submitted mardibooks

Kiss the money - monkey...

The new sun fell on the face of the electro sail. Captain Chu stroked his finger over the screen and she was off across the blue. Down below in the hold, chomping offal, the alligators stirred in their tanks. Between decks the work shifts tooled the hides to the rhythm of banshee pop.

The factory ship hopped the bay-pocked coast, driven by an algorithm for nearest stroke mostest profit. Metal birds from sinister island paradises swooped and snatched up the goods.

In slack time off the teeming shore near Cannes, beaching under the riffle of primitive musketry, Chu broke away and raised a car. We saw him do it and wandered over.

- Shovellers? His face grinned.

Toll, Dot and me each carried a short arm shovel which marked us out as labour pilgrims. One trip got damn nice chance in poor old Europe then.

We sconced into the back seat, figures in a fox hole, don't spit too loud. Dot was a smoker, in her old tarp she'd shuffle up to any idiot and beg a burn. Toll had taken his fathers car and left his neighbour senseless by the side of his very own gate - he was ten at the time and had stayed that way. Giggle it. I'm an easier case: forty five and never took a vacation from my secret job of me, me, me. The three of us took the pledge to dig the Big Hole - ribbon of glory, easier time.

Chu broad armed the wheel. The vehicle trailed white dust. Bouche du Rhone up north westwards past dead volcanoes like buffalos humping, straight like an arrow across the bridge at Moulins past fleeing Jews in cardboard shoes and on to Fontainebleau.

Chu stopped the car in a well littered lay-by. They'd brought back old laws: cut off ears and nose of girls, or boys, looking to seduce the military into love-sick days off. I watched Chu fragment behind the screen of coarse undergrowth - on a kneeling pad of fern the half headless girl bent to jerk out what the buzzing miles had built up.

He came back, his legs in cheap cotton trembly as he slid behind the wheel. Our shovels felt stupid.

- O Captain Captain, share a snout, said Dot from the back.

His head inclined her way, weary, red-eyed and fished out the part crushed pack. I called Toll back. He had begun to cross the road. He pressed his face against the window and screwed round his mouth all rubbery and horrible sucking the glass..

We moved off thru humpy-dumpy burgs where old men sat by the tarmac in banged up easy chairs, waiting for bumps. Citizens who looked like they'd been blown up and snap assembled again by loveless hands. Under-parts boarded up between concrete pillars to make butchers slaughter yards, bar hostels, car pool video waiting rooms, German Spoken. Twice we stopped where cable draped the road. Courteous costly fellows with VERY BIG muscles highpoled them out of our way.

I slept with my shovel padded for a headrest while the road went on. The hum of old concrete woke me - blinken sonne blitzen - south of Calais. Many cars slid past with shovels on their roofs.

- After this vein burster it's sit back pappi, street friends round the table, eat all hours sing song breadfruit whatever they are, I said to Dot.

Chu spoke. His great great grandfather, wholly chink, shipped over to labour in the mud of the First World War. Stayed because he met a singer in a band, well no, he met a Chinese circus girl come out dark November to their Sector with clowns and trapeze and all within ring shot of the star bursts. Blank wet canvas flapping, fond farewell.

I was born with lions and tigers for breakfast dinner and tea would say Old Chu's son sitting nobbling his cane, a husk by the surf of Algeciras. A vegetable pedlar little bit drugs. His Spanish bride, a studious girl, gone with their black fringed high cheek boned Pedro by way of Majorca with a Gunther to Switzerland.

Bookworm Pedro rose in the law. That's you. Rich mans blind daughter gift for slippery services - oil. And so then Mediterranean, the rocks, the white shoes, cigarettes with gold tips, and Chu's father born not so hot at sums let go young to sea, found Chu's mum off Alpaca joined the desperadoes and served his time.

Sensible of Chu to check his Chinese blood at the Archive - you never know, they might start giving retro citizenship like the Mormons did for Heaven. He knew how thin the blood was - fancy, though, they'd kept the name - or some had, there were Chutes and Cooze's around who flicked out eyelid folds every so often.

Untangling himself from these intimacies Chu went mute. We'd done our share of chumming and sank back into our seats. Pretty much soon after we were tailing cars into curves that tightened, slowing us down. The entrance, it was nightfall.

For the first time since he'd left his ship Chu saw money spent again. The rubber sidewalks, the smooth airflow as you went in, the fresh cleaned indoor plants, somewhere the sound of soft gongs. Chu showed his claim paper and we slipped thru a barrier and down a spiral staircase, we lost the light, it began to echo

- Ho Ho Ho

Chu was ahead. He'd found cased texts. He checked the names on the tabs of paper, the slanting brown ink. He caught Toll by the arm, watched his moon face turn and began to read him snatches in his nasal tongue completely French.

...I must say our capacity for repose is enormous - our legs twined naturally around the rough wood of their barracks chairs, legs above the ground, feet slopping on the table...

...warned, we took the ritual dose and sat in padded rags and goggles mildly opiated - dense and heavy, cloddish tones...

...we pulled the bags on and took our leave of the hut something made me run back - a sound came thru the scrunch of the canvas outfit - tiny machine figure waved stick from above - stopped me. He had no mask, perhaps he'd called...

...we humped tents from dawn all day long hundreds and by flambeaux long into the night. This morning I found the trunk of amie his orifice (hole) was black and bloody...

... shuttle off to the Grand Gayre in all khaki kit...ship train lorry ditch heavy dig stop tent chain am-bu-lance horse nurse face moon cloud rain gun-fire thun-der boot shoe sock band-age blood knee leg arm tum-my tom-my shit dog eat stables pig juice chimney stove frenchie...

...all the sailors sang shanty shanty, all the boulders up the hill carry carry...the Cypriot mule team gave us no peace, onto us all the time... dah - dy - rrr our sound to urge donkey forward...

...squalid butchery beef from argentine piled up, came in their millionaire fedoras - we hollowed out cold stores, rocks bursting with dead, with dying...

...hooves sounding, the big greys skidding a little on the cobbles HUP! HUP! the bent forward at the waist squad of English riders push on by, rocking - we go on working, winter...

Chu shushed us when he'd read and folded the Archive back into its niche. He spread his arms and ushered us out of the reading room. A rush of warm air, that electric smell. Train was a blind worm - no windows, inside crowded, banging of shovels. Singing while we travelled a little way. Doors hissed open.

"Kiss the money" said Chu blocking my exit a moment, his broad arm up in front of me. It was old Chinese luck. He riffled the paper at me. I wiped my lips on it and shoved past him. I saw the darkness first but it wasn't the sky. My head kept tilting up the slope the train had stopped at. My neck began to pain, the blood pulse behind my ears.

I was in a trench.

My eyes dropped from the night sky down the spoil slope that led down to we tiny gremlins wagging our torches at a railway truck. A giant railway truck, four wheels and a central iron spine against which back to back sat twenty iron fellows twenty feet high. That slides at twenty degrees for fifty miles slantwise into the earth. Thru the battlefields.

A trench?

Calculated to tire marginal Europeans to the same degree one hundred and forty thousand Chinese had been in fourteen eighteen. A wedge three miles deep viewed space kite shaped. Past and thru these villages Frevent, Hesdin, Bruay la Buissiere rebuilt by work pilgrims at frozen explosion angles - park yr shovels 'ere, hovels occupied by white monkeys who fight with rats. For ever.