Norman Allan
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Art and Fiction


Chapter Twenty Two

There are just a few things I need to tell you about the ensuing afternoon and evening:
The mermaid, Shta, and I went back to the eucalyptus grove and spent several hours bathing.
The mermaids figure was unique: her breasts and arms, of course, were paired. Her bosom was "petite" (for water resistance). I found her nubility delightful.

I asked her how the Berber did that body swap thing? "Don't say mirrors. How does he move persons and time. Can he teleport? transport his body?"

To this the mermaid answred obliquely: "As the fin ceive it, the "Great Ocean" dreams the world which is Itself. It is a very complicated fancy that It dreams, so - just as you might, if you were playing the game of chess, you might not play it simply in your head, but on a board so as not to lose the pieces in your mind - so the Cosmic-Sea has contrived a great abacus, the world, to keep track of all the pieces of Its dream."
   "Sometimes in our dreams, which exist not in the "World" but in Its "Dream" itself, because our outward eyes are closed… sometimes we lose track of our place on this check-board and fly to pieces out of time, or out of place, but only in the mind."

She continued with some semi-technical data and I soon lost the thread.

After about two hours Hadji Baba came to the grove to speak to us. He told us that he had a great conception. He was going to hold a monster Benefit Concert for Morocco.

I told him I could think of more auspicious occasions for a celebration.

"Humph," he snorted, and continued that he had also come to warn us. "I know you think "this Hassan Hadji is a Company spy", but my friend, that is just appearances. It is not actually true. But Kali… Kali is not what she seems. That is certainly so." And with that, he vanished.

"What," I asked, "did he mean by that?"

"Which?" asked Ishtar.

"Witch? Which as Kali not being what she seems. What does he mean?"

"Maybe he means he thinks Kali is a member of the Lodge."

"The Lodge?"

"Yes," clicked Ishtar.

"What is this Lodge?"

"It’s a secret. You must ask Kali."

"But you know?" I asked.

"I know many things," said Ishtar.

"You do, you do. You are a clever monkey," I told her.

"I am a clever fish," she said. "See…" She stood in the water on her tail.

We Triumphed back into the semi-Circus. Kali and Carlo were playing scrabble. "Shush!" Kali roared. The bike sputtered and died.

"Achem" I cleared his throat. "What, pray tell, is the Lodge?"

"Why do you ask?" Kali seemed taken aback.

"The Berber," said I.

"Ach, that Berber," Kali sneered. "Carlo, explain to Chris what the Berber's getting at."

"Strictly speaking," Carlo explained, "it is true that the Berber is not a Company agent. He built the Company himself. He's the boss."

"The Lodge. Tell me about the Lodge."

"No one knows anything about the Lodge," said Kali. "It is vaguer than the Company that apparently rules the world. The Lodge is more mysterious."

"Some say the Lodge is an association of the seven or eleven wisest persons," said Carlo. "They guide human evolution and history"

"Others say that the whole concept of the Lodge is a figment, " said Kali.

"Some say," said Carlo, "that started the Company in the first inst. because he wanted to become a member of the Lodge. He reckoned that if he became important enough the Lodge would have to invite him to join them."

"You both keep saying 'some say'," said I. "Who?"

"It’s hear say," said Kali. "But," she continued, "the Lodge did not invited Sy.ed to join and he has become very angry. He thinks that I, Kali, a nobody whom he thinks he discovered in the Vienna woods, he thinks that I am become wise from his tuition and then a member of the Lodge. Further, he thinks that I am maybe grooming Carlo, a mere device, to join the Lodge he cannot join. Or Ishtar, a baby, or you, Chris Pasha, a pissing stranger. And he is jealous. These things may not be so, but when people are envious, be careful.'"

"And are you a member of the Lodge?"

"No-one knows anything about the Lodge," said the gypsy.

In the evening, after dinner, the gypsies made music. Kali played a violin, yowling like a cat. "I love the sound of the human voice," she said. Ishtar sang staccato clickings. Carlo drummed fingers on his body. I joined them as best I could but tended to stumbled off the rhythm.

Kali said wistfully, "It's a pity there is no music fuel. You know, smoke we are sometimes calling fuel for the music, yes?"

"Hmm," I hummed and I told her of the horde of Turkish that Hadji smuggled Into Ketama yesterday."

Kali was on her feet in an instant. "I’ll go and see."

She returned in what seemed a moment. The four jelabaed, hooded figures had followed her. They proved to be musicians producing gimbri and drums from their robes. And a horde of Deofilus butterflies swarmed round us and blissed us.

Then came the night and Shshta who is the rain.

illustration by Teresa Allan

Chapter Twenty Three