Zawmb’yee Becomes High Priestess
I’m a nervous wreck. When Utcoozhoo called, I thought he’d just wanted me to come back to the sacred quarters just to study the ceremonies and protocols that a Grand Council member should know. He had said he just needed me for a few crucial votes, but it’s not that simple. I thought I was to be a stand-in, a figurehead appointment. He has assigned me a Mieta (tutor), but I feel like a little young Queen and he has assigned me a Gavicte (Regent). The Gavicte will handle my executive duties until I understand fully what my responsibilities and powers are.
I had thought when Utcoozhoo had me appointed to the council that I was just going to join Utcoozhoo in a few votes, and otherwise, I’d just stay in the background while he and his Wejamn (cabal) rescinded Zusoiti’s powers. Utcoozhoo had said it was just a technicality, but the fact that he had cajoled the Grand Council into electing me as the temporary replacement for the absent Zusoiti, has made me the High Priestess. He had said not to worry because I didn’t have to actually do anything, and that before Zusoiti, most High Priestesses did not actually exercise their powers although, theoretically, they could have.
Maybe, I’m just a silly naïve little girl: I mean, look how I’ve just been bopping around the Wejpob down the staircase that Utcoozhoo showed me, and that he allowed me to decorate. I’ve always been happy to just turn the corner into my apartment without noticing the nooks and crannies in the corridor that are actually doors to other places. I’ve just been on the edge of a maze of passageways, oblivious to a profound matrix.
But now, ever since the Gavicte has shown me the entrance to the Kmpamew (Palace), I am astounded.
Yenkoi seems like a trustworthy Gavicte. I think that if Utcoozhoo recommended him, he must be reliable, but maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, and maybe Utcoozhoo was forced by the Council to appoint their favorite. On the other hand, he does seem meticulous in the way he lays out all the caveats and options.
Yenkoi does pay attention to every detail with his penetrating brown eagle eyes. His deep voice resonates with careful enunciation and I imagine that his aquiline nose will vacuum in the scent of trouble, or sniff unkindly at the vulgar, he, standing tall and grandly thin, but all seems heavy on his officious bushy brow.
Yenkoi had said, “Fevepo Zawmb’yee, I am required to inform you that…”
“Excuse me for interrupting,” I said, “but what does ‘Fevepo’ mean?”
“Um, well… I see that your Mieta has a lot of work to do. Let me put it this way: it is a title or term of respect which means roughly, ‘Your majesty High Priestess who is all powerful.’ ”
“Oh, that’s scary. Maybe you could call me chicky babe…” I thought poor old Yenkoi was going to have a heart attack the way he stepped back and seemed to lose his balance, so I added, “I’m just joking — I’ll work with my Mieta to learn all these terms. Sorry, please continue Gavicte Yenkoi.” I did a little Royal nod.
“Yes, thank you. Fevepo Zawmb’yee, I am required to inform you that I will be acting in your name to exercise all executive powers of state while you study the Ofuye and legal documents. However, although it is generally not recommended, you have the power and right to overrule or rescind any order I have issued in your name, and may if you deem it necessary, issue an order or decree of your own which will be followed and obeyed by all subjects of the realm. You may write and promulgate laws to enforce your decrees as you deem necessary.”
“Don’t worry. Your Mieta will instruct and inform you on the state of affairs, and I will handle everything until you are ready…”
Oh Kievifkwa, this has been all too overwhelming. I’ve only spent one overnight at the Kmpamew. I’ve postponed my appointment with Apacevj, the Mieta. I’m not looking forward to having a formal teacher. I mean, Utcoozhoo is a fatherly figure, knows when I don’t understand something, and knows how to explain a subject with a story. His homework can be difficult, but I don’t mind doing it for him. He doesn’t push me too hard, but guides me toward the subtleties. Utcoozhoo is always very patient with me, but Yenkoi, now, I’ve come to think, is in a rush or panic about something, and very eager for me to get started with Apacevj.
Oh Kievifkwa, I nearly ran screaming from the Kmpamew (but I was calm and polite to Yenkoi, actually). I told the Gavicte I had to consult with Utcoozhoo urgently, and that seemed to placate him. I told Utcoozhoo I had to go back to Doug’s apartment to unwind, because I was still feeling weird and not myself. Oddly, he didn’t object, seemed preoccupied, and just thanked me for the report on James Ziohat.
I don’t know why I didn’t want to stay at the Kmpamew. It’s very luxurious. Yenkoi, proudly gave me the grand tour and told me the statistics: there are 800 rooms, 25 State Rooms, 60 guest rooms, 100 offices, 200 staff rooms, and 100 bathrooms. Doug would be impressed with the State Dining Room and the kitchens and the chefs, and … . Oh Kievifkwa, I don’t need all that.
I’ve chosen my Royal study and bedroom. Oops, I’ve forgotten the correct terms for those, but anyway, I guess, considering how scatterbrain I can be sometimes, Yenkoi has done the best he could.
Well, I can say this: the Grand Ballroom is magnificent, with a sky high ceiling and with a seemingly endless staircase, and thanks to Utcoozhoo’s instructions, the Gavicte took extraordinary measures to accommodate my tastes. When Yenkoi said, I have a special surprise for you, I thought, oh no, now what. We had entered the huge room through the main entrance off the sacred corridor.
But he had said, “We’ve taken special measures for your Grand Ballroom. We’ve hung Velijdiko that reflect your esthetic tastes while still functioning quite well… ” He spread his arms in a grand presentation gesture.
“It’s drapery or curtains made from the traditional fabric of fiber-optic threads, and carbon nano-tubes, joined with the standard interstitial crystalline rubies and sapphires and with rare-earth wave-guides. But the enhancements are adjusted to… ”
I shifted my weight from one impatient foot to the other. “Too much information for me right now, um…”
“Yes, Fevepo Zawmb’yee, let’s just say, it’s beautiful adjustable-color curtains that also act as a communication device and antenna. Will this do for today?”
