Zawmb’yee was angry. She thought I should have told her not to play with the equipment left by the Gods, and I should have known that it was dangerous. I said, “You’re the one who’s studying our culture. You’re supposed to know what all the artifacts are. Didn’t Utcoozhoo warn you about these devices?”
“Yeah well. Utcoozhoo is too slow to show me anything, and Ngheufel told me…”
“Damn. Ngheufel could’ve gotten us killed and …”
There was rustling and noise coming out of the forest. Utcoozhoo was waving and shouting, “Come quickly. Get over here now.”
The layers of camouflage made it impossible to move quickly. Pushing through the thicket of artificial metal leaves and brambles was an art form of choreography, difficult under stress, almost impossible for exhausted casualties of the Gods. We had been through this maze many times before, and we tried as best we could to fall into our trained routine for secret exit.
Utcoozhoo said, “Come on. There’s a satellite mapping this area — we don’t want them to identify an entrance to the caves. Ugh. You kids are gonna blow our cover. Let’s go!”
Zawmb’yee and I stumbled into a clearing. I said, “Uncle Utcoozhoo, I thought we were dead. We almost drowned and then Zusoiti. … ”
“Yes, I know,” Utcoozhoo said. “Zusoiti is a nut, but most of the Ut’ishsih who have moved out of the caves are not using their voting rights. It is going to be difficult to impeach her, or vote her out of office. I haven’t seen either you, Doug, or Zawmb’yee on the voter list. This is a bad situation: if we can’t get her off the Grand Council … well … um … it might take extralegal means to do it. This is serious. If she gets control of the apparatus of the Gods, it could affect us and the up-top world … — they might even overreact and think there’s an alien invasion. It could get ugly.”
Zawmb’yee was indignant. “Who the hell does she think she is. She was going to make me a slave and …”
“She might have done much worse,” said Utcoozhoo. “I think you should hide in Doug’s apartment until I can negotiate a commutation of your sentence. She’s one of the hermits who’s never been to the up-top world. I think you’ll be safe if you stay out of the caves for a while.”
I said, “I can’t believe all this. Are there ‘Gods’ or not?”
“There are the Gods of material things and there are the spirits who infuse all dimensions …”
“There has been a great deal of overlap and confusion between different points-of-view. At one point in our history the Priests and Scientists tried to team up. The scientists tried to reverse engineer the devices the Gods left and combine it with their crude machines. The Priest Class had a tendency to mimic or copy the form of the Gods behavior and tried to duplicate it with prayers and magic rituals. Neither did very well. So most of the artifacts are not really of the Gods but are the result of crude experiments in mimicry and power and the armor of the silly.”
“Silly and lunatic,” said Zawmb’yee.
“Yes,” said Utcoozhoo, “in their different ways they both quoted the Gods to justify the evil they did. At a certain point, neither were really speaking to the Gods who had long ago departed. But each had their weapons of choice to maintain power.”
I said, “So then are there or were there spiritual Gods of unlimited power of the same nature as the one favorite God that the Mekibota cling to without much success?”
“Yeah,” said Zawmb’yee, “the up-top Mekibota are fighting wars all the time, and no one is getting any kind of spiritual help to protect the innocent.”
“Uh huh,” I said, “That’s right. The best of people are not protected from evil no matter who they pray to by whatever name. So how does one conjure up the right name and the right favorite, and how do they know who they’re speaking to? Sometimes on both sides of a War, each side claims to be praying to the authentic choice of a God, but apparently they are choosing different ones, because they have radically different beliefs and behaviors and yet each choice of a God they say approves of their cause.”
“I’ll say this about that,” said Utcoozhoo, “Zusoiti does nothing in service to the Gods, but only in service to herself and her powers. She claims an intimacy with them, but she is delusional. Her artifacts are crude toys made by us and not by the Gods, except perhaps a few devices she, a long time ago, was able to steal from Naztko, an elder, guardian of the Forbidden Zone.”
“Huh? What? Well I think I see something about history but that, pardon me, was a ramble. Are there omnipotent Gods or not.”
