The Cobra’s Cross
Ext: African village of Snakira—afternoon
Snakira’s lone dusty road is reminiscent of an old western town with an Asian twist. An old man leading a mule that’s pulling a fruit laden wagon down the middle of the road lends to the ambiance. There are several wooden stalls up and down the wide road where Vendors wrangle good naturedly with customers over their goods.
The sound of jabbering tongues intermingle with the cackling of a renegade chicken that an elderly woman half-heartedly pursues, the yapping of an unseen mutt, and the fevered pitch of children at play, kicking a hairy ball back and forth to create the symphonic vibe of a lively sunlit village.
Angle on the back of a man in some white pleated shorts, a white Tee, and some white Airforce Ones. He has a humongous bamboo hat with a white feather in its brim on his head. He’s looking up at the only street sign in the village. The sign has been engraved into a block of wood in serpentine letters that spell out: Reptile Road.
Close up on Blackman’s face scowling up at the sign, shaking his head and the huge bamboo hat with dismay.
Blackman: Rep-tile-Road! Aw—naw, I’m outta here!
He turns to walk away; Stang intercedes, taking his arm with a soft laugh. She is a caramel goddess of seduction with her tanned limbs and curvaceous figure on display in white short-shorts and a pink tank top. Her long glistening mane flies freely down her back to be gently tossed by a passing breeze. Her too-cute pink combat boots and holstered pistol gives her that strong and sexy look she pulls off so well.
Stang: Baby, come on. we’re here now. It’s going to be fun!
Blackman allows her to pull him along behind her.
Blackman: I don’t know how I let you talk me into this? Stang shoots a devilish smirk over her shoulder.
Stang: Well, I didn’t actually talk you into it. She laughs. Blackman stops abruptly.
Blackman: You gloatin’, Stang? Cause I’ll jack for one of these mules and—
Stang: Nooo, baby. I’m just thrilled that we’re finally here together!
She goes up on her toes to give him a long lingering kiss of placation. His hands encircle her waist to possessively clutch her plump backside and pull her closer.
An anorexic middle-aged man manning a vegetable stall in front of his shop sits a few feet to the left of them looking on longingly, his mouth inching open to share in the searing kiss. He leans over in his seat to get a better view of Stang’s sensuous curves and nearly tumbles when his whale of a wife steps up unannounced to smack him in the back of the head with a paper fan.
Wife: (to Blackman and Stang) Get room!
She turns to chase her husband inside their shop with the paper fan. Blackman and Stang break their loving embrace with a chuckle at the couple. Blackman smacks his lips with a smile of satisfaction.
Blackman: Can’t live without the ol’ boy, can you?
Stang: And don’t want to.
She gives him another pecking smooch, before they continue down Reptile Road hand-in-hand. They look on with smiles as the children pass them in pursuit of the fleeing ball.
Blackman: Snakira seems a’ight. Just got that snake smell to it.
Stang: And, what exactly does a snake smell like?
Blackman: You remember that time you ate all that Taco Bell and—
Stang: (laughing) Shut-up! Blackman laughs. You’re suppose to be helping me look for the restaurant.
Blackman: I can’t read no Snakescript.
Stang is scanning the names of the buildings as they pass them. They are all written in an undecipherable script.
Stang: It’s Snakerian, which is similar to Swahili. I’ll recognize it, if I see it. Marcus said it translates to The Pit. Our guide owns it.
Blackman: (frowning) Does everything in this village relate to a snake?
A young female dangles a bag of fruit before her a few yards ahead an’ tries to wave them over.
Young Female: Fresh fruit—Best price!
Stang: (to Blackman) They’ve worshipped snakes since ancient times—wait that girl speaks English. She can probably point us in the right direction.
Stang heads over to the teenager’s stall. Blackman pauses in the street, taking in the Dodge City-like surroundings.
Blackman: Look more like China than Africa.
His attention falls on a child of about twelve that’s approaching him in a dark oversized robe and a green and yellow magicians’ hat.
Blackman: What’s up, Lil Merlin?
