Norman Allan
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Art and Fiction


Chapter Twenty Seven

Somewhere in the forest of Roaratuni, in a glade or clearing, lulled by the rustling of the boa.tree, Chris Pasha rested his questing feet and tried to "organise things". He felt responsible. "We've got to do this right this time," he told himself.

Ishtar and Zak sat together. Zak had carried the mermaid many days over the mountains. Now leisured, Ishtar fussed tangles from the yak's coat.

"What we do is this: we'll collect as many gi'me grubs as we can find, plant them on a bush branch to watch and see what preys on them," said Chris, talking mostly to himself. "We'll build a hide. If we build it from grass the fumes should peace us for a long visual. Once we discover which what eats the grubs - my guess is the boomfowl, and maybe the firebirds, but there may be other things one wouldn't suspect - we have to decide what will best suit Morocco. Then get back to Morocco. A desert crossing is out. Best is probably Khartoum and fly. If we can get back to the Rif with a few crates of boomfowl, or whatever, we'll have to breed them like crazy. It's going to take several years to re-establish a proper balance in Morocco."

At this point Zak interrupted with a grunt and pointed (a gesture of the nose) to the far side of the clearing. Recall that all sorts of plant species appeared to grow directly out of the boa.tree. Halfway up a more than sprig of nirvana arising from the tree, a group of gi'me grubs was crawling around, nibbling and playing. As Chris and Ishtar and Zak watched these little denizens of the bough frolic, a boomfowi strutted into the clearing. The boomfowl took no notice of the travellers, but got excited hearing, and then seeing the caterpillars. The boomfowi catapulted over to the weed where they were as if snapped by an electric band. It focused its darting attention pincer-like on one particular grub.

The boomfowl started to dance, and the boomfowl started to sing. Its beautiful base baritone made the clearing ring. Its song was happy. Its song was also sad. It brought tears to the eyes of all who heard, but it also made them glad.

The boomfowl strutted beneath the boo bush sprig, its attention riveted on the one grub, electrically elastically pulling them together. The grub, hypnotised, crawled down out on the bottom-most leaf to the tip of an enormous leaflet which drooped with the grubs weight to nearly touch the ground. Anchored to the leaf by its posterior clasper, the grub reached out to the serenading boomfowl as to a lover.

As the boomfowl reached the finale of its song with notes ascending timelessly, zap, snap, it snatched the grub and swallowed.

"It is as I thought," Chris congratulated himself. "The grub riddle is solved." Three more boomfowl raced into the clearing and dashed over to the grub invested shrub. The grubs were not mused, but complained raucous. From somewhere many butterflies appeared, hovered, wings spread, and spread their light. The band-wagon boomfowl hung their heads and slunk dejected from the clearing.

"What?" Chris puzzled, his brows quite knitted. "There is a biological control of some sort," he went on to advise Ishtar and Zakeri, "but it's very complex, or rather itís rather subtle..." He wasted several minutes sorting verbal concepts round the fact that it didn't look like there was going to be a straightforward answer to the gi'me grub question after all.

Pass on to another glade in the jungle where again the nirvanaleaf grew abundant. Chris smoked to celebrate the boo. lshtar and Zak didn't smoke, but chewed. Now this particular patch of boo was very "zonky", so that they all felt high and light and floating and sprawled out on the ground.

Chris stared blankly into the tree, into the foliage, into the mottled moving shadows. The foliage made faces at him. In a sudden crystalization the awareness surfaced that he was looking into a pair of inverted eyes: into a face, upside-down. Adjusting his eyes to see what he now believed he was seeing, Chris saw that there was indeed a somebody hanging in the air by its feet. These feet were held in the grip of a young chimpanzee, and he, the chimp, in turn hung from another, and so on up into the air, into the tree, five chimpanzees and a boy dangling. Round them echoed parody a monkey chain twelve monkeys long.

Zak grunted and leapt to stand in one movement like a switch-blade. Ishtar, grasping a horn of yak, rose to, as did Chris.

"This must be one of the where it's at," said Chris

"Are you of he Whereizzat?" asked Ishtar.

"Why yes," sang the boy dropping from the end of the chain and twirling to land on his feet. He did not speak his answer - 'talked not they there like you and I. Sang-say they.'

"Wa haha," sang the boy and in this tune Chris found that he knew boys name was Halillu. (There were a couple of butterflies close by seemingly in attendance on the young native. As he sang they glowed and pulsed with his voice. It was in their glimmerings that Chris saw, or heardÖ that Chris sensed meanings.

So Christopher stood face to face with the Whertzat, and wondered what to say. Fumbling he began by clearing his throat. The boy turned to the butterflies, which didn't actually glow to Chris' cough, but spluttered.

"Yes," sang the boy. "You hum the tune and I'll sing along."

"Well, it's like this: we've got a problem, and we'd like to, ah, to talk to someone," said Chris, not singing.

The boy looked puzzled.

"Well then, how about, take us to your leader?" Chris tried.

"Problems aren't happy here," sang the boy, "We mend them or send them away. Do you need your problems?"

"We don't want them." said Chris. "We want to fix them."

The young native was much perplexed. "If you donít want them how come you've got them?"

"You canít always get what you want," Chris tried to explain.

"Oh?" keyed the boy. "I don't know that tune. Sing me some more."

Not only the boy, but Chris too was having difficulty following the conversation. "Look," said Chris. "We have an urgent problem. It's about the butterflies. The butterflies are overrunning the world..."

"Butterflies do not run over," sang Hallelu doubtfully, scratching his head. "We do not duet," he sang. "We may go to the Node where we would concert. Come." And Halleluja, with five chimps scrambling after, led Christopher and Ishtar on Zak through the Roaratuni forest. The monkey chains, though, still hung back in the tree.

illustration by Kano

Chapter Twenty Eight