Good luck, little bird.
A family group of swallows has taken to nesting around the boat sheds at Back Beach and we have been watching the babies fledge and get their insect-grabbing wings over the last couple of months. Unfortunately one of them had been downed by unseasonal southerly gales and sat huddled on the road, dazed, possibly with strained wings and definitely just moments from being run over. Luckily R saw it and carried it home, from where it was delivered to the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital. A big shout out to the DOC weekend operator who went the extra mile and picked it up for us. Fingers crossed that it just needed a couple of days to rehydrate and recover.
Good luck, little bird.
Overall, Bite Liquefied Lipstick is a really nice product without the downsides I'd anticipated from this format. I forgot to mention that after a full day in these colours my lips feel relieved and conditioned, which is such a lovely bonus- it is almost worth buying them for that effect alone. Recommended.
L2R, MAC unless stated: Russian Red, Bite Clove, Nars Deborah, Nars Lonely Heart, Spice it Up, Deep Love, Paramount
from peeping at the IVH show with the lit feet and stuff
There's a feeling you get, when you're looking through screeds of crappy shit on auction sites instead of doing something constructive/overdue and finally, you spot something weird, alluring and inexpensive amid the garbage. It's not triumph- it's sleazier than that, a moment of ha ha, brain, you thought I was just being a lazy twat these last three hours, foolish organ! Something venal and self-deceiving. How Trump's kids must feel on a really good day, I suppose.
Anyway, I had this feeling a couple of weeks back when I spotted this large and incredibly beady conical item. I didn't know what it was, exactly, but I did know that it was one of those awesome and poorly-described things that must be mine. Lucky we still had double figures in our account!
A notion plucked from some dingey mental crevice whispered that I'd seen something like it before, somewhere, and a wee bit of online poking yielded a result; this is a Batak food cover. I know even less about Batak items than I do about the slightly more common Iban/Dayak group work, so I shall defer to someone who appears less of an ignoramus for the attribution (consult the link for a very similar example and more learned explanation).
These amazing constructions are apparently prestige items brought out during marital and funerary feasts as part of the procession and presentation of expensive dishes. I say are, but were is probably more apposite, given the decline of indigenous practise in southern Asia these days in the face of growing religious intolerance in many formerly tribal areas.
On one level it is intensely depressing to find these beautiful heirloom pieces and know the incredible aesthetic traditions they represent are falling into redundancy. But what can you do? Collect and value them, I suppose, and try to attribute them correctly.
I have a couple of actual Dayak sun hats (see one of them below) so I knew this probably wasn't the same thing when I spotted it. They're much more lightly constructed and explicitly hattier than the Batak cover, even to my eye.
Dayak artisans also seemed fond of working their beads into discrete panels that could be applied to and removed from the more organic basal objects as they wore out, which, as anyone who's ever beaded anything can tell you, is both shrewd and humane.
In contrast, the tiny strings of Batak beads are couched, directly and almost individually (take a moment to think about the labour required here) to a walnut-hued rattan or split cane woven base. The latter is surprisingly prosaic, with all the attention directed to the stunning floral and faunal motifs relevant to the family involved. The beads are so densely-applied that it is impossible to discern the nature of the construction unless you examine the reverse, their busy mass relieved only by narrow lines of marine shells that demarcate the feature panels.
While my main source of info didn't speculate about the age of their piece, I'd say it's contemporaneous with mine. The beads on this one may not have the shiny uniformity of the most modern production but they're not the eye-fucking glass minuscules of the earliest period, so I'll poop out a guesstimate of mid-20th C for this cover. The hand-spun cotton thread securing the beads and scraps of hand-loomed plainweave cloth that once lined the reverse speak of a domestic situation still producing or acquiring these non-commercial materials, but it could be twenty years in either direction. I know I say that about virtually everything I acquire but there's bugger-all literature out there to inform a bitch, so you're stuck with my shitty opinion. There's not much evidence of any super-modern production of these; I'm pretty sure they're something old-skool nana made for the family and I'm not sure how many nanas of that vintage are still with us.
Dealers are pricing these covers out of our modest reach so it's gratifying to hear that they still turn up, misidentified, on Ebay occasionally where they represent a lot of ethnographic and artistic bang for your buck. I bought this one from a lady who used to live in Malaysia and consider it one of the greatest bargains I've ever stumbled across.
No more snow fell earthward and Susan lay staring up into the vaulted night, its fabric stained, from the gravid hearth-grey of afternoon to a blackness pillared by the birches, their limbs arrayed like charred bones. Without its stars the sky seemed starved and vacuous, its morbid sable breathing down upon her face while the icy ground beneath conducted her extremities into insensibility, claiming her swollen, leaking hand and block-like feet, on which she had been made to stand until she could no longer do so. Lying prone replaced shuttered exhaustion with a forest viewed in yawning, supine peripheral, the depths of an unknown ocean, her hopeless flesh confiding to its drifting horrors as though it were blood spilled into the water.
