Warning: This this chapter contains scenes involving

  • no man-in on-man sex
  • no illegal avtivities
  • black magic
  • nauseating pets
  • fictitious characters that have nothing but name and image in common with people known from the entertainment industry
  • and to top it all off: nerd warning!
Memory failure? You can find a resume of the chapters of the Tail at my site. And if you're really tired of the erratic updates then you can sign up for update alerts.

Response/feedback? Oh, yes. Love it. If you can stay awake.

The title? I just couldn't resizzzt.

© Morgenfryd 2004

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Chapter 27 of The Tail of the Tiger

Clashes of Conventions
or: The Mission of the Holy Crusader and Reincarnation of Fenris the Wolf and Her Sidekick the Brother of the Supreme First Wave of the Missionary Campaign of the Coven of the Heathen Gods of the Modern Era

It was dark by the time I reached the summerhouse. The surf had taken on that otherworldly fluorescent light it will when the bubbles trap the light from moon and stars. I turned away from the beach, and ran up the steps to the wooden walkway that led between two dunes to our patio. There was no light on inside, but I could see through the large windows on either side of the living room that there was plenty of light outside at the front – they'd probably decided to set up the barbecue on the patio there.

With every intention of sneaking up on them and giving them a good scare, I walked as quietly as I could up the few steps, and slipped through the glass door. Once I was inside I could hear their voices through the open door at the front.

Chris! Another illusion….

"I knew I had it! Here, take a look. See, it's the right date, Friday, April 10, 1998. That's today. Right?"

What's that? Nah, it's too squeaky It was very unusual for the illusions to go on like this. Usually they made more sense too.

Hiding behind the curtain, I peeked out the open glass door. Right in front of me sat John; he had, unsuspecting, turned his back to me, resting his elbows on the table, and was closely following what was going on to the left. At the end of the table sat Bill, twisting in his chair to look over his shoulder – another unsuspecting neck turned my way. Tommy was behind him by the staircase, holding a piece of paper between two fingers as if it might explode any minute.

By the foot of the staircase stood: Chris!

It's Chris!

And it was a good thing that I would know him anywhere, otherwise I might not have recognized him behind those hopscotch glasses on which rested the rim of a too large cowboy hat. The checkered jacket he wore was several sizes too large. There was no doubt as to the source of the shirt. Ultra pink and shiny: it had to be a piece of uncensored JC home wear – the kind that made Justin complain about a headache, and JC go on about personal freedom.

Busta sat on Chris' arm, very busy swinging a piece of cloth this way and that, a very lacy and purple piece of cloth. Now, that's a racy chew toy. It was a pair of woman's panties.

Chris in a chew toy! Take his clothes off, give him a chew toy.

It's Chris.

Partner in a chew toy!


My belly cramped. He's here because I asked. And he doesn't even know that I'm watching.

He's got to be hurting.

But, sweet heaven, he's beautiful!

More so when he stood on his toes to tap the paper that Tommy held. "See?"

"Yeah. Yeah."

"It must be the wrong address," said Bill.

"No, it's this address all right." Tommy frowned at the paper.

"They spelled my name wrong, though." Chris tapped the paper again. "That's my name at the top, see? Right there. Murphy McZod – only they spelled it wrong, they wrote it with an S – it should be McZod with a Z. They always do that. I've told them again and again but they keep doing it. My name is McZod but they cannot spell it."

Murphy McZod? He's overdoing it. They're going to guess it now. John was sputtering with barely checked laughter.

"Well, if they can spell your name wrong then they can write the wrong address too, can't they?" Tommy said thoughtfully. "There are lots of summerhouses up the road, perhaps the convent is in one of those."


"Oh. I didn't think of that." Chris' face made jumping movements, perhaps he frowned; whatever he did, he had to wrinkle his nose in a hurry in order to keep the glasses in place. Chris! Bite the Nose!


"Can I see that?" Bill asked, tilting his chair back and reaching out his hand.

"Sure," Chris said, and Tommy gave Bill the paper.

Bill put it on the table so that he and John could see. Curious, having forgotten everything about shocking the nerds, I walked out on the deck to look over John's shoulder. He went "Whaaaa!" when I leaned over him, startling me as much as I had him. "Mikkel! You scared me!"


At the sound of my voice Busta started barking. Chris bent his neck and muttered something to himself or to Busta. Oh, Chris, man. I shouldn't have made that stupid request for a retake. I wanted to hug him, and make him stop hurting. Kiss him! Which was no bad idea either. Stopping Chris in mid-show? Except that it was.

"Hi," Chris raised his head, smiling widely and professionally, not quite getting the direction right. His stylist would have been horrified had she seen the dark mess stuck in his teeth – it could be residue of large quantities of very sticky chocolate cake or liquorice; the light on the patio wasn't good enough for me to tell the exact color.

The eyes behind the thick glasses were really small; his glasses usually made them bigger.

He must be blind as a bat behind those – they go the wrong way. Oh, Chris... "Hi," I croaked and cleared my voice. My belly had turned into a painful knot. "What's this about a convent?"

"The spring convent," McZod said, his voice broke and he cleared his throat before adding, "We're meeting here at eleven."

"Who are you guys, anyway," asked John. "What does SFWM-da-dum stand for?"

"The SFWMCCHGME," Chris, regaining his equilibrium, corrected admirably smoothly. "The SFWMCCHGME is the Supreme First Wave of the Missionary Campaign of the Coven of the Heathen Gods of the Modern Era, of course. We're a very active church; you must have seen us. We were in the paper. Twice."

He's doing this for me. Take his clothes off! Clothes or not – I held on to the back of John's chair to keep myself from running to Chris to hug, to feel him squirming, to revel in the smell of Chris and chocolate cake or liquorice. He would bite and hit me.

This is what I asked for.

The mixed feeling of pain and glowing heat was likely seeping through my skin. I didn't dare talk. The way my heart was aching with expansion I wasn't sure what kinds of words would come out. Probably something like – you're beautiful, and I love you. I want to hug you.

"How many people have received a letter like this?" John slowly asked, his voice going kind of vibrato, perhaps because he had a stomach cramp too – his belly was shivering. Only, his cramp was from laughter.

"Oh, I don't know. I'm just the Master of Ceremonies. It's not like it's me buying the stamps or keeping the annals, you know. If I did then I probably would know," McZod counted on his fingers, aborted the attempt when the squirming pup messed with his system. He set the leashed dog down, and counted again. All of us were watching his wriggling fingers with fascination. Nice Chris fingers! Drum me!

Busta clambered up the steps, each step a challenge; I could hear the bump and yelp as she fell down. The leash hung trembling but slack from Chris' hand.

Obviously McZod had severe difficulty with numbers. After the third aborted try and a halfhearted fourth he said. "Fifty, I think. Perhaps only thirty."

"My god. Thirty-perhaps-fifty of them homing in on us," mumbled Bill unhappily.

"You're early," Tommy stated, checking his watch. "It's just a little past seven. Hello, little guy." The last was for the pup that cleared the last step and ran to sniff Tommy's large feet.

"Oh, yes. There was absolutely no traffic. Will you believe it?" McZod was clearly offended by the lack. "I even allowed the time." He stood still. "Perhaps it's a sign. Do you think it's a sign?"