“Yes, thank you, Gavicte Yenkoi. I’m sorry, I interrupted you — you were going to say?”
Yenkoi gestured and we walked across the expansive marble floor. Yenkoi tilted his head: “Look up at the Gijlek, um, the frescoes…”
I looked up at the ceiling. Beautiful landscape paintings adorned the surface. I said, “Wow. It’s great and so intricate, but the ceiling is so far away and … Oh, didn’t you say before that you had a ‘special surprise’ for me? Is this it?”
“No, Fevepo Zawmb’yee. Walk with me to the center of the room.”
We walked across landscape mosaics embedded in the floor, meadows and flowers, deer and fruit trees. As we approached the center, I could see a desk and chair on a long low platform resting in the center of the room. “That’s an odd place to place a desk,” I said.
“Well, step with me onto the platform. Be careful of the rim — step over it.”
We stepped up just an inch or so. I sat down in the chair. “What’s the rim for?”
“That’s so the chair doesn’t roll off the platform.”
“Well, then if it did, I could just roll around the marble floor… ”
“Not if you’re near the ceiling…”
“Yes, well. It is after all a Reksipj, and if you’re flying around you have to be careful. Look up — do you see that white blank spot?”
“That’s for your painting. Look at your desk.”
“Oh… tubes of my favorite acrylic paints. Let’s see. Yes, wow: you’ve given me all the primary and secondary colors, custom shades… um, extra-large white, yeah OK. Great. Brushes?”
“Yes, in the draws, all the standard types and sizes, and if you need it we can custom make a brush to your specifications.”
I told Yenkoi I’d take flying lessons some other time. Painting in the sky is something new for me, and I’ve never seen a bird use a paint brush so even though birds are good at flying, they must not think that painting is safe.”
Now I’m really starting to worry: I think I’m having blackouts. I remember after leaving the Kmpamew that I gave Utcoozhoo my report on James Ziohat, and then I went to my old sacred quarters in the old main corridor that I was familiar with and that Doug had been to.
But something major is happening because I woke up in the morning back at Doug’s apartment with no memory of how I got there. Other than the missing time, I woke up in bed with Doug, feeling wonderful, but something is missing. I think I’m back to myself, but where was I and what did I do? I got dressed quickly, had some coffee to wake up, and went back to the bedroom. Still a puzzle.
I kissed Doug and he woke up smiling. I said, “Do I seem normal to you?”
“Normal?” he said, “When have you ever been normal? You’re extraordinary…”
“Yeah, right … um, how is your novel going?”
“Well, being absorbed in the world of my characters, feeling as if they actually exist and are real, I wonder what is real. Do we live in a dream? Is everything we perceive just our imagination? How do we know this is real and …?”
“It means something like, ‘Philosophers can say the world is unreal until reminded of pain, chocolate, and sex.’ ”
“One word for that?”
“Actually, it’s more than that. Most Utd’mbts words are symbols for concepts. There are different levels of sophistication for the Utd’mbts language. Utcoozhoo says I’m mostly at the baby talk babble stage where a symbol stands for a sound, but higher forms of Utd’mbts have nothing to do with sound. There is the ‘thing’, the actuality of what is referred to, and then different levels of symbolism which are to re-trigger the experience of the ‘thing’. ” I wiggled around in the bed and got up on my elbows.
Doug sat up and stared into my eyes. “Huh, what?”
“Oh, I know, I don’t know what I’m saying exactly. I’m just bluffing. But now I’m supposed to do better.”
“What do you mean ‘now’. Now what?”
“Uh, well, the whole Grand Council can ‘speak’ the upper levels of Utd’mbts and they’re probably maneuvering behind my back to keep control. I think only Utcoozhoo is watching my back.”
Doug put his head in his hands. “OK. Try this again. The highest level of Utd’mbts is what?”
I lay down and stared at the ceiling. “A word is a push-dream. The word is a trigger to a two hour movie that occurs in a second. It doesn’t have speech but it has music, vision, smell, and flavor. It has a meaning and a taste. To speak, one would push the vision of the singing pigeon that is to be eaten without remorse… you devour the thing and you can ‘have your cake and eat it too.’ ”
Doug bounced on the bed a little. “This makes no sense.”
“It is: a word for a thought as complete as a dream.”
“You have to do it to know it.”
“I tried a little of that sort of process but didn’t get far. If Evewapei then after death when the reality of the world stops for the individual, is there nothing? And if there is something, isn’t that more real or,… or, um, more permanent? Is anything real beyond the self… um, you’re giving me a headache…”
“Utcoozhoo always says, ‘Jipacy!’ ”
“Only love is real.”
“That doesn’t sound like what Utcoozhoo would say… he’s never definite.”
“OK. That’s what I say.”
I told Doug all about the Kmpamew and I said I thought maybe he should come to live with me there during my interim appointment, just until the new Council is sworn-in in the New Year.
Doug said, “You know, they lied to us. Didn’t we always think the caves were barren and underpopulated, especially after so many moved up-top to live? They didn’t say anything about a palace and a secret city.”
“Yeah, we missed an entire world. How could we have not known about an isolated and secret society in our midst…?”
“And did you ever see any workers coming and going from there?”
“And these people are not any of the crowd in the main cave that we saw on the day of the last crisis?”
“No. They don’t dress the same and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before.”
“Speaking of dressing: you were organizing your closet and you were going to finish unpacking the seven chests of the Nipusindi.”
“Well, yeah, but I’ve been busy…”
“Well now that you’re part of the upper-upper strata of society, you may want to wear some of the clothes from the chest.”
“I don’t know what to choose or where to put it all and, um, how to organize…”
“I would think they have endless closets in a palace, and some kind of servant who can help you. Didn’t you say there’s a large staff?”
“Well, I just met the Gavicte and I wanted to study some documents before seeing my Mieta … Oh damn, oh Kievifkwa!”
“What’s Kievifkwa ?”
“Oh hell, it’s just our general all around curse word, or expletive… you know how I am with definitions…Oh Kievifkwa! And damn, how am I going to remember all these rules and stuff…”
“What stuff is that?”
