"Charles, Jan, good to see you."
Charles, "And you, all of you, your family grows again."
"Yes, this is our daughter Sloane, Sloane meet Charles and Jan."
Sloane grins, Jan says, "Adorable, what a great smile, and where is Oceane?"
"Talking to the fish probably. Francois and Su Lin out?"
"Yes, two boats today. The guesthouse is full, even after the rooms we added last year."
Charles, "Your parents were up, Dr. Svensson and Kara anyway, guess you knew that."
"Yes, they wanted to experience it with snow. They had a good time, but said it got flat frozen at night."
"Had a colder than average winter, more snow too. The snow blower got a workout, we do most all the maintenance and repair over the winter. We talked about opening for some of the snow season, but the roads here can be dicey, sometimes impassable. We could run through Thanksgiving probably, extra six weeks."
Janah, "Do what you think best."
"I think we're looking at the last two weeks of October, we close mid-month now. Opening in April is early enough, March weather is variable, snows then too."
Jan, "Dasha's supplies arrived, we took most of it over when we went to open the house. Some things just got here a couple days ago."
"Thanks for doing that. We had business and couldn't send anyone up early."
"Not a problem, one of us runs over there once a month at least, make sure things are closed up. The power boat you bought shortens the trip to twenty minutes. The lake is mostly fishing guide trips, they wouldn't go to house. The few other developed spots are just cabins. Now they don't allow private development, the ones that exist are grandfathered in."
"We got lucky buying the place when we did, I was a little surprised when they let us expand."
Jan, "Your home is fairly hidden, only the dock, a view of the porch and one of the upper balconies from lake level. It doesn't reveal the size until you're in front of it. And you kept the property natural, all that acreage, you didn't build a road or some shabby outbuilding like some of the others. The rangers we talk to appreciate that it's wilderness all around you, and that you have no fences. They monitor the trails on your property, you allow forest and wildlife research, very few of the remaining property owners do that."
"Best to be as cooperative as possible. We want nature to take its course over there, we benefit from the pristine natural environment as much as the wildlife does. Anyway, thanks again for the upkeep and delivering the supplies, next time we'll try and get some of us up early to deal with house prep."
We pack up our houseboat, I show Sloane how to navigate. It's about an hour ride unless we use one of the regular boats that can zip across in less than half the time. We like the houseboat for cruising the lake and fishing. Can even fry or grill the fish right on the boat, it has a stove and a refrigerator as well. We like our creature comforts.
Sloane, "It's beautiful here, looks just like the pictures Kara sent me. There was snow then."
"Snow stays on the peaks most of summer, not down around the lake."
We're coming to the dock, I guide her hands as we maneuver next to it, Chloe hops off and ties the lines. We carry stuff up to the house, inside things are operational thanks to the monks. Ice in the ice machine, the freezer full of meat, pantry stocked. Dasha sends up Omaha Steak products, reliable, consistent and good.
Amaya, "Liquor cabinet is stocked, the important thing. In fact, I shall have a drink this very minute, Dasha, Daria, Chloe?"
Those are the vodka drinkers, sometimes Eloise but she mostly sticks to beer.
Janah, "Eloise and I will have Sapporo."
Sloane's racing around the place, she flies down the stairs, "Mom, this place is awesome, every window has a view of something spectacular! Where do I sleep?"
"There are two guest rooms, one of them yours. Top floor other side of the staircase, your windows face the mountain behind us."
She bolts back up to inspect options, then I hear her running back down, "I put my stuff in the one on the left," she looks around the living area, "geez, a fireplace and everything," zips out the front door.
A quickie unpack and we're on the porch, doing what we came to do, nothing.
Nikko, "In the woods, she's never been in deep woods. Manhattan is concrete, our Arizona mountain is the closest thing, a few fruit trees and a garden don't count. We had trees planted in the spring, but they will be years to full growth."
"Hope the animals know she's with us."
Dasha, "What ees dinner Dahfoney?"
"Jan gave me fish fillets, Walleye. I'll grill them, top with lemon butter. Make macaroni and cheese, everyone likes that. Don't worry about a vegetable, we can take a vitamin. Oh, take bacon out of the freezer for breakfast tomorrow and steaks or burgers for dinner. I'll fix up marinade and let them soak when they thaw."
She goes inside, Sloane comes out of the woods, "Woods are neat! I saw a dog, it looked like a German shepherd, but gray."
"That was a wolf."
