Nana stows her journal in the snow leopard’s gaping jaws, then stares at the
mute expression on its taxidermic face, capturing the beast's outrage, no
doubt, at being poached, gutted, and skinned, then sold to the highest
bidder—invariably the Prince, whose penchant for pelts (be they rare,
endangered, or extinct) lends his Palace a Natural History Museum aura,
enlivened further by hides collected from those who are still making use of
them: Nana, Hermione, Sophie & Sophia, Fatima, Alicia, Jude, and Dominique,
the 'complexions in residence,' a menagerie based on melanin (or lack thereof,
in Jude’s case), each of the human occupants embodying coloration that might be
judged the epitome of each respective race.
Add to these cosmetic attributes sexual anomalies or proclivities, and the feast of
flesh on exhibit would corrupt a Buddhist priest—of which there are many, in the
vicinity, if none on the premises. Temples dot the landscape hither and yon. Goings-on at the Palace,
however, never are exposed to the culture outside—a stipulation honored by the Prince to maintain his (and his harem’s) semi-conditional
Nana, still entranced by the cat's arrested snarl, entertains the prospect of
becoming a rug herself, something to be trod upon, something to be laid face
down or face up, depending upon which posture the Prince might want preserved.
Slipping from her smock,
sprawls naked on the leopard’s spotted fur, arms and legs outstretched, fingers
and toes impersonating the predator's stock-still claws, her rudimentary scrotum aligned with the
cat's lengthy tail, breasts and belly pressed to the animal’s absent spine, chin propped up on its head
(skull retained), ears on level
with ears, likewise perked, on alert for heedless footfall (hooves compacting
snow, perchance), nostrils jutting over nostrils, flared to catch a scent (of bharal, yak, or takin, either young, infirm, or old), muscles tense on
muscles-nonexistent; whiskers-nonexistent over whiskers rendered stiff, Nana, of
a sudden, made aware, by dint of proxy, that 'prey' may have
strayed too near.
on all fours, crouching, poised to pounce, she stifles an avid growl—mind’s
eye fixed on her unsuspecting quarry.