The youth looks up at him with a bright smile, trusting eyes, and a cherubic face.
Yabba: I am Yabba, the Mage. You want see magic?
Blackman: Sure. Let me see what you can do, Lil Copperfield.
Yabba gives an enthusiastic smile and nod, happy to demonstrate his skills. With a clap of his chubby hands, a spark and puff of smoke explodes forth, causing Blackman to take a step back. From the smoke soars a white pigeon that continues on to a destination unknown.
Blackman: (clapping impressed) A’ight, Yabba! I see you, Baby Boy. You got somethin’. If you can make fried chicken appear like that, man, I can make us rich!
Yabba smiles that adolescent smile, clearly basking in the praise.
Yabba: I practice since infant. I can turn anything to gold!
He nods to Blackman’s watch.
Yabba: You want gold watch?
Blackman looks from him to his watch and then back to him with a firm shake of his head.
Blackman: Aw—naw, I’m from the hood. You ain’t gonna get me like that.
Yabba: (looking hurt) No-no. You hold watch. See miracle. Turn watch gold—Real Gold! My powers very strong.
He nods enthusiastically as Blackman eyes him speculatively.
Blackman: A’ight. How much this gonna cost me?
Yabba: No charge! No charge, my family very rich.
Blackman: (smiling) Count me in then!
He slips his watch over his hand and extends it cautiously in his palm, watching Yabba like a hawk.
Blackman: (narrow eyed) Don’t make me chase you down, Yabba.
Yabba nods agreeingly.
Yabba: No, must hold like this — (demonstrates an index finger and thumb grasp) So magic can touch all sides.
Blackman obliges him, dangling the watch as instructed, but clearly ready to spring.
Yabba smiles and takes a step back. Blackman relaxes a bit.
Yabba: You see real magic, now.
Yabba bounces back two more comforting steps, then does a bopping hip-shaking dance with a wide smile of innocence. Blackman smiles on.
Blackman: Go Yabba. Go Yabba
The words of a powerful spell start in Yabba’s throat, rumbling up, as he
reaches to a side pouch to get a handful of glittery dust that he sprinkles liberally before him. He stutter-steps back towards Blackman chanting, does a finger snapping spin with his hands extended above his head, dropping to his knees and bouncing back up before the extended watch with a clap and hearty cry of an ancient word of mystic power. A spark and puff of smoke leaps from his left hand, stealing Blackman’s attention and causing him to take a step back. Yabba’s right hand strikes like lightning, snatching the dangling watch—And Yabba is gone!
He shoots down the road like a bullet, his oversized garments billowing in his wake. Vendors and other onlookers erupt in laughter as Blackman recovers to give chase.
Blackman: You lil bastard! Come back—
He stumbles over a stone and nearly goes sprawling. His hat goes flying, as he
manages to grab the stone and prepare to launch it after Yabba who’s yards ahead, heading for the breezeway between two buildings.
Stang: (laughing uproariously) Blackman!
She grabs his arm just in the nick of time, stopping him from launching the stone. Yabba disappears between the two shops.
Blackman: (outraged) He stole my watch!
Stang: Let him have it, baby.
Blackman notices everyone is laughing at his misfortune.
Blackman: Oh, all ya’ll in on it? Yeah, keep on snigglin’ and gigglin’! I’ll get the homies, we’ll come back through here and introduce ya’ll ass to a gallop-by I can ride and shoot from a mule!
Stang is pulling him on down the road, laughing. The natives wave him off with dismissive laughter, returning to their labors.
Stang: It’s only a watch, Blackman. I’ll buy you another one. Come on, I know where The Pit is. Blackman stomps to a stop, scowling at her.
Blackman: You think it’s funny too, huh?
Stang turns soft seductive eyes on him, biting down on a smile.
Stang: Noo. It’s just not that serious. She steps back to him, leaning in to kiss him. He snaps his head away.
Blackman: Naaw, don’t try that, laughin’ with the enemy. He walks away in a huff. Stang runs up behind him, slipping her arms between his arms and sides to encircle his waist to squeeze him haltingly, before going up on her toes to pat luscious lips to the crook of his neck and coo in his ear.
