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17. Smiling and Serving

Shaman had a voice like incense. It permeated us. His words were not the main thing. The words were trails in a cloud chamber. It was something else that moved us, the things that made the trails, powerful, terrifying, small. Waves of meaning effulged from Shaman. Striking our minds, they crystallized into words:

"Hes mine. You know that."

Gone Joe was out up to his navel. "Run!" Both arms were pushing against the edge of my mind, the meaty part of him making no way, but the part still cerebral gaining purchase and levering his body still farther out.

Gypsy pranced idiotically from table to table, reaching high and low, trying?impossibly?to place himself between my eyes and Gone Joe. Where Gypsy stretched, an occasional crack formed, revealing the slither inside his clothes and skin. But he didnt want me to be distracted by Gone Joe. He wanted me to concentrate on Nora.

"You love me, dont you?" Nora bumped her pelvis up against mine.

"Yes!" Despite everything, I started humping. The floor was cold, hard linoleum. My knees hurt from pressing and jamming with Nora.

Shaman thickened among us. "Stop this," he said.

Gone Joe said, "Stop this!" too. He was out up to his knees. He was wearing his blue mechanics overalls with the embroidered tag on the breast pocket. In the middle the tag said, "JOE," and around the perimeter, "SMILING AND SERVING!" There was a Niagara Falls souvenir pen behind it. It had an illusionary moving picture of the Horseshoe Falls on the barrel.

Shaman wasnt ruffled a bit. He sounded like someone trying to talk a suicide down from the ledge: deliberate, calm. I heard him with my skin, between pulses of blood, between breaths, between thrusts and red thoughts as I mortar-and-pestled Nora: "Now, Gypsy, now, Nora, you must stop. You know this. The Earthers one of my Space People now. Hes a part of me. Dont fuck with me, Sanduleans, or therell be hell to pay."

Nora was fondling something besides my buttocks. She was stroking something inside my mind, a part of my mind invisible to me, as the nose is to the eyes. She stroked as you might stroke a dog to make it let go a ball. Of what ball did she want me to lose hold?

Shaman said, "Does the Earther know what you are to him, Nora? This isnt Sanduleak, you know. Some things are frowned upon in this galaxy."

Gypsy emitted a blast of red vapor. His skin ballooned outward like a swollen calfs belly, and exploded. The wet shards settled. Some stuck to the ceiling and walls, where they slid and dripped. He was the snake, or a gigantic yellow neuron, more like, bulbous at the bottom, grey dendrites like Medusas hair tangling on top.

"Run!" Gone Joe rasped. He was out.

And I was out. I couldnt stay inside Nora any more. Soul and body were shriveling to a bead. I couldnt act. Nora groaned disappointment and withdrew from my mind, leaving the ball in whatever jaws held it there. Gone Joe took one look at Gypsy and beat it into the kitchen.

"Did you get it?" Gypsy asked Nora. He used his whole reptilian body for a tongue.

"No," she said.

"You see," Shaman gloated, "the boys not like you Sanduleans, Gypsy. Youll come in anyone, wont you, even your mother? In fact, especially your mother, ey, Gypsy?"

"Damn! How did you get here, Shaman?" Gypsy yelled. "I know you cant epoche worth spit."

"Didnt have to," he cooed?from the kitchen, sounded like. And there, at the swinging door, where Gone Joe had been a moment before, stood Shaman, his features melting from Gone Joes into the ones I had seen in the New Mexico tent, by candle light, like a dry, crushed sponge duck springing out in water. "I came along in him, Gyp. A little reconnaissance. I figured someone like you would try to spoil my party. Youre trumped, Sandulean. Thanks for the ride, Mel."

"Are you my father?" I said.

"Im you." Incomprehensible.

16. Planting My Flag | Izzy and the Father of Terror | 18. You Are My Sweet Burrito (Please Be True)