Undertow

BY : pronker
Category: +M through R > Penguins of Madagascar
Dragon prints: 1371
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in Dreamworks' Penguins of Madagascar franchise. I do not own its characters, basic premise or settings.

Way  back in zookeeper times, Frances Alberta sought gimmicks targeting specific demographics to entice to Hoboken Zoo.  When Kwanzaa lent a week long reason for celebration, she commissioned artful banners and even drew a few herself.  The gentle Lantern Festival eased the Chinese New Year's boisterous goings on as its last day and she could afford lanterns from Dollar Tree for Funkytown.  In times past, she strung lucky red lanterns throughout the Hoboken zoo's pristine grounds and on the lanterns, riddles in the shape of animals teased the minds of young and old.  She kept the riddles simple, such as lion + blue waves = ? to mean a sea lion.  The kiddies loved the holiday and today Funkytown catered to them.


Frances decided to pluck the good ideas from her past and ignore the ignoble ending of her administrative bureaucratic career.  "Bye, higher!  Up you go!"  


Dexter's small behind rose in front of her as she steadied the ladder.  She passed him a lantern to hook onto Genderblender's topmost bar representing the rim of an Osterizer.  "Like this, Miss Frances?"


"Yah, awriiiiite, bye, good job.  Reach around to yer left to haaang the next."  She passed him another to complete the task.  When he stood at her side again after bypassing the last three rungs with a leap and a whoop, his smile warmed her heart.  She waved to his dad and mom to help her collapse the ladder.  Dexter's dad hefted it into his SUV of ancient vintage, smaller than a Hummer but not by much.  The trend  was now for mini SUVs, an oxymoron but she didn't care.  Moley's Mrsdm tunneler was her ride of choice these days.


"Ahhh, me, y'all doooooon't miss a chance to help.  May the Father, Lord Of All The Earth, keep y'all from aches and paaains."


Dexter's dad rubbed his back.  "I'll take him up on that, Miss Frances.  Say goodbye, Dexter."


Dexter's mom muttered to Frances, woman to woman.  "Helping you gets them both out of the house on a regular basis, Miss Frances."  She nodded at the china hutch protected by a bright blue tarp, only a little the worse for wear in last week's late winter rains.  "That's a nice piece."  


"It's a memory too precious to discaaard, y'know?"  It had been a long time since she felt the need to confide in someone outside her faith or Moley; casual chats like this resembled confessions made to seatmates on bus rides, venting with no consequences.


"I can imagine.  Well, good luck on this weekend's business."


Frances had fewer worries than before, so she picked up the woman's optimism even though Dexter's mom trod a different path than Santeria.  "May the orichas hear you, missus.  Have a nice weekend, yerself."  The family vehicle sped off and Frances got ready for her workday.


Living partly as she was as a survivalist, Miss Frances's Lantern Festival day began as her days began since two weeks ago: a comfortable stretch on a memory foam mattress topper one story underneath her Moon Rocket attraction, a swig from bottled water, and a check on her calendar to plot the next visit from Moley.  She remained grateful to him for ever so much: electricity and an odorless privy powered by his mysterious hmdo, running PVC water pipes underground from her lot's lone spigot to furnish a cramped shower, and ever and always, mushrooms of all sorts dropped off in her equally cramped kitchen.  Morels stayed high on the list of favorites; she sauted and diced them and made frittatas with them.  Luckily, New York's Social Services listened to her plea to provide SNAP food benefits so she bought meat, greens and her ever loved snickerdoodles.  She hadn't observed Moley eating meat; the question of does he eat bats? she was content to leave to speculation.  He displayed delicacy for her sensibilities at the oddest times, so she didn't want to push things with a rude question.


Today's first visitor spoke Mandarin at her and the next one spoke Vietnamese; she smiled and waved at family groups as well as individuals.  "Gong hay fat choy!" she greeted.  A few purists scowled at her pronunciation while others smiled and waved back.  An extra gregarious man who wasn't Asian clapped her on the back and told her to let go of the problems of the past year.  She grew thoughtful at that and when an elderly woman gifted her a neat packet of dumplings, she listened patiently through the woman's life story of departing Hangzhou to becoming Overseas Chinese on the island of Mauritius, of all places.  Frances wondered where her own odyssey would end.  The woman winked at the finish of her story and poked Frances in the over familiar way of elders of any kind.


"You walk the streets tonight, lady?"


Frances dropped her persona.  "What?  I've never --- "


"Sorry, sorry, wrong words, I am stupid.  My English bad.  Lantern Festival lets ladies and gentlemans stroll about looking for love."  The woman grinned.  "So get going tonight, eh?  Allow me to demonstrate."  She twitched her hips arthritically from a long ago seductive waggle.  "Like this, get you mans every time."


Miss Cleo came to the rescue.  "I am done with maaans, girl.  Forever and ever, at least in the way y'all mean."


The ancient one cackled and Frances joined in, shaking her head at the other's insistence.  At last the dame rejoined her extended family as they studiously interpreted each piece.  Frances gave the spiel again and again, embroidering the tales for each mechanical memento in her collection.  Someone asked about her china hutch and she dodged the question.  It didn't feel right to either lie or discuss her mother with strangers.  At end of day, her till sparkled with coins and rustled with bills.  Oyá granted her a good business today on her special day of the week, Friday.  


Tonight Godmother Felicity initiated her into receiving the Warriors; tonight her sacrifice of a duck promised to please all the spirits, in particular Eleguá, Ogun, Ochosi and Osun.  Yes, those warriors she would receive and not get, as she had earlier believed.  Felicity recognized the spiritual progress of her goddaughter with a nod and smile when Frances admitted she confused the two concepts; Frances had nearly wept with joy to learn she was to meet them after work.


She played with her eleke, brushing the beads as gently as handling a rosary in other times.  Oyá opened her eyes to humility regarding sacrifices and instead of blowing all her ready cash on a costly pig, she chose a white Mandarin duck.  The duck squatted in its wicker cage, enjoying its last day on earth by nibbling duck chow messily.  


"Frawnces."


"Oh you, popping up like that.  You startled me."  Frances squatted by the duck, who ignored her.  "It was a good day, Moley."


"If Frawnces says so, it must be so."  He squatted next to her.  "Dinner?"


"Uh, yes, for Godmother Felicity and the family.  The meat goes to us and the blood to the Warriors.  I don't expect you to understand."


"Pzm."


"I'm assuming you don't give two pins about my meeting the Warriors, but that's okay.  Team Rocket blasts off anyway soon for Howe Caverns, right?"


Moley rose, brushing off the dirt from his overcoat that was forever too large for his frame.  He studied her.  "Frawnces smart."


"Thanks.  And?"


"Frawnces pretty."


"Frawnces recognizes flattery when she hears it, Moley.  We'll leave right after the Chinese Awakening of the Insects Festival on March 5th as agreed.  Chinatown websites and banners advertised for their community to include Funkytown as a part of their celebration, so said many visitors today, and I am antsy to make a good impression."  He reached down to pet her silver hair before she could stand.  She brushed his hand away softer than a slap, but not by much.  Something was up.


"Want story?"


"Maaaan, I gots till eight p.m.  Mosey on."  Haltingly, with patchy translations on both sides, the story came out that Moley attended meetings occasionally with other alpha leaders and he was due to visit a dolphin mastermind in a week.  Frances picked up on her place in Moley's scheme of things when he asked to reschedule their trip.


"Dolphin genius my flpr.  We dig each other's problems.  Whash you say, Frawnces?"


Hmm, Mom always said that it takes three weeks for any man to take any woman for granted.  Moley's timing supported the statement.  "I say I need the Warriors in my life.  After tonight, they'll live by my front door."  This development was disappointing yet not crushing.  She would deal.  "Oh wait, I don't have a front door.  They'll live by my front airlock, then."  She pointed.  "Under Moon Rocket."


Moley thought a long time.  "Who they?"


"To you, they will look like cookware because you will see a cauldron and various ceramic pieces but to me, they show where four of my gods live.  Each Monday, I clean them and coat them with palm oil, I ask them questions and I give them rum, water, or cigars even if I do not like their answers.  That's the way religion goes."


"They drink and smoke?"


Frances smiled.  "In the spirit world, yes.  My new home shelters more than just me and sometimes you."  She jangled her bracelets.  "A shrine, Moley, makes a tunnel a proper home.  Do you understand?"  He wouldn't, or couldn't.


"I think yes."  He squeezed her shoulder.  "I go now.  Many blpt to travel."


There was more to be said.  "All right, if you can't spend the night, you can't.  I need to welcome Felicity and my friends soon anyway.  It'll be the first time they see my home."


A guarded look swept his face and he blinked rapidly behind his goggles.  "You show tunnel to umprl?"


"Naturally, with the airlock block in place at the far end of my space in it, why?"  Uh oh, he wrung his hands and hummed to himself, never a good sign.


"Whash you tell them about me?"


She relayed what she had rehearsed.  "If you had stayed, I had planned to tell them that you are my friend who has helped me.  They don't need to know anything else and your kingdom stays secure.  I wouldn't spill my guts to them about us.  Moley, the orichas allow for privacy, so relax.  I am no child; I don't give Tee Em Eye, that is, Too Much Information, add the term to your word list, my drzhp."


His shoulders dropped in relief.  "Frawnces my drzhp, too."


"Aw, yeah, we're agreed."  She pushed his chest.  "The journey begins, so go.  Oh, and if you spot any penguins, bring one back for me to sacrifice."  The duck quacked as if it understood.  "Sorry, duck, your time is up in an hour.  Go on, Moley, I need to get busy.  I'll see you when I see you."


"Cmloops!"


IOIOIIOIOII



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