Chapter 2: Shi-hooHo- Biting Through: “The man who makes the decisions is gentle by nature, while he commands respect by his conduct in his position.” – from I Ching the 21st gua
We all met in primary school, me and Andre, Rock, Johnny, the twins Jax and Wheezy, Simon, and Kinch. Moses was always different. Andre was the most polished, even when he was five years old – seriously, he wrote thank you notes, like, after sleepovers. Jax and Wheez were the weirdest, Kinch always had a temper and broke a couple of toys that first year. Rock was cool from the beginning. His dad gave him stuff he shouldn’t have had. Like that motorcycle when we were 12. Even better, Rock had access to premium White Widow Supercheese when he was 16. And Rock was the first of us to get laid, of course. I guess I’ll be the last – besides Mo, I guess, unless he’s done it on the sly, which I doubt.
And Simon, we all love Simon because he’s kind, and we all knew he was gay, even then. I think he came out at 14, which was kind of a nonevent since his family was absolutely on board and this is LA. Our brotherhood is a simple one. But Moses, Moses isn’t strange in the more easily defined ways – he isn’t gay, or a twin, or the really muscled kid of a famous person. Moses is – private. His momma loved him. Most of us had drivers dropping us at school, but Mo’s mom took him to and from school every single day. We could all tell, not too far into it, that he wasn’t like the rest of us. The way animals are nuts for him, that’s one thing, but, too, we all sorta felt like he was gifted, and not just in one area, but in every area.
We dig hanging out; it’s fun. By the time we hit high school we took vacations with each other, spent summers together. But the truth is, it was always Moses who drew us into what we became. He is our leader, just as Rock is our guard, Kinch our warrior, Simon our caregiver, the twins our relief, John our strategist, and Andre our diplomat. Our roles were defined early. Like a miracle, Moses chose me as his best friend. I never could figure out my place in our group, but no one ever denied me the place I was given. I’m not ambitious. Everyone in the group is, but not me.
I’m his best friend, which is easy, because I love him. Moses likes to dance, that’s part of it, and I play guitar. It should’ve been Rock, with his great genetic predisposition, who was the musician. But instead it’s me. I kind of fall into things. I’m not driven like the rest of them. My life hasn’t been hard, not at all. It’s been easy. I haven’t consciously avoided struggle, struggle just hasn’t sought me out, I guess. I know this much, though, if I have to struggle for anyone, it’ll be for Mo.
None of us ever saw Moses get physically hurt. Not one of us, during the many continuous weeks and nights we spent together, over the course of the following 16 years of school and vacations, ever saw Moses get sick, be arbitrarily mean, or even make a mistake. He manages the shocking touch somehow; he shocked that girl last night, I think by accident. The straightening touch, I call it. Like we all are too twisted and contact with him is so pure, so straight, it feels like electric current. The worst he does is curse; I actually think he uses profanity to mediate his crazy touch. We have too much respect for him to ask him who he is, but it is obvious he isn’t just one of us. I’m the one who started calling him Jinn. A god among men.
My dad’s smart; he sells rockets and shit. Dad’s around, actually, a lot, though, for such a busy guy. My mom is kind of a mystic; I guess people think she’s a freak. Since she’s rich and this is LA, that’s like a fast track to being super popular. My mom is, too, really popular. If I ever needed anything, I’d have all kinds of fancy-pants folks lining up to help me because I’m Judy’s only kid.
My mom, Judy, has all these books in our house, and one night in the eighth grade, after Moses got in trouble for fucking up the computers, I started researching. I tracked down information on beings similar to Moses: his odd ability to never be sick and to avoid injury, his incredible perception, and his apparent moral fortitude. That’s when I started calling him Mo-Jinn, a lesser son of God, a sort of hybrid between an angel and a god. My mom’s books told me jinns run around the planet – these little hybrid entities that are partly god and partly man, but have superhuman power. Apparently they are not all good guys. But Moses, he’s a good guy. He’s a jinn. He knows we know. But it’s kind of the reverse of living with an alcoholic – he’s good news that we never talk about. We kind of all just let it alone. Kind of like you don’t stare at a celebrity here in LA; it’s patently bad manners. Like that.
We teased him a lot for holding back, in the beginning. But we all sort of knew, I think, in our hearts, that any one of us would lay down our lives if Moses needed us, if he asked anything of us, or if he was in any way in danger we’d be the answering army. So when he asked us to join him in his production company last spring we all said yes. I did not have huge plans, but some of our brothers would have, until Mo asked us.