“There is a purpose to the ramble. It just means I’m avoiding your question for now. You’ve had enough adventure. Your questions can wait … But , by the way, I did hear your crisis communication during the flood. You do have the potential to develop that skill. You did find the lever to open the flood gates — right?”
“Well, in that flash message, you said a lot. I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner — I was away. That moment of fusion allowed me to see that you’re very impatient. I can see you’re a bit reckless and impulsive like Zawmb’yee…”
“Impulsive?” said Zawmb’yee, “who’s impulsive. I think I’ll run off with Doug to the Bahamas right now…Hmm, Doug’s impulsive? Seems calm to me…”
“Ha, that’s funny, Zawmb’yee,” said Utcoozhoo. “Doug, you were thinking of trying to operate the Drilling Machine of the Gods. That would have been exceedingly dangerous. Look here — I’ll get you a cable hookup in your quarters when this brouhaha quiets down, if you promise not to tamper with any of the machines of the Gods. Drilling through rock is a simple operation when you know how.”
Zawmb’yee was crying, “Utcoozhoo, how can you be talking about computer hookups when I was violated. I can’t even be sure what was done to me …” Sobbing, Zawmb’yee reached for Utcoozhoo. When he put out his arms to hug her, she ran to him, and knocked him over. He turned her on her side and stroked her hair.
“It’ll be all right,” he said. And he cried. “My poor Zawmb’yee, I’m so sorry. I should have warned you. Please forgive me.”
I was all excited — Zawmb’yee was going to hang-out with me in my apartment. I thought we could do a project together. I had some canvases and paint and I thought that Zawmb’yee, who is great at sketching, could do a pencil sketch and then I could paint over it. I like taking realistic sketches of photos and turning them into surrealistic pictures in intense colors with complementary vibrations on the edges of bright colors. But before I could suggest all this, Zawmb’yee says, you need a dust ruffle and bed spread, dishes, a better lamp, a decent writing table and curtains, and, and, and … I asked her where I was going to get all this stuff. She said not to worry — I’m going shopping with Chloë. When she saw that I was exasperated, she took a short pause from her extensive inventory, and asked, incidentally, if while she was doing the important things, if there was anything I wanted. I was trying to be flippant, and just tossed out a non sequitur: well, I’ve always wanted an ice cream maker. She gleefully said OK, and rushed out the door.
So much for my fantasy. It was a chaotic moving day.
Well, Zawmb’yee tidied up the bed spread, and got me to hang up the curtains. She plopped the ice cream maker on the kitchen counter. I asked Zawmb’yee what she wanted for dinner. She said, let’s just have the usual venison and buffalo fried in duck fat with truffles.
I thought sure. But then I realized, being out of the cave, we didn’t have access to the glacier anymore. “I don’t know where we would buy that. But now that we’re stranded here outside of the cave, I’m wondering how exactly is it that there is a limitless supply of frozen game in the cave? I’ve always just taken it for granted.”
Zawmb’yee said, “Well, legend has it that the Gods …”
“Uh, could we stop with the ‘Gods’ already — who in particular. I mean, I know that Zusoiti said that only she can speak the names of the Gods, but this is getting to be ridiculous …”
“Alright. In the legend, Kragzluk, the God of preservation and death, struck down many deer with lightning. He called forth his brothers from the sky and they built a moving river of skins that transported the deer into the Cave of Stillness. It is said that the cave was filled with a great mist …”
“Where did you read this? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this before.”
“Oh, it’s not in a book. Utcoozhoo has been showing me the visions of history and …”
“Wait … You’re giving me a narrative interpretation, but you’ve seen this as a movie in your mind?”
“Well, yeah, sort of. I’m learning a vision and a narrative. I mean, I can’t present the vision that easily to anyone, so I have to start somewhere. This is like a summary in narrative form. OK? Can I just continue with the story form — it’s a lot easier?”
“Uh, yeah, OK”
“The hidden fire was drawn out from the mist, to the back of the cave, melting rock. A great glacier was formed around the deer. In a fury, the deer were engulfed in a snow storm while lava flowed deeply into the earth and under the ocean. With all heat gone from the deer, they became rocks.”
“Is this like a super-duper refrigerator?”