Sloane gets big eyes, "A wolf! I could have been eaten by a wolf?"
"What did he do?"
"Just sat there looking at me. I didn't go any closer, he got up and walked the other way."
"Must not have been hungry."
"Mooommm, what if he, like, attacked me?"
"Then you would have fed a wolf."
Amaya, "You are a terrible mother Daphne. Sloane, the animals here won't hurt you, your sadistic mother knows that. Janah sits around and talks to them, or she says she does, there's no way to prove it. Probably just too much beer."
Just then a squirrel hops on the railing, Janah has a handful of nuts. She opens her hand and the squirrel jumps into her lap for a snack.
Sloane, "Cool, can I pet it? It won't, like take my fingers off?"
"Go see, it'll be happy with just one finger, you have nine more."
Sloane rolls her eyes, walks over and stroked the squirrel's head, it rolls over on its back nattering.
Janah, "He wants you to scratch his tummy."
Sloane rubs his belly, the little creature curls up like it's being tickled, then stretches and is still.
"It sort of hypnotizes them."
Sloane, "He's so cute," she shoots me a look, "and I still have ten fingers."
I better help Dasha, I get up and go inside, she has two boxes of steaks on the counter. While she boils macaroni, tonight I’ll coat a pan with Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, nutmeg and a dash of garlic powder. Lay them in the pan and repeat the procedure on the top side. Cover with cling wrap and in the refrigerator.
Macaroni will take a while to bake, I'll start grilling in a half hour. I go around the porch to my grill and fire it up, the fish will cook with a couple minutes on each side. I have fish grills to lay on the racks, simpler to handle and flip delicate fillets.
Back in the kitchen, Dasha is emptying cans of vegetarian baked beans into a pot, "Ees better to haf also protein and fiber for Janah, not only macaroni chiz."
"Good idea, everybody likes baked beans, want to add chopped onion?"
"Da, grill onion, caramel first een butter, get rid of onion stink and make sweeter."
I set about chopping onions, two should be enough to add a kick to the beans. Grill them just a couple of minutes, so they retain a crunch, dump them in with the beans. Dasha peeks in the oven at the pan of macaroni.
"Ees maybe fifteen minute more, not too brown on top."
In twenty, family is at the table, Chloe says, "That grill you have is magical Daphne, the fish is so good, buttery flaky."
Janah, "Nice touch of onion in the beans, Dasha's macaroni is creamy delicious, is there powdered habanero?"
There is, Nikko would shut down without flaming food, we also have Tabasco Habanero, regular Tabasco sauce and Red Tail Scorpion powder, made from the hottest pepper on the planet, Trinidad Moruga. It's a pretty spicy family, Oceane is less flaming, Sloane not at all.
Sloane, "I have no idea how Nikko tolerates that acid powder, I sprinkled some on my egg and had to toss it."
Nikko, "You used too much, a taste for hot spice is acquired. We had wasabi when I was growing up, Japanese horseradish. I acquired my taste for it early. You build up a tolerance, then it takes a little more, and a little more, like drugs. My addiction is hot."
Sloane, "Mom, put a tiny bit on my macaroni."
I sprinkle a barely noticeable dab, stir it in.
She tentatively tastes, then a forkful, "That's not too bad. It does juice up the flavor. Can I have more macaroni?"
I dish out another pile, she sprinkles it lightly. Have to look hard to spot the tiny red dots, but she's game for trying. Must be okay, she wipes out the serving with the help of a refilled glass of ice water.
As is our custom, Nikko has a fire going, some of us park on couches, chairs or the floor covered in throw pillows, some go to take in the star show. Oceane and Sloane join Amaya and Chloe outside.
Sloane calls in from the porch, "Mom! There's like a million stars, and shooting stars, it's like fireworks in the sky."
I join her, she parks in my lap. We sit with the others, the sky is alive with light.
Time shot by last night, nobody wanted to go to sleep. Finally got too frosty on the porch so we snuggled around the fire until midnight. This morning Dasha and I are up by seven, coffee and tea at the ready, biscuit batter is prepped, put them in the oven, start in on bacon. When I have it nice and crispy, stack it on layers of paper towels and put it in a warm oven.
Dasha is stirring grits, adds scoops of shredded cheddar, "You will crack aig Dahfoney, scrahmbulled, add chop orange yellow peppers."
I make a batch for her and me, everyone else is hanging in bed. Biscuits are done, I take them out, turn down the oven to just warm. After making plates for us, the remaining biscuits go in the warm oven, we sit to eat.
