05 Jul Big, Brown and Barefoot
Today I wanted to kill a taxi driver. My sister. And a gas station attendant. In that order.
In my Scarlet Lies Series, the main character is a Samoan woman called…Scarlet. By day she works at a bakery and by night she’s a secret blogger at a blog called, BIG, BROWN AND BAREFOOT. In book one, Scarlet goes home to Samoa for her little sister’s wedding and all sorts of messed up family drama begins to unravel. Here’s one of her blog entries…
The day began innocently enough, with no hints of the murderous rage that would follow. My sister, the bride-to-be, was going to meet her beloved husband-to-be at the cake store so they could finalize details for the splendiferous creation that would feature at her wedding. I offered to go with her because I love her dearly and want to spend every minute I can with her on this journey she is taking to the altar.
Okay, I lie.
I offered to go with her because I was hoping to ‘bump’ into the Best Man. I wasn’t going to say anything on the blog about him, but OHMAGOODNESS, I have to tell someone!
The Best Man is beautiful. Think of Jason Momoa. (As we all know, I do that often.) But then, add some Alcide from True Blood, and a little bit of Hugh Jackman from Wolverine and that dude from Spartacus, and you begin to get a hint of the complete spectacular package that is the the Best Man. But he’s not only beautiful to look at and sigh about, he’s also funny and smart and not a jerk-face. Which is rare, because as we all know, most beautiful men come under the jerk-face classification.
So, I was a supportive Big Sister and accompanied Bridezilla to the cake design store where we met the Almost Husband. And yes, o happy day, the Best Man was there. My lady parts burst into song. I’m thinking , a Bruno Mars song maybe? Or maybe a classic Gregory Abbot jam like Shake you Down? Either way, I was singing a lusty tune and trying to keep it contained.
He said, “Hello.”
I wanted to say, I’d like to tear your shirt off and lick you all over. But I didn’t. I said “Hello.”
I was frantically trying to think of something deep and meaningful to say. Something that would make his man parts sing ( or whatever it is that man parts do when they’re happy.) But then I was interrupted by arguing. My sister and the Almost-Husband were fighting. About cake.
“You said you liked the frangipani and the waterfalls. You told me they were a great idea,” said my sister.
The Almost-Husband shook his head. “No, I said I was sure that whatever you came up with, it would be great. I said, I trusted your judgement because I didn’t really care…”
“You don’t care?!” said my sister. Her voice was climbing.
“About the cake. I said, I didn’t really care about the cake. Stop putting words in my mouth,” said the Almost-Husband angrily.
“So if you trusted my judgement, then why are you hating on our wedding cake design that I chose?” sister demanded.
“Because that’s just it. You didn’t choose this. Since when did you want a cake with thirty-six tiers, five extensions, three champagne waterfalls, and I don’t know how many flashing disco balls? I thought the original twenty-four tiers was bad enough.” The Almost-Husband turned to me and the Best Man and shoved a folder at us. “Look at this. Have you ever seen anything so monstrous?”
The Best Man took the folder and together we gazed for a minute at the artist sketch rendering of the cake. With accompanying ten pages of detail drawings for all the special features.
“Oh wow,” I breathed. “It’s got two miniature castles made entirely out of marzipan and spun sugar. One for the Princess and one for the Prince.” It was a battle to keep the awed horror at bay. It reminded me of drawings we did as a kids where we filled our pages with an eruption of curlicues and bows, diamonds and trailing ribbons, fireworks and hearts – absolutely everything we could possibly think of to make our dream castle the bestest castle ever.
The Best Man was studying the folder intently with me. “Are those swans? On the champagne lake?”
“Yes, they’re swans. They mate for life. They’re symbolic,” my sister jumped in.
“I’m not having swans sitting on a pink champagne lake around our wedding cake,” announced the Almost-Husband. There may have been an F word in there somewhere. It’s the first time I’d heard him say bad words, or disagree with my sister and I had to give him credit for being so brave.
