Snapping off the shower, I stood eyes closed, dripping. I toweled myself dry and pulled from the back of the closet the bold sundress Adrienne had sent me in response to a dream. Whose dream? My hands moving in a slow-motion rhythm, drumbeat pulsing in my ears, I wrapped the sun-yellow sarong with the big green leaves around me. Following a hazy, foreordained dance, I stepped into strapped sandals, painted my eyelids and lips with color, brushed and piled my sunstreaked hair into a high cascade of ringlets.
I turned to pluck up my purse, skirt swirling against bare legs, color flashing in the mirror to bring me up short.
A stranger stared out of it, tawny skin entwined with leaves and vines. Coral-painted lips parted, startled-looking and provocative beneath the tumbled locks of pale hair. Face flushed, eyes wide and electric green.
I fled into the night, kicked the Honda to life, roared in a spurt of gravel out the drive. Hot wind whipped my arms and legs, dark forest swarming past in the swerves of the headlight. I took the curves fast, leaning into them.
Dropping down the plunge into town, I wove through the crazy tangle of Carnivale Village, a shadowy maze of painted plywood vendor booths that had sprung up around the central park. Tonight only a few dim figures slipped through lamplight and shadows. Black and white monochrome transformed the ribald murals into bizarre conjurings:
Black Queen on a giant playing card, pointing a commanding finger. Leering devil with horns and pitchfork, gripping his thick, phallus-tipped tail. A woman running, eyes bulging, long hair transformed to serpents and sea monsters.
My headlights flickered the figures into movement as I shot past, speeding toward the throb of music, voices, and lights around the harbor drive. The waterfront tavern’s parking lot was packed solid, reggae pounding out into the street, strings of colored Christmas bulbs dancing in a hot breeze.
Pushing my way up thronged steps, I plunged into a mass of sweaty bodies gyrating to the deafening bass and drums. “I say it be a Hard Card! You always pull a Hard Card!” Smoke haze swirled to the vain thresh of ceiling fans, mirrored balls flickering colored sparks. Grinning faces loomed out of the dimness, gusting alcohol and marijuana fumes. “She always give you Hard Card . . . .”
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