The Fog Of The Caveman’s Blog, Part 1


Chapter One



     I’ve heard I should do something bloggy on the Internet if I’m going to fit into the up-top world. Therefore, consider this my entry zero. But if I’m really eokxavexa as Utcoozhoo thinks, it does seem pointless. I was going to just post poetry here like Utcoozhoo wanted me to do to establish a footprint on the beachhead of humanity, not revealing the secrets of our Neanderthal culture, but that wouldn’t be very satisfying to me. He always says:
     “First, one must practice English, a subset of thought, until that is as familiar as walking in the dark to pet the lion. To turn on the light too soon can arouse the appetites in the wrong order. Utd’mbts, a thunderous whisper, is the poetry of the gods no one shall utter lightly.”
     Huh? Yeah, yeah, whatever. My father was ashamed to teach me Utd’mbts, so I don’t know it that well. I don’t think that any translations I could ever learn to do would ever bring any lightning bolts, even if I could ever understand the ancient knowledge. This modern era is very uncomfortable for me, so I’ll just throw in a few gratuitous poems in English for my own diversionary comfort, but I promise to fade into standard prose very soon as my adventures unfold. Zawmb’yee says she sees interesting turmoil in the future — that sounds like that ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Please, forgive a shy caveman his tentative introduction to the modern world.
     I’m an outcast from many worlds (or is that renegade on a multiplex). My father was a Neanderthal and my mother was French. When I write in standard English without any allusions to caveman culture, no one knows my hairy dispositions and Neanderthal prides. I’ve seen that no one really pays attention to nom de plumes and all that, so I could be Caveman Doug or Henry Le Châtelier, I suppose, as neither is very notable or notorious, and I can always claim to be French. Obscurity allows for much anonymous practice, unseen in a crowd of chatter, for falling on one’s face into only a small puddle, not into the mud of a rock concert whose milieu only a few perceive as the muse’s musical rain, but most suffer as a drunken Zeitgeist without the gravitas that they are to claim years later. Maybe I should just do short poems like “Cirrus”:

Deep is the puff of your word
the tuft of wispy breathless love
a dear cloud for my sky I use
as pillow to sleep in
your fluff without rain
could we be cumulus

     Nah, who cares about fluff pieces (Hey, is this colloquial enough — haven’t I mastered idiomatic English enough to pass as not caveman? I think it’s approaching conversational without affectation. I’ve got those careless redundancies and a few Y’know’s — right?)

     OK, so I’m sort’a making a diary here. What do I do now. I guess I can just begin with a Dear Diary:

     There is some disturbing news on American television. What a cruel twist of fate that just when we cavemen have decided to emerge from the caves and other secret places, a company has made commercials mocking us. We had been keeping a low profile, but some Neanderthal decided to join the upper classes and began calling themselves neo-sapiens or cavemen and flaunting their money. I don’t know how they expected to walk amongst men without problems; they have neither boyish charm, nor savage enchantment.
     I would have preferred to remain in the cave and woods, but with modern media, there’s no more hiding, and I probably should establish myself outside the cave where the Grand Council has no jurisdiction — Utcoozhoo seems to think their benevolent dictatorship is about to transform itself into a malignant evil that might even threaten the up-top world, but politics doesn’t interest me. I’ve been to the city, and I can see why they call the city a “concrete jungle”. But the women are beautiful and graceful like deer…

On forest’s edge
my spear seems not steady
stone’s throw away
from missing red deer
gone with cattle, fenced
by plank woods, tame

Still frozen out
on edge
I’ve lost my
beyond the Ice Age

She is like a red deer, but
she will not stray
stays deep in the jungle; it’s

hard to ambush her heart
when I am edgy
my spear heavy

she will not touch
the edge of my brow
the forest of my desire
I meet her for coffee
at the Antelope Hotel
mind my manners —
small spoon on cantaloupe

I’ve made a date with her. I guess I should keep her anonymous, otherwise she’ll be a laughingstock. I’m not quite comfortable yet doing a full diary. Starting with another poem might work for me with the caveat that I’ll promise to knock-off the poetry and do real writing soon. I’ll work into it. I’m not sure about the protocols for a Blog, but I suppose I could number the entries. Let this be:

ENTRY 1 — Good News Going To Dinner

Her roundness astounded me
glorious ballet danced her
to our table
ecstasy tableau

The mâitre d’ hôtel
knows her kindness
smiles at us,
will serve
mixed pleasures
without a raised eyebrow —
he is a fine shaman
uncorks champagne
and venison.

Gorgeous is the evening
when she speaks to me
as hunter of love
knows my appetite profoundly

She stroked
the hair of my back
my buttocks,
raised me right
with sheep skin
on my rod
to save my genes
for a future
cherished child
when glory would be our name,
dancers of wealth
secretly sharing
with every child who cries
as have we

Never have I seen
such a feast

She is a smile, and
I am a sigh,
my hug accepted.

I am we,
we sing

Ring me forever


Y’know, despite their claimed sophistication, some of the neo-sapiens don’t want to scientifically examine some of our traditions. They think it is mere superstition and would embarrass them if held up to scrutiny. Utcoozhoo, especially, knows that the neo’s are ashamed of our traditions and secrets. So the neo’s are not as modern as they think they are — not open minded, not willing to examine all possibilities in an objective way….But I’m annoyed that Utcoozhoo allows their ridicule and doesn’t debate with them, and will not reveal the secret of the gods that would astound them. They, in their way are backward and stubborn in spiritual matters, but so too Utcoozhoo is stubborn and backward in not embracing the best of the modern age — I don’t think he realizes that the gods might not have been gods.
     I have a computer in an apartment outside the cave. A word processor helps with the writing. I’ve tried to save my thoughts in rhyme, to be the Neanderthal poet laureate, but it’s so tedious coming out of the cave, though I know the maze of passages, just to post at a computer, so far, so foreign to me, an artist not a hunter, perhaps a proto-shaman who still can not do routine traipsing like a meditation, who feels no ontology snaking around stalagmites as a native not a tourist, bored. Maybe I should run cables into the caves, pirouette a line around lime and trouvère. I’ve heard the ancients say there are silken spider ropes below the floor. Now that sounds like cables from the gods, but the ancient technology doesn’t seem likely to be compatible – doesn’t seem wise to ask the Cableman to hook up to “this” and not ask any questions, and I’m not even sure if it’s output or input. I’ll have to come out of the cave to post.


The city woman wants me to embrace the modern age. She’s telling me to be more civilized like the neo-sapien upper-class snobs who we, before the language change, called the hunter class — our artists and priests were never allowed to be leaders. I call you all the time, she says, you’re never home, you don’t answer e-mails don’t pick up the phone. Yeah, I know — mostly, I’m not in my apartment. I’m in the cave. I can’t lay cable in the cave to connect to the Internet —
can I ?

Entry 4

beseeches me e-mail
be phone touching
encore calling,
would lend me
a cellphone
an earful

But I
haven’t told her
the cave is too deep
for signal

Let the gods
lay me a cable
I say

Might I
lay aside
the ancient
with a toast to modernity
if the Lady
needs a cable
in the cave

“Secrets are sacred.
Don’t approach the Sun Fire
nor the growling spears
of the sacred spider
’til gods return to sear
the rock with silk”

Hey maybe
I’ll just flip a switch
or something,
drill through rock
e-mail, cell phone reception
end of tension

     Utcoozhoo has been cranky lately. You’d think he’d be happy, because he finally got an apprentice to pass on the oral history – they do a lot of chanting and humming. I said to Utcoozhoo, wouldn’t it be easier to just write it all down. He said, the language of the gods can’t be written – only seen. The only thing that interests me is that odd saying, “The wearer of the hat can stab through rock with an endless spear.” Oh hell, I think I’m just going to explore the chambers beyond the dome of the endless light. I can’t see what these superstitious curmudgeons are afraid of. They’re waiting for the gods to return. I can’t wait for that – it could be a thousand years from now or never. If there is some kind of drilling machine, I could use it to finally hook up my computer in the cave.

     I finally got Zawmb’yee, Utcoozhoo’s apprentice, to open up a little. She says she finds the exercises exciting but tedious. Utcoozhoo doesn’t think she’s ready for any ancient secrets. She’s been practicing the “seeing of knowledge”.
     “Huh?” I said. “Exactly what are you doing?”
     “We walk past the glass wall, around the sword of the silver-red stalagmite. I turn my back while Utcoozhoo opens the ngtqua entrance…”
     “He has a key?”
     “I don’t know. I don’t look. Sometimes it takes too long. He tells me to be quiet so he can concentrate. It’s so boring — I sit down with my back to him, put on my headphones and listen to music. That annoys him sometimes — says how can you get into a mystical mood listening to rock music. I laugh — he says no pun with “rock”. But anyway, when he’s finished yelling at me, I sit down with my back to him again and he does whatever…”
     “Yeah, yeah, yeah, and then what?”
     “We go down the golden steps into the darkness to the floating bed…then there’s meditation…”
     “I can’t tell you anymore. You know, ‘secrets are sacred’ and all that. Bring me a gift and maybe I’ll tell you.”
She’s a tease.

     Hmm, Zawmb’yee, wants a gift. I don’t know, I don’t have any money right now. I spent all my money on Chloë, the lady at the Antelope Hotel(I know I said I’d keep her name anonymous because she’d be the goat of a joke if it were known she goes out with the Caveman, but I don’t think just a first name will do any harm.). I could write a poem for Zawmb’yee. I don’t know if she’d accept that as a gift, I think it depends on whether when she says, “gift” she means gift or bribe. There’s good news and bad news, I think. If she wants a bribe, then I can easily find out stuff, but then she’s really not trustworthy to receive the wisdom of the ages. On the other hand, if she really wants, umm, me as gift then… oh, God, she is beautiful… I must compose a poem for her, but she is too spiritual for my crude verse. I mean, Chloë, I think, is easily impressed by my poems of green pastures, but I don’t think Zawmb’yee will fall for me that easily.

     I could hear my phone ringing all the way down the hall as I came in this morning. By the time I got in the door it must have been ringing more than 10 times. Chloë was mad. She says you’re never home. Well, actually, I would say (but never tell her) that the cave is more like my home than is my apartment.
     Yeah, I know I promised to install a cable in the cave so I’d have an Internet link there, but I think it’s probably much too complicated and expensive.
     I had a dream about Zawmb’yee. She was teaching me meditation, but it was weird like a loss of identity — some sort of blending process. She opened the ngtqua by herself and we floated in. I’ve been thinking about that gift for her. I did write a poem about “gifts.” Maybe it’ll do:


She stared at her childhood tree
with the missing swing
where her sister once played in life

Behind the branch cracked window
of the house inherited from her mother,
she meditated on her husband’s gift
conjuring up a spectacular notion
though she starved but for love
with money from his carvings

Someday the perfect wood
he would carve with love

For now, an odd job here
and there could be no
saving his carving tools

He sold them to buy a swing of memories,
so she could finish grieving

She cut down the tree she knew
was the perfect block of wood

     Maybe this might be “spiritual” enough for Zawmb’yee. I don’t think Chloë would like it. They are so different, but I don’t know who’s more exciting…

     Zawmb’yee is more of a tease than I thought. I wrote the poem out for her with a brush on a canvas. She sat by the underground-river Zhushcratylm, gently rested the tips of her fingers on the canvas with her eyes closed. “Yes, ” she said, “it demonstrates the devotional stage, but there is no sharing of thoughts.” She took my hands, made a gentle humming sound like a ferocious purr, said: thank you and next week I’ll show you a vision in the fifth passage. Then she said, your phone is ringing — don’t you think you should leave the cave. A quick kiss and I found myself leaving…

     I find myself thinking about Zawmb’yee everywhere I go. I wonder how she is able to navigate in the mainstream world above ground. I know she lives in the sacred quarters in the cave but is also expected to mingle in the city and across the world. It’s hard for me to imagine such a spiritual person riding on a common bus to meet me for lunch or come to my lonely apartment, see me type a poem into my computer, pull me away for more embraceable things:


I imagine you drifting
in thoughts on the bus
by the window with
a mystery package

Hear me honk
see me as the bird
that flaps a clap
applauding your reverie

On your way, squealing
with the wheeling of the bus
I am the squeaky brakes
squawking to see you; I am
the roar of the engine

Wake up. Don’t
miss your stop
don’t drop your
precious package

Arrive soon, because
I can’t wait to
open you up
to ride with me

     I imagine her everywhere, doing her “learn the culture” exercises for Utcoozhoo — smiling on strangers at every museum, chatting at every Opera, commiserating at every bar, a discreet angel with casual compassion. But I am infused with the perfume of her joy:

You In Me

I woke up to my
longing for you; coffee
bit my dream
I stirred your cream

If I dress to seek you
will I know where
passion gallivants

You haunt me with
your many haunts. I
feel a phantom kiss
and miss the bliss from
flesh and ardor, belief bones
troubles massaged in a love whisper,
soothing music
melodic compassion

I am out to find you
driven like the mating birds;
walking, I hear the coos
but let them fly unknowing
for I have a gift for us:
wait ’til you
see me smile
everywhere I know you

But then Chloë is to call and my body is at attention…

     I was thinking the other day, sitting under the Dome of the Endless Light by the K’ut’mbletaw’i River, that Utcoozhoo promises many spectacular things to Zawmb’yee, but it’s always in the future. When she wonders if anything he says is true, he always tells her the story of Tpiqlat’ng who was everywhere, nearby, and beneath all things at the same time. Nobody believed Tpiqlat’ng either. The day Tpiqlat’ng returned with great treasures for everyone, rather than be grateful, they demanded to know where he got it. He was nearly beaten to death when he told what they thought was a grandiose lie:
     “I rode the river to the place of the gods where I was given the honor to ride with them on a flying mole in a fire tube under a great ocean to the Rocky Mountains.”
     He begged for one last chance to prove it to them. He said, “Whoever is as brave as they are angry, come meet the gods.” The few volunteers he took to the K’ut’mbletaw’i (means, “They say it speaks to wash away false beliefs”). All but the meanest one came back with great wonders. The gods left him behind — they say by his choice.
               And then after all that babble, Utcoozhoo won’t even tell her what treasures and who was left behind for what purpose. Now doesn’t that just become another spectacular story promised for the future?
     She says she wants to talk to me about one of her homework assignments. Gee, I don’t know that I can be of any help….

     Zawmb’yee always seems to come out of nowhere when I’m writing by the K’ut’mbletaw’i. Poor Zawmb’yee — another disappointment, or delay. She broke into my musing with “I saw the pfambuuwisen, the blue dream-stars shining on glistening water like crystal and all that, but now Utcoozhoo gives me a puzzle: ‘How are we like blue sheep?’ He says you know.”
     “I know? How do I know…?”
     I’m working on it. OK, I see I’m not really doing this diary thing very well, because some days I don’t write very much. I’m just not that talkative, and I never did this before. Some people kept diaries since they were kids. I never did that sort of thing. I didn’t even like reading much, though strangely I wanted to write a novel(I guess everyone does). Quite a contradiction: to want to do something I have no skill or talent to do. Zawmb’yee seems more like the type who could do it quite easily… ah, phooey, I’m getting tired now and I haven’t really said anything. I’m supposed to write down all my thoughts, I suppose, but they fly by too quickly(most of the significant ones, even the ones not ineffable–{hmm, double negative — is there “effable”}. What was I going to say — I forgot….