Tommy blinked. "Er. Probably?"

I dared let go of John's chair to go and sit down at the end of the table furthest away from Chris. Busta noticed me moving, and whined when the leash wouldn't allow her to get to me. Tommy looked briefly at her. I waited for his face to clear in understanding when he caught on to what the dog was saying – but when he looked up all his attention was on what was being said by the humans.

"What was the name of the church again?" John asked.

"The Supreme First Wave of the Missionary Campaign of the Coven of the Heathen Gods of the Modern Era. It's a sign. I got a sign! I've never been early before!" McZod swayed dazedly.

"Thought so. Thank you." John leaned back, and his eyes tracked the string of letters at the bottom edge of the invitation. His lips moved silently.

"Well, then you've got plenty of time finding the right place, don't you." Bill picked up his paper with sketches of AntiLoke. "Seeing this is the wrong address and all."

McZod 'looked' around, pondering. "I don't think it's wrong, I mean, the Pittsburgh Oracle has envisioned everything, and he's usually right. Anyway – there is one way to find out. The Holy Crusader and Reincarnation of Fenris the Wolf will lead me to the spot."

"Excuse me?" Tommy asked.

But McZod didn't answer, he followed Busta's pull onto the porch, past a blinking Tommy, and bumped right into Bill's chair when the dog went under it in order to get to me by the shortest path: under the table.

"Oh, sorry," McZod mumbled and got down on all four. "Gotta follow the Holy Crusader and Reincarnation of Fenris the Wolf." McZod disappeared from my sight. Shortly after, his voice could be heard from under Bill's chair. "Excuse me. Do you mind?"

Displaying an interesting mix of outrage and disbelieve, Bill spread his legs. If McZod's grunts were any indication, then it was hard work and a tight squeeze snaking under the chair.

I pulled my own chair back, and bent down to scratch an ecstatic Busta. "Hey, girl."

"It's a boy." McZod came into view under the table. He knocked on John's bony feet. "Excuse me."

Sparkling with amusement, John put his feet under his chair, making room for McZod. "Okay?"

"Thanks, man. Hey." McZod was looking in my general direction. "Are you a girl?"


"Are you sure you're not a girl?"


"Completely sure? The holy Crusader usually only acts like that with girls."

"Do you want to see for yourself?"

Yes, yes!

McZod was but a thin layer of varnish. Chris swallowed, and croaked, "Yeah."

I pulled up my T-shirt. You cheat! "See? Hair and no tits."

He held the hat in check with a finger and squinted at me over the top of the glasses, eyes glittering in the darkness under the table. "Uh. Actually, they are kind of… titsy."

"Think so?" I checked – nothing about my chest had changed since he last saw it, except for the color now going more into the boiled lobster league. Titsy? Maybe it's the pink of the sunburn.

"Well, yeah. Large nipples. Girly."

I let the T-shirt fall, and pulled the elastic of shorts and briefs down. Hi Chris! It's meeee – the Magnificent Dick!

"Oh. Definitely not girly…. Say, is that freckles?"

Who ever heard of- I checked. Hi, Hand. Rub me! "Just a few." When did I get those?

"I thought so. Neat dick, you've got. Don't think I've seen one with freckles before."

He likes me! Lick me! Lick, lick, lick!

"I'm not complaining." I pulled my pants back in place. No, no, no. I want Chriiiis! Show me off, show the freckles! Dress me up in a chew toy! Other than the indignant protests from my dick, the porch had fallen quite silent. One might even have called it an oppressive silence.

"So. I don't think you're a girl." McZod continued his wriggling crawl on elbows and belly. "The Holy Crusader and Reincarnation of Fenris the Wolf thinks you're a girl. You're messing with his signals, man."

"Maybe he's just looking for a bone," muttered John.

McZod slipped, briefly giving way to Chris' grin. "Maybe you're a girl with a dick. Or maybe it's something else entirely." McZod got over to where I was, and I pushed my chair aside so that he could get up. "Are you a brother of Supreme First Wave of the Missionary Campaign of the Coven of the Heathen Gods of the Modern Fuck?" The last was when he hit his head on the edge of the table and lost his hat. As he got out and up, one could see the small, red plastic spiders that were secured with hairpins to the top of his head. Without the hat to hold them in place, several thin braids snaked in front of his face.

"No." I picked up the hat and held it out for him.

"Thanks." He swung the braids away, and pushed the glasses back in place, covering eyes that were bruised from exhaustion and red where there should have been white – his contacts were bothering him. This close up I could see that his skin had that loose quality it got when he was really tired.

When he replaced the hat, the glasses slipped down his nose, chased by the hat. He gave the brim a knock; the hat slipped back, and for a moment he could look at me, brown eyes sparkling. "Did you ever have a sex-change operation?"

"No." I tried to make out what it said on the CD around his neck. It was hard, because somebody had covered the text with a marker. I thought it said the Backstreet Boys under the purple pentagram and runes. Piqued I reached out to hold it still in order to spell my way through the runes.

"Watch out!" McZod slapped my hand. "Don't touch my holy symbol. It'll zap you something fierce."


"'S okay. You were lucky. I'm just saying, man – hands off the goods, you could get hurt."

That was a warning if I ever heard one. He probably knew that the odd twitches in my arms and hands were from suppressed hug-impulses. If this is what the cobra feels like when it wants out – then I can finally understand why he has so much trouble controlling it.

Curious, the Holy Crusader left me to check John out. McZod held totally still watching John pet the Holy Crusader. "Are you a girl?" The hat slipped forward again. It got another soft knock, and the glasses were pushed back into place in the same move.

"Uh. No?" John stopped petting the Holy Crusader and stared nervously at McZod.

It was amazing that McZod could be so focused on a person when he couldn't see a thing. "You don't sound too sure," he observed mildly.

"Well, I am. Wanna ask my mom?" It was rather flippant, and it was obvious that John didn't really mean the last as a question.

McZod nodded gravely. "Good idea, man." He dug around in his pockets. "I've got a phone somewhere…."

John paled. "Erh. No. I mean."

"That's enough." Bill spoke up. "You can leave now."

"It's okay." McZod found his phone and, lifting the hat so that he could look over his glasses, he turned it on. He pushed a few more buttons before offering the phone to John. John stared at it with surfacing panic.

"No, it's not okay." Bill huffed.

"Really, there's no reason to involve his mom," Tommy said. "The rest of us can testify to his masculinity."

"Yeah? You've seen his dick?"

"No!" sputtered Bill. "And will you please leave now!"

"I can't," said McZod, and motioned to John with the phone. John moved his chair away from McZod. McZod moved the phone to first one side then the other; trapped, John's gaze followed the phone. "You don't want to talk with your mom?"

John shook his head again, his gaze still clinging to the phone as it started moving up and down.

"Well, okay." McZod slipped the phone back into his pocket.

Bill was boiling – I could see steam seeping out of his ears.

"Why don't you call somebody, and check if it's the right place and time?" I asked McZod. "Maybe the sign is, that you have yet a way to drive, and something or somebody wants you to be there on time."

"You think?"

"I don't know what to think. I'm not well connected to gods and their ilk at all."