“You said the cake was up to ME!” shouted my sister. Now, she was in full fury mode.
“But it wasn’t up to you, was it?” the Almost Husband shouted back. The boy behind the counter at the cake store was looking uncomfortable. He didn’t look old enough to be around adults who are in love and screaming at each other about cake. “This cake, all this crap on it, all the tiers – that was your aunts’ idea, not yours. They told you to put all the extra stuff on there. I am sick and tired of your family controlling everything about our wedding. We’re the ones getting married. Not them. No swans on the cake.”
My sister burst into tears. “That’s the real issue here, isn’t it? You don’t want to marry me. You don’t want to mate for life. You hate my family and you don’t love me.” After that dramatic announcement, she ran out of the store, got in the car, revved the engine, reversed with a few screeching wheelies, and then drove away.
The Almost-Husband was shocked. He ran after her. “Wait, come back. That’s not what I meant.” Then he got in his car, revved the engine, reversed with a few screeching wheelies, and drove off after her.
Which left me and the Best Man still at the cake store. Neither of us with a ride home.
So we decided to share a taxi and waved down the first one that drove by. I was rather excited to be alone in a car with the beautiful Best Man. All kinds of tantalizing thoughts were dancing through my mind as we got in and gave the driver directions.
Our taxi driver was a very old, very sour looking man. He was hard of hearing because I had to repeat my directions several times. The crazy loud volume of the pulsating car stereo probably had a lot to do with his decaying eardrums. He also had interesting taste in interior design. The seats were covered in thick, matted fake fur and there were leopard print floor mats. You could barely see out the front window because the dashboard was lined with stuffed animals and there were old CDs dangling from the rear-view mirror. He was committed to cleanliness, or at least the smell of it, because there were five air fresheners in the car, like the kind you find in public restrooms. After two minutes I rolled the window down so I could lean out and breathe deeply of the dusty air because the overpowering stench of disinfected apples was giving me a headache.
The Best Man leaned over to shout in my ear. “This is interesting décor. Are all Samoan taxis like this?”
“A lot of them are,” I said as I fought the urge to pat his face. Look but don’t touch!
“There’s no meter,” the Best Man observed. “How do we know how much the fare is?”
“He’ll tell us. There’s standard fares for different areas of town. Let me do all the talking because they usually charge palagis a more expensive rate.”
We were distracted then by the fact that our taxi driver was a bad driver. He drove in fits, stops and starts, going faster when he should have gone slower, swerving when he should have gone straight.
He drove hunched over the wheel as he muttered to himself and stared at the road ahead. A three-legged dog was making its way across the road and instead of slowing down, he sped up and swerved to try and hit it as the dog nimbly skipped out of the way. A narrow miss. A cackle of laughter. The man was a maniac and I was glad the Best Man was stuck in the cab with me.
Then we started up a hill. The taxi made some ominous sounds, shuddered and sputtered and came to a halt in the middle of the road. The driver swore loudly and then turned to us. “Ua pe le ka’avale. The car is dead.”
Because we couldn’t see that for ourselves.
I asked him what was wrong with it. He said, it had run out of gas. But there was a gas station around the corner and we could push it there. Then he sat there and waited.
“He wants us to push the car to the gas station,” I explained to the Best Man. “It’s up the road and around the corner.”
We got out and the Best Man wanted to know why the driver wasn’t coming to push. “You should take the wheel.”
“Why? Because I’m a woman?” My feminist self was at war with my delight at being treated with palagi gentlemanly concern.
The Best Man had the grace to look rueful as he floundered about for some suitable words. “No, because I don’t want to see you out in the hot sun pushing a taxi up the street. Because I don’t want you to hurt yourself before the wedding. Because he’s stronger…”
I laughed. “I’m twice his size. Pretty sure my Beast self is going to be way more helpful to you than him. Come on, let’s push.”
