Once Again, With Blood
The Island Trilogy
Genre: Horror/Dark Comedy
Imprint of Booktrope
Number of pages: 220
Cover Artist: Larry Weiner
"We're getting the band back together!"
For Kyle Brightman, bipolar advertising-industry burnout, this is good news and bad news. Good, because he'll get to see his zombie-killing friends again, and be reunited with Cate, the zombie he loves (yeah, yeah, I know, read PARADISE ROT and you'll get it). Bad, because having to blast his way through battalions of bloodless corpses took a brutal toll on Kyle's already fragile psyche. But duty, and booty, calls. And soon Kyle finds himself on another tropical island, duped again into creating an ad campaign to lure unsuspecting Middle Americans into the greedy mouth of ancient madness. This time, it's vampires. But with the help of a) his comrades-in-ass-kicking; b) the love of a good (cold) woman; c) the enduring power of Herb Alpert; and d) the awesomeness that is Charo, Kyle just might find a way to save thousands of lives. And what little's left of his sanity.
Splattered with folklore, dripping with history, ONCE AGAIN, WITH BLOOD, Larry Weiner's sequel to the uproarious comic romp PARADISE ROT, is what you get if Jimmy Buffett, Carl Hiaasen, Sarah Silverman and Hunter S. Thompson took turns pummeling Anne Rice with a cricket bat.
“YOU’RE A NEWBIE. I MEAN, LOOK AT YOU. That look of terror. I’ve seen it before.
Of course, it was during a zombie invasion, but still. Whoops! That last sentence freaked you out. S’okay. Let’s focus.
“First, you’re doing it wrong. All wrong. You gotta calm down or you’re not gonna survive it. I’m about to make your life easier. I’m babbling right now because I’ve had a slight psychotic break. Not really a break, more a sabbatical from reality. It’s okay, they’ll give me a new drug cocktail plus some Law & Order, and I’ll be back in action.
“Back to you. Here’s the way it works. Used to be that when you got a patient in who was out of his mind, whether from psychosis or crank or whatever, you’d strap him down with his arms at his sides and cart him off. Problem was, these tortured souls would pull on the restraints so hard, it’d dislocate their shoulders, and then the real howling would start—not to mention the potential litigation. Now, since they’re in pain, they’re gonna smack their heads on the gurney repeatedly. Let ‘em. It’s a padded gurney. They’ll end up with a terrific headache. I suppose you can give yourself a mild concussion. Anyway, it’s the shoulders that were the problem. So someone, and I don’t know who, but someone, maybe a yoga instructor or a cop, came up with the idea of strapping the crazies one hand up by the side of the head, one down by the hip. Did they demonstrate that to you? They should, along with the Fleet enemas. Try some of that shit, chief. See what I did there? Focus. One hand over the head, the other by the side. Now you’re talking incapacitation. Right? Such a simple solution. Almost elegant.
“So listen, you’re the new guy and seem reasonably intelligent so I wanna give you some tools to utilize while working the psych ward. Here they are. First, let them masturbate excessively. They’re burning off angst and energy and if you stop them they’ll do shit like stab each other in the eye with a plastic knife. There are not a lot of ways to blow off some steam in a psych ward. In fact, you might want to suggest they pass out hand lotion with toothpaste. You see a lot of awkward gaits around here—part of the reason is because they’re walking around with chafed cocks. Next, obsessively watching a TV show does not a crazy person make. It’s the repetition and predictability of the characters that provide comfort. A patient feeling safe is one who won’t try to hang himself off a doorknob. Lastly, tell everyone, regardless of how fucked up they are, that things are going to be okay and they’re gonna get through this. Even the thrice-admitted homeless paranoid schizophrenic meth addict. You tell ‘em they’re gonna be A-OK. Even if you know that it’s bullshit. It’ll make things go a lot smoother and you’ll breathe a little humanity into an otherwise inhumane situation.
“Remember, your job is to get ‘em back on their feet and get them the hell out of Dodge. That’s it. I’m sure you have questions, but it’s been a long day for me and I could really use some Law & Order SVU. It’ll help with the coming down. They’ve gotta process my paperwork. It’s gonna take a while before they even get to me. Law & Order. It’ll be on TNT, Bravo, and USA. Possibly on NBC. There are a few constants in the universe. One of them being that at any given time an episode of Law & Order is running somewhere on Earth. The lounge is off to your left. Why don’t we go hang out in there for a while? Don’t put me next to someone with their hands jammed down their pants. I’m in no mood for that shit. Watching that is like pissing out my soul. You’ll see.”