Moses is connected tangentially to Abraham Deasy. The rich bastard clearly hates his grandson, maybe because before Moses’ suptie duptie rich Jewish mama died she got his father Arthur to agree that her fortune would all go directly to her adopted son and skip Mo’s papa altogether. I have to give props to Arthur for agreeing. Poor Arthur’s seen no end of trouble in that Jerusalem Church since he allowed over a billion dollars of inherited money to slip through its coffers into the hand of the one member of the family who politely refuses to acknowledge, respect, or in any way participate in the family religious business. I know, though, that this thing we’re about to do? It’s got less than nothing to do with any of that. Mo ain’t looking for a war. He’s looking to build something, I can tell. He gets this itchy expression all around his ears when he’s hatching a plan.
I knew it wasn’t over after high school, when we all went off to school, well, they went off. As usual, I’m the least spectacular of our crew. I went to USC. They all went ivy league, I mean RISD is pretty much ivy league for art, where Jax and Wheez went. All of them went that route except for Mo Jinn, who went to Oxford for linguistics. He met Reno there, this weird British chick. They’re pretty tight, I think, but I’ve never met her. They’re just friends, and I think she’s more like a muse for him anyway; Mo does that, he collects people. He collected us.
That’s the other thing about Mo. He doesn’t do girls. When the rest of us began whacking off and trying to learn how to make out, Moses didn’t seem to. It’s like he’s got some kind of sexual inoculation or something. I mean I’ve never even seen him look at a girl.
Like I said, Gypsy, she’s beautiful – super tall, mane of thick brown hair hanging all around her face, wrapped in some kind of scarf thing and jingling all around with bracelets on her arms and ankles. I’ve no idea who she is, but all of a sudden, right after he meets her, he walks out with her. We were all too stunned to talk about it at all. She sort of killed the reunion. Simon isn’t home yet anyway, so it wasn’t a real, proper reunion. But still.
They’re all headed over here. Maybe we’ll get some answers from Moses today, about this girl, about this company. Or maybe we won’t. You never know with him. And it’s showtime; I hear our maid flirting with him, then silence.
“Hi, buddy,” says Moses quietly. He sneaks up like that, like a fucking panther.
I turn around. “Dude, man, you’re as quiet as a cat. Have a beer.” I hand him one, grab one for myself.
Moses takes the brew, heads out to our pool, picks a spot under that umbrella my mom made out of Qatari tent material Andre gave her. My mom’s always doing cool stuff like that. Our house is a fucking museum, just gorgeous.
“How are you, Jimmy?” he asks me.
“You know me, man, I’m all legs, zero torso, a little stoned, same old, same old. Welcome home, man. You feeling educated up the ying yang? How was Oxford?” I took a seat beside him. I’m always beside him. It got so people just left the chair beside him empty until I arrived, if I was late or something.
“All good, where’s the guitar?” He’s looking around absently. Mo is a music man.
Andre walks up then, before I answer. I get up a second time, grab Andy a Miller. Even though he’s Muslim, Andy will sip a drink, but he never overdoes it, whereas Kinch overdoes it all the time.
Andy smokes, another habit he has that his mother dislikes. He winks at Moses, who flashes him that perfect smile. Our Muslim brother is a close second to Mo in looks with charisma to match. If Andre’s with us, we always have chicks. But Andre’s a gentleman, I think that’s why girls like him. Rock’s kind of a pig about women. Not that this ever seems to stop them from sleeping with him. Jax and Wheez are too weird for girls. And fucking Kinch, never mind. Him and Johnny are too ugly and annoying for women.
Andre takes a seat under the umbrella, tells us about his family’s winter camp in Qatar. His sister’s wedding. Moses has been home with him; he must live in a castle. Apparently, Mo attended the wedding, though I’m not sure how that works. No one is late when Moses is with us. The guys all pretty much got to my house at the same time.
John arrives looking inquisitive. He always, like, handles Moses. I’m not sure if John just touches Mo Jinn to make sure he’s still human, or if he’s kind of just in love with him in a manly sorta way. He ruffles Moses’ mop of curls possessively. “How’s our quarterback?” he asks Mo.
“Still dancing. How was Tibet?”
“Hilly, I biked. When are we playing?” asks John. Johnny’s our athlete, he could have biked or rowed for Brown, but vetoed both to finish school in three years and travel for a fourth. He’s been playing the same high stakes backgammon game with Moses for seven years running. He owes Moses a lot of money, which he probably has in his wallet, but he knows Moses will never accept payment. I don’t compete with Moses, I just never had the stomach for it, but John, and Kinch, they can’t help it.