Stang: I’ll make it up to you tonight.
She nuzzles his ear.
Blackman: (pouting) And buy me a new watch?
Stang: And a bracelet.
Blackman: Platinum with diamonds?
Stang: (laughing) We’ll see.
Blackman cracks a satisfied smile, singing a 50 Cent hit.
Blackman: I don’t know what ya heard about me! but I’m a P-I.
Stang: (smacking the side of his head playfully) Alright!
They share a laugh. Back hand-in-hand, they continue down the road.
Blackman: Can’t believe—I done came 5000 miles to get jacked in broad daylight by a three feet, baby-faced, crime boss!
Stang: It was only a Bolex—
Blackman: Shit, that’s only one letter from a Rolex! That’s why you need to let me hold the gun.
Stang: You would not have shot that baby.
Blackman: Blew’im to smithereens! He old enough to steal, he old enough to limp.
Stang shakes her head with a dismissive chuckle.
Stang: You are so crazy.
She points to a large bamboo and straw hut. It favors a restaurant in an old Kung fu flick. Three steps have been carved out of the Earth, one leading down to a hanging door of bamboo shoots and braided vines.
Stang: That’s The Pit, right there.
She and Blackman walk over to descend the steps and push through the hanging door of jungle vegetation.
Int: The Pit
The Pit is a spacious eatery that specializes in Asian Cuisines. It has an Oriental decor of papier-mâché dragons and serpents, which hang throughout the establishment. A long intricately woven silk screen of bright colors section off the back area that’s used for food preparation. Three booths line the right wall. The left seating area is furnished with simple wooden chairs and tables with colorful cloths. Several large Aquarians are strategically placed throughout the eatery, displaying a variety of colorful serpents.
A jazzy tropical song emits from somewhere in the back. Diners are scattered here and there enjoying their meals and the music. Three rough looking customers occupy the second booth from the door. They look to Blackman and Stang as they enter, then return to their conversation. A rotund, very pretty thirtyish waitress in a colorful silk gown greets them with a welcoming smile. Blackman looks around in awe.
Waitress: (heavy accent) Hi, I Orita. You must be Ms. Rosado?
She extends a delicate hand, which Stang takes and shakes.
Orita: My husband been waiting for you and friend.
Stang: It is our pleasure to be here. You have a very lovely restaurant.
Orita smiles and nods her thanks.
Orita: Thank you, very much.
Stang: My spellbound friend here is Blackman.
Blackman breaks from gazing at all the rainbow serpents to give Orita a nod of greeting.
Orita: Very pleased to meet you—I get Kenya. Please have seat. Grilled Python, very good, today.
Orita departs to the back area. Blackman frowns at her suggestion. Him and Stang head to the back booth, clearly captivated by The Pit’s decor.
Blackman: I thought, you said, they worshipped snakes?
Stang: They do.
Blackman: Helluva way to treat ya god—skin’im and grill’im.
Stang: (chuckling) Would you behave.
The shortest of the three ruffians at the second booth has a Cobra patch over his right eye. He calls to Blackman as they pass, flashing a blinged up grill and motioning to an array of jewelry piled on the table before him.
Lil Man: Jewel, for the lady, my friend?
Blackman smiles over at him, looking down to the pile of jewelry on display. His smile vanishes, his eves go wild, as he jabs a finger at the pile.
Blackman: That’s my watch!
The lil’ man quickly swipes all the jewelry into a black pouch that disappears beneath the table.
Blackman: (stepping over to him) Aw-naw, hell-naw! You finna come up off that.
Lil’ Man: I have nothing of yours. You buy or you get. He gives Blackman a dismissive flip of his wrist.
Blackman: Oh, I’m finna get—right on yo’ lil’ ass!
The lil man leaps up from the table, going through a series of karate motions. Blackman bobs and weaves from side to side with his dukes up, trying to get around Stang, who’s interceding, trying to pull him back. Other diners look over discreetly.
Blackman: (to lil’ man) You betta know that shit for real!