     I can see why Zawmb’yee is in turmoil. Everything is a contradiction. Utcoozhoo wants her to learn the dominant culture to blend in. If she does that, isn’t she assimilating into the mainstream, and adopting their ways. I would think she’ll just become another sap (as Utcoozhoo calls them). But yet he wants to teach her the traditional ways. He’s trying to get her to see the pfambuuisen, yet Zawmb’yee just seems to have the blues nowadays. Another contradiction: blue in a vision — a spiritual light, brimstone burning blue — a devilish thing. (The devil is in the details.)
     Exposure to the modern world could destroy the ancient culture. Hmm, I was reading about the last Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. They just introduced satellite TV because they believe the young people must know about the outside world. But some elders worry that their culture will be corrupted and lost.
     Bhutan’s an interesting place with diverse climates and habitats. Aha, I think I have it — blue things in Bhutan. They have the same dilemma as we do: to assimilate, accommodate, or stay isolated.
     Zawmb’yee needs 12 ways to answer the question, “why are we blue.” Well, I think I have one:

     Blue Sheep In Bhutan

Have I sinned
to love snow leopards

I have heard
and blues too

Scampering up cliffs
blue sheep make me cry
freezing to hide

Snow leopards
must eat —
I will not look

Kayaking down the Mochhu
I see only splash
only sky

Blue is clean
red I deny

Prayer flags on the mountain
let me be of slate color
hiding my friends

Can I sing the blues
in the sorrow of the lamb
with only wool to give
in cold comfort, or

must I be the tiger
to growl at my hunger
to dominate

     The dominate culture is like a tiger. We are blue sheep hiding? No, that doesn’t sound right. Aaah, well, that’s the best I can do for now… I mean, it’s her homework. Why do I have to do it. Yeah, I’ll just say I’m giving you a clue, and pretend like it’s some deep profound strategy to get her to think, even though it’s just hogwash, ’cause I don’t know. I’m not wise — I’m just confused… maybe she won’t notice the difference…

     Lately I’ve just been staring at the rippling waters of the K’ut’mbletaw’i. It is said that the gods left behind many pfayohoqwaahujpi (lightning boxes for guardian spirits to dwell in) that power the Endless Light and purify the river. The river is always pure even after many reckless picnickers have frolicked with abandon.
     I look into the beautiful blue ripples hoping for a splash of inspiration to lift my writer’s block.
     Zawmb’yee says I should look over my old poems to see if there is one in my trash heap that could be revised and purified. But I don’t have the power of even the smallest pfayohoqwaahujpi. I found an old poem, but it’s too weird to use I think, and I don’t think it is worth reading again:


In warmth
you’ve already read this
but I made you forget it
many spells ago
down the path
you’re on now falling
down the mountainside
to lush green sleepy
pleasant grass under
picnics’ bliss wine
soothing solitude like
a bath, bubbles a
swarming essence
perfumed with
perfect memories cherished
in sleepy fantasy
that counts to five
you’ve read
in many spells
down steeped tea
paths pleasing

is quintessential
to awaken you again;
are you dressed for the day
or is it night–
but you’ve already read this
in warmth cherished,
and now
forget it,
forget what you’ve done
in warmth unknowing, for
you need not know why
everyone looks at you
again, and sleep
will overtake you eventually
to do what you must forget.
You’ve done it. Thanks.

     Yesterday, I don’t know when (I forgot my watch again, and in the endless light of the cave, there’s no way to know the day or time), I was startled by a surprise visitor.
     I don’t think I’ve ever seen Utcoozhoo swim. Somehow I couldn’t picture the scene of a wise old Guru, who might sit by a jagged rock face like his own face, impenetrable, not likely to float, swimming, but it is true that this wise one could chuckle like the water splashes.
     Thus, sitting at the Nipeiskwari (Place of Meandering Thought), by the granite intrusion where the K’ut’mbletaw’i twists, I was surprised to look up from my notes to see Utcoozhoo leap out of the water like a dolphin with gray hair.
     “You look surprised,” he said. “Anyone who can hold his breath for a couple of minutes can reach the Akwangtqua, enter the Tzvaleubhoi, cave of the third sun, rest by the Tree of Many Fruits and … but, of course, if you don’t know where the entrance is, you won’t have enough breath to return.”
     Actually, I was more scared than surprised to see anything leap out of the water, and nearly dropped my notes in the water. I thought to ask, “Well, then can you show me the entrance?”
     “I’ll think about it … but I wanted to thank you for helping Zawmb’yee — she’s a bit young for the Utd’mbts. I had thought to teach you, Doug, but you were too cynical at the time of the Maghuogke. Sorry.”
     “That’s alright. I was in a crisis and would have thought the idea ridiculous back then…”
     “Yes, I know. You hold your breath too much without going anywhere … always seeming to drown in sorrow.”
     I was embarrassed to have too much dust in my eyes to answer…I changed the subject. “So, are you revealing the oral history of our people to Zawmb’yee? I don’t know what’s so secret. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I mean, if I want to know American History or Ancient Roman or Greek History, I just go to the library and get myself some text books.”
“The key here is you say ‘many books’. Each is a distortion of a different kind, a glorified hearsay — the gossip of the conquerors, the elites, the propagandists, ravings of madmen with charisma and minor magic. It is the written word of major and minor egomaniacs, words from scribes of the dominate class driven mad by their self-importance; words from scribes of minorities driven mad by their oppression waiting for their revenge and reversal of role when they will rule and write with a new kind of madness. All of these are the scribbles that blot the world with cycles of boom and bust of ever larger magnitude, notation for melodies symphonic and chaotic, with a tone of hope in overture, an interlude of cacophony, percussion like tornadoes. History of clash. Not enlightening…”
     Utcoozhoo was making it clear to me that the oral history was much more than oral. “When will you tell her?”
     “It’s not a telling as much as a transference. But I have to be careful how I say this to you. Skeptics can be blinded by their anger when it comes to mysticism. There is such a flood of pretenders that usually it is justified to call most crackpots, charlatans, or superstitious fools, but not all. I must tell you to be very careful with ‘Enchantments’…. I’ve heard that Ngheufel has been stumbling into some dangerous states-of-mind without knowing what he’s doing. He’s a very stubborn fellow who I fear is on the edge of mischief. ”
     With that, Utcoozhoo did some odd breathing exercises and dived into the water, swimming underwater to the Cave of the Third Sun.


     It was really weird early today when I got a phone call from Zawmb’yee. I mean, I see her in the cave all the time and I didn’t think she even uses a phone. She would seem to pop out of nowhere whenever I wrote at the Nipeiskwari. I guess I’ve always thought of her as a cave person even though Utcoozhoo makes her mingle in the up-top world quite often — it’s just that I’ve never seen her there. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because she can pass quite well as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, common gorgeous model. It’s odd though because in the cave world she used to be teased all the time: they used to call her the hairless albino. But that was so ridiculous. She has blond hair, but she’s not albino. Her eyes are blue like the color of the pfambuuisen.
     She called to say she wanted to meet me. Zawmb’yee is going to show me a meditation exercise she’s been learning and maybe she’ll reveal some “oral history.” She said to meet her past the glass wall, around the sword of the silver-red stalagmite to the left of the pothole marker, and up the narrow ledge to the ngtqua.
     An odd thing though. Before hanging up she said, “I want you to gargle with salt water, and then gargle without water to just make the sound. Then make the ‘ka’ sound first in the back of the throat and then like you’re scraping the roof of your mouth, purse your lips, and add the gargle sound until you sound like a motor forcing air out hard until your whole face, sinuses, and head vibrate. It’ll feel like a face massage.”
     She hung up before I could ask a question.

     Ever since I almost dropped my notes in the river, I’ve been carrying all my writing paraphernalia with my camera in a waterproof case. Hmm, protecting the notes for this diary — that sort of assumes they might have some importance. I’m not sure I’m even finding this cathartic. It’s only slightly amusing to me when I can imagine a future audience. (I suppose if I were to be writing in the cave and died, someone would take these notes and transcribe them for me, enter them in the computer and
continue…I guess they’d be like a ghost writer.) But I can’t see a diary of a boring person as a stage play. I could see Zawmb’yee on the stage or maybe Chloë. I’m probably more like an adequate ‘extra’ who’ll never be an actor.

I’ve had sigh mornings
leaving sighs to mourn
the heave on traipse
on feet’s defeat
a hunched up shoulder,
looking for a walk-on day, say

I could have missed a cue
if you’d not staged a
run in radiance

In the running of my soul
you make me bullish
playing on my horns

Stages of my performance
in the footlights
of your delight
gives me this role
in run-ons
carried away with you
stage right into the wings of love

     Well, I’ve practiced Zawmb’yee’s head vibrating sound or mantra or whatever it’s supposed to be. It is a weird sound. I wonder what it will sound like as a duet. Well, I should pack up my stuff and go meet Zawmb’yee at the Ngtqua. (Oh, I just realized there’s another flaw in these entries: I haven’t marked which ones I’ve made here in the apartment and which ones I’ve made in the cave. Actually, this is the first entry I’ve written in my apartment. So it’s a quick turnover to put these handwritten notes into the computer. I hate typing directly — I’m more fluent scribbling than typing. Ah geez — another point-of-view problem.)

     There was no comfort in a familiar scene. Many times I had traipsed past every limestone drip in time, every ancient erosion, but as I traversed this common maze to reach my appointed meeting with Zawmb’yee, making my way past familiar speleothems, some loomed like broken talismans. An ominous insight seemed to trickle into my consciousness that some of these formations were not natural. It is said that the Qukwerpfm, the glass wall, once was double silvered to hold the lightning of the gods. The sword of the silver-red stalagmite spoke to the gods in heaven, the legend said, and I walked past to the left, up the narrow ledge.
     On edge, I hummed a few umm’s as I put foot to each stone, trying to remember the sound I was supposed to make for Zawmb’yee’s incantation.
     She waved as I approached the Ngtqua….

     She was standing with a Gnolum that she had evidently removed from a wall. I didn’t even know you could do that. I had always just taken the gnolums for granted — common glowing crystal lights that have always been. They were just like streetlights of the cave. Most people don’t ever question how streetlights work — they’re just there.
     Zawmb’yee said, “Doug, I’m so excited. But I forgot to tell you, you have to add a deep voicing, like a bass hum, to the ‘ka’ and the gargle, like this…” The whole cave vibrated, a small stalactite fell out of the ceiling, and a stone fell off the ledge. “Except a little deeper … you try…”
     I made my whole face vibrate and my eyes shook like little REM’s from a dream. No stones fell.
     She said, “Good, perfect. Now we just have to harmonize. OK, now, we stand by the entrance to the Ngtqua. We do the ‘ka’ together, but when I point up, I want you to raise the tone of your voice, and when I point down, I want you to lower the tone with more bass. When we get the beats right, you’ll hear a ‘wah-oh-wah-oh’ sound, but think that you’re focusing your energy at the entrance…”
     Somehow, her giddiness just didn’t seem to match the occasion. I said, “Do you know what you’re doing?”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Um, well, let’s just do this.”
     When we did the sound together the wah-oh was intense. The large square stone pivoted on one edge, opened like a door, but smoothly without creaks. The inner surface of the door was smooth and polished, not at all like a rock, but more like the vault door of a bank.
     She said with confidence, “Now, we go in.” We walked into the Ngtqua. The door slammed behind us with the sound of locking bolts. The inner surface glowed red hot for a moment and a frost of rock formed, making the door indistinguishable from the surrounding rock of the chamber. There was a trickle of water on the floor.
     Zawmb’yee covered her gnolum with her back pack until it was totally dark. She
took my hands in the dark, said, “We are of the universe, the distant stars, we diffuse into a unity of chaos, a smear of light, the glow of love; we are the moment. See the pfambuuwisen, and choose the one that glows the most. Let it expand. Dive into the blue light, and let it expand into a dream. What do you see?”
     “I see a woman in a helmet with a spear.”
     Zawmb’yee laughed. “Oh sorry, I lost my focus. That’s an opera that I went to. Actually, I should tell you that I saw Chloë at the opera…”
     “You know Chloë?”
     “Well, yes.”
     The trickle of water was increasing and I found myself standing in ankle deep water. “Don’t you think we should go?…”

     The water is rising more rapidly by the second. We’re doing the ka wah-oh up and down the scale.
     It’s not working — the door is not opening. Zawmb’yee is screaming. I’m telling her that screaming is not the right chant. She’s looking around. She’s running to the back of the chamber where the golden steps are. She’s taking a deep breath, diving underwater, swimming down the stairs.
     Returning, gasping, Zawmb’yee says she doesn’t see an exit. She’s screaming at me to stop taking notes. The water is up to my neck. Seems like a rainy day today. I’m putting this in the waterproof case but I’m not going to be able to fix the spelling, and this doesn’t seem complete enough, but I think incoherence is acceptable under these…
     We’re floating towards the ceiling. Zawmb’yee has put a sheet of paper on top of her floating backpack, and she’s making notes.
     I feel a buzzing panic … thought I’d have a traditional birthday cake this year — maybe this time really have a wish come true when I would blow out the forest of candles. It never seemed to work before. I think I had my first cake with candles when I was three…

     The water is still rising. I smile at Zawmb’yee. She is praying. I wonder about the golden steps we were to step down, each one more relaxing, more soothing. We were to reach a plateau, make a bubble of protection, be bathed in white light. I see a glowing blue globe. I remember when I was three. “Uncle Coozie, Uncle Coozie, I’m fwee today.”
     “You’re three?”
     “I’m fwee-years-old and I can sing: ‘Haffy Birffy to me/Haffy Birffy to me/Haffy Birffy dear Dougy, haffy birffy to me.’ Uncle Coozie, Mommy chased the angel away — she says ’cause it’s jimagery. Daddy said to hurry up and blow out the damn candles and I forgot to make a wish. Can I still make a wish after everybody’s gone? I made a wish on a teddy bear…”. Zawmb’yee is asking me what we do now. I am saying, “Utcoozhoo says to feel along the beam in the ceiling for a lever.” I am reaching up. There is a beam. The water is only an inch from the ceiling. There is a piece of metal sticking out. I’m pulling it. The water is draining.

     The water drained slowly. Treading water wasn’t much fun. My backpack was too heavy — I had brought a picnic blanket, a bottle of that two dollar wine that won a prize from the blindfolded snobs, and blue cheese. I tried to arch my head back to float, but having to do the elementary backstroke to stay afloat, made me crash into a wall. I switched to breaststroke, swimming around Zawmb’yee who was holding onto her floating backpack.
     Slowly, as the water drained, we floated down to the floor. Little rivers gurgled down the stairs. The water was gone.
     Zawmb’yee was shivering. I took the blanket out — good that it was old, because I could easily tear it in half. I said, “You can use this as a towel to dry off.”
     We were soaked and there were breezes leaking in from somewhere. I was getting cold too. I took my wet shirt off.
     Zawmb’yee stroked my chest hair, pressed the water out, combed it with her fingers, and handed me the blanket. She tilted her head down, unbuttoned her shirt, said, “Dry me off.”
     I took off her wet shirt. The towel carried me into her cleavage, and I wiped her stomach, stroked her face. Her arms were still cold. I massaged away the goose bumps and the water, pulled down her bra straps. She lifted her arms, unbuckled my belt. I felt much warmer. It was to be a fine picnic after-all, as I looked into the blue of her eyes and dried the crest of her globes. In the joy of my breathing, my pants fell off. Floods can be fun when not alone.
     “You look cold,” she said, and dried my legs with the tickle of the towel. She saw me bulging. Her fingers pushed under the elastic band, pulled down the briefs, teased the towel around. “I wouldn’t want you to get cold,” she said.

     “The heat is on,” I said. “You’ve…” — kissed her lips — “taught me … a lot … today” — caressed — “Can you feel my … thank you?”
     “Uh huh…”
     Softly a fine slide, a rocking in her spirit, her cuteness, her day this day, her pulse, my heart, a throb, a bob, her joy is my joy. Releasing …
     We cuddled and I looked at the wine — we hadn’t needed it. But a little dessert didn’t seem like a bad idea. I opened a plastic bag, took out two cups, poured the wine, put cheese on a cracker.
     “I love the salty blue,” she said.
     “Yes, the Danish blue cheese is best.”
     “Umm. could I ask, where did you learn to open the Ngtqua? I thought Utcoozhoo made you turn your back when he did it.”
     “Funny thing: When I went to the opera, it was a horrible performance. I thought if it had been Italy, they would have thrown tomatoes, and …”
     “I meant to ask you — you said you saw Chloë at the opera?”
     “Yeah. She was with Ngheufel. They couldn’t get over the incredible faux pas: one passage was supposed to be a simple running up the classical scale by a soprano, but Ngheufel said there was a flat 3 and a flat 7; 2 and 6 were missing. He said that’s obvious — they lapsed into a pentatonic blues scale. The singers themselves were stunned as if they didn’t know why they did that. During intermission, somehow, I got into a discussion with Ngheufel about tones and codes.”
     “Ngheufel was with Chloë?”
     “Yeah. He was with Chloë. Chloë sends her regards. She knows you don’t like the opera,” said Zawmb’yee.
     I was feeling odd, maybe a little jealous. Chloë did ask me to go to the opera — maybe I should have gone; she said it’s more casual nowadays, but I don’t think I would have fit in. “Ngheufel told you … ”
     “We got into talking about harmony and we did the sound … that was embarrassing … ”
     “What do you mean?”
     “We put a crack in a wall and security escorted us out. They were going to call the police, but Ngheufel did a weird thing … ”
     “Well, I don’t know how to explain it exactly … he did a weird humming thing and said ‘don’t you think it’s too nice a day to do that’ or some such, and the staff all started humming and went off into the park. We went back inside. Chloë was upset — she wanted to know why I ran off with Ngheufel. I just told her we were discussing harmony. She was real angry, but the second act of the opera went well.”

