Locating the book was a bit more of a challenge than I was up for but Sebastian kept me filled with beer, scotch and the occasional cigar. It was worth the effort. After many false attempts I made the decision to speak with a local that was into running, shall we say, items of less than a legal nature. We began in town attempting to find a man by the name of Artemis. No one had a clue who he really was or his real name for that matter, he simply went by the name of Artemis. I'm sure he had some sort of heart felt story as to why he was a smuggler living in Madagascar, but no one really cared to ask him. What we did know was that he had a feverish attraction to clear liquor, pot and prostitutes. That ought to narrow down the search at least. There was only one street in town that housed all of the above. Chankuk alley.
Artemis was known in the area for trafficking most anything from tampons to assault rifles. If he could make a few bucks he would smuggle it or sell it. If anyone would know about the book he would. Apparently the book was one of only two copies of the Transient Spectrum printed in 1618 and was part of a library fire a few years ago. According to Sebastian this book contained the recipe for a cheesecake to die for. So to be clear... At this point I am helping this kilt wearing twit locate a four hundred year old recipe book so he could make a flipping cheesecake. What the hell! All I could think of was the scotch. That kept me motivated.
When we located Artemis he was half sober, half naked and half lying in a puddle of some sort while covered in chocolate sauce. He did have quite the smile on his face indicating that the empty bottle of gin did the trick last night. He rolled over, looked up at us and smiled while lighting a joint then promptly passed out again. We moved him to the shade, waited for the pot to kick in and for him to get engaged in his surroundings. The offer of a breakfast of oysters and grilled peppers did the trick to finally rouse him.
* * * *
"You are not really helping things along with your, shall I say, contumacious attitude. You are rude and not very polite. Now tell me about this Artemis fellow, he is real or part of your imagination?"
"Ummm... dumb ass... I just told you. He was a drunken pervert lying in the street. It was all we could do the keep him sober enough to help us out. Sebastian was not that interested in working with him but I was. There was no reason to run around an island looking for something that Artemis readily knew about. And I was right." I was way to polite this time. But I have a feeling that this guy will get a face full of Aye-Aye poop soon.
"You were right again. Boy that's a pretty good track record. How about telling about something you did that was wrong."
"Can't do boss. It's my story and if you think I'm going to pepper it with the occasional blip on the screen of errors on my part you are sadly mistaken."
"That will not help me figure things out with Sebastian. Surely he made some good decisions at some point. This whole story so far is beginning to sound like Sebastian was an idiot and you were right all the time."
"I have not had enough to drink this morning to make any sense out of what you're saying. Please allow me to continue with out you telling me I'm wrong. It is starting to get me a bit cranky. Was that polite enough for you?"
"I suppose. Please continue with the story then but know that I will want to retouch on the subject of your attitude. It's not helping."
* * * *
After some initial chatting about the prior evening's events involving three hookers and a pair of ducks, Artemis did in fact know of the book and of its possible location. Of course he required a favor for the information and it was likely to be something illegal. Sebastian clearly needed help in this area as it's not unheard of for Artemis to request women, Cuban cigars, sexual favors or even, as rumor goes, the left testicle of badger. In the end all he wanted was for us to run a truck down the coast. This was actually a decent deal because we needed the ride anyway. Yeah, yeah... It may have been only "slightly" illegal and it may involve us getting our butts whooped by the locals but golly it was good deal. As we loaded a truck with fifty cases of Sambuca, Sebastian was still a bit unsure of transporting the contraband. "Look," I said getting cranky as hell, he was moving too slow, "we need to go to Morombe anyway and we're just driving the truck down and leaving it in a lot. Free ride. Yip Yap."
"I just don't know." He whined. He does that a lot and is one of the first, of many I might add, quirks I've discovered about him. He needed to grow a set of coconuts for sure. Sebastian whined when he was hungry, tired or had the day off. "Sheets are too cold." Slap. "My tea is too hot." Slap, whap. "Why are my dimes not getting clean?" Kick to the junk. Sebastian was a first class twit. Now I was able to tolerate his insentient whining only because I was liquored up and even then it was a challenge.
"Fine. I'll drive and you hide under the seat." I quipped. Aye-Ayes are notoriously poor drivers.
"Funny. I guess I'll just do it and get it over with. I only have a few days left and if I come up empty on this trip it will be months before I can make the trip again."
"Remind me. This is for a cook book. Right?"
"Not just any cook book. It's said that this recipe will make men weep and women gnash their teeth. That the cake is so flavorful that it was outlawed. It is truly a cheesecake of epic proportions."
"But it is a cheesecake." I was annoyed. This was stupid.
