Tiputa Pit Stop

— Chapter 5 —

Tiputa, along with other towns like Kippu, Inepril, now deserted, and Renate, exist primarily as relief stations for travel-worn visitors.

The town is one road, with both sides lined by 5 triangular buildings, built with a slant pointing to the east. All businesses, and all Finiku-owned. The road's very design suggests that you will leave almost as quickly as you have entered, with every service just a short walk away.

Tiputa is on low-lying land, tucked into a valley known for its incessant gales. Strong winds, known in these parts as Shriekers, pass through the valley every 10 days and during this time all activity in the town stops. The flurry of sand the storm lifts as it screams through can be very damaging to the lungs. Many transients come to Tiputa to re-supply, or for repairs, and then take off as soon as they are able to avoid the Shriekers.

Finiku workers were outside with their banabo leaf brooms, brushing the sand away from their storefronts, beating the dust out of their floor mats and window shutters. All of this work would be undone the next day, but no one seemed to mind this. They could start a small task and finish it moments later, with plenty of time to start and finish many more. The daily successful completion of hundreds of small tasks was good for the brain, the locals said.

Eka was wandering through town, eyeing the still dusty stores and the workers. Everyone on the street stopped their work to wave, and to say a friendly "Yora'!" A diligent troupe of children armed with brooms furiously brushed the sand away from the main road. They laughed and joked as they did, making a game of the task.

The strip splitting the city was made up of flat stones, but most times they lay buried and unseen. Eka enjoyed the sound the dry fronds produced when brushed against the flats of the stones. The children were not aware of it, but there was a rhythm to their brushing. A song came to Eka’s lips then:

“Brush the sands, sweep the lands,” then Eka’s voice got louder at this next part, “-BRUSH, BRUSH, BRUSH,” and went lower at this last verse, “sweep, sweep, sweep!”

Busy singing, Eka didn’t see that someone was standing close by. An old Finiku blocked Eka's path, a creature with a long white river of hair. The white current flowed downward and came to a complete stop before splashing onto the ground. This stranger stared at the sweater, Lupin’s sweater. A pair of wrinkled hands hovered close to it.

“Arraaaa! W-where did you g-get t-this?!” The Finiku asked, sweating profusely.

Like all Finiku, the stranger’s body was short and spherical and overlaid by a red jacket with matching pantaloons. Tshe jacket overlapped a shirt of delicate soft thread and ended with frills at the neck and cuffs. Unlike Nono, this character spoke the Common Tongue with a barely discernible Finic accent.

“I will do ANYTHING to get this shirt! What do you want for it?”

Walking away was not an option. The Finiku was gripping the shirt now, feeling the threads with greedy fingers. Lupin’s sweater was put together well, but it paled in comparison to this character’s royal attire, it had no golden stitching or sculpted cuff links. Nothing of that quality.

“You want coin?!”

With every question the Finiku’s stream of hair would spill out of perfection. Eka tried to back away, but found the short person still stuck to the piece of garment.

“It isn’t mine to sell!” Eka said.

Most would think it easy to fend off someone so little, but the stranger held on, as if hanging from a cliff overlooking a fiery pit.

“Please! I must have it! I do anything to get it!”

With all of that pulling, the seams in the bottom of the shirt ripped open. The Finiku let out a horrified squeal. “What have I DONE!”

Eka put a finger through the hole in the sweater.

“This is unforgivable! I am a fiend! I make it better! Ora! I mend it.” The Finiku said. Eka did not think this was necessary, but the crimson-clad Finiku would not listen and led the sweater, as well as its wearer over to one of the triangular houses.

The house had a red roof and red outer walls, although the paint was worn, the sand blown about during storms had a nasty habit of scratching bits of it off in passing. Eka wondered if everything inside was also red and began to fantasize about a house with objects, walls and floors that were so red that they were indistinguishable from one another. A sign over the entrance to the house read "Orin the Tailor", with a hand-printed sign underneath it with the words "Now Retired". This sign had green lettering, this detail was enough to dispel Eka's fantasy of this place being a an all-crimson fun house.

“You make clothes? Convenient.” Eka said.

“Ora, ora. Well, I used to. Watch your head!”

Eka nodded, taking note of the height of the ceiling before entering. Eka stood on two knees, walking inside like this was easy, but a bit hard on the skin. Orin's workshop had angled walls filled with spindles of colorful fabric. Between the spindles lay frames with certificates of past commissions for royals, and other famous characters. On the ceiling hung clothing Orin had made, favorite pieces from past and current projects.

In a far corner of the house was a small mattress, as well as a table with a giant empty bottle, that Eka was certain once contained bonan wine. There was no room to cook, and no food either. Because the house was small all relied on another resident for the cooking. Eka had seen a small restaurant on the other side of the road, it likely doubled as a community kitchen.

The tailor grabbed a needle, and then reached for a thread from one of the spindles on the wall. The spindle had very little material left on it and was soon emptied, all of it now bound to Orin’s needle. Orin’s hands were shaky at first, but steadied when the point of the needle came in contact with the shirt. The tailor moved with machine-like precision, the thread disappearing into the garment and the hole coming to a quick close. The thread on the needle was the same color and material as the shirt, Orin had just enough fibre to finish the repair. In the end, it’s like it was never ripped at all.

