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FIVE: The Heart of Kamboo
The elocutor is a bedraggled and despondent Homeless Man, clutching at his hairy chest with a hairy hand and speaking loudly into a public telephone. The booth stinks of vermin. Human vermin. Those lazy, good-for-nothing Mexicans who take our jobs and don’t work at the same time. Those reeking little Eastern Europeans who sleep in these telephone booths upside down, waiting for the dusk with their fangs crusty with the blood of yesterday’s prey. Homeless Man doesn’t smell too good himself, but never mind that. He’s homeless. And a man. He is Homeless Man!
The man on the other end of the line is Tom Morgan’s faithful partner at the homicide department of Palmeida City. The PCHD. The YMCA for detectives who like dead bodies and like avenging those bodies even more. Yeah! Oh, and his name is Julien Vasquez, and he’s a homosexual Latino. Don’t let that upset you, though, because rumour has it he recently boned the chick who works at Starbucks down the street. If that’s true, then next time I meet a smokin hot chick with a lip piercing, I’m going to pretend I’m gay too. Women always want to fuck the gay guy. It’s like their holy grail or something. Should holy grail be capitalised? I’m not entirely sure. Holy Grail…? Hmm, I’ll have to check that out before I publish this.
—What is it, Homeless Man? Julien says, and sips his coffee like a regular little Kojak, except Julien is more awesome.
—My… powers… my superpowers.
—That Retarded Little Bitch…
—You got a girlfriend now?
—A man whose name is Retarded Little Bitch… stole the Heart of Kamboo.
—Are you sure you didn’t leave it in San Francisco?
—No time… for jokes…
—Where are you, Homeless Man?
—Ellis Park. Please… come meet me at the fountain… there is… a story you must hear. The safety of Palmeida lies in your hands. Meet me… at the fountain. Bring… coffee. And donuts.
Julien drives to Ellis Park, where children of all shapes, colours and sizes are forming a human pyramid. The challenge is to get the fattest kid at the top. More on this later. Or maybe not! The suspense! Julien has brought seven donuts. The flavours are: apple and cinnamon, cream, plain glazed, caramel, chocolate glazed, raspberry jelly and orange. There’s a whole science to the selection of donuts. You need to predict what you’ll feel like eating at any moment during the day. You have to assume at least one asshole is going to steal a donut from you; it helps to know what that asshole’s preference is likely to be, so that you can buy that particular donut for him and not lose out on the deliciousness. Sometimes you might drop the box of donuts; are you prepared for this? Do you have spare napkins? Will the donuts still be good if you freeze them and then reheat them a week later? If you do this with a cream-filled donut, for instance, the microwave will heat the filling far more rapidly than it will the actual toroidal confection. You can burn your tongue if you’re not careful.
The fat kid has made it to the top of the human pyramid. It would be typical of him to fart now, but he doesn’t. Instead, he just falls and the pyramid tumbles. One of the children loses an eye; the fat kid eats it and burps. So it goes. Julien walks over to the fountain with the coffee and donuts in his hands, whistling a tune from an old cartoon he used to watch. —Hey there, Homeless Man. What’s up?
Homeless Man looks pathetic. His beard is gone: he shaved it off. No point in carrying that heavy hairy thing around if he can’t conceal the HOK in it. His face is surprisingly handsome, now Julien comes to think of it. For an old man, the bastard’s got looks. Remember, Julien is a queer so that observation comes from him, not me. I’m not gay, obviously.
—Inspector Vasquez, thank God. I tried to contact Inspector Morgan but it seems he’s out of the country.
—He’s in Mexico, Julien says.
—Getting a cheap abortion for his girlfriend. You know, ever since they banned that shit over here…
—A grand shame… now listen to me, Inspector. I must entrust you with some important information. The Heart of Kamboo has been stolen. We have to retrieve it.
—Or else? Palmeida doesn’t really need a superhero, you know.
—Or else… something far worse could happen. The Heart of Kamboo is no ordinary object. I went through hell to snatch it from the clutches of those crazy savages, and now…
—Listen. I will tell you my story. It is a long and troubling one. Are you ready? Give me a donut, I must regain my strength.
As Julien predicted, Homeless Man picks the caramel donut.
—Well, says Homeless Man, when I was twenty-four I embarked upon a dangerous journey to the very centre of Inner Bangolia, that most wretched of geographical oddities. Inner Bangolia, unlike its more civilised sister island, Outer Bangolia, is a land ruled by brutes and beasts. Creatures unlike those you could see in any zoo are to be found there; horses with horns, tigers with blue ears, giant carrion-eating birds of opaline plumage… I had decided, months earlier, to risk my life in order to live it. Inner Bangolia may not be your average tourist’s favourite destination, but I was young and foolish. Equipped with my trusted pistol and a single Zippo lighter, I braved the wilderness in search of adventure.
—Tell me more about Inner Bangolia, says Julien.
—The weather there is… how to put it… apocalyptic. You can be freezing one moment and burning to a crisp the next. The sun… oh, that sun… it glares at you. It sees what it is burning. Do you understand, Inspector? If you stare long enough at the sun, you can see its pupil… and what a pupil! In Inner Bangolia, no man is safe from the sun. And yet when the clouds pass overhead, what rains can pour! Fat globular blobs of semen-like water dribbling down the infernal firmament! Have you ever seen a vagina after you’ve ravaged it with your throbbing phallus, Inspector? The juices dripping out of it — like a pitbull chewing on mayonnaise… what was I saying? Ah yes, the rain. Very horrific indeed. And the animals! Lord knows I don’t believe in God, but what was God thinking? One night I was stung by a mosquito as fat as an olive. No joke, Inspector.