Staring at the sky quieted the flashbulb flickers at the edges of her vision and dimmed their association with the silver-foiled eyes that might have stared back from between the trees. The prospect of captivity beneath an eidiré with the woman standing guard as her only companion shared its colour with the interstellar spaces. That no one would come to intervene was something that lay like the snow, anaesthetic once accepted, its principles and mechanism just as spotless and pristine. When Susan closed her eyes she saw the face that Sachiin turned to her in another kind of darkness, discovering the ease with which those most private of exchanges could serve as a farewell, its tender, down-like irony bending the trees once more as tears beaded between her lashes.
Josephine shifted in her seat upon a fallen bough. The girl had turned her face away, rolling into a curve around a cough between the two chains that held her in the mist of the small clearing. Her hair, still gently blue, retained its close-set braids, the tortuous romanticism of the arrangement skewed by the blind rote of their construction. Slowly, she returned to lying on her back. Josephine counted off the hours the hostage had already passed in silence while the prospect of captivity grew protean features and an intent tuned to her darkest spectrum. She had seen its nightmare aspect rend and gut resolve and knew that it required no assistance, thinking herself privy to one of the small concessions dowering submission when she saw the girl's attention had shifted toward her.
A closer look revealed that it did not solicit or even consider her, but had settled on the darkness over her shoulder. Reclaiming her weapon, Josephine turned and beheld the shape that had come forth between the branches. An owl grasped a slender limb at the edge of the clearing, wearing a white far warmer than the snow and as plush as winter ermine, the disquieting schematics of its pallid, annular mask laid round eyes like polished domes of quartz. It shrugged its pinions before blinking from the way ahead, setting a stare on the girl as she used her arms to rise and sit back on her knees. Josephine oversaw their exchange with the suspicion she accorded all requited silence, opening her mouth in unformed objection while Susan reached out slowly and took up snow between her fingers, touching it to her brow in deference to the visitor. The beam from her guard's torch crossed the branches and found the bird's glowing eyes; it clapped its beak, put out its wings and flew on over their heads.
The same light blanched the girl's face when Josephine turned it on her, studying her for a while.
"Call to them." she instructed, her voice echoing slightly in the quiet. The captive sat without moving, her saturnine refusal drawing Josephine from the fallen tree. She unclipped something from her belt as she approached. "Put your back into it." Susan let the woman loose the chain from her hands without looking at her. The ruby binding of her multitool was empurpled by the darkness, like the ends of her own fingers. "Do it now. Nice and loud or I will hurt you, just like before." She felt her cold hand flattened across her knee and pinned fast at the wrist. When she would not comply, the woman closed the alloy jaws on her bitten index finger and prised the riven nail from its bed.
Susan did not know which of Sachiin's names she screamed into the trees. One of the conscripts, his skin prickling with its shivering abandon, halted at the northern end of the clearing with his rifle in both hands, his frown hardly distinguishable from his customary expression.
"I gotta relieve you if you can't keep her iced." he called, making a careful study of the surrounding trees as Josephine rose. In watching him return to his unseen station, she pressed her boot down on the girl's bleeding hand, leaning over as she twisted it slowly into the snow and desisting only when her full weight did not elicit any more audible response.
One and Three lifted Susan from the ground together, bruising the crooks of her arms and availing themselves of fumbling manual gratuities while Shaw lifted a scope to his eye and played it once more over the visible ruin. He muttered to himself as she was dragged past him, glaring at Josephine's back while she stooped to collect the sensor units.
"Called it in yet?" the latter inquired. His silence prompted her to reach into her shirt and retrieve the locator beacon once more. "We've got a good window to get the choppers here."
"The snow's done. We're walking out." Shaw told her.
"I lived half my life in Telluride, and if this snow's done, then you're exactly the kind of charismatic overachiever we need in a leadership role." He stuffed the scope into his pack. Confident she had attracted the conscripts' attention, she blew the moisture from the sensors as she packed them away. "So today we're going to haul her dead weight through hostiles waiting to burn us with our own gear... I guess, to a town, stacked double-wide with tipsters, off-season mercs, so you can... maybe blow off the pick up and run for the border? Try and turn her in? They'll do the flyover, look at your log pics and want to know why you left that shady..." She nodded up toward the ruin. "You'll say you just had a feeling it was clear. They'll promote you and give these guys a ten g bar tab."
Behind her their subordinates dropped the girl into the snow and devoted themselves to his response, snorting and wiping their noses with their gloved hands. Their captive's voice issued from within the copse of black-clad legs encircling her, barely loud enough to penetrate them.
"None of us will get anywhere." she observed, examining the blood crusted on her fingers.
"Why's that?" Shaw asked of her, scowling again.
"The other things... the wolves."
"You made contact with them?"
Her laconic delivery did not moderate the impact of its substance on the conscripts; she watched their boots shift in the snow before her while they absorbed it.
"They'll kill everyone. There's ten of them to every one of you."
Josephine smirked and tightened the straps of her pack, hoisting it onto her shoulder.
"Which is why the two subs are sitting up there, waiting for us to walk into them."
"If they were here, they would have come down the hill with knives and cut your fucking heads off." Susan observed, to which Josephine smiled again, dryly.
"If they were here, that's what I'd say too."
"They cut you loose." Shaw reminded her. "Bailed... walked out right over the top of you, and it looks like that total lack of interest in your welfare's gonna work out great for them. How's that feel?"
The girl seemed to ponder his inquiry.
"Not as bad as letting you go when I should have let them hack you into dogfood." she admitted. "You fucking weasel knob end."