Orin used to live in Edonor, a place that—Eka made a point to say—made the very best peachik pancakes. The Finiku’s great-great mapa opened a shop there many years ago. Eka did not doubt the popularity of the business, especially after seeing a signed portrait of Monarch Bao on the wall. Many other famous characters had come to the shop, and all had left a signed portrait behind as proof of their passing. Because the shop was so popular, Orin had had no time for anything other than clothes-making. The tailor had an itch to make different sorts of clothes, more risqué items, but the customers always asked for the same thing: copies of copies of copies, all copies of past works, nothing new, nothing exciting. Orin had produced different types of garments, but few had asked for them. It was then that this tailor decided that it was time to retire to Tiputa, where Bou, a relative, now lived. Orin did not produce new clothes anymore, but continued to help out-of-towners and locals with their clothes, mending holes or strenghtening seams.

“I’m sorry I can’t give this shirt to you, my friend’s mapa made it you see! After I get some new clothes, it won’t be mine to keep,” Eka explained.

“I understand. I apologize for my un-towardness. It's been a long time since I've seen this thread, but no matter," while saying this, Orin glanced at Eka's frame, already busy making calculations, "you want an outfit? I will make you a set worthy of desert travel. I have a thread here that would suit you. Ora, ora. Come, come!”

After picking out some colors, the tailor pulled out a flat banabo braid with stitched colored thread of varying thickness over the top. This was a custom tool, used to take measurements with more accuracy. A braid bound that well would never stretch. It took some time to measure Eka's frame, because unlike Orin’s usual customers Eka was tall. The redhead sat on a stool, extending an arm or leg forward as required.

“I've never seen anyone with round ears like you.”

“That is due to centuries of erosion, I had ears just like you before.”

Orin laughed. “You and my Bou would get along. Has a repair shop next door.” After jotting down all of the numbers, the measuring braid returned to its perch at Orin’s belt, secured alongside a needle and a single bobbin.

“You keep these with you always?” Eka asked.

“Never leave home without them! This is the weapon of the tailor!” Orin went to stand on another stool, a hand over the heart. “As long as I breathe, no fabric will be left unsown, and no pant leg left askew! Iana! Orin will not allow it!”

Eka took a liking to Orin, a talented and honest artist with a good heart.

“It will be ready the morning next.”

As payment Eka offered to help at Bou’s repair shop, Orin agreed. There was always a lot of work to do there, and with the Shriekers coming in 3 days Bou would have a long list of customers.

Eka wandered over to the repair shop next door. This building used to be green, Eka could tell, but like Orin's place most of the paint was ground off. There was still color left around the door and windows, and on the underside of the roof, but there too it threatened to flake off. Like the interior of Nono’s sandfin, the workshop was brimming with tools, but in Bou’s defence, a small space was easy enough to fill. The repair shop owner glanced at the tall stranger, standing there at the door.

“Come back later. No time today.”

Bou was dark haired, pale-skinned, with a round body enveloped in a pair of tattered overalls, these, were stained with grease and covered in holes. Those tears must be torture for Orin, Eka thought, how did these openings escape the tailor’s needle?

“Orin is making some clothes for me and I offered to help you here in your shop as payment,” Eka said, knees on the ground and wearing a great big smile. “Yora’nae. I’m Eka.”

"Yora', Bou'wati." Bou craned a large head to one side to see the part of Eka obscured by the top of the door, "Eka know it dirty, dirty work ora?”

Eka copied the head motion, “that’s okay. A favor for a favor!”

“In Tiputa no one do work without promise of coin. Hope Eka like grime, grease and grossness.” Bou welcomed Eka into the workshop and explained today’s chores. “Today have pomparu problem, it stuck inside sandfin drain pipe. Then, fix broke water pump, owner think it smart to press juice out of plumpkin. And this list, it go and go. Still want to help?”

Eka nodded. Bou looked at what the outsider was wearing, and walked in close to touch the fabric of the sweater Orin had mended. For a second, Eka feared the same reaction in Bou. “Blue isilk,” Bou said. The greasy shop owner’s green eyes went round. Bou's eyes had a wonderful shine to them, they appeared glass-like with minuscule herb gardens growing inside of them. “Volare Verido make this for you? Verido no export isilk anymore.”

Not many people could tell the shirt was made from Ilk hair, even fewer knew that the hair of the desert walkers had a a subtle pigmentation, it could be either blue, green or red. The mechanic with tattered overalls had seen it right away. Eka wondered what the tailor thought of Bou’s profession, they were family, yet their lives were so contrary.

“This belongs to my friend,” Eka explained, “Orin really loves isilk huh?”