     “This is incredible, ” I said, “Utcoozhoo was worried about Ngheufel making mischief, and this trouble seems deliberate…”
Zawmb’yee turned pale. She said, “He’s always been a prankster — he once tried to tell Utcoozhoo he knew the peace symbol in common vogue, but instead of showing two fingers, he told him that raising the middle finger was a sign of respect. Utcoozhoo gave him the middle finger but in proper context … We could be in trouble, but never mind. Have some more wine.”
     We both didn’t want to even contemplate what conspiracy might really be going on. I drifted into something more neutral, “I don’t like opera very much. When it comes to music, I like the blues and improvisation. Utcoozhoo said to do something with that. He wanted me to write something casual in idiomatic English. He’s always saying to master simple poetry before attempting the poetry of the gods.”
     “Yeah. He always makes strange demands. Well, I don’t know, but I thought the poem you wrote on the canvas was pretty good. Are you still keeping your poem diary? ”
     “Uh yeah … ”
     “Um, and so, you brought wine and cheese for a surprise seduction, and then maybe, I’m thinking you brought your poem book. No?”
     “ … uh, how do you know these things … Well, I’ve got a pretty long one that rambles all over the place. I’m sort of wondering if it’ll pass in the up-top culture. It’s maybe too quirky and … ”
     “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re dying to read it. Hey, I’m the one who’s supposed to practice meshing with the mainstream culture. I can take it. You’ve got something better to do? … Have some wine and let’s hear it.”
     Our clothes were still too wet to put back on, and needing a diversion from arousal, I thought reading might be a good idea (I vowed never to go to a nudist colony because I’m easily distracted, and I could imagine having a problem constantly being seen…). I fumbled through the plastic bags, opened the book. “OK. Here goes: uh, this is called ‘Sax Piano Bird’ —
If you will play
I will kiss your tune lips
’cause anything goes when
slinking down your keyboard
tickling doleful note doodles
plinking your chords
caressing pianissimo
bopping forte, top a’ ya board,
chording love accolades
staying for improvisations
when cool mistys get hot. I shall be cool

when you transpose the glory
keys to high toned harmony
that sees me exposed
with whistling kisses blown
all sax-ified, but that’ll
be after a race. Y’ know

it was a mystery that
birds of a feather could
get the winner’s name
from the horse’s
mouthwash, but
I heard them say

she plays with her pet cockatoo
at the piano bar
down by the racetrack
at the end of the race, and
I saw you

The bird said, “Leave a tip”
I said, “Baby Needs Shoes to win,
place, or show me a new tune”

You nagged the feathers off it
to snatch bills
out of patrons’ hands

After you played with your pet cockatoo
I tipped it into a snifter
hoping you’d play with me
’cause I bet on the nag, then
I said
to the showers

I said
To install the clean
in a froth of warmth
above a soapy love,
join me in the shower stall
by the steamy wall
where flights of fancy
are never scrubbed. If you will,

then I, with fragrant soap,
will wash in tribute
the toe that tested my waters,
cleansing the foot feats that two-stepped
when I was a mere calf
and you were knee high
to a love
like a soap opera. Sing

in the shower from your diaphragm
where no melting soap is barred
while I swoosh below your breasts
with swirling helicopter hands
taking off with haste
as whirlybirds land
on nipple pads. When you say

taxi to the terminal
the refueling hose can dock
and the passengers can be served
hot blessings, but remember
the fifth race is soon,
time to place bets
by the river
on the sailboats, although
we could check out
the entries
swimming in the
racing waters

where in trepidation
you can put a toe
in the water of my soul
as I kiss it as
I would a child’s boo-boo

offering you
a future, a splash
of my essence; I
breathe your perfume
a cherry-flavored love

You undress in my river
and I kiss your thigh
in baptism before lips

Like a mallard
I swim aside,
a breast in hand
and hand in bush

All goes swimmingly,
as I reminisce
first kisses
raising my mast,
sailing our ship, and
now anything goes
even past
the sunset,
in moonlit tunes
splashed across the stars”

     She gave me a sultry look, touched her hips, cocked her head to the side, and hugged herself. She said, “It does sort of ramble, but I like it … I see that your thank you is rising again … ”
     “Uh, umm, well umm …”
     She ran naked down the stairs giggling.

     I was still gathering up our stuff when Zawmb’yee came running back up the stairs.
     “It’s a miracle,” she said.
     “What’s a miracle?”
     “The pfayohoqwaahujpi sealed all the doors downstairs during the flood, and … ”
     “And the bidet is working!”
     “Doors? There are rooms?”
     “Yeah. Didn’t I tell you? Oh, well … A lot of akwaki are just plain cisterns, but some are qwuakwaki even all the way down here. The gods were remarkable; weren’t they?”
     “Um, isn’t that a little vulgar for ‘gods’: that they needed flush toilets … ”
     “Well, maybe, they just built it for us … I mean, they did save all the ice for us when the ice age ended and … ”
     “I didn’t know about that … is this part of the history Utcoozhoo is teaching you?”
     “Yeah. Um, OK, let’s get organized here. I’ll finish cleaning up here … OK, all the doors are open and the lights are on. I think we’re safe for now, but I don’t think we’re going out the front door … ”
     “Is there a … ”
     “Go take a shower. I’ll be there in a minute — I have to get my stuff together.”
     With all the commotion, I hadn’t even looked at the back of the ngtqua. Maybe if we had gone to the back in the first place, we would have escaped.
     Towards the back began a marble floor, a sudden intrusion in the irregular limestone floor that led to the stairs …

     I stepped onto the marble floor, and peered down the stairs. The first seven steps were glowing with the colors of the rainbow. An intense red glistened almost like a traffic light, but it was a go signal, a beckoning, not a stopping. My left foot plunged onto the red step. An orange shimmered on the second one. My right was pulled onto the orange slab, and a bright yellow beam forced me to squint. Intense yellow light made me wonder if the third would be hot like the sun. Looking down at the step, I was blinded and couldn’t see the rest of the stairs. I squatted down on the orange slab and reached out with my hand to see if there was any heat coming up from the yellow. Then I reached down, touching the third step with my finger. It was cool.
     I stood up. There was a pull like an invisible tide. I was drawn onto a wide green landing with both feet, my legs feeling heavy, wanting to lie down, but I looked carefully, picked up the pace, got into a rhythm: left on blue, right on indigo, left on violet. The slabs became more regular, but now with colors in reverse order.
     Running down the stairs, resisting the invisible tide wasn’t possible. Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and again. Thirty-five steps. Arriving where?

     I went in the first open door. The gods, I think, have good taste in the design of a bathroom. There was a dry marble basin thirty feet long, ten feet across. At the far end was a waterfall pouring into a drain. Along the near tile wall was a towel rack, and shelves with bars of soap.
     Zawmb’yee came running in, dropped all her stuff on the floor and took my hand. “Shall we be clean now?” she said. “You know, Utcoozhoo says, ‘when lust is exhausted by overindulgence, the subtleties of love can be appreciated,’ ”
     “That doesn’t sound like something Utcoozhoo would say…”
     “OK. Yeah. He didn’t say that, but I say that. How about that expression, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness.’ What was that … Benjamin Franklin or something — I don’t know. So let’s be clean. Take a bar of soap.”
     Zawmb’yee ran under the waterfall, and came out saying, “Swoosh me with the soap.”
     I am always inclined to be indulgent under such circumstances, and enjoyed the cleansing of the savage breast, while she endeavored to exhaust my lust as in her own prophesy, and I was not one to deny her. As they say, ‘one good poem deserves another’. She is like the rainbow under a waterfall.

     When Zawmb’yee came out of the waterfall, I had noticed what looked like a metal dress and a suit of armor. Now I asked, “What are those?”
     “Those are used to let us be washed by the gods. It’s sort of like a washing spacesuit.”
     “How do you mean?”
     “Here let me show you.” Zawmb’yee picked up the dress. It had hoses coming out the back of the waistband, and from there up to the wrists. She said, “Help me put this on. Now these cups with the clear hoses go over the breasts — see. Fasten it in the back for me … and these are washing panties … . Now you. Here … get into these metal briefs and … ”
     “What are all the hoses for?”
     “That’s for the washing fluids … Here let me do this for you. Now this hose goes on like a condom, see … and we lock on the metal shorts — There, that snaps shut. ”
     “Wait a minute … I don’t think I like wearing solid steel underwear. This is like a chastity belt or something and I can’t touch anything. How do I get this off … ”
     “Well, you don’t. It unlocks automatically when the wash is over. Don’t worry. Now we put on the rest of the suit. These armlets go on here.”
     She looked very strange standing there in her dress with hoses extending from her wrists to her back. Another hose came out of her back and was anchored in the floor. She said it seals like a spacesuit. She told me to fasten her neck collar and wrist cuffs firmly so there’d be no leaks. She tightened her waist belt.
     She said, “OK. As soon as I tighten up your suit, the wash of the gods will start.”
     As soon as the suit was sealed, our back hoses were pulled into the floor and we fell to the ground. Water sprayed in from the wrist hoses and they were drawn short into the back of the belt. I felt a lotion ooze into my briefs and then a massage and a vibration began. I felt an armlet tighten and then a needle prick. I looked at Zawmb’yee who was struggling, trying to get up. Her hands were pulled tightly behind her back.
     I said to her, “I don’t think this is a ‘wash of the gods’. This thing is collecting semen and blood.”
     “What?” said Zawmb’yee. “Get up, get up — get this off me.”
     The harder I tried to get up the shorter the hoses were pulled until my wrists were clamped together in the back of the belt. Then, we heard footsteps behind us, but we were pinned to the floor and couldn’t turn around to look.
     Zawmb’yee shouted, “Help! We need some help here … ”
     I began to yell, “Yeah, we could use suh … ” Suddenly, Zusoiti, the high priestess jammed a ball into my mouth.
     Zawmb’yee screamed, “What are you doing?”     Zusoiti said, “I’m gagging him because he’s going to be here for a day or two, depending on how long it takes for the gods to get enough samples, and we don’t need all the yelling.”
     Zawmb’yee screamed, “Unlock me, unlock me … ”
     The high priestess shouted back, “Shut-up, or I’ll gag you too. This is sacrilege. Where’s your supervisor? You don’t belong here … ”
     “Get me out of this,” Zawmb’yee whispered.
     “Well, it’s too late now in any case. Only the gods can release you.”
     “When will they do that?”
     “It depends on your hormone levels. They have to analyze that and your DNA. Probably in a few hours.”
     “What about him. What did you mean a day or two?”
     “Well, that’s more complicated.”
     Zawmb’yee started screaming again, “The armlets are stabbing me … unlock me, unlock me … ”
     “I told you I can’t.” Zusoiti gagged her. “Now, calm down, you’ll get through this. You weren’t supposed to just wander in here on your own. Don’t tell me — Ngheufel got you to do this.”

     Zusoiti had always seemed comic and bizarre. She claimed to have naturally purple hair meant to complement her green eyes, but she was too tall to be a cat, too attractive to be a witch. It’s a wonder that anyone took her seriously, or ever gave her any authority. Now she was just very dangerous. Zusoiti seemed to have second thoughts about Zawmb’yee. She patted Zawmb’yee on the head, turned toward me, “You like blondes?” She laughed.
     Zusoiti shook her purple hair like a wet dog. She walked over to me, sat on my legs, looked around for something. I was lying too flat to see what she was doing. She tied my ankles to the floor. “I like to help the gods. This helps complete the process.”
     I made a noise. Struggled again.
     Zusoiti barked, “Easy does it,” and giggled like a hyena. “Prepare yourself. I suggest that you relax as much as you can. Remember, the gods brought us out of the Kingdom of Ice to the Inner Gardens.”
     I shook my head. Trying to get my hands loose, I moaned.
     “It’s best that you rest because in a few hours, the gods will be expecting a sizable semen sample. If that doesn’t happen, the gods will hold you for another day and try again.”
     The gag was too hard to chew on. I tried to blow it out.
     Zusoiti kept talking. “If you prepare yourself for a respectful donation, the gods will be pleased.”

     I thought, perhaps, that if I pulled rhythmically, very hard, that everything would start to loosen.
     Zusoiti said, “It’s foolish for you to indulge your fears when that will inhibit your performance. Listen to me. I will soothe you if you will embrace the glory of the gods, for I am the guardian of the purple light, messenger of the gods. It is only I who knows the names of the gods. I am the keeper of the faith. The names are to be spoken only by me.”
     I was beginning to fall into a panic. Zusoiti was sounding more and more irrational. I never realized until now what a religious fanatic she was. I had thought the traditionalists were just harmless rustic rabble, irrational bumpkins, like
discredited Shakespearean witches of only metaphorical value.
     I never thought such persons would gain any political power or status in the community. I always thought growing up that ‘high priestess’ was a quaint ceremonial title — I never took it seriously. I could only moan.
     “I will remove your gag. I hope you will be reasonable.” She removed it.
     “You psychopath,” I said. “What you call the gods are not what you think. You’re delusional. You must … ”
     She pushed the gag back in. “Paradise can be yours,” she said, “if the gods choose you.” She seemed to want to go well beyond what the gods had already done. “It would be best that you rest and regenerate,” she reiterated. “They can keep you alive with intravenous nourishment only for a limited amount of time.”

     Leaning over me, Zusoiti brushed my face with her purple hair. A purple medallion was swinging from her neck. She said, “I must attend to Zawmb’yee. If you cooperate, things might be better for her. She did violate the rules, y’know, and the Grand Council has given me the authority to take custody of her after the gods release her. I might be persuaded to be lenient.”
     I made a noise. Tried to kick.
     “Yes, well, I suppose there is value in struggle. Go ahead and exhaust yourself. I’ll be back.”
     Swinging her medallion, Zusoiti sauntered over to Zawmb’yee, carrying a large purple bag with odd emblems on it. The medallion glowed, then beamed like a search light. Zawmb’yee tried to kick her, but was out of range. Zusoiti circled around her, came up behind her, and shined the beam in her face. “Hmm, I think the gods are finished with you,” she said. She removed the gag.
     Zawmb’yee said, “What do you mean? Ouch. I got jabbed again. What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
     “I’m not doing that. The gods have completed their work. You will soon lose consciousness for half an hour as is proscribed in the visions of the gods. The Grand Council has authorized me to take custody of you thereafter to determine your punishment.”
     “Are you nuts? … I will … ”
     “So you are sleepy now, and I will do my duty. Have a nice nap.” Zusoiti laughed.
Zawmb’yee stopped moving. All the hoses unlocked and fell off. Zusoiti stripped the dress off her, removed the armlets, and turned her over. Zusoiti gleefully unzipped her equipment bag to pull out purple things. She handcuffed Zawmb’yee’s hands behind her back, and put a purple leash around her neck.
     “There!” she shouted across at me. “What shall I do with her?”

     Zusoiti looked back at me like she was stalking prey. She returned to hover over me. “Shall we try this again? I’m removing your gag, but if you’re disrespectful I’ll put it back.” She took it out. “Understand?”
     “Yes,” I said.
     “Wouldn’t you agree that the struggle has gotten you nowhere, and that you’re quite exhausted?”
     “Remember the stairs you came down to get here”
     “Very colorful…”
     “Indeed! While you’re waiting for the gods, we can do an exercise about mountain stairs. Close your eyes. Imagine you’re standing on a grassy plateau. There are beautiful violets. You are stepping through the violets to a ledge where the stairs begin with a wide blue step … How are you feeling now?”
     “I’m tired … ”
     “Yes your are. Aren’t the mountain stairs beautiful in the warm sun?”
     “I think I remember mountain stairs like this in a dream.”
     “Yes, dream stairs can be wonderful — can’t they?”
     “Uh huh.”
     “Well, imagine you step through violets down a blue sorrow step. Crying, you descend onto a green envy path. Downward onto an inevitable orange step that falls into a red one. A step down into violets … and you see my favorite color. Do you see it?”
     “And the violets make you sleepy … ”
     “Uh huh.”
     “Where are you going now?”
     “I’m going down to the blue step, but I’m so tired … ”
     “You must continue. They are spiraling mountain stairs now with grassy ledges. You are spiraling down from the blue to a grassy green landing, tumbling into orange, falling into red passion, taking another step down into violets where you hear me welcome you into gentle blue sleep on the grassy meadow you have reached by the orange rock, and the violets of my authority … ”
     I faded off to sleep. Zusoiti didn’t seem like such a bad person after all.

     I woke up at the top of the stairs where Zawmb’yee and I first entered the ngtqua and got caught in the flood. Zawmb’yee was standing to the side of the front door that was now open, but Zusoiti was holding her by her leash. Zawmb’yee yelled, “Run.”
     I started to get up and found that my hands were cuffed behind my back. I walked towards the door.
     Zusoiti pulled on a chain and I was yanked back by a leash that was around my neck. Zusoiti flashed her medallion at me and said, “Do you have something to say to me?”
     I said, “Zusoiti is the only true prophet and I will do as she wishes.”
Zawmb’yee gasped. She tried to pull towards the door.
     Zusoiti said, “Good. I am the only true prophet. I will reward you. Zawmb’yee will be your slave for six months.” Zusoiti unlocked my hands and removed my leash. She put Zawmb’yee’s chain in my hand and said, “Take her and go.”
     I pulled Zawmb’yee out the door. I said, “Come quickly and don’t talk.”

     I yanked her by her leash, pulled her along the narrow ledge, made her jump down. She was resisting, but I pushed her to the right of the Sword of the Silver-red Stalagmite, past the Qukwerpfm.
     She screamed, “What happened to you. What are you doing. Let go of me.”
     I put my finger to my lips, pointed at the walls and then to my ear. I yanked her severely along.
     I said, “I’m taking you to my quarters, slave. This is your just punishment. Be admonished that Zusoiti is the only true prophet.”
     I hurried her along and made her run. I told her there would be further punishments if she didn’t cooperate.
     We reached the exit of the caves. I threw her down on the ground and unlocked her handcuffs and leash.
     I said, “I had to pretend to believe in Zusoiti as prophet so we could get out of there. Zusoiti is a lunatic, and she had microphones in the cave.”

     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 Neanderthals 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 … ”
     “Huh? What?”
     “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?”
     “Uh yeah.”
     “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 — 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 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.

     I came early and waited at the bottom of the hill, surprised to see a crowd milling around, looking at posters for the Blue Attic Club. Only a few people, not shy to be officially early, walked up the hill, and climbed in the attic window. Some who had difficulty were helped by the security guard to sit on the sill and be guided in by hands in the interior. One guy, wanting to be a bigshot, vaulted in, probably gracefully, but I liked to imagine that he flew in with too much speed and fell on his face, although, I couldn’t actually see that.
     I was feeling a bit out of place when I heard a voice behind me.
     “Doug!” said Chloë, and she pressed her lips on mine so hard that my toes urged my arms into an overdrive of exploration until she laughed, “Not here.”
     Damn, I thought, that is natural red hair, and the legs of a gazelle, the grace of a dancer, an actress in the play of ecstasy, a leap in my elevation …
     “Oh hi,” I said to Zawmb’yee who had arrived behind me. She kissed me with a quick tongue brush.
     Zawmb’yee said, “You’re really going to like this place. I have our tickets — let’s go in.”
     We began up the hill. I said, “Zawmbee Warmbee, you’ll never guess…”
     “Guess what?” she said.
     “I’m making us garlic lime chicken for dinner tonight.”
     “Hmm, that sounds good. It’s like marinated or something?”
     “Yeah, you’re really going to like it. Marinating things seems to soften and entice the hunger, don’t you think?
     Chloë said, “Cumin in the cilantro with red pepper?”
     “Um, yes,” I said.
     Zawmb’yee started singing the folk song, “She’ll be comin’ around the mountains/when she comes/when she comes…”
     We joined in, dancing up the hill, singing, “She’ll be cumin around the cilantro when she comes, when she comes. She’ll be drivin’ around the hilly when she comes, when she comes.”

We continued singing at the top of the hill:
     “ ‘She’ll be driving six red buffalo
     When she comes
     (When she comes)
          She’ll be driving six red buffalo
          When she comes
          (When she comes)

          She’ll be driving six red buffalo
          Driving six red buffalo
          She’ll be driving six red buffalo
          When she comes
          (When she comes)’ ”

     Chloë’s friend, Susan, who was a helper at the window and the doorman/windowman began singing,
          “ ‘She’ll be climbing in the window
          When she comes
          When she comes,’ ” then Chloë —
     “‘Chloë’s climbing in the window as I come, as I come.’ ”
     “ ‘Zawmb’yee’s sailing through the window, sailing through the window and … ’ ”
     “ ‘Doug is climbing in the window, as I come, as I come.’ ”
     The grand entrance made us all laugh. I think, we three made for the best arrival performance of any attendee. It was certainly an odd venue for a club. In the middle of the floor was a trap door with a folded wooden ladder mounted on top of it. In one corner was a round cutout in the floor with a fireman’s pole in the center.
     Chloë said, “Isn’t this great? Geez, it was such a challenge to balance out the ladder in the middle of the floor. It serves now as a kind of central sculpture until its utility is demonstrated. But Zawmb’yee is the one who made the perfect placement for the couches and added her spectacular ironwork, ‘Spiral Staircase to the Stars’. It reaches up like a tree that never quite touches the moon, though the birds are quite happy to rest on a branch that is somewhat lower than heaven.”
     “Um, Chloë,” said Zawmb’yee, “does anyone really believe this drivel. I mean, it is just a hunk of metal.”
     “Yeah, I know, but you have to let the nouveau riche enjoy their elitist status. How else can you keep the price of abstract junk up high. Remember the slogan of design: ‘Abstraction above meaning will analyze emptiness into a feeling of fulfillment. Let a dolt be happy and the universe is yours.’ ”
     Zawmb’yee said, “You’re so cynical Chloë. Y’know, even if I do say so myself, I think my sculpture in a weird way is kind of beautiful … ”
     “Well, yeah,” said Chloë, “you’re an exception to every rule — you do add a je ne sais quoi to everything you do. ”
     “Thanks, you’re quite skillful hiding in French phrases, but I guess ‘I don’t know what’ does it, huh.”
     “Gads,” I said, “you two are both grand sculptures of joy, however you want to define it. I think you both did a great job with a difficult space!”


     Susan unlatched the trap door and pushed it down. Someone from below reached up to pull down and unfold the ladder. Climbing up the ladder, a line of people marched straight for the window, and ran down the hill.
     “What happened to them,” I asked.
     “Oh, the early advanced lecture,” said Susan, “creates that reaction. They’re purging their emotions and releasing some energy … but, anyway, don’t worry about that — you’ll enjoy the introductory experiential. When the crowd clears, you can go down.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “You really ought to fix that so you don’t have to keep the door latched up. I mean, it only happened once that someone walking around the floor up here accidentally stepped on the folded-up ladder and fell through … ”
     “We’re working on a plan for a regular staircase, Zawmb’yee.” Susan shouted down, “Is everyone out?”
     A voice shouted up, “We’re ready for the next group.”
     Susan said, “OK, Chloë, lead the way.”
     Chloë took off her high-healed shoes and threw them down to the floor below. She faced the ladder barefoot and reaching up with her hand said, “Doug … ”
     I thought it was some sort of ‘temple’ ritual, so I removed my shoes and threw them down the stairs.
     “No, no, no,” said Chloë, “you don’t have to remove your shoes — I just did that because heels are hard on ladders.”
     Zawmb’yee laughed so hard that she crashed into me, and fell to the floor. She took off her sneakers, and threw them down the opening.
     Somebody down below said, “What are you people doing? Just come down.”
We all came barefoot down the ladder.
     “Welcome,” said Carl, the group leader. “Please sit anywhere in the circle of chairs.”
     We sat together in three chairs. Poor Carl stayed at the bottom of the ladder while people threw shoes at him. He finally had to climb up the ladder and tell Susan to please tell everyone that they don’t have to take off their shoes.
     An odd bunch of people filled up the chairs. It was an even mix of men and women. Some of the women were really hot and … oh, never mind, Chloë and Zawmb’yee were plenty hot for me. But a few strangers were quite peculiar as Chloë and Zawmb’yee pointed out. A little too much everything: height, weight, jaw shape, and various things busting out.


     Carl, a tall thin man with a gray beard, strolled into the circle of chairs, a center of the wheel, gazing on the spokes that emanated from the seated. “Welcome to ‘Introduction to Mystical Quirks’. I will demonstrate to you today that thoughts penetrate into surprising places. We will learn a little bit of ‘psychometry’. From the Greek ‘psyche’ this means we will endeavor to measure and interpret the ‘soul of objects.’ The theory of operation is unknown, but thoughts and emotions seem to embed themselves at some level into material objects. Is it at some Quantum level ? — I don’t know. By what principle of action does it occur — I don’t know. Psychics get into a lot of trouble by proposing speculative and flawed theories about what they do which are easily shot down and ridiculed by physicists. However, psychometry works, and has been demonstrated to work, although the mode of operation is unknown.
     Before we begin, let me emphasize that the reception of information comes through the subconscious. We will do a meditation to quiet the ego.
     Yes, a question?”
     A man of great stature who threw out his chest like a pregnant woman trying to get her stomach into a comfortable position, who would knock over anyone who would disagree with him, stood and said, “Don’t we have to think rationally at all times to overcome the meanderings of our emotions which wander into unsubstantiated feelings about what is true? There has to be a rational explanation for everything. Doesn’t there?”
     Carl said, “Sir, may I borrow your ring for a minute. I’m just going to hold it in my hand, and then I’ll give it right back to you.”
     “Well, if you like.” He pulled it off his ring finger, and brought it to Carl.
     “Let’s see … give me a minute. You and your wife are still arguing about a divorce. She wants to know why you first even considered having an affair with Emily. She thinks you never cared about the children, and you’ve destroyed Thomas at a vulnerable age and … ”
     “Stop, stop,” the ringless man shouted. “I get it, I get it, but it’s a lucky guess … Can I have my ring back, please?”
     Carl returned the ring. He said, “OK, we’ll just proceed without any further explanation. Just relax and have fun — believe whatever you want … ”

     Carl pushed a button on a remote control. Baroque music began to play. There was a throbbing bass, the sound of an undulating whale, and an overhead strobe light flashed slowly like a slow-motion disco.
     Carl said, “Everyone stand and hold hands. Let go of your ego chatter, and meld into the relaxing music. Some of you are thinking, ‘what the hell is this crazy person doing, and why did I come here, because he’s nuts, and I feel silly — I wonder if I should leave now…’. Please put this ego chatter aside, have an open mind, think about nothing. Just allow the music to flow over you like a wave of bliss, warmth on the beach of paradise, the vacation you’ve always imagined, lying in the sun, knowing you have everything you’ve always wanted. The warmth of the sun relaxes you. You are one with the universe, and feel the kind essence of every human being. You are at one … Open to the all — the matrix of knowledge. Be a visitor to every atom. Extend yourself into the flow of energy … listen, see … ”
     Someone said, “I’m spinning … ”
     Carl said, “Don’t worry. Just focus on a star that is still. Rest there and enjoy.
     “You are now receptive to the ineffables of connectedness. Let the music be mystery, a tide of being.
     “We will continue, but hold onto your receptivity. Those of you who need to, please open your eyes. I am going to pass around a hat. I want you to remove something that you wear often — a watch, a ring, or something else and place it in the hat. Alright, pass the hat along and put something in it.”


     The hat was passed around. I took off my watch, and put it in. The hat completed the circle, and reached Carl’s hand again.
     Carl said, “I’m going to mix this up and pass this around again. I want you to select an item at random, take it in your hand, and infuse yourself into every atom of its being.”
     The hat was passed around again. I pulled out a ring. I didn’t see what Zawmb’yee took. Chloë took out a purple bracelet.
     When everyone had taken something, Carl continued, “Hold the object in your hand, close your eyes, and allow an image or a dream to appear … at this moment, don’t try to interpret it — just observe. OK, let’s take a few moments for this …”
     After what seemed like a long while, Carl said, “Would anyone like to describe what they’ve seen?”
     I raised my hand.
     “OK, you can be first. What is your first name?”
     “OK, Doug, tell us about your vision, or experience.”
     I said, “I saw a dining room table that was not being used for its intended purpose. There was a draw in the table, and in the draw were needles, sewing equipment, scissors, leather — some sort of arts and crafts materials — but nothing that would be used for eating or dining. I saw a wrecking ball come through the wall and destroy the dining room…”
     “Can anybody,” said Carl, “relate to this?”
     A woman in pink said, “Well, I’ve been trying to run an arts and crafts business out of the dining room. I do all my work in the dining room, all my tools are in the draw, and we never get to eat in there anymore. I want to open up a shop and we’ve been thinking of moving … ”
     “Interesting,” said Carl. “Yes, you’ll definitely be moving. Good. Doug hold up the object.”
     I took the ring out of my palm and held it up.
     “Is this your ring?”
     “Yes,” she said.
     Carl said, “Good. You can give the ring back, Doug.”
     I brought the ring over to her. Hmm, I’m thinking, I didn’t pick up much, but maybe it worked a little.
     “OK,”     said Carl, “anybody else?”
     There was silence. Carl said, “Are we having a problem? I see a hand — yes, and you are?”
     “Chloë. I’m holding this purple bracelet in my palm, but no images seemed to form. There was just blackness. ”
     “OK. Try putting it on. Close your eyes and try again … Everyone quiet — let’s give Chloë a few moments to meditate.”    
     About fifteen minutes went by and then Chloë spoke up. “I see great sheets of ice coming down from the North, covering all the major cities. There is great suffering and chaos. There are spontaneous rebellions all across the world and all the major powers collapse. In the midst of a famine, a great Queen appears who brings endless supplies of food. Seeming to be wise and benevolent, she is not challenged as she seizes all the reins of power. Slowly the people are enslaved and her secret police become apparent to everyone … and um … ”
     “I can’t continue … I’m overwhelmed with her hatred and seething anger and … ”
     “Well, take a rest for a moment.” said Carl. “This sounds fascinating … Whose bracelet is this?”
     A large woman in a purple and green dress raised her hand. An armful of bracelets clanged as she signaled. She was wearing big gold earrings and a purple choker.
     Zawmb’yee stood up immediately, glanced at Chloë, and said, “Excuse me, I’m feeling sick. I have to use the Ladies’ room.” Chloë stood and they both left the room quickly.
     Carl said, “Well, OK, this might be a good time for an intermission. We’ll come back to this.”
     After twenty minutes Zawmb’yee tapped me on the shoulder. “We have to go now,” she said.
     It seemed urgent. Chloë was upset. Zawmb’yee ran to the corner of the room to pick up a broom. She used the broom handle to tap on the ceiling. The trapdoor came down, and she pulled the ladder out. Chloë stumbled up the ladder in her heels. I followed Zawmb’yee up.
     Chloë called to Susan, “Call us a cab. We have to go right away.” She followed Susan to the phone.
     I asked Zawmb’yee, “What’s the matter?”
     She said, “That lady was Ngheufel in drag. Chloë is sick — she’s sorry she ever dated him, but there’s more to it. I saw something too, but I can’t tell you now … Um, do you have enough chicken for Chloë?”
     “Sure,” I said.
     “OK, we’ll go to your place.”
     Chloë came back. “The cab is on its way,” she said. “Let’s go down the hill now.”
     We scrambled out the window. The summer air seemed much too warm for snow.

     We arrived at my apartment, a trio of evangelists without a cause, nude of belief, looking for shelter and the loincloth of minimalist humility or an orgy. Zawmb’yee unlocked the door, and Chloë charged in.
     Chloë, picking up a chair and throwing it across the room, screamed, “I run the council!”
     Zawmb’yee whispered in my ear to put on some music. “Chloë,” said Zawmb’yee, “you’re still wearing the purple bracelet … ”
     Chloë said, “It’s mine now. I’m keeping it … ”
     “Chloë, you’re such a great dancer. Go ahead. Get into it … Doug, you know this one — sing it … ”
     Chloë picked up a lamp and smashed it on the floor.
     “OK, OK,” I said, “I’ll try — uh, well, let me rewind to the beginning … ”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Rock ‘n Roll! Shake it Chloë. Dance, dance, dance … ”
     I sang, trying to let the music drown me out,

“Up Chloë
     get on up

     Thunder in your true light
     Raise that thunder white

     Hey flash me
     dance me
     be just right

     Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp

     Gone are
     false friends
     when dancing feet
     are up

     Your lover calls you
     up the hill
     to squeeze you
     like a grape

     to ferment you some
     palpable love

     I call you sunshine
     my rainbow love;
     you make my rain, darling
     tears of glory

     Cry me happy
     Cry me true —
     Can you love me
     like a raindrop
     ’cause I will be your downpour
     flooding you with love. ”

     When I stopped mangling the lyrics and was silent for a moment, the rhythm got to me and I got up and danced with Chloë’s gyrating cheeks and soulful thrusts, voluptuous spins, syncopated with bends of sorrow and leaps of ecstasy, the anguish and the hope.
     Zawmb’yee joined us. They are such great dancers. Never stop, never stop. I don’t want to die in my sleep. I want to die dancing. Move me into heaven.

     Zawmb’yee clapped for Chloë and I joined her. “Chloë,” I said, “you are the hip of curvaceous beats. You lifted me into jumping so high I thought I could dance like a plane down a runway and take off. I am surprised I did not hit the ceiling.”
     Chloë said, “You are not a bird, and cannot fly. I am a bird.”
     “Yes, you are a pretty bird. We love you pretty bird. Awaken into us.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Wake up Chloë. You are with friends.”
     “I think,” said Chloë, “I’m done with Ngheufel. Let’s have some garlic lime chicken.” She took off the purple bracelet. “You can have this Zawmb’yee.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Thanks Chloë. Doug, let’s eat.”
     Zawmb’yee finally got to set the elegant table that she bought for special guests. She was in her glory, bringing out the good dishes, and the silverware. The candle that she lit made the blue of her eyes sparkle, and she smiled like a duchess in a time of peace, no enemies at the castle gate.
     Somehow, I managed not to burn the chicken, and the sugar snap peas, broccoli, red peppers, and cauliflower combo from the supermarket with olive oil and balsamic vinegar wasn’t bad. Zawmb’yee loved the colors of the fruit cup too; I threw slices of everything in there: kiwi, strawberry, white grapes, blueberries, cherries, plums, peaches, a little lemon and orange juices.
     I loved watching them enjoy their meal. When they savored a morsel with the contemplation of the tongue, the pause in the chew to purr in satiation, I could gaze upon them to taste their beauty with my eyes. Gusto was mine, theirs, and ours. My sugar passes me the salt and I am spiced.

     I was so turned on to lust by the dance of Chloë and Zawmb’yee that I struggled to remember the cliché, ‘look up here, and love me for my mind — not every breast has milk’. But Chloë was sick over Ngheufel. Zawmb’yee decided to get us a bottle of champagne.
     My cork screw had a gentle lift, and nothing was spilled. I’m glad I bought the deluxe version that lifts the cork gracefully, allowing celebrants to do their own popping, and own bubbling.
     Zawmb’yee said, “My Mother said that wine made her sleepy, but she was a liar: she got silly; she got high; she denied she had inhibitions (she denied she had ambitions). I toast in praise of intoxication when a shy one can say, ‘I love you’, without a blush or a stutter, and the foolishness is harmless poetic exuberance. Gee, I always wanted to use ‘exuberance’ in a sentence — I think I’ve done it.”
     “Oh Zawmb’yee,” said Chloë, raising her glass, “you can be so elegant, and um, I’ll drink to that.”
     We clinked our glasses together, and we all sparkled. I almost said it, but I didn’t know how to express the nuance of it — I knew I felt to say, ‘I love you both,’ and yearned to know them completely, but how could such an aroused creature as I admit that I wanted them to love me for my mind as dessert or is it as main course — I don’t know: metaphors confuse me. I must rise to the occasion (ha).
     Zawmb’yee said, “Well, we don’t have a drawing room, so for dessert, Doug, why don’t you read us a poem.”
     “Um,” I said, “I was hoping for ice cream.”
     “Yeah,” said Chloë, “go get your book and pick something.”
     I walked slowly to the book shelf trying to compose myself. Maybe I could do a handstand instead — they might like that.
     Zawmb’yee yelled, “Anything. Come on.”
     “OK,” I said, “here’s one called ‘Blubber’:

The psychic woman
had showed her
rough seas ahead,
said beware the tides
and flowing kisses,
but that seemed like
shallow waters to her

She had a fifth
her thick handkerchief
mopping up her eyes
highly high on her trumpeted mope
slipped on her poor spilled
cocktail of his love kisses
lost crawling
across the stage
where she was to sing beige
before a sea of mahogany tables
over drunks and hecklers
sticky stinky beckoning
bass strings plucking her heart
woe tale wagging about him
the bragging whale
who blew his spout
and left her high and dry.

Seeing her collapsing,
I could not bear her despair,
rose to say,
“I have always loved you,”
and we all stood,
hecklers and all,
to beg the last song

She knew me at last–
kissed me, the little one

Turning from beige to blue
caressing the mike,
she rasped in weeping harmonies
     ‘Stand for me
     the stood-up one;
     harpoon my love and
     sail me to the Port,
     wine me down mellow,
     me, a cello solo
     singing this tale of prophecy:
     the big ones get away, and
     the little ones stay.’     ”

     Chloë said, “Yeah, Ngheufel is big enough to be a whale.”
     We all laughed.
     Zawmb’yee said, “About intoxication and the toast … Did you want to say something, Doug?”
     I said, “Well, um … Are we all shy?”
     “I am,” said Chloë and Zawmb’yee in unison.
     I took a breath in and out. I said, “I love you too.”

     Zawmb’yee said to Chloë, “You should crash here. I’ve got a baby doll nightgown you can wear. I’ll show you.”
     “Yeah,” said Chloë, “good idea. I’m exhausted.”
     “Doug,” said Zawmb’yee, “can you clear the table. Thanks, and can you find us some cheese and crackers and some wine on a tray?”
     “Sure,” I said. I piled everything up and dumped it in the kitchen sink. Tray, tray, tray — where was the tray? I found it. I put some crackers on a dish, smeared a cheese spread over them with something that looked like a palette knife. Can opener? I found it. I opened a can of anchovies, and put a few on some of the crackers. What else? Olives looked nice and … I took all the cheeses we had, dumped them into a corner of the tray, plopped down the box of crackers, threw down a bunch of napkins and utensils, put a bottle of wine under my arm, and grabbed onto the tray. “I’m coming,” I yelled out.
     I carried everything into the bedroom. Chloë and Zawmb’yee were sitting on the bed in some frilly things.
     Zawmb’yee said, “Put the tray down over here, and take off your shirt and jeans. I think it’s bedtime and you don’t need any pajamas.”
     I put my jeans on a chair and sat between them. They did something with the crackers, and I drank some wine.
     Chloë said, “You have the anchovies, Doug — I know you like them.”
     “Pass the wine,” said Zawmb’yee. “I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to tell you what I think I saw, and … ”
     “Let’s not,” said Chloë, “think about all that right now. Let’s just relax. Sweet dreams, and … ” Chloë yawned.
     Zawmb’yee yawned. “I’m so tired.”
     I thought I would say something clever, but my eyes were drooping. I blinked, and my eyes closed. I forced them open, and went to the bathroom where I splashed water on my face. I wanted to stay awake a little longer. Coming back into bed, the fatigue was overtaking me, and I yawned again. Chloë’s eyes were closed. Zawmb’yee kissed me and turned the light off. My thoughts were fading into nothingness, a gentle buzz hushed me, and my body felt heavy. I fell asleep.

     Oh the joy and hazard of falling asleep with Chloë and Zawmb’yee in the bed with me. I dreamed I was on the railroad in a center seat. Chloë was sitting to my left, and Zawmb’yee was sitting to my right. Unbuttoning her blouse, Chloë took my left hand, guided it under her bra onto her left breast. Zawmb’yee took my right hand and guided it over her right breast. The rising of the nipples and me was exquisite as Chloë reached into my pants with her right hand to raise my monument even higher, and Zawmb’yee with her left hand cupped my base of swimming ecstasy.
     As Chloë and Zawmb’yee held my hands to their breasts, a female conductor with purple hair came down the aisle. She said, “Tickets please, all tickets please.”
     I said, “I can’t reach my ticket … ”
     She bent down and kissed me on the lips. “You don’t need a ticket,” she said.
     Chloë and Zawmb’yee held my hands while the conductor sat on my lap. Stroking my face and head, and reaching into her pocket, she pulled out an electric razor. Quickly she shaved my head. I realized it was Zusoiti. She said, “The land will be nude like your head, and the ice will descend.”
     An announcement came over the public address system: “Please be advised that passengers are subject to random searches. Also, please take note: if you see a suspicious package, report it to a transit worker or the police — ‘if you see something, say something’ — and have a nice day.”
     Zusoiti said, “I must inspect this suspicious package,” and she pulled down my pants. “Aha,” she said, and touched my tip.
     Zawmb’yee and Chloë chanted, “Banana cream pie, banana cream pie.”
     Zusoiti caught my cream in a cup. She whipped it up with a whisk into a meringue.              
     I pulled my hands back as Zawmb’yee and Chloë stood up, took cans of whipped cream out of their bags and sprayed it into my mouth.
     Another conductor came by and said, “Tickets please, all tickets please.”
     I woke up. I’ve always liked real whipped cream. But now they only have the artificial stuff — no, no, no. I used to make it with heavy cream, but I don’t even think they sell that anymore.
     Waking up from such a dream is hard to do, but Zawmb’yee was kissing me, and she said, “I’m making breakfast.” Before I could say something, she was out of the room. I lay hungry, and laid my dream aside.
     After staring at my erection, Chloë got up and went to the bathroom. When she came out, I went in. I had to wait a long time before I could urinate. Finally I was soft enough to go.

     Chloë was asleep again. All of us were so tired we could have lain in bed all day. I touched down onto the bed, landing my behind in the slump of the mattress, sighing.
     An awakening. Caressing my face, sliding a leg over, and another, Chloë used her hands strategically to ready me for launch, and she lowered herself on my rocket. I fondled her
globes, and we rolled over. Massaging her legs with my feet, my fingers strolled along her pathways.
     Zawmb’yee came back into the room. She touched me on the behind. I said, “Oh, ah, oh, ah, oh ah, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.” I can be so articulate sometimes. Chloë hugged me, and Zawmb’yee stroked my legs. I made some noises.
     The phone rang. Zawmb’yee left to answer it. Chloë rolled us over again and with her cave she squeezed my overgrown soda-straw stalactite, nursing it with her inner lips.
     Zawmb’yee came back in the room. Chloë and I moaned. Zawmb’yee said, “Chloë, you have a phone call.”
     Chloë got up. The doorbell rang. Chloë and Zawmb’yee left the room. I could have lain in bed all day. But I rested for just a short while. I think I might have fallen asleep again.
     But I heard Chloë calling me from the living room. She’s been into satires of Shakespeare lately and had me read some.
     Chloë shouted, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”
     I called back, “Because here I am an arrow in your bow that you fling like a beau in a sling, I am here, outrageous to think of joy, Juliet, when you are of class and I am pupil enlarged to see thee.”
     Zawmb’yee yelled, “Am I not the feathers on your arrow that makes your flight run true to rise as the Sun when I am the Moon?”
     The visitor, who was in the living room with them, spoke up. Utcoozhoo said, “Whoa young lovers; doth thou not trample on lines the planets forbid?”
     Cackles and guffaws galore, gorgeous was the laughter. I got dressed.

     I came into the living room. “Uncle Utcoozhoo,” I said, “this is a pleasant surprise. Would you like something to drink or a piece of garlic lime chicken?”
     “No thanks.”
     Chloë said, “Y’know, I think that ‘doth’ is third person, but ‘thou’ is second person.”
     “Argh,” said Utcoozhoo, “modern English is hard enough, and ancient English appears to be only for thee, Chloë, if you would be the objective case, but you are strong like a nominative, and as I understand it, ‘wherefore’ means ‘why’ not ‘where’. So thou art not an object, but the subject of admiration by some Romeo (oh, that makes it an object?), fixated on red hair and the art of the hunt. Feed him love and his growling will turn into ferocious purrs in basso profundo, the roar of gratitude when the bosom of welcome is safely calm, romantic but real, and fun.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Oh yeah, and don’t blondes have more fun?”
     “Well,” said Utcoozhoo, “you are already a ferocious spirit who has learned every lullaby that calms every hurt. Who could resist your song and gentle touch?”
     “Huh, what?” said Zawmb’yee.
     Utcoozhoo said, “Could you just let me be diplomatic and vague, please. You both are so intense. Cool it … I have good news … ”
     “Yes,” I said, “good news?”
     “Zawmb’yee, I’ve gotten you and Doug a full pardon, so it’s safe for you to come back into the cave … ”
     “How,” said Zawmb’yee, “did you do that?”
     “Well, it’s a little complicated: I have agreed to give a substantial number of ingot bars of gold, platinum, and palladium to Zusoiti from the Tzalbihuki on condition that she, personally, come out of the cave and open up a bank account in her own name. She has agreed to sell the metals herself … ”
     I said, “Isn’t that worth a fortune, and won’t it make her more powerful?”
     “Well,” said Utcoozhoo, “it’s a gamble, but I’m counting on the fact that she knows nothing about the tax laws, and will be raising a lot of red flags — the more ostentatious she is in her spending the better. I’m pretty certain that the temptations of the up-top world will seduce her, considering how isolated she’s been as a dedicated hermit and cave person.”
     “Gold bars?” asked Chloë.
     “The gods left a stockpile of supplies — an endowment, you might say. As Varishynahuki, guardian of the endowment, I can distribute it as I see fit, but it is a tricky business. We’ve spent years setting up sham mining companies and businesses to hide our true source of income. One must not tell the IRS that one has obtained gold from the gods.”
     Chloë said, “You can use any amount? … How much is there and … ”
     “It’s vast, but there are quite a few restrictions. For example, we are forbidden to drink or touch the waktalbup … ”
     “It means, ‘water with a heavy heart’.”
     “What’s that?”
     “Well … ”
     Zawmb’yee and I chanted a familiar tune, “Secrets are sacred.”
     Utcoozhoo laughed. “Chloë, Zusoiti is a dangerous person. I don’t think you want to know too much. It is she whose thoughts and feelings you picked up at the Blue Attic Club. Just her imprints nearly overwhelmed you … ”
     I said, “Is this really going to work?”
     “Probably not,” said Utcoozhoo, “but I have a Plan B … ”
          “Well, first I want to say, Zawmb’yee and Doug, that you must vote in the coming elections for the Parliament and for the Grand Council. I’ve brought you some political literature, and I’ve written out my opinions for you to consider … ”
     “OK, but,” I said, “what’s Plan B?”
     “We’ll vote her out of power if you can find a reliable source of scuba diving equipment. We’re going to need a lot of it, because a lot of the voters can’t hold their breath anymore.”
     “Doug, I think you can figure it out. You know, the Tzvaleubhoi. There are a lot of elders there on our side, but they must appear in person to vote.”
     Chloë said, “I’m not following this … ”
     Zawmb’yee and I chanted, “Secrets are sacred.”

     Utcoozhoo said, “Well, it’s been charming to meet you Chloë … Doug, I have to get going. Just get me some scuba catalogs, and some books on how to scuba dive. OK?”
     “Yes, ” I said, “I will … um, Uncle Utcoozhoo, did you know that Chloë is my favorite interior decorator?”
     “Oh?” said Utcoozhoo. He gazed over at Chloë. “Have I seen your work, Chloë?”
     Chloë hesitated a moment. “Uh, well, I did the Blue Attic Club with Zawmb’yee.”
     “Hmm, I might have some work for you in the future. I’m going your way — can I give you a lift home?”
     “Sure, and tell me all about the caves. From what Zawmb’yee has been telling me, it sounds intriguing.”
     Utcoozhoo looked at his watch. He opened the door for Chloë. “Well, then, we’ll be going … Thanks Doug. Zawmb’yee, you look beautiful today … see ya in the cave. Bye.” They left.
     Zawmb’yee and I plopped down on the couch. She said, “All of this has been exhausting and I guess Utcoozhoo can handle everything, but …”
     “But? Don’t worry. It’ll all work out. I’ll find the equipment supplier and we’ll vote … ”
     “No, I don’t mean that. I think that Zusoiti really intends to trigger a new Ice Age.”
     “Can she do that?”
     “I think so. Utcoozhoo has told me a little about the pfayohiqusi. I’m not sure exactly how, but I think it’s powerful enough to trigger catastrophic climate change.”
     “Are you sure about that, or is it one of those exaggerated myths?”
     “No. I think it’s real. I’ve seen the pfayohiqusi do spectacular things, but special permission is needed to use it.”
     “What is pfayohiqusi?”
     “Oh, pfayohiqusi just means ‘apparatus of the gods’. It’s just another one of those vague words that doesn’t really tell you anything. Utcoozhoo throws these words at me, but I haven’t yet comprehended what it really means.”
     “Well, anyway, we now can go back to the cave if we want to, but we don’t have to right away. Right?”
     “It does seem urgent and I think Utcoozhoo needs me.”
     “Yeah, but, I have to get information for him and you could do things from here.”
     “Well, the sacred quarters has certain equipment that I need and…”
     “Never mind all that. Just stay because…”


     I know it’s been a while since I’ve written in my Blog but we’ve both been very busy preparing for the impending crisis, and now something else… I didn’t want to write about waking up alone without her touching… She moved out…
     I had made lasagna. I finally got it right. It was perfect and Zawmb’yee loved it, but now she’s gone back to the cave, to the sacred quarters. I’ve eaten a little. I still have plenty of my five cheese masterpiece, but though I am hungry, I cannot eat another bite.
     In my messy sadness, tomato sauce drips from my lips, and I miss her already — could have fed her more. With her touch, this has been an intimate place, a sacred place. And now with her gone, my palace is a pumpkin I cannot decorate.
     Because I can not let sighs become sobs, hiccups overtake me. All these perturbations make me laugh at myself. I think my cold is worse because my eyes are leaking over the silence of my tomato lips. She chose the napkins. Maybe I’ll have another bite. I am so hungry.
     I’ll need all my strength, I suppose, when I go back to the cave. Utcoozhoo wants me to meet him at the Nipeiskwari. We’re going to swim to the Tzvaleubhoi.
     I think I do feel better gorging on what I do have for the moment. I was right to remember it being delicious, this lasagna, Zawmb’yee, and me in this place setting with sauces, a candle, and a napkin.

     Arriving early at the Nipeiskwari, swamped by uncertainty, by fear, excited for adventure and discovery, for success, and weighted down with anxiety and the scuba literature in a waterproof container, I waited for Utcoozhoo, eager to begin. To see the Tzvaleubhoi at last could only be entry into a Shangri-La or a disillusionment, though the task was to find the voters against Zusoiti. I stared at the blue waters.
     At the appointed time, Utcoozhoo leaped out of the water like a hairy gray dolphin. He said, “Doug, do you have the scuba brochures?”
     “OK, then, I want you to do some deep breathing, but be careful: only hyperventilate slightly, because if you faint underwater it would be tragic. When I raise my hand, we will both take our final breaths. Then, I will dive into the water, and you will follow me to the Akwangtqua and into the Tzvaleubhoi.”
     “What do you mean don’t hyperventilate?”
     “Well, I mean, you should be able to hold you breath in a natural way. Umm, OK, let’s do a practice run. Do some deep breathing and hold.”
     I breathed in and out as deep as I could for several minutes, and held my breath.
     Utcoozhoo said, “Now flap your arms like you’re swimming … ”
     I was feeling sick. I had to sit down.
     “Now breathe. How did you feel?”
     “I felt dizzy. I thought I was going to faint.”
     “That’s not good. You over did it. Next time, a little less. You’re going to have to depend on your natural lung capacity. OK, you’ll just do a few preparatory breaths and then one deep breath. OK, start and I’ll give you the signal when to dive.”
     When Utcoozhoo gave the signal, I followed him underwater. He dove to the bottom of the K’ut’mbletaw’i, swam along some corals, by some odd blue and orange stones in a mosaic, and for a long time in an unknown direction with few markers, an expanse of empty blue water, until we reached a tunnel opening. I already felt like I was running out of air. We entered the tunnel and I knew that I did not have enough air to turn around and go back.
     Several feet into the tunnel there were several branches. Utcoozhoo swam into the rightmost tunnel. I followed close behind until we reached another fork; he went left. Then right. Then right again. The urge to breathe was strong.
     He went left, then right, then right, then left. I was totally lost in this maze of tunnels, desperate to breathe, claustrophobic, praying, picturing my grand leap into the air. I couldn’t hold my breath much longer and couldn’t speak to Utcoozhoo. I just followed behind him as he swam rapidly. It did me no good to know that the order for the scuba gear was subject to 4-6 weeks delivery time with the notice that they were not responsible for unforeseen circumstances beyond their control that could delay fulfillment of the complete order. And yet, Utcoozhoo has done this for years without equipment.
     Utcoozhoo picked up speed and headed straight for a wall. When he got there, he stopped swimming, floated upward and disappeared.
     I swam as hard as I could into the wall, stopped and waited. I floated up and with a final push, burst out of the water into an enormous chamber, gasping for breath on a ledge with not even the energy of a flopping fish, exhausted.

     I crawled from the ledge onto what looked like a meadow. At the edge of the ledge and the grass, I saw an ant hill. Turning onto my back, I looked up to see a blue sky, a bright sun, a drifting cloud, and Utcoozhoo. I said, “Are we outside?”
     “No,” said Utcoozhoo, “this is the Tzvaleubhoi, the ‘Cave of the Third Sun’. ”
     “That’s a Sun?”
     “In a sense it is, but much cooler. It is much, much, cooler than the sun. It would have to be 93 million miles away if it were as hot as the sun, but this sun is very close to us.”
     Still recovering from the swim, I thought I must be dizzy and disoriented, because I felt like I was on a roller coaster, like a wave just passed under me. I said, “I feel like I’m floating on the ocean, and a wave just passed under me … I must be getting sick or something.”
     “No. I felt that too. That’s a small earthquake … ” Utcoozhoo was distracted, looked into the distance. Dodging a butterfly, a plump but frail man in a blue robe limped around a tree, sun-coated with enjoyment, lynx-eyed. Utcoozhoo ran the last few feet to embrace him. “Naztko, how are you? I want you to meet Doug.”
     I struggled to get up. I think I had a leg cramp.
     He said, “No need to get up. Just rest. Nice to meet you Doug, and now you see why we can’t swim out of here. I’m afraid I’ve become too fat and lazy to swim out of the tunnels.”    
     “It’s an honor to meet you, Sir,” I said.
     Utcoozhoo said to Naztko, “I just felt an earthquake.”
     “Yes. We’ve been feeling quite a few tremors, and something is very odd.”
     “What’s that?”
     “The far outer wall is very hot. We think someone has activated the pfayohiqusi of the third kind without permission.”
     “There is heat venting?”
     “Yes, I suspect a magma reservoir is forming. I could be mistaken — it may just be some natural process, but … ”
     “Some of the quakes seem consistent with unauthorized drilling.”
     “Give me all the reports you have, and I’ll look into it. You see, like I’ve been telling you (actually, Doug got me started on this), here’s an example of where modern technology can help us analyze a situation. The traditional ways are not always sufficient.”
     “I’ve been worried enough to think you might have a point. Something doesn’t feel right to me. I’ve a very bad feeling about Zusoiti. I don’t know how to explain this insight, but I think the way I could put it is that, somehow, Zusoiti is creating what perhaps I should call an interface between pfayohiqusi and modern technologies. I don’t know how to describe my vision because I’m not familiar with modern technology… Do you know what this might be?”
     “Well, if she could build a modern device that would simulate the steps that a person would apply to operate the pfayohiqusi, and then connected that modern device to the Internet, she could have a remote station anywhere … Does this make sense to you?”
     “Yes, I think I see where you’re going. That’s scary … ”
     “Well, anyway, that’s just speculation. In the meantime, we’re going to need your vote.”
     “This scuba gear that you want to order will let us swim out?”
     “Let me read about it … I’m not sure if I like this up-top technology.”
     We felt another earthquake, this one much stronger. Part of the ledge cracked off and fell into the entrance tunnel.
     I said, “Uncle Utcoozhoo, is this serious?”    
     “I don’t know. If the tunnels become blocked, there will be a dilemma.”
     Naztko said, “What dilemma? If the entrance tunnel collapses, you’ll just stay here forever. What’s the problem? We’re self-sufficient.”
     “You miss the point,” shouted Utcoozhoo, “a tyrant may seize absolute power, and even you will not be safe from her reach.”
     There was another small tremor. Utcoozhoo ran to the ledge, looked into the water. “That does it, I must go to the Forbidden Zone immediately.”
     I got up and peered into the entrance tunnel. It was still clear, but a few large boulders had fallen into it. “Maybe we should go now and get help,” I said.
     “Not yet,” said Utcoozhoo, “I must reactivate the dormant pfayohiqusi that serve the Tzvaleubhoi exclusively. Each of the pfayohoqwaahujpi must be brought on-line in sequence … ”
     Naztko said, “No, you must not. You cannot enter the Forbidden Zone until the gods return.”
     “I must. It is pcapdyntpa. As a member of the Grand Council, I hereby declare an emergency.”
     Naztko was stunned. He straightened his back, stood as tall as he could, said, “Do you swear by the sacred oath, by the Gydm, that this, in holy purpose, is pcapdyntpa?”
     Utcoozhoo said, “I do.”
     I said, “Wha…”
     “Doug, wait here,” said Utcoozhoo.
     Utcoozhoo ran across the meadow, past a willow tree, over a hill, around a steep cliff, and disappeared.
     Naztko said, “Doug, I’m sorry we have to meet under such strange circumstances, but I’ve heard some good things about you. How is Zawmb’yee?”
     “She’s fine.”
     We were both uncomfortable, but made a lot of small talk. We walked a short distance across the meadow where Naztko showed me his orchard.
     I said, “I can’t get over how it seems like I am outside. Is this a complete ecosystem?”
     “Well, mostly. It’s just that the gods have provided the energy source here to sustain all life, whereas, up-top the Sun is the source of life-sustaining energy. Well, I guess you could say that the main problem is expelling the heat that is generated by the pfayohiqusi. Up until now, it has seemed like the volcanos have done a good job managing the heat flow … ”

     The Tzvaleubhoi at first appearance did seem a complete paradise. Gazing upon the grass, green with chlorophyll, the energy sponge, upon all the green oxygen makers, the leaves of the peach tree, Naztko watched a cow approach, a leaf fall, as he ruminated something in the air. “Well,” he said, “it’s an ecology of convenience, a necessary delusion. I suppose it’s an unnatural environment, because we have no predators.”
     “Do you need them?”
     “I don’t know. Maybe imbalance is good.”
     “Predators kill the weak, and keep the gene pool strong?”
     “Well, we already have the perfect pedigree I think.” The cow mooed. “This one almost talks,” he said, shooing it away. Walking into the shade, reaching up with aplomb to a low hanging peach, he plucked the rosy one, ripe, and gave it to me. “Eat this for your trip back, a sample of paradise.”
     But before Naztko could digest his own thoughts, Utcoozhoo galloped into our sight, shouting from a distance, “Odd revelations.”
     “Whoa,” said Naztko, “come closer, catch your breath. We can’t hear the news if the messenger dies. Whatever the crisis, we can spare a few minutes.”
     Utcoozhoo sat down under the tree, sweating profusely. Naztko tried not to look worried. I didn’t try.
     Naztko said, “I imagine reactivating such ancient pfayohiqusi would bring some enigmas. We’ll deal with it.” Naztko reached into a pocket in his robe, and pulled out a thermos bottle. Removing the cup from the top, he poured Utcoozhoo some ice coffee with cream and sugar. “See,” said Naztko, “I got to use this bottle you gave me last year. How is it?”
     Utcoozhoo drank half. He said, “It’s good. I’m glad you’ve been using your gift … Um, I want you to call an emergency meeting, and bring as many elders as you can to the Forbidden Zone — preferably, everyone. I need help interpreting some ancient language I’m uncertain about. ”
     “We can’t … ”
     “Yes, yes, yes. Do I have to be so official? OK, it’s pcapdyntpa, I swear.”
     Naztko asked, “What’s it about?”
     “As best as I can figure out, it has something to do with Earth Wobble, eccentricity, and the blockage of equatorial ocean currents, but you have to see it for yourself. It’s better if you get the complete picture. I don’t think I can describe it properly here.”

     “Utcoozhoo,” I said, “does the revelation have something to do with Zusoiti?”
     “Yes, I think she’s tapping into the grzepepa looking for information.”
     Naztko asked, “Can she learn to control the pfayohoqwaahujpi?”
     “That’s,” said Utcoozhoo, “what worries me. She is trying … ”
     Naztko said, “you’re right — we had better call a meeting. We’d better go now.”
     Utcoozhoo said to me, “Doug, listen carefully. Do you know hexadecimal to binary conversion?”
     “Um, well, yes.”
     “Then what would nine be?”
     “You mean, 1001?”
     “Yes, and two?”
     “That would be 0010.”
     “OK. Now I want you to change each ‘one’ to an R, and each zero to an L. So now say, nine is R, L, L, R.”
     “Nine is R, L, L, R. ”
     “Now say two is L, L, R, L.”
     “Two is L, L, R, L. But what is this for?”
     “R means take a right turn in the tunnel. L means turn left. These are the directions you will need to leave through the tunnel maze. Naztko and I have to go to the Forbidden Zone and you have to go back to the Nipeiskwari by yourself. You’re going to have to hold your breath and swim out. If you get lost in the tunnel, you won’t have enough breath to get back home.”
     “Uh, oh, um, what is that again?”
     “Nine: go right, left, left, right. Two: go left, left, right, left. Just remember 92. OK?”
     “Uh, well, I … ”
     “We have no more time. Take care.”
     “Bye Doug,” said Naztko over his shoulder as Utcoozhoo and he broke into a run across the meadow, past the willow, and over the hill. Even Naztko with his frailties was able to put on a burst of speed, and they both vanished.
     I walked slowly to the ledge thinking 92, 92. Well, at least, this would be the beginning of my journey instead of the end as it was when I came here and was out of breath in an unknown place. This time I would be desperate for breath at the end of my journey in a familiar place — I think I’d rather die at home than here in a tunnel like I had thought I might when I came here. OK, I had to focus on 92.
     I dove into the water, thinking, OK, nine is: right, left, left, right. When I touched bottom from the force of my dive, I could feel a tremor. I swam forward towards the intersection as the shaking increased. Rocks started falling from the ceiling and I wondered if I should go back.
     A bright gnolum lit the first intersection and I could easily see the right and left branches ahead. OK, first is right.
     Before I could reach the right tunnel, I heard a rumble. An avalanche of rock and crushed gnolums filled the right tunnel, totally blocking it.

     What now? Well, I thought, I should at least see where the left tunnel goes and then I could always go back, rest, and then maybe think of a new strategy.
     I entered the left tunnel. It went leftward for a short while and than started into a clockwise curve. Maybe it was curving back toward the direction of the blocked pathways. In fear, the journey seemed endless, but eventually I came to a passage that seemed strangely familiar. There was a sharp jagged rock by a gnolum that reminded me of something that I had totally forgotten, because it was such a minor injury: coming in, I scraped myself on the rock, swimming swiftly in a panic behind Utcoozhoo. Yes, this was the rock. Now I had to think, how many more turns were there when I scraped myself? I had to try to bring the memory back in detail. There I was, annoyed by the scrape, ignoring the pain, focussing on where Utcoozhoo was swimming, and then we did, turn, turn, turn, turn — dum, da, dum, dum, or something. I thought, it doesn’t matter; it’s just that there were four turns, so I must be at the place for the last four turns. Yes, that has to be it: left, left, right, left. Was I right or did I have to go back?
     I couldn’t waste anymore air thinking about it. I turned left, then left, then right, then left.
     Hurray, I was out of the tunnels. I swam past the orange-blue mosaic and didn’t think I could make it.
     I floated upward, and gave one last kick. I burst out of the water like a flounder, falling onto the rock of the Nipeiskwari where Zawmb’yee was waiting for me.
     She was going to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but I put up my hand to stop her because I was gasping so hard I thought I would suck her lungs out. While I was breathing in and out, in and out, I pointed at my cheek and she kissed my cheek.
     She said, “Utcoozhoo is in the Forbidden Zone, and reactivated its pfayohiqusi. He used the grp’nl to send me a message in the sacred quarters. He said the tunnel collapsed, and I didn’t think you were going to make it.”
     “It was,” I said, “a close call and … ”
     Zawmb’yee burst into tears, and my tear suppression self was too overwhelmed by her love to stop my eyes from flooding. I couldn’t deserve all this when I had done little, and I hated to see her suffer. “I’m alright,” I said, but I felt so sad to be in a world of gloom.

     I stood up, and was surprised to see a crowd of people milling around in the cave. The cave had always been relatively empty which is what I liked about it. I said to Zawmb’yee, “Who are all these people?”
     “A lot of up-top people have returned to the cave to help during this crisis,” she said.
     Utcoozhoo’s assistant, Otuux, a tall man, square-jaw efficient but jocular, stumbled onto us out of the chaos. “Doug,” he said, “how are you? I heard you were the last person to make it out of the tunnel, and how is Naztko?”
     “I’m OK. I last saw him running to the Forbidden Zone with Utcoozhoo.”
     “He was running?”
     “Yes, he seemed rejuvenated by the emergency, but I really didn’t get a chance to talk to him much.”
     “Yes, well, he is a fine gentleman, and very wise. I think he and Utcoozhoo will find out what’s happening … I’ve got to go. Zawmb’yee, tell Doug everything. Be well, and don’t worry — we’ll find Zusoiti.” Otuux dashed off in a dignified trot.
     “What happened to Zusoiti?” I asked Zawmb’yee.
     “She left the cave for the up-top world. No one seems to know where she went, but she seems to have established herself, and set up a remote access station. She’s tapped into the grzepepa, the gods’ data base, looking for the protocols to launch the gst’fibiches.”
     “The what?”
     “The ‘arrows that reach the stars’. She wants to call back the gods. We think there may be a whole constellation of procedures and sequences that if wrongly applied by the pfayohoqwaahujpi might trigger an Ice Age which is what she wants.”
     “So you’re telling me Zusoiti is using her new found wealth to destroy us and trap Utcoozhoo? Are the tremors I felt the beginning?”
     “We don’t know yet about that, but there are indications of changes in the ocean currents, and we’re concerned about Earth Wobble … ”
     I was in a bit of a foul mood, and began to think time had run out. “Doesn’t it look like,” I moaned, “the ancient prophesy is true that the world will end in a frozen agony of death and suffering? I’ve accomplished nothing, and now the world ends. Isn’t this charming?”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Doug, don’t be so down. Let me tell you the story of Tpiqlat’ng that Utcoozhoo always tells me.”
     “I thought you told me that already.”
     “No, no, this is a different story,” she said.
     “Well, I’m sure it’s a charming story, but isn’t Tpiqlat’ng an ancient hero? If he’s a prototypical hero from mythology he would have greater courage and insight than any of us mere mortals could ever hope to have.”
     “I suppose that would be if he were a Myth, but he’s not, except to the extent that primitive people had trouble describing miraculous things they didn’t understand. So the description is a little ambiguous. But, anyway, I just want to tell you an inspirational story. Pretend it’s a bedtime story … And, anyway, you’re a contradiction, you know, because you choose to believe the worst — you’re willing to believe the ancient prophesy of doom. Right? So you want to believe the worst and I want to believe the best.”
     “Well, some of these ancient tales are very unlikely to have happened.”
     “Yes, that’s what Tpiqlat’ng said to the god Kragzluk … What?”
     I guess I must have looked exasperated, because Zawmb’yee paused in annoyance. I smiled. “Oh never mind. I’m tired enough for a bedtime story. What did Tpiqlat’ng say?”
     “Kragzluk told him he would bring all the deer to an inner garden. Tpiqlat’ng thought that was highly unlikely. Kragzluk told him he would create a Sun to place in the cave. Tpiqlat’ng broke into laughter, saying, ‘That’s as improbable as all the deer coming to be slaughtered’
          “ Kragzluk replied, ‘Intelligence applied can focus harmony into a certainty. Detail comes from focus.
          ‘The heavy-essence of the Sun can be brought to focussed resonance. When this is done, it tunnels into a crystal heart, fusing the heavy-essences with certainty.’ ”
     “What is ‘heavy-essense’ ? ”
     “Otuux thinks it means Deuterium or Hydrogen, you know, what makes the Sun shine.”
     “And what did Tpiqlat’ng say?”
     “He said, ‘Huh, what?’ ”
     “A sensible fellow, this Tpiqlat’ng.”
     “Yes, well, but he did memorize the words even though he didn’t understand it. So too, as Utcoozhoo says, we must hold all these mysteries in our minds without judgment until they coalesce into an understandable form, when the tiger only leaves his roar behind … ”
     “Huh, what?”
     “Ha, very Tpiqlat-ian of you.”

     Zawmb’yee is always such a supportive, encouraging person that I so much wanted to embrace her optimism, but this time I feared that events had overtaken any reasonable expectation of success. However, the blossoming of her enthusiasm is such an exuberant seeding of joy, even in desert sands, that I would endure a scorpion bite just to see her tickle the cactus into yielding water to drink.
     It was an odd mix of people in the cave: some were frantic, others seemed out for a picnic. I imagined those with the most information were frantic, and the others were there for a reunion atmosphere. There was our best sprinter, Ayomkst, across from the bacon-ribbon speleothems, who could zigzag around any cluster of stalagmites in record time like a slalom skier in a snow storm, graceful like a horse that all the women wanted to ride — I bet he has a stable up-top. He was unpacking a picnic basket with Efilioe, the beauty queen of the Neanderthals, a tastefully hairy situation, and they were oblivious to anything that was going on around them, each with a leg of lamb and a leg of each other.
     I think I knew too much to not be morose. “Disaster seems inevitable,” I said.
     “Yes, but even if everything were perfect all the time, all of us will eventually die.”    
     “Now who’s being morbid?”
     “I’m just following your logic, playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’. Is this world the only existence? Didn’t you hint at this question in you poetry?”
     “I guess, but that’s just crappy poetry — it doesn’t really mean anything, does it?”
     Zawmb’yee fumbled through her bag and pulled out my poetry book. She said, “And oh, would you autograph this damn thing already for me — I think I’m a friend of the author, you know.”
     “Yeah, OK, but no one is ever going to see it.” She gave me her lucky pen and I signed it.
     “Well, I don’t know about that, but you know what Utcoozhoo always says … ”
     “When a grasshopper has made a book from the leaves of a fallen tree, and no one has heard the tree fall, is the grasshopper literate, even if no one hears it sing?”
     “That doesn’t sound like something Utcoozhoo would say … ”
     “Yeah, OK, I say it.”
     “Um, I don’t think you’ve ever heard me sing.”
     “Yes I have, Sweet Lips. OK, I’ll indulge your dark mood with one of your ‘crappy’ poems. So, let’s see, here is ‘Dark Sun’:

          ‘Millions of years festering
          our Sun did die
          a ding in my
          youthful illusion
          of invulnerability
          just when
          we were to be married. I’d
          been born to a frozen death,
          missing you in an abyss:
          exploded gases tore us apart

          In my death,
          without body
          I searched for you
          alone in darkness
          oblivion foreplay.

          I thought you were a super nova
          an obscene sunrise. It seemed that

          only I, a dot, remained
          alone looking for the key
          to find the opening door
          to restless imaginary things
          dancing teasing lights that
          would swing open to a dream
          of glistening dots ordered
          in shooting streams of golden water
          like bubbles up the nose gently,
          dream bump ode to

          pretending again
          to sleep after playing
          that the afterplay was foreplay
          but thought dots seemed
          like black holes
          staying crushed,
          for I was a singularity
          waiting for grief
          to explode, but

          why am I looking to
          haunt an old house long gone
          and every material star

          Yes, I of soul, not flesh
          will look in the dark
          for the true light of heaven
          if you will only signal me

          If you would gather my love like kindle
          and light a campfire in heaven
          I know I could come with marshmallows’ ”

     “Egads, I’m darker than I thought … I’m sorry. You’re right: give me your beauty to gaze upon and I will conquer the world … ”
     “See that: you can sing, Sweet Lips.”
     “And as Utcoozhoo always says, ‘Zawmb’yee is so beautiful, so exquisite … ’ ”
     “Now that doesn’t sound like something Utcoozhoo would say … ”
     “Yeah, OK, I say it.”

     With Zawmb’yee stroking my face until I smiled, I briefly closed my eyes, and sighed, as Zawmb’yee took my hand. She guided me around the bend in the K’ut’mbletaw’i to the blue-tinged curtain formation, the Wejpob, a grand speleothem that many an artist has stained with rare mineral drippings, a now rarely performed technique, abandoned by the child who has become too mature to do drip castles in the sand, though here there are no ocean waves to wash a child-artist onto the dry sand of adulthood.
     Zawmb’yee slid a large boulder aside to reveal a staircase. She said, “Come to the sacred quarters. You can dry off.”
     We reached the bottom of the stairs, and the boulder slid back into place. I said, “OK, now, how can we help? I have no idea what’s going on.” We walked down a long corridor decorated with framed drawings by children — I thought, maybe, one of them might even be one of my childhood drawings (but mine I don’t think were this charming, just crude as I remember it). Zawmb’yee had mounted them herself below the gnolums, as carefully as a professional curator, making them seem as elegant as any museum display.
     Zawmb’yee said, “Utcoozhoo wants us to leave the cave again, mingle around in the up-top milieu, perhaps by the Blue Attic Club, but see if we can sniff out a trail that leads to Zusoiti.”
     “Well, I’m not exactly an expert on high society, you know, ” I said.
     “Yeah, but neither is Zusoiti.”
     “That may be, but she is quite clever, charismatic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s found some supporters and sycophants to help her out even if she’s new to the up-top world — I’ll bet they find her oddness attractive and her obscure philosophies profound by default, when they are intrigued but puzzled, and of course, she is a champion at bluffing that she has an army behind her before she has assembled it. ” We turned a corner to Zawmb’yee’s apartment entrance hall.
     Her demeanor sagged in agreement as we approached her place. She turned to the upbeat, “Utcoozhoo says to just go with the flow — see what you see. He says we should leave the cave again, go to your place, just relax, and hang out, because serendipity belongs to us, and this is our role … ”
     “Geez, I’m glad Utcoozhoo has such confidence in us … to be cool — hang out. I think I could do that.”
     “Yes, let’s celebrate vagueness, and I have venison and buffalo fried in duck fat with truffles, just like you like it, and a little caponata, blue cheese, wine, and me … ”
     “Yes, I feel better already (and we don’t need to know what Utcoozhoo really means).” She led me to her quarters and I felt that in service to serendipity and duty to the clan, even lust was sacred if my serene mood and pleasure would massage my mind into solutions that I would find tomorrow, postscript to consummation.

     From the journey of a dream, I awoke happy, enveloped in warm morning confidence. The voice of Zawmb’yee was in my ears. She was singing, “Better Than A Dream”:
     “Enraptured in the blankets of home with you, of you,” she whispered. “Our embrace is the brightness of us, with us.” In glowing soprano, she sang, “We are the morning together, together: an awakening is here to be for real, at home — peaceful passion, satisfaction day — not dreaming, but being in the lightness of us, with us. We are warm, being the morning sun, better than a dream.”
     “You do that so well,” I said, “and you kept to the original without one of those arrangements that ruins a song. You are an embellishment, more beautiful than a song … beautiful voice … ”
     “Thanks — I knew you’d like it.”
     “Sometimes I’m in the mood and for a minute I improvise a song, but then somehow I drift off-key. It’s frustrating. I feel like I should be a singer, but my voice has run away from a roar to a snarl when it should be humming.”
     “I always love to hear your voice,” she said. “By the roar of your hum, I think you could learn to focus your sorrow, your joy, if you’d let the inner music carry you beyond a thought.”
     “That’s a thought — um, I mean, maybe I could … Where are we going today?”
     “Why don’t we go to the village near the cave exit for breakfast today. It’s quiet and peaceful and the café has good service I’ve heard.”
     “Yeah, good idea. I remember that place. Excellent food.”
     “OK. Join me in the shower and I’ll get you singing in a clean clear voice.”
     “Off to the suds then, m’Lady … Zawmbee, Warmbee is okey dokey soapy. Shall we dance to the shower?”
     “I will tune you up,” she said and did a little trill.
     It was a foamy morning. We were so clean when we dressed and left the sacred quarters.
     Zawmb’yee showed me the stairs to the Qukwerpfm. This was a new passageway for me, and I said, “How come you’ve never shown me this before?”
     “Well, you’ve always been an ‘official’ visitor to the sacred quarters, you know, like an ambassador to the White House, honored but not trusted, but now you can sneak in and out as the honorable lover with tacit approval, if not by the gods then by me.”
     We climbed the stairs. The walls were covered with Zawmb’yee’s art work. I said, “These are great. I remember seeing them when you were still angry at the paint for not being the perfect color, but you’ve made every shadow complement the bursting-out joy. Magnificent colors. Don’t you think someone should see these?”
     “Well, you’re someone.”
     “You know what I mean … you’re a great artist.”
     “Maybe. Maybe we could do that joint project you wanted to do.”
     “Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I like acrylic because it’s fast drying and you can correct mistakes quickly and keep going, but you seem to like oils … ”
     “Well, I could try acrylic … ”
     We reached the top of the stairs by the Qukwerpfm, made our way past the Cathedral formation, past the golden stalagmite with the purple pothole base, and down the final tunnel to the exit.

     Emerging from the cave, we zigzagged as usual around the brambles and under the metal-leaf camouflage until we came to the clearing. I said, “Should we walk to the highway into town, or should we take the long way around, along the trail by the stream behind the café?”
     “Let’s take the scenic route,” she said.
     We walked through some brush that had a dangling sock and a scrap of paper hanging from a branch. “I see by the garbage that the village has grown,” I said.
     “Yes, it appears that way — a few more kids in town. I think the old fishermen were pretty careful about not leaving trash around.”
     “I wonder if there are still fish in the stream”
     “Maybe, if they like to eat paper … ” Zawmb’yee untangled the paper from the branch. “It says, ‘vote for the Violet Party’ … I guess the Village Board is up for grabs or something.”
     “Nah, nobody here has much cared about politics — It’s probably a promotion for the flower shop … you know, one of their contests — best daisy at the fair or dancing by the barbecue of the roses and basil or whatever.”
     “Yeah, I suppose.”
     After we thrusted through the brush to make our way to the trail, we relaxed, sauntering along the stream. A few leaves danced along the edges, and the water did look clear. Walking to the boulder where the stream wandered, I spotted some fish in the shallow water. “There,” I said.
     “Yes, I see. I guess the stream might still be healthy.”
     We and the stream meandered along gracefully, but a twitchy squirrel ran up a tree. “No nuts today,” I said.
     Zawmb’yee said, “Who are you talking to?”    
     “I meant the squirrel, but it would be nice if we encountered no nuts today.”
     There was a flitter and a chirping. The blue sky and Zawmb’yee’s eyes, matching beauties, were observing flights of fancy feathers, tickled by clouds.
     Putting something in her ear, Zawmb’yee said, “I want to get a weather report — it’s starting to get cloudy.”
     “It looks like just a few puffy ones …”
     “Hmm, rain tomorrow … yeah, yeah, yeah … and oh … I wonder …”
     “They’re talking about a new volcanic island forming in the Pacific Ocean, but they say it happens all the time and it’s nothing to worry about.”
     “Well, yeah, it might mean nothing.”
     “and uh, oh … that’s odd.”
     “More seismic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Hmm. Well, anyway, enough of that — I’ll listen to it some other time … Isn’t this a beautiful day?”
     “Yes, I wonder if Angela still works at the café. She was always willing to serve the lunch menu for breakfast — I was never fond of cereal, eggs, or other traditional nonsense for breakfast — I’ve always wanted real food.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “You know, why can’t I have smoked kippers, eggplant parmesan, trout, or chicken with cashews for breakfast? Oatmeal? I don’t think so — they feed oats to horses, right? Or once in a while, steak for breakfast.”
     “Yeah. I guess real cavemen eat meat, huh, or they crave fish like bears in a stream, ha.”
     “Yes, I will brook no oats for breakfast. Protein is needed for creativity and the stream-of-consciousness we need when we kneel at the river, praying for rain on the mountain, hoping the splash that soaks is the grace of
forgiveness and not the petulant turbulence of capricious gods.”
     “Geez, you do need breakfast.”
     “Hey, I’ve been reading and I’m trying to exercise my vocabulary. I am impatient to make a splash, be more than a corn flake …”
     “Okay. Better you be a flake than me. But I love flakes, and I will be as Shakespeare says, ‘the milk of human kindness’ in your bowl.”
     To the river, the stream was child, guiding us in the ripples of the day, we, streaming along like banners playfully waving at life along a gentle brook where rabble are not heard, the child’s babble joyful enough to be understood in the gurgle of a float-along morning. But the last bend in the trail brought us to the garbage bins behind the café.
     We walked around the bushes by the wall to the front village sidewalk on Darling Street across from the Antique Shop. A few steps beyond the street light and parking meter we could see the old blue and white sign: ‘Moose Café’. “Here we are,” I said.
     Zawmb’yee said, “I’m hungry enough to eat a moose.”
     “I don’t think they actually serve moose, but they have everything else …”
     “OK. Let’s go in.”
     They did have a small dance floor and stage in the back room, but except for the Moosehead mounted above the simulated fireplace, it looked like a diner with old-fashioned booths and a main counter. Angela, a tall voluptuous brunette came running out from behind the counter. She gave me a hug and a kiss. “Doug,” she said, “I haven’t seen you in a long time … who’s this?”
     “I’d like you to meet my dearest friend, Zawmb’yee,” I said.
     “Nice to meet you,” she said.
     Zawmb’yee said, “You’re Angela?”
     “Yes, so make yourself comfortable and welcome.”
     Angela ran back around the counter. Zawmb’yee and I sat on the stools. Angela went over to the side to turn up a radio. We heard, “ … according to our source in the Pentagon, known to us as ‘Stealth Fox,’ it has been determined that neither the Russians, nor the Chinese, have launched any missiles. What had been thought to be the heat signature for some sort of stealth missile cluster, launched from, of all places, the SOUTH POLE, has been found to be a radar glitch caused by bizarre atmospheric conditions. It has been rumored that the United States was within minutes of launching a retaliatory strike against the newly belligerent Russians who claimed to be doing penguin research at a newly expanded base. The White House refusing to comment on these reports, issued a statement asking the Press to be more responsible, and to not report fantasies as fact. Moscow also condemned the America press corps; in answer to a reporter’s question, a military official through a translator remarked, ‘The only launching we are doing is of a weather balloon to carry an antenna, enabling our personnel to watch the cartoon network. We suggest that American reporters bring their ideas to Hollywood’… ” Angela turned off the radio, and came over to take our order.
     Zawmb’yee asked, “What was that about?”
     “God only knows,” said Angela, “maybe it’s that stupid Ozone Hole or whatever that is, but no one on Earth is capable of launching from there, are they? Nah, the whole thing is silly. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing — they could have started a nuclear war over nothing. ”
     “Maybe,” I said, “the announcer meant to say ‘missiles coming over the NORTH Pole’. This doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s a radio drama, a hoax.”
     “Well, maybe, but it’s the news channel. Anyway, whatever, it’s a false alarm … So, Doug, I suppose you’re going to have dinner for breakfast again. Why don’t we let Zawmb’yee order first: what would you like?”
     Zawmb’yee glanced at a menu. “I’ll have the scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage special with hash browns au gratin and um, cherry soda with lime.”
     “Comin’ right up,” said Angela, “I’ll wake up the chef. Meanwhile, Doug, you decide what you want,” and she disappeared into the kitchen.