"She let you go? I don't remember that in your report." chuckled Josephine, adding another strip of tape to the gauze on her face.
"He was hiding behind a door." the girl informed her, watching the woman extract grim pleasure from the intelligence. "You're all fucked, alright? Just let me go."
"I know dodging contact is a thing for you, but that's not why you won't head up there, is it Nathaniel?" Josephine inquired, both hands on her hips.
Shaw fired his pack so hard at the ground that its lid lapsed open and spilled its contents onto the snow, leaving him to stand with empty hands. The conscripts backed out of his way around the girl; he dragged her to her feet and held her for a moment, unable to decide on a reprisal, then thrust her once more at them.
"Two, Three... take the hill, keep a tight line... you see something, you get low." he told them, walking away from the disturbance Susan caused by refusing the climb. Josephine strode toward her and kneed her hard onto her face.
"Walk or lose a finger."
CONTINUED NEXT WEEKISH
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Thanks for reading and looking, lovely viewers.
I promise next year we will belatedly clamber onto the audio file bandwagon and read the book to you in person. Brace yourself for that shit.
We hope next year is better than this one, which isn't asking for much, really.
While we live, let us live.
xx K, R and Fir
Still, Marlene isn't for everyone. I recently bleached the fuck out of my very black hair, am now terrifyingly ginger and pairing these two reds is umm... strictly speaking, a wee bit of an assault on good taste. Ashy bitches and yellow-fanged smokers are absolutely shit out of luck. Everyone else should have a go at this shade, especially all those deep/dark African and Indian majesties who have trouble finding a red that will stay even, graphic and loudly complimentary- I beg you guys especially to try Marlene.
Below- natural light swatches. Nars Iberico on the right there is a clean true orange and Urban Decay F-Bomb (original version) is a pretty red/red, if you need the references. Marlene doesn't really go wonky under different lighting situations. Mysterious Red is matte AF so you can see that F-Bomb and Marlene are definitely satin.
L2R, MAC unless stated: Russian Red, Nars Marlene, UD F Bomb, Lady Danger,
Nars Mysterious Red, Ruffian Red, Nars Iberico
RubyHue Lipstick Review- just the facts
Neither I nor our textile collection can stand much UV beaming directly into the house so this newly naked northern aspect needed something to replace the plum's generous shade. As a bonus, I now have a place to house the cacti and aloe oveflow from elsewhere as everything gets bigger.
You don't really think about that as you're amassing a collection of tiny little baby plants; the Aloe alooides in the centre of the above image used to fit in the palm of my hand. Now it could scoop the brains from ten craniums at once with its monstrous extremities, if it were so inclined. If you want to save yourself some hard choices, be wiser than me- take a rational moment in the midst of your compulsive acquisition to wonder about ultimate sizes and where all that arrant vegetation is going to live, long-term.
Half an acre and a knack for building awkward polycarbonate structures mean I can flip moderation the bird for a few more years. Here are some of the fruits of those happenings.
Various Rebutias, Lobivias and Sulcorebutias. I cannot be arsed trying to keep up with their highly mutable taxonomic nomenclature so they remain 'that purple/orange/yellow one' to me. Most are easy to both both acquire and cultivate, so if you're looking to get into cacti, you might as well start with these guys. The flowers are gorgeous and reliable, often repeating throughout the summer months. The pale crustiness you see on a few is supposedly spider mite damage, but it doesn't seem to affect them too much and we are anti-spray, except in the case of losing a valuable plant I couldn't replace (it hasn't happened yet). Mealy bugs are their worst enemies. I squish the bigger ones with tiny twigs and blast them off with a hose or camera-blower thingy.
Metrosideros 'Springfire', a nice little hybrid (?) Pohutukawa from somewhere in the general Pacific; I can't be more specific because every single fucking nursery claims it is something different, ranging from a true dwarf species to a hybrid larger tree. I'm not even sure this is Springfire since it seems to have lost most of its leafular waviness, but I'm enjoying the dangerous volume of that orange and the prospect of extended summer flowering. Bellbirds skulk around it furtively, defying my presence to get at the early nectar. We sincerely hope Myrtle Rust doesn't make it this far south and wipe out all our fantastic Myrtaceae specimens, as it has done in Australia.
Notice the ye olde wrought iron fence panel in the background- that's new too. We bought some online a while back that looked like they were probably yoinked out of some Victorian grave somewhere and painted them up to put up along the front garden. Hot tip: paint your rusty iron panels before you attach them to a fence over a 15 foot drop.
Because we live in a world overflowing with morons and sadistic fucktards, fireworks in private hands are no longer a viable proposition. We're tired of being on tenterhooks every November, reading about animal deaths and out of control fires and rockets being shot into houses etc. It's time to take these pointless things out of the custody of dipshits and retire them to controlled public displays, where they belong. Sign the bloody petition and let's get this over with. Thanks.
Driveway daisies (we don't drive)
Evaporation haze over Sawyers Bay
Rebutia albispinosa OR helilosa OR senilis, too tired to look it up right now.
