Norman Allan
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Art and Fiction

 
Chapter Twenty One:


Tangerines and oranges splattered down round Noname Khan Say.d Ali Berber, and everybody sang "tangerines, tangerines". Chris felt confused. And dizzy. "I must sit down," he spluttered.

Ishtar led him to the shade of the tangiers tree and helped him recline his head in her lap.

"I think I've overdosed on something. The bububur spiked my confiture. Or oiled my coffee."

The mermaid placed her palm on Chrisí belly. A calmness thrilled him. He looked into Ishtar's eyes. "Are you really a mermaid?"

She smiled. "I am. Iím sent to visit men because you are murking up our mother sea and father sky. Iím sent by the fin to spy."

"Spying is dangerous," said Chris.

"Ignorance is worse."

Chris shrugged and changed the subject. "How old are you?" he asked.

"Iím eleven, which is a very young woman, I know, but it is quite an old fish."


In the background the actors bickered. No longer on stage, they sat round the table a short way off drinking tea and haggled.
"For this I left my Hapsburg prince in Vienna," Kali complained.
"I trained you. I make you everything you know," Sa.id quarelled.


"I don't trust the Berber," Chris confided.

"He needs great understanding," said Shshtar.

"Why bother?"

"I bother because he is my father."

"Your father?"

"Yes."

"And your mother?"

"My mother was a dolphin. I was raised by the fin."

"Mmm!" Chris snorted, a comment on his distaste for Hassan Berber..

"She seduced him," said Ishtar.

"I still don't trust him. Letís go over and see what theyíre up to."


Chris and Ishtar joined the tea party. Carlo and Kali nodded acknowledgement and continued their hassling.

"Augh, the grievances," prompted the robot.

"Right. No bath, no Blue Lady," Mama pronounced.

"What is this Blue Lady?" Chris asked innocently and in answer Mama soliloquised: "Sometimes, if I am not too tired from telling fortunes, juggling, driving the wagons, the children... sometimes I woad be blue and dance the Kalikalis round the campfire - the dance of the Blue Lady - it is an illusion - many hands and arms and life and death - so I dance and Iím blue, sometimes, once in the moon be blue. But never without a bath. I must wash off this blue body paint. No bath - no Blue Lady."

"When the moon is full," Ishtar corrected, "Kali is blue anyway."

"Blue like the mood?" Chris queried. "I'm very confused. I think I've said that before, I think."

"He thinks," lshtar explained, "that Noname doped him."

"Oi!" Kali shook her finger at the Berber. "Apologise:"

"But of course," said Sa.id. "Excuse me, Pasha. The oil in the coffee this morning, I meant it to be a treat. A simple extravagance, which you could not handle."

"Fuck you," said Chris.

"No really," said Hadji. "I would not try to harm you. What, in front of these good people? They are good friends."

Mama laughed.
"Aum, nice weather we're having," said Carlo, and he sipped his tea.

Suddenly the Berber stood up. "Watch now," he said. Something over by one of the caravans had caught his eye and with a swift deft movement of his wrist he flicked the brass tray out from under the tea things and with another, kif kif (swift deft flick of the wrist), he flung the tray away like a Frisbee. It hovered, moved a little to the left, lifted, moved back to the right, then swooped forward and downward to its mark, during which time Hassan had time to say several things:

"To juggle the words and the balls is one thing. This plate throwing thing however - "tray-fling" we call it - this is another master. When you can throw the tray to find the futureís" target zen you being to know where the world is going."

During this speech the others were able to project the tray's trajectory and spy its intended target. Over by the wheel of one of the wagons, peaking out, was a clock-work mouse. It scurried to the left, stopped; dashed to the right to hide behind the wheel, but the Frisbee curved in, fell back upon itÖ SMACK! bits of fur(nylon), wheels and springs, exploded.

A silence settled a moment while they pondered.
"This is not a Company mouse," said Sa.id.


At this point a shaggy dog trotted in from the edge of the caravan circle over to the remains of the exploded mouse. It sniffed, snuffled, nosed about, and commenced to bury the wreckage.

"A Company dog?" asked Chris.

"Not that shaggy," said Khan.

"What?"

"He's a free-lance dog," said Carlo.

The shaggy finished his digging and came over to rub against the robot's legs, tail wagging.

"Catch him!" Sa.id commanded.

Carlo lunged at the dog in a clumsy automaton fashion, and the dog trotted happily off.

"This shaggy dog has been hanging round the circus following us for weeks," said a puzzled Noname Khan. "I must learn more about him."


Chris and Shshta sat again apart from the others under the tree shade. It was noonish and hot. Dusty.

"I would love a bath," said the mermaid.

"Hadji took me..." Chris started to say.

"Hadji?" asked Ishtar.

"Nonamekhan in Ketama, and before, called himself Hadji Baba. I was saying, Sidi Hassan, Sa.id, took me to a beautiful glade yesterday. Such fresh water. But itís too far away. Half a days walk back past Ketama."

"Letís go!" said Ishtar.

"We can't," said Chris.

"Nothing is so impossible! We'll take the bike," The mermaid called, " Daniel!" A surly grease haired youth appeared in Chris' leather jacket. "Can we take the bike awhile?" asked Ishtar.

Dan thought. "Okay," he said, "but tell him to be more careful than last time. It took days to dry it out and clean it properly." He turned and left and returned moments later wheeling Nemesis.


And Chris was on his bike again, with Ishtar pillioned behind him. They flew over the road, robes flowing, just the wind resisting. Slowing, Chris turned from the road and pumpbouncing through grass and path entered yesterdayís grove.



(please send illustrations for chapter twenty one)

Chapter 22