I explained to Doug what little I knew about the weapons in the armory and about the rules for intruders. I said, “There’s a possibility that James Ziohat might accidentally drill into the ceiling of the Kmpamew.”
“It’ll never happen: the little twerp just talks big. His grand plans never go anywhere… but I’ve got better news…”
“I get to paint on the ceiling of the Kmpamew.”
A Walk in the Park
I decided that Doug and I are too obsessed with our projects and we should just go for a walk. He’s right about one thing: I should finish unpacking the seven chests of the Nipusindi. But I just dragged Doug into my bedroom, threw open the lids to all the chests, and started pulling things out and piling them onto my bed. I said, “Which of these do you think I’d look best in?” Doug seemed to point to one at random.
Doug said, “That one. The Royal purple dress with the gold trim or whatever…”
I stripped off the plain green dress that I had been wearing and I looked over at another of the chests. I threw a collection of colorful bras onto the bed. I said, “Which of these?”
Doug said, “First take this one off,” and he unfastened my plain white bra. He tickled his fingers over my nipples.
I said, “I’m getting dressed, not undressed. Remember?”
“So which would you choose?”
“Um, the one with the metal breastplate — the warrior princess look or um, whatever it’s called…”
“OK. But I’ll do it. I’m putting it on, not off.” Yes, I thought, we do need a walk in the fresh air. I slipped into the Royal purple dress. I said, “How does that look?”
“Does it fit? It doesn’t bulge anywhere?”
“No, no, no. It fits perfectly. Your body is perfect.”
I pulled out some other dresses. I said, “Maybe this one would be a better color?”
“Well, um, uh, that whole bunch looks like the wrong size?”
I said, “Uh, yeah, those seem different.” Then something weird happened: I found myself saying, “Of course those are different. They are the slave uniforms.”
“What did you say?”
“Oh, I don’t know why I said that. Um, OK, I’ll just put on some make-up and we’ll take a walk. OK?”
I rushed around and quickly got ready. I took Doug’s hand and we were out the door. “You know, I’ve been meaning to ask you…”
“Whenever I go in or out from your apartment, I never see anyone… ”
“Uh, well, actually the whole building is empty except for me. All of the other apartments are just there to provide addresses and false identities so Utcoozhoo can launder money. He sells precious metals and other things from the Tzalbihuki under different names. The wealth that the gods brought us is what gives us a source of income. If an inspector comes, we put someone in an apartment for the day.”
We walked down the clean well-lit hallway with the gold carpet and plain white walls. I said, “Well if this is your building, maybe I could practice painting murals on these empty walls.”
“Sure. Why not.”
We arrived at the elevator with the car ready. “Oh, well, now I understand why the elevator is always here.” We stepped in, and I pushed ‘L’. “But if there’s no one here, what do we do in an emergency?”
“Oh we have double backup.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the original building plans don’t show it, but we took out several columns of apartments and we used two of those columns to make two extra elevator shafts.”
“Huh? How would we get out of here?”
“Well, see the handle on the side panel that says, ‘emergency only’?”
“That opens to a parallel shaft that has a hand operated pulley system with multiple shelves that fold at the top and bottom of the shaft to make a continuous loop.”
“No, you just open the door, pull down the nearest shelf and hop on. You can hoist yourself up, or let gravity take you down. Wanna see?”
“No some other time.” The elevator opened onto our opulent lobby with the red carpet, blush couch, and the fish pond. “You know, maybe you should invite someone, and make them wait down here just so someone can use the couch.”
“I suppose, but it’s really just a front.”
“Ah, it’s a sunny day.” Doug opened the door for me and we walked to the corner. The sign said ‘WALK’, so we did — across the street into the honking, dodging the cars that had trapped themselves in the intersection at the change of light, and we swirled around the line at the hot dog stand. We pushed our way to the pedestrian flow that was moving in our direction. I said, “Let’s walk to the park.”
“Look at that tourist over there coming towards us: She’s wearing your purple dress.”
“No. It has a different collar … How do you know she’s a tourist?”
“By the way she’s looking up at the skyscrapers and looking everywhere like she wants to take in every sight.”
“…yeah, stands tall, struts confidently with proud marching breasts…”
The woman smiled and passed us by, but I became worried. “Did you feel that?”
“What? I think she said something but I couldn’t make it out.”
“No, I felt an upper Utd’mbts word.”
“I could have sworn she said, ‘Yes, I’m a tourist of sorts.’ ”
“No. She didn’t speak. She pushed an Utd’mbts word into your subconscious and you allowed it to bubble up into your consciousness, though a little distorted.”
“Hmm. Now that you mention it, it did feel like upper Utd’mbts. I haven’t tried using that in years…”
“I saw ‘Old Faithful’, the geyser at Yellowstone National Park, a plane to the city, a car to her hotel room, and her walking here… and she thinks you’re cute…”
“Hmm, um. Her life story in a second?”
“Sort of …”
“Wow. Great. Cool.”
“No. I’m not so sure it’s benign. I’m worried.”
We made our way towards the corner of the park. I think we passed the building with the trees on every terrace, and the buses faced us at every stop with their unloading commotions and their boarding confused hordes looking for cards and change. But mostly I didn’t notice if there were gems in the din, or new fashions in the store windows, no, mostly, I listened to the music of Doug’s chatter because I love the sound of his voice — it comforts me and I know when the song of his voice turns tender, when I laugh, that he loves to be with me, and when my word of acknowledgment makes him smile and pause, I know he loves me like the humming bird loves the flower however fast the flutter of his wings. I think perhaps I dress to be his nectar.
Doug said, “Could this be a Phthalocyanine Blue sky?”
“I mean, it seems like a god has lent you his brushes, and you’ve painted my sky. Is it you who paints my world?”
“No, it is you who shines on my tears, penetrates the rainbow of my feelings and I show you the canvas of the world as I see it. I look in your eyes and pray they will see every color that makes you happy and if I would be on your palette, brush me.” His hand brushed my cheek and touched my lips, but we nearly collided with a passerby who said, “Idiots!”
Doug said, “Maybe we are foolish to speak poetically. I mean, if we don’t speak colloquially or idiomatically in English, and develop such bad speaking habits, then how will we blend into the up-top world?”
I was a little insulted — I thought I was flowing and in tune with a romantic moment. I said, “No we’re not foolish. A little blend, a little metaphor. All things in moderation, as they say, but I say, except in matters of love, and then, and then, um…”
“Um, uh, and then the silent blend,” said Doug as he kissed my hand, and then we crashed into a hot dog stand.
Doug said, “Um, we’ll take two with sauerkraut.”
I said, “Mustard and chili.”
“Look, there’s a hansom cab parked up ahead and someone is giving the horse a carrot, and see over there the portrait artist doing someone…”
“Dougie Wougie Wougie, yeah, why don’t we cross over to the hotel side and then cross to the park? Yeah…”
“OK. You’ve got mustard and chili dripping down your face.” The vendor gave Doug a napkin and he wiped my face clean with love, patience, and indulgence if I may speak in such terms — I don’t know if I know the words for this moment.
An Attack at a Distance
We went down the corner staircase to the fork where the rocks rest in front of The Big Pond. A guitar and a saxophone player were tuning up while people climbed the rocks behind them, and people to the right in front sat on the grass behind the benches that lined the northward path.
We took the westward path, along the pond, the water and ducks on the right, a lawn, trees, and the border stone wall on the left. Above the wall we could still see the street in chatter-walking glory, see the hotels across the way, and we drank in the day, springy stepped and steeped in joy.
The benches were flecked with picnickers carousing, singles, double-troublers, troubadours, people, some at ease, one at an easel on the grass, and a bearded man washing his face at a water fountain.
We walked along until we could choose an interesting path that led into the interior of the park. At a short distance in, I felt an inner commotion. An influence swept by us. I said, “Did you feel that?”
Doug said, “Yes, I felt something in Utd’mbts: something about ‘Runaway Horse!’”
“Yes,” I said. Just then, a figure in a purple dress, far up ahead, ran across the path and up a rocky hill so fast that it seemed just a flash of color that froze at the top. Two others in purple followed right behind.
Doug said, “Another word: it feels dire, but I can’t understand it… ”
I pulled Doug over behind a tree. I said, “Duck down and stop thinking — meditate on nothingness.” One of the figures pulled out what looked like a weapon of some kind. A beam of light struck the figure who stood still and then vanished in place; there was no fall, change of position, or obstruction, but the figure was just gone instantly. Doug was not focused and reacted. I said, “Doug! You spoke to them in Utd’mbts.”
“Yes, we’d better run.” We turned and ran back the way we came, and then across and up an outcrop of rock. We could see the two figures go under a pedestrian bridge, open a door and disappear. “Watch what you say!”
“I don’t know what I said.”
“What? Um, is it safe now?”
“I think so. I don’t feel anything.”
Oh, well, this is the second time we had had a bright sunny morning, and an ominous afternoon. But this time we decided not to rush into anything. Last time, when we rashly chased after Zusoiti, Doug was nearly killed by a hand gun. But this seems to be an escalation: I had thought weapons from the sacred tiboesri were never to be used up-top. Whoever this was, evidently, is willing to use the legendary acacizg weapon. With the exception of it possibly being used in ancient times, as described in the Ofuye, I don’t think it has ever been used before. It was to be stored for the Gods return. But I’m not sure if the brew of this storm is mixed with lightning or with swirling updrafts.
I suppose jogging and dodging through traffic and crowds back to Doug’s apartment had been good exercise, and I had gotten to practice seeing upper Utd’mbts, but in my fancy flights I think I have felt more like a pigeon than a hawk, not much like a dove, because my anger waits for its eagle nature to emerge while I rest in the fatigue of ruffled feathers, a sadness that reigns in the unknown. I wonder how it is that Doug remembers a little Utd’mbts in a crisis, but usually doesn’t know any; it’s not that I’m an expert or anything (and I too often only speak the verbal lower Utd’mbts) but …
Oh I forgot the point I was going to make. So anyway, we got back safely, Doug made eggplant parmesan with sardines, anchovies, and cherries, and I made mocha-cinnamon-ginger coffee with banana ice cream on top, a happy foam.
We ate in the dining room which we used to call the banquet room, but ever since Doug bought a new table at “Curiosity Tables” in the village, it doesn’t seem so elegant or royal. The guy told Doug it was made in the 1950’s but I think it’s too primitive — more like the 1890’s. Oh Kievifkwa, what do I know: I’m not a furniture expert; I should ask Chloë. Well, it is a curiosity: the table setting areas on the periphery are normal, but the center is taken up by an oblong conveyor belt. The whole thing seats thirty without a squeeze, but there’s usually just the two of us. Mostly, we sit together at one end, but sometimes we sit at opposite ends of the table so Doug can play with the mechanism. He puts the plate down at his end and it circles around the table until it reaches me. We don’t do it much anymore because he once told me to pass the pie while we were sitting at opposite ends. It annoyed me. I raised my pitching arm and threw it at him like a flying saucer. He threw it back and so no more face-offs.
I think we’ll ask Chloë to find us an elegant table, or we’ll just put the old one back. This time, Doug served me graciously, and we sat together staring into each other’s eyes.
It had been a delicious meal and we were more relaxed, but the thought of some sort of Wipzib roaming around in the up-top world was disquieting. I took a sip of coffee foam and used a spoon to eat a lump of ice cream still floating on the top. Doug jabbed at a piece of eggplant.
Doug said, “Y’know, I think you were right a while back when you said you thought you saw Zusoiti’s followers wandering the streets, organizing rallies. I thought at the time you were just imagining it.”
“I think it’s Wipzib.”
“Um, a secret police.”
“Well, um, we’re in big trouble. How minor is this catastrophe do you think?”
“Oh, just the end of the world… Just kidding… um, I think…”
“Hmm. The dance of doom. Is it? Well, so, what would Utcoozhoo say?”
“Yes? And what does that mean?”
“OK. Here we go again. Um, Tiglekso means, um, uh, um … “
“It means: there is no sense in brooding on possibilities in a fog that may yet bring water to a catch-net in the desert, no sense in not letting the music of fog horns teach caution when only the dawn will lift yearning spirits ready to grow in sun and in shade, these spirits who have looked for dream stars in the dark of nightly prayers, and no sense to brood when all is lifted by the clearing.”
“In short: don’t worry.”
“Oh? Fog condenses into water on netting hung on a tree?”
“Yes. This is just an approximation — you have to feel the word as a whole to see it all at once and the metaphors can change, although the underlying concept is static. At least that’s how Utcoozhoo last said it, I think. Maybe I’ll ask my Mieta, um, my tutor.”
“You have a tutor to teach you Utd’mbts?”
“Yes, his name is Apacevj. I’m supposed to make an appointment with him, but…”
“Yeah. Not just Utd’mbts: I have to learn rules and law and protocol and a bunch of other stuff. I’m in a fog… Hey let’s make a sunrise now!”
“What d’ya mean?”
“You get a tarpaulin or plastic sheet or something to cover the hallway carpet from your workroom, and meet me in the hallway. I’ll get some paints from my room. Race you to the hallway — loser cleans the dishes.” I knocked over my chair and ran toward the door.
Doug said, “Wait, not fair. You got a head start.”
I turned and shouted over my shoulder as I left, “And bring some brushes.” I got to my room, grabbed a bag, ran out through the living room into the hallway with my duffel bag packed with tubes of acrylic paints. I shouted, “I win, I win!” Doug came lumbering out onto the gold carpet with a giant rolled up tarp. He dropped it with a thud. I kissed him. We unrolled it all the way down the hallway and covered all the carpet.
“Wait,” he said. “I’ll get a bucket of white paint as primer and a bucket of blue for a basic sky background.”
“As long as you’re going, could you also look in my room and get some charcoal sticks or some soft 4B pencils…”
“OK,” he said and turned back. He has a nice behind and a bold brisk walk. I had some good ideas for a mural and for him.
Painting in the Hallway
It had been a long day and it was hard to get into my artist mode. I walked up and down the hallway, staring at the blank wall, trying to envision what I wanted to paint. I was thinking I didn’t really feel like brushing on a wide broad background first. Doug returned with the bucket of blue, the bucket of white, the charcoal, and the pencils. I said, “I know it’s harder, but I think I want to do a sketch first, do some fine shimmering detail around the edges and then the background last. Yeah, it’s backward, but it’s possible to do, and the wall is already in good shape — it doesn’t need any priming.”
Doug dragged the unneeded buckets across to the opposite wall, and brought me the pencils. He said, “Well, what I’ve done when my foreground has gotten out of control and destroyed the background beyond recognition is to sketch in some guide lines to keep the perspective correct for the beginning and end pieces of hidden objects in the background and … ”
“Yeah. I get it. I do my drawing first. Then, I could sketch guide lines for the background. I could start a horizon line and lift my pencil as I pull it through my sketch and push it down again as I reach the other border of my drawing. Yeah, I’ve got it. I can do it backwards… ”
“OK. Are we ready now?”
“Uh… You’re not going to be mad, are you if …”
“No. Did you forget something?”
I did the coy look. “You could do me a little favor …”
“What does the cute little Zawmbee Warmbee want to inspire and to equip the preparation of her pièce de résistance ?”
“Dougie Wougie-Wougie, Sir, if you would be so kind as to get a big bucket of plain water for rinsing and some little empty buckets for the little brushes… ”
“And could you get my purse and some skin lotion.”
“Alright. Is that everything?”
“Uh, and a partridge, and a pear tree. No, just kidding. And bring your gorgeous self back.”
“As you wish, Miss artist extraordinaire,” he said with equanimity though he did not exactly perform an entrechat — more of a trudge then a leap. But he can thrust his legs out in a wide strided power walk away in animalistic grace. I had my own purr waiting…
I walked to the end of the hallway and started a sketch of a deer. Not exactly right. I walked up and down the hallway, stopped in the middle, and sketched a tree.
Doug came back with all my stuff. He was sweating. I said, “Take off your shirt, and look at my deer sketch.”
Doug walked down the hallway. “It’s a good start… Y’know, I haven’t heard much about the deer this year…”
“Yeah. I noticed that. Every year they do stories about how the deer are eating people’s gardens and one group wants to hire hunters and another has some birth control scheme. With all the protest marches, nothing gets done, the population explodes and they starve.”
Doug said, “We’ve always just ate them. It doesn’t seem like such a problem.”
“Yeah. I don’t know — city people only eat cattle, I guess. But anyway, this year there are no stories.”
“What do you mean?”
“The deer have disappeared,” I said.
“Oh? Well, we have plenty in storage. Next time we’re in the cave I’ll try out a new recipe for some 20,000-year-old venison.”
“Yeah. I like your venison… And walk along and look at my tree sketch…” While Doug stood in front of the drawing, I gazed at his back. He has a thick ribbon of twisted hair down the center of his back that looks like a double-helix. The hair on the sides of his back has a horizontal growing pattern from the side towards the center. It was disrupted, so I took a comb out of my purse, combed his back hair from each side towards the center, and then softly brushed it in the same way with my hands. Doug turned and I combed his chest hair downward. His hair is soft: some blond, some brown, and some gray, although the ribbon down his stomach is all dark brown. I petted his chest with my hands and when I rested my hand over his heart, it was beating so hard I thought my hand would be bruised. When I asked how my sketch was, Doug couldn’t speak, and when I reached into his pants I knew why. I pushed him against the wall. I said, “I have an idea for a drawing. Stay here.” I unbuckled his belt…
Even in the very bright lights of the hallway, Doug looked delectable in the nude, and he stood tall and erect. I said, “I’m going to do a sketch first, but the theme of my painting is going to be ‘Flying mushroom fountain between two trees…’ or something like…”
Doug looked down at himself and said, “Well, uh, umm…”
I gently wrapped my fingers around his scrotum and rested my thumb on his lower shaft. “Hmm,” I said, “the shaft is thicker and wider than a mushroom, and the tip has complex curves, actually…” I unwrapped my hand and touched the tip with my forefinger. I said, “Hmm, only a portion of the top front part is a rounded sphere-like shape with two lobes, and uh, what would you say Doug?”
Doug said, “Uh huh, uh-ha uh-ha uh-ha uh-ha mmmm uh mmmm uh…”
I said, “I don’t understand… is that a breathing exercise?” Doug sounded like a speeded-up version of ocean waves crashing on the beach: the exhale like crashing waves, and the inhales like swooshy gasps. I ran my finger alone the surface towards the back edge. I said, “Hmm, the back edge curves upward, but a mushroom curves downward. Sort of like a ski slope or … What do you think Doug?”
Doug said, “Mmm uh, uh-haaa, uh-haaa, uh-haaa.”
I said, “Yeah, I think I have the basic form. I’ll do a sketch outline and then I’ll paint it.” I stepped back to get my pencils and look for a good spot on the wall.
Doug said, “Umm. You don’t want to get paint on you dress — why don’t you take it off.”
“Not yet,” I said. “I’m just doing a sketch first.” I found a spot on the wall next to Doug. But there started to be some changes, so I backed up, sort of hugged myself and did a little dance in front of Doug. He stood tall again and I went back to the wall, but I drew with my right hand and did some exploring with my left hand. I said, “Should this be a realistic painting or a surreal symbolic landscape?”
Doug said, “Uh-haaa, uh-haaa, uh-haaa, uh-haaa.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I should put in an ocean.”
Geez. Oh Kievifkwa! I’ve been struggling to do a Gijlek in Doug’s hallway. How am I going to do one on the ceiling of the Kmpamew if I can’t even practice a little splash of creativity. Well, I suppose I had demonstrated that I could exercise a certain amount of self-discipline by not removing all my clothes and throwing Doug to the floor right away, but I had struggled to stay in artist mode and only tease Doug and not myself, but he has always been so cute and… oh Kievifkwa, never mind.
I had finished the sketch when Doug said, “So now you’re going to paint. Right?”
“Yes,” I said, knowing where this was going, but I wanted to succumb to the emerging seduction, because his transparency of desire has its native charm, and even if he doesn’t know it, I think he is different from the tiger with alpha sperm, as no tiger wears a condom like he does, but his seeds in actuality are more like spiritual teachings by serendipity that would bear orphan followers, if bare essences be known, more like this than the seeds that would create his own child who he would dearly love if he could. So something of him must continue to thrive, and that is why I must keep him alive, because I am his only fun, his only true love, and I do love to play and why should I not be of pure lust sometimes. Philosophy can be written later when we conquer the world gently, when the outgoing tide leaves us oysters and pearls. Oh Kievifkwa, this is nonsense. I’m enough grandiose for two. Never mind. I can’t justify anything. I didn’t care. I’d eat my dessert if not first, then soon.
So I had done a preliminary sketch and had thought maybe after I got started, I’d just do pure painting from then on — and if necessary, even do more ‘sketches’ but with the brush and paint because it’s acrylic and not oil anymore; I could do quick changes.
But Doug had said, “You don’t want to get paint on your dress.”
I said, “OK. I’m going to paint now. I’ll mix up some flesh colors and if the wall is bumpy enough, maybe I’ll do a dry brush technique to get color variations just right.”
Doug said, “Y’know, you don’t want to get paint on your dress.”
“OK. Stay there. Stand tall.” I walked back a few steps to where I had dumped my purse and bag. I dumped out some tubes and a board. I squeezed a lot of white onto the palette board, and squeezed dabs of several reds, two yellows, two blues and I had to try to remember which was which: cadmium yellow medium is actually slightly yellow-orange and cadmium yellow light is slightly yellow-green, or is it the other way — oh phooey: mix and see, mix and see. Then oops: I almost dipped my dress into the paint(yeah, I know, I could have changed before I decided to run out into the hallway for this project). Yes, alright, it was time. I stripped off my dress. I carried the palette board in one hand, and my purse and a fist full of brushes in the other. I put them off to the side of Doug where I had started the sketch.
Doug said, “You don’t want to get paint on your bra, do you?”
I sat down in front of Doug, and looked up at his endowment. I said, “Hmm, these flesh colors are all different. Let me see the palms of your hands. Hmm, no, it’s not anything like that color; even the tip is darker than that, and the edge is an entirely different color.” I reached up and Doug’s knees bent and shook a little. I ran my hands up his inner thighs. I said, “How do I paint all these colors?”
Doug said, “Mmmm, uh, mmmm.”
“I want it,” I said, “to glisten in the sun for the painting. I got up and walked to the side to get my purse, look at the sketch, and mix a little paint.
Doug said, “How would I glisten in the sun — there’s no sun here and what color would I be in sunlight?”
I left the palette on the floor and came back in front of Doug with my purse. “Glisten?” I echoed. “Well, I can add a little shine.” I fumbled through my purse and found a tube of K-Y jelly. I put the purse down. I stood and squeezed some onto Doug’s shaft, let the tube drop to the floor, and spread the lotion with my fingertips. I said, “I think this will help capture the light and reflection and give the painting the right touch. Don’t you think so, Doug?”
Doug said, “Mmmmm, uh, mmmm.”
I sat down on the floor in front of Doug and looked through my purse. I tore open a package. I reached up and Doug’s knees bent and shook. I unrolled a condom on him, grabbed his hands, and like rowing a boat, pulled him down on me as I lay back onto the floor. He kissed me, thrusting like the artist he is.
So the painting wasn’t done — just an idea teased out, a glimpse of something to come. ‘The calm before the storm’ as they say, or is that ‘the calm before the orgasm.’ No, the storm before the … Never mind. It was play; it was a play for drama, for time and moves, a game, a passion flowering as we stood nude in the hallway.