"Huh." McZod pulled the phone out again, and pushed buttons without looking at it. "You know, the funny thing is – when people are really well connected then they usually aren't aware of it. Like the Pittsburgh Oracle; he's an old friend of mine. He didn't know he was an oracle until he was told. Excuse me for a moment." He held the phone to his ear and wandered away. "Hi, it's me – yeah. Look, could you get me the longitude and latitude of the convention? … Yeah, well, that's what I'm trying to figure out. … Dude! Of course I'm not lost. … The coordinates, man. What? … No, I'm not kidding. … That's lassitude, meathead. Go ask your mom-"

I kept my fingers out of sight, and crossed them when McZod walked down the steps. Of course it didn't occur to him to keep a hand on the rail. He stumbled but didn't fall. He waited patiently for the Holy Crusader to make her own way down the stairs. She didn't do quite as well as he had.

"It's some kind of totally crazy cult." Bill leaned his elbows on the table and spoke in a low voice. "Probably heathen. You heard him – they even recruit children."

"Of course it's heathen," I said while looking at McZod, still with his phone at his ear, braving the tricky, sandy path. "Fenris the Wolf is one of Loke's bastards."

"What's Fenris the Wolf got to do with programming?" John asked.

"Nothing. Loke is from Nordic mythology. That's where I got the name from. Fenris is one of his kids."

"He was coming on to you," Bill turned his head, and for a moment his eyes followed McZod.

"He was?"

John sniggered softly. "I can't believe you just whipped out your dick like that."

"Mikkel," Bill frowned at me, and, with an act of will, refrained from further comments on my stupidity. "You heard him. He was staring at your dick."

"So? I whipped it out in the first place. You could as well say that I was coming on to him. Besides, I wouldn't have done it if I minded him staring, so it's really a non-issue."

"You came on to him?" John blinked at me. "Really?"

"He's… cute." The word was just too small for Chris McZod, but my mind failed in its search for Chris-related words of a length of at least ten syllables and with build-in music. "Don't you have longer words? Some with a good rhythm?"

The silence stretched for a couple of seconds. "What I'm trying to say," muttered Bill so low that I could barely hear him. "What I'm saying is that the guy's probably dangerous, and we want him gone soon as possible. And you did not just say he's cute. Mikkel, he's freaky."

"We don't want to make him angry." Tommy added, gaze imploringly on my face – he really wanted me to understand.

"Damned right," Bill said. "Not when the rest of the coven's on its way too. Just pray they're not as weird as this one."

"So, we keep him happy and keep suggesting all kinds of things to make him go away until we hit on something that works." John nodded to himself and to us. "I get it. Good plan."

My gullibility really seemed to upset them. "He's got a nice ass. We should invite him to dinner."

Tommy grimaced. "It's. For Christ's sake – you never know with these cult types. Some of them have totally gone over the edge. Real psychos. You forget where you are, this is the States – you Europeans can be so naive; excuse me, but you can."

"He's trash, I'd know that kind anywhere," Bill added, sending my temper at rocket speed towards red. "Hey." He lifted up his hands, palms towards me. "I'm just saying, as in classification of background, not judging. A lot of them have had a really crazy life, and are half crazy themselves. You've-"

"Then that's obviously how I like them," I snapped, and the three of them hushed me. John petted my arm.

"Hey, hey," Tommy said softly. "Mikkel, just make sure he's not a psycho before you make a pass on him, please! Be careful, okay? He could be really dangerous."

I wasn't at all sure how one made sure of those things. And I'm this close to blowing Chris' story. That thought was enough to make me cool down really fast. "If the SFWMCCHGME was so dangerous, wouldn't they have hit the papers in a big way instead of than twice in a small way?"

Bill shook his head. "Don't count on it. Them not hitting the headlines could be even worse news. There are some pretty nasty cults around, secret cults."

John stared at me. "Can you say it again?"


Mumbling the letters over and over, he started tapping on Tommy's computer. "I'll ask Eileen to run a search, okay?" Eileen was the token female member of our nerdy cohort; unfortunately she hadn't been able to come. John was in love with her but in a long distance way: she lived in New Zealand. "Mikkel, again, please?"


"Good idea." Tommy came over to stand behind John, watching as he wrote.

Bill's "What the hell is he up to?" caused all of us to look. McZod had been rummaging in the back of his car, and now he, and the Holy Crusader, returned with an old, indoor TV antenna and the Spiderman bag. Tommy walked back to the staircase, casually blocking McZod's way.

"Okay. I think I know how to do this. Here." McZod held the antennae out to Tommy.

Tommy took it; if he hadn't, then he would likely have gotten spiked on the thing. "Uh. What do I do with it?"

"Just hold it. Like, with your hand. Yeah, that's it. That's good. Nice grip. I'll just." He opened the bag and fumbled around in it. "Ah, here." The hand came out, holding a wired box that looked most of all like a transformer for an electric railroad or some similar toy. McZod fumbled around with the bag, wire and transformer; finally he got the bag closed and slung it onto his shoulder. He tied the loose end of the wire to the antennae.

Tommy watched him tie the knots. "Do you really think that'll work?"

"Sure. Always does. The Pittsburgh Oracle made it for me, like, personally." McZod tugged at the wire. It held.

"But – that's just a knot, and you don't have any power going into that transformer."

"Wrong." McZod waved airily at the surroundings. "There's lots and lots of power, this place is sizzling with it. Hold it a little higher will you?"

Tommy did, doubtfully watching McZod turn the knob on the transformer while squinting in the general direction of the antennae.

"See?" Bill muttered. "He's gone right over the edge."

"You can't see it?" McZod might have severe visual difficulties but he certainly had a good hearing.

"See what?" Bill snapped.

"Yeah, hold it like that. Now turn the around, slowly, please." Satisfied, McZod nodded to the antennae that turned with Tommy. "Stop!" Tommy stopped.

"I don't know what I'm looking for." Bill said, then, more irritably: "This is preposterous!"

"He probably means for us to look at the aura," I said, unable not to push things along, being too curious about where McZod was taking this.


"There's kind of a… glow."

"Wait a minute – do you see it?" Bill asked.


"Mikkel, you don't believe in those things," Tommy gently reminded me.

John looked up from the keyboard. "Did you smoke up on that walk of yours? You got any more?"

"I can see an aura. I don't believe in this stuff but – it's there. And no, I didn't smoke up, and I don't have any."

"Where do you see that aura?" Bill asked scornfully.

"Around the tips. You just have to look at the antennae without focussing, let it go kind of hazy; then you can see it. When you focus on the glow it becomes quite clear. It's a bit stronger to one side than to the other."

John and Tommy both looked. "I don't see a thing," John said after a while.

Bill merely grunted. From his angle he had the antennae right in front of the lamp, and his sight could be playing tricks on him, trying to compensate for the outrageous demands. He might well be able to see some kind of glow.

"It's very odd." McZod was turning the button on the transformer this way and that. "Very odd. I can't find the balanced point of super Zen; you're right mister – it's tilted, the resonance is totally screwed. I think, I think if we went a bit in that direction," he pointed towards the beach. "If we went in that direction I could find it. That's where we gotta to do the ritual."

"The what? No way." Bill rose, the carefully sculpted muscles bunching. "Look, we're not getting involved in any heathen rituals, mister Sod."