We pushed that stupid taxi up the hill, in the blazing sun, while cars drove by, some beeping their horns in annoyance that we were taking up so much space on the road. It was hard work. It required all the muscles I don’t have. And some that went to live in a retirement home already. By the time we reached the gas station, both the Best Man and I were drenched in sweat.
The taxi driver got out and shuffled into the convenience store while the Best Man asked the attendant to “fill it up.” The driver came back with a bottle of orange soda and the droplets of coolness on the glass taunted me. I was dying for a cold drink but my purse was in the car my sister had driven off in.
“That’ll be one hundred tala,” the attendant said to the old man who shrugged and pointed at the Best Man.
“Ask the palagi to pay for it,” the taxi driver said.
I told the (crazy) driver that his taxi didn’t belong to us and we weren’t going to pay for his full tank of gas.
A long swig of soda and another shrug. “I’ve got no money.”
It was time to get Beast mad. I stood there and yelled at the old man about how I was going to report him to the police for trying to rip people off and how it was his responsibility to provide a service to his passengers and didn’t he watch the Prime Minister’s speech on television where he told the nation to be extra friendly to tourists because they bring lots of money to Samoa?
The gas station attendant interrupted me with a frown. “Eh sis, le mafaufau! You can’t talk like that to him.”
The old man smiled with rheumy eyes and a gap-toothed smile. Because he was old and in Samoa, that made it inappropriate for me to yell at him. Or kick him where it would hurt the most.
The Best Man asked, “What’s the problem?”
“The driver won’t pay for the gas. He said he’s got no money.”
The Best Man didn’t yell or stamp his foot. Like me. Instead he said he would pay for it and the driver gave me a sneering look as he taunted me. Ha, see! Told you the palagi would pay for it!
But when he pulled out his credit card, the attendant shook his head. They didn’t take credit cards. Only cash. Or cheques. What did he think this was? America?
The Best Man said he’d seen an ATM on the way up the hill. He would run there and get some money. The attendant was hostile. “Who’s gonna pay the bill? What if you don’t come back?”
“I’m staying right here. Of course he’s going to come back,” I said.
The attendant looked at me and then at the Best Man. Doubtfully. He was not convinced I was a woman worth coming back for. But short of calling the police, he didn’t have much choice so the Best Man took off down the road. For a brief moment I did have a flash of doubt…what if he never comes back?!
But the beautiful, smart and funny Best Man once again proved he was not a jerk-face by coming back with a handful of cash. He paid for the gas and because it seemed silly to get into a different cab after we’d filled up this one – we got back in and continued on the uphill journey home. By then I was seething. And not even bothering to try to look pretty anymore. My hair that I’d woken up at five in the morning to iron, was a bushy freaky mess. The foundation I’d been dumb enough to apply was wiped all over my shirt sleeves in smears of brown from where I’d tried to wipe the sweat off my face. I’d taken off the cute platform sandals that had seemed like such a good idea that morning and I was nursing the blisters on my feet. Whatever spicey connection I had hoped to have with the Best Man was out the window as I recited a list of swear words in my mind on the drive home.
Oh well, at least the day couldn’t get any worse, right? I couldn’t possibly hate the taxi driver, or my little sister, any more than I did already, right?
I thought wrong.
When we got to the house, the ancient evil taxi driver charged us fifty tala for riding in his cab.
“Are you kidding me?” I raged, ready to rip his head off. “There’s no way we’re paying you for this ride. Not after what you put us through, and not after we put a hundred tala worth of gas in your stupid car!”
But the Best Man stepped in and paid anyway. Because he said, it was the quickest way to get out of a bad situation. “Don’t worry about it,” he said to me as I complained all the way into the house. “It’s only money and we made it here. That’s what counts.”
We walked into the kitchen to find my sister and the Almost-Husband sipping lemonade under the fan and laughing with my aunties and cousins. Looking totally, perfectly in love and beautiful.
“There you are,” said my sister. “Where have you been? What took you so long?”
The only reason I didn’t pick up a chair and hit her over the head – was because I was too damn tired to.
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