Norman Allan
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Art and Fiction


Book Two

The Gypsy and the Berber
Chapter Fourteen:

On March the twentieth a ray from the setting sun awakened Chris Pashanski while a voice in his ear announced to him that he was the new Messiah. It was moments later that Christopher, having roached off his jay, and while sitting at the table with his cold porridge, picked up last week's newspaper to read:-


caterpillars, blah blah
rpillars and caterpilla
liars all over the plac
were caterpillars eve
ars and more caterpil
illars, caterpillars, ca

"Stupid unincorporate voice," Chris screamed inside at the whispers still echoing in his head. "You think all the world needs another Rajamagoonie." But the whispers still echoed: "You are the Messiah, the mess I are…"

"Fuck!" said the new Messiah. He walked over to the window, looked out down over the eaves troughs at the people in the street. They were walking East and South, and all they looked like big nirvanaleaves. This vision brought enlightenment to the Messiah. The world’s biggest problem was a lack of understanding, insight, Nirvana… and nirvanaleaf. Without ‘leaf the world was doomed to cruel sobriety. "Hold on world," shouted Chris, the Messiah. "I’m coming to save you!"

Dwelling in bliss he saw clearly: he would return to Morocco. He looked at his motorbike. "I wonder if Nemesis will start?"

Earlier in the winter Chris had come the bike, a derelict thing then half-buried in cinders in a friend's backyard. He dug it free. A Triumph Thunderbird: A '55. Old, to be sure, and rusted almost beyond recognition. Chris took it home in bits, rigged up the vacuum cleaner in front of his tent, and sand blasted it clean. He polished the engine piece by piece. He fitted high-lift cams and racing pistons and a distance piece with a viewer for the carburettors (this last is a petrol reserve for long corners). He decorated the gas tank with a lightening motif, and painted the frame a fiery red.

"I christen you Nemesis," he said.

It was at this juncture, however, that Natasha had come along and Nemesis stood like some sleeping dragon forgotten in the corner of the kitchen. Till now.

Chris sat lotus posture to meditate on his need for transport, and particularly on the gap in the plugs where fire, would inspire and breath life into his machine. He assembled this clearly and prayerfully in his mind. Only then did he mount the thunderbird and tenderly, almost a caress, kick her over. "Purdrdrdrd," she caught first time. He eased her round the kitchen in first scattering milk bottles.

"Farewell, St. Michael's stairs."

The internal combustion engine and the open road imposed their own structuring on Chris relation with space and time. Once he started riding he found it hard to stop. He had a few hours drinking on the ferry between Newhaven and Dieppe; he stopped for a coffee in the Midi and cursed the fortune it cost him; and he had a few hours delay in the Pyrenees waiting for daybreak to wake the snoring douane. Apart from this, two gas stops (three piss stops), he rode non-stop.

Not far behind Algeciras, round the side of the new reservoir, there was a long cambered corner which seemed to go on forever. Nemesis, despite her distance piece, began to stutter and cut-out. Chris leaned over to look in the viewer. "She's dry... Oh, now she's flowing again."

Nemesis surged forward, raised her head into the air, and left him. Chris rode along in the air. He touched down bottom first and slid along the roadway, while Nemesis leaped obliquely over the embankment and into the reservoir.

Chris limped painfully along the road, which had eaten the best part of his trousers and a piece of his arse. Not far along he came upon an eight year old urchin in tatters, who matching pace with Chris began making conversation in a slurred Romany dialect Chris could not fathom. Gesturing he enquired after Chris's predicament and invited Chris follow him off the tarmac and along a small track.

Two hundred yards up the siding they came to an olive grove. Half a dozen gaily painted wagons stood amid the trees. Children ran between campfire and caravan: horses grazed: a choir of gypsyish people were idly busy doing gypsy things. They were tinkering and dancing and playing the violin.

The boy led Christopher limping into the camp and over to a wagon covered with enigmatic and magical designs. The urchin shouted out a name. The door at the rear of the wagon inched open. A crone in a patchwork cape peaked out between the herbs dangling from the wagon's eaves. She had deep set eyes. "Come inside," she said.

Chris entered.

"Take off your jacket and lie on the bed." Chris hesitated. Don't be shy." Chris regarded her as well as he might from the gloom of the caravan looking out at her silhouette. She was large around in girth, but moved gracefully. She hung his jacket outside under the eaves of the caravan and returned with some herbs. "Won't be a minute, dearie.".

Her voice was labile, not stable - deep and yiddle European at times, but it slid. The cockney "dearie" came out quite weird and Chris wondered what her accent were. Meanwhile she busied herself grinding herbs, while the tea-pot brewed. During this time they talked no further and Chris rested on his stomach bemused.

She served Chris a potion in a chipped enamel mug. "Here love, drink this. I must go out to collect some things to salve your wound. Rest, and don't think about caterpillars."