"It's McZod. McZod with a Z. No, no, not you, those selected for the Spring Convent are gonna do the actual rites." McZod negligently waved Bill down. "None of you have sufficiently distinctive brain emissions for it, anyway."

"Suf – are you insulting us?"

"What, no! It's just, look the pattern of your mental energy fields are all… smeary. No definition. Look at him." He pointed at Tommy who could not quite shake the baffled look off his face. "Looks like my uncle's aquarium, he does, and he always overfeeds."

"I do?" Tommy bewildered asked.

"I was talking about my uncle."

"Do I get this right?" John asked. "We help you find the spot you're looking for and then you're gonna leave us alone?"

"Sure." McZod smiled sunnily, baring white teeth and fading remains of dark glue.

"Okay." John got up. "Let's go look for the point of super Zen or whatever."

Probably they believed that this show would be over soon – a quick stroll on the beach and that was it. But then they didn't know Kirkpatrick McZod.

A minute later the five of us were marching around the house towards the beach. Obedient to McZod's order, I had picked up The Reincarnation of Fenris, plus lacy chew toy, and parked her on my arm. He was walking in front of me, directing Tommy who walked with the antennae held high, swiveling it slowly as McZod requested.

"Hey, McZod?" I called as we neared the end of the wooden walkway.


"This reincarnation – it's a she."

"What? No, it isn't." He stopped, and tugged at the wire to signal Tommy to a stop. Then he turned towards me. "Say, are you examining the private parts of the Holy Crusader?"

"Sure. Look, no dick. It's got to be female." I walked up to him.

"Can't see a thing, it's dark. And neither can you. Shit! Have you been feeling the Holy Crusader up?"


"Are you sure? 'Cause I'll have to punish you if you have."

"Is that a promise?" I muttered before I could check my mouth.

He kicked me. Guess he meant that warning he gave me.

If it was liquorice between his teeth I would like had been able to smell it. It's probably cocoa.

I watched him march off blindly into the darkness, totally unaware of the step at the end of the walkway.

"Fuck!" was all he said before making a sprawled landing in the sand at the foot of the stairs.

Behind me Bill snickered.

I bit my lip, and petted Busta, leaving it to Tommy to check on McZod.

"Don't put it down! Up, up, hurry!" McZod, still on his back, yelled at Tommy, who quickly rose, antennae held high.

"Sorry." For a second or two Tommy looked like he had spent time in the army – back uncharacteristically straight. It passed quickly, though.

Groaning but apparently in unhurt, McZod got to his feet, and picked up the transformer. Muttering, he twisted the knob and 'looked' at the antennae. "Shit, man. It's needs a new calibration."

"I'm sorry," Tommy said again.

"Man, you couldn't know. This bio-magnetic gaiameter is unusually sensitive." McZod lifted his glasses, and looked around for his hat. He found it, picked it up and arranged glasses and hat in their precarious positions.

Tommy wriggled the antennae. "What does it measure, anyway?"

"The flux of the psychic energies of the Earth."

Bill snorted.

"Well, well." McZod swivelled his head, apparently looking around. "At least we're five and we've got a large body of water at hand. It'll be tricky but I think I can fix it. Do you have anything that'll burn?"

"We are going to light the barbecue anyway," I said. "I suppose we can add an extra bit of charcoal. Will that do?"


"I'll get it," muttered Bill and headed back to the house.

"Do you have any gasoline?" McZod called after him but Bill didn't answer, perhaps his hearing had suddenly gone very bad. McZod shrugged, and turned to Tommy. "What're you gonna eat?"

"Steaks and hamburgers."

"And pressed slaps of a mix of gene modified soy products and industrial waste served between plastic sponges covered with plastic pellets," I added. John snickered softly. He had come up to me and was petting Busta, trying to get a peek at her private parts.

Deadpan, Tommy told McZod the brands, and for some reason Chris' evil grin flicked across McZod's face. "Great," he said enthusiastically. "We can use the hamburgers for a sacrifice."

"But – it's our dinner." Tommy was as close to being outraged as he could come: his dinner was threatened.

"You can eat them after, no problem. Actually, we all have to have a bite-"

"No way," I said, quickly, the laundry incident coming to mind.

McZod ignored me. "They'll just taste extra good," he assured Tommy. "I use my food for sacrifice all the time. Puts a great kick into hamburgers and burritos, like, the blessing of Thor's a super-spice. Say, you don't happen to have mead, too?"

"No," I said. McZod might be on to something: mead was rumored to be the favored drink of the Nordic gods, and whoever could enjoy the mead of those times, honey based and sweet as it was, probably would like John's favorite "hamburgers" too. "We've got beer."

"It is a girl," said John; he had finally figured out that the trick to make Busta willingly lie on her back was to gently rub the round little belly, and he had gotten Busta to spread her legs, baring her tail end to the smiling moon.

Pet the Chris Belly! Make him roll over! My dick's survival instincts left a lot to wish for.

McZod made one of those frowns that were immediately followed by emergency facial contractions – it was a neat save: both the hat and glasses stayed in place. "It's not funny."

"It's true – it's a she," John assured him, and pulled me with him down the stairs. "Take a look. I'm sure it's a she."

McZod handed John the transformer, almost dropping it when he misjudged the distance to John's hand. "Yeah?" he pushed his hat back, and leaned in while lifting the glasses. I could smell him. Cocoa, bad cocoa. And Chris! His body heat touched my skin, and I shivered – electric, hot and. Chris! "Don't touch me, fucker," he muttered.

An odd sound escaped my throat. Lick him!

Chris could make even bad cocoa appear delicious. Delicious Chris!

"Shit," he took a step backwards, eyes going round with panic. "Shit!"

"What?" Tommy asked.

"He turned the Crusader into a fucking girl! Don't touch me!"

"Bitch," I said.

"Are you calling me a bitch?"

"No. The Crusader is a bitch. Girls are human, this is a dog. A she-dog. A bitch."

"You changed him." He pointed, zinging me with a beam of accusations. "Into a girl!"

I felt the need to defend myself. "It wasn't on purpose!"

"You changed the Holy Crusader and Reincarnation of Fenris the Wolf into a fucking girl! By accident!" His voice broke in outrage.

"I don't think she's that grown yet."

"Change him back."

"I can't."

"Well, change him back by accident, meathead."

"I can't, okay? I'm no wizard. What's the deal, anyway? So she's no longer a he but a she. That's just a detail."

"He lost his dick! That's no fucking detail!" I suspected that McZod was giving way to Kirkpatrick for a moment, even though none of the McZod-squeak had gone out of his voice.

He was impossible to reason with when he got like that. Yet, I tried. "She's got egg producing facilities now – that's an addition. Besides, it was a very small dick. Nothing much."

"And his little balls. His cute little balls! You took his favorite toy away – do you know how much time he spent licking those balls?"

"No. Say, maybe you should have her checked for infections?"

He growled, nose wrinkling, and sharp teeth shining like pearls in the dark. Even when the glare was dampened by the glasses and low light, he could make me shiver in fright. "If you don't change him back right this minute-"

"Hey, hey. Relax man." John walked between McZod and me. "I'm sure this is just a misunderstanding. I mean…." He trailed off. I wouldn't have known what explanation to offer, either.