Yes I know the blog has been somewhat okay very slow of late; that is because I am writing the next book a lot, and R and I are building stuff around the house, renovating the aviary, repotting my entire succulent collection (I am not talking about 5 little cacti on the windowsill, I'm talking epic triffid battles x 100), cleaning up the shitty area behind the kitchen, weeding and planting the whole garden, doing guest laundry, clearing out a tree that fell over and trying to find the right box dye shade for my new hair and it's all very fucking exhausting. It's also rained every day for about 2 months and that has severely compromised our general flow. We're almost on top of it, just the front fence to rip out and replace and that should be it for the major hard labour projects so shit should pick up in a week or so.
Thank you for your patience, constant readers.
Sioux, Bob, Chrissy, Debbie and Viv all back in the day
I can't believe that one of Robert was 1987 ago because it feels like fucking yesterday.
See the rest here
Two birds rendered in black and chatoyant purple stood in heraldic confrontation amongst the ravished trees. Their feet, scaled and pipe grey, cut runic prints into the snow. Its crystals sucked a sweet and thickly-staining pink from the small carcass lying between them, of some luckless stoat or ermine; the ravens had hollowed its eyes and stolen the tongue from its mouth before opening its flank with their blade-like beaks. Their act of disposal was ennobled by hues and textures both stiff and elastic, blue and indelicate crimson, softly furred and dripping. All was pried apart and swallowed, the birds ignoring her observance, dragging the last secrets from between the ermine's ribs, sacred instruments about their sacred task. When she looked up from them the ruin had retreated overhead and she could see nothing of the rooftop yard, though she frowned and squinted until the hollow beating of the ravens’ wings turned her back in their direction. Together the corvids made a concerted ascent and stood amongst the branches, looking toward the south like sombre weathercocks and croaking brusquely. With her eyes still on the birds she sank down, one hand seeking the strap of the rifle while its absence and the rasp of an unfamiliar tread closed her eyes. She remained bedded like a stone even as the sounds described the stiff, braced stance the stranger assumed before her.
The sight of Susan Christabel in such incautious isolation seemed illusory to Josephine. She blinked hard, but made no other move to reassure herself.
“Move slowly, do exactly as I say.” she called as she withdrew a heavy black pistol. “Lace your fingers behind your head. Lie face down.” The girl glanced up toward the ruin. Josephine covered her carefully as she rose to stand, charged with the bright, self-conscious rigor of refusal. Her head turned toward the sound of the water; she looked back once at Josephine, then ran.
The dead trees of the clearing were quickly swallowed by the hillside though she did not look behind her, pushing her lead by skidding over a shallow bluff onto the more familiar ground of her previous ascent. Her boots punched into a cracking tangle of wind-banked branches; tipped forward, she kicked free and stumbled on toward the gorge, bursting through fingerling saplings that whipped back at her face. While her headlong velocity left Josephine in her distant wake, the latter's voice echoed down the hillside to direct another; the unseen party closed on her as they emerged together onto the level ground, catching her right arm and spinning her hard into the snow.
Petrouchka suspended her careful ascent toward the yard, lifting her hand to spare her flooded gaze the daylight; though feeble and colourless, it roared and boiled around her, casting the steps in white hot relief and glowing with the infernal hue of crucible steel. It rippled through the liquid in her eyes, her surface guarded only by clothing and the shadow she had followed from inside the ruin. Halted by its failure at the floor of the roof she stood, awaiting Sachiin's attention. He was tying back his returning hair, the handle of the axe propped against his thigh, and formed a pier of scalding brilliance, his eyes rendered in lustreless, infra-red darkness.
"From the way she freaked at me and peeled out, I'm guessing you dropped some epic shit down there." he suggested tersely. Petrouchka lifted the black cloth from her shoulders over her head. "I trusted you not to fuck with her, and you went right at it. I trusted you not to fuck with him."
"You accuse me? Of what?"
"Dépravation." he replied, wearily. "Déshonneur." The charges carried deeply into her empty chest, the day shuddering around them in agreement; she murmured, and lifted her draped arm as much against his stare as the sky, and he spoke more gently to her. "Do you not love me, Belyaev? How have we sinned against you?"
"I am dead, Sachiin." she confessed from underneath her cowl. "You ask so much of me."
The haste with which Kala'amātya climbed toward them drew him past her with none of the inquiry her presence might have otherwise inspired. She watched him confide something to his brother, then catch his arm as the latter broke toward the stairs, wide-eyed and silent, forcing Kala'amātya to exert the whole of his strength in halting him beside the vampyre and pinning his shoulder to the wall.
"What did you tell her?" he demanded of her.
"Sh'ih in'nai'ama. If they have her, they can't have you." hissed his detainer. Their struggle escalated until Petrouchka was sucked into its throes, her two-fisted hold setting her dead weight against him.
"Sachiin! You think she want this? Go now, or you won't."
He dragged them from the wall with him into the sunlight, her right side bared by the loss of her shawl; she sank to her knees beside his leg and clawed it back over her head, her cry prompting him to throw his brother off and aid her, though not before the caustic sky raised plumules of flame on the backs of her hands. Crouching in the shadow, Petrouchka pressed her burnt skin to her dress where it smoked like a brazier of blackened myrrh, uttering advice deeply coloured by the dark purl of her accent.
"They won't give you a cage with her. Be free. You know there is nothing else."
As she tottered back into the ruin Sachiin dropped onto the step beneath him as though suffering the same malaise.
