Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 29

An Interlude

'Thank goodness you're back,' Ingenio said with a sigh when Frankie appeared at the door. 'You know Karmai and Sylvan have been a bit on edge lately? Well they had a real dust up yesterday and today Sylvan's ready to pack his bags.'

'What can I do?'

'Get them to see sense. Go! Now! If they break up it'll be your fault!' Ingenio shoved him out the door.

Karmai was in the workshop, banging at something and muttering to himself when Frankie jogged past. He hoped Sylvan would be in the cottage, and he was, literally packing his bags. Without saying anything Frankie grabbed an arm and dragged him out to the workshop, yelled at Karmai to stop whatever he was doing, placed them on saw horses facing each other and said, 'Who wants to be the first to get rid of all the shit that's clogging up your common sense?'

They sat and glowered at him.

'I'll toss a coin, heads Karmai, tails Sylvan.' The coin spun and fell with the head up. 'Well, Karmai. I'm your unbiased witness and impartial observer. Tell Sylvan exactly why you're angry. Don't hold back. Say everything you've been wanting to say straight up like a man.'

Karmai looked at Sylvan, who glared back. 'Get on with it!' he snapped. 'Say exactly what you think.'

'Ok. I will.' Karmai's fists were clenched. The tendons in his neck stood out. He was breathing shallowly and clearly under enormous stress. When he spoke it was all in one go with no breaks, in a hushed voice as if he was afraid to stop. 'Sylvan thinks I'm angry with him all the time. He thinks I boss him, that I only want my way of doing things, that I treat him like a kid. But I think he's too sensitive, and is just taking out his inferiority complex on me. Every time I say something he makes a snarky response. It really upsets me and I want to scream because…' he stopped and great fat tears began to spill over his lids and onto his cheeks. He brushed them aside angrily. 'But I'm never angry with him. It's the way I've been brought up. Everyone shouted at me as a kid. In our house English was pretty poor. No one knew many words. It was all rude and rough but we kids understood it was just noise. Underneath they loved us. I try, really, really try to speak sweetly and carefully, and then he says I'm being snarky, trying to make him feel bad by being too obviously nice. I can't win and I don't know what to do because I really, really love him and I can't bear the thought of ever being without him but I don't know how to say things without making him angry and… he stopped, took a great gulping breath, let his shoulders sag and the tears fall.'


'Ok, Sylvan, your turn.'

Sylvan stood, opened his mouth, then with a sort of whimper ran to Karmai, knelt beside him, wrapped his arms around him and sobbed into his neck. What he said was unclear, but sounded like he was sorry, he knew Karmai didn't mean it, but something got into his head and once he started bitching and nagging he couldn't make himself stop in case Karmai thought he was a wimp, and Karmai did know much more than he did and he felt stupid sometimes and whenever he wanted to say sorry it was the wrong time and he really, really didn't want to go away all he wanted was the bad feelings to go away and…'

Frankie crept out.

'All fixed.'

'Thanks, Frankie. I knew you were the right man.'

'I know you and Con often bicker and snap at each other, but have you ever had serious fallings out?'

'Of course! We've had moments when we'd happily kill each other and decide to split up, but as soon as I calmed down and realised what it'd be like not having him around, I'd race like a madman to him and apologise and make up and discover he was feeling the same. Like two idiot kids. It's odd, our bodies grow old but in our heads we're still teenagers. Arguments don't matter, as long as they don't go on too long. One of the partners has to give in and admit their error. It doesn't matter which one, because it's not a competition and we both want to be good again. No relationship is perfect. We're individuals, not clones. So, when are you off to your guru in India?'

'That's on hold for a bit. First I'm going to have a statue made of me and get rid of a few hares for Prudence and her girlfriend. So I'll be away for a few days.'

'Time has a habit of slipping away. I had the impression you were considering travelling on local transport from the southern tip of Myanmar to the Himalayas.'

'Yeah, well… I discovered it's impossible without a local tour guide and all sorts of permission requirements. And there's only one border crossing into India and that's not always open, and all I'd see is other tourists because it's illegal to camp or sleep in villages or anywhere the authorities can't find you. I'd just get more and more irritated at the contrast between dire poverty and religious wealth and control. The simple life I was imagining has never existed. It's one of those fantasies like a previous 'Golden Age'. Cultural traditions might be interesting to some people, but not to me; they're all just ways to tame people; to make them all do the same thing at the same time, worship the same things and not disturb the wealth and pleasures of the few insanely rich people for whom they slave so industriously.'

