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Susjo’s laughter finally burst forward. “Oh, man, this is too good!”
Jim nudged him, impatiently urging “com’on, br’y, ya gonna spit ya’r game or wat?”
“HEH HEH HUH, well I don’t know if you can handle this, but that troll who used to always give you guys a hard time, that big bad Corporate dude? Well, his name is Mortimer!”
“Holy crap!” Fish Hawk gasped before he started laughing too, “no wonder Russ never told us his name and he never formally introduced himself with all those mean grunts of his. Still, you have to be kidding us!”
“No,” Chantal looked into his eyes warmly, “we would never, ever hide anything from you guys. So now do you see, Fish Hawk?” Turning and casting her warmth across the fire toward Jim, she continued “and you too, honey! Don’t you see that they put that monster named Dammhait into your heads when both you lil’ boys were growing up? I don’t know how they did it, but I do know that they did it so that they could push you around. So unfair, so sad, cuz that dang hate they do it with is just as silly as that hott and kewul dummy called Mortimer, teheheheeehe!”
Fish Hawk grew lost as she made her point, for it seemed meaningless, as spacey as her giggles. That squid demon, gone or not, didn’t matter anyways because he was accursed and bound by the Corporate court of law. He got the impression, though, that she somehow thought that there was something they could do about their situation. She talked like she actually believed that she could get them off the island with her playful hopes alone. There she sat, once again looking into his eyes with a foolish dream. Yet she was also the angel who had cleared the fearful fog spewed by that Dammhait. An angel who was beside him right here, right now, in a living, breathing form.
But she was still here, and so was he. Here on the isle formally known as the Dobbin’s Maximum Security Spartina Plantation, a place where he would be stranded for the rest of his life. It therefore didn’t matter what she said. Only the final word of the judge did, and that judge had years ago ended any chance of his participation within the pageant of humanity beyond cutting and grinding Spartina for ethanol. That judge had plenty of company in that sentence, too, for the Arundel Corp Psychiatric Division had said the same thing during his trial, and this was of course after those doctors had granted him the deplorable word. That cursed “A” word, the same epitaph that the slimy Dammhait had tormented him with over the years. Sighing, he shared these thoughts with Chantal and Susjo, muttering “who cares if they push us around or not? I mean, there’s nothing we can do about them! We’re trapped here, right?”
“Well Chantal and I can’t exactly leave tomorrow either!” Susjo rebutted, “but can’t you have a little bit of dignity, even in this place! I mean, Chantal and I can. In fact, we’re here because we showed a little dignity by standing up to some professional bullies who were pushing around guys like you and Jim! So they took us to court and they decided that we both needed to be put in our places. The judge said we were a little messed up, but we were at least straight enough to manage you guys. Apparently we are far straighter than Russ the neurotic dopehead, so here we are!”
“You’re … you’re better than us, though,” Fish Hawk shook his head and stuttered, “I mean, you just admitted it.”
“Hell no, I wasn’t saying that,” Susjo replied, his tone growing a bit more bold and upbeat as he continued “listen! We all did some work around here, right? We all did a good job, and we all got the job done, so how could we be “better than you?”
“Listen, Fish Hawk, I’m not going to argue with ya any more about who’s better than who and who’s worth what until I know some more about what really happened to you. I want to know who or what exactly dumped that garbage into your head!” Susjo reached over toward the pile of limbs, throwing a good sized one onto the fire. “I know we were going to do this all along, but now I’m really curious to hear, not what they said, but what you did to make them say that in court. I just want to hear the facts, guys! Jim, how ’bout you tell your story first, because I get the impression that your friend here is still a bit spooked and shaken from whatever the heck that ‘Dammhait’ Chantal speaks of really was.”
Jim spoke lucidly at this cue, his accent seeming to fade a bit as he began to share his history. “It all a started dat day me parents brought me in ta those ‘Nap’lis Area Little Leagues. Them coachmen forced dat blasted stick, da one with da net in it, in my hands when I just wanted ta play make a believe at home. They told me ta catch a ball in the net but he missed me, or, as they said, I missed him.