—Very well, if you wish, I shall call you Christ. But by God above, Christ, you cannot know how terrified I was of those beasts! They were… incredible. Magnificent. And very, very deadly. Upon my arrival in Inner Bangolia, I was treated to some unpleasant stories by locals. Stories of decapitations at the paws of dragon-like simians… tales, I swear to you, of winged, fire-breathing apes! They were in fact known as the Grmphqqx.
—How the heck do you spell that?
—I have no idea. But listen here, Christ. About two weeks into my stay in that wretched place, that unholy of unholies, I met a merchant who went by the name of Tttk. He was a good man, methinks, but tormented by the memories of all those murderous animals… not to mention, of course, the tribal warfare that occurred every day, all around, in every stinking cave, every ghetto in every town… to think of it is nauseating. As it happened, Tttk had recently come in from the village of Hrrv, “where the sun doth set like a rabbit’s turd rolling into the bowl in the West after midnight” or words to that effect, I cannot remember. Hrrv had recently been invaded by marauding villains who called themselves the Kvqk. Looting, pillaging, raping and other ghastly things took place in Hrrv at unprecedented rates. Women were widowed, children orphaned, dogs deflowered. I urge you reconsider your decision to go there, Christ.
—I… never said I was going, says Julien.
—Indeed not. I beg your pardon. As I say, Hrrv was in turmoil. My friend Tttk, the merchant, wept as he told me of the carnage inflicted upon those poor villagers by the Kvqk… like Pol Pot, the leader of the Kvqk was a ruthless tyrant who never really grasped basic Marxist notions; unlike Pol Pot, the leader of the Kvqk had never heard of Marx. I suppose I’ve just wasted a bit of your time; my apologies. Anyways, their leader was known as Sam the Jjj. He had ordered the invasion of Hrrv for one reason only: to recover a mysterious chest which, so the legend went, contained the remains of a monster known as Kmbv. Yes — Kamboo! A magnificent beast with wings as wide as a 5x7 pink tarpaulin, except they were red, like a demon’s scales, indeed like the communists. According to local lore, Kamboo had been slain by one of the residents of Hrrv, a certain Mr James, who had died a few days before of Escherichia coli, type 2. Some sort of kinky sexual practice, no doubt. The invincible Kamboo now dead, tribes from across Inner Bangolia travelled to Hrrv to find the monster’s remains.
—What was so special about a dead monster’s bones?
—The Heart of Kamboo, according to Tttk, was imperishable, indestructible and created its own energy. You hear me, Christ? The second law of thermodynamics, broken by a heart! Now there’s a metaphor for love, if you ask me. Needless to specify, in a land as backward as Inner Bangolia, a self-sustaining source of energy was much in demand. The Kvqk were not the only tribe after it; they were simply the most brutal in their search, and by the time Tttk had left the village of Hrrv, Sam the Jjj and his brood had slaughtered all who’d dared to stand in their way. I forgot to mention that Tttk was one-handed. Sam the Jjj had taken his other hand as a trophy, then fed it to his camel-horse.
—Scientific name Equartiodactyl, says Homeless Man. Indeed. A species found only in Bangolia. I need not bother with a full description of the camel-horse now; it is irrelevant. The Kvqk never found the Heart of Kamboo, for it was no longer in Hrrv. You see, Inspector Christ, Tttk was a brave soul, and had escaped from the village with Kamboo’s heart inside his arse. It was the only place to hide it! Granted, it did not fit entirely, and in fact when I met him it had mostly slid back out again, creating the illusion that he’s simply shat his trousers. But no — shit-covered or not, the Heart of Kamboo was now in the hands of a humble, if courageous, merchant, who, knowing little of its history save what I’ve told you so far, offered to sell it to me in the hope that I might take it with me off of that wretched island and back to the West… for camel-horses cannot fly, you understand.
—What… exactly is the point of all this? Julien says, not impolitely, for with his soft voice he can make anything sound reasonable.
—Keep listening and all will become clear. Actually, no, I can summarise the events that followed. I bought the Heart of Kamboo. Sam the Jjj caught wind of this. He and the Kvqk followed me around for a good three months. Eventually they found me hiding in a pillbox with no guns, no food and nothing to keep me going but a dead skunk straddled over my chest for warmth. When they threatened to torture me, I bravely consented. They tore off all my clothes, and I’ve been naked ever since. For I do not need clothes, Christ. All I need is right within the Heart of Kamboo. Little did Sam the Jjj know that the Heart of Kamboo was hidden inside my very beard, which had grown considerable in the many months I had spent away from my homeland. They tortured me mercilessly, but failed to find my proudest possession. And it was on the seventh hour of torture that I discovered the Heart of Kamboo’s secret powers… a surge of might passed over me, strengthening the very marrow in my bones, and I became…
—Homeless Man, says Julien.
—Indeed. And I killed all those bastards with a single blow. Sam the Jjj is no more, I am proud to declare.
—And now we have to find this piece of shit, Julien says, or someone else could have those superpowers. Is that what you’re saying?
—That is what I think I am saying.
—Right. Then let’s get it the fuck on, baby.
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"I could have done worse!" exultantly cried the murderer Lebret, sentenced at Rouen to hard labor for life. — Félix Fénéon