Stang has wedged herself in front of Blackman restraining him.
Stang: (through clenched teeth of embarrassment) Blackman, stop! You are causing a scene over nothing.
The other two men rise from the table to stand with their comrade. Blackman’s head snaps back with bugged eyes and a gaped mouth.
Blackman: Oh! Ya’ll wanna click? Ya’ll wanna jump a brother, huh?
He makes a grab for the gun at Stang’s waist.
Blackman: (talking in a speedy panic) Gimme the gun baby—gimme the gun! They way over here in the Motherland with that gangbangin’ shit.
Stang turns, deflecting his grasps for the gun, and backpedals away.She grabs Blackman’s hand, repositioning herself between him and the flaring eyes of the ruffians.
Stang: Adonte! If you don’t stop this—
Blackman throws his arms up and out.
Blackman: They the ones crunk it up on me.
Kenya is an even five feet and resembles a young Mr. Miagi from the Karate Kid movie— down to his white cotton trousers, simple short-sleeve button down, and karate shoes. The ruffians quiet down when he steps in the middle of the ruckus with a no nonsense attitude of authority. Diners return to their meals. Blackman and Stang both face him.
Kenya: (to Blackman with slight accent) What’s problem here?
Blackman: Your nephew there— (throws an accusing finger at the lil’ man)
—done stole my watch.
Kenya: Not nephew.
Blackman: All ya’ll look alike. Ya gotta be some kin. What you running here? A midget mob?
Stang grabs Blackman and shoves him behind her with a warning look.
Stang: (to Blackman) Shush!
She turns back to a disgruntled Kenya and the agitated men.
Stang: (to Kenya) Please, excuse him. He didn’t take his medicine this morning—
Blackman: (to Stang) You can get some too.
She shoots him daggers, extending her hand to Kenya.
Stang: I’m Liz Rosado. I believe Mr. Bush arranged for you to act as our guide in search of the Cobra’s Cross.
Kenya gives the three ruffians a look and they all return to their seats behind him. He musters a more welcoming smile for Stang.
Kenya: Yes, Ms. Rosado, I am happy you make it safely. He makes a point of darting his eyes to Blackman with the exclusion. Stang grabs and squeezes Blackman’s hand to keep him silent.
Kenya: I tell your friend in States: I will guide if map real. Based on his words, I think so. Elders will be final judge.
Stang: That’ll be fine. I have it here with me, now. She pulls a cream colored leather wrap from the waistband of her shorts and extends it to Kenya. He takes it with a nod and smile.
Blackman: (mumbling) You can kiss that goodbye.
Kenya turns hard eyes on him. Stang squeezes his hand till he grimace and steps back, pulling it from her grasp with a pained gasp. Kenya gives a snort of approval.
Kenya: (to Stang) Map safe. If all well, $300 a day covers me and three best guides in village. They needed to ensure safe passage—
Blackman: $300 a day! Man, we’ll give you $50 and a bag of rice.
Kenya: (bristling) I not eat rice.
Blackman: (ignoring Stang’s dirty look) Come on man, them slanted eyes a dead giveaway.
Kenya: (angry) I not Asian. I am Snakerian!
The lil man with the patch chunks a fist into the air with pride.
Lil Man: (to Blackman) Snakerians! Watermelon eater!
His comrades at the table hoot and laugh.
Blackman: (to lil man) Oh, you wanna get racial? Fish eater!
Lil Man: Chicken eater!
Blackman: Snail chaser!
Lil Man: Collaaar Green! (in long drawl with ugly face)
Blackman: Poodle eater!
The lil’ man leaps up from the table in disgusted outrage. Diners discreetly check out the action, some understanding enough English to be snickering at the exchange.
Lil Man: I never eat Poodle!
Blackman gives him a twisted has look of disbelief.
Blackman: Come on man Lassie wouldn’t last 24 hours around you. The minute you get a craving for a midnight snack-She outta there!
Kenya grabs a hold of the lil man as he attempts to charge Blackman. The other two men rise menacingly from their seats.
