Thursday, May 13, 2010


Eat and drink they did. Al took Haruki to a long, low log cabin. It weren't no regular cabin, though. Maybe it was the shape of the tree or a trick of the light, or simply just exhaustion from workin all day, but to Haruki, that cabin looked much bigger on the inside than the outside. And I ain't talkin like when you go down to the IHOP and order yourself up a mess of pancakes and they turn out to be too much for ya because you guessed the size off the picture. So you gotta sit there and wait until you free up enough room for three or four half pancakes and while you're sittin there, your ex, Betty, comes into the IHOP with her new beau Bo on her arm and she's just laughin and havin herself a good ol time. And then she sees you and feels like she's gotta say somethin and so she asks you what you're doin and you explain to her you're waitin for pancake room to open up so you can finish your meal and get to work on that new project you got goin on and she just shakes her head and sighs. So there you're sittin full of heartache and pancakes wishin things could be different than they were, but they're not and you gotta leave without finishin the meal because you can't watch 'em anymore. At least, that's how it sounded when Jared told the story to me, but I wasn't there to say. But that ain't really the point here. Havin a pancake that looks bigger on the plate than it did on the menu doesn't really seem to compare to a cabin that looks like little more than a hobo hut on the outside and looks like a three mile long, gold covered dining hall on the inside. Or maybe it does. Like I said, I wasn't there.

Of course, it was a good thing that the hall was so darned big, because it was filled straight to the brim with all manner of large, bearded men who were already well into their cups by the time the two arrived.

"Gentlemen!" boomed out Al when he walked through the door.

"Where?" responded a voice from the back. There was a rousing course of laughter.

Al snickered. "This here's my friend Hiroki. He may not be one of you, but I vouch for him and expect you to grant him every courtesy that my hall demands."

They all lifted their cups and shouted "HIROKI!!!" It sounded like giants playing patty cake. Then Al sat himself at the head of the table, seeing to it that Hiroki sat to his left.

"Have a good time," he instructed the young ninja. "We may be here awhile."

Hiroki and Al musta sat there for days, swiggin honey wine from animal horns and eatin pork that came straight off this magical pig that was wanderin around. You could carve a hunk right off the pig and, not only would it be perfectly cooked however you wanted it to be, but the pig would grow back right before your eyes. I don't know where this tree is, or even if it's still around, but I'd love to get my hands on one of them pigs. I could save me a ton of time in cookin and lookin up recipes and goin to the hospital to get my stomach pumped because you're apparently not supposed to cook pig medium rare.

Out of the blue, Al leaned over and looked Hiroki in the eye. "I seen you lookin!' he bellowed.

Hiroki looked around. Was this drunk giant really yelling at him?

"Yeah, you" Al slurred. "I seen you starin at my patch! You wanna know what happened, don't you?! DON'T YOU?!" He slammed his drinking horn on the table hard enough to lodge the point in the wood. The hall fell silent. "A thrice cursed raven ate it! A RAVEN!!! Took my darned eye right outta my head an I couldn't do nothin about it! You wanna shee? Do ya?!?!?!"

He was getting out of control and Hiroki was afraid the next place that horn might lodge was in his young ninja head. Al reached for the eye patch, began to tug. But he was drunk enough that gettin a simple eye patch off became an exercise in futility.

"Again?" The voice echoed through the silent hall like a screw droppin through an engine, pingin off everything and somehow suckin the air out of the room. "Can't you bring someone here without getting drunk and getting into a fight, brother?"

The voice got closer and closer. It belonged to a handsome young man, maybe 22 or 23, dressed in velvet and what looked to be cloth-of-gold. Most people these days and in this county would say that if he was wearin somethin like that, he'd have to be a little effeminate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. As all them writers of all them hero books may say, he cut a dashing figure.

Al waved towards him dismissively. "'smy brother," was all he said in explanation.

The young man bowed, deep and formal. "Pleased to meet you, Hiroki Hatayama. You may call me Luke."

"How did you...?"

Luke smirked. "I make it my business to know these things. Sure, I may not be as good at names as my brother here," he nodded towards Al, "but I have my methods."

"Pleased to meet you," replied Hiroki politely but cooly.

"You're in my seat kid. And I've got something my brother and I have to discuss. So, if you could..." Luke wiggled his fingers towards the ceiling.

Hiroki looked to Al. "'sok. Hessnot gonna hurt me."

So Hiroki stood, not knowing where to go. A group of burly men waved him over. He joined them to welcoming shouts of "Hiroki!!!!" And more mead guzzling. He ate and drank with the men, but kept his eye on the whispered, yet heated conversation at the head of the table.

Al was yellin "No! NO! NOOOO!" Slowly, though, it turned into, "I don't think...I see..." and finally, "Ok."

The two brothers stood together and walked over to Hiroki. Al slapped the ninja on the shoulder, somehow removing all the drunk and full the boy had felt.

"Come on, kid," he said. "It's time."