'Fair enough. When are you booked in to the Ashram, or whatever it's called?'

'It's a Buddhist Monastery. I'm not actually booked in; I just said the middle of August. If I fly to the nearest airport I'll have time to do more interesting things here first, like hunting with my trusty bow and arrow and posing for Empirika who wants me to be standing sort of like in the newspaper photo. And… I don't know, just getting out into the local world a bit I suppose. I love it here with you guys, but…'

'But you need a wider audience. I understand.'

'I knew you would.'

It was too late to go back to Prudence's place, so he stayed the night, surprised at how pleased and relieved he felt to be back with Ingenio and Con when he'd only been away for a day. And after a relaxed breakfast the following morning he felt reluctant to leave, wondering why the prospect didn't seem as exciting as two days earlier.

A large mobile caravan was parked at the side of Prudence's house when Frankie returned. Empirika's parents had arrived to spend a month making films using the local fauna and flora. The Kwins made educational clips for teachers to demonstrate scientific, biological or any other point they wished to illustrate. Schools sent lesson plans and the Kwins made videos, which were updated when new information came to hand.

There was something manic about both parents. Harley, Empirika's father, looked to be in his forties, was tanned nut brown, lean and consciously impish with a crafty glint in his eye and a tendency to look sideways at his audience as if asking for applause. A full head of short black curls that looked in need of a wash added to Frankie's instinctive distrust of the man. His wife, Columbine, looked about the same age but oozed a calmness that Frankie suspected concealed a tricky, if not devious nature. A mature version of her daughter.

'My son, Massimo will be coming later, he's the cameraman.'

'Prudence tells us you're going to shoot hares.' Harley's tone was patronising. 'Can Massimo and I come with you to photograph the damage they do?'

'Sure, but you won't see any hares unless you wait for hours; they can smell a human hundreds of metres away, and when they sit still they're invisible.'

At that moment they heard a car power up the drive and skid to a halt. Someone shouted. A car door slammed and the car shot away, motor revving, wheels spinning. A minute later a vertically challenged young man with flawless olive skin, Latino looks and a powerful body that skin-tight pale blue Lycra shorts and an abbreviated tank top made no effort to conceal, bounced out to the courtyard, face illuminated by a double row of perfect teeth.

'This is Massimo.' Harley's tone was almost reverential.

'Where's Sharlene or whatever her name is?' his mother asked.

'Shareene. Gone. Pissed off. Doesn't want to see me again.'

'How wonderful.'

'Why?' Empirika asked.

'She wants to get married. I said I'd slit my veins first. She took it as an insult. And that was that.'

'That's a relief.' Harley turned to Frankie. 'Frankie Fey, allow me to introduce you to my over-muscled, under-sized and occasionally intelligent son, Massimo Kwin.'

They shook hands.

'Massimo. That means massive… doesn't it?'

Massimo laughed delightedly. 'I love you! No one has ever dared say that to my face. Yeah, I should be called Minimo. ' He laughed again, clearly unworried by his lack of height.

'It seems to me, though, that your proportions are perfect for your height.'

'Now I want to kiss you.'

'Later, Massimo!' Harley snapped. 'First we're going with Frankie to look for hares. Get your camera from the van.'

The three men followed the same route Frankie and the women had taken the previous day so Frankie could point out dying saplings with their bark chewed away. Massimo filmed them, as well as a scrape, where a hare had rested during the day, and a track and tunnel through dry grass that was probably a bandicoot trail.

'They are mainly active just before dawn and dusk, so I'll come out tomorrow and wait near those saplings. I'm not expecting anything. I'm only an amateur archer, but sometimes you get lucky and instead of laying its ears along its back, sinking as low to the ground as possible and becoming invisible, it might decide to make a run for it, then I've got a couple of seconds. Real hunters use rifles because an arrow's too slow and they see it coming. But where I've been shooting they're relatively tame because of all the visitors, so they sometimes just sat up and looked at me. I don't think I'll have the same luck here. I hope Prudence isn't upset if I don't get any.'

'Frankie, you're a typical male; you've no idea how a woman thinks,' Harley said with a shake of his head. 'Prudence doesn't give two hoots about the hares; she's just so pleased that you've made contact again. She values your friendship.'