Lil Man: That’s it! I hurt now!
Blackman jumps back, making a grab for Stang’s pistol
Blackman: (talking in a speedy panic) Gimme the gun baby! Gimme the gun!
Stang swats his hand away, half dragging, half pushing him towards the door of the restaurant, as he throws a mock punch around her at the lil man, who’s well out of arm length, being restrained by Kenya-
Blackman: Come on Stang! We can take them. They ain’t nothin’ but this big-
He chops a hand—palm up—at his waist. The lil man does a kick, screaming after
him, as Blackman throws mock gang signs over Stang’s shoulder.
Lil Man: I’ll put pain in your mama heart, Punk!
Stang shoves Blackman on through the hanging door and out of the eatery.
Ext: Reptile Road—Late afternoon
Back on Reptile Road people are continuing about their business- Stang swats down
Black’s gang signs—clearly angry.
Stang: Are you going to cause trouble this whole trip?
Blackman looks hurt, throwing his arms up in innocence.
Blackman: What I do?
Stang: You know exactly—just forget it. Can you please stay out here—and out of trouble—until I get this settled. We’ve been on the go for 48 hours and I’m ready to just crash . . .okay?
Stang: Adonte, Please!
Blackman: (contrite) A’ight, a’ight.
He smiles giving her a peck on her wrinkle brow, then her nose- Stang exhales heavily, letting him smooch her lips. She turns to return inside The Pit.
She faces him with newly wrinkled, arched brows. He does a boxer’s feet shuffle and throws a couple of crazy uppercuts, biting down on his bottom lip with an Ali scowl.
Blackman: (clenched teeth, growl) We could’ve took em though, baby!
Stang can’t help but to shake her head with an exasperated laugh at his silliness. She rolls her eyes, giving him the smile he wanted, then enters the restaurant.
Blackman swings his attention to the activities of Reptile Road.
Blackman: (mumbling to himself) Don’t know who they messin’ with.
The Vendors are still in deep negotiations with their customers . . .
The children are still pursuing the animal skin lump of a ball. One of them takes a tumble, goes head over heels, and rolls back to his feet in pursuit of his laughing playmates. . .
The old woman has given up on chasing the chicken. She walks over to plop down in a cushioned chair next to a booth of strung poultry. The chicken clucks over to hop up into her lap. She nuzzles it . . .
Blackman shakes his head at the sight. His scowl melts to a questioning grin, when he spies a drop-dead gorgeous and curvaceous woman of an olive persuasion in rich green silks eyeing him flirtatiously from across the road.
He checks both sides of himself to be sure that she is looking at him, turning his attention back to her with an ever growing grin.
She looks away demurely, then back with mischief in her eyes and mirth on her lips.
Blackman gives a cheeky four finger wave.
She returns the gesture—coyly.
He guiltily peeks over his shoulder at the door of The Pit. Then turns back to give the lovely lady a wink.
She winks back and giggles into a delicate manicured hand.
Blackman chuckles himself, and this tine sends a kiss behind a suggestive wink.
The sexy maiden with the sultry figure responds in kind by winking and pursing thin pink lips to blow him a too sweet kiss back.
Blackman gives her a broad smile, taking a step into the road to cross over to her.
She returns the broad smile—
Blackman: (hollering) Ahhh!
He stumbles back screaming in horror and repulsion. Her teeth consist of two large, curved, yellowish—green fangs.
Windmilling his arms in retreat, he turns to run, stumbles right into a laughing Stang.
Stang: That’s what you get for flirting. Now come on. I’ve had about enough of you for one day. She shoves his watch into his hand, grabbing him in the collar to pull him on down the road.
Int: Snakerian Suites
Salsa music plays- Their room is a simple, clean, bed and bathroom number with a single square window that looks out upon a clear ash sky with a sprinkle of stars.
Blackman comes out of the bathroom doing a sexy tango in his boxer shorts with a red rose clenched between his teeth. He dances over to the bed with his baby oiled physique on display and shimmies to a stop beside the bed, looking down on Stang.