Moses gives John an odd smile, which I’ve noticed he reserves only for John, and raises one eyebrow. John’s very protective of Moses, mostly verbally, but he tends to kind of dominate him, or try to. He never actually succeeds. John can’t dominate Mo. I think this really fucks with Johnny’s psyche because Johnny, man, he wins every game, every poker match, and all athletic events, so long as Mo isn’t around. And I don’t think Mo’s even trying. Johnny knows this, I know it just bugs the crap out of him.
John’s telling Mo about Tibet when I fetch Rock, who is flirting with our 50-year-old maid. He looks at me all sheepish and heads to the patio. The maid is probably all a tizzy now; we’re gonna end up with spaghetti instead of chips because he’s fucked with her head. He’s not a dick, he’s just got a big one.
“Mo-Jinn! How’s Twink?” Rock always asks the same question. He’s been in love with Twink, Mo’s little sis, since high school. Moses nods at him, gives a half smile, sips his beer. My best friend’s not a talker. Everyone knows this.
Rock presses, “Come on, man!”
Moses shakes his head, we follow his gaze, and watch Kinch climbing my damn fence.
“All of you still ugly as hell, I see in this cruel Los Angeles sunlight, poor fuckers,” says Kinch O’Malley, leaping down from the slumpstone.
Kinch always jumps my mom’s fence. I am already annoyed, “What the fuck?” I say, only half kidding, “I swear, Kinch, why you gotta fucking trespass those neighbors every damn time?” Kinch really gets on everyone’s nerves. It’s hard, actually, to get on my nerves, but Kinch manages.
“Cuz half the time we’re at your pool they’re sunning buck naked and that chick’s hot, man.”
A voice says, “Kinch she’s like 45-” that’d be John, always calling Kinch on everything.
“And your point is what?”
“You’re just such a horny bastard, nevermind,” John says.
I get up to ask the staff to get us more beer and to start the barbeque. We skip pork for Andre’s sake. It’s just steaks and burgers.
Rock glares at Kinch. Unlike Kinch, who tries, but never gets, girls, Rock has no trouble at all. They always have this back and forth thing before they settle down. Like puppies. “Hey Alfalfa,” says Rock irritably, staring at Kinch. And here it comes, I think to myself, grinning already.
Rock’s always a little annoyed to be up before noon. Kinch is still toying with the idea of messing with John, I can see it in his eyes, but Rock’s all up in his face.
“What were you doing this morning, Kinch? To do with videos and lotion?”
Kinch extends his long tongue as far as it goes out of his mouth and flicks it towards Rock, who stands, bows, and blows kisses in return like only the son of a rock star can. We clap. It’s over.
“Pour some sugar on that boy,” says Kinch grabbing a Miller, “I need to nibble one, been sober since this morning, which, in my own highly regarded opinion, is far too long.” He takes a swig, eyes us and gives a twisted smile. He is alright, Kinch is, he’s actually really an honorable guy. But you definitely have to know him. Even then, he’s an acquired taste, if you know what I mean. Ok, he’s kind of a dick. There, I said it.
Jax and Wheez saunter up. Jax’s hair is a weird color.
I ask him to name the color and he looks at me like I have a third arm.
“Damned if I know? I was a little stoned when we did it?”
“You did it yourself?”
“No, man, but this chick, she was hot. Last night.” he trails off like he’s lost the thought completely.
“Green-ish black? Not sure of the nomenclature of that hair,” I say. Wheez starts laughing and rolling his eyes. “She was too good looking for you, sport.”
Jax admits whomever colored his hair was never gonna shag him. For brothers, it’s funny, the twins, they don’t fight. Ever.
Wheez has a new tat on what’s left of his bare arm. He drops a sketch on the table in front of Moses and pats our boy on the shoulder. I have to get up and down so much I miss a couple of exchanges, but it pretty much always plays out the same, a little banter, some verbal jousting, and then just a general settling in.
I glanced at it. The sketch is Wheezy’s caricature of the whole group last night, with the date etched in graffiti sprawl along the top “6/9”. In the drawing, Kinch is stealing napkins, Moses wears a halo, Wheezy has an arm around two babes, Andre is in a tuxedo, and the rest of the gang’s defining characteristics are similarly amplified. Simon, who was missing, hovers like a mother in the drawing. Kinch grabs the sketch, looks at it, and says, “You drew Rock’s head too small. It’s four times the size of the rest of ours’ on account of excess air.”
“It sure in shit is,” said Rock ripping the drawing away from Kinch, studying it, “Oh, I thought you meant the other head,” he says, Frisbee-ing the drawing at Kinch, who catches it mid-air.