"Janah haf to find berries, we haf a leetle fresh fruit only, it will be gone in a couple of days."
"She likes to forage, Oceane can go and chat with the flowers."
"Oceane ees sweet girl, do you think she ees really talking to things, or just made up?"
"She has demonstrated her ability to report feelings, I have no idea if it also applies to objects. The idea that she does seems mystical and fun it doesn't hurt anything. I don't need to believe or disbelieve, she's not a science experiment."
"This will be longest time for us in Canada, two month. No workshop for sister and Eloise though."
"They might get bored, but we have computers, they can simulate ideas, just don't have the equipment to build things. Perhaps they get new ideas from such a different environment."
Dasha thinks this over, "Da, ees maybe correct. Eemaya also, maybe get idea for book. We haf to film moovey soon."
"You, Daria, Chloe, Amaya, and Eloise are going to LA from here. In fact, you have to leave a few days earlier. Nikko and Zi are going with you, drop them in San Francisco on the way to LA."
I'm clearing away our plates when some of the others show up, "I just have to scramble eggs, you can start in on a biscuit, bacon and grits are ready."
Zi, "I have no right to be famished after last night, I am anyway. Must be that proverb Daria has, what was it about appetite?"
Dasha, "Appetit prikhodit vo vremya yedy," (appetite comes with eating.)
Nikko, "Feels good to have down time, the last eighteen months were insane. Building in San Francisco, set up an apartment as well. Society work, Shadows, ranches, not to mention our everyday business interests. I am so glad Daria took an interest, she's become invaluable."
Dasha, "Sister ees not for sitting around, brain needs projects, spreading sheet, make better electronic, haf to be busy."
Zi, "What's she going to do here for two months?"
"They will automate house, we can monitor from anyplace. Everything will turn on before we come, turn off after."
"I didn't know they were doing that, where's all the electronics?"
"We sheep already here, Jan brought wiz food."
Daria and Eloise come along with Janah, Janah mentals, Got up a little late, Daria and Eloise showed up after you left, lesbian things on their minds. They took advantage of my inability to resist girls.
Dang, I should have peeked, thought you were asleep.
Janah has a post-O glow, Eloise stares at the table, slight flush on her cheeks, Daria is Daria, gets a cup of black tea and a biscuit. I go home on the range to scramble more eggs. While I cook, Oceane floats in, no sign of Sloane, Amaya or Chloe.
Oceane pours tea, takes it outside.
"And good morning to you too Oceane."
The new wave fed, more dishes in the washer, it's after nine, I go up to see if Sloane has been abducted. She's a small lump under the comforter, I peel it back, see eyes blink.
"Hi mom, I slept like a brick, it's so quiet here. Where's the taxis and garbage trucks?"
"In Manhattan. Ready to get up?"
"Yes, I gotta pee, be down in a minute."
I kiss a cheek, go downstairs, Amaya and Chloe are just sitting, "Want eggs?"
Yes and yes. Maybe they were sexually engaged, or the crisp mountain air.
Amaya, Both, Ocean came calling last night and, after she satisfied herself, slept with us.
Girls in my head when I don't even know they're there, ghost girls.
Sloane comes thumping down the stairs, "I'm starving."
Final round of eggs, then everyone who's eating has eaten, don't know about Oceane.
"Leave the bacon and biscuits in the oven, Oceane can have it later if she wants."
Dasha, "Da, okay."
Janah goes outside, I take a look through her eyes. Oceane is on the dock, the gray wolf lies next to her. Oceane strokes the fur, doesn't appear to be talking to it.
"Sloane, your pal is in the dock with Oceane."
Sloane bolts for the door, "Go slow, let him see you coming."
She stops, walks quietly, I see the sleek animal turn his head, then lay back down, guess she's not breakfast.
Janah, "Oceane is taking over my animal confabs."
"I don't know that she's communicating like a conversation. They must sense she understands how they feel."
Oceane comes in, I look out the door, Sloane is still with the wolf, she's talking a mile a minute.
Oceane, "He is lonely, his mate died, the cubs are gone. We will be his family while we are here. He is not so young, a new mate will be hard to find."
"What do you know about wolves and mates?"
"Nothing, that's how he is feeling."
Janah, "Did he tell you?"
Oceane, "Not with words, I don't need words. He likes Sloane. He knew Daphne and Janah from when he was a cub. He and his mother saw you with the owl."