Stang is beneath the sheets with her eyes peacefully closed.
The music stops. The rose falls from his mouth. He shakes his head.
Blackman: I don’t know what you tryin’ to play sleep for. Stang gives an exaggerated yawn and stretch, unable to suppress her smile.
Stang: I am dead to the world.
Blackman: Uh-huh. Well, it’s finna be some indecent thangs done to a corpse up in here, tonight.
Stang chuckles, burrowing deeper into the queen size bed that dominates the small room.
Stang: I really am exhausted, baby. And Kenya wants us to be on our way before sunrise. Let’s just get some rest. We’re going to need it. Okay?
Blackman’s lips turn up in disagreeance.
Blackman: Hell to the naw!
He jumps in the bed, quickly sliding beneath the covers to pull Stang to him- She gives him a short kiss, but repels his further advances, turning her back on him.
Stang: Tomorrow. Promise. I really do have to get some rest. It’s been a hectic 72 hours: packing, last minute preparations, the trip—you! Ooooh….
She collapses deeper into her pillow, leaving Blackman fuming at her back. He “Tsk” at the rejection, flips to his back away from her, lifts up to roughly fluff his pillow, and then slam his head back against it to lay scowling up at the ceiling.
Blackman: (whispering) I done spent eight hours on a plane, half a day on a mule, and too damn long in a lil canoe with a man that must’ve been brushing his mouth with a tube of shit. To get here; to get mugged by a midget, clicked on by the Snakerian Crips, and scared half to death by Cobra from G.I. Joe’s lost daughter— He looks over at Stang heatedly.
Blackman: —And now you too tired. Stang’s breath has evened out to a tone of slumber. She rests peacefully on her side, facing away from him.
Blackman’s pupils are pools of passion. Pie eyes her hungrily, licking his lips, his breath quickening with the rise of the lusty tide.
Blackman: (easing up a bit) You . . .
He eases up a bit more in the bed.
Blackman: Got me . . . He peeks over to spy Stang’s lowered lids and countenance of serenity.
Blackman: Messed Up!
He springs over on top of her-they go to tussling. The covers fly up, shielding them for the few seconds that they struggle.
Blackman: A’ight, Stang! A’ight!
The covers settle to show Stang half straddling his back with one of his arms twisted behind him. She is too sexy in pink and white frilly panties and a white lacy half-top. Her beach ball bottom forming a perfect half-circle and filling out the thin material exquisitely.
Blackman: I said a’ightt.
Stang released him and straightens the sheets around them. Blackman scoots away from her.
Blackman: (huffing) You lucky, I don’t be wanting to hurt you.
Stang: (soothingly) I know, baby. Now get some rest.
She pats his buttocks comfortingly. Blackman hunches away from her touch.
Blackman: Um, don’t be tryin’ to feel on me.
Stang smiles, settling beneath the covers to spoon into his back.
She tries to kiss his cheek. He leans away pouting.
Blackman: Enk, don’t touch me.
Stang drops her head back to her pillow to rest once more with lowered lids.
Stang: I swear, you can be such a baby, sometimes.
Blackman: Sticks and stones.
Stang drifts off to Sandman’s land. Blackman lies scowling out of the window at the charcoal sky, paying no attention to the golden eyes that are winking down at him from their Heavenly perch.
Ext: Snakira- Night
The moon has taken center stage amongst a multitude of shining stars on the ink— black stage above.
Int: Snakerian Suites
Luggage lies just beneath the windowsill of their room .. .The floor is coated with a thin brown carpet . . . Blackman is missing from his side of the bed . . . Stang is on her back—she has a smoldering sex appeal even in slumber with her dark mane spilled out on both sides of her head in disarray. Hold
Her eyes spring open like jerked shutters, her breath catching on a husky gasp. She grabs two fistfuls of the covers, shoving them up in the air, forming a tent as she looks beneath them.
Stang: What are you doing?!
Down between the juncture of Stang’s thighs, you can see the outline of a lump beneath the covers—that’s clearly a man on his knees.
Blackman: (muffled beneath the covers) What I came over here to do—searching for the treasure.
