Chapter Nine III
“Lucky is only a frame of reference,
yesterday you were better off than you were today,
but it took today for you to realize it.”
The Rabbi, from the movie Lucky # Slevin
Our second target runs a pool hall edging the ghetto on south side Chicago. A dozen tables, a bar, filled all afternoon and night with a bunch of guys with no visible means of support. The pool hall doesn’t make much money, that doesn’t matter, it isn’t our target’s principle business. What the target actually runs are several underage girls and a daisy chain of punks who sell drugs to anyone with cash, no proof of age required.
“What do kids want with that stuff, does it make them hip hop better?”
Janah, “They do what kids everywhere do, mimic those around them. We were lucky, we got to mimic our parents. These kids see a guy with the latest clothes, a car, they see him dealing, telling them how cool this or that will make them feel, or they’re scared. They have a crappy life, no upside, they see it, feel it. It sucks away the joy; they want to feel something else, anything else, or nothing at all. Dealer gives them free samples until they want more, then they have to pay, so they steal, sell drugs to other kids, whatever. You know the drill.”
“We’ll get the one player out of business, it won’t stop the next one, but it might make some of the kids think. The underage hookers go into foster care, another crapshoot for them, some will go back to the street, maybe one or two will stay out. Maybe a couple of the girls turn it around, a few kids don’t get hooked if the dealers are gone. One guy’s pain seems like a good tradeoff to me.”
“I wonder what Master Sung or Tan, would say?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t have to know. That’s not right, I do know. We are taught to deal with the situation we are presented. They haven’t been presented this situation, so they have nothing to say. The vows are just vague enough. Not to injure except in self defense or defense of another, show mercy, compassion and kindness. It’s compassionate to get these kids free of the pimp, what’s more compassionate? We have resources the Shaolin don’t. We have the power to offer the kids a different life at a cost of refocusing one guy. Another vow is to do what I think best regardless of personal consequences. Does that include being proactive, going after the bad guys, or is it only reactive, like if I come across something ugly and handle it? The vows don’t address that.”
“They can’t address it, it’s hypothetical until it happens. The Shaolin are hardly naïve, they know all these things. It’s all verbal, intellectual, until the reality is in front of you. No one can say truthfully what they would or wouldn’t do in any situation until a real situation arises. It’s why they teach both gung fu and avoiding violence. In reality, you cannot avoid violence. You may avoid fatal violence because you know gung fu.”
Janah has thought all this through, more than a little. Not using violence to stop violence sounds great, one of those theoretical fluff philosophy notions. Gandhi advocated non-violence which, in the end, started a war. In a real life way, it seems indefensible to have resources and do nothing. Yes, there are courts, other social mechanisms. How good is that when the penalties are lax, consequences compromised, because the system is overwhelmed? It’s a vicious circle and the pain of the innocent continues. It isn’t a perfect solution and it is clear to Janah that there would be violence. When she finds a better solution, we’ll use it.
In terms of my Shaolin vows, it comes to this. If I’m walking down a road and men are in the process of raping a woman, what do I do? If a child is being attacked by a vicious dog, what do I do? At that point, prayers for the peace of all sentient beings have no meaning. Scare the men away, what happens to the next woman? Scare the dog away, what happens to the next child it comes across?
Selling children drugs is child abuse, no different than beating, molesting or tuning them into prostitutes. For me, there is nothing to think about. If Janah ever learns to break the bad guys of their habits by mental qi, then I will be happy not to bruise my knuckles in a smackdown.
The situations presented to us are real, not hypothetical. The system doesn’t swoop down and take away the bad guys. The Society has the power to do something, to rescue these people, to remove the threat. I’m not being asked to take lives, I’m being asked to save them, to cut away a life threatening disease, like a surgeon’s scalpel. And like a surgical procedure, the process is ugly.
We hit Chicago, find the pool hall. I wear loose fitting jeans and a snug long sleeve nylon top. It’s hard to grab, tight and slick. The jeans loose so I can use my legs. Movies show the heroine in impossibly tight pants doing kicks that would only be restricted and less effective in real life. I use steel toe boots for two reasons, they are a weapon, and protect my feet if I come across someone who knows what they’re doing. Janah has the same kind of shoes, hers look like tennis shoes, Converse makes them. What they lack as a fashion statement, they make up for in serviceability. We both carry shuriken in small leather pouches. The stars are pointed and sharp, deadly if we need them to be.
My belt is a length of half inch thick stainless steel chain, no buckle, only a leather loop, it hangs like a waist chain. I can remove it in an instant, you don’t want to be in the vicinity if I do. I wear snug leather gloves. Under the leather, there’s a small pocket on each knuckle with titanium caps sewn in. My knees are wrapped in slip on elastic braces, the kneecaps covered by two layers of titanium, hinged so as to be nonrestrictive, painfully effective anyplace I stick my knee. I thought of it while boiling lobsters, saw how the tail was hinged so the crustacean can scoot along and still be protected by a hard shell. They don’t hinge the other way. If I get kicked in the knee, it won’t hyperextend my leg. The man I’m going to refocus is big, over six three and well over 300 pounds, he’s not known for his sense of humor or his compassion. I will likely have to use significant persuasive skills.
Janah is dressed like a school girl on a porn site. She colored her hair light red with dark red streaks. It’s temp stuff, shampoo and it’s gone. She has dark green contacts and clear glasses with rose colored frames. The skirt is very short, white blouse, and knee socks. I’m all in black, black hair streaked with orange, dark eyeliner and wrap Oakley sunglasses. I have a fake spider web tattoo from the side of my eye down my cheek, a black and red spider dangling from a thread to my jaw. Total dyke mode, out for an evening of slumming with my playtime bitch.
“Come along my little schoolgirl toy.”
We drive just past the pool hall, park on the street, lock up the car and enter ‘Big Willie’s.’
“No doubt that’s what they think.”
Janah, “Well, it is a black neighborhood.”
“That’s a point.”
I put on my best attitude face, stop at the bar and order a beer. I sip, give some to Janah, kissing her as she swallows. The guys shooting pool begin to lose interest in their games. Janah pulls out a cigarette, lights it and gives it to me. I drag like a pro, don’t inhale, exhale a cloud of toxins. Apparently Big Wille’s doesn’t care about public smoking ordinances,
I find a cue and walk over to a table, “Anybody here shoot nine ball worth a fuck?”
Janah rolls her eyes. She sits at the bar, her silky smooth bare legs gathering increasing admiration. She leans back, elbows on the bar, the shirt strains tight. creates another kind of strain on the men nearest her. The skirt is barely at the top of her thigh, her thin white panties peeking out. The place is air-conditioned, it seems warmer all of a sudden.
I have a game going with a skinny black kid named Moses, letting Moses have his way on the table, not by much. He wins and I relinquish my spot to a challenger, pay Moses his twenty bucks. Don’t have time to beat him, have to play someone else. Back at the bar, I take a sip of beer, light another cigarette and stick my tongue down Janah’s throat for a long kiss. My hand rests at the top of Janah’s thigh slowly stroking it for any curious observers. Turns out to be an incredible amount of interest in that seemingly simple show of affection.
Janah pulls me down for another kiss. A black man big enough to dim the lights strolls up, staring dead eyed, taking in the show.
I turn to him, “Little bitch is insatiable, give her a kiss she wants another, give her a lick, she wants to be licked all night.”
The big man says, “I think you prob-ly handle it just fine.”
Turning his attention to Janah, “She handle it okay?’
“She talks tough, she does what she’s told. Out here, I let her be bitchy. At home, she’s my dog, keeps life interesting, you know?”
“Seems you girls like to have fun. My name’s Demetrius.”
He sticks out his hand, Janah holds it, “Big hands Demetrius, you’re a big man, big all over.”
She lays his hand on her thigh.
Demetrius smiles, “Very big all over little honey, you like big?”
His hand slides down her thigh to her knee then slowly crawls back up to the top of her leg, his finger brushing the white strip.
“What about her, what’s she like?”
“Who cares what she likes? I like to get fucked, make her watch her little girl take a big dick. I like big dicks….a lot. Yours qualify?”
Demetrius cocks his massive head, blinks slowly, “Why I win the sweepstakes? You come in here, I never seen you before, now I get your pretty white pussy? I know you ain’t cops, what’s the deal? You sellin’?”
Janah grins wickedly, “Demetrius, don’t complicate things. I don’t want money baby, I got money. Sometimes appearances are just what they appear to be. I like big men and I like black men. Big black men, well, that’s my slice of heaven. I also like this bitch to eat me. She’s a pussy eating artist. I get a whole extra orgasm watching her get on her knees and lick cum out of my pussy. Demetrius, I’m a free style Olympic slut. I don’t want money or love, I want to get fucked. Then we go home, back to our too ordinary bullshit college lives. We were driving around, came up on this place, and here you are. If you’re interested, maybe you got a place we can go, if not, then it’s been a pleasure, but I got needs to meet.”
Demetrius can’t take his eyes off the prize, he slides his big finger slowly down the soft panty, Janah parts her lips, then bites her lower lip and closes her eyes, “Mmmm….oh yeah…..pot’s starting to simmer for you big man.”
Demetrius bites, “I believe it’s my civic duty to promote harmony between the races. It’s nice to find intelligent young people without prejudices, give me hope for the future. I happen to own this joint and I happen to have a very comfortable office through that door, big ass sofa, a bar with top shelf whiskey, a jar of uncut snow if you prefer. Maybe we go back and have a drink.”
“Where have you been all my life baby?”
We follow Demetrius, he opens the door, we walk ahead of him down a short hall.
Demetrius, “Door on the left.”
There is a pile of black muscle leaning against the wall.
Janah, “Geez, is he available too? This is better than the fucking Powerball.”
Demetrius laughs, “Tell you what, you show Demetrius a good time, maybe I give Dontel here a shot.”
“Then baby, I’m gonna give you something you’ll never ever forget.”
She runs her hand over his crotch, “Why Mr. D, you’re getting happy already. Is all that for me?”
She looks over her shoulder at Dontel, “Don’t go off now Dontel. I’m gonna make Demetrius rise up for Jesus, then I’m gonna make you speak in tongues. Think of me as your Fairy God Slut.”
Dontel’s dark face illuminates with white teeth, a happy idiot smile, “I be right here.”
We go in, Demetrius closes the door. He pours himself a large scotch. I’m kissing Janah, unbuttoning her shirt, no bra to deal with. I kiss and play with Janah’s exposed breasts and slip off her panties. We need Demetrius worked up and thinking with his dick, not pouring a bunch of booze down us and stretching this out. Janah sits on the edge of the couch and leans back, looks directly at him, his eyes roam over her hard body. Janah begins to moan, plays with her tits and breathing hard, Demetrius stares.
Her hands drift down her legs, “Fuck me, you big bastard.”
She fingers herself slowly, puts her finger in my mouth, and looks up at him, “It’s wet and willing, baby.”
Demetrius tosses down his drink in a gulp and unzips, “You sure know how to set the atmosphere honey. Reach in here and get what you need.”
Janah pulls out the hard ebony shaft, strokes it lightly with her fingers, “Good God, Demetrius, you name Big Willie’s after yourself? I could pole vault a Humvee with this thing. It’s so yummy. Honey, look what Demetrius has for me.”
Demetrius laughs a big throaty laugh
I reach over and stroke it gently, Demetrius turns to let me have a better look, liking the way my leather covered fingers feel.
Demetrius, “Yo bitch got a nice touch.”
Janah, “Talented with her mouth too. Let her wet it good, then you send me to nympho heaven.”
Demetrius is about to applaud Janah’s delightful suggestion when he feels an intense stabbing pain exactly where no man ever wants to feel an intense stabbing pain. I’d wrapped my left index finger and thumb around the top of his ball sack, then smashed them with the fist of my right. The titanium caps work their magic. Demetrius gasps, trying unsuccessfully to exhale when I jam my knuckles into his throat. He still hasn’t made a sound that could be distinguished as anything other than sexual enthusiasm. I whip off the chain belt, wrap it around his thick neck, pull him down hard. He’s sitting on the floor, the chain chokes him.
To cover the bump and thump, Janah screeches, “Oh baby, drill me! Ooooh, that’s right, soft and slow, God it feels sooo good, give it to me baby, go deep you beautiful bastard!!”
I jam my knee hard to his temple; in only minutes Demetrius has gone from a dreamland of beautiful possibility to a nightmare, back to a dreamland of nothing.
Janah moans and groans another minute, gasping a lot of “oh yeah babys” as if Demetrius is giving her a ride on the Roller Coaster of Lust. After a few minutes silence, Janah goes to the door and opens it. Dontel leers down at her, takes in the tight body and smooth perfection of Janah’s flawless skin, her breasts just the right size to get lost under his powerful hands. The door is in between him and his boss unconscious on the floor.
She steps to him and as he leans over, she strokes the side of his face, “Come and get it while it’s hot, Dontel.”
He smiles, her hand on his neck, his hand sliding down her back to her butt. That’s as close as Dontel gets to glory. He’s passed out on the floor. Janah’s touch cut off the blood supply to his brain, dimming Dontel’s dim bulb down to darkness. Lucky for Dontel. If it hadn’t worked, the chain wrapped around my fist would have put him to sleep far more unpleasantly.
We drag him in and lock the door. I wrap picture wire around his ankles and knees, wire hands behind him, his mouth full of sock then duct taped. He’s blindfolded, duct tape wrapped around that. Dontel isn’t going anywhere without help from God or his fellow man. Neither is available.
Janah dresses while I finish wiring Demetrius. He’s propped up against his desk, feet out in front of him, ankles and wrists firmly bound. If he struggles, the wire will cut to the bone. I stuff a torn piece of towel in his mouth and tape his mouth shut, pop an ammonia cap under his nose.
He comes to bit by bit. As he gains consciousness his eyes intensify, he is sorely pissed. That’s his only shot at playing tough, he’s completely immobilized and can do nothing but fume.
“Demetrius, are you paying attention, honey?”
He glowers, still appears a little woozy. I give him another ammonia blast. He snaps up staring at me, mumbling through the tape and sock.
“Demetrius, I asked you a simple question and if I don’t get an answer, then we have to assume you are ADD. Now I’m fresh out of Adderall, so I’ll have to use a mechanical device to help you focus.”
I pull out an unusual knife, a double edged, locking flick knife with a 6 inch blade. The unusual part is it’s serrated down both sides to the pointed tip. If you have any familiarity with a Chicago Cutlery serrated bread knife, you will understand the significance. It may be the most heartless cutting tool in existence. It’s a bread knife, what’s the big deal? Run your finger lightly along the edge, have iodine handy, surgical thread, and the balls to stitch yourself. The knife, if you lose your focus, will take your finger. It has no conscience, the psychopath of cutting tools.
“Okay honey, we awake now? Ready to find out what’s what?”
Demetrius eyes the knife, got his attention, he nods.
“Good boy. Yes, I said boy. Just deal, stud. People are so touchy these days.”
I stick the blade under his nose and tap it. Blood starts to drip. Demetrius pulls his head back. I snap the point of the knife within a millimeter of his eyeball.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory, Demetrius. If you want your eyes to see anything at all, you best be very, very cooperative. Are you down with my rap, brutha?”
Demetrius is still trying to hold his own, I give him credit for courage under fire. He nods slowly.
“Good. You got crust, credit you that. I may let you keep your balls. You know, for having them…..in the face of my insanity. Did I mention, I am completely certifiable, D? I never know what the fuck I’m going to do next.”
Swipe the blade over his eyebrow. Blood flows down the side of his face. He blinks. Sweat drips and mingles with the blood. He starts to shake, anger spent, fear remains.
“Now, here’s the deal. You’ve been running girls in the hood that don’t meet the age requirements. We have no beef with prostitution per se. If the woman’s willing and old enough, she can do what she wants. Three of your girls are thirteen or fourteen, three are up in years, fifteen or sixteen. We have them and we’re taking them with us. You’re likely pissed, I hope so. However, you will think better of it, actually come to appreciate our position, after I’m done explaining.”
This revelation revives him. He twists his head angrily towards me, a deep growl rumbles from his throat. It’s clear he doesn’t plan on appreciating anything except getting his hands on me, not for tender affection.
“Oh my, are there anger issues? I sense we aren’t communicating. It must be because you’re not hearing me well.”
I slice off the top of one ear. Demetrius screams uselessly into the rag, his eyes wide with terror. I heat the blade with a lighter and sear his ear to reduce the bleeding. Demetrius is losing track of what hurts. His balls hurt, his throat hurts and his forehead is cut. His head hurts where I planted my knee, and now his ear really hurts. He hadn’t even gotten to fuck the schoolgirl.
His eyes start to glaze.
I jam the ammonia under his nose. His head pops up. I dangle the piece of ear in front of him, “See, here’s the part that wasn’t listening. Are you hearing better now, or should I keep improving your auditory capability?”
Demetrius’ eyes widen, he shakes his head no, very clearly no.
“Goody, now we’re talking, well I am, you have the other part. Listening is an essential part of productive peaceful discourse. You’ll want to listen very carefully Demetrius, to keep me peaceful and all.”
I lean in to his tortured ear, speak very quietly, voice steady and clear, which even in his pain, makes his stomach flutter, “Are you listening closely, Demetrius?”
I dangle the piece of his ear in front of him. Another nod, almost enthusiastically, yes.
“You will not look for the girls, our people will be watching. If you replace them with grownups, which means over twenty five, not eighteen or twenty one, we’ll let that slide. If you replace them with more children, I’ll come for you. Next time, both ears and your nuts.”
I grab his balls and lay the edge of the knife on them, “Fuck it, you’re a lying shithook. I can’t trust you. I’ll take them now, save me a trip,”
Demetrius is trying real hard to say no, his head shakes like a leaf in a windstorm. I nick deeply enough for him to feel it. Blood trickles down his balls. It will heal after a stitch or two, and it would definitely hold his attention while it did. He lays back, his eyes close, breathing in gulps, sweat pouring from his head, running in rivulets down his cheeks to his thick neck.
I lay the edge of the knife against his dick, “I’m not going to bother to ask you to agree. Our people will verify what you do or don’t do and that.. will…be… that,” tap the blade against his flaccid penis, emphasizing each word. Droplets of red dot the limp, but, I have to admit, impressively large cock.
“Oh, by the way, you’re also out of the drug business with children. Same rules. Sell whatever you want, to adults, by adults. We see one kid selling drugs in this neighborhood, or anyone selling drugs to kids in this neighborhood, I tap the knife again, emphasizing each word, “we’re” tap “going to” tap “blame it” tap “on you,” tap, tap.
I look into his wide eyes, my smile, my sing song soft voice disconnected from the message, “Demetrius, I won’t care if you’re behind it or not. If it happens in this hood, I’m coming for you.”
Demetrius shivers as he sees an insane, ditzy expression come over me, I take his sack in my gloved hand, “I really want these balls as a souvenir. I’d take them now, my girlfriend says no. So, for the time being, the precious jewels stay in the dark bag. That could change in a heartbeat….your heartbeat, Demetrius,” I poke him in the chest with the point of my knife, blood seeps through the shirt.
“If I have to come back, I guarantee you a sex change. After I’m done…when you sing…church will be out.”
I smile brightly, like I had just said he’s my new bestie.
I pour vodka over the knife and wipe it on his shirt. Janah has been occupied wiping down the place, not that Demetrius is likely to call the cops.
I take the piece of ear and put it in the big ashtray on his desk, I set the ashtray in his lap, fill it with vodka, touch his lighter’s flame to it. A lovely little campfire.
“Best to be real still Demetrius, or you’ll spill it. Then you’ll have a different kind of hot black cock.”
Demetrius is busy staring at the flaming pool of vodka in his lap. The big crystal ashtray lays on his balls. He’s immobilized, fear frozen, even with his brand new fireplace he’s too scared to sweat.
I kneel in front of his safe, fiddle with the dial, listen for the tiny clicks. Couple of minutes and I’m staring at a pile of cash and bundles of cocaine. I stuff the cash in a bag with the coke, open the rear door, nothing but an empty alley. We have no use for his cocaine, but I figure it will set him back and irritate the crap out of him.
“Let’s skip more dramatics and leave this way.”
I walk to the street, “Wait here while I get the car.”
It’s only a half block down, I pull up to the alley, Janah gets in with our present. Drive to a mall on the outskirts of town, we change clothes and cars, remove the tattoo, ditch the contacts, glasses and coke. Expensive white powder all over the rotting garbage in the dumpster. Hair will have to wait, Janah puts on a baseball cap, I pull mine into a pony tail. I drive about 6 hours to a Hampton Inn, room already paid for, key card in the car. Janah goes in and up to the room, the desk clerk oblivious. I show up a few minutes later, the clerk has his back turned, go to the elevator. It’s overkill, Demetrius has no idea who we are, what planet we came from or where we’d gone. We’re practicing for more complicated refocusings, how to appear, evaporate, no traces.
We finally get to sleep around four a.m., sleep until noon, check out at one, get a cab and leave the car in the Hampton lot for Transportation to collect. The cab takes us to the local mall, we go in, walk out a different exit to another car. In a roundabout route, we drive that car to the Newark airport, leave it, change again to an SUV for the drive to Manhattan. We change our mind in Newark.
Instead, we burst into the condo in mid afternoon a full week later, after deciding to drive to Washington instead. Naturally we called the moms and informed the Epsteins. Our first two jobs had come on top of each other. We wanted private time together, to separate the work from home. We do the Smithsonian thing, walk around the Capitol, spend most of the time in Georgetown in a lovely boutique hotel. We shop, buy almost nothing, see the sights, take a long time over lunch, order late room service and make love. We stay low key, no makeup, just jeans and sweatshirts, no hot girl stuff. An unwind from the jobs, away from martial arts, friends, parents, everything. We consider moving to an uninhabited island.
Janah, “This thing isn’t easy is it?"
“We had such a simple, unspoiled life. The temple is so blissful, orderly, loving…..”
“I know. In somebody’s eyes we’re no doubt despicable, in others’, some kind of heroes. Master Kahn told us, more than once, it’s sometimes necessary cut off a finger to save the hand; I’ll stick with that. Maybe some kid won’t be a druggie or a prostitute if I take a piece of a slug’s ear.”
By the time we return, the moms and Lacy are headed up the coast for a few days in Boston, James and Kara at a conference in Los Angeles for a week. We have the whole condo to ourselves for 6 days! This is an unexpected pleasure. Time for more serious nothing. The moms get to be out of town, carrying on in Boston, K-mom having fun in LA with James, Janah and I free to visit friends around the neighborhood, or hang at the condo and be nasty.
Janah, “Lacy is positively giddy. She gets the moms for a week and is all in a sweat over too much of a good thing, how she should act, maybe it would be better to leave it like it is, on and on.”
“And you laughed at her, fine friend you are.”
“I couldn’t help it. They’re going to have a great time. They rented a suite with lots of room. Sis told her she has to sleep in the middle so both moms can get at her. She said she feels like a sex toy.”
“She’s too funny. She’s the perfect sex toy, willing, cute and highly interactive.”
“They’ll be sillier than seventh graders when they get back. Speaking of sex play, I think it might be interesting if we got a strap on. We play with vibrators. I want to do you boy style.”
“Do me any way that floats your boat, Ange.”
“Goody. I’m getting on the net. How big do you want me?”
“Reasonably deep, not too wide. One that vibrates against you. That way I can suck it and get you off.”
Janah giggles, “It’s good to have a plan.”
“And get something you like, for me to use on you, uh, elsewhere.”
Janah’s eyes sparkle, “Oh, ooooh….you bad thing. You are evil….I’m getting wet.”
She types in strap-on dildo.
“Holy moley. Googles almost two million results in .08 seconds. How big is the flipping market for those things? Geez.”
I scoot in next to her, “Shut up and shop, stud.”
Chapter Ten III
Chaos breeds life, order breeds habit.
We lounge like lizards for most of the next day, then go to the dojang early. Master Kim comes to work with me, Janah occupies herself with yoga and gymnastics. Master Kim proves he’s lost none of his relentless fighting style with the passage of time. He comes at me from all angles, attacks wildly, the frenzied, out of control attack of a street punk. This training skips the luxury of a ring with rules. No timed rounds, no stop for a towel and a drink of water. It is as close to a barroom brawl as feasible for training purposes. He throws me across the mat, bloodies my nose, strains my wrist, keeps me in perpetual motion.
He finally sits, drenched in sweat and massaging the foot I ‘d stomped hard enough to get him off my back. His shoulder is bruised where I’d tagged him with a flying front kick. Janah takes care of Kim for half an hour, my nose quits bleeding, it’s slightly swollen and my lip is cut. I lay on the mat with an ice pack and dab ice cubes on my lip.
“Master Kim, I thought you are supposed to be an elder statesman, dignified and restrained with your students?”
“Is it dignified for you to beat up an old man? I’m going to be sore for a week. Next time I won’t be so nice. What happened to respect for your elders?”
“You’re a tough elder. I’m only glad you’re 60 not 35. You would have hospitalized me.”
“True, in a dignified way.”
Janah, “For two people who respect each other, you have an interesting way of demonstrating it.”
“Your life depends on her being in top fighting condition. I help to keep her that way, so I come here and take her punishment. Besides, never being able to fight as master of my dojang is boring. Sometimes, Master Chris and I spar, just to keep me paying attention. Master Chris is not so fast as Daphne. She is powerful, strong kicks and bruising punches.”
“C-mom is tough, I bet she gives you a run for your money.”
“More than a run, but she’s more predictable, doesn’t have all your devious Shaolin tricks. I’m sorry you learned Praying Mantis. It makes you more dangerous.”
I grin, my lip cracks, starts to dribble blood again.
Janah fusses, “You. I’m doing twice the work. Keep that smile off your face so the thing can coagulate properly. And keep the ice on your nose. You already look like a third rate middleweight.”
I laugh again, cracking my lip again, Janah sighs, “Next time Master Kim, knock her out when you’re finished so she’ll stay still enough to treat properly.”
“Maybe I can knock her out right away, I won’t have to get all sweaty.”
“It’s good for you. I’m keeping you in shape old man.”
“Don’t press luck, Shaolin.”
Students begin filtering in, five or six coming early to practice or use the weights. They silently stare at the two masters on the floor.
Kim, “Teaching favored student a few things,” he says to the wide eyed women.
One of them asks me, “What happens to the students he doesn’t favor?”
I dab at my lip, “Not around anymore.”
For dinner, we pick up takeout from Empire Szechuan on Seventh Avenue. We devour everything and head for our room. Shortly, I am dead to the world. Janah scoots next to me and falls away herself.
The sun is well up by the time we begin to stir. We stay in bed until after eight. My mouth is sore, my nose still slightly swollen, I’m stiff and have a couple of fresh bruises, that seems to be it. I have coffee, then fix Janah’s tea and fruit when I feel her get in the shower. By the time I have everything ready, Janah is propped up naked in bed.
“Ange Blanc, you get more stunning every day.”
Janah unfolds her legs and stretches, letting me take in the hard curves of her torso and legs. She flexes a bicep. “Weights are keeping things hard.”
“You like it?”
“I like the strength, yes. I like the way you pant over me more. I’ll feed myself today, you need to rest that lip. You’re not off the hook for long. I like my fruit much better from you than from a fork.”
Janah finishes eating and tells me to lay down. She uses cold qi on my nose and lip, adds a salve to my lip and Chu’s liniment to my nose. She holds her hands to my face half an hour, then massages my legs, calves and feet. I do my own internal qi, two qis are better than one. When Janah finishes, she uses her fingers to make me squirm, then gasp, then draws the bath and lets me soak. Afterwards she dries my hair, and finishes up with a pedicure.
“Can I get beat up every day?”
“I can do all this stuff without having to spend time healing you. It would give me more time to, uh, you know, make you quiver and moan.”
“Yeah, stupid idea. It’s just, you know, the pain.”
“I know you want the pain. I’m partial to your lovely face. Right now it’s kind of cute with your nose a little crooked. Between getting it smashed a couple of times at the temple and now, you’ve had enough. I’d rather not have it smashed flat, so please avoid that.”
“No problem. I had to let Kim get in a few licks. I don’t want him too discouraged.”
“Promise me, no more face altering. Anything else you injure has to heal in less than a week, no unfixable alterations to that exquisite body. If I’m being selfish, tough.”
“Lay back and close those big blue eyes.”
I begin to stroke Janah, lightly, just making contact, I grin, “Ooooh, somebody’s already wet.”
Soon, Janah is writhing slowly, she gasps, then gasps several more times, my hand pressed to her while her hips undulate against it. I lick my soaked fingers, tasting my other’s sex, makes the busted lip feel oh so good.
“I guess we have to leave the condo eventually.”
Having a Sapphic nymphomaniac for a lover is the second best thing I can imagine. The first best thing is being a Sapphic nymphomaniac with a Sapphic nymphomaniac lover. I groan softly, Janah is always so orally enthusiastic. That’s all the time I have to think, my body explodes. Like those films of controlled destruction, where the building sort of jumps, then it melts into the ground. I melt into the sheets.
Chapter Eleven III
Sonja: Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
Boris: Yes, I've said that many times.
Diane Keaton to Woody Allen from the movie, Love and Death
An hour later we’re dressed and out the door. The plan is extra light, stop by a couple of old haunts, do some catching up, then to the store and get something for dinner, heavy thinking not allowed.
Straight to The Village Diner, we sit at the counter. I smile as I see the owner, Chuck Stavros, busy ringing up a customer. The cook looks up through the pass through and spots us. Mini has been cooking there for years. He must have made a million omelets, cheeseburgers, fries and pastramis on rye, all good, each one made like it was for their best customer.
Mini isn’t Mini. He’s over 300 pounds of muscle and sumo gut. He’s looked like that since I’ve known him, over a dozen years now, been coming here since before Janah.
Mini, “Daphne, Janah, I thought maybe you guys moved to China or something. Chuck, hey Chuck, looka our girls, our beautiful girls are back.”
Chuck has a huge grin spread across his face. “Oh geez, damn. Geez, look at you.”
