.........MUTANT RAIN FOREST ISSUE........JUNE, 2016
Illustrations above by Shasta Lawton.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

GROUND PORK

by Gene Stewart 
writing as Art Wester












    "What's a luau?" Betty asked.  
    
    They had just awakened from their post swim nap. She stood naked, enjoying the breeze that lifted the gauze curtains. 

    "It's a party built around a pork roast. They put a whole pig in the ground with hot rocks and let it cook all day." 

    "Really?  Like bury it?"

    "Yep.  On the beach. Season it up,  wrap it in leaves, comes out so it melts in your mouth."

    "You said party. What are they celebrating?"

    Jim frowned. "Us I suppose. Guests. It's their idea of being grand hosts and showing off their special foods."  He got off the bed and padded in to pee. "Watch out for the poi, though. Tastes like bland goo."

    She giggled.  "Goo?"  

    "You'll see."

    She hoped it was like his and blushed. "This is the best honeymoon."

    He hugged her from behind, kissed her throat, and suggested they get back on the bed and make it even better. 



     






They sat in sand, a blanket on a board at their feet, as cool breeze from the sea gave Jim an excuse to put a warm arm around Betty.  “What a feast,” she said.

“They lay a good spread.”  Jim reached out and plucked a grape.  

Betty playfully guided his hand to her lips.  “Mm.  Sweet.  No seeds.”

They shared pineapple, coconut, orange wedges, cherries, grapes, slices of braised banana in a cinnamon sauce, mango chutney bruschetta, and other tropical fruit appetizers.  They laughed and smooched.

An older man, to Betty’s left, cleared his throat as the pig was carried out, wisps of steam rising from its succulent meat.  It smelled scrumptious, Betty declared, and the older man smiled.  He had white hair and wore wire-framed glasses.  He was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with a tweed jacket over it, and canvas trousers.  “You’ll enjoy this.”

Jim leaned across his new bride’s lap to shake the man’s hand and to introduce himself and Betty.  

“Charles Grey,” the man said. 

Jim said he sold cars in Iowa and asked what line of business Mr. Grey was in.  

Grey’s eyes glittered.  “Retired professor.”

“What did you teach?” Betty wondered.

“Oh, ethnology mostly.  Studied customs, cultures.  Stories, legends, myths.”  He glanced behind them, then gestured.  “Up on those volcanic slopes, in the jungle, there’s a burial ground, did you know that?”

Jim nodded.  “We toured it the other day.  Interesting old carvings.”

“Indeed.”  Grey paused, cleared his throat, as the waiters in sarongs began serving big platters of steaming roast pork.  “You know, during especially heavy tourist seasons, sometimes they run out of pigs to roast for the send-off luaus.”

Betty asked if they cancelled them.

“That would cut into their tourist trade.  Many come just for this kind of experience, after all.  No, a few times they tried serving other meats, such as beef, but it wasn’t the same.  To be authentic, it must be pork, you see.”

“Surely another shipment of pigs could be arranged for,” Jim opined.

“Oh yes, but it can take some doing, even now.  Back then it was much more difficult, without radio or other instant communication.”

Betty and Jim nodded, understanding how hard a native islander’s life could be or must have been.  

Grey accepted a platter, tasted the meat, and nodded.  “Delicious.”  He waited for Betty and Jim to receive theirs before continuing.  “The islanders hit on a solution due to their relatives on other islands.  As you may know, some of them are cannibals, or were.  Traditions die hard.  And one particularly heavy tourist season, having no recourse, the islanders here resorted to looting the burial ground of fresher bodies.”

Betty gasped.  Jim put down a fork of meat and said, “Cannibalism?”

“Human meat is known as ‘long pork’ for its remarkable similarity to pig meat.  Roasts the same, smells the same, feels the same in the mouth, tastes the same.  Whale meat, incidentally, is not fishy at all but like fine beef.  But I digress.  They served up what they called ground pork, because it came from the burial ground you see.  None of the tourists knew any better and everyone was happy.”