"Dang, that was several years ago, he must be a much older gent now."
Janah, "Lifespan of a gray wolf is ten to eighteen years, he must be well over ten if he was a cub when you were trained by the owl."
Amaya, "How do you know the lifespan of a gray wolf? You are a freak."
Janah giggles, "Must have read it someplace. I'm going berry hunting, want to come Oceane? I usually run across several varieties of wildlife besides plants. You might meet a bear or a moose."
Oceane, "Yes, what to wear?"
"Jeans, a few layers, it's chilly but should warm up. And a hat, we keep a pile of watch caps someplace."
I go to the hall closet, find our stash and pile them on the coffee table, "Here you go."
Zi and Chloe opt to join in, the four dress and take off. Eloise and Daria start unpacking electronics.
"They're going to need to turn off power from time to time, Dasha, make sure the power is up by noon, you can shut it down after lunch then we need it back by four thirty or five."
"Da, it will go quickly, we only have to shut off breaker where we work, not the whole house."
"I'm going hiking with Sloane, we won't make the falls in time to return for lunch, but I want her out and active."
Amaya, "I will come."
Dasha, "I will help Eloise and Daria. We will haf light lunch, sandwich, cold cut, cheeps, big dinner tonight."
Nikko, "I'm doing nothing."
Zi, "I'm doing it with her."
I call to Sloane, "Come in, we're going on a hike, your new friend may want to join us."
The wolf comes with her to the door, I put out a bowl of water and the remaining bacon. We dress.
Sloane, "Amaya got me hiking boots, and a cool parka."
"Grab a hat off the coffee table."
"She got me one, see?"
She has on a black fedora, she looks like hiker elegance.
Amaya has an similar one, her's is ivory, I look like a longshoreman in my watch cap. I throw bottled water in a backpack and off we go. Sloane's buddy trails along beside her.
I figured to go three quarters of the way but Sloane adapted to the altitude quickly, we make it to the falls.
Sloane, "Oh wow! Amazing. And you climbed to the top?"
"Yes, several times. It's a bit of work, rock climbing, no trail up. If you want to try, we'll give it a go some other day, but you have to wear a helmet."
Sloane frowns, "I don't have one."
Amaya, "Yes you do, we all have one. After a couple of spills, we decided not to get stupid. We keep them here, I have one for you."
Sloane grins, "Neat-O!"
She pets the wolf, "I'm going up the falls one day."
Strangely, the animal looks at the falls, then back to Sloane, he crosses a fallen log nimble as cat.
"We got further than I thought, have a bottle of water, take a break to admire the water then scoot back down, nice workout for day two."
Going down has its own challenges, the trail is steep in spots but we make it with nothing but a couple of foot slips on the rocky steeps.
Sloane, "I see what you mean, the gravel makes me slide when it's steep. The wolf just hops over it all."
"He's got four legs and he lives here."
Sloane giggles, misses a step and slips to her butt. The wolf bounds over and sniffs, then a whine.
Sloane scratches behind his ear, "I'm okay, thank you for looking out for me," she hops up and we continue.
Amaya, "What a world we inhabit, Sloane has a wolf following her around. What happens when we leave?"
Sloane, "I hadn't thought of that, can we take him with us?"
"Better to leave him in the home he knows. Besides, wolves have a pack, he's just having his own vacation from them."
Sloane, "I hope so," she holds the animals face in her hands, "I don't want you to be alone, where are your friends?"
The slope gentles, we're back by noon. Inside there are stacks of berries, herbs and mushrooms.
"Somebody was productive."
Chloe, "Oceane had conversations with every berry, so we switched her to mushrooms to speed up the process."
"She didn't talk to mushrooms?"
"She did, but they're bigger and we don't need as many."
Dasha has cold cuts out, sliced ham, turkey, jalapeno or plain cheddar cheese slices, pickles, mayo and Dijon mustard. She's got a pan of mushrooms simmering in olive oil, sprinkles a dash of garlic powder. She's toasted some of the bread, left the rest soft.
"Okay, ees ready," she opens a bag of cracked pepper chips and dumps them in a serving bowl.
We assemble our sandwiches. Adding mushrooms is popular, thus the need for toast, warm mushrooms make soft bread soggy.
Janah, "Can we have fried mushrooms tomorrow, appetizer before dinner?"
Dasha, "Da, okay. Tonight steak, maybe Chloe and Zi will feesh and we can haf for dinner next. Fry mushroom, fry feesh."