'Really? But she knows I'm not interested in females.'

'That's one of the many things she values… you're no threat to her and Rika.'

Why did that sound like a warning? Frankie wondered.

That evening Harley announced he'd decided to make a video of his daughter making the sculpture of Frankie, so everyone sat around the studio watching Empirika draw him, chattering about camera angles, lighting, sequences and script.'

'We want to show the complete process from first sketches to finished statue. Have you any objections, Frankie?'

He shook his head. 'If you think something is interesting, film it, that's fine with me.'

'No worries about having your jewels on show?'

Frankie's laugh was genuine. 'You saw our ballet, Harley. Anyway, only you people will see me, everyone else will only see pixels on a flat screen.'

'I think you're disappointed about that, Frankie' Columbine remarked slyly. 'I think you would like to be seen in the flesh by live people so you know your audience's reaction.'

'That depends on the quality of the production and the type of audience, Columbine. I'm not an exhibitionist who wants to flash to all and sundry.

'Do you think there's a market for a documentary about a woman making a sculpture of a man pissing into an arum lily?' Empirika asked Harley

'Yes indeed. Not perhaps our usual customers, but it's time we extended our range to include more racy topics.'

'How are you going, Frankie?' Empirika asked twenty minutes later.'

'I'm trying not to twitch, sag or fall over, and failing.'

'It's time for bed anyway.' She put away her gear without thanking her model.

The Kwins occupied the bedroom on the other side of Frankie's bathroom. On previous visits Massimo had used Frankie's room.

'Do you mind sharing the futon with me?' he asked casually. 'If so, I can always sleep in the caravan.'

'I'm queer. Aren't you afraid I'll rape you? What about your girlfriends?'

'I'm stronger than you so safe from rape, and I'm out of girlfriends, thank goodness; there's nothing more exhausting than sharing a bed with an insatiable woman.'

Neither young man was shy, so they showered and to Frankie's relief Massimo simply lay on his side, fell instantly asleep, and they woke refreshed.

Dawn was breaking as Frankie slid out of bed, followed by Massimo. They donned jeans, T-shirts, windbreakers and joggers. Frankie slung his quiver and bow over a shoulder, then crept out into the chilly morning.

'I thought we'd be naked like you were in the photo.'

'And freeze to death? It's only about twelve degrees. Come on.' Frankie set off at a smart jog and ten minutes later when the sun came up, they were sweating. Slowly they crept towards the stand of saplings,

'Now, don't breathe or move until I say so.'

They sat side by side for a very long twenty minutes. Suddenly Frankie tensed, very slowly aimed his already notched bow and equally slowly tensioned it. Massimo froze, unable to see what Frankie was aiming at. The wait seemed interminable until with a twang the arrow flew, Frankie sprang to his feet and Massimo followed, still seeing nothing. Then Frankie was putting the poor lamed animal out of its misery with a heavy stone.

'What amazing camouflage! I didn't see anything, even when it was lying there! You must have eagle eyes.'

'Just practice. Once you know what you're looking for they sort of jump out of the landscape.'

'That was an amazingly good shot.'

'Not really. Look at its hind legs—they're both broken and there's blood. I'd say it's been caught in someone's trap, pulled itself free and that's why it was so slow I could hit it.'

'Poor thing! It must have been in agony. It's lucky to be dead.'

'Yes. That's why I don't like clamp traps. Cages are best. The trapped animal gets annoyed, but not hurt, and death is quick.'

'Will we eat it?'

'It's healthy, so yes. It'd be an insult not to.'

On the way back Frankie asked if Massimo intended to marry.

'If two people need a legal document to keep them together, then they shouldn't be together. Live with whoever you like, but if you want to have kids, then there should be a licence and a stiff suitability test and severe penalties for breaking the rules.'

'Is that why you rejected your girlfriend's proposal?'

'Partially. The reality is I could never live for long with a female. They don't think like us and drive men mad if they have to share everything with them. That's why there are men's groups all over the country, learning how to cope and not suicide while living with a modern woman.'

'Your parents seem happy enough.'

'They're not married. She calls herself Columbine Kwin, to sound like the mythical Harlequin's wife, and treats Dad as if he's the most worthwhile man alive. She's aware of his faults, just as she is of her own, but she reckons she loves him and they're both considerate of each other. If I meet someone like that then…'

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