Stang smiles with sleepy seduction.
Stang: So now that you’ve found it, what are you going to do with it?
Beneath the covers, the head of the lump lowers between her thighs. Her eyes roll back on the wave of pleasure that rocks her; she purrs through puffy passionate lips:
Stang: Ooooh, baay-bee . . .
A cool blue ceiling, dotted with drifting patches of white-velvet, covers the
village. The resilient sun is pushing it’s way back to it’s throne from beneath
a rolling hill of towing trees.
The village is already coming alive with the sounds of shops being opened, venders readying their stalls for another day of business, and the yapping of a slender mutt of a pup that’s wandering down the road in search of a morning snack and a little bit of attention . . .
The pup passes a couple of stalls, stopping to sniff at one until the whale of a woman steps out of her shop, tossing a tub of water that he barely escapes. He gives her a couple of yaps of indignation, continuing on past a young boy that is sweeping the stoop in front of his parents’ shop. The child pays him no mind, engrossed in his task . . .
The fruit girl steps from behind her stall to throw him a crust of bread that he hightails it away from, before returning to sniff and devour it with a bark of glee. She shoos him away when he looks up for another blessing with imploring brown marbles and a cocked head . . .
The mutt continues on, seemingly reinvigorated by the morsel of food. He passes another shop, stopping to sniff at a vacant stall. The old poultry woman comes out of her shop next to the stall. The pup spots her and charges—making a fuss.
The old woman steps halfway back into her shop, inserts both index fingers between her lips, and whistles over her shoulder. The renegade chicken appears at her side.
The pup skids to a stop before her, bouncing around with growling mischief.
The old woman jabs a gnarled index finger at him—
Old Woman: (to the chicken) Neshee!
The chicken cackles and charges, giving chase to the frightened pup. They run in circles, this way and that, with the chicken cackling and the mutt yelping for mercy.
The old woman gives her thigh two rapid slaps, calling the chicken off.
The mutt flies to destinations unknown with a bark of relief. The chicken struts proudly over to the old woman. She digs in the pocket of her housecoat and chunks some feed out to the chicken.
Old Woman: (to chicken with nod of approval) Good girl!
The chicken plucks contently at its reward.
Pass another stall where an elderly man is organizing snake oriented souvenirs, Stang turns away from the chicken and pup scene with a bright smile. She is standing outside of the last shop at the end of the road in camouflage and backpack. Over her shoulder can be spied a mountainous slope that leads up to the Snakerian Jungle.
Blackman comes out of the shop in matching camouflage, slipping his backpack onto his back.
Stang: What did you have to stop and get?
Blackman: Just a lil’ insurance.
He reaches over his shoulder to pat the backpack with a secretive wink.
Stang: I don’t even want to know. Come on, Kenya’s waiting.
They jog away, toward the mountainous slope.
A mountainous slope that has earthen steps carved into it’s side leads up to the sprawling Snakerian Jungle. At the bottom of the hill, three men are busy checking their backpacks and camping gear. A few feet away from them, Kenya and another man are scrutinizing the map.
The backs of two figures can be seen walking up on them. A nun’s habit couldn’t mask Stang’s sensuous curves and sway.
Kenya turns to her and Blackman as they approach.
Kenya: Ya’ll late.
Blackman: How the hell we late, and we payin’ you?
Kenya: (snapping) You want to survive jungle, you listen to me.
Stang: Guys, it’s way too early.
She steps over to Kenya and the other man who’s rolling up the map.
Stang: (to Kenya) You have it figured out?
Kenya: For most part. I study map most of night. It’s in old language, use many signs of old, but grandfather big help. Definitely real.
Kenya accepts the map from the man beside him, tucking it into the waistband of his pants.
Kenya: This is my cousin Wardo. He will be accompanying us—no extra charge. He’s suddenly gotten interested in heritage; or hormones.
Kenya snorts, giving Stang a knowing look. She smiles it off.