After Doug had stood up and removed his condom, I had walked over to the scattered painting paraphernalia to dip one of the little buckets into the giant bucket of rinse water, and walked back to splash Doug’s new exposure and splash I did.
Doug said, “Yow. Is that for the painting?”
“No,” I said, “um, every cannon must be cleaned so it can fire again.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” he said as he casually kissed each of my nipples and made his way over to the buckets. He dipped two buckets into the water and brought them back. He gave me one and said, “I demand a duel at 30 paces.”
I said, “Huh?”
He rested the bucket on the floor, put my face in his hands and he kissed me. He said, “We stand behind-to-behind, walk thirty paces, turn and fire our buckets of water.”
“You mean, we stand with your little cute butt pushed against my voluptuous derrière, and then we each walk forward thirty paces and turn to throw water at each other?”
“Yes,” he said, picking up the bucket and turning.
I stroked his hairy cheeks, and then I turned and bumped him. We each walked forward carrying our buckets of water. Doug had walked only 15 of his 30 paces when I turned and watched his cute hairy butt and cute hairy back move down the hallway. I stopped, raised and aimed my bucket to wait for him to turn around. As soon as he turned, I threw it as hard as I could, but it didn’t reach him. He threw his and the water hit me between the breasts and dripped down. We raced to the big bucket to get more water. I took Doug’s hands, and we sat down and laughed.
Doug said, “You are a joy.”
“We are,” I said. But then I frowned.
“It’s an Utd’mbts word…”
“Uayi! It’s Apacevj.”
“Well, it’s very formal. It means, ‘If I may have your permission to fuse and join into the node of your beingness, I would wish to impart to you, with deference and respect, the essence of my cognizance that I fervently believe is an element of truth which I believe will be to your benefit and which I offer with benign intention.’ ”
“Um, it means that he says ‘hi’, may I speak to you telepathically for a moment please.”
“Oh. At least, a lot more polite than what happened in the park.”
“Yes. Um, give me a moment. I’m not used to this. This is very uncomfortable.” I lay down on the carpet and meditated. After ten minutes, I sat up.
Doug said, “What does he want?”
“He wants me to come back to the Kmpamew so he can properly teach me upper Utd’mbts. He says I’m awkward and not very fluent and it’s vital in these crisis times that I learn more.”
“He’s that blunt or…”
“No, I’m just summarizing it for you. He said it in a kind way. But…”
“But there’s serious things happening…”
Doug did the dishes even though I cheated on the contests for who gets to do it. But I don’t think he minds. He’s meditating while his body is automatically doing the chore. But he’s lost his way with meditation in general, I think — it can be an empty gesture if not done correctly. Utcoozhoo says, as a child , Doug spoke upper Utd’mbts fluently, but now, Doug mostly represses and blocks it — he almost always has to ask what something means. I don’t know exactly what happened to him to make him forget.
In the morning, at the breakfast table, I said, “I think I’ll at least meet Apacevj in person, begin a little instruction, and then start on my painting for the ceiling of the Kmpamew.”
Doug said, “Pirgrikwa! ”
“Hmm,” I said, “you suddenly remember this?”
“Something,” he said, “about all of this sudden outbreak of upper Utd’mbts speaking is disturbing. Is it even safe to contemplate that such a thing exists when most people are incredibly vulnerable, because they are only aware of such things in their dreams and even then, they protect themselves meekly with symbolism and rationalization. What if their defense mechanisms are manipulated by others deliberately?”
It was a little bit shocking to hear this outburst. “So how would you define ‘Pirgrikwa’ ?”
“Uh, well, um, uh… ”
“Vigilance is required whenever we feel driven to perform an action which relieves anxiety, seems mandatory to survival, but has no known rational or logical connection to the resolution of conscious dilemmas. ”
“Um, ubemuwx! And maybe if you practiced authentic meditation you’d know more…”
“Yeah, touché, but just be careful.”
“Yes, OK, I will, thanks. I love you… and I should pull myself together and call a cab to take me to a spot, a safe distance away from the secret entrance to the caves. I use slightly different locations each time, but the cabby usually looks at me and says, you want to get off here?”
Doug said, “Well, Utcoozhoo told me not to tell anyone but…”
“Uh, well, since you’re on the Grand Council, I suppose I could tell you…”
“Tell me what?”
“Uh, well, I know a short cut…”
“A short cut?”
“Well, remember how I told you there were two extra elevator shafts?”
“Yes. You pointed to a manual emergency exit…”
“Yes, well, there’s something on the other side…”
“Yes. You can get access to a train…”
“Train? What kind of train?”
“I’ll show you. I can get you to the sacred corridor and then you can go from there.”
“Oh, hey. That would be great.”
“OK. Get dressed and when you’re ready, I’ll take you.”
Taking a Train to the Palace
I was dressed in my formal purple dress with the gold embroidery that Doug calls my “Goddess Dress” when I saw that Doug was still at the breakfast table nursing his piece of venison and buffalo fried in duck fat with truffles. I said, “Let’s go. Put that away — you’re only picking at it anyway.”
“OK… or maybe I should bring it to snack on the way…”
“The oven and the stove are off. Right?” Let’s just go now. Don’t look so glum — I’ll make you some fresh in the sacred quarters. It’s not as if I’m asking you to defenestrate the baby from the fire.”
“Like when the Bohemians threw the emperor’s envoys out the window.”
“Egads, what obscure history that is. OK, OK, this meal is history.”
“Sorry about that: I’ve always wanted to find a way to mention the ‘Defenestration of Prague.’ I guess, most of history study is a waste of time.”
“Now, I think they say, ‘throw him under the bus,’ rather than out the window.”
“I’m not throwing you under the bus. I just want you to show me the train like you promised.”
“Yes, OK. I’ll go to the bathroom and be back in a second. You look great!”
“Meet you in the hallway.” And I dashed out. I was standing at the elevator when Doug returned.
Doug said, “Wait ‘til you see this. Step in.”
The doors closed. We faced front. Doug pushed STOP.
I said, “What are you doing?” I looked over to the right where it said ‘Emergency Exit.’ ”
“No. Here on the left. I’ll stay here and you go to the back of the car and feel along this left wall in the back until you find a slight indentation.”
I walked to the back and found something. “You mean, this?”
“Yes. Now wait. I have a matching one here up front. OK. I’ll count to three and we’ll both push together against the wall and then step back.”
“Yes, push and step back. We’re going to push the wall down. The top and sides will release and there’s a hinge on the bottom. Push and step back so you don’t fall forward. OK?”
“Ready. One, two, three, push!”
“Ugh.” I pushed, trotted back, and almost fell backward. The wall fell and became a platform. Straight ahead was the end car of a subway train. Doug walked out onto the platform to show me that it was safe. He pushed the handle on the door down and opened it for me. I walked across the platform and went through the door. The car was set up like a living room with a couch and a table. Doug came in. We sat on the couch. I said, “Now what?”
“You see the panel on the armrest? Push Q1”
“OK.” The car accelerated smoothly to a moderately slow steady speed. “This seems slow — is this going to take a long time?”
“No. It’s following a downward spiral inside the building. As soon as we reach the basement level and then proceed into the underground bedrock below the building, it’ll speed up. When we’re deep enough, it’ll level off and go fast.”
I looked out the window, but didn’t see anything except a narrow curved ledge. I could feel the continuous turning of the train, and the downward tilt. “We’re circling around inside the building?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
After I had just gotten used to all of the turning and tilting, there was a sudden change like we had just reached the top of a basement roller coaster and were about to plunge even further down, and I had grabbed Doug’s leg a few times on the way. A bing-bong noise had sounded. I had said, “What’s that?”
Doug said, “That means we’ve reached the basement level and will begin a downward plunge.”
It almost felt like free fall, and I was glad I wasn’t drinking any coffee. “Yow,” I said.
“Told you it would get faster.”
Just as I adjusted to the fall, holding Doug’s hand, the train slowed and leveled off. Then there was a buzzing sound. “What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the five minute warning. We should go over to the forward-facing G-posh chairs.”
“You mean we could be thrown off the couch or something onto the carpet?”
Doug led me over to one of the chairs. He said, “Have a seat. This will cushion the G-forces when we accelerate to super-speed.”
“This is a joke. Right?”
“No,” said Doug firmly, and he sat in another cushioned chair.
“I’d rather sit on the couch,” I said and I ran back to the couch and stretched out.
Doug said, “Come back quick.”
“If you insist.” And I mischievously sat on Doug’s lap facing him. The train took off like a jet and I got pushed onto Doug like I weighed a ton — I thought I was going to crush him. Doug tried to get to a seat belt but couldn’t. The train seemed to stop suddenly and I fell backward onto the floor with Doug on top of me. He braced himself with his arms, so it wasn’t too bad.
Doug kissed me and said, “Are you alright?”
As he fondled my whole body, I said, “Not now. I’m supposed to see Apacevj. Remember?”
“Oh yeah. Well we’re here.” And the side doors opened.
We came out onto a platform with rock walls and no sign of an exit. I said, “Uh, well, we’re here. Where’s here? I have to get to the sacred corridor.”
“Yes, don’t worry. We just have to open a door. It’s right behind these rocks, somewhere, um.”
Doug walked along the rock wall. He said, “Uh, yes, right here.”
“I don’t see a door.”
“OK. We just do the ‘ka’ sound thing like you taught me once. You know, you make the gargle sound, then the ‘ka’ on the roof of the mouth, and the motor sound through pursed lips until your sinuses vibrate.”
“Yes, I know that one. ” We did the sound together and adjusted our tones until the beats made a wah-oh-wah-oh sound. I made the same mistake I did the last time and a rock from the ceiling crashed beside us.
Doug pointed in front of us. He said, “No, focus here.”
We did it again and a slab of rock rotated on one edge and opened like a door. I could see my paintings through the doorway. We walked into the sacred corridor.
Doug had said he recognized the passageway to my old sacred quarters when I realized that he could sense that I wasn’t going to invite him to the Kmpamew. “Well,” I quickly said, “I know I said I might invite you to stay at the Kmpamew, but I have all these official things to learn, and uh, well…”
“Actually, the only way you would be allowed into the Kmpamew is if I officially appoint you to some position, um, y’know, like Minister of Finance.”
“No, I don’t think I could be Minister of Finance.”
“Or you could marry me…”
“Uh, um, good luck with your studies, and…”
“Or you could be my official Lalasaco.”
“It’s the Priestess’ official escort or consort or ‘satyr in residence’…”
Doug hadn’t slept well in days, hadn’t been able to make much progress with his novel, and I think, given his eokxavexa, doubted he’d ever finish. “Yes,” he said, “I suppose I’ll never learn to love truly, never really be of any significant value except to offer a jester’s lust: seductive speculations and a dance for profundity, like a rain dance that never produces rain.” Doug turned away, but I heard him cry as he ran up the far stairs of the corridor, past the children’s art works, and turned toward the stairs that led to the Qukwerpfm, the Cathedral formation, and past the golden stalagmite.
I had a little silly note that I wrote for Doug, but I never gave it to him. It seemed too absurd, and I didn’t think he could understand it. I don’t know, I’ve always written silly things. I took out a folded up silly paper: “I’ve written many fairy tales, illustrating them in paintings of my heart, but every time I’ve read it again, I’ve seen you a vision there, and I have always searched for you, my Prince.” But I don’t want to appear silly. Oh, but I could do with a jest, and why couldn’t he be my laugh if I am in his smile.
I had gone too far with the light banter, and should have known that even if he didn’t articulate it that he really wanted more than to be able to brag to his male friends of his sexual prowess, and sometimes the humor of lightness and the avoidance of serious issues goes too far. Sometimes accidents of slight are fatal. I hope not.