     I said to Zawmb’yee, “I’m not clear on something: when we go back to my place and hang out in the city, how exactly does Utcoozhoo expect us to find Zusoiti?”
     “He just said we will.”
     “This has been a peaceful morning and I was feeling great to be with you, but I can’t help but wonder if something is going on … uh … ”
     “Well, is it possible that something really was launched from the South Pole? Could this be the gst’fibiche brought to life?”
     “I don’t know, but nothing has happened.”
     “Well, yeah, not yet, but maybe it’s putting devices of some kind into orbit or maybe somewhere else … I mean, we know little about ancient technologies, and what they’re capable of.”
     “Don’t worry. Let’s just relax, enjoy our breakfast, and then we will head out to your place — you didn’t take down my drapes did you?”
     “No, no. Everything is intact. The apartment is just as you left it. I wouldn’t tamper with the work of the master Interior Decorator. Your couch and lamps are still in the same place. I have saved every token of you, and now you will be you in-person.”
     “You have space for my stuff?”
     “Yes, yes. All your draws are empty and ready. Plenty of closet space and your stuffed animals will greet you.”
     “OK. I think I’ll hang some of my paintings … ”
     “That’ll be great … Y’know, how DOES a person with purple hair who wants to take over the world, not be noticed?…” Speaking of not noticing, Angela had returned and was listening to our conversation. She served Zawmb’yee the deluxe platter with the cherry-lime soda.
     Angela said, “Well, we have a grand Lady with purple hair who’s running for Mayor. I might vote for her if her prophesy comes true … She is odd, but I like her … Purple hair must be a new fad or something. She is funny: she says it’s natural … ”
     “What’s her name?” I asked.
     “Zusoiti Gabpix.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Oh my God, what’s the prophesy?”
     Angela turned the plate. “Zawmb’yee, try the potatoes — the chef added some coriander, cumin, and onion. He wants to know how you like it.”
     Zawmb’yee took a taste with a prayer and a twofold curiosity. “It’s superb — my compliments to the chef, but there’s more?”
     Angela said, “Yes, there’s a secret ingrediant, but if he likes you, he’ll give you the recipe.”
     Zawmb’yee was trying to be nonchalant. “Yes, thanks very much … um, what was the prophesy?”
     “Oh yeah. Well, she’s running on the platform that if she becomes Mayor, she’ll rescind all laws that restrict wood stoves, fireplaces, barbecues, and campfires. She says keeping houses cool for conservation is just silly, and that we should burn as much fuel as we need to. Her slogans are: ‘If plants can love carbon dioxide, why can’t we’, ‘With every exhale we love a plant’, and ‘Every fire is sacred, whatever the fuel, because to warm is to love.’ ”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Well, OK, and what is the prophesy?”
     “Oh yeah, well, it fits in with all that: she says that an Ice Age is coming … ”
     I said, “Angela, when is this Ice Age coming?”
     “Hey, Doug, all of a sudden you’re interested in politics? Hmm. Well, did you decide what you’re having for breakfast/dinner?”
     “Uh well, I like black cherry duck, but an Ice Age, when?”
     “Uh, let’s see. What day is this, oh, OK, it’s supposed to start today at three o’clock … ”
     “Yeah, she calls it a five step process — first there will be a super volcano, whatever that is, which will cool the Earth for a few years, because of the ash and smoke or something in the air. Then, the Earth is going to wobble she says because the moon is going to be hit by something or other — I forget. Anyway, she’s probably nuts, but I’m curious to see what happens today … ”
     “Oh, God,” I said. I looked at Zawmb’yee who looked like I felt, wondering how anyone defends against some amorphous Armageddon, and an enemy possessing unknown weapons and purple hair.
     Angela said, “Hey, why worry on such a nice day. OK, then, Black Cherry Duck Deluxe. I’ll get chef started on it — it’ll take a while.” Angela went back into the kitchen.
     Zawmb’yee said, “What do we do now?”
     “We have to stop her,” I said.
     “How are we going to do that? We don’t even know where she is.”
     “She’s got to be in town somewhere — Angela must know.”
     I was thinking, three o’clock, so maybe we had time to do something, but had she started the process or would she trigger it at three? It was only eight o’clock and we could plan for battle, but what exactly would we be doing? I looked at the Moosehead as if a meditation on nature and kitsch would supply an inspiration. Zawmb’yee massaged her tongue with a morsel of potato, took a sip of soda, and stared at the scrambled eggs. Angela returned.

     “Doug,” said Angela, “your duck is cooking. It looks fabulous — a glaze from heaven.”
     “Thanks Angela,” I said. “Um, your favorite for Mayor sounds interesting. Does she live in town?”
     “Yeah, she bought the old mansion. She comes by every day in her limousine at ten o’clock. Do you know her?”
     Zawmb’yee, looking up, after devouring her scrambled eggs, gave me a telling look. She looked back down, and started on her sausage.
     I said, “Yeah, you could say that Zawmb’yee and I are old friends of hers.”
     “Well, then,” said Angela, “why don’t you go to her place at ten. Joe’s cab can take you. I’ll put in a call, and Joe can pick you up at 9:30 — no problem … ”
     “Hey, relax, you’ll enjoy your meal — you’ve got plenty of time.”
     Just then, the building began to shake. “What’s that?”
     “Oh, it’s probably just one of the heavy trucks coming by: they’re making a temporary detour off the highway onto Darling Street until they can fix the big sinkhole.”
     “Yeah. The highway was undermined by the last flood, because they forgot about some old caves that ran under the highway. They should have filled them in years ago.”
     There was more severe shaking and the moosehead crashed to the floor. “That’s not a truck,” I said.
     Zawmb’yee said, “Angela, that’s an earthquake — definitely.”
     Angela ran out from behind the counter with a broom and a dust pan, and ran over to the moosehead. “Poor moose. Trying to charge us with your antlers, are you? What a mess. Well, we do need a change of decor. It’s always been a little tacky (the original owner put that in), but even if the locals like it, I think it should go.” She cleaned up a little, but left the moosehead on the floor.
“Yeah. We’ve had quite a few minor earthquakes. They told us not to worry. The engineer said the building is structurally sound and gave us thirty days to fix a few minor things.”
     I said, “Zawmb’yee is learning Interior Decoration. I bet she could jazz up the whole place.” Zawmb’yee was finishing up her breakfast, slurping her soda.
     “Yeah?” said Angela walking back around the counter. “Zawmb’yee, let’s talk about it. We don’t have a big budget, but maybe you could modernize it a little … ”
     Zawmb’yee said, “Sure, we could discuss a plan.”
     “Great,” said Angela, “let me show you the back room. Doug, wait here — the chef will bring out the duck.”
     Angela and Zawmb’yee went into the back room. They looked like they’d get along fine.
     It looked very promising: Zawmb’yee was getting good at negotiating new projects for herself. I knew she could do it.
     The chef proudly marched out of the kitchen with the duck platter like a bushy-browed rhinoceros temporarily calm. He was dressed in the traditional white uniform with the big hat. “Voilà,” he said, “take a taste.” He spotted the moosehead lying on the floor with an antler broken off.
     I tried a piece. “Mmm. Sweet, tart, delicately spiced, perfect. Mmm, mmmm. Some Sherry, a little blackberry, lime, a touch of anise?”
     “Could be. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I don’t get to make it that often. Come by more often … Oh, look at that: the moose is hunting — it must be mating season. Geez, I hope the building inspector is not going to give us a hard time. My kitchen is immaculate, and no dust has ever gotten in there, and never will, even if the moose wants to play.”
     “Well, yeah. I can see that. This place is spotless — very clean.”
     “OK. Enjoy.” He went back into the kitchen.

     I heard Zawmb’yee and Angela laughing. I gobbled up some more duck — it was so good. What a splendid breakfast — so soft, so tender, so juicy. And the beauty of laughter in the background — chewing on ecstasy as beautiful women approached, was a gourmet’s delight: the perfect meal in taste, in sight, and the feathered chatter of flighty conversation singing in my being. Vibrations. Zawmb’yee and Angela came back into the room.

     Angela said, “How is it?”
     “Great,” I said.
     “Zawmb’yee has some great ideas. She’s gonna write up a formal proposal for the boss, but it’s gonna be great. She’s got the job.”
     “Thanks, Angela,” said Zawmb’yee.
     I got up from my stool and gave Zawmb’yee a big hug and a kiss. “Congratulations. I told you you’re good. I’m so proud of you.”
Zawmb’yee said, “Doug, sit down and finish your duck. Um. Angela, I’ll have the proposal and the estimate for you next week. OK?”
     “Yes, good. It’ll be no problem. It’s going to be fabulous.”
     “My friend Chloë will help me pick out the furniture and she’ll get you a really good deal. I’ll give you her résumé — she has a very good reputation in the trade.”
     “Yes, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m very excited.”
     “Yeah. Me too. I think we have similar tastes. This is going to work.”
     I finished up my meal, listening to Angela and Zawmb’yee. They are so cute.
     A jaunty fellow wearing a yellow cap came bouncing into the café. “Angela,” he said, “these folks want to go to the Mansion?”
     “Yes,” said Angela, “they know Zusoiti.”
     “Oh, OK. Hey, you all, I’ll give you a trip ticket — could you get her to autograph it?”
     Zawmb’yee and I looked at each other. Zawmb’yee said, “Sure, we’ll get you an
autograph. Just a sec’ Joe, I’ll go to the restroom and Doug finish up.”
     Joe said, “No problem.”
     “Joe,” said Angela, “how are you?”
     “I’m OK. I’ve gotten a little more business lately. It’ll work out … Hey, the moose is down?”
     “Yeah. We’re going to redecorate.”
     “Good — if you really want to know, I never really liked it.”
     “Oh, how come you never said anything?”
     “Well, everybody else seemed to like it, but I’ve always thought I’d rather see a leprechaun on a mural than that thing, and I have a feeling that both of us will find a pot of gold yet.”
     “That’s nice of you to say, Joe … ”
     Zawmb’yee returned. I gave Angela a big tip.
     Joe said, “OK, then, are we ready? Wagon train roll.”
     Zawmb’yee and I got into the cab. Joe raced down Darling Street and turned left onto River Road.

     We could see the woods go by in a flash. Jolted and bounced, we were well shaken like a mixed drink.
     Joe said, “Oh hell, I just got new shock-absorbers.”
     “You could a’ fooled me,” I said.
     “Yeah. All the roads have gotten a lot of cracks lately, and they haven’t kept up with the repairs.”
     We heard the clickety-clack of slats as we went over the Brook Bridge. There were streamers and balloons in the trees.
     “Hey,” said Joe, “escaping party favors — they’re having a fundraising gala. You’ll be just in time.”
     Zawmb’yee said, “I guess, if you want an autograph, you’ll be voting for Zusoiti?”
     “Oh yeah. Thanks for reminding me. Here take this paper and say it’s for her favorite cab driver.”
     “OK, when we see her … ,” (Zawmb’yee gave me a look like ‘just play along — don’t say anything hostile about Zusoiti’), “we’ll get her to autograph it.”
     Joe zoomed up the elegant old driveway with the marble stones. He parked by a newly installed statue standing in a small fountain, entitled “Aphrodite Foaming At The Mouth.”
     Approaching the car, a campaign worker in a straw hat said, “Hey Joe, thanks for the contribution — too bad you can’t stay.”
     Joe said, “Take care of my friends here.”
     The worker opened up the car door for Zawmb’yee. “Sure Joe … Right this way … There’s plenty of refreshments and Zusoiti will be here later.” Zawmb’yee eyed the tall columns of the entrance as she stepped out of the cab.
     I passed over some bills to Joe. “Thanks Joe. Keep the change.”
     Entering the main ballroom with a sky-high ceiling and a chandelier catching clouds and balloons for the endless staircase meant for grandiose promenades, Zawmb’yee, staring at the flower mosaics on the floor, said, “What do we do now?” The crowd was noisy and aimless.
     “Uh, well, we have to find her office or wherever she’s doing her dirty work.” A woman with a furtive look came out of a doorway. “Over there. That room is the library.”
     “Yeah. Let’s have a look … maybe we can see what Zusoiti has been reading lately.”
     We snuck into the library, and I spotted a smoldering cigarette in an ashtray. “Look at that smoke … ”
     “Well, OK, that explains the guilty look of the woman sneaking out of the room.”
     “No, I mean, a plume of smoke is going behind the bookcase over there.”
     “Oh! I’ve got it, I’ve got it.”
     “See that ladder on a track?”
     “Well, climb up the ladder to the top shelf.”
     “Just go and I’ll tell you.”
     Zawmb’yee seemed to be thinking what I was thinking, but she knew the next step to take. “OK, I’m climbing up the ladder. I can reach the top shelf. Now what?”
     “Y’see that purple book?”
     “Pull it out.”
     “OK. I’m pulling — it’s stuck … ”
     “Pull harder.”
     “I still can’t get it out. It comes out a little … ”
     “OK. Push it back in, and come down quickly.”
     I could feel the bookcase shaking. I jumped off the ladder and crashed to the floor. “Ah ha, this is it.”
     “Yeah. Step back.”
     With the bookcase sliding sideways, with a creaky roar, a few heavy books fell out and pounded the floor like lethal rain. A staircase carved in rock was revealed.
     I said, “Well, this is the entrance to somewhere. It must be for a Hollywood set. Has Zawmb’yee, the glamorous movie star, learned her lines?”
     Zawmb’yee giggled a little. “Shush. Let’s not talk too loud. OK, let’s go down the steps.”
     We stepped beyond the threshold onto a landing that depressed slightly from our weight. The bookcase closed behind us. “That’s good news,” I said.
     “What’s good news?”
     “Well, we didn’t get hit by a spear, or smacked by closing in walls crushing us to death … ”
     “Well, I don’t think we’re in that kind of movie. I don’t think Zusoiti has that kind of imagination.” We climbed down a few more steps. The passageway was well lit with modern lights.
     I said, “No? What would you do if you were writing the script?”
     “Oh, I’d have a porcupine whose quills were dipped in poison by the evil protagonist.”
     “Hmm, well, if we see a porcupine, don’t provoke it, because I don’t think they throw their quills unless frightened.”
     “What, you think I would frighten a porcupine? I’d give it a cookie.”
     “I don’t think they eat cookies.”
     We traipsed down several flights of stairs, maybe five stories down. At the bottom we reached what looked like a huge war room. There were giant world maps on the walls, and we could see several computer consoles.
     “No porcupines, no people,” said Zawmb’yee, “it’s a good start.”
     I looked over at the computer consoles. “Ut oh,” I said.
     “See that lock? It says, ‘Launch Key.’”
     “Well, it doesn’t seem to be in the on position.”
     “Look at the screen above it.”
     “Oh, that does look like trouble. What does ‘Magma diversion: Yellow Stone pending’ mean?”
     “I think it means that the five step process hasn’t begun.”
     There was a booming laugh behind us. We turned to look. Zawmb’yee gasped.
     Zusoiti stood triumphant, pointing a handgun at us. “That’s right, it hasn’t begun, but it will now. Step back away from the console.”
     I started typing frantically on the keyboard, seeing if there was some way to sabotage or crash her computer.
     Zusoiti fired her gun and a bullet whizzed past my ear. She said, “Get over there in the corner, now. Next time you move, you’re dead.”
     Zawmb’yee and I started to walk towards the barren corner deep in Zusoiti’s lair. Zusoiti was typing furiously on the keyboard. I whispered to Zawmb’yee, “When I get her engaged in conversation, I want you to stand behind me back-to-back, run straight back, and then up the stairs.”
     I took Zawmb’yee’s hand and we walked slowly back towards Zusoiti. I said, “Why, exactly, are you doing this?”
     Zusoiti looked up furious. “Stay back. When the Ice Age comes, the gods will return … ”
     I took a step closer, trying to get within lunging distance. Zawmb’yee got behind me. Zusoiti raised her gun and aimed it. I saw her finger moving on the trigger. I said, “Run!”
     Zawmb’yee ran straight back. Zusoiti shuffled to the side and aimed her gun at Zawmb’yee. I slid over to get in front of the gun. I heard a gunshot and a thump. Zawmb’yee screamed.
     I found myself on the floor and heard a cacophony of voices behind me speaking all at once, “Police, don’t move, FBI, IRS, my jurisdiction, no mine, terrorism, conspiracy, tax evasion, watch out … ”
     Zusoiti was writhing on the floor, and her gun had fallen out of her hand. She tried to crawl towards it. A policeman picked up the gun. The voices started again, “Zusoiti Gabpix, you’re under arrest for attempted murder, terroristic threats, conspiracy, tax evasion, conspiracy to commit … ” The voices faded. I wasn’t feeling too well and I didn’t know how I got to the floor. I think I tripped and hit my head. I lost consciousness, but long naps can be good when the world is saved for a moment or two.
—Douglas Gilbert


4 thoughts on “The Fog Of The Caveman’s Blog, Part 1

    1. Yes, I may do that again. When I was writing it last year I wrote one entry per day. I collected it all and put it in book form. The book didn’t do well so I got discouraged from finishing book 2. I could start the entries where I left off and finish the second book, but it does seem pointless.

    1. Yes, it would be. Maybe I’ll republish it here one by one. The first time last year when I did it that way it didn’t get much response, but I suppose it’s possible new people will follow along piece by piece. Or I could just continue where I left off and people could read the book to get the first part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.