McZod sidestepped him, teeth still bared in a snarl. He pointed a sharp yet blunt finger at me. "I'm gonna curse you, I'm gonna curse you if you don't change the Crusader back to its original form-"

"It is her right form."

"The fuck it is! You ever heard of Fenris the wolf reincarnated in a female body? A big, super strong, vicious fucker like Fenris? Female? Ha! No way! You committed fucking sacrilege!"

"Now wait a minute. What's so wrong about being female? Besides, Fenris is one bitchy wolf, he bit Frey's arm right off. Now, that's female style, biting extremities off decent people-"

"A hand, man. Just a hand. Women bite heads off."

"All the more qualifying, I think." He looked ready to bite my head of at those words – perhaps it was the woman in him. I hurried on. "Look at Thor himself – he never was averse to dressing up in drag-"

McZod snorted. "For subterfuge, you idiot – and he hates it. And he kept his dick. And his beard. His bloody integrity!"

"I dare say you keep your integrity in odd places. Besides – Pugs don't have beards."

McZod made a very strange sound – a mix between a groan and a scream. The mating roar! He wants me!

"Mikkel, for Christ's sake, stop antagonizing him," Tommy said, nervously eyeing McZod.

"But I can't change the Crusader back. This is how it wants to be."

Tommy blinked confusedly. "Er, excuse me?"

"That's how magic by accident happens – it only works positively, like, it's an enabling kind of magic. Like a combination of fulfilled wishes and Russian roulette."

John bit his lip. "I thought you said you weren't a wizard."

"Well, I'm not. Wizards have control, shamans have control – I don't. Besides, I don't believe in wizards and magic so nothing really happened. It's all illusion, like, of the non-magic kind."

"Okay. Now it makes sense," John said, grinning.

"It does?" Tommy apparently didn't quite follow the outstanding logic of my reasoning.

"Yeah." McZod grumpled. "Raise the gaiameter, man."

"I'm tired." Tommy complained. "It's getting heavier and heavier. Does it matter? I mean, it already needs calibration."

"You're right, dude. Sorry, I wasn't thinking. And you stay the hell away from me." The last was to me – I had tried to sidle up to him. Not about to be taken by surprise, McZod pushed the hat off so that it hung by its string down his back, and he pushed the glasses down enough for him to look over them.

I pointed an index finger at him and he stepped back, eyes black and glinting. It was a very nice step: he looked good walking backwards, crouching slightly, his arms brought up in defensive position in front of his chest.

"Zzzt!" I said, taking another step. His increasingly crablike movements caused a heady feeling of evil power to rush through me. "Zzzt!"

"I'll curse you! I'll curse you!" He lifted his holy symbol at me. "Pee-your-pants-at-anybody's-command-for-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-days!"

"Mikkel, for heaven's sake, stop it." John put a hand on my arm, halting me in midstep.

"Watch out for the wild, non-existent magic, man," I told him, eyeing John's hand meaningfully and blowing smoke off my index finger.

"I'm not scared. I don't harbor any secret wishes of becoming a woman. Or becoming anything else, for that matter. Let's get this thing calibrated, okay?"

"Keep the Sexual Randomizer away from me," McZod snapped.

"Sure," John promised, and took firmer hold of my arm.

"You don't have to touch him," McZod added.

I want Chris! And chew toys!

"It's okay. It's easier to keep him line like this, calms him right down. Go, go."

McZod glowered; after a moment's hesitation he took the transformer John was holding out to him, and led us towards the water.

"Promise you're gonna stop fucking with his head." John muttered to me.

"Well, you started it, going on about-"

"I was stupid – I shouldn't have done that. Just stop it, okay?"

I didn't answer but went along without making any trouble; apparently that was good enough for John.

Shortly after, I was very busy watching McZod drawing a huge pentagram in the sand. He had shed the jacket, and it was a treat seeing him walk backwards, jeans clad ass raised high and bobbing in time with his light-footed moves, as he pulled the small, white stone through the sand. John and I had been told to stand at opposite ends of the very first 5-meter long, shallow groove that he had made.

I had been ordered to keep the Crusader close by in case of another accidental boost of sex-changing non-magic. Every ten seconds or so I made another try. "Zzzt!" It made for a nicely jumpy McZod. John and Tommy kept sending me quelling glares.

"The barbecue's here." It wasn't until Bill spoke that I was aware that he had returned. Bill uneasily shifted his load of the barbecue containing the bag of charcoal and a bottle full of clear liquid.

The ass bobbed at a quicker speed. "Great," said its owner. "Just put it in the middle. Please."

"You want me to walk inside that?" Bill didn't sound happy.

"Sure. Don't step on the lines."

Bill hesitated, ignoring the teasing smile on John's face and the gentle but amused glance of Tommy who still held the gaiameter. Bill carefully did not step on the lines when he entered the now almost finished pentagram. He was quick, putting down the barbecue and getting out of there just before McZod closed the five pointed star.

At my feet the Crusader had not only trampled the line and peed on it – she had begun digging a hole right into it. "I think the Crusader has a problem with this calibration," I informed McZod, trying to keep glee out of my voice.

McZod stretched his back, pushing his hips forward; the liquid move shocked my dick into verbal fast forward. A small grin flickered over his face, was gone before it really had arrived. "Na, it's not the calibration. The Crusader has a thing about pentagrams. It's the soul of Fenris – they tied him up in a pentagram, you know. All three times."

He had really studied Nordic lore in great detail; I hadn't known about the pentagrams before.

I knelt and stroked the worst of the sand off her – not that she cared, she was busy digging. "Isn't she supposed to have zig-zag stripes like a snake?"

"He'll grow into them. Takes a while for Fenris to fully arrive. Look, you go there." He pointed Bill to the point between Tommy and me.

"What? No – I'm not going to be part of any heathen ritual."

"It's just a plain summoning. A small one."

"A summoning!" Bill cried, voice breaking. "Are you crazy?"

"Well, no. But I need five people for this or the wards will be all screwed and crooked at the risk of things going really wrong. It's okay. You're not gonna get hurt, and you don't have to do much, you mostly just have to stand there and keep the wards in place."

"Am not. I got you the barbecue. That's it."

"Whatever." McZod shrugged and pulled out his pocketknife to cut the bag with charcoal open. "If it gets loose we can just try for another one. Where are the hamburgers?"

"Another what?" Tommy asked, nervously eyeing the small knife.

"Meter-demon." McZod snapped the knife close and slipped it back into his pocket. He hefted the bag and poured the charcoal into the barbecue. Lots of charcoal.

Bill blinked, disbelieving. "You're going to summon a demon? A real demon?"

"Just a small one. A very small one." McZod put down the almost empty bag and picked up the bottle. I quelled an instinctive drive to run to him and tear it out of his hand. Instead I crossed my fingers, hoping McZod had more restraint than Kirkpatrick.

"Against its will," I muttered, in a flash imagining how it must be to be jerked away from one's doings and dumped on an entirely different plane with no simple plane ride home. "Torn away from its own purposes, and left stranded with no return path. It's indecent to do to another living entity."

