Me Tanner, You Jane

Page 19

“Right as rain. But-”

“The last thing he wants to see is a man who starts improvising. He wants me to carry out the plan. I could try to simplify things, and if I was all alone I might. But I’ve got you along for the ride, and that makes it different.”

“How so?”

“He might hear from you that I left Sheena to go on queening it.”

“You think I’d tell him?”

“I don’t even trust myself, Bowman cat.”

“A sound policy. You never said Sheena was part of the assignment.”

“You never asked.”

“Yeah, well. What’s so important about her?”

“That’s just one of the things the Chief keeps under that crazy plaid hat he always wears.”

“That nutty old hat.”

“You know it, man. I don’t ask him embarrassing questions. I just follow orders. Saves a lot of heartache when it’s time to type up the report.”

“Evan? Obviously you no longer love me. You love this white woman.”

“There’s a big difference between love and the milk of human kindness.”

“Would you overflow with this milk if she were not beautiful?”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Plum.”

“It is enough that we are encumbered with him. My bottom is sore from pinches. I do not think I can endure very much more of this, Evan.”

“I thought he was keeping hands off.”

“Well, he is not. I believe it was a mistake to take the stain out of my hair and skin. I believe it is my color that has this effect upon him. Evan?”


“Can we not put her overboard?”

“Plum, you’re being very foolish about this. She was a ten-year-old girl, a child. And that personality is all locked up inside her just waiting to be brought to the surface.”

“I have not seen it. When she is awake she does nothing but call down the wrath of the Lord upon us.”

“She’s being Sheena now. When she’s Jane-”

“I have never seen her be Jane.”

“Well, she only does it after an experience that moves her very deeply.”

“I believe I know the sort of experience you mean.”

“I thought you might.”

“Is that what you plan, Evan? You will give her such experiences constantly so that she will remain Jane?”

“Oh, cut it out, will you? Look, there are clinics that can do wonders with personality disorders like this. It’s just a matter of rooting out the Sheena person and bringing the Jane person to the surface.”

“And then there will be this beautiful woman with the mind of a ten-year-old.”

“Well, most beautiful women have the mind of a ten-year-old.”


“Some other time, okay? I think he’s waking up.”

“No, he sleeps. Evan, I was-”

“You’re not paddling right, Plum. Try to slip your blade into the water at a little more of an angle.”

“Like this?”

“That’s a little better.”

“But that is how I was doing it. I believe you are attempting to change the subject, Evan.”

“Why, that’s very perceptive of you, Plum.”


“That’s what it is, Tanner cat. Fields and fields of it. As far as the eye can see. Nothing but instant happiness growing up nice and green.”

“Miles of opium. I suppose you could call it a growing monument to the Modonoland Retriever.”

“It’s his monument is what it is. Before he thought to plant it, this country didn’t have a thing going for it. Tons of potential but not a pound of right-now action, you dig? Wasn’t nothin’ Modonoland could produce that somebody else couldn’t manage cheaper and faster and better. But when you come to opium you’ve got a seller’s market. And ain’t nobody else on the continent that’s growin’ it.”

“There’s the little matter of international law.”

“International laws are made to be broken, man. Nobody pays any attention to them if they cut you out of a dollar. Look, who makes the money out of opium if Modonoland don’t? Nobody but China.”

“That’s one way to look at it.”

“What’s good for Modonoland-”

“Uh-huh. I understand the Glorious Retriever made a few cents himself from the opium.”

“That’s the American Way, ain’t it?”

“Don’t be touchy.”

“Ain’t bein’ touchy, man. Only-”

“My point was that the royal treasure must have come to quite a sum.”

“It must have done, I suppose.”

“I wonder what happened to the treasure.”

“Still back in Griggstown, I reckon.”

“I don’t.”

“That right?”

“Uh-huh. We know Knanda Ndoro got it out. A fortune in negotiable paper and cut gems, according to what we heard.”

“You heard that.”

“Uh-huh. I thought you might be carrying it, but you didn’t bring it on the boat. Where is it stashed?”

“The Retriever hid it.”

“And died without being able to tell you where he had put it?”

“I don’t know as you’ll buy that one.”

“Not much chance that I will.”

“Well, then.”

“Be tough for you to get it out of the country on your own, Bowman cat. But I’ve got worlds of contacts. MMM people and such.”

“You know those creeps?”

“Uh-huh. They might be handy.”