“Hm, ora. To Orin mapa, seeing isilk is like finding ghost of friend at your door, a friend you think dead.” Bou said, fingers brushed over the area where the hole in the sweater had been. This repair was visible to experienced eyes. “Gran-mapa Nok own shop in Edonor. One day, Nok bring home spindle of blue isilk. Suspicious no? Illegal, Bou think. Orin inherit business, but blue isilk... it all gone by then. Nok make isilk death suit, then jump into Rupture in it!” Bou sighed. “Orin be sad after this, to see thread so fine fade into the nothing. Never had chance to make big project with it, and never will because Verido no trade it anymore. Bou think Eka need know this.”

Bou didn’t give Eka a chance to reply, and walked over to a closet, pulling out a large pair of brown overalls and a mostly clean undershirt. “Because it dirty work, Eka need wear this.”

The Finiku knew the value of that shirt, letting it get covered up with grease would be downright criminal. Eka changed into Bou’s undershirt and overalls, the clothes fit, but there was a lot of room in there for another Eka or two. The knees had padding to cushion the knees from hard floors and numerous pockets to keep tools in.

Their first task, was to try and get that pomparu out of that pipe. The sandfin was moored out front, alongside it was a broken wagon, next to that was that box of damaged objects. Both moved to the back of the sandfin. Once there Eka caught a whiff of the pomparu and gasped, hands moved to cover up both the mouth and nose.

“Ora! Pomparu smell burn the nose da naa? First time Bou smell this, no eat for one week! All food taste like rot.”

Bou grabbed a jar from a pantleg pocket, dipped a finger in it and scooped out a thick glob of purple gel, then without warning, Bou smeared the purple gel under Eka’s nose, just near and around the nostrils. Now both had a purple mustache, "better ora?"

Eka nodded. “Lavendiri flowers! Good trick!" The fresh scent helped cover up the nasty pomparu fumes.

Bou also had a thick scarf on to keep the smell out, and passed one to Eka. The scarf was just enough to block the stink entirely while keeping the lavendiri gel fresh.

Both turned to the sandfin then. The butt of the pomparu was sticking halfway out of the opening of the pipe, the 4 forward legs were inside the pipe, while the other 4 dangled outside. It was plump, pale-skinned and covered in colorful spots, the spots were hard to see because its body was brown with dirt. "Pomparu like strong smell, this one try follow smell but now stuck." Bou said. It was common for people to make a pile of stinky rubbish outside of town to get their attention, and to keep them there. Tiputa did have a pile like this, but this sandfin had acquired the pomparu while on transit.

“It is dead?” Eka asked, noticing its legs weren’t moving.

“Iana. If pomparu dead, we no stand around to talk about it. Lavendiri gel would rot, and we would bury head in sand. But even like this, it no help. Bou have friend name Fala. One day Fala find dead pomparu, smell so SO bad that Fala rip nose off! Crazy di naa? Pomparu smell bad, but Bou blame the crazy on Kavava. Kavava make brain loopy, and Fala chew it too much,” Bou said, telling this story as if it was nothing.

Eka’s eyes widened, imagining someone without a nose. “How horrible.”

“When it come to pomparu, some say no nose better! Bou make new nose for Fala out of banabo and ground lavendiri flower. Fa love it, call it 'my special nurple'.” Bou said this, hoping it would reassure Eka, but it had the reverse effect.

NO touch pomparu with skin. Eka say goodbye to all friend if touch it! The smell, it NO come off!”

“So, um. Shall we do this thing then?” Eka’s nose was eager to move on to some other task, it had no desire to be replaced with a special nurple.

To get it out both had to dislodge the pipe from inside the cabin. They wrenched the whole thing out, and cut through the metal of the piping to shorten it. Bou covered the inside of the pipe with avoka oil, and reluctantly did the same for the area around the pomparu’s body, all while wearing multiple thick pairs of elbow-high pinny-tarred hempa gloves. Then, Eka shoved the small end of a broom through the pomparu-free end of the pipe while Bou held it down with both hands. They could just throw the whole pipe away, bury it in the desert pomparu and all, but that would be most cruel. Bou did not care to do such things. Pomparus were less than ideal creatures, but they didn’t deserve such an end.

“Ready?” Eka asked.

Eka pushed with such force that the pomparu came flying out and went rolling inside of Bou’s workshop. Bou shrieked, tore the broom from Eka’s hands and ran inside, but it was too late. The floor was covered with a stinky green discharge. The slimy, curvaceous thing, was pushed with the bristled end of a broom, out of the workshop, out of the city – well away from all the houses. Already some of the villagers were outside, noses pinched and eyeing the stinker, all were afraid of what this smell would do to the town’s businesses. They all scurried about, covering the pomparu drippings with ground lavendiri leaves and other strong-smelling flowers, while others began to scoop it up with long-handled shovels and brooms, items they too, would have to discard after us. All had purple gel under their noses.

Bou took Eka’s side, the broom was at the edge of town with that disgusting stink of a thing and marked where it was so no one would go near it. Those creatures were slow, and Bou had plans of putting a bowl of rotten muckwheat far out into the plains to lure it even further away.

Eka looked at the disgusting drippings it left behind. “All this came from one pomparu?”

“Look like Bou add ‘burn workshop’ to to-do list.”

Both laughed at this, although Eka wondered if fire would really be enough to rid the place of that foul odor.

Continue to Chapter 6