Moses mostly just watches us, smiling. We must entertain him by being idiotic.
Rock presses, “I know you’re the strong silent type, Daddy-O, but, it’s been, like three years? How IS your sister?”
“She’s home with her pets, Rockster,” says Moses. Mo nicknames everyone.
“Held back by her big brother,” says Rock, irritated. Moses looks at Rock, ignores the comment, and shucks a nut from the bowl of peanuts on the table. Rock’s like the Fonz or something; he can have any woman, except one. He wants Twink Deasy. Twink, innocent little sidekick for Moses, sweet beyond reason, completely fresh, adorably angelic and nothing like anyone in Rock or his father’s entourage of sexpots. I mean I think she’s a B cup, way below Rock’s normal boob size. And no way she’s any kind of vixen in bed, if Twink’s even been kissed by something other than a dog, I’d be surprised.
“Leave it alone, Rock, you horny bastard; it ain’t time for you to breed anyway,” warns John, meaning it. He’s quick to defend Moses. Kinch nods, backing John up. Jax and Wheez are now rolling around the lawn with my mother’s dogs, who, if they can, will find a way to escape my mom and get to Mo. They always know when he’s here. Jax and Wheez are trying to keep the dogs from making it to the promised land of Mo’s lap. One of em’s gonna get bitten by that one little bitch; ma’s black chihuahua, Tinki, who is seriously nuts for Mo. Those dogs win, and all of them cluster around Mo now. Tinki would fuck Mo if she could. Mo has one of his secret chats with the dogs, who all then collapse in a fuzzy pile and wait politely for more Moses time.
Rock thinks, slow, about whether to pester Mo more about Twink. I watch him, wondering why the hell he bothers. Then, I guess Rock thinks not, and he ends it by giving John a look, before he bursts out laughing, “You’re a violent little turd, Johnny-boy, you know that? You’re a vegan, yet you eat like a fucking pig, and you’re always trying to pick a fight with me. Ain’t vegans supposed to sit around praying for peace?”
“We sit around praying for those who are bigger turds than ourselves to take their dicks out of their own mouths,” says John. The truth is that no one routinely checks Rock’s or Kinch’s perpetual aggression except John, so, he’s no pacifist, but he is kind of a peace-keeping force, in a kind of fascist way.
Moses, with his canine entourage tailing him, picks up a peanut from the basket on the table and stands up. Kinch and Johnny instantly join him at the rail of our deck, nuts in hand. My mom’s favorite dog and all of her little dog friends sit near the fence over to watch Mo. All Mo has to do is look at those damn dogs and they practically orgasm, even the boy dogs without their damn balls.
“Target?” demands Kinch, who’s already on beer #2.
Moses points to a knot in a tree.
“No way, Jinny-boy, even you can’t hit that, that’s like, what? Thirty feet, if it’s an inch,” says Jax as he sucks the blood from the wound my mom’s mean-ass dog just gave him for detaining her highness. Mo sees the wound, stoops down, speaks to Tinki. Tinki sheepishly crawls on her belly to Jax and whines until he forgives her. She might fool Moses, but really she’s just pretending to be sorry.
“Gotta be ten meters if it’s anything,” says Andre from behind us.
Moses lifts his peanut. John pushes Mo’s hand back down, “Before you put us to shame, let me at least try.” John hurls the nut, but it’s too light; it drifts down into the forest beneath our deck.
“Limp,” I say. “You’re feeding squirrels.”
“Yeah, Jimmy? You give it a whirl,” says John.
“I don’t compete with Mo like the rest of you fools,” I say.
Kinch looks at his nut and drops his hand, “I should probably just feed this to John.”
“Show me, Jedi-master,” I say. Moses sends the nut like a bullet to its target.
“Oh, snap,” says Andre, smiling his easy smile.
Johnny takes Moses’ cheek gently in his large paw, spanks it once, and says, “Fuck you, man.” And we all sit back down together, laughing.
Of course it’s bloody Kinch who brings it up. “So, Moses, you gotta girl now?”
Moses doesn’t say anything right off; he deliberately lifts his beer and sips. “Yeah.”
“Fibonacci sequence of pleasure right there,” says Johnny. “I mean, damn, dude, you sure waited for the right woman. Who the fuck is she, anyway?”
Andre answers the question, “And, wait for it boys…… she’s Ulysses’ daughter.”
Kinch puts down his beer. “The Deasy hater, Mo…. Really?”
“Hot,” says Jax.
“Insane,” says John.
“She’s a beautiful girl,” I admit.