The trip down the coast provided us the time to get acquainted. I found it interesting that he liked Chinese checkers as I did too and he found it interesting that I enjoyed eating giraffe beetles; their necks are so tender, but he didn't look forward to tasting one. In the course of conversation we grew quite fond of each others company and he let loose with the idea that I should move back to the states with him. The idea was charming but I had plans of writing and possibly teaching poetry. When he discovered my intent he was immediately insistent that I could do that with him and he would take care of everything I needed. Cool... I was in.
Travel to Morombe was always done in large four wheel drive trucks as there were no roads to speak of other than a few that connected major towns. As soon as we entered the truck Sebastian felt it was necessary to rip the rear view mirror off the windshield. I asked him what the hell he was doing but he just glared at me and indicated that it was his business and to mind my own. This was the only time he essentially told me to butt out so I took it seriously. We essentially followed trails and gaps in the forest that were made by terrible critters cutting everything down. The large lush baobab forests are largely gone. The few acres left are home to countless lemurs and fantastic creatures found nowhere else on the planet. It is paradise and it is slowly being eradicated for any number of human inflicted reasons. Humans need to live under some Aye-Aye rules for a while. Rule number one? Don't shit where you eat. Seriously people. Why the hell are you destroying everything you touch? You need some of this shit to survive! Idiots. Sorry. Back to the story. Yip Yap.
* * * *
"So... now you're an environmentalist, how does that work?"
"Well of course I am. I live in the environment, it's my home. I need it to survive. People are the ones that are screwing everything up."
"And it's your mission to educate the world and change the way we destroy everything. You're a tree huger. Right?"
"Of course I hug trees. Not as often as I hug poodles though. Yum."
"Okay... I get it. You be an environmentalist. All good for you."
"Everyone is an environmentalist. It's just that some of us want to preserve the environment and others want to destroy it. But ultimately we are all responsible for out own survival as part of the environment. Those that choose to demolish their part of the natural world are dooming the rest of us to a world with out life. A place dry and barren. A massive desert creeping its way across the land. Hell, now you have me pontificating. What the hell. I'm going to continue on with the story if you don't mind."
"Actually I do mind. I am interested in why you think you have the world all figured out. Why you believe that you are the only one thinking about the greater good of mankind and the rest of us are idiots."
"Oh... there is some confusion right there. I could give a rats crap whether the people survive. In fact I would like to see them go extinct before any of my brethren. They are the ones destroying everything. Have you ever heard of a panda wiping out an entire species? No. Or a simple ant destroying an entire rain forest. I think not. People? They can all rot in a puddle. I am more interested in solving the greater issues of all life on this planet. Screw people."
"Well apparently I touched on a nerve. Perhaps we should continue with your story and I will come back to your egocentric perspective of life on this planet.
* * * *
When we arrived in Morombe we immediately parked the truck of Sambuca in the parking lot as prescribed and yes... if you must know... I grabbed a bottle. Good stuff that Sambuca. We worked our way through the narrow streets and small alleys ways. I enjoyed riding on his shoulder taking in the view, and sipping Sambuca made the evening that much more enjoyable. It was a quiet town with very little of interest. Mostly beach, hence the name Morombe, big beach in Malagasy, covered with small wooden huts for the local fisherman. Tourists rarely find themselves here due to the remoteness of the village. The last big tourist event was a total solar eclipse with Morombe having the best view.
* * * *
"So you ran a truck load of illegal liquor for this Artemis fella? Nice move."
"Shut the hell up! Man... you ask more questions."
"Well that's sort of the point isn't it?"
"Whatever. Can I continue?"
"I'm not sure the derisions your making are of any help to Sebastian. It appears that your agenda is the only agenda you're interested in. That hardly seems fair to him. I'm just interested in why you ran the booze. You had the name of the town, why not just get their on your own? Sebastian doesn't appear to enjoy partaking in illegal activity."
"We know the name of the town and the location of the book BECAUSE we ran the booze. If we would have backed out Artemis would have been pissed. We don't know if we'll ever need him again. Being nice was a good thing."
"And you know so much about being nice." Sarcastic bastard. "Continue with the story please."
* * * *
When we arrived near the beach the smell of fresh fish being prepared was wonderful. Lobster, marlin, bill fish and the occasional octopus were being coaxed into a flavorful cacophony for anyone to partake. The locals were extremely polite and would offer their home and their food to any tourist. This kindness was helpful in locating Brumundi, the owner of the book Sebastian was looking for. According to locals he was a recluse that lived on the outskirts of the village. He spent most of his time fishing, washing rocks and preparing hot peppers to sell at market. Some say it was too much toaka gasy, the delightful liquor made from cane sugar. Either way Sebastian could get the damn book, make his stupid cheesecake and we could head for the States.
We strolled North along the beach, past small huts and shacks filled with fishing nets. It was the typical beach scene in Madagascar. Locals were repairing boats and stringing lines. Children were fishing off large rocks exposed during the low tide as their mothers watched from a distance. The women were preparing meals and doing laundry. Pets of all sorts, sea turtles, lemurs and hermit crabs were abundant. I felt right at home hanging off of Sebastian. I did have the opportunity to chat up an adorable lemur named Maddy. We made some plans for later knowing that it would never happen.
After a short walk we started to follow a path weaving between the shore and the forest. The path was worn and not well kept however it was not too difficult to navigate. Brumundi, according to the locals, was living at the end of the path in a small hut of sorts. He liked being left alone and this path clearly showed that he did not receive many visitors. As we approached his palatial estate the reasons were apparent. The smell in and of it self was abhorrent. And remember... I eat bugs.
* * * *
"That's disgusting. Do you really eat bugs or is just something you tell people?"
"Seriously... I'm interested."
"No you're not. You are an idiot and should worry more about Sebastian and his issue that my eating habits."
"I am simply trying to get the whole picture. That's all. But clearly the insectivore angle is rather odd. Never ran into that before."
"I restate my position. Shut up."
"Do you see being so rude as a character flaw? You have been less than cordial with me since we met. Is there something about me you detest or do simply detest everything that doesn't fit into the little box of your own creation?"
"Oh I detest you to no end. You ask too many questions and have a difficult time allowing me to continue the story. It's almost as though you would rather pick my brain than to hear how Sebastian ended up loosing his nose and rediscovering himself. YOU my good sir are the egocentric one. Thinking that your questions are the only ones that need answer."
"Well in this relationship they are. YOU are not the center of attention, Sebastian is and that is a difficult thing for you. But please, continue the story."
* * * *
Brumundi was outside near the beach cleaning rocks as the locals indicated he would. He was stark naked and not in a nice way. I didn't realize that humans could grow hair like that! It was scary. He looked more like Sasquatch than a local fisherman. Beyond the graveolent of rotten fish and fermenting dingle berries hanging off his ass, the foul reek of his dinner would kill maggots. Not that I'm judging mind you. He may be a really nice guy but come on. He lives near the ocean; a bath wouldn't hurt.
"What the hell do you want?" He was oh so delighted to see us approaching his palatial estate.
"Good sir," Note to Sebastian, he his neither good nor a sir. "I am in search of a book you may posses. I am willing to pay a decent price for it of course."
The look. Brumundi had no response, only a stare of ice peeping from underneath the furrowed, hairy and leprose brow. He went straight back to cleaning his rocks, took a pull from his bottle and lit a cigarette. Never once indicating the would respond one way or the other to our request. Brumundi had no social skills what so ever and no amount of cajoling from Sebastian would make a dent in our efforts in acquiring the book.
"Well. It's a rather small book, perhaps the size of a conch shell, decorated rather sparsely with some gold trim and a hand sewn binding. It is rather old and..." Sebastian was getting nowhere. He was talking like a Medieval poetry teacher from a pretentious school state side. Luckily I had the last half of my Sambuca - Crap - I did NOT want to let this go.
"Look.." I stated as directly as an Aye-Aye experiencing frustration could muster. "Give us the damn book and the rest of the liquor is yours. Along with five-hundred American. We'll even buy some of those crappy peppers from you."
He didn't look too happy as he entered the lean-to he called home but I was able to mollify him into compliance with little effort. Aye-Ayes kick ass if you didn't know that already. We could hear him rooting through boxes and bags. Through piles of shells and scrap lumber. The sounds were more of the rooting desperately than cautiously looking for something important. When he reemerged he was in fact holding the book in question. Sebastian remitted the five-thousand dimes - he is an idiot if I failed to mention it before - passed along the Sambuca - MY Sambuca - and bought a whole sack of peppers. Tucked safely in a satchel the book was unremarkable, however Brumundi was sure to let us know, in the few words he spoke to us, that under no circumstance were we to make the cheesecake but the scotch-a-roos were to die for - whatever - we had what we needed and were off to the states in the morning.
* * * *
"The fuzzy crap hanging off ones ass hair."
"I KNOW what they are but was it really necessary in our conversation?"
"Yup. Moving on."
"No... we are not moving on. Is there a reason you feel it's necessary to make ignorant comments at your choosing? Some of us would prefer to avoid comments like 'dingle berries' and such. Could you please clean it up? Your narrative is so crass. I'm not sure that the type of language you're choosing to use is important to tell the story."
"It is important because it's my story and I will tell it like I want too. Regardless of your sensitive disposition."
* * * *