McZod muttered something that sounded like "fucking rabid existentialist", then he continued in his squeaky voice. "Actually, meter-demons like to visit new places. That's why they're so easy to summon, and difficult to get rid off if they get loose." He wrenched the cap off the bottle, and poured liquid over the charcoal. And poured. And poured. The petro-chemical smell of the stuff reminded me of the Friesian liquor Chris and I had burned and drunk in Mormor's kitchen.

I waited until he had screwed the cap back on. "It's not like you're going to ask it, is it?"

"Nope. The hamburgers?"

"I'll get them." I was not one to argue for waiting until the charcoal was properly burned down before putting those monster-slaps on the grille. The earlier the better: carbonization is a great process. I handed the leash to Bill and went to the house.

"And matches," McZod called after me. "And super-hot chili sauce."

"And Bill's flat buns," added John.

"Okay." I would gladly watch those buns pop their plastic sesame seeds and burn. Or melt – whatever things of that particular composition did when thrown into the flames. Maybe they'll explode like huge pop-corns.

"And drinks," requested Tommy. "Cola for me."

Too bad cola isn't flammable.

"And face paint," McZod said.

"No face paint!" Bill said. "And not all my buns."

I figured I might as well bring everything. Behind me, Bill, set against summonings on principle, put up yet another argument.

When I got back out, John, Tommy, Bill and McZod were standing a circle in averagely knee-deep water – some knee-deeper than others. Not that they weren't getting wet all over: they were searching for something, trawling the sandy bottom with their fingers, it looked like.

I made a nest for the Holy Crusader of the blanket that I had brought, and arranged the industrial waste on a plastic dish, decorating it with chili sauce, salad and celery-stalks. Not that it made it look any more edible.

"Got them!" Bill exclaimed, and triumphantly held McZod's glasses aloft.

McZod got his glasses, and commanded everybody into a line, backs turned toward the shore.

He was still trying to explain what he wanted Tommy, John and Bill to do when I had finished arranging the abominations. I wondered why he didn't just tell them he wanted them to sound like motors. I slipped my phone into the Spiderman bag for safekeeping, and went to join them.

"Man, you may be a girl with a dick but you're a natural," McZod told me when I voiced the mantra.

"I had a Kawasaki like that once. Want to hear it clearing Valby Bakke?"

"Yeah. Go, man," McZod said, and gave chase on an old bike of East European make in about the same bad condition as mine – both means of conveyance were suffering from a small but annoyingly noticeable crack in the cylinder head. Tommy finally caught on, and jumped on a lazily rumbling cruiser, could've been a Harley, with no better acceleration than the rest of our virtual vehicles. We were a tough old-boys gang going up a hill far bigger than Valby Bakke, towards the horizon begging at us just above the imagined handlebars.

John kept falling off his souped up moped, something was wrong with the clutch, or it was the snickers that made him fumble. Bill was holed up inside himself, weathering an internal thunderstorm while going through the motions of chugging along on his motor-assisted pedal cycle with awfully low handlebars.

"Feel the vibe, man," McZod sighed, appreciatively, when we, barely, had cleared the top of the hill.

I dried the spittle off my chin, and felt for the vibe. Tommy was standing between McZod and me: the vibe could have been stronger, but what reached me was good. Even if it had a painful edge to it.

"Oh, shit, shit," muttered John under his breath when we turned towards land. "This is so embarrassing. I'm not here." The noise of motors and waves had completely masked the laughter of the two young women walking by. They were throwing glances over their shoulders as they sped up their walk away from us, slightly bent over as if their bellies hurt.

McZod waved to them. "Hi." They sped up a notch.

What does he think he's doing?

He grinned. "Great curves, look at the ass on-"


"You fuck!" He jumped away from me, forgetting all about the women.

"Yes?" I said, prepared to fulfill whatever wish he cared to express.

"Go stand in your spot." He pointed to the pentagram. "Where's the face paint?"

"I couldn't find anything but a lipstick." I pulled it out of my pocket, and held it out to him.

He studied me over the edge of the glasses, then he zipped towards me, the cobra snatched the prey from my hand with one of its blurry FTL moves; McZod almost left the cobra behind in his hurry to get back out of my reach. "Good." He cleared his throat and straightened his back, repossessing his dignity. "Move, guys, while the vibe is still strong-"

"I'm not going to assist with a summoning of a demon." Bill had lost the edge of his determination but was still trying, mulishly.

"Come on, man," John muttered, and cast a sidelong glance after the young women. "The plan." He was speaking both to himself and to Bill. "Before they get back."

"Nothing's gonna happen," Tommy promised Bill in a low voice.

"Suit yourself." McZod pulled the cap of the lipstick. "Just remember it'll be your fault if it gets loose. Man, like it could really fuck up all kinds of instruments and mechanics – like the meter-demon that possessed an autopilot, and sent a supertanker way up the Amazonas. Can you imagine one taking over the fuel injection of a passing plane or-"

Bill growled – and walked to his designated place.

McZod took his glasses off and dumped them in his bag; he rubbed his forehead as if he was sporting a headache. Which he probably was, exhausted, and mistreating his eyes as he had.

Chris…. I discarded the idea of stopping the charade before the thought had formed properly in my mind.

Tommy, without protesting, let McZod paint a crooked happy face on his forehead. The crooked happy face, that McZod next painted on John's forehead, was decidedly cross eyed and stupid looking. The one that McZod, after a short discussion, was allowed to paint on Bill had fangs and horns.

Lipstick in hand, McZod eyed me warily. "Don't move," he muttered.

I made my smile as friendly as I could.

McZod made a quick decision. "You." He pointed to Tommy. "Hold his hands." Apparently my friendly aura didn't deceive McZod one bit. "Cover his mouth," he added once Tommy had my hands in a solid grip on my back.

"I only have two hands." Tommy said. "How-"

"Never mind. Just hold him." McZod stepped forward, swiftly drawing lines on my forehead.


"Fuck!" He jumped back. "You shit!" He groped his groin. Me too, me too, me too! Me and Partner!

"You okay?" John curiously asked.

"Yeah. Yeah, they're still there." Reassured, McZod let go of Partner and the Nice Balls.

My dick kept yelling at me. Hesitantly and very much on guard, McZod drew the rest of the symbol on my forehead. It was hard to tell what it was; the only thing that I could tell was that it had an elongated shape. An eye? The excessive amount of lines he next added could've been lashes, and the dot could have been an off center iris.

The way Tommy's eyes widened, when he curiously leaned in to see McZod's artwork, told me that it wasn't anything as simple as an eye.

What, then?

Blast him! It's a cunt. Help! I've got a lipstick cunt on my forehead!

My dick fell pleasantly quiet: it was sulking.

"Zzzt! Zzzt!" I sent a barrage of avenging, randomizing magic McZod's way.

"Eeek!" He jumped and made a mess of the thing he was drawing on his own forehead. But even if one line took off past the hairline, and another didn't quite connect with the rest, it was quite obvious what it was. Of course. What else? He could have drawn a circle, and I would have recognized the dick he meant it to be.

Chris, man, I thought you were over these freak-outs. The urge to hug him returned and made me twitch.

Chris made a picture of Me! My dick never was good at sulking for long. It's Me! Give me head! Chris!

Everything was in place; the barbecue stood in the center, the gaiameter precariously leaning against it, and everybody but McZod were waiting by their stations. McZod sent me a guarded look. "Matches?"