Shaw pressed the girl's shoulder to the ground with his knee while he patted his belt for the cuffs he feared lost in his acquisition of her. Silence settled in the blue shade, the smell of stone and soil flushed from the riven snow beneath them. She lifted her head to look at him, astonished, then incensed.
“Relax. The less trouble you give, the less you get.” he muttered, forcing the cuff down over her wrist.
"Let me go.”
“Can’t do that.”
"Let me go." she hissed, provoked as much by the ease of his refusal as her own predicament. When he did not reply but sat back to consult his com, she suddenly contracted, planted her feet and threw herself sideways, tipping him onto his rear and scrambling over the top of him. Wedging her elbows into the snow, she sprang up and ran off along the slope toward the drop, the cuff chain flapping from her arm. Josephine leapt free from the saplings on the hill overhead and caught the fugitive from behind, seizing her hair and taking her once more to the ground. “Get off me!” she snarled through bared teeth; in reply her captor smacked a black steel truncheon across her elbow. The pain left her rolling and coughing snow from the back of her throat while the webbing was strapped around her right arm. As it compressed the small bones of her wrist the girl's dark eyes flicked open; she snatched the stranger's jacket front and jerked her downward where she bit hard into her cheek, her teeth skidding, then tearing into the smooth skin. Josephine punched her stomach with a knee until Shaw pared them apart, keeping her assailant pinned where she lay.
The blonde woman pressed a hand to the lush colour smeared across her face. It bled through the crooks of her fingers while she tore supplies from her pack, the girl spitting its raw taste into the snow.
"I want their location." she hissed, slapping tape across the gauze that had stuck to her wound. Susan's eyes found Shaw again. "Where are they?" Josephine shouted down at her, fingers blanching on the handle of the baton. Her victim's red-stained teeth flashed as she cracked the weapon across her shins; at its impact she stared wildly and gasped for breath, but uttered nothing more. Shaw turned from her, keeping his remarks confidential.
"This was too damn easy."
"They're here." Josephine assured him, scorn lowering her voice.
"You don't know that... you think they're just going to sit this out while you go hard on her?"
"Look at her neck. That's a fatality right there, and there's a bad contact on her arm. Where do you think she'd be right now if they weren't committed to her survival?" She waited for him to conclude his incurious survey. "Take all the time you need."
"That's not what I got at the house." he insisted.
"What you got at the house put us out here. Now get on her. I need bloods."
Josephine's pack yielded a number of discreet kits, each sleeved in a different shade of green from which she slid a selection of tools and appurtenance. With a small black camera she bent down again, grasping the girl's throat and snapping detailed shots of her face, front and profile, disregarding its expression and the blood around her mouth. The subject lay so indifferent to the blinking shutter that Josephine began to suspect her acquiescence and stowed the camera; with a plastic bag over her hand she grasped a section of her hair, winding it around her gloved fingers and ripping it free from the braid.
"The tent lab can get all this." Shaw muttered from his position at her feet. The girl saw nothing of the collection tube pressed to the skin beneath her ear, its cannula drawing a snaking line of blood into the plastic.
“She’s a warm ride, she could be holding both their DNA. If we have to cash her in I want her swabs on file so get her fucking feet.”
Their captive twisted from the hands that grasped the front of her jeans, thrashing hard and catching Shaw in the throat with her boot when he lost control of her legs. He sat back, struggling with the insult to his airway while Josephine cursed them both, winding the miscreant with the baton and climbing to her feet.
The conscripts negotiated the slope within formation in response to her summons, their thickset, pale-eyed uniformity suggesting them as the product of some failed fascist métier, their defects almost sarcastic. One by one they took a moment from their slit-eyed vigilance to look the girl over, returning their interest to their surrounds as circumstance dictated the emphasis. Their leader shrugged while shaking his head in rueful illustration of his misgivings. Built like a massive bipedal saurian, he sported a white blond crop and eyes that seemed perpetually inflamed by some chemical irritant.
"From point... looks clean." he reported, watching Josephine consult the compass on her wrist. Shaw shook his head at her ascending glance.
"Set up sensors... I want coverage at thirty metres." she instructed. "We'll tune her here. If it moves, get on it."
The conscripts spread away from them, placing laser-sighted units in a perimeter and hunkering down with their weapons to their chests. Fighting the acquisition of her hands until she was flipped onto her stomach, the girl blew snow and loosed hair from her mouth against the ground. Shaw stood peeling the plastic from an energy bar and planted a cursory boot on the back of her knees as per instruction; Josephine uncuffed her left fist and prised the thumb from it.
"You can see where this is going..." the former explained to the subjugated party with his mouth half-full, favouring his bruised throat as he swallowed. "I can't help you if you won't give back. Anything you know is good."
Josephine unclipped a multitool from her belt, setting the deeply-cleated plier jaws around base of Susan's thumb nail.
"Where are they?"
Her silence closed the jaws and crushed the nail frozen white, then concentric blue and red. The girl almost tore free in the comprehensive violence of her response, writhing behind her arm with the demonic strength of some inviolate possession. Blood fled the split that buckled open in the half moon of her nail but her expression conferred nothing beyond agony; Josephine released the jaws, knowing circulation would reprise the sanction. In Susan's stare the looming birches came to sudden life, branches bleeding like veins of watered ink into the sky.
