“I’ll do it,” another voice piped up. Dallas heard a crackle and a hiss. A sixth man, wearing a military uniform, quick marched to an open fire, topped with a metal grate, upon which a number of shrimp were cooking. “I think the first batch is ready to go,” the soldier announced. Some of the shrimp had turned a bright orange. To Dallas’ amazement, these hopped sprightly off the grill and onto a large plate that had been set upon some nearby rocks. A large placard read “Eat me”.
“Good job, soldier,” Leatherman said, rising from the sand, brushing off his ass cheeks. “I like a man that can follow orders.”
“You like any man that’ll suck your dick,” the cop interjected.
Instantly the other man got up into the policeman’s face, jabbing his chest with one finger. “Do you always have to be such a bitch? I know all about the games that you play. Pulling motorists over, telling them they’ve violated some non-existent law, then offering to help them take care of their problem— off the books! “
“You’re both cupcakes and you should both shut up.” The construction worker picked one of the shrimp from the plate and tossed it down.
Leatherman backed away, and Dallas heard him mutter, "Whoever said that love was easy?"
“Come and get warm.” The Indian chief took Dallas’ arm and walked him closer to the fire. “We’re all in the same boat here, no need to snipe.”
“If we had a boat, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” the policeman snitted, “but someone doesn’t know his port from his starboard—“
“Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuse the fuck out of me, Sergeant Pepper! I never claimed to be Popeye, now did I? Maybe if you didn’t have your head up your ass, planning your next fuck—“
A shot rang out. All eyes, including Dallas’, turned toward the cowboy. Calmly, he held his pistol up, blew smoke away from the barrel, and holstered it. “Why don’t we all just calm down and dry off?” he suggested. “No sense in getting into name calling, is there? Or playing the blame game?”
The others mumbled various replies, but no one disputed his words. Dallas noticed that all the shrimp had now jumped onto the plate, and the grill was empty. Suddenly the plate leapt off the rocks and began to move toward them, carried along with the aid of several tiny feet sprouting from the underside.
“Why don’t we sit here and eat?” the cowboy said, and they all plopped upon the sand. Dallas glanced around him, saw no reason not to, and followed suit, which wasn’t hard to do, you see, as he was much closer to the ground than they were, being a bit smaller than a blade of grass.
The mushroom! Suddenly he remembered what he carried in his pocket. Dallas thrust in his hand, praying that the errant river had not washed it away. No, still there. No longer sure which side was which, he picked a side and began to nibble. Either he’d grow bigger, in which case all would be right with the world, or he’d get too small to matter anymore. Either way there’d be an end to it.
He thought that this bit tasted sweeter, but that might just be wishful thinking on his part, hoping that he’d chosen the right side this time. He put his hand atop his head and waited… and nibbled… and waited… Suddenly he realized the flaw in his theory. If he were to grow or shrink, his hand would stay proportionate and nothing would feel differently… It was only when he realized that he was on a more even playing field with the other men did he know that he’d managed to get it right, and he hastily stopped eating and shoved the remains back into his pocket.
Nobody even blinked at Dallas’ amazing growth spurt. He supposed in the scheme of things in this place, it wasn’t the most remarkable sight they’d ever seen. Made him wonder what else lay in store. The plate of shrimp stopped in front of him, waiting politely for him to take what he wanted. “No thank you,” he told it, mindful of his manners, unwilling to take a taste.
For a few minutes no one spoke, intend on the succulent feast. When all had eaten their fill, they sat back with satisfied grunts. Leatherman and the cop had made up, and the former now lay with his head in the latter’s lap. The cowboy and the Indian had paired off, as had the construction worker and the soldier. Dallas felt distinctively like the odd man out.
“How did you get the shrimp to do that?” he asked. “I’ve never seen shrimp quite like that before.”
“They’re one of a kind,” the soldier said proudly. “You can’t find sarabande shrimp anywhere but here.”
“Why do they call them sarabande?” Dallas was curious.
“Let me show you.” The soldier began to softly whistle. Instantly, the others jumped to their feet. Forming a line behind him, they began to march along the sand, back and forth. The tune was hauntingly familiar. Dallas thought he’d heard it in an Alec Guinness film.
And then they came. Dallas heard the tramp of their little feet, vibrating through the sand, before he saw them. In rows of two they came, their movements seemingly choreographed into…
“A sarabande!” Dallas exclaimed. Ah, now it made sense. As much as anything did in this place.
The line seemed to stretch for miles and miles—endless shrimp, dancing and snapping their fingers and pirouetting prettily to the beat of the music.
Dallas squinted into the distance. A much taller figure seemed to be bringing up the rear. A delicate figure clad in plaid. A kilt, even. As it drew nearer, Dallas was able to make out the familiar lovely features of Dr. Levi.
“I brought wine,” he said as he drew abreast Dallas.
to be continued
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