"By the your bag," I told him. He fetched them and, with a satisfied grin, set the coals on fire. The lazy but largish flames oozed the expected oily stink. So much for Bill's buns.

"What do we do?" Tommy asked McZod who was picking up the dish of sacrifices.

He set the dish back down, carefully. Crouching a little, he lifted his elbows, holding his fists loosely curled by his armpits. I mirrored him and so did Tommy. John did too, after nervously having looked around. Bill folded his arms across his chest.

McZod looked at Bill and waited patiently; his inner Chris must have been squirming and snapping in exasperation before Bill finally, glaring, echoed the stance. McZod nodded appreciatively.

"Now, you pull power from your primal core. Like this." He flung his head back and, throat working, let go of a magnificent primal scream, loud and prolonged enough to touch the stars.

Even though I had a suspicion of what was coming, the beauty and power of it caused racing chills on my back, sudden deficiency of air in my lungs, and tears in my eyes.

Lowering his voice somewhat, and hooting in a fitting rhythm, McZod started the stirring dance of the baboon-with-flea-infected-armpits.

Tommy was already well into his own rendition of said dance before I could tear my admiring attention away from McZod and get going too.

There is something very satisfying and freeing just letting your voice loose with as much volume that you can. The dancing steps were more tricky, I figured that if I lifted my knees really high it probably came pretty close. The rhythm – now, that was somewhat outside my ability, but I tried.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw that John finally started dancing too – the dance of the very-small-monkey-no-longer-quite-that-infected-by-fleas but, gaining confidence, he opted for imitating larger and more infected monkeys.

When Bill began moving spastically, McZod picked up the dish and, hooting like a mandrill in rut, he hurriedly placed the sacrifices on the grille in the blaze, and ran back to do the dancing at his point of the pentagram.

"Climb, guys, climb! Grab the Heavenly Liana, and climb into the sky! Yay! Go, go, go!"

Like a gibbon, apparently. A very arresting gibbon, making convincing gibbon sounds while climbing smoothly and quickly – the gibbon sent me a glare when it caught me staring, and I hurriedly started my own hooting ascent up the liana lest the the gibbon bit me.

A loud whistle broke through the hooting, and a smallish object came falling out of the sky to land by the barbecue. It bounced once and lay still. Bill yelped.

"Got ya!" McZod claimed and launched into an unintelligible chant, ending with an authoritative: "-you're mine to command until I sent you back. Fucker."

He's talking to Me!

"All right, guys," he said. The rest of us fell silent, curiously watching him head to the barbecue.

Meter-demons look a lot like teddy bears. In fact, they look exactly like teddy bears. McZod let it lie in the sand by the barbecue, the poor demon had come very close to falling into the flames, and with the tongs he lifted the blackened bun off the grille. "Now we seal the bindings," he told us, and touched the former bun with an apprehensive finger. He hissed, shook his hand and muttered, "Maybe we wait a moment." He put the bun on the dish and turned the hamburger over so that it could get a proper burn on the other side too. "Just shut up," he told the meter-demon that lay paralyzed at his feet.

"But that's a-" Bill began. Tommy hushed him.

John made a heartrending, broken sound and, babbling, sunk down on his knees to curl up on the ground. It wasn't until I saw the two women, now walking the other way and clinging to each other as if they had problems with their motor coordination, that I figured that John was fighting a very strong impulse to bury his head deep in the clammy sand. "It's them!" was part of his babling.

"Who is it?" I asked.

"The girls-from-up-the-road," he groaned. "This is so embarrassing!"

"They could be part of the convent," Tommy suggested.

"Too sexy. I would've remembered them," said McZod, being quite outrageous and inviting a toppling and a tickle. He decided the bun was cool enough and took a tentative bite. It left soot on his cheek. Chewing he brought the bun to Tommy. "Take a bite, man."

I have a bad feeling about where this is going.

"Eat or pee," McZod told me when it, lastly, was my turn.

"You dickhead," I told him but took a tiny, tiny bite of the stinking bun, feeling the toxins spread to my blood as I chewed, and it grew and grew in my mouth.

McZod nodded agreeably, sentiment reinforced by the symbol on his forehead.

I knew what I had to do when he brought the incinerated corpse of the "hamburger" round. "Eat or pee," he told me, this time his smile was devious, and he poked the evil slap at my face.

I swerved to evade its paralyzing touch.

"Mikkel, for Christ's sake, just-" John sounded upset.


"You shit!" McZod jumped back. Glaring he raised his Index Finger of Doom.

I did the same right back at him. "Zzzt! Zzzt!"

"Piss, you fucker. Pissss!" McZod hissed like a snake, jabbing his finger in my direction. "I command you-"



Come on, dick, pee!

No. Forbidden! Which was not a wall I had expected to come up against.

But then it wasn't really necessary, because the others couldn't be sure in this low light: I was still wet from the motor ride. "You shit!" I yelled at McZod and grabbed for him. "Look what you did!" He evaded me and ran, cackling, cowboy hat jumping up and down on his back.

I gave chase, swearing in this language and that.

"Mikkel, damn it, come back-"

But I wasn't listening to John and Tommy. I was set on tackling the screeching punk that not only had forced deadly toxins in me but also almost nearly had made me wet myself. Again.

He took me in an arch into the surf, then he thought better of choosing that element for our contest, and ran for the dunes. It could have been because of my longer legs or because his body was suffused with exhaustion: I caught up with him eventually.

Some of his ows were probably sincere – the lyme grass was sawing and poking his skin same as mine when we rolled down the side of the dune. I figured if I could take it then he could too, and grabbled for a better hold on him, which he wasn't about to let me have in any easy way.

I was on top, struggling with the twin cobras, and I almost had him when somebody spoke, a woman's voice, saying, "Hey, are you okay? Do you want my friend to call the police?"

I forgot all about cobras. "No!"

The cobras forgot about me, too. "Hi." Chris waved to the girl-from-down-the-road who was looking down at us. "It's okay. He's just excited. I can fix him."

Fix me! Warmth spread in my body as I realized just where I was sitting, and how good it felt to sit astride the squirming Chris-

Wham! A fist hammered my thigh hard enough to rattle my jaw.

I yelled in pain and frustration as he bucked me off and rolled up.

He calmly picked up his wrinkled hat with a hand that seemed to be shaking. Not looking to my side he spoke to the woman. "See? Fixed."

I could only sit and hold my temporarily, maybe permanently, useless leg. The pain was echoing through my bones, all the way to my teeth and toes. If my look at him had been as effectively dirty as it felt to be from the inside then he should have been standing waist deep in a pile of dung. He didn't.

He was smiling to the young woman; the lipstick dick on his forehead had smeared too much for the uninitiated to decode even had it been displayed in bright sunshine. "Thanks for asking, I really appreciate it. Thanks to your friend, too. I'm okay."

"If you're sure?"

"Yeah. I'm sure. We were just horsing around, really."

"Okay. Bye, then." She was hesitating, eyeing him curiously, probably recognizing a top class male specimen when she saw one. I had a sudden urge to bite her. She gave a wave and left; the sound of her laughing voice going "wroom!" from the other side of dune split Chris' grimy face in a grin.

