Monday, March 17, 2014
The Riding of the Green
(The serial story will continue next week. Holidays take priority.)
Tasman Ghan kept a large calendar on his bedroom wall, and each morning he consulted it. Every American holiday had been circled in red, even the silly ones like Arbor Day. Thus forewarned, Tasman could steel himself against whatever madness his youngest brother Guri might choose to inflict on the family in the name of foreign traditions.
And still, each year, Guri somehow managed to surprise him.
This year’s surprise came in the form of a hearty, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day, faith and begamma!” and a frosty mug thrust into Tasman’s hand. He had not yet even had his morning tea. Tasman eyed the green, foamy liquid sloshing over the rim of the mug with healthy suspicion.
“Is this … beer?” he hazarded. “Is it supposed to be green?”
“It’s St. Patrick’s Day,” Guri said. “Everything is supposed to be green.”
“Ah. That explains your hair, then. Isn’t it a bit early in the day for beer?”
“Early?” Guri peered out the window. “Oh my. It’s daylight. It was dark when we started.”
“Let me guess,” Tasman said. “You and Sanjay.”
“Holidays never last long enough. We wanted to get an early start.”
“I’m sure.” Tasman carefully set his mug on the kitchen counter. “I will have green tea. Will that suffice?”
“As long as it’s green. Faith and begamma! Erin go broke!”
“I … ” Tasman stopped, at a loss.
“It’s what the Irish say,” Guri explained. “I assume the one phrase refers to gamma radiation. That’s what turned the Hulk green.”
“And Erin went broke buying the green beer?”
“Yes, exactly!” Guri took a swig from his mug. “As much as I miss Ravi, I’m glad we deal with you directly now. You understand American holidays so well.”
Tasman enjoyed a brief moment of envy for Ravi, currently home in India and safe from this country’s odd customs. Then Sanjay burst into the kitchen. He also sported a cap of green hair. “It worked! The potion worked!”
The words “potion” and “worked” spoken together never boded well for anyone. Tasman reached for the mug, just in case. “I know I shouldn’t ask … ”
“The potion wasn’t for us. We bought it from that Egyptian cat at the coffee shop. Come look!”
Now I know why Ravi fled for home, Tasman thought. He took a bracing gulp of beer. It was actually quite good. Fortified, he followed his brothers out the front door.
Not even green beer had prepared him for Guri’s latest insanity. Three horses from the family stables were tethered in the front yard. Their saddles and bridles were adorned with clover chains. Their coats had been brushed to a shine. An emerald shine. All three horses looked hugely embarrassed.
“I hope you did not use gamma radiation on the horses,” Tasman said.
“Of course not!” Sanjay came by his outrage naturally. He loved every horse in the stable, even flatulent Faisool. “The Egyptian assured us the potion wouldn’t hurt them. The color will fade in a week.”
“It had better. Do I want to know what you intend to do with green horses?”
“Rescue maidens, of course,” said Guri. “We will ride into town and sweep the maidens up onto our saddles to save them from the snakes, just as St. Patrick did.”
“I thought Patrick only drove the snakes out of Ireland. I don’t remember any talk of maidens.”
“Legends alter over time,” Sanjay said. “I’m sure there were maidens.”
Or were about to be, Tasman thought. “Then you should go, and rescue as many as you can.” It would get them both out of his hair for many hours.
Guri grabbed him and beerily kissed his cheek. “You’re the best older brother ever. Come with us. Save a maiden. We dyed you a horse.”
“That’s quite all right. I—”
“Then we’ll bring you one. Hurry, Sanjay! Before the snakes get them!” Guri sprang into the saddle, somehow without spilling a drop of his beer. He could be quite agile when it mattered.
Sanjay drained his own mug before mounting up. “Erin go broke!” he cried, and galloped away in the direction of Talbot’s Peak, with Guri close behind.
“And so the world is saved,” a woman’s amused voice said from the doorway.
Tasman turned. His exasperation over his brothers melted away at the sight of his personal assistant. Poised and polished as always, Leila had dressed for the day in a smart gray suit. Her sole concessions to holiday observance were a green ribbon in her white-gold hair and a discrete shamrock pin in her lapel. She nodded at the mug in his hand. “That isn’t tea.”
“No, it isn’t.” He poured the frothy liquid onto the lawn. The grass did not shrivel up and turn brown, as he’d expected. “I don’t know why I indulge them.”
“Indulgence is good sometimes. It helps one relax.”
“Indeed.” Tasman indulged himself in a leisurely study of her curves. Her eyes glistened like emeralds, in dare and invitation. All of a sudden he felt like celebrating the holiday. “Do you require rescue, maiden?”
“I suppose there must be a snake around somewhere.”
“All right, then.” Tasman swept her into his arms and lifted her into the saddle. He leaped aboard. The horse grunted at the double load. At a flick of the reins it set off for the forest at a sedate trot. Tasman’s heels could not urge it into a faster gait. “It seems we’re not to have a gallop,” he said.
Leila snuggled comfortably into his arms. Her body fit to his perfectly, as always. “This pace is quite sufficient, sir. If I may? Faith and begamma.”
Tasman bared his teeth in a wide smile. He nuzzled her smooth, pale neck. Anything more would have to wait until they reached the privacy of the deep woods. He prodded the horse again. It trotted a little faster. “No wonder the Americans have so many holidays,” he said. “Erin go broke.”