Monkoto – Three Novelettes by Dan Cushman
Three novelettes about lust, thievery, voodoo, and murder in the middle of the African jungle.
Monkoto – Three novelettes about lust, thievery, voodoo, and murder in the middle of the African jungle.
Red Moon of Monkoto (1947) – It was a strange story Ryan told — that story of six jungle-crazed outcasts, an egg-size diamond, and the weird drums that only one man could hear. A five chapter novelette.
The Forgotten Of Allah (1947) – The ways of fate are devious in Africa’s vast, mysterious land. Sometimes, as Kellar learned at Tahoula, it is easier to escape three deaths than one. A five chapter novelette.
Voodoo Fangs (1948) – It was more than the fire-juju of the N’cimbo fetish priests that made Yankee Jim Dunn throw away his life-long dream of escaping Luassa kraal. A six chapter novelette.
Dan Cushman (1909-2001) was born in Marion, Mich., and moved to Montana as a young boy. Cushman held stints as a cowboy, printer, prospector, geologist’s assistant, advertising writer and radio announcer.
The former New York Times book critic wrote dozens of books and was best known for “Stay Away, Joe,” the story of a lusty American Indian rogue. This 1953 novel was made into a movie starring Elvis Presley.
Monkoto – Three Novelettes contains 4 illustrations.
Excerpt: Red Moon of Monkoto
CAPTAIN JOHN PEWTON of the steamer R. W. Roe had not intended to touch at Lourenco Marques, Portuguese East Africa.
Peyton’s intention had been to deliver his cargo of wire rope at Cape Town, and go on to Calcutta with an equal weight of baled angora. In that case he would have steamed south of Madagascar, touching at Port Louis in the Mascarenes, thus missing Lourenco Marques by 322 nautical miles, more or less, a condition that would have suited the fat captain well indeed.
But an unfortunate condition in the Calcutta textiles industry had intervened, so here he was, delivering a mixed cargo of steel rails, salt fish and ammonium sulphate to Lourenco Marques, and taking in its place a cargo of sisal destined for the markets of San Francisco.
It had been six years since he had touched at the port, and it was just the same as he had left it. The same bald-faced sun-brick buildings baked in the tropic heat. The same tattered natives slept along the wharfs of the Mozambique Company. The same Portuguese pariahs sat between the awnings of the Saltazar Hotel, cursing the same department of colonies in Lisbon.
There was that same piano player beyond the potted palms, too. Peyton had almost forgotten. What was his name? Oh yes— “Slats.” Slats something-or-other from “good old Frisco.”
Peyton chose a table at that side of the terrace most likely to catch a breeze, if one should blow, and after a moderate wait a slim, Hindu waiter came, buttoning his white stengah-shifter.
“Whiskey,” said Peyton. “English whiskey, and bottled water.”
Yes, wars came and went, new Romes arose to bestride the earth, statesmen were driven to stomach ulcers by the specter of nuclear energy uncontrolled, but Lourenco Marques went on in its same dull orbit forever.
The orchestra — piano, guitar and violin — was playing a fairly recent American jazz hit which had probably been picked up from the wireless.
The music stopped. The Hindu returned with whiskey and bottled water. Peyton was just pouring a drink when the palms parted and a tall, thin, baggy-eyed man came out dragging the heels of his tennis shoes and sat down in a rattan chair across from him without bothering to shake hands.
“Hello, Cap,” he said, motioning for an extra glass. “How’s things in good old Frisco?”
“Booming — the last time I was there.”
“When was that?”
“Three years ago.”
“I understand you’re headed for Frisco now.”
Slats got his glass and poured a drink of whiskey. He seemed to have something on his mind.
“Peyton — you’ve always seemed to be a square fellow. Now you have a ship going back to Frisco Loaded with copal. . .”
“Sure. Now, you don’t suppose, if you tried, maybe you could find a little extra space? Nothing fancy, you understand, just. . .”
“Getting homesick, Slats?”
“It’s not me. Lord, I’m so far off the beat I couldn’t earn a living any place but here. But there’s some folks in town that would like passage, if it could be. . .”
“Sure. I can take on a couple of passengers. No favor about it. Business. Say, two hundred and fifty, American, each.”
“Well, you see, it isn’t quite so simple. . .”
“What have you got, Slats? Somebody hot?”
“No. Not exactly. This fellow, well, he came from Frisco, too. Fellow named Ryan. He’s a square Joe. He and his wife. I think she’s his wife, that is. . .”
“What are you trying to say?”
“He hasn’t got a passport.”
“How about the woman?”
“She hasn’t got one, either.”
“No dice,” said Captain John Peyton.
“Oh hell, Peyton. Here we are, the only two Americans in port. Here’s a pal of ours. . .”
“A pal of yours. Why hasn’t he got a passport?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he lost it.”
“Then why doesn’t he ask the Governor-General’s office to cable for confirmation and issue a new one?”
“Well, maybe we could rig up something that would get by. There’s a printer over on. . .”
“I’m not taking on any hot passengers, Slats, and that’s final. I might have at one time, but things are getting too tough. Here, let’s have another drink and forget about it.”
SLATS poured a drink and sat there, scrooched down in his rattan chair, his pointed eyeballs shifting to the verandah stairs and back again. Unexpectedly he rose to his feet. Peyton looked. A heavy-shouldered man of thirty-five or so was descending the stairs.
“Ryan!” said Slats, “come over here.”
Ryan grinned in such an honest manner that Captain John Peyton had to concentrate in order to hold onto his suspicions. The man had a reddish-brown complexion that indicated years of tropic sun. He wore white linens, cleaner than average, which wasn’t saying too much, ventilated shoes, and he carried a sun helmet that had seen service.
He also carried a gun, but it was tucked discreetly beneath his linen coat so as not to antagonize the Portuguese police, and Peyton wouldn’t have suspected it was there, only it made a little thump against the table as Ryan shook hands and sat down.
“Captain Peyton?” asked Ryan. “You have a ship here at Marques?”
“Yes. The R. W. Roe.”
“And you were going to. . .”
“San Francisco,” said Peyton, his voice rising with defensive sharpness as though to say, “but, bucko m’lad, I’m not taking any hot passengers, so you don’t need to waste your breath asking.”
Ryan sat back, smiling a little, showing a good set of teeth. Peyton decided he was older than thirty-five, but the tropics had agreed with him. Once in a while you saw a fellow like that.
“Whiskey?” asked Peyton, shoving out the bottle.
“Sure.” Ryan looked at the bottle while he waited for a glass. “Scotch. But what wouldn’t I give for a mint julep made with Kentucky bourbon. Or rye with White Rock. Or even good old American rot-gut in a waterfront dive, as long as it was Frisco.” Ryan sent over a shrewd, “How about it, Captain? Wouldn’t you overlook a little matter of credentials in the case of a homesick fellow countryman?”
Peyton decided that Ryan had been watching from the verandah. At any rate, he knew Slats had been talking it over with him.
“No dice!” he said with extra shortness because he disliked turning this fellow down. “Positively no dice.”
“I’ll pay five hundred bucks, Peyton. Five hundred for me, and five hundred for the woman. American.”
“And what do I do when I get you to Frisco? Pack you in a bale of sisal?”
Ryan laughed, “You get me in sight of that gate, and I’ll show you how to get off the boat all right.”
“Sorry, Ryan. I can’t afford to take the chance. Why haven’t you got a passport, anyway?”
“Why — I happened to leave the States in a hurry. And the little woman — well, she has a long story. A damned long story.
“Listen, Peyton, you’ve knocked around the tropics. From one port to another, anyway. You know how it is with the whites down here. You won’t find one of us in twenty with a biography that would stand investigating. That’s why we’re here. It happens I haven’t got a passport. So what? If you’d showed up a couple of days later I’d have had one forged. And the little woman? Did Slats tell you she didn’t have one? That’s not exactly true. She has a passport — but she wouldn’t dare use it.”
“In explanation, Ryan pointed his forefinger to his temple and made the motion of a revolver hammer falling.
Peyton asked, “You mean somebody would kill her?”
“Why, somebody would get killed, though I’m not exactly sure who it would be.”
Excerpt From: Dan Cushman. “Monkoto: Three Novelettes.”
More by Dan Cushman