It was all cuz I didn’t see dat stupid ball. I cared not ta see him, cuz I was tryin’ ta imagin’ hookin’ a rope so dat I could scale the Arundel Corp tower, and even the hallowed Maryland Inc headquarters. You know, them big buildin’s I’d see in pictures. I just wanted ta find something kewul, cuz they had ta hide awesome junk like that uppa dem buildin’s and, dang’it, I wanted ta know. I still wanna know! But they say dat ain’t kewul, and that playin’ lacrosse would make me hott, but I didn’t wanna just stand there and mess wit a stupid stick and his stupid ball. So whadda I get in return? Only fightin’ words and hahahaha harhar from da other kids, except for Fish Hawk ‘ere!”
Fish Hawk nodded his head. As Susjo had correctly inferred from his earlier defense of hopelessness, he was still shaken from his recent breakdown. However, he spoke up strongly as listening to his friend had led to a further fading of his preconceptions and biases. “I was in the same situation,” he declared, “although I know to this day that my late parents would have spared me from that torment if they had a choice. But, nooo, Arundel Corp would have taken me from them if they had refused to place me in that fish pissant youth sports league. So I was forced in, all because Corporate officials said it would cure me, make me normal.”
“Ahhh,” Chantal placed her hand on his shoulder, but this time he didn’t flinch, “now why did that lil’ smartie pants Arundel Corp think you needed some medicine?”
“Because, you see, I wandered off alone when I was two years old. Ran through the willow and scrub palm fuel stock plantation behind my house because my dad told me there was a creek behind it. He was right, and it was actually the same river, err sea, we’re on now except it was a creek back before the great Pasadena floods. A couple Corporate security guards found me talking to an osprey, hence my nickname, and promptly brought me to the hospital. Some other Corporate dude with a freaky looking face and a shiny pennant was there, and he talked with me, gave me drugs and planted the seed of a horrible dis-” Fish Hawk stuttered off, hesitating as he tried to swallow the lump of fear in his throat. Despite the valor of the lovely Chantal, who batted her eyes in intense interest at his story, he could not seem to utter the terrible word without inviting Dammhait back into his soul.
“Ahhh, it’s OK, just tell me,” Chantal sweetly prodded him on, stroking his trembling hand gently with her fingers, “I really, really want to know.”
“OK, OK, whatever!” Fish Hawk evaded the cursed work of mental sickness that hung over his head. “Whatever they said, they still forced my folks to throw me into the league several years later. So, going on, when I was handed that stupid wooden lacrosse stick, my mind could only think of the hemp woven crab traps and the trails and birds that crisscrossed the woods. Even in the early sixties, the forests and sticks pretty much existed for biofuels plantations. Tools and toys were made never made of wood, even back then, so even my seven year old brain knew that there was something wr
ong with the lacrosse field mentality. So I bluntly asked the coach one day, ‘why do we play with, and nearly worship, these strong wooden sticks when the Corporation says we need to reap all the forests for fuel to keep strong?’
“Oh did that man whack me hard with his ironwood lacrosse stick. Dang son of a mule, I haven’t seen a living ironwood since I was nine. So anyways, he started mocking my voice like a wailing cat in heat and all the kids laughed at me even worse than they always laughed at poor Jim. He ordered me to see another one of those Corporate mental doctors when he finally calmed down, and AD-” His eyes began to grow blank, sparking Chantal to pat him on the back affectionately before he could sink and repeat his recent unconscious episode … “ADBUSTER’S DISEASE!” Fish Hawk burst in to tears.
“HUH,” Chantal exclaimed.
“Oh, don’t you remember,” Fish Hawk Sobbed, “him, that … that Dammhait …”
“Teehehe, it does sound familiar.” Chantal continued to gently stroke his back, “sorry, don’t remember much a lot of times, but it sure sounds like some dang hatin’ to me!”
Fish Hawk panted heavily for a little bit, trying to keep his senses as he felt those slimy thoughts trying to reform into the tentacles that always dragged him down. The oozey sensations jiggled and breathed, but they didn’t completely resurrect. They finally subsided as his mouth managed to eek out a “yes, I’m sick in the head … or so they say.”
“Oh, honey, it’s OK, its just their hate!” Chantal spoke softly but resolutely.
“Dang right it’s OK,” Susjo boomed. “I used to deal with that kind of crap every day, man. Never played lacrosse cuz I’m way too big and slow. Besides, it just isn’t as much of an obsession where I’m from. Baltimore Inc instead recruited me to one of their pee-wee football teams. Defensive line, and boy was I good at sacking those dang cocky quarterbacks. Anyways, I remember the attitudes my teammates and the coach used to give everyone who either wasn’t athletic or didn’t care about the sport, calling them retarded animals that were enemies of Baltimore and the Corporation. Several other names as well, too cruel to mention. It never made sense to me why they did that, but over time I started to feel for those poor souls.
“I only had a bit of pity for them, though, until I witnessed my high school principal and coach kicking these two dudes in the hallways. See, bro, the kids were never good any any team sports, but they were completely harmless yet always harassed. Not being able to throw a football wasn’t the main reason why they were ultimately jumped that day by the top dogs at school, though.
“See, they were actually on to somethin’ good as they were tryin’ to raise the wild edible plants of the Patapsco woods in their balcony gardens. But they got caught with seedlings at school and were just beaten to living bloody masses! So you just have to wonder, why?” Susjo paused for a moment here, glancing at the two boys to make them think a bit.
Jim finally broke the silence. “Neva made it ta hai’ skull, but I know dat if he catches ya wit a wild ‘erb anywhere y’ar askin’ ta be screwed!”
“True,” Susjo agreed, “but I later found out they found the potted plants in their lockers, while they were in class. So, let me ask ya’ll another question. What made them so suspicious that they searched their secured belongings? I mean, it was not like these kids were so dumb they just walked into school that morning with the herbs in the open, just asking for some track star dude to snitch on them!” Susjo once again paused to drive the point home, and this time no one broke the silence. “Well, my guess is that the school security guards made a routine search through their stuff because, not only were they not involved with any school junior management council or athletic functions, but also because rumor had it they were labeled with some sort of incurable mental illness that caused them to be different in this way.
“Every Corporate subsidiary calls the disease something different, Fish Hawk, and I forget what the heck Baltimore Inc calls it! I think there’s another name for your Adbuster’s Disease, bro’. I think Adbuster’s is just official slang for the kid threatens to grow up to be one of those guys that competes against the Corporation, its products, and its ideas! These kids definitely seemed to have that sort of bug, because if they had not been caught with the plants they may have cultivated a new type of food or medicine that would improve upon, and therefore replace part of, the Corporation. Not that I would care, though. I could have cared less, because they were harmless at the least, and they would have provided something tasty or healing at the very best. Whatever, all I know is the messed up brutality I saw ticked me off so bad that I tackled my own principal and football coach and told them to back off.”
“Good move honey,” Chantal breezily cheered.
“Good move, yah shawty-lass,” Jim sarcastically contradicted, “cuz dat’s why …”
“Why I’m here, exactly!” Susjo finished the statement. “The cops had already been on their way, and they arrested those guys. The blood soaked aspiring gardeners, that is, but also got me and we all went on trial. The dudes went off to some recycling prison plant up the coast for so called bitter nerds. I bet they really got sent to some secret Maryland Inc death camp, as the judge ad libbed in his final statement that they really deserved to die. Oh yeah, I remember now, the term the shrinks use up there! The judge’s reasoning was based on the claim that their Asswater Disease, yeah that’s what Corporate competition disease is called in Baltimore, meant that they could never be reformed with the principals of Kewel.
“I, on the other hand, was bailed out by an Arundel Corp correctional broker and sentenced by his Maryland Inc subsidiary to a management position on this island. That was due to Russ’s little party pleasure cruiser, of course. The reason I got off so easy, though, was because I was, in his words, ‘a decent football player with a casual girlfriend by age seventeen.’ Therefore, that all mighty Mortimer dude will be coming back at times to see if our work has reformed me into a hott commodity that is worth setting free.”
“Ahh, honey, teheeheeheeeeehe, ya never told me about her!” gasped Chantal.
“Oh, the girl,” Susjo frowned but remained resolute, “we were just hanging out and all that. She was cool, and it could have become serious, but now that I’m here I’m sure those Baltimore Inc bullies are doing all they can to brainwash her and…” Susjo’s confident tone trailed off, his face turning white for a moment.
“Oh, Susjo, not you too, dear,” Chantal gave Fish hawk one last soft tap on the shoulder before she sat up and went to go give her suddenly shaken friend a comforting hug. “You’ll get off of here before they can get her, silly silly Baltimore meanies, and I’ll get off too after we all have some more fun. Oh, there there, we’ll all get-“
“Thanks Chantal,” Susjo cut her off, his strength returning to his voice, “but I’m OK, for now at least. Its just that thinking of her and what they might do to her made me realize that I’ve been talking a lot of smack against them. I’ve been putting harsh words to thoughts I’ve never said out loud or acted upon before that fateful day when I tried to help those poor dudes. I know we’re way in the middle of friggin’ nowhere, in a totally secure prison, but who knows what kind of shenanigans the Corporation has planted here? You’re sure this island isn’t bugged, right guys?”
“Positive,” Fish Hawk reassured. “we would both constantly speak some pretty harsh words against the Corporation when Russ and … uhh … Mortimer weren’t around, but they haven’t come here to kill us yet.”
“Yeah, but ya’ll are still here slaving away for them,” Susjo pointed out.
“We gots life with’ut parole, b’ry!” Jim bluntly replie
d at his absurd, to them, rhetorical question.
“Oh, silly, all of you, silly, silly, silly!” Chantal let go of Susjo and gracefully skipped around the fire, casting shadows upon the brush that surrounded the main clearing, the first of the many natural fences that surrounded them. “All of you boys, heheehehe, silly, silly and more silly,” she nearly sang with unbridled joy, a high flying glee that was absurdly out of place on the seemingly impenetrable island. “Like I was trying to tell poor Susjo here, what makes you think we can’t find a way to just sail away, like our ‘lil pal Mortimer did today, if they’re not nosin’ in. I mean, duh, they can’t catch what they can’t see, teeheehee!”
“AH-HA-HA, good’on shawty-las!” All the boys were amused, but Jim was the only one laughing, “AH-HA-HA, so ya’ll sporty folk may get off ‘er soon for bein’ sooo kewul, but Fish’awk and me? Like we gonna just’a bounce straight outta’ere on a log-bout, and just ask’em ta not care ’bout us not lookin’ hott cuz’of da grime ‘n swamp-wartah ‘n all our years o’ rasta-dreads. Ask’em ta not see da ‘Runnel Corp rags we gots if we summ’ow don’t drown or turn ta gator or skeeter food first!”
Fish Hawk stopped listening to his old friend, who had been making a lot of sense despite his shrillness, when Chantal ended her prance and settled back in next to him. She leaned over until her lips nearly touched his ear, whispering “I know he’s a sweetie, but he’s so full of it. I know it’s just a ‘lil silly idea to you silly boys, but think of it, honey, just sailin’ away. Away with me, teheeheeeheeeheehehe!”
Her breath in his ear caused his heart to leap and flutter, but Susjo’s saucy follow up to Chantal’s words of creamy sugar put an end to this. “OK, so she’s being a little crazy like she can be sometimes, but that’s cool!” He loudly raised himself up and shook his fist, “and, besides, she makes a good point! I mean they can’t hear us, or at least you boys don’t think they can, when they’re not around. So, if they’re ignorant of what ya’ll drop here behind their backs, than how come you guys are still scared of the Corporation even though you hate them?”
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(c)2009 Christopher E Johnson