He hurries around the counter and hugs me, kissing me on both cheeks, then picks up Janah and hugs her, her feet off the floor.
He sets her down gently, keeping one long arm around her shoulder. “Look at you, so grown up. The most beautiful girls in Manhattan, in the world, and I know, I been all over. You finally busted out of the temple? How long you out, you gonna come see me more now? You gonna stay in New York, you gotta stay in the Village, tell me you ain’t leaving?”
“We’re out and we’re not leaving. How could we leave you and Mini? What a question! We’re city girls, Chuck, this is our city and the Village is our neighborhood. You still got green tea for my girl, and some of that special Greek coffee for me?’
“Of course, you think I would forget? Your moms wouldn’t let me even if I did. You look exactly like Susan, when she comes in I think Daphne’s back.”
He leans over and in a low voice says, “Keep those sharp eyes on the register will ya? The wife’s out today, I’m doin’ double duty here.”
“Nothing bad can happen to you while I’m here Chuck, I’m a Shaolin monk for crying out loud.”
Chuck laughs, “Better than a cop. Be right back.”
Mini comes from around the back and picks up Janah like she’s weightless. He hugs her, then holding her around the waist with one arm, Janah suspended in the air again, he puts his hand to the side of my face, “What a face, you got a busted lip, you been freshening perspectives somewhere?”
“Just a little, I needed the exercise.”
Chuck says to Janah, “You let somebody hit her and you don’t come tell me? Who is it? He ain’t gonna be around no more.”
Janah, “It was voluntary, it’s her idea of staying in shape. Nobody can touch Daphne unless she lets them. She takes a shot now and again to make sure she can deal with it, not get distracted by some blood and a bit of pain. She’s weird that way. It makes her extremely capable.”
Mini, “You’re right, you gotta stay tough. Try to take your shots someplace besides that face. It’s perfect, particularly with that little dent in the nose. Another shot?”
“Uh, uh, forget it, no more, promise?”
“I promise, no more busted face. You have my personal guarantee.”
“Good, that’s settled. Now I’m gonna make you both the best waffle you ever tasted, and a big bowl of fresh fruit. You wanna omelet? Sure you do, it’s so great you’re back, girls.”
“You going to put Janah down or take her to the kitchen with you?”
He set her down on the stool, towers over me. “Man it’s good to see you guys. Food’ll be out in a minute.”
We sip our drinks. I love Chuck’s special coffee, ground fine, almost Turkish, made strong, my preferred brew. Janah drinks tea, mostly green tea, and a lot of it. If green tea makes you live longer, Janah will last until the odometer rolls over to the 22nd century.
I explain, “Unlike green tea, coffee doesn’t make you live longer, you just live so much faster it amounts to the same thing.”
Janah, “The curious logic of Daphinity. I wonder how that works?”
“It’s easy, I see the same things as everyone else with greater velocity.”
“Oh, well then, that explains that.”
We take our time, enjoying Mini’s splendid food. I pay the bill, wave, it’s lunchtime, both guys going full bore. On the way back we buy fresh fruit and vegetables from a corner market that appeared while we were in the temple. I chat with the man in Chinese, which brings his wife from the back. Lots of bows, we aren’t in robes, but somehow they know I’m a priest; I get a family history, their names and children’s names. The woman puts extra vegetables in the sack as a gift which I acknowledge with a low bow and sincere appreciation. The woman asks me to bless their business. I wish them prosperity, good health, a long life and that their children grow strong and give them many grandchildren. She bows respectfully, I don’t feel important, I feel humble, the Shaolin have gotten something through to me. Duty done, we head for the condo.
“I appreciate the gifts, and would never refuse, but…”
“I know. You also understand from their point of view it’s rewarding to participate in the old traditions. They do it out of respect.”
“Even now, I’m always amazed, how simply it’s done, so naturally. It’s really beautiful. We aren’t in robes, wonder how they knew? Maybe if we wore the robes to the Versace store on 5th avenue….”
“I don’t think it works that way.”
“I have no clue what I’d do with a seven hundred dollar t-shirt.”
“You’d make it look like a thousand dollar t-shirt. Versace should pay you.”
“Tempting, still too expensive. That sort of free somehow never works out to be without cost. I like the places we shop around here anyway.”
Janah, “Oh please, you don’t shop, Sis shops and brings it to you, we only shop for my stuff. Some of mine is hardly inexpensive. I love Geminola, Ms. Kirke’s designs are wonderful.”
“All that antique fabric, her things are one of a kind. Besides, they’re delightful, exactly you. Well, not the antique part.”
Janah giggles, “Good save.”
“You still look like you’re fifteen. Anyway, Sis likes being able to wear the same clothes as me. She says it would be unacceptable for a dignified business owner and mom to buy short skirts for herself. It’s acceptable to wear the ones she buys for me.”
“Daphinity is genetic apparently, you got Sis’ legs and logic. The logic escapes me, the legs make up for it.”
Chapter Twelve III
If one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place,
one must first and foremost take care to find him where he is and begin there.
This is the secret in the entire art of helping. Anyone who cannot do this
is himself under a delusion if he thinks he is able to help someone else.
We’ve been at the herb shop in Chinatown, consequently in robes, which reassures the people Janah treats for their aches and pains. I’m sitting in Starbucks, double espresso in front of me, Janah at a table outside talking, listening mostly, to an elderly man. He’s lonely, isn’t admitting it just yet. His wife gone, children grown and spread over the country.
A little girl stands about three feet from me, staring, sucking on a straw in her plastic cup of Starbucks fruit and sugar concoction. Mom is at the counter dealing with paying and waiting on her Grande, double shot, no whip, mocha, skinny something or other with a fake Italian ending.
I’m preoccupied, wondering whatever happened to large and small, and how flavored ground ice drinks used to be simply slurpees or slushes. Perhaps Janah and I could open up The Pretentious Café, and see how much people would pay for things with ridiculous names. Maybe only let in customers who suited the ‘ambiance,’ designer jeans over two hundred dollars, Versace t-shirts, six hundred buck haircuts, no knock off Manolo’s or Jimmy Choos allowed. A supercilious maitre’d, ‘I’m sorry Miss, that table’s reserved for the languidly statuesque, you’ll be seated in our chubby poseur illiterati section.’ Perhaps the first hundred dollar cup of coffee. Janah wouldn’t go for it, too many pezzonovante. Oh well, so much for a new life as a café impressariette, or would it be impressarietta?
The girl, six or seven, walks closer, I smile, “What are you having? It looks scrumptious?”
“It’s a tangerine frappuccino.”
“Good for you. You may be one of the few people left keeping whip alive.”
“Mom says it’ll make me fat.”
She might weigh 40 pounds dripping wet with ankle weights, practically invisible.
“But you like whip.”
“It’s the best part.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it on this beautiful day. Out shopping with mom?”
“Yes, mommy’s got this shoe thing, we have to stop at every shoe store we pass.”
I laugh, “Do you like to shop for shoes?”
“Not like mommy. Daddy asks when she plans to wear the ones she hasn’t taken out of the box from the last time.”
Her mother comes up, “Allison isn’t usually very chatty with strangers, my paranoia training I guess.”
I introduce myself to Allison and the mom, Celeste, “She’s adorable, and very sensible. She says she’s been shoe shopping.”
Celeste, “I’m a shoe pig, my husband has given up, poor baby. I’ve limited myself to a pair every three months hoping to get to every six months. I still have to stop and look. Allison is threatening to quit going with me, she says all we ever do is go to shoe stores. I bribe her by letting her double the whip cream. I gave up on the make you fat thing, she’s practically transparent.”
“I was a rail just like her. Shoes seem like a simple enough amusement. You’re not dealing drugs to pay for your habit are you?”
Celeste, “Not yet. I don’t need any more shoes really.”
“You heard her Allison, you can remind her next time you walk past a store.”
Allison, “What kind of dress is that?”
“It’s a robe, but one you can wear outside, not like a bathrobe. It’s very comfortable. My friend outside and I were visiting friends in Chinatown. Sometimes we wear these, sometimes we look just like everyone else.”
“It’s beautiful, can I get one?”
“You want to become a monk?”
“What’s a monk?”
“We are Shaolin monks, I went to school there, my friend outside is one of the teachers at the school.”
“What does she teach?”
“Botany, biology, neurobiology, Chinese, math, a few other things.”
“How does she know all that?”
“She’s curious; she likes to find out what and why, and she has a good memory.”
“How did her hair get so white?”
Celeste, “Allison, you are being too nosy.”
“She was born with it, it’s always been pure white, nobody knows why. I think it’s beautiful.”
“Me too. Yours is completely black, hers is completely white, you’re opposites.”
I smile again, “Yes, opposites.”
Celeste, “Okay chatterbox, let’s go. I don’t know what got into her, she’s usually so shy.”
“I’m delighted she chose today to open up. It’s a pleasure to meet you Allison, and you Celeste. Enjoy the whip.”
I sense Janah wrapping up her conversation. He’s smiling at something she’d said, then Janah laughs as well. I hadn’t followed their talk, absorbed with Allison’s questions. I wait until the man leaves, then go out.
“Lonelier than he lets on. After his wife died, he sort of let his relationships slide, holed up in the apartment. He’s just starting to get out, said he hadn’t stopped and sat at a café in a year. Today he was at the bookstore and decided to get a coffee, I invited him to share the table when you were inside.”
“I had the nicest conversation with a young lady and her mom. The girl reminded me of me at 6, curious, lots of questions, her mom wondering ‘what will she say next?’ Just being a curious kid. Is he going to get on with things, did he say?”
“There’s a widow with an interest. She’s been consistent about checking in with him. He’s going to ask her to dinner, actually go out.”
“I don’t suppose you had anything to do with that?”
“I listened to him talk, he mentioned her a couple of times. I said she sounded very considerate. He said he probably ought to do something nice for her, I suggested dinner.”
“In other words, you gave him permission to start dating.”
Janah smiles, “He needed to hear it was okay for him to start taking care of himself, to honor his wife’s memory by living, not negating life. Being alone is not a crime if that’s what he chooses to do. There’s no reason to be lonely when life is teeming around us.”
“Sounds like you gave him permission to start dating.”
Janah takes my arm and we start to the condo.