“Might. Course, a straight arrow like you, Tanner cat, like you would want to turn it all over to the man with the plaid hat.”

“I might not be all that straight myself, Bowman cat.”

“That so?”

“That’s so.”

“I might maybe like to think on that a spell.”

“You might at that.”

“Hey, Plum kitten.”


“Now you are being silly.”

“Stay where you are. You will tip the boat.”

“Couldn’t tip this battleship with twenty men. What I want to know is why old Tanner cat has to always sleep in the middle. Like he’s trying to keep us two apart.”

“Look, I don’t-”

“No sense in you bein’ all hung up on him. He don’t care for you.”

“How do you know?”

“What he said.”

“You’re lying.”

“And the way he’s actin’. Why you think he brought old Sheena girl along? You never heard him say nothin’ about bringin’ her until he put it to her, did you? But soon as he had it off with her, then he’s keen on bringin’ her along. He’s just not your kind, kitten, and you ain’t his kind, and she is.”

“Or your kind either.”

“Oh, now. Close enough.”

“And I’m only a child. I don’t suppose that means anything to you, does it?”

“You big enough, you old enough.”

“Go away. Please! Anyway, I think Evan is waking up.”

“He’s sleepin’.”

“I think he’s waking up.”

“Say, I thought on what you said, man.”


“About that treasure and all.”


“I could give you half.”

“That sounds generous.”

“Well, we’s in this together, right? Share and share alike. I give you too little and I got a discontented cat on my hands, and one thing I don’t want is a discontented cat on my hands.”

“Where’s the treasure?”

“Well, see, it never did get out of Griggstown.”

“I thought that-”

“No, see, what happened was we got it out of the palace, and then we was supposed to get a ship out of there, but the ship wasn’t in the right place at the right time. So we stashed the goodies in the shipyard.”

“In the shipyard.”

“I could tell you just where, but I might could make a mistake. I tend to disremember precise details like that.”

“I’ll bet you do.”

“Right up close, now, I would remember that sort of thing. But now I ain’t too clear on it.”

“I can understand that.”

“Yeah. Very heavy, don’t you think?”

“Heavy. Speaking of which, you’re coming on too heavy with Plum.”


“Yeah. It might be nice if you cooled it a little.”

“You never said you objected.”

“She objected.”

“Well, she ain’t but a girl, baby. I knew you were havin’ it off with her but I never thought you figured you had an exclusive. All you had to do was say.”

“Then I’m saying.”

“Because I didn’t think you been doin’ anythin’ with her since we got on this here hollow log of a boat, and I thought if you didn’t then-”

“Well, now you know different, don’t you?”

“I surely do. And since we’re buddies, I wouldn’t think to cut in while you’re dancin’.”

“That’s what I thought. Besides, you wouldn’t really want Plum anyway. You know she’s half white.”

“That’s a fact.”

“As soon as we get back home, you can get yourself a beautiful black woman in Bed-Stuy.”

“Now you talkin’. Soon as I get back home to Oakland, that’s what I’m gonna get, a beautiful black woman in bed.”

Just some conversations which took place between or among various persons floating down the Yellowfoot River over a period of several days.

Chapter 14

Fortunately it was not all talk. Otherwise we would have gone mad. But the conversations were separated by long silences, long lazy hours of lackadaisical paddling down the broad meandering sleepy old Yellowfoot. The river wandered all over the place, and we spent as much time shifting from left to right and back again as we did making real progress toward the capital. We sat, the four of us, in the hollowed-out trunk of a wali tree, and we floated and paddled first through the overgrown jungle land and then through the flat coastal plain where the opium grew. We caught fish in the river. We picked fruit and dug roots and pulled up greens on the banks. It was not a diet to grow fat on, but neither was it as troubling to the mind as Stew à la Sheena.

The weather was good, the heat not too deadening, the rain light and infrequent. The local fauna did a good job of leaving us alone. Crocodiles floated at the water’s surface or sunned themselves upon the muddy banks. They bobbed in the soupy water like logs, and perhaps they took our dugout for the grandfather of all crocodiles; at any rate they left us quite alone. Mosquitoes were either not abundant or not hungry. No flies swarmed at us.

There was, in fact, that special feeling of sublime peace that could only be the calm before the storm. We spoke no harsh words to each other, we were quite considerate of one another, and yet this was by no means the result of bonds of good feeling uniting us in peace and fellowship.

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