Chris woke. "You’ve slept for near a day and should by now be well," crooned the witch. He sat up. She examined his eyes and his face. Pinched his cheeks. Her face was fluid: sometimes old, sometimes young; beautiful and ugly.

"Your eyes are clear," she pronounced. For an instant she seemed a star drenched Madonna. Chris wondered if he was still drugged. That seemed a sober thought. He felt anxious to leave and gave his mind to forethought of his departure. Of his possessions the Inca knife was still tucked in his belt. The rest he would now have to collect.

"I have to retrieve my motorbike," he said. "I wonder if your men folk could help me fish it from the lake. I have money. It's in my jacket. You hung it outside the wagon yesterday, didn't you?" Chris started for the door.

The gypsy placed a hand to his shoulder. "Sit down."

They sat across a table. A black silk cloth covered an object between them. With ceremony she unveiled her crystal ball.

"Ah," she croned. Her face brightened. A light from the crystal waxed on her face, but fell nowhere else. The gypsy retreated before its brilliance covering her face with her arms. Suddenly, with a final explosive flash, the phenomenon was done, and darkness fell again, first black, then settling dim.

For some moments they both sat frozen. "One of the illumined ones," she said at last. "Who would have guessed it?" She stared at Chris. "It seems that you have been seared by the Word. The powers of the Word has busted my crystal. Now listen: in the immediate future your wisdom and your heart will be tested."

"All right," said Chris, distracted. "I’m ready to go. Where are my boots?"

"The lad who led you here yesterday has made off with them. And I'm afraid your bike is beyond retrieval."


"You will continue your journey on foot and barefoot. It is clearly written: mukhtube!"

Chris was speechless. The witch, taking compassion, slipped off her patchwork cloak and handed it to him. "Here. Take this. This too is written. The crystal too. It is burnt out and useless to me now, but take it. It is a key to another world." She placed the crystal in a brown paper bag and handed it to Chris.

"Now you must leave us. I will take you to the road." She hustled him to the door.

In the Spanish daylight Chris blinked at a group of children playing near. One wore his Wellies.

"Here, that's the boy..." Chris exclaimed pointing.

"You are mistaken. The lad who brought you was not one of us. He has gone."

The gypsy led Chris past the caravans. By a gate to a lane Nemesis stood gleaming. Astride her, wearing Christopher's leather jacket, sat an adolescent, full biker now, with grease groomed hair, playing with a switch-blade. Already Nemesis wore Spanish licence plates.

"No, that's not nice," Chris thought, "not nice at all..." His hand reached for the flute-knife in his belt. He knew, as a certain knowledge, that he could draw the Inca blade, disarm the youth, and ride away... if... if the sparks fly and fuel line were dry and the battery tight, and... If she failed to start could he stand off the whole tribe? He was not the action hero-type, but it was a magic knife, and yes, he could stand off the whole tribe if needs must, but there might be blood. And, anyway, then what? "Does the gypsy's potion still befuddle me? Know not ni... not knife."

"Come along," said the witch. "Your first trial is over."

She guided him up the track back to the tarmac. "You'll be in town in an hour. And good luck," she said.

As Chris was walking away she muttered to herself, "An enlightened one. Who would have thought it of such a fool."

Chris walked down the road in the gypsy's patchwork cloak. He fumed. Bike gone, jacket gone, papers gone. The gypsy's crystal ball, that she had said was "fused", still seemed to be magic, for it wasn't there, it had disappeared, or at least become invisible, until he looked for it, and then there it was where he had put it, in its paper bag, under his arm.

Meanwhile, the sun poured down. Insects hummed. Birds called to one another. Flowers waved and tickled the air. Chris' spirits lifted. He found himself laughing at himself down his nostrils, "mhph." By the time he reached Algeciras he was quite high. Surrendering himself into the hands of God, he had faith that things would work out. But how was he to cross the straits with neither passport nor money?

Christopher wandered down in the harbour. The sea breeze swept away the last of his old pain. By the fishing boats the gulls cried, and the sea-fish reek crept softly over the quay. A fisherman sat mending his nets: relaxed, intent. The sea reflected sun rippled over him as Chris approached him smiling.

"Scussi me. Hablo Anglasay?"


"Well, ah... Jeez, I know I have no right to even ask, but you see, I've lost my passport and my money, and I have to find a boat over to Morocco. All I have is this..." Chris looked for and reached into the paper bag. He held out the crystal ball. "You like it?"

The crystal had been in the bag since its fusion in the witch's dark wagon. Chris had not seen it since. It had turned red: sun suffused.

Fired with alarm, the fisherman cowered back. "Bomba! Anarchisti!" he exclaimed.

Chris hastened to reassure and apologise. "Please don't be frightened. I don't want to cause you any trouble."

"No make trouble." Said the fisherman. "I take you."

illustrations:      Chris flying by Kano (and I tinkered)
                        The Gypsy by Teresa Allan

Chapter Fifteen: