Chapter 2


The focus has shifted some.  Since Muladharma, code name Grand Poobah (we use that as his name in our emails) made it official, not to mention mandatory, I’ve been spending more time on line and a lot less helping Deb and Drew.  Drew isn’t taking it well.

“Slacking again, I see,”  she says whenever she drops by and finds me on line.

I’m trying to think of something witty, but all that ever comes to mind when she’s there is fuck off, bitch.  Which really wouldn’t be cool, but most especially, so unoriginal.  Least SHE could go home if she had to right this minute.  She’s really getting on my nerves lately.  Course, I’m kinda worried about Deb.  She got sick a couple weeks ago.  Getting sick’s pretty common around here--everyone gets their butt kicked every so often, but a day or two and we all bounce back. Deb hasn’t this time, and for her, that’s really weird.  It’s not like she’s so sick that I need to think about trying to get an airlift, nothing like that.  She doesn’t get any sicker and she doesn’t get any better.  She’s just tired all the time and feels sick.  Maybe it all just got to her.  Except that really isn’t Deb’s style.  Only thing that gets to Deb is when patients croak on her.  She hasn’t had anyone croak in a while.  We’ve got three cases of dengue fever and the usual cuts, bruises, infections.

It’s about three in the afternoon, and Deb comes out of the clinic.  (I can work in the living area now.  I managed to wangle a way overpriced extension cord in Dakha, and that was after I bargained the shit out of the vendor.  But I made him throw in extra phone line, so I guess I wasn’t a total failure there.  I’ve learned to cover my hair in Dakha--blonde really stands out.  Makes you ripe for ripoffs and way too easy to identify).

“Sandy and Sampong have it under control.  I feel awful.  I’m gonna take a nap.”

Shit, she’s still feeling crappy.  “You think you got dengue?”

“No, thank God, the blood test was negative for it.”

“Whatcha think it is?”

“Homesickness, I think.”  She’s only half kidding.  “If you’ve got time, we need some clean clothes, babe.”

“Okay.  Need anything else?”

“Do we have any more Coke?”

“Drew took the last one.”

“Figures.  But she’s doing the drive to Dakha tomorrow.  Can you ask her to get some more?”

“Roger Wilco.  Go lie down, babe.”  I almost say, you look like shit, because she really looks miserable, but I bite my tongue.  I don’t think she’d wanna hear that right now.

I’m logged in, been tracking financial records.  This is not helping us find Jimmy, and it’s really pissing me off.  The Gertrude A. Bond Trust was a complete bust--turns out Daddy was making withdrawals and depositing to cover his margin calls.  I found a few other trusts, with some withdrawals on them, but no deposit activity to match them.  Jimmy’s using cash everywhere--even he’s not that dopey--so it makes him impossible to find.

I’m bored.  Let’s see what Frohike and Byers have to say for themselves today.  Maybe they’ve been luckier than I have.

Or not.

Frohike’s in his usual crabby mood, only more so.  He and Mel went out for a nice dinner, were having a good old time, I’m sure he got pretty drunk...

Shit.  He thinks he MIGHT have seen Runtz.  He’s been doing comparisons to some guy he saw in a restaurant last night.  Says it COULD be him.  Course, if he was as drunk as I think he was, who knows.  Says he didn’t hear anything, was too far away from the guy’s table, thinks the suit looked at him as he was leaving.

All I can think is, thank God he didn’t have time to pack the fucking alpaca vest.  I swear that NO ONE else on the planet’s owned one since I was a little kid, except him.  Frohike says he and Mel were dressed like tourists.  Mr. Blackwell I’m not, but just that image scares me to death.

He says he’s got this guy AD working on finding out what Runtz drinks.  Like that’s gonna help us.  If it wasn’t him, then so what, and if it was him, so what?  He’s mentioned AD a few times, he knew him from ‘Nam and he works on his boat and loses consistently to him at poker.  That’s about all I know.  Didn’t give me a last name.  I’m sure Frohike’s checked him out, though. He better have.  I don’t care if he knew him in ‘Nam.  Doesn’t make him good people, but the one thing about Frohike, he’s ready to believe the worst about everyone (I’m living proof of that).  This is a great trait if you make your living as a professional paranoid.  He proceeds to bitch about Jimmy and how even with a little help from our friends (Grand Poobah and his minions), he hasn’t heard shit.

Don’t look here, dude.  You think I wouldn’t have told you if I had?

He did mention that he had a killer Argentine steak with all the fixins and something deadly chocolate for dessert.  I hate him.  I haven’t had chocolate or steak in months and I’m not happy about the fact.  So he goes and rubs it in my face.  Asshole.  I swear if I see one more bowl of rice and limp veggies, I’ll puke.

And tonight’s dinner will be...rice and limp veggies.  Gag. No wonder Deb feels like shit.  The other day we were talking about McDonalds’ and how she’d kill for a QP with cheese and extra large fries right now.  You know you’re hard up when a trip to McD’s starts sounding like a feast for royalty.  My current fantasy is one of the stoner meals from Taco Bell--$9.99 for a complete spread of trashy, delicious fake Mexican yummies.  I could even handle a Whopper with cheese.  Maybe 2 of ‘em...

Deb says she thinks about food all the time.  She’s not the only one.  I think it’s kind of weird that she thinks about food all the time since her stomach’s a mess, but hey, the cuisine here is pretty boring.  A lot of the locals eat fish.  No way in hell am I touching anything that comes out of that river.  The fish don’t get the sanitation treatment, and I’m not big into eels anyway, which seem to be the local delicacy.

I write Frohike back, tell him he’s an asshole, and that I hope to God Runtz didn’t finger him.  He shouldn’t have, anyway--we ARE supposed to be dead.

This being dead shit is getting old, too.  We could do a lot more if we could enlist some help on the boards from our friends.  Apparently we have ‘em.  They actually seemed bummed when we ‘died.’  I’m willing to put up with all their shit if I can just come out on that one, but so far, Grand Poobah says no way.  And yes, I asked!

Byers.  What’s going on with Sri Lankan royalty today.  At any rate, he’s eating better than I am.  I hate him, too.

No news on Jimmy or Runtz, but I get treated to a fanboy letter about Arthur C. Clarke, whom he met at one of Grand Poobah’s bashes.  Guess he had fun talking to the old man, who showed up at a black tie gig in his shorts and rode his bike.  Hey, it’s Arthur C. Clarke.  You really expect him to put on a tux just because you invited him to eat your sweet and sour shrimp?  Don’t think so.  Sounds like it was the first party Byers actually had fun at since he got there, but at least he’s getting fed right.

He says at the end if he doesn’t get a cheesesteak soon, his arteries won’t know what to do.  They’re getting way too clean.  He’s been dreaming about pizza, too.  Oh man, I’m so with him on that one.

He’s a bit panicked about the Runtz thing, but like he said, Frohike probably wasn’t that sober and anyway, we’re dead.  Right?

I write back, tell him he’s an asshole, and to get busy already.

Deb’s got 2 more months she’s gotta do in this place.  And all I can say is, we better be ready to get on the plane, stat, soon as her time’s up.  Even the airline food should look good by then.

I don’t tell the guys she’s sick.  Maybe I should.  Grand Poobah might be able to pull some strings.

Nah.  Deb’d probably kill me, which she’ll do anyway if I don’t do some laundry already.  I gather some of the huge pile of totally rank-smelling clothes we’ve accumulated and stuff ‘em into one of the jute baskets one of the ladies in the village made for her.  It’s too pretty to be a laundry basket.  Also not very sturdy.  I drop about half the clothes on the way over to where Drew’s got some tubs set up for laundry.  Not that it makes any difference--they’re already disgusting.  No detergent.  I take some of the liquid soap out of the clinic Deb uses for handwashing.  She finally got about six cases of the stuff.  Now if she’d only get the stuff she ordered for toenail fungus, which just about everyone around here has.  You can’t keep your feet dry.  Doesn’t matter what you do.  Just another charming reminder of daily life here in Shangri-La.


Her Highness Drew Rayne is at the laundry tubs when I get there.

“You didn’t bring any beer, did you?”  She demands.

“What, do I look like a fucking takeout service?”

“Hey, with all the experience you’re getting here, you’ll be perfectly qualified for any job that involves saying, ‘would you like fries with that?’”

“Excuse me, but I’m the middle of a Pizza Hut craving, and I don’t need to be reminded that they don’t deliver in this neighborhood.”

“Watch my stuff.  I’ll go get us some beers.”

“Should I bow to you for that?”

“You should.”

She’s got the fire lit under her tub to boil up the water.  It’s a slow process.  We built these stone things to put fires on in hopes that they’ll stay dry enough.  As long as it doesn’t rain too much, it’s usually okay.

I dump ours in another tub.  Fuck.  I didn’t bring matches.  Now I gotta ask the bitch for matches, too.  Probably cost me seven years of indentured servitude.  I look around for a dry stick to steal some of her fire but they’re all not catching.

“Why don’t you just ask for a match, moron?”  She asks me as she tosses a Bengali in my direction.  Yeah, good thing it’s a Dakha run tomorrow.  We’re down to the bad beer again, but at least it’s clean.  Not much around here is.  She lets me use her matches.

“Try not to use the whole book up.”

“You are such a bitch.”

“Thank you.  I had no idea you thought so highly of me. How’s Deborah?”

“You took the last Coke.  She wasn’t real happy about that, y’know.”

“I was thirsty.”

“Yeah, well, she’s still sick.”

That makes her laugh, real hard.

“Hey, it’s not funny, y’know.  She’s got 2 more months here.”  Drew doesn’t have all the details of our ‘situation.’  I’m counting on being out of here on time.  I gotta believe we’re going home.  If I don’t, I will go fucking nuts.  Or at least more nuts than I already am.  “Being sick here’s the pits.”

“Ringo, you really don’t get it, do you?”  She’s still laughing.  Bitch.

“Get what?”  If you don’t mind, I’ve got enough shit on my mind right now, and playing games with Drew Rayne isn’t on my agenda.

“She’s not sick.”

“Tell her that.  Assuming you’d like her to hit you.”  Never seen her do it, but I think she could take Drew down easy.  And if she won’t, I’m about ready to, except that I don’t hit girls or creatures that look like them.

Drew smiles at me tauntingly.  “You knocked her up.”

“I did not.”  Where the fuck does she get off, anyway?  “She ran out of pills but she was gonna put in those wands or whatever she’s been sticking in everyone’s arms around here when she got some in.”  I’ve watched her do that.  Ick.  But should keep the baby population down for a year, she says.

“Does she have them in?”

“How the fuck should I know?  She says she’s gonna put ‘em in, she’ll put ‘em in.”

“You know she has trouble getting supplies.  I see you don’t take any responsibility for birth control.”

“I did at first but once we were together six months--”  hey, why the fuck do I have to explain myself to her, anyway?  And besides, getting condoms is a bitch.  Deb says she wouldn’t trust the ones that she can get, anyway.

“You know she wants kids.”

“We both do.  But not now.”

“Looks like you’re a little late for that, Blondie.”

“Hey, where the fuck did you get your medical degree, anyway?”  Besides, we’ve barely done it recently.  It’s not like we’ve had tons of free time and it’s been ungodly hot and Deb’s sick.  It’s gotta have been at least a month...God, that is so pathetic.

“I don’t think it takes a medical degree.  Everyone around here thinks she is.  The village women all think she has the look.  You, as usual, are totally clueless and will undoubtedly be the last to know.”

“Fuck that.  What do Sandy and Sampong say?”

“Nothing.  But they wouldn’t.”

“Yeah, because unlike some people around here, they know how to keep their mouths shut!”

She thinks this is very funny.  I am not amused.

Shit.  What if she’s right?

Right now, I can’t think about that.  I gotta help the guys get Runtz.  We gotta get Jimmy.  We gotta get the hell home...

I gotta get this laundry done.

She finishes rinsing her stuff. Good.  At least I can get some peace and quiet.

“Congratulations, Dad.”  She’s still laughing at me.

“Fuck that.  Just make sure you don’t take the last Coke ever again.”

God, I hate her sometimes.  Just like I hate everything about this place.  I’ve had it.

We’ve got to get out of here.

And Deb can be as mad as she wants, but if she’s gonna have a kid, no way in hell are we staying out here in the fucking jungle.  I’ll beg to Grand Poobah if I have to.

Besides, I might get a decent meal again that way.

Go To Chapter 3