"Last time. Where are they?" Josephine's reiteration sounded as though spoken through a wall; she looked out along the slope, then selected another finger, adjusting her grip on the tool.
The girl's eyes flew open; her teeth appeared behind her lips and Josephine loosed the jaws, then struck her dripping finger a swift blow with the tool. Susan lapsed slackly onto the snow and away from her hand into a spinning, silvery daze while the conscripts kept their wary eyes on the hillside.
"Down there." she gasped, spitting out the words along with the saliva that had slid into her airway.
Shaw dispatched himself down the slope and blew hard as he toiled back to them while Josephine unrolled a slim chain from her belt and dragged the girl's dead weight toward a tree, securing her to the trunk. He took their discussion to a discreet remove.
"Like I said... tracks go right down to the drop." he smirked. "They cut her loose."
Around them the corps stood like some crude henge, fists closed tightly on their weapons.
"Did I tell you to come in?" snapped Josephine, turning her attention back to Shaw's gloating reportage. "How is it possible for her to have a hand up your ass when she's tied to a tree? I could do her like that all day and she won't make a sound. Ask yourself why."
Snow had began to fall again, drifting between them, and she paused, turning to look through it at the conscripts that had begun to scratch at the edge of her attention like a hatched blur; they cringed hard and doubled over as though her anger had effected it, weapons forgotten at the cold burn of the screaming tone inside their heads. Shaw's hands retreated to his rifle and Josephine looked down at the split ring hanging from her belt, gaping, misshapen and emptied of its orange fob. The missing unit almost glowed in Susan's bloodied grasp as she slid her thumb back from the button, sitting on her knees in the half-regarded distance and watching the tormented men recover, her mastery of the effect becoming clear, like something patiently explained. Looking up at the pistol in Josephine's grasp while the latter strode toward her, she hoisted her swollen elbow onto her knee and used both arms to throw the fob to Shaw.
The men said nothing to the baton blow that knocked her onto her side.
"Get back out on point!" Josephine shouted over her shoulder. The command met a thick, shuffling silence. Shaw nodded toward Susan, stowing the orange unit on his own belt.
"Get her up." he told them. "We're done wasting time."
Two conscripts lurched forward uncertainly, trudging past Josephine while she blew a dry breath at the sky.
"What now, Nathaniel?" she laughed sourly. "Slay us with your exit strategy."
"I... We call this in..."
“You don’t dial in a jugfuck, man..." A Two volunteered. "We come up empty, they’ll frag us from the fuckin hawk. I seen them do that shit three times.”
"We're not empty... we got her." he reminded them, nodding to the base of the tree where Susan lay on her side. Taking the small locator unit from her breast pocket, Josephine offered it to Shaw.
“So call it in. Thirty to pull pitch, two hours flight time... they'll be here before we lose the light.” Conscious of the eyes on him, he made slow time in checking his watch and compass, setting his rifle strap across his shoulders and ignoring her demand for a decision. "Call them." she insisted. He turned toward his abandoned pack, speaking with her scathing stare still crawling on his profile and muttering in reply.
"I'll make the call tomorrow early. We pitch here tonight."
CONTINUED NEXT WEEKISH
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
The waterlogged Sea Scouts barge was finally chainsawed into nothingness a month or so ago. RIP its rotten old timbers. We will miss its picturesque obsolescence.
Port's domestic structure is a whacky Victorian labyrinth of narrow little streets draped over the bulbous topography like a lace doily. Some are no more than lanes to this day, with mossy banks encroaching on their shitty tarmac and insufficient room for two cars to pass abreast. Frost can mean you slide backwards on the steep dips in the shade of the blobby ridge that runs lengthwise along the centre of the peninsula. It's about 60m above sea level according to topographic maps, but it feels much higher than this, as you can probably see. This represents yet another annoying discrepancy between my expectations and physical reality, so I just add another 200m or so in my mind in order to approach the preferred 300 m +/- range.
People have won presidential office with this kind of stuff, so I'm just waiting on the whole salary and acclaim package.
Bellbirds and Tuis rattle the dead branches of the blue gums as they clamber around them, looking for insects and shouting at each other; their language consists of fluting, bill clapping, cackling, sneezing, warbling, chiming and diving flights full of intimidating wing sounds like taffeta swooshed hard past your ear.
People dump their green waste in historically-designated slash unofficial middens on the side of the road, where it merges down into the tangled scrub below.
From Island Terrace, the view becomes quite bougie, almost Riviera. Well, it does if the fucking ugly Port Otago warehouse carbuncle is factored out. At the present time, these are mostly grotty yachts, which is not as pejorative as it sounds. They are the kind of hobby and old-school craft middle-aged people might remember their parents and grandparents owning, sitting quiescent for most of the year and puttering out into the greater harbour for a bit of fishing on summer weekends. A few people live on them semi-permanently but there's not really a huge culture of that here, probably because housing was cheap until recently. They are hauled up onto the tiny local winch dock for loving maintenance before being returned to their relatively affordable moorings.