Wardo is an inch shorter than Kenya, in his early twenties, with a roly-poly physique that reminds one of a lightly baked Pillsbury Doughboy. He has innocent eyes and a fun loving face. He gazes upon Stang with a schoolboy’s crush. Stang gives him a nod of greeting with a fleeting smile. His smile inches up farther as he nods back. Blackman scowls over Stang’s shoulder.
Blackman: (to Wardo) You lost something’, boy?
Wardo nods and smiles to Blackman.
Kenya: He doesn’t speak any English.
Kenya swings an index finger to the other three men, who are all short and slim and resemble each other, except for one’s blond hair and blue eyes.
Kenya: (bouncing the finger from one to the other) Mumufus, Jykari, and Bob. They are brothers.
Blackman and Stang:(in unison) Bob?
Kenya: (shrugs) Mother give no explanation.
Blackman: That blond hair explanation enough: Mama get her creep on-Ooch!
Stang gives him a look, after delivering the elbow.
Kenya: Everything should go smooth. Elders sure map real. Legend is no legend at all. It’s heritage, history of Snakerians. Just matter of finding Temple. Jungle have way of swallowing things.
Stang: The map doesn’t pinpoint its location?
Kenya: No. Map gives general direction—to West. And give landmarks to follow. But mostly focus on inside of Temple—many dangers.
His eyes dart testily to Blackman.
Kenya: Dangers we can avoid, if listen.
Blackman: If the legend real and ya’ll know the jungle so well, why ya’ll ain’t never went found the Temple?
Kenya: Jungle stretches thousands of miles, lost cause without map. Many have tried, few ever return. Kiwolos . . .
He whispers the word ominously. Wardo crosses himself. The other three guides look over with clear fear at the uttering of the name.
Blackman: What’s that a Snakerian R and B group?
Stang: No, they’re the keepers of the jungle and the ancient guardians of The
Temple of the Snakegod. I’ll tell you more tonight over a spooky campfire.
She drags out the word ominously.
Blackman: You should’ve told me all that ‘FO you got me over here.
Kenya: Glad to see someone has sense.
Blackman: Gone crank it up.
Stang: Okay, let’s get this show on the road. You can feel me in on the rest while we’re walking, Kenya.
Blackman leans down to tie up his Airforce Ones. Kenya notices the tennis shoes. The three brothers and Wardo start up the hillside.
Kenya: (to Blackman) Why you not get boots?
Blackman: (looking up irritated) I don’t know what’s up there— (nods up to the jungle) —I need somethin’, I can get somewhere in.
Kenya: Your choice, but we not wait on you. We move till sunset. Kenya turns, heading after the other guides.
Blackman: Pst. – Wait on me? Betta be hopin’ I don’t trample yo’ lil’ ass if something go down. Stang steps before him—serious.
Stang: The jungle isn’t your Uncle Rich’s stage, Adonte. Many people have lost their lives for not taking it serious.
Blackman looks from Stang’s eyes up to the awaiting jungle—gravely.
Blackman: Stang, I—
She puts a silencing finger to his lips.
Stang: Everything is going to be fine—
He kisses her finger, removing it.
Blackman: No, I really need to say this before we go any further.
Stang nods her understanding. He takes her into his arms, pouring into her pretty brown eyes.
Blackman: Baby, I just want you to know, if we get up there— (nods solemnly up to the jungle) -and anything, I mean anything- (gives a short head shake of emphasis) -gets behind us and you pull a white girl and slip, trip, or fall— (meets her eyes with a nod of sincerity) I’ma run off and leave your ass!
Stang: Pst! Anyway.
She shrugs out of his arms with rolled eyes and a breath of dismissal. Blackman laughs as she jogs away.
Stang: (over her shoulder) If anything, I’ll have to come back to save you.
Blackman: Only if there’s something up there with turbochargers up its ass! He jogs up the slope behind her with laughter.
Moving back down the hillside . . . Back across the clearing . . . Pass the shop that Blackman had exited . . . Concealed in the shadows at the edge of a breezeway, two dark figures linger, watching the party’s departure. Blackman’s laughter is heard emitting from a metal box in the hands of one of the shadows.