“I guess so … and so what DO we have?”
“Uh, well. We have strawberries, sugar, honey, cream, bananas, potato chips, and wine …”
“Well, OK, then, we’re having banana ice cream, potato chips, and wine for dinner …”
Zawmb’yee Isn’t Around Much
Zawmb’yee is hardly ever around. She’s been going to art galleries and museums with Chloë. Apparently, they’ve gotten over their jealousies, and are now like sisters. Zawmb’yee has been teasing me by asking if I know if Chloë really has natural red hair. Zawmb’yee says, y’know, Chloë misses you and she thinks your quirkiness is cute. Zawmb’yee is getting to be a very warm person, but I don’t think I want her to start thinking about me like a brother — I mean, I don’t want to be best friends, unless, during a tête-à-tête, I can suddenly see those hungry eyes, the devouring look, the pull of the moon lust, the tides on finger ripples, stroking waves, gorgeous tumescence.
I don’t know — I watch her greet everyone with such kindness, and when I see her go, I am so proud of her like a Father who sees his daughter go into the world, more magnificent than any princess he thought he could raise, he, being mere serf, wishing his daughter an education in the palace of fulfillment. Oh daughter of my humble teachings, go beyond me to play in the boomerangs of your innocent love that swoons on every lonely creature redeemed with a smile, a sparkle.
Such beauty I must share with everyone — you are so happy when you laugh in the public square. Can you see me clapping in the crowd that I love you in tears I’ve been hiding? No, no, you are not of family. No, you are of family. Please tell me: where shall I kiss you?
Zawmb’yee is sleeping over at Chloë’s house so she can go with Chloë in the morning to a Yoga class. Chloë’s been taking Zawmb’yee everywhere. She’s going to be totally immersed in the très chic cultural things and I suppose Utcoozhoo will be pleased that she’s learning the skills of assimilation.
Chloë’s been telling Zawmb’yee all about the Blue Attic Club. I had thought that it was closed down by the city building department years ago. As I remember it, it was quite controversial because their gimmicky building design violated all the safety codes. The avant-garde owners buried a house except for the attic in a mound of concrete. To enter, you had to walk up a hill and climb through a window in the attic. There were no doors. The whole site was condemned but forgotten. In winter, at the first snow storm, kids would scale a fence, climb up the hill with their sleds and slide down. I guess someone bribed the right official to get the building permit and certificate of occupancy, because from what I’m hearing, it’s thriving.
Zawmb’yee says that by day it’s an art gallery, and at night they have disco and lectures. She wants me to come with her and Chloë to a lecture called “Introduction to Mystical Quirks.” I guess I should go — it’ll be great to see Chloë strut her stuff, giggling and dancing, flinging her red hair in a freckled frenzy and … oh, yeah, it’s just a lecture. Well, anyway, it could be fun — they’ll have wine and cheese and whatever.
OK, I think I see why Zawmb’yee is so excited. Chloë got the main contract to do the interior decoration of the Blue Attic Club, and she’s letting Zawmb’yee be a subcontractor, so to speak — I don’t know what the official terminology is. But anyway, this is great: Zawmb’yee is really taking off in business — she’s got her public relations projects too. She’s really learning how to be a multidisciplinary entrepreneur. I’m so proud of her.
I’ve gotten a little bit more organized. I’ve stocked the refrigerator with some decent food, gotten my cooking equipment in order. Next time, I’m going to make a decent diner for us. I was embarrassed that we had potato chips and ice cream for dinner the last time. I do know how to make lasagna and that’ll be easy enough, or the garlic bottle has a recipe for “garlic lime chicken” that I could try — I put a little cilantro on my tongue and it seems like it’ll be OK.
Yes, I’ve got to see the Blue Attic Club. Chloë really gets around. I have to hear more. This will be a challenge: I really want to hear about her design work, but when she speaks I watch her lips, and the way she moves her hair off her forehead, the way she interjects little colloquialisms into her formal speech like “that’ll be cool”. It’s so hard to listen when she says “oh wow” and her breasts are smiling at me.
—- END of “ 8. Utcoozhoo Arrives”