It occurred to me the other day that the gentrification quickly gathering pace around Dunedin will sweep rich boaty twats and their launches into these scenes in a few short years. They're turning up now on the weekends, so it's just a matter of time until Port becomes bland and middling enough for them to dimly recognise its advantages. I know I always say doomy shit like this, but it's inevitable, isn't it? They will demand upgrades and memberships and wharf extensions and all this will become another marina for property speculators in black 4WDs. All those peculiarly unhappy tight-faced white men with disregarded golden retrievers and boats on trailers parked up on their double drives under spotless canvas covers, emblazoned with names like Blade, Samurai, Sea Eagle and Moonraker II. And Vixxen. With two x's, which is probably more apposite than they realise.
It's never Goodbye Remaining Equity, Bought This Fukken Thing To Impress My Side Piece or Half A Metre Smaller Than My Brother In Law's Boat, is it? Lol.
A fine stand of Cabbage Trees. Not Cabbage Palms, confused northern hemisphere people. They are in fact Lomandroideae or Agavoideae, depending who you talk to. Once again the chilled goods warehouse shits all over a formerly nice view; I cut it out below.
A lot of people destroy their Cabbage Trees or refuse to plant them because they drop their leaves. Why not shoot the dog for breathing while you're at it?
I can't remember who built this hull-shaped rock sculpture on the southern end of Back Beach; think it was a local artist? There's not much reference to it online and I don't think many people actually notice it for what it is. Which is okay; sometimes art should sneak up on you. As someone ruthlessly opposed to whimsical expression, I took a hard line at first and disliked it, but we've come to appreciate its moody ironies and also the kind of workpersonship that has seen it last in good shape for quite a while now. It is appurtenant without being overly literal and seems perfectly content in its own mystery. It thrives in the wild, coming and going with the tide. It's not plastered with credits and sponsors. It's the best piece of public art in the area.
Parsons Chameleon / palm / Black Lemur
see the rest here
It is bitter-free, punching down the brilliant, UV-soaked flavours of raw citrus into a slightly caramelised gloop swimming with soft chunks of chewy, jellied, padparadscha goodness and peppery, perfumed ginger. We both love it and it's possibly my personal all-time favourite jam. You can't really fuck it up either, so feel free to have a go.
As a confirmed citrus freak, I burn my oral membranes out each and every winter, sucking down every variety I can lay my greedy paws on. If you've never tasted a blood orange, you will possibly be surprised by the literal nature of their flesh and their lack of upfront acidity. Their complex, dirty undertones can creep almost toward umami; they're not super-weird, but they're not for everyone. It isn't absolutely necessary to go hunting them down for this recipe; those brilliant late winter Navels are just as good, if not better preservation prospects, due to the persistence of their high notes and clean sweetness. I like the bloods because they're a bit exotic and the colour is more intense.
Use a sterilised ladle and/or jam funnel (just buy one goddamit) to get it into oven-sterilised jars (100 celsius for at least 10 mins including lids). I filled 9 medium to large jars here but it varies every time, so clean more than you think you'll need.
Mine still slops around in the jar after a notional set, but you can boil it down to rubbery firmness; while I personally think this is gross, you're the one eating it. We like to spoon it out and let the syrup soak into the toast while the fruit sits on top, smiling at you. Refrigerate once opened. Use liberally in poultry recipes, sauces and on cakes, too.
* More Kitchen Bitch, bitches *
Though she had risen slowly, Susan had to stop halfway up the stairs to catch her breath, leaning over herself as she struggled with the asphyxia pursuing her amid the ascent into her throat of the contents of her stomach. When she emerged into the clear air of the yard a distant sunrise had slid fingers of gold and ibis pink beneath the cloud sealing the valley, its light striking Sachiin's face as he looked up from cutting wood. With Petrouchka's voice still rolling in her head like a black draught from the gorge itself she closed her eyes at the sight of him, the vampyre's gifts clasped to her chest. He smiled and set another piece of wood upon its end.
When the inquiry was ignored he interrupted his swing and turned back to where she stood, plaster-white and breathless by the parapet, her hair confined to a strange, confluent web of braids.
"She’s underneath us...”
"Ça va, cloudcheeks?”
"Do I look like I'm alright?" she exclaimed. "This is doing my fucking head in. We're not staying here.”
Putting down the axe, he came to her and took the bundle from her arms, looking over the mirror in surprise before setting it down upon the row of stone; he lifted a garment from the shroud of disintegrating linen, its shattered atoms drifting around them in a haze of white while a dress fell open from his hands. Composed of heavy lunar samite, its high-waisted bodice was densely figured with a nebula of hand-cut gems, finch-yellow and violet sapphires and rock crystal, as coldly lustrous as Olympian ichor where they were clasped to the silk by gold thread curling into buds and tendrils. Susan closed her eyes, its cynical splendour so much more a cage than an adornment that it overwhelmed her.
"I'll have get it altered.” he lamented, regretting his flippancy at the sight of her reaction.
“If we had a toilet I would flush the fucking thing. She doesn’t want us here, I told you... why do I have to keep saying it? I'm not spending one more night in the same building with a... a fucking dead person, in a downward bloody spiral who lies awake at night and listens to us fucking...”
“You have to let the drama queens bust a move, Christabel... just wait til they get it out of their systems.”