“Not everyone.”

Grey shrugged.  “Well, the dead don’t complain much.”

Jim would not let it go.  “I’ve read about, like, brain diseases from eating people.”

“Oh yes. Human spongiform encephalopathy and so forth, sure.  Many human-borne diseases can be passed along by consuming the flesh of a sick person.  Thing is, if any were passed along they would not surface until the tourists had scattered back across the globe to their homes.  No pattern would emerge.  You’d have at worst a few odd medical mysteries.  No one would connect the scattered dots.”

“Jim?”  Betty looked at Jim, distress in her gaze.

Jim nodded.  “I’m sure Mr. Grey is merely talking shop, old stories from ancient cultures.”

Grey smiled.  “Yes, yes.  Ignore an old man’s spooky stories.  It’s the night, it brings the darkness to me.”  He stood and bowed.  “I will let you two love-birds have the rest of the evening on your own.  Please forgive my loneliness.”  He trudged past one of the bonfires and vanished into the darkness, likely heading toward the hotel.

“I’ll bet he’s a widower,” Betty thought aloud.  “Probably came here for his honeymoon and she died recently so he came back.  It’s so sad.”

“Maybe he ate her.  But not in a good way.”

Betty squealed out a laugh and slapped Jim lightly on the shoulder.

Jim and Betty did their best but somehow the meat had lost its savor.







A definite shadow inhabited the corner of the honeymoon bungalow’s bedroom.  The French doors were open, facing the patio and the sea beyond.  A huge moon gleamed on the calm sea.  Palms rustled and clattered.  

Betty held her breath.  She stared into the corner.  To the left of the French doors a shadow stood.  It had bulk.  It moved slightly now and then.  She could feel a gaze raking her up and down under the light sheet.

Beside Betty, Jim snored.

Her hand went to him, touched his flank.  

He spluttered and settled deeper into sleep.

Betty shivered even as she broke a sweat.  She could not dare move.  If she did the shadow would pounce.  They were scheduled to fly away from Hawaii tomorrow morning, their honeymoon over.  This was the last chance hungry island ghosts had to swallow her soul, she thought.  She remembered the tour guides warning them not to pick up stones.  It displeased Pelé, the fire deity that created their islands.  She’d heard about the thousands of stones and rocks mailed back to Hawaii each year from chastened, frightened tourists who had stolen from Pelé and lived to be haunted, to regret their greed and stupid error.  

Betty watched Jim smile at those stories.  She knew he was scoffing.  Her own thoughts ran to the dust on her shoes.  It was pulverized rock.  How could anyone help but take a little of Pelé’s creation with them?  It was unavoidable, she thought.

Maybe the haunting grew according to how much rock you stole.

It was after that tour of the pumice fields, with their razor-sharp rocks and pools of exposed lava, some hissing into the water to make a steam that stank of dead fish, it was after the tour guide had issued one final warning on the bus back to the resort that Betty began catching glimpses of shadows near her.

Mostly they hovered, or flitted.  A few rushed at her, only to vanish before impact.  She had no doubt they were solid.

Jim started snoring again.  Betty watched the corner and cried quietly, wishing she could pray the way she had when she’d been a gullible little girl.






Jim claimed later that he’d never known Betty was pregnant.

By then it was far too late.

Police found the little skull and bones in a trunk in the attic, wrapped in a Hawaiian shirt.  “No meat on it,” the detectives noted in their report.  

Jim broke down when he heard that detail.  He kept thinking of the meatloaf Betty had served him so proudly at her so-called Luau Party.  “It’s ground pork,” she’d told him.  “The other white meat.”

Jim became a Vegan and moved, rumor had it, to the east coast.












Click Below to read
Chapter XI of
A SILENT NIGHT
(FOR A DEMI-GHOUL)
by Vincent Daemon


continuing
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