Sloane, "Yay! I love fried fish."
Oceane is studying her mushroom, "Yesterday you were a tiny baby and today you are completely grown, all your brothers and sisters popped up overnight."
Zi, "It's true, how does that happen?"
Janah, "Water. The mushroom has all the cells it's going to get, but they're collapsed. When water starts to fill the cells, it makes it seem like they grew overnight. It rained last night, up they went. That’s why they shrink when you cook them, the water comes out."
Chloe, "That's cool, I had no idea. Thanks for asking the question Zi."
"Oceane brought it to mind."
Oceane has her drawing pad and a few pencils, she takes them out to the porch, "Wolf at the door."
Nikko, "What's she talking about? All this food," her hands stretch apart.
"She means literally."
And he is; she parks on one of the chairs and starts to sketch, "Look at the water, I want a profile, in my drawing you will be looking at Sloane."
I go to the door, danged if he isn't following instructions. Return to table, begin clearing and stacking the dishwasher. Our wilderness home isn't much wildernessy, like I said, we enjoy our creature comforts.
Daria, "We will finish automation downstairs this afternoon, tomorrow upstairs, external cameras the next day."
"You're moving along quickly."
"We did the condo, Susan's place and Arizona. We know where everything goes and how to connect it to the IPads. Now there's nothing to figure out, just do it."
Sloane is camped out on the porch with Oceane and Mr. Gray, that's what she decides to name him. His ears prick up, he stands and runs off to the woods.
Sloane, "Wonder what that's about?"
Oceane, "Doesn't matter, I have him in my head, he doesn't need to sit anymore."
Sloane gets up and looks at the drawing pad, "You're only using half the page."
"You will be the other half. You don't need to sit either, I know what you look like."
"It's going to be Mr. Gray and me? That's like, so cool Oceane."
"We will frame it and put it in your room here, or perhaps you would rather have it in Arizona or New York."
"I'm taking it everywhere."
I'm at the door, "Take it back to Manhattan, I'll get prints made, then you can decide where you want the original and we'll put the copies the other places. I suggest you keep the original in the condo, we're there the most and it's well protected. Oceane's originals are valuable."
There's a 'woof' at the edge of the woods, low guttural, not like a dog. I turn, Mr. Gray is there, behind him are eight more wolves and a string of cubs.
Sloane, "Look mom! He brought his pack."
"Go see, approach slowly."
A minute later she's surrounded by a wolf pack. I'm her mom, maybe I should freak, but it's not in my nature. And they clearly don't mean any harm. Food is plentiful here, no hunters allowed, they don't need to capture and eat children.
I turn back to the others still in the house, "You'll want to see this."
Amaya is taking photos like crazy. Sloane is nuzzled and poked, she's giggling her head off. Then the most amazing of amazing things. The cubs pile up between her crossed legs, find a spot and take a nap. My eyes are not moist, they're wet. I never cry. Then again, I've never been a mom before.
Janah, "Susan is going to bawl like a baby when we send her the photos. Let Sloane send them, email her own story in her own words."
It's just a short nap, momma grays lift cubs out by the nape of the neck, Sloane shifts to her knees, a pat and scratch behind the ears for each. I hear her thanking them for visiting. They move back into the trees and are gone. Mr. Gray remains, nuzzles Sloane's neck, a yip and he turns and follows his disappeared pack.
Sloane walks over, if she can smile any wider it will go past the boundaries of her face. I doubt that's possible, then again, there was the Cheshire Cat.
"Mom, I'm shaking, that wasn't awesome, that was like ultra-awesome."
"It is so. When your heart is open, the creatures trust. They aren't an enemy until we make them one. Not like humans who invent enemies because of absurd beliefs, or Shadows, who have lost any shred of compassion. I would say human decency, but the term contradicts itself for much of our species, an oxymoron."
"For food, that's nature, not for a cause. Some animals, like humans, are also sick with diseases like rabies. They are under the control of the disease."
"Are Shadows the same?"
"So they can't help themselves."
"No. But a rabid animal must be destroyed, there is no cure. A bat or a dog with rabies is no longer a bat or a dog, but a killing machine. Either it has to be caged, which for the sick animal is just slow death, or we kill it quickly and take it out of its misery. If it runs loose, it only seeks to attack and it will infect others with the same disease. In those cases, compassion is death. Do you understand?"
Sloane nods, "Yes."
"Then we will celebrate life, yours and the wolves that shared their family with you. You have been accorded a great honor, the animals do not trust lightly. Live up to that honor."
Sloane, "What if I, like, screw up?"
"But what about you, my moms and sisters?"
"For us, there is nothing to forgive. We make mistakes, we pay consequences, always. That's the way of it. Learn from your errors, even better to learn from the errors of others, that way you don't make the same mistake and don't have to pay the consequences. We don't punish, the person who screwed up is already punished, why punish twice for the same offense?"
"What do you mean?"
"A simple example. You get distracted or lazy about your studies, fail a test. The failure is the punishment. If I punish you for failing, that's a second punishment. Why should I go to the trouble? You've already suffered the consequences."
"I see what you mean."
"It works the same way for rewards. You earn a good grade, that's the reward, we won't give you another one."
It's the end of our third week in Canada. We've settled into non-routine. Some days we tour the lake with the houseboat, others we hike to the falls. Five of us rock climb to the top of the falls. Sloane was attached to me by rope. My owl claw hands can hold her and me, it wasn't necessary. She followed my path and we were up and down without incident.
Martial artists gung fu and kendo, some free style sparring. The others yoga, spiced up with gymnastics. I make sure Sloane participates, the young are flexible but splits and back bends get lost quickly without regular practice. Dasha teaches her to do a standing back flip and stick it.
Oceane swims. The lake requires a wetsuit, the water primarily snowmelt and cold. I said we came to do nothing, but not that much nothing, we're active people. As we do elsewhere, Sunday is for being still, one other day a week is less physical, usually Thursday, more reading, aimless chat, long lunches.
Today I'm on the porch watching Oceane. She swims out about thirty yards, the lake goes deep quickly. Then she swims back and forth parallel to the shoreline, there's no reason to go out farther.
I hear the whine of a speedboat, look down the lake. It's pretty big, twenty feet, bunch of guys flying along full of beer.
They spot Oceane, the boat slows, approaches, "Hey honey, wanna take a ride?"
Fat boy, looks to be nineteen or twenty. Oceane turns to swim to the dock.
They follow alongside.
Nikko, we may have a situation.
She joins me outside, we walk to the dock, Oceane climbs the short ladder, I hand her a towel, "Go inside."
Oceane has her strange nature, and it wouldn't occur to her to be afraid, but she knows our rules. In any uncertain situation, she is to follow directions. It helps that she's the least curious person on the planet, seldom asks questions.
Standing next to Fat Boy is Frat Boy, slim, North Face Denali jacket, entitled smirk.
"Wow, we appear to have landed in babe city."
He hops onto the dock, two others follow him, pretty much clones of Frat Boy. Fat Boy and another guy, Steroid Boy, lean on the windshield and gawk.
Daria shows up, uh oh.
Frat Boy, "Christ, another one," he looks over my shoulder, "how many honeys you got back there?"
We don't respond. They mistake it for....something, I suppose it doesn't matter, they go cocky.
Frat Boy Two, "Have a beer ladies, or maybe something mellower, you know?"
Steroid Boy underhands a beer to Nikko, she steps aside, it sails past her, thunks on the dirt.
"Fuck, that's good beer baby, don't waste it, be unfriendly."
Frat Boy One walks up to Nikko and commits a stupidity, he lays his hand on her shoulder, "Fine looking Asian girl, come on, let's party honey."
Janah, keep everyone in the house, we have this and I don't need them thinking there are more of us.
Nikko stays calm, these guys are just college dopes, we don't need to go gung fu on them, "Hands off or I assume you are assaulting me."
His dick has shorted his mind, hand slides down her arm, "Lighten up baby, just being friendly like."
Friendly like, Nikko's hard knee meets his most tender spot. He gasps and bends over. She went half speed, she's not trying to neuter him, not yet anyway.
He looks up at her, "Fuck, you're too light to do much damage," exactly what she wants him thinking.
Frat Three has been silent, I've been watching him, dead eyes on Nikko, he steps to her.
"Fucking Jap," he goes ballistically stupid, starts poking her in the chest, "Don't be knee nutting my friend, find your ass in a world of hurt."
She snatches the finger with one hand and snags his wrist with the other. Then she demonstrates how to teach a finger to extend back to a forearm, crack, snap!
Frat Boy Three howls, "Shit, fuck....shit," I see the rage hit, adrenaline overcomes his pain, he takes a swing with his good hand.
Nikko catches his wrist, holds on while she sidekicks him in the ribs, then snaps his elbow on her knee. Now he has two dislocations and cracked ribs. For the fun of it, she snap kicks Frat Boy One clean off the dock into the water.
Frat Boy Two starts to get clear on what's what, he holds his palm facing Nikko, "Just want to get him in the boat, okay?"
Steroid Boy lumbers onto the dock, "Gonna have to pay for that."
Daria steps in front of Nikko, she doesn't need protecting, Daria just wants in.
Steroid Boy, "Move it bitch, no call to get hurt, my beef is with the Jap."
Daria has his eyes. He's confused, she's maybe five six and a buck twenty. He's six two and two twenty, all of it muscle and bone. Why doesn't she blink?
He reaches to push her, pushes, nothing happens. Feels like he's pushing one of the bigger boulders that dot the property. He shoves with both hands, his bodyweight behind it. Zip.
"The fuck are you girl?"
Now Fat Boy is on the dock. Geez.
"S'matter Chuck, one little girl?"
"Shut the fuck up moron."
Fats take a shot and a shove, nothing.
"How's she do that?"
Steroid Boy, "This is bullshit," he turns his attention to Nikko, tries to step around Daria.
She puts a hand on his thick chest, then he's ass down on the bow of the boat a good ten feet away.
Fat Boy's lights go on, "You people are fucking spooky."
He backs to the boat, steps on the gunnel, the boats dips from his weight, he loses his balance and falls face first onto a beer cooler, smack! When he picks himself up, blood runs down his nose like a wide open spigot. The point now points sideways. Bet that smarts.
Frat One has made it out of the water via the shore, he comes tentatively down the dock, hands in surrender position.
Nikko stops him, "Give up the wallet."
"You're kidding, you gonna rob me?"
"Give it to me or I take it," he hands her a soggy piece of leather, she pulls his ID, sends Janah a mental note of name and address, they're Americans naturally.
I jump in the boat, "Everybody, ID, I'm not asking, just do it."
I don't get any grief, this crew would swim back naked if I told them to, I mental off more info to the cloud storage of Janah's brain.
"Now, take out phones, I know you have them. Open them up and hand them to me one at a time."
Fat Boy, "Fuck you want with that?"
I crack him across the jaw, "I tell, you do," I read off the names and numbers, they've texted each other a bunch. For fun, I collect names and numbers of their friends, parents and professors.
"We didn't take your stuff. We just want to know who you are. Now I have all your pals in my head. If I ever see you again, if anything goes wrong in my life, I'm going to blame it on you. Then I'm going to send these two," my thumb jerks back to Daria and Nikko, "and they won't be nearly as laid back as they were today. I know you're just dumb-ass college boys, but assure me that you are clear on my message."
They stare at me like I'm an alien, Steroid Boy looks particularly perplexed, my foot displaces several of his teeth.
I smile, become disconcertingly charming, "I can keep this up all day."
The only one not beat to hell, Frat Two, says, "Ma'am...Miss...I got it loud and clear."
"I want to hear from all of you, one by one, we can start with Steroid Boy."
He nods, I raise my front leg, "Nods don't count, say it, so I can hear it."
"I got it."
I get quick assent from the rest, "Last thing. See that, up there? It's a drone. And it has recorded this entire incident. I'm going to attach your names and addresses to the video. It could go viral any day now. Five guys totally humiliated by two girls. What will the frat boys think? Even worse, what will the sorority girls think? Be a while before you don't have to pay a pro for pussy."
Frat Two, "Ma'am, come on. They got ass whipped, it's enough."
"You're right, it is, or ought to be. So I'm only going to hang on to it. In case, you know, a window breaks on the house, or the roof leaks. Or I get a headache. Then you become the hot new YouTube. Just to reassure you, I'll send a copy along with your social security number and GPA."
I jump to the dock, "Gentlemen, go home, get an education, try to avoid being dorks."
Frat Two kind of grins, one of them has some sense, he cranks it, backs away, turns and full throttles.
Sloane comes running, "Mom, Nikko and Daria pulverized those guys!"
"Boys said they wanted to have fun, so Nikko and Daria had fun."
Sloane, "Should have asked Nikko what she thinks is fun."
"Good point precious one. If people thought more about what other people like, they would get better outcomes, less painful ones anyway."
We walk to the house, "Daria, let's edit a bit and send the video. I want them paranoid."