“Yes,” says Andre, out of his seat, beer poised delicately in his thin fingers, his cologne sifting through the breeze, “My friend Tina says her name’s Asherah, that’s right, Moses?”
“Yes,” says Moses. “I took her home, asked her to help me with the production company.”
This surprises me, but Moses routinely surprises me.
Andre opens his mouth about to say something, but closes it. He’s by far the most sophisticated and disciplined of all of us. My eyes dart around to see if anyone dares to challenge.
“That’s all you’re gonna give us, man? You don’t look at a girl for 20 years, and you walk out with the prettiest girl any of us have ever seen and ask her to join our group? What the fuck, Moses?” Kinch always winds things up ten times tighter than they need to be.
“Calm down, man,” I say to him. “Look, I finally cleaned the leaf shit out of the pool, let’s take a swim before the kebabs are done.”
“No, Jimmy,” says Kinch, “I want to know. Who is she to us? Why do we have to have her in with us? Shoot, we don’t even know the plan and now we’ve got a new member? A FEEEmale member?”
“I hired more people, you’ll meet them next week,” says Moses, casually. Kinch’s rage never flusters Mo, and this information is likely to pour gasoline on the Kinch fire.
“Kinch, Prince of the Impertinent Question and Unsolicited Opinion rises to the occasion yet again,” said John, hoisting his beer and middle finger simultaneously.
“What is the occasion?” asks Wheez, quietly, raising his chin towards Moses.
Mo turns, looks at Wheez, “What did you two do to that hair?” This busts everyone up. Mo never insults anyone.
“Us creative types, man, we’re UN preee-dick-able!” shouts Wheez, turning in circles. Dickable?
Mo ignores this. “I have an idea,” he says. “Production company. I bought space on La Brea; staffed it this spring.”
“What are we producing?” I ask.
“Miracles.” There, he’d just said it. We never said it. He said it himself.
“I thought,” says Andre politely, “that those were your family’s business, not yours.” Andre’s mother and father are devout Muslims: extremely generous, socially conservative, and politely quiet on the topic of their son’s best friend and his family.
“Yeah. It’s not going to be like that,” says Moses.
That was when Simon walked in. Leave it to Simon to be late.
Moses gets up, like he did not just drop a bomb on us.
Simon trots to us before Moses reaches him, but he stops and points to the outrageous hair on the twins before embracing Moses. They just shake their heads at him, he shrugs. “Moj!” he says, embracing Mo a second time from within a shroud of expensive cologne.
Simon always dresses really snazzy. He’s wearing a fucking orange suit, like, like – Elton would wear. But Simon is skinny now, and he rocks the suit. All of us get up for Simon; he’s our Queen Mother.
“You’re tan,” says Rock, grabbing Simon by his shoulders gently and holding him.
“Africa, you know, it’s sunny there,” said Simon. “I saw the cutest giraffes!”
“And Michael?” asked Rock. Rock’s always keen on those personal details. Too keen. Simon met an African man who has become the love of his life – I’m not sure where they met, and if Michael is American or from the actual continent of Africa, I’m not really much on deets.
“He’s here in LA! We’ve just rented this fabulous place in West Hollywood, great kitchen, and a garden! I’ll have a party for you, darlings. He cooks!” Simon looks at Moses, “Mojin, Michael cooks most divinely. I’ll be fat again soon. Oh, and we adopted the cutest dog. Oh, Moses….”
Moses laughs his loose, fine laugh and releases Simon’s shoulders. “I’ll be there.”
“I hear you have a girl?” Only Simon could have said it that way.
Moses moves one half of his mouth upwards. His cell is ringing in his pocket. He ignores it.
“Wow,” says Simon, gently, “so it’s true!” Moses doesn’t say more. Simon slaps Moses on the butt and shoves him forward. “I hear we’re getting Jimmy Dean’s BBQ today.”
“Yeah,” I say, watching the staff setting up our lunch.
Kinch bear hugs Simon, “You are the happiest homo-sapien on the planet you bastard.” Kinch’s war has been upended by Simon’s joyful arrival. Simon is a happy ass, like, sincerely, like he’s never had a problem in his whole glorious life. Simon’s in a great mood all the time; he applies gay to every area of his life.
Kinch could never muscle Moses for long anyhow. And now Simon’s taken the wind out of him. His timing is perfect.
We swam and ate lunch, but Moses never told us anything more. We agreed to meet him a few days later at our new office. We were all pretty amused by his term, office. Of course Kinch had to ask if we were all gonna get babelicious secretaries. Moses built an office; this move of Mo’s is so – so provincial.