smell of barbecue and gunpowder filling the air.
It was the Fourth of July, right after they’d won the war. He’d taken his inner circle, his bizongue, to the riverfront to celebrate, cooking all day and eating and drinking all night.
He watched Janjak dancing with Chantale and Elsie, two of the girls they’d pulled for the party. The big man had been running protection on four or five shopkeepers before he came under Desamours’ arm, walking the streets with his crowbar over his shoulder. Now, he had an army of smash-up kids keeping ten blocks paying on time.
He saw Frantz and Edgard playing craps, while Toussaint manned the grill, talking up a storm. His field marshals, he’d called them. The brothers pulled heists, set up ambushes and ran, laughing, into battle with their soldiers at their backs.
“Happy days, hired man.” The voice rattled and popped like burning gunpowder, and Desamours could smell rancid fat and old rum. He looked to the voice and saw himself, dressed in black and red, lit by moonlight.
“M’sye Kalfu,” he said, sliding slowly away. “Welcome to the party.”
Kalfu nodded, watching the scene. The loa, lord of misfortune and injustice, smiled.
“All the Boat Brothers, happy and secure in their victory,” he said. “None around now, of course. Bad luck.”
“You would know,” Desamours said.
“Let’s not focus on the past, hired man,” he replied quickly. “This should be a welcome home party, yeah? Back in the game, balls swinging and ready to mix it up again.”
The music grew louder, faster. Desamours focused on the loa‘s eyes as he heard sobbing and the sound of bones crushed under heavy hooves.
“Heard you made the rounds, Narcisse,” Kalfu said. “You oughta come to the source, baby. All of the truths of the world can be laid out before you, you ask the right question.”
“My mistake, M’sye,” Desamours said, feeling hands on his wrists. “Were you there, at the end, with Teenie?”
“I’m everywhere I need to be, Narcisse. Everywhere I’m called for, and some places I’m not.”
“But were you there?”
Kalfu looked away. “Wasn’t worth my time.”
Desamours felt a hand around his ankle, heard a low, wet giggle.
“Like I say, focus on the future,” Kalfu said. “You’re back, you’re in the game. You need anything at all, let me know.”
Desamours woke up suddenly, a hand over his eyes. He smelled rum and rancid fat, heard Kalfu’s gunpowder hiss as the hand receded.
“Because, the way it’s looking now, baby,” Kalfu said, fading into the shadows of the room, “you could use some friends.”
The next morning, Desamours walked to the hotel, head high and coco macaque swinging. Time to make a big splash, he thought, see if anyone comes calling.
He heard the drums as he came closer, a low, stuttering beat that grumbled just outside of his hearing. The grunts of rooting pigs and the smell of burning wood seeped from the building, and no one moved inside.
He walked through the front door, heard rustling from the walls. The foyer was empty, tattered paper and rotting furniture speaking to a long abandonment. The wallpaper bulged and tore under the weight of ages, and dust lifted from the carpet with every footstep.
As he walked up the stairs, Desamours could hear louder drumming. Feet stamped out an unsteady rhythm, rattling the floor and walls in counterpoint to the squeals and grunts.
He opened his door to find a wave of people moving through the room. Some of them were stomping and leaping, lashing out at anyone who came too close, while others crawled on the floor, grunting, squealing and rooting at the ground. In the center of the room, stroking the dead cat that Desamours had left to draw unwelcome attention away, sat the hotel’s desk clerk, left leg curled up to his chest and a burned chair leg in his hand.
“You open up a door,” he said in clipped, precise tones, “you shouldn’t be surprised if someone take that as an invitation. Figure I make the place closer to home.” He smiled a thin, mirthless smile and gnawed on the chair leg, sparks flaring from the smoking wood.
“Good morning, Ti-Jean Petro,” Desamours said, closing the door. “Thought this was too small-time for you, mon oncle.”
The loa spat, blood and burned wood staining the floor. The dancers stopped, dropping to the ground with an occasional quiet whimper among them.
“Small-time? No such thing, bokor,” he said. “You work my patch, you pay the toll! No exceptions!”
He pulled himself up, leg twisted beneath him. If the clerk came out of this in one piece, he’d favor that leg for the rest of his life and never know why. Touch of the divine, Desamours thought to himself.
Ti-Jean Petro peered up at him, lip twitching.
“Rules is rules. Black pig, slaughtered and given to me. Songs to my glory. Burning and drums.
“Rules,” he said, “is rules. Everyone eats in turn. My turn now.”
Desamours raised his hands, beseeching. “This is a little operation,” he said. “This honfour, it’s passing through, like me. I finish my work, I’m in the wind.”
“Don’t matter,” Ti-Jean Petro said, limping forward. “I’m hungry, bokor. Ain’t ate in a long time, and you the only table serving.”
The dancers began to grunt and squeal, his room sounding like a pigpen in Hell. Desamours knew he was losing time.
“My bizongue’s not all gone,” he said. “You should be eating good off of them, Oncle.
The loa swayed, pouting. “You been gone too long, bokor. Your bizongue’s long gone, to a man. The smooth one, he die of la SIDA five year gone. The others, they gone after you go down. No one remembers poor uncle.”
Desamours fought back a smile. Ti-Jean Petro was a powerful loa and worthy of respect, but he’d beg before working if it got him his way.
“What about my girl?”
“What about her,” the loa said, scowling. “She doin’ nothing.”
Desamours frowned. “She’s got a honfour. She’s doing the work.”
Ti-Jean Petro shook his head. “It’s nothing to do with me,” he said. “Maybe she found Jesus or the love of a good man, but she don’t ask nothin’ from her Oncle and she give nothing in return.”
Desamours nodded, hiding his confusion as best he could. “I’ll talk to her, oncle. Until then, I’ll set you a good table soon. Leave these people alone and I’ll make it right.”
The loa limped back to the center of the room, nodding. He shook, shoulders rolling, and let the body fall as the rest of the throng trooped silently out of the room.
Bebe had a bit to answer for, Desamours thought. If she was lucky, she’d just been playing marks with colored salt water, grass clippings and chicken bones.
If he was lucky.