His merry expression evaporated when he looked at me. "Let's go back." He jutted his chin in the direction of the summerhouse.

I gave him a finger. "I'll catch up with you."

Chris raised an eyebrow at me. "Get up, dude. Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

"You mauled me, dough-brain. My leg doesn't work anymore."

He walked over, reaching out a cautious hand. "No more fucked up hot-ass tricks, okay?"

"Okay." I folded my fingers around his wrist, he folded his around mine, and somehow we got me to my feet. The leg hurt enough for me to slap him on the head, never mind his headache.

He almost grinned. "Got you good, didn't I?"

"Klaptorsk." I tested the leg. It wobbled, threatening to fold. Irritated with the pain and the malfunction I swore at him some more. It did help: after a moment I could walk. Sort of.

The sides of the hollow seemed steeper than they had before.

"Dude. No fucking tricks," he said again, and helped me up even though I would have been perfectly able to crawl. So perhaps he felt just a tiny bit bad about hitting me.

I felt bad that it had been necessary to punch me.

From the top of the dune we could see dark shapes moving on the sand: John, Bill and Tommy. They must have seen our silhouettes; they changed their direction, heading towards us.

Walking downv the dune was easier than walking up or the leg was merely regaining its functionality.

"It's your turn," Chris said when I reached him at the foot of the dune.

"What?" Does he want a punch on the thigh? No, can't be.

"Your turn," he said impatiently, and started to walk.

I started walking too. Not as fast as he did. "Oh. That." And while I had been ready about an hour before, I suddenly and certainly was not. I can't do this.

He stopped, and waited Chris-style: hopping up and down. "Yeah."

"Erh. No more McZod?"

"He's frigging boring; tens are like that. Do you think they took Busta?"

"Yes. It looks like Tommy's carrying something. A ten? Absolutely not! You threatened me with a killer hamburger-thing!"

"I would've made you eat it, too, if we hadn't been interrupted." He patted his pockets. "Fuck, I lost it."

"You couldn't make me."

"Could so." He danced backwards in front of me: more waiting Chris-style.

"Could not." I stuck to my own speed.

"Could so. Stop changing the subject."

"Could not! A ten, okay, you get a ten – but you couldn't make me eat that hamburger. Say, are you staying until tomorrow? They're leaving in the morning."

He stopped. "You're gonna need until tomorrow?"

"I'm going to need more than the seventy-three meters from them to us."

"They're far away man." He was in motion again, jumping backwards on one leg, arms held out for balance. "Come on. Plenty of time if you don't get mushy. Which, for your information, you don't." He stood still on one leg, arms still outstretched.

"I can do mushy." I walked past him.

He poked my side. I slapped him on the head.

He slapped me on the head, and began jumping backwards, this time on two legs, in front of me, keeping out of my slap-range. "Seventy meters – come on!"

Ahead of us, Tommy stopped and the three of them gathered in conference. I pictured the body language Chris and I were speaking. "I think we just gave your game away."

"You're trying to change the topic, meathead."

"Do I get this right – you want me to say something so that you can leave without having to say good bye?"

"Yeah. And no mush."

"I'm actually quite good at mushy."

"For fuck's sake!"

"Okay, okay. I don't want to. Be. Your." My throat constricted, wouldn't let anything out.


"But it's not true. I mean, I want to be your boyfriend."

He fluttered his hands. "Try a different angle."

"If you don't want it to be mushy then you'll have to wait. I need to think."

"Just do it. Like when you peel off a Band-Aid. Rssch!"

"No." I stopped and folded my arms across my chest. "I stand on my right to be mushy."

"Fuck it! Okay. Be mushy." He stood still, stuck his fingers in his ears, and closed his eyes. "Just nod when you get to the main part."

I took a step forwards, and jammed my fingers into his sides.

"Arrgh!" He danced backwards.

"I'm going to break up with you."

He stopped to listen, hands midway to his ears, index fingers ready to go back in. "Yes?"

And like that, I lost heart. "But first I want a long goodbye." It sounded weak even to my own ears.

"No way." He split the air with a karate chop, followed by a kick. "I hate long goodbyes." The hand came back in the loose fisted position, index finger at the ready.

"Well, then let's postpone the goodbye until tomorrow-"

"You just say that because you want my dick in your ass."

Yes, yes, yes! "Sure."

"Come on. Break up with me. Now!"

"I'm not ready-"

He groaned and rolled his eyes. "You're never gonna be ready."

"That's probably pretty close to the truth."

"Fuck!" He jammed his index fingers into his ears and closed his eyes.

I waited. In the dim light I could see faint movement – his eyelids were flickering. I waited some more. He pulled out a finger, just a little. It was enough. It had taken all in all eight seconds. I don't believe this. "Are you trying to outwait me?"

He sighed and let his hands fall.

I'm going to say it now. Oh, Chris! "I'm letting you go. Okay? I don't want to, but I have to." It sounded more true than the previous false starts.

He swallowed and nodded, the dark gaze clung attentively to me.

"You can leave. Right now. Or whenever. I'm not going to be angry or hurt, and I'm not going to try to hold you back. I'll stop forcing stupid promises and demands on you. I'll be fine with whatever is. I want you to do what you must and. Yes. I'll just wave when I see you're gone." And cry a bit. Just a tad. Right?

He held me with his burning eyes, softly demanding one last confirmation: "Yeah?"

Oh, gods…. I swallowed mushiness. "Yeah." It felt like a promise made in anticipation of a grant.

He took a step backwards.

He's going to leave now. He stopped, and stood staring at me.

I can't say this. I did it anyway: "It's okay, Chris." I love you.

"I can't."

Do I have to say it again? Unfair! Now, wait a minute. "Can't what?"

"Leave right now."

Is he sulking? What's going on? "Did the car break down?"

He shook his head, and bit his lip. Desperate?

Oh? "Oh." I hadn't been aware that I had been denying my body oxygen. I let the overused air out and drew some fresh air in. I felt dizzy, same as I had when my inner compass needle settled on north-northeast. Only this time the feeling didn't quite disappear. I grabbed the two stable things I could think of, simple but necessary. "Well, let's go cook. I'm hungry. And we need dry clothes."

He smiled, relieved. "I want a hamburger."

"There are steaks-"

"Hamburger. With everything. Except salad. And tomatoes. Actually, the only greenery I want is onion-"

"You can assemble it as you-"

"No, no. You are gonna make me a hamburger, a dirty one."

"Me? You want me to make you a burger?"

He nodded, overdoing the movement as one would to a child; the braids slithered about on his shoulders and in front of his face. "With my favorite brand of plastic buns, dripping industrial w-"

"Look, buddy – if I'm going to make you a hamburger it'll be my kind of hamburger, and you can shove your indecent instructions in a dark place with chili."

"Chili's fine. I want bacon in it, too, lots of bacon. And cheese-"

"Do you two know each other?" asked Bill, head of the committee now within talking range. He was backed up, silently, by John. Tommy kept behind them with Busta, sans chew toy, on his arm.

"Uh, oh. Are we in trouble now?" Chris pensively asked nobody in particular.

"Yeah," Bill breathed; smoke was seeping out of his nostrils and mouth.

"Run?" I muttered.

We did.

End of Chapter 27

© Morgenfryd 2004