The orderly, a young man with thick horn-rimmed glasses, stood over Kyle Brightman, a little unsure of how to proceed. Kyle was right. The young orderly was in fact into his third day on the psych ward and had not yet mastered the skills for telling which patients had lost their way versus which patients were the truly batshit among them. Kyle seemed near normal, though he was brought in for beating a tourist couple at Pike Place Market with a twenty-fivepound salmon. The tourists, Scandinavians, had cut into a line that Kyle had been in for ten minutes. When Kyle let them know there was a line, the Scandinavians waved Kyle off.
But how could the Scandinavians know that Kyle Brightman had seen some things this past year, things they wouldn’t believe, and had just come out of a broken relationship that smashed his heart into a million pieces? True, he instigated it by running away, but still. He looked like just another Seattleite, not someone who had survived a zombie war in the Caribbean and a subsequent relationship with a zombie woman. There were a great many things they didn’t know about Kyle, chief among them that there were moments when he knew he was about to do the wrong thing but felt compelled to do it anyway. So, they cut in line and Kyle grabbed the first thing he saw, a gigantic Copper River salmon, and commenced beating the Scandinavian tourists with it. The rest was all screams and a bin of mussels thrown at the bewildered Scandinavians when the salmon fell apart. It was meltdownville after that, and, once again, Kyle found himself at St. Eligius, fifth-floor psych ward.
It had been little over a year since his last visit.
After the paperwork, Kyle was shown to his room, where he found his clean pajamas on the bed. The bed next to him was empty and still made. Kyle had hoped he would have the room to himself. The last time, he ended up with Oscar Pilson, ex-military, ex-Halliburton mercenary and eventually a good friend who now shared a life in the Caribbean sunshine with the woman-with-no-name and her talking
Chihuahua. The very sunshine he had abandoned to come back to the Northwest and lose his shit once again. Just like Cate said he would.
At the time he said Cate was full of it, but in the back of his mind a tiny voice had said, “We’ll see you soon.” She was right about everything: escaping to Seattle, feeling his old ways seeping back into his life and, eventually, the meltdown.
As Kyle slipped on his pajamas, which felt like paper, he thought about where he was in his life. Thirty-three, unmarried, unemployed, bipolar, and alone. Well, the alone part wasn’t totally true.
He did know people around town: former friends and work associates from his days as an art director in advertising. Maybe he could land a gig? He knew enough people to call on. It’d only been a year. He wasn’t aged out of the job market yet—or was he?
It was time to formulate a plan. First, a few more hours of L&O, maybe some ice cream—he hoped it was still stocked in the cafeteria freezer—followed by a nap, then the introductions to the staff counselors and doctors who would mess with his meds and try to impart some coping mechanisms to stop the assaults with seafood.
* * *
“Take it down a notch,” Dr. Jason Applebaum said to the group.
“Doesn’t that have a release to it? Hmm? It gives you a chance to just step back and think about things for a moment. To take a mental inventory of your thoughts and feelings and, hopefully, for that one moment, change the course of your life. You breathe deeply and you look around you. In what moment in time do you exist? Is it your reality? And if it is, then to quote Robert Frost, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’”
Kyle sat with a certain car-wreck pleasure. He was three days into his hospital stay and in group therapy, this one about coping skills in stressful situations. The therapist, Dr. Applebaum, was going around the circle of people asking each of them to relay an experience in which a coping mechanism failed them as they tried to solve a problem. In between stories, Dr. Applebaum served up some food for thought, a way to punctuate the stories of despair
with a tinge of hope. What could it hurt?
“Ahmed, would you care to share a story with us about standing in front of diverging roads and the one you chose?” Dr. Applebaum asked in what really was a wonderfully soothing voice. Ahmed nodded thoughtfully.
“It was when a co-worker took credit for something I had done that my company profited from.”
“And how did that make you feel?” Dr. Applebaum asked.
“I felt just awful, like someone had removed my genitalia and lit them on fire,” Ahmed said with a heavy Indian accent.
“So you felt physical as well as emotional pain, correct?” Dr.
“I could almost smell my genitalia burning on the taupe-colored carpet in our office,” Ahmed said. “It was a horrible, horrible feeling.”
“Clearly you felt dismayed over what had transpired,” Dr.
“Yes, dismayed. I was dismayed over what Ralston had done to me, that Anglo-Saxon whore.”
“Ralston being the man who took credit for your report. What happened next?”
“I defecated on Ralston’s desk.”
There were a few stifled giggles. Kyle felt sad and entertained.
“You actually defecated on your co-worker’s desk?” Dr. Applebaum asked.
“Yes, I shat on Ralston’s desk. On a copy of the report I had written, for which he took the credit.”
“What happened next?” Dr. Applebaum asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“I was still feeling very stressed out,” Ahmed said. “I defecated on the CEO’s desk, the CFO’s desk, and the CEO’s secretary’s desk because she never treated me well. Then I microwaved a stapler,
which started a fire. After that, I began to feel relief at long last.”
“Okay. Thank you, Ahmed. Would anyone care to give their input on how Ahmed might have handled the situation differently?” Dr. Applebaum asked the group.
“Man, how you control your ass to shit like that, all off and on like a garden hose?” Cedric asked.
“What might have Ahmed done differently in what was a very stressful situation?” Dr. Applebaum jumped in with. “Nancy?”
“I’m sorry, but I agree with everything Ahmed did, which is why
I guess I’m in this goddamned place to begin with.”
“Thank you, Nancy.”
A hand tapped on Kyle’s shoulder. It was a nurse. She bent close to Kyle’s ear. “You have a visitor.”
“Can it wait?” Kyle asked. “This group rocks.” “Visiting time is almost up,” the nurse said.
Kyle rose from his chair with a heavy sigh. It wasn’t often that group had any entertainment value beyond watching people cry, so when a good scene came along, it was a prize to behold. Kyle followed the nurse out of the room, as “Take it down a notch!” was yelled out behind him. Kyle turned the corner and was met by the beautiful yet somber face of Cate Hendricks, the undead woman with whom he had a relationship back on St. Agrippina when the sun shone every day, the sex was good, and Kyle thought he could finally go off his meds. Things had gone south at an alarming velocity.
* * *
They sat in the TV room, which was empty save for the elderly homeless man in a catatonic state who sat in a wheelchair in front of the big screen that was set to Jeopardy as if it might restore the old man’s consciousness. They sat in plastic-covered recliners that were easy to wipe down and faced each other, the glow of Alex Trebek
flickering across their faces.
“So, how are you feeling?” Cate asked.
“I feel great. Plenty of ice cream. Law & Order on four channels.
Group therapy rocks. It’s all good,” Kyle said.
“I see. And what about your meds?” Cate asked.
“I have new pills now. Or I should say, more pills now.”
They were both doing their best to keep it civil. “Rhymes with colostomy for one hundred, Alex.” That turned both their heads to the screen. “Kyle, what happened?” Cate asked, her eyes still on the TV.
“There is no word in the English language that rhymes with
‘colostomy.’ It’s like ‘orange,’” Kyle said. “Maybe lobotomy?” “I’m trying not to kick you in the balls here,” Cate said.
“I know,” Kyle said. “Same old song and dance. I get to a happy place and figure I don’t need the drugs. It seems to be a lesson I keep relearning.”
“I mean, Kyle, you just vanished. I could still see the cloud of dust swirling where you once were.”
“It’s fucked up,” Kyle said. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“I agree,” Cate said. “I should’ve just thrown away a year-anda-half relationship and started over with one of my kind. But then who would I have around to kick in the balls whenever they pissed
“Now that you mention it, you’ve got a kind of addiction to caving in my testicles,” interrupted Kyle. “Was the sex that bad?
You could’ve just said so instead of getting physical about it.”
Cate sat back in her chair, the plastic cover squeaking. Why did she come after him? Okay, she loved him, but really? That was enough? Took three planes to get here to, what? Bring him home? Was that even a possibility? Chasing after men was never Cate’s style. She
was the heartbreaker.
“Heartbreaker, dream maker,” she sang in an almost whisper.
“Love taker, don’t you mess around with me,” Kyle finished. They smiled at each other.
“I should just eat your brain right here and now and be done with it,” Cate said. It wasn’t often that she made zombie references. It was still volatile terrain to walk across. Some days she had a hard time working past the idea that she had risen from the dead, much like Zac Efron, on a daily basis.
“It was more than the meds,” Cate said. “Percy really tripped your wire.”
“Yeah, he did,” Kyle admitted. “It was like a borderline serial moron was teaching me how to dismantle a bomb.” “So I see you’re over it,” Cate said.
“Look, the guy’s a douchebag. We had a sweet deal, being our own bosses, our own creative directors. Suddenly there’s this brown-shirted haircut in the conference room judging our creative? C’mon. You know how many years I had to put up with running the gauntlet of approval. They don’t tell you that when you work in a profession that is remotely creative there will always be someone to ram a telephone pole of criticism up an already worn-out ass, like
“Who’s Jack McCoy?” Cate asked.
“Jack McCoy. Manhattan District Attorney, Jack McCoy? Played by Sam Waterston?”
“This Law & Order fetish, it’s no good,” Cate said.
“Said the woman addicted to Downton Abbey.”
“Kyle, here’s the deal. I love you, probably more than I should. I know you love me and I know you have a disease to do battle with. But I can help you with it if you let me. Normally I’d tell a guy to go fuck himself, pulling a stunt like you did.”
“After kicking him in the balls.”
“Shut up. I’m being serious here.”
“I’m willing to travel across three time zones to see if we can make this work,” Cate said. “And that’s a big deal for me. But we have something and I’d like it to continue. Would you?”
Kyle’s immediate answer in his mind was “Hell yes!” but he also had the deep, dark fear that it would only be a matter of time before he ended up in the psych ward again. But good god, this woman
was everything he ever wanted—except for the being-a-zombie part, which really didn’t matter so much. He always assumed that sooner our later he’d let her take a bite out of his ass and join her for all eternity or until all the flesh on their bones was replaced with new and exciting composite plastics. Hunter S. Thompson whispered in his ear: Buy the ticket. Take the ride.
“I’m in,” Kyle said. “I’m so in.”
Cate smiled. They lunged for each other. She felt so cold to the touch. It was perfect.
“Here’s the thing,” Cate said. “You can get your old job back.
We’ve got a new assignment.” Kyle unclenched her.
“Don’t fuckin’ say it, Cate,” Kyle said.
“Six weeks, tops,” Cate said. “It’ll be like opening St. Agrippina.
Remember the excitement of that? Launching a new resort?”
“There’s no way I’m working with Percy Shitballs to open one of his resorts,” Kyle said. “And as for it being exciting, you seem to forget that we lured hundreds of unsuspecting civilians to an island to be a hot lunch for zombies. Also, there were explosions and gunfire. Can you promise me the same for this? Because I’d love to duct-tape some C-4 across Percy’s mouth. Why the fuck did Dory get into bed with him to begin with?” “Take it down a notch,” Cate said.
“Oh, no you di’int,” Kyle said.
“Just listen to me,” Cate said. “Dory wants to expand the St. Agrippina brand. She needed a partner with cash and land. She found one. Percy’s just a suit, not the partner. And it was easy. Why? Because a couple of awesome creatives put together an ad campaign that filled a resort to capacity in a week’s time. Sure, it was for nefarious reasons—which we corrected. But nonetheless, we did good.”
That was how it worked in advertising. Create a talking Chihuahua to sell cheap burritos for Taco Bell. People line up to get them, not taking into account the lard content that hardens arteries and puts a drain on the healthcare industry which in turn has a field day charging whatever price it sees fit—but so what, the creative worked and won a shit ton of awards. That made Kyle think about Dog, the talking zombie Chihuahua that was Woman’s sidekick. He would never sell out like that. Fuck sellout-talking Chihuahuas.
“I’ll do it on condition that I’m never in the same room with Percy the Taint Weasel,” Kyle said.
“I can present the creative,” Cate suggested.
“Okay,” Kyle agreed.
“Most importantly, we’re gonna keep a close watch on your health. This means lots of exercise, eating well, group therapy and taking your meds.”
“Let’s get you back on your feet and get out of here.”
“Can we do it tomorrow? Bravo’s got a Law & Order marathon running and it’s my favorite SVU episodes.”
“Sure,” Cate said. “If you could just stand up long enough for me to smash your balls in with my Chuck Taylors.”
They both smiled behind the fear and trepidation.
* * *
Topo Bogomil, having just drained the blood of an Austrian tourist, sat in Café Patrocinio, sipping espresso and thinking about all the various postings he’d been given and how each one seemed to represent how the powers that be felt about him. South of France? They felt he was doing a pretty good job. Same for Spain, the Netherlands, and Northern Ireland—though that one could’ve been an early sign of things to come. It wasn’t easy gauging their reaction to his work. It was a lot like putting a suggestion in a suggestion box that emptied into a black hole. It wasn’t until things were wrapped and it
was time to move on that he got an inkling of how well he had ared. The next posting, surely; but sometimes there’d be a small token of appreciation: an attaboy pocket watch or maybe some extra-filthy lucre in his bank account.
But there was none of that after the Sao Paulo debacle. Things got messed up fast and when the smoke cleared, there was nothing but carnage and empty hands. Not entirely Topo’s fault, but still, shit rolls downhill. It felt bad from the start. The mark was too big a fish; the surroundings too unstable; his crew was jumpy about it from the get-go. Topo didn’t listen to his gut on that one and paid the price. He had that same feeling as he sat in Café Partrocinio with his bitter espresso and throbbing gut.
“So this is what ‘go fuck yourself’ looks like,” Topo whispered as he took a sip from the small white porcelain cup. He looked out of the window. The moon waxed crescent, reflecting on the calm
waters of the North Atlantic. In the distance, a buoy rang lazily through a light breeze. In a way it was a shame to build such a
whorish resort on such a pristine island.
“So it goes,” Topo said, quoting Kurt Vonnegut, one of his favorites.
* * *
Xavier Wishburn, formerly Jimmy Dank, felt serenely joyful as he piloted his Grumman G-64—one of nine that he owned as the CEO/ pilot of West Indies Air—through the bilious clouds and azure sky. His good friends Kyle Brightman and Cate Hendricks sat in the cabin, listening to Derek & the Dominos (at Cate’s request) as they headed home. Business was good for Xavier since the oft-called Zombie Land Rush & Barbecue. St. Agrippina did bangup business and now, with the new resort opening, Xavier was about to make a serious purchase— three CRJ Series regional jets, aircraft he wasn’t even instrument-rated for. It was a big deal, which Dory was backing because the Grumman’s capacity had become woefully outsized by recent client volume. Though the cruise lines were the bulk of tourist transportation, air travel was still a viable way to get to the island—or now, islands.
But for the moment, Xavier was pleased to have Kyle and Cate back. He knew things had been rough for the both of them, but deep down he knew they’d find a way to make it work. Kyle had mentioned to him that they were getting the band back together, which struck Xavier as sincere and maybe a tad overzealous. Probably the meds. It didn’t seem to affect Kyle’s bullshit detector any. They both thought Percy Merriweather to be a cubicle thug with a grasp of “out of the box” verbiage and an odor of indifference to authenticity. He too wondered why Dory had partnered up with someone who let Percy be the mouthpiece. True, it was a cash infusion and the acquisition of another property, but still, couldn’t there be some venture capitalist out there who wasn’t a complete charlatan? Nonetheless, it was good news for West Indies Air—something Percy had suggested a name change for.
“The North Atlantic Line, perhaps?” he’d mentioned to Xavier over cracked crab.
“Sounds like a railroad,” Xavier had told him, though in actuality, it sounded pretty regal. Xavier took note of his soul departing for greener pastures.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on our final approach to St. Ledo,” Xavier said in his soothing pilot voice. “The North Atlantic
Oscillation fluctuation at this time is positive, with warm winds coming out of the zonal systems of the South Atlantic. We ask that you please put away all electronic devices. Flight attendants, prepare doors for arrival, crosscheck, and all-call. At this time, if
you could remain seated with your belt buckles securely fastened, allowing enough movement to bend over and kiss your asses, I’ve had too many vodka martinis, God have mercy on us all, here’s a little Foghat to send you into the valley of the shadow of death.”
Slow Ride blasted out of the cabin speakers. Kyle turned to
Cate with a wide grin. “We’re getting the band back together!” he shouted over the engine noise, giving a thumbs-up. Cate gave the thumbs-up back, wishing he’d stop saying that.
* * *
Dory Parthenia sat behind her Plexiglas desk, taking a moment to choose her words carefully as she looked at Kyle’s bright blue eyes. He did have nice eyes, like shards of broken glass arranged in a circle. But what a pain in the ass. Okay, he was worth the pain. He did good work. The chemistry between him and Cate generated great ad creative despite their drama. It’d taken a while for Dory to learn the Guidebook for the Caring and Feeding of Kyle Brightman, but once she did, he never let her down. If anything, being with Cate had a calming effect on him. Domesticity tames the restless mind. That, and sixty milligrams of Citalopram and one hundred and fifty milligrams of Lamotrigine. She was surprised that Cate went after him. Would she do the same for someone she cared about?
She’d built a four-star resort, Dory had. After the reconstruction following the Zombie Land Grab & Barbecue, St. Agrippina had become a premier getaway for middle management and up. She
was able to recruit undead from various parts of the globe interested in a 401(k) with “maintenance benefits” in the Bahamas. She also did a fair bit of recruiting from colleges that spewed out grads with useless degrees who kept open minds about working alongside personnel who ate brains. Doing the deal with Percy Merriweather’s people would expand the St. Agrippina brand. Dory’s hope was to be the South and North Atlantic island destination when the Azores proved too expensive and Aruba was too full of dentists.
But first, get the creative back on track.
“Look Kyle, it’s me you’re mad at, not Percy. And I get it. I don’t blame you. I should’ve given you a heads-up,” Dory said, to disarming affect.
“Yeah, you should’ve,” Kyle said, his selfrighteous indignation deflated by Dory’s admonition. “He’s like the feeble uncle at Thanksgiving who keeps dropping his dental partials in the mashed potatoes. You can’t just kill him, but he was almost unbearable to put up with.”
“He’s a businessperson just like me, though not as smart,” Dory said with a wink. It was true even if it did sound vain. “So whaddaya think? Wanna open the next asskicking resort this side of the West Indies? Be a nice change of scenery for you and Cate. Get you off this island for a bit.”
There was a knock at the door. It opened and Cate stuck her smiling face in.
“Just in time,” Dory said, waving Cate in. “I was just filling Kyle in on the new resort.”
“Awesome,” Cate said, closing the door and taking a seat on the second Eames recliner facing Dory’s desk. Though she ended up caving in her mentor Atria’s skull, Dory retained Atria’s style, using the same décor for her office.
“Let’s get to it,” Dory said. “The new resort is called ‘St. Ledo,’ named after the Patron Saint of Happiness and Good Hygiene.
Anyway, about the hotel…”
“Hold on, D,” Kyle said. “We’re opening a resort called St. Happy that will appeal to those with good grooming habits?”
“Okay, I didn’t pick the name,” Dory said. “St. Ledo was a Portuguese saint. The island is situated in the North Atlantic, between Bermuda and the Azores. Percy thought it appropriate given the location.”
“That part of your sentence—’Percy thought’—yeah, that makes me wanna staple my large intestine to a race horse,” Kyle said.
“I like it,” Cate said. “Short, easy to say. We can sell the happiness angle.”
“Exactly,” Dory said. “The place is a confluence of cultural and historical significance. Okay. I’m quoting Percy, but he’s right. The island’s a melting pot of influences, from Portugal to Britain on Bermuda to—honest to God—Sephardic Judaism coming out of
Spain and the Azores. It’s bigger than St. Aggies. Even has a small village, Oliveira, with shopping—very old-world charm meets tiny streams of revenue.”
“Didn’t the Inquisitions start in Spain?” Kyle said.
“Bygones,” Dory said. “The main hotel is smaller than ours, but we’ll be offering timeshare cottages situated throughout the island. We’re going to cater to a more upscale clientele. We’re looking to attract those avoiding the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle. We want Eastern seaborders, Canada, Portugal, Morocco, Miami. We wanna pull from the south, the north, Greenland—this could be big.”
“Do you want me to send you back to where you were—unemployed—in Greenland?” Kyle said.
“Come again?” Dory said.
“Princess Bride,” Cate said.
So that’s why she went after him.
“So we’re getting the band back together for another big push,” Kyle said.
“That seems to be the case,” Dory said. “You two ready to rock it?” Kyle winced.
“What?” Dory said.
“Nothing,” Kyle said. “It’s just when C-level types make with the hep dialogue I expect us all to jump up with high-fives and a freeze-frame.” Kyle rose out of his chair. “Which sounds like a pretty good idea!” He raised his hand, waiting for the others to join them. “So we’re clear,” Dory said. “You actually went after him?”
* * *
Sari Wysocki sat on the deck of Candido, her thirty-foot sailboat, thinking about slicing up cow tongue for human consumption. Working at a deli involved slicing up various kinds of meats and that was something Sari found pleasant—even meditative—but there was just something about cow tongue that repulsed her. It
wasn’t so much the part of the cow, but what it represented. It was more anthropomorphism than anything else, such as believing a cow could talk. It was similar to the effect one might have naming an animal then having it turn up on your table. To Sari Wysocki, cow tongue represented civility and humanity.
Van Morrison’s And It Stoned Me rose above deck, putting Sari in a relaxed mood, as if she were a character in a summer read. She made busy work, knitting an orange and gold caftan for the mild
weather that slowly took hold of the island formerly known as Queixa. Freakin’ developers. Someone made a deal and now her beloved northern island was about to be transformed into another Sandals resort. “St. Ledo?” Wasn’t Ledo a Boz Scaggs song? Or was it L.I.D.O? Whatever. They were promised that business would only improve, which meant working longer hours and spending less time on her boat.
Sari, along with her father, Noam Wysocki, owned the island’s only deli. How a Brooklyn-style deli came to be located on an island between Portugal and New York wasn’t such a mystery, at least not to her father. He’d married a woman from Lisbon, Catalina Guarda,
whom he had met in his father’s deli in Flatbush when she came in one day and asked if they sold Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich. Noam was instantly swept away by the exotic request. It helped that it came out of the full lips of a brunette with deep brown eyes and a figure that his father, Max, called “the origins of sin,” which was how he described a comely woman who entered the deli.
It was Catalina’s idea to be closer to home and she convinced
Noam that pastrami, kugel, brisket, and Francesinha would do well in her part of the world so long as they provided strong espresso to go with it. They relocated to Lisbon but found the city to be too much city. That’s when Catalina mentioned an island northeast of the Azores that already had a decent-sized population bound to be grateful for a new dining choice. So they moved to Queixa with one cold case and some deli furniture and opened Koufax’s Delicatessen, named after Noam’s favorite left-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Sandy Koufax (there were no Los Angeles Dodgers in Noam’s mind). Which was fine with Catalina, as she got to take control of the décor.
Sari was born on Queixa and had an idyllic childhood on an island that had a mixture of culture, religion, and coffee. She was raised Jewish and Roman Catholic, thus cornering the market on Jungian symbolism and food rich in meats and spices. She attended college at Cornell, majoring in anthropology, and ended up with a job in public relations at Edelman, which blackened her heart.
“Whaddya gonna do in Manhattan? Promote the next energy-drink crap you kids love so much, as if coffee weren’t enough? Come home, work with your parents. There’s no shame in working in the family business. It’s an investment. One day your mother and I are gonna set sail for Australia, and we’ll need someone reliable to keep things going here,” her father had intoned. As timing and the universe would have it, her mother, Catalina, died before Sari made her decision. Sari was told that it was a heart attack. Catalina was standing there next to the crate of salmon on ice in the backroom, and then she was on the floor, dead. They buried her with a simple headstone on a small hill facing the Atlantic Ocean. Noam visited daily, but as time went on and Noam’s heart got back on its feet (with a pronounced limp), the visits became weekly, with Noam giving reports on the goings-on in his life, just like you would after a day of work.
Sari came home, choosing to live aboard the Candido, which was docked in the village of Oliveira, a town built of adobe, maple, and stone, on an island full of olive farms. Oliveira was a vacation destination for those who searched hard enough—most travelers opted for the Azores or drifted south to the West Indies—and its town center was a mix of tourist shopping and practicality for the locals.
The merchants were swollen with excitement at the prospect of a resort opening on the island. The chamber of commerce on Oliveira had decided to give the village a facelift, with planters hanging from every light pole and lots of streaming lights that advertised,
“You’re somewhere exotic—spend accordingly.” Noam was pleased in that buying-a-used-car kind of way: glad to have it, but would it be trouble down the road? As for the name change, it was universally accepted that renaming an island after a minor saint who was a big fan of flossing was typically American and therefore completely off the mark.
“So it goes,” Sari said. She sat aboard Candido, listening to her Van Morrison channel stream in and knitting as the boat lolled slowly, seagulls overhead, the blueish-green Atlantic reflecting the
light. It was a good life on the island, no matter what it was called. Maybe the resort would yield a few dates? God knows she could use a little sex, though not so much the romance.
About the Author:
Larry Weiner is the author of PARADISE ROT (BOOK ONE), ONCE AGAIN, WITH BLOOD (BOOK TWO) and the forthcoming HINDU SEX ALIENS (BOOK THREE) that make up the Island Trilogy. Larry earned a degree in film from CSULA and was an award-winning art director. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, two kids and a gaggle of animals. He plays bass and thus has poor hearing.
Visit his site at: http://www.larrynweiner.com
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