“They’re not drama queens, they are psychopaths! Psychopaths who can't stand the sight of me." She dragged down the fabric of her collar to reveal the scars on her neck. His eyes drifted over their ragged topography, though he knew every ridge and hollow. “You can be as stupid you like! This is how I end up."
"I don't think staying where we..."
"You don't think, that's your fucking problem! I can't spit the fucking bullets out, and I can't take someone else trying to kill me, Sachiin... we are going. I'm not asking you!"
He took a slightly flattened pack of cigarettes from his pocket, holding one between his lips while he retrieved his lighter, never more aware of her gaze in spite of his deliberate silence.
“I’ve never really done this before, so it might lack credibility." Sachiin admitted. "But this is my foot, and it's coming down. There's too much snow. I’m not losing you to something as fucking stupid as hypothermia... so c’est comme ça... you'll just have to trust me. Nowhere for a week."
She clasped her own face, everything she had stamped down in her chest emerging in tears. He looked out over the parapet with a hand on his nape, his struggle manifesting in a deep tic that worked across his shoulders, deforming his resolve.
"You didn't hear what she was saying... for fuck's sake, what am I doing here?" she demanded of herself, sucking a broken breath through her hands.
"Christabel..." he exclaimed softly, immersed in her dismay. "I’m saying no to you... be proud of me.”
She struck at him as he touched her arm, turning to stride across the roof into the darkness of the ruin, snatching up one of Petrouchka's forgotten coats in the midst of tripping over its crumpled form and following the steps down to the postern door. The effort required to heave it open checked the blurred impetus of her descent; she sank down into a crouch against the stone of the mountainside where it neighboured the weathered timbers, wiping at her eyes with her parka sleeve. In doing so she caught sight of Kala'amātya returning from a solitary foray. He ascended toward her slowly with no need to question the colour of her face, standing with his rifle on his shoulder while he waited for her to compose herself.
“You hate this place as much as I do.” Susan murmured. "And your fucking brother’s morphed into a fascist who knows what’s best for me, so can we please take him to a town where he can buy drugs and go back to being no fucking use to anyone?”
"You'll lose too much condition trying to walk in this, and there's more to come. Wait a week." he told her, his study of her referring him to the unspoken elements of her distress. Looking up into his illegible features, she knew she could not command everything required to disclose Petrouchka's admission, the failure sitting like lead inside her stomach.
"You must want shot of me more than ever."
“You could have stayed in Gévaudan.”
Susan shaded her eyes from the sky, shaking her head and expressing an arid obscenity.
"If you don't know why I didn't, I can't even feel sorry for you.”
He slid the rifle from his shoulder and made an offer of it, which she ignored until he took her wrist and pressed it into her grasp, meeting her glare without a word. Susan threw it down onto the snow and dropped onto her backside to push off the edge of the steps, carrying on stiffly down the hill alone.
A tumble of dry powder descended the slope with her, settling on her lashes and catching on the lush pile of the coat around her shoulders from which it shook loose, banished as it might have been from the back of an animal. She marched on down the incline, making long bear steps that compacted the crusted snow. It was not until she was reminded of the river by the sound of unseen water that she slowed, standing on a narrow piece of level ground and looking around herself. Cold crept into her sleeves but made no headway against the warmth haloed about her neck and chin by the fur; the gorge accepted venous tribute from the slopes on either side of its sunken, blackened crevice and she followed the tiny streams of melt to the edge of the drop, sitting down on a drift to take in the sight of the half-buried river. The cliff beneath her was not nearly as tall or forbidding as she had expected, its steep degree built up by enormous boulders cast from the ridges into a broken but passable grade, the great blocks ignored by the water shouldering past them, as dark as graphite in suspension. Fine spray settled on the fur as she devised a way over the descent to a point where the river was pinched so tightly between outcropped stone that she might have leapt it; she wiped a drip from her nose, folding her arms and sitting in her hunch until the sun had shifted overhead and tipped her shadow backwards.
Susan looked to the north and south and climbed slowly from the drop on all four limbs, rising to her feet once more where the hill leveled into a broad shelf. The air glittered with buoyant whits of ice in flues of sunlight drifting down from slim rifts in the cloud. At first glance the trees seemed placed as though by careful hands at some considerate distance from each other, and that they cultivated sophistry, their slim shade cutting the white with stripes of matte grey, snow lying on their branches like inverted shadow. Shrugging off her coat, she hung it from a sapling and lay down, first in profile, then on her back, imprinting two versions of herself into the pristine little plain. Her own small scale annoyed her as it had always done, seeming closer to some minor, nameless scion of her order than the species to which she belonged, though she drew consolation from the adult nature of the impressed proportions. A brief exam of her surrounds yielded broken wood, pebbles and bracket fungi; knocked from the fir they climbed in velveteen succession, the shapes of each were pressed into service as features on her effigies. Crouching for a moment at their feet in the grip of a vague dissatisfaction, she leant forward and planted a cigarette in each emblematic mouth. The effect was so displeasing that she flicked them away along with those remaining in the pack, tasting wet ash on her tongue and noting the narrow slash of red on the back of her finger before the discomfort of the scratch itself, hands almost disembodied by the cold's numbing, insidious empery. From them she looked up through the curling tendrils that had escaped her braids, glimpsing movement flickering amid a copse of pines recently carbonized by lightning.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK-ISH
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce