53
 

An outing
far from Palace walls
free from strict constraints
or at least from rote surveillance

Drums of Summer but an echo
repercussion left in stone
providing puddle bird baths
for a score of native species

monsoon dousing wildfires
Tears of Allah
washing woe from those dependent
on the seasons to fulfill their cyclic pledge

quenching the thirst of flora and fauna alike
dousing desiccated underbrush
deep-freezing fast asleep highlands
prior to lowlands' thawed awakening

snow pack melting into a thousand frigid cataracts
gurgling, tumbling, rumbling thunderous
momentum gained paying homage to the Great God Gravity

Soul a fluid concept in the Land of Druk Yul
prone to spiral upward / spiral downward
like a waterspout / like a whirlpool

wind-horse prayers on cloth swatches honoring sacred sources
breeze-blown
withers-sped
snap-flap galloping recitations to the Himalayan Crown
so tall so steep the gap to Heaven's Gate effectively seems miniscule

crows caw

a raven veers
its flight path crooked through the heady heights on scythe-like wings
sharp angles slicing thin air
lean air
mean air
taxing lungs to breathe at all

yet once a certain glade is reached
wherein the chosen clique will picnic
wherein huffs and puffs will cease to race apace with pounding pulse
wherein pungent sweat will dry
wherein cheeks grown flushed will pale
under veils professing modesty
normal hues renewed
refreshed by the strenuous hike
and its sheer exhilaration

girls adept at the art of pleasure-giving
in pleasure will partake

Nana slips and falls, her wet descent along the mossy-slick embankment lush and cushioned soggily; shoes, designed for trampling plush-pile carpets, lack proper traction; the slippery slopes and gravelly grades are a challenge for ladies one and all.

Others, similarly ill-shod, hurry back to help.

"Lollygagger; serves you right." Alicia (long on tongue-lashing) is the first to lend a forearm to assist her fallen comrade. "Hurt?"

"I bumped my hip, is all. I’m mostly soaked."

"And filthy. Yuk! That’s yak shit!" Jude, offended by the smallest smudge (her nickname "Miss Immaculate"), sidesteps past Nana—who rises, plucks some leaves from her pantaloons, and waves a dung-brown hand in Jude’s direction.

"Want to sniff?"

"Mon Dieu!" is all Dominique exclaims, having backtracked somewhat hastily, her lead intimidating everyone except the foursome’s Sherpa—who halts, beneath a head-borne load but keeps his eyes averted under penalty of castration; looks are barred; his orders are to safeguard, transport provisions, guide the shrouded picnickers to and from the glen, but hazard a sidelong glance and risk his voice going up an octave.

Brilliant rays (afflicting Jude with a migraine; neither squints nor soot-dark sunglasses allay the light’s intensity) penetrate garb as drab as it is unrevealing. Black are the quartet’s pantaloons, veils, hooded capes, shoes and stockings (while flagrantly pastel are the concubines' undergarments). Pilgrims tread these alpine passes, monks and herders, also, plus a smattering of the country’s rural population—most devout—and though they may not all be Buddhists they tend to be traditional. A harem in their midst, if flaunted, surely would affront, as would its individual members should any be exposed. The Prince, therefore, neither flaunts nor exposes his household or its hirelings. Locals (scores employed) are sworn to secrecy before and after service. Forays, beyond the Palace, are reserved for the trustworthy few; Nana, Jude, Alicia, and Dominique are granted the current privilege, each one understanding, and agreeing to tenets of decorum—none of which bans cattiness, to the paramours' joint relief.

Settling into a sylvan break like the Four Harmonious Friends (Elephant, Monkey, Hare, and Bird) fatigued / pooped / bushed / and energized, respectively, they recline to catch their breath.

NANA

Medic!

JUDE

Oxygen, quick!

ALICIA

I need an Iron Lung!

DOMINIQUE

Tenderfoots, sissies, cry-babies; humph. Sacré bleu.

Three pairs of eyes do slow-motion takes, rebutting “Ms Decathlon”—whose stamina puts to shame her less athletic peers.

JUDE

Easy for you to say...

NANA

Sweet sixteen...

ALICIA

And never been exhausted.

DOMINIQUE

There’s more to do in the gym, girls, than paint your silly nails. Rent-A-Bodies, like ours, ought to be kept in...

JUDE

Rent-A-What, did you say? Bite your tongue!

ALICIA

And spare the Prince’s foreskin?

DOMINIQUE

You’re a fine one to complain about oral stimulation, Ms Linguini.

NANA

Ladies, ladies.

DOMINIQUE

... you make licking a postage stamp lewd and lascivious.

NANA

Enough, already.

DOMINIQUE

Butt out, Mademoiselle Intersex. Even Snow White’s powder-puff of a pussy pales next to yours.

NANA

Congratulations, Dom; you’ve insulted the lot of us. Triple play.

JUDE

What’s that; cricket terminology?

ALICIA

American baseball.

DOMINIQUE

How arcane. The fact remains; we’re Harlots for Hire, hymens notwithstanding.

JUDE

Why this virginity hang-up, I wonder?

ALICIA

His-nibs wants dibs; what else?

DOMINIQUE

Performance paranoia; he’s afraid to be compared.

ALICIA

Afraid he won’t measure up, I agree. Good thing Nana's is punier.

NANA

The Prince is a sweetheart. Why be so unkind?

DOMINIQUE

What she really means is he's a spoiled-brat, rich-kid letch. Imagine the kind of wealth it takes to maintain yonder citadel. All for what? Some silver-spoon philanderer with a yen for popping cherries?

NANA

Why come here in the first place, then?

DOMINIQUE

Duh!

NANA

"Duh" what?

ALICIA-JUDE-DOMINIQUE

A MILLION SWISS FRANCS!

This unanimous chorus gives Nana cause to question. Is she alone in judging money of secondary importance? Hers is more a sense of returning a special favor, not earning a small fortune. To Sheik Hadithah, she owes... well, everything: her rescue from America, her extended foster-family care, her education, her mind-set that an anomaly can be an asset when appreciatively regarded; the Prince could have been grotesque and still she would have done her duty, fulfilled her obligation, faithfully performed her designated task—no matter it be conjugal. In fact, surrendering one’s virginity, when weighed against the benefits, was a humble price to pay—if not so utterly valueless as it was in the West. For years, her un-breached status had been considered meritorious, something to be protected at all costs, something to be revered, no less a gift when given to a Prince than when bestowed upon a husband. Perhaps her knowing beforehand, and by whom she would be deflowered, distinguished Nana's attitude from that of her present company.

NANA

Jude, I thought you told me your parents would have sold you into...

JUDE

Prostitution? This is true. And sure enough they have. Rather, I sold myself, with their permission—billed as “a domestic."

NANA

But the Palace...

DOMINIQUE

Is a cathouse...

ALICIA

By a highfalutin name.

DOMINIQUE

Instead of clients-plural, we got lucky. Beaucoup femme, un homme. All the same, we’re tarts in a fancy trumped up brothel.

ALICIA

Call it what you like.

Candor, typically squelched by cameras, microphones, ultra-tight security, and the Prince’s self-confessed penchant for watching unawares, is flexed with uncurbed verve out-of-doors in this isolated spot, no one to overhear—except the Sherpa (who speaks only the local dialect).

Nana, disconcerted, mulls the phrase “to serve”:

People are unequal. Some are gifted, some inept, some rich, some poor, some highly born, some born as lowly commoners. Some are not even born so much as engineered—then placed in a foreign land like a some disenfranchised immigrant. Given such disparity between class or caste distinctions, between those with powerful influence and those with few advantages, service, one to another, seems perfectly understandable. Public service, private service recognizes that society falls apart without degrees of deference. No one has to bow and scrape nor vainly put on airs if views are in accord. Why, then, do my peers insinuate servitude bears an onus? They seem loathe to lavish talents, modest or extravagant, on a man prepared to pay them more than they are worth. They hold Him in contempt, no matter how He might pamper them, resentful, it appears, of the Prince’s unearned wealth. Not everyone has to work to afford a life of luxury. This is true today no more or less than in days gone by. Affluence always has guaranteed an easy time for some while those without it cope, aspire, or resign themselves to scarcity. To serve, however, rescues both from the evils of deprivation—moral deprivation for the former, material deprivation for the latter. The Haves provide a livelihood; the Have-nots offer labor. Whatever the disproportion, is not this concept fair, if neither side exploits or heaps disparagement upon the other, if both confer respect and mutual esteem?

Were I a Prince or a Princess—better yet, a Queen—servants I would have in great abundance, to wait upon me hand and foot befitting my Regal status. How then criticize Him, to whom I am indentured? Why begrudge the Prince one measly year, when I would claim much longer were roles reversed? How would Jude, Dominique, or Alicia behave were a team of males procured to fulfill their every whim?

Somehow this has less to do with fairness than with ordinary ego. Deference is perceived, by the West in particular, as humbling onto demeaning. Respect for elders, clergy, even for deity is currently out of style. Whereas self-respect too often lacks foundation, and cannot be achieved without first respecting others. Preachy though that sounds, it is what I believe—for I am proud regardless the defamation "whore."

Begun while sipping a vintage sherry, oyster half shells strewn about the glen (incongruous as their litterers)...

...Nana’s entry is finished back in her twilit quarters. Restoring the kidskin journal to its usual throw-rug stash (safe and sound in the snow leopard’s open-jawed snarl), Nana notes her module and the blink, blink, blink, blink, blink of an incoming message.

SRYME@JEANNECLAUDE.ET.NET

#4

STUYVESANT FINK’S EX-WIFE, JULIANA BLUMENTHAL, VENTED INFORMATION AS STALE AS A MUMMY’S FART, HAVING NEITHER SEEN NOR HEARD FROM HER ‘DEADBEAT EX’ IN TWENTY-TWO YEARS AND COUNTING. SHE DID IMPART THE NAME THEY USED AS AN ALIAS POST LAS VEGAS WEDLOCK, BUT DOUBTS THAT STUYVESANT KEPT IT AFTER LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO, NEEDING TO COVER HIS TRACKS UPON ‘ABDUCTING’ HALF OF THE COUPLE’S OFFSPRING. HE TOOK ‘ROCKEFELLER’; SHE KEPT ‘SAMUEL’—AND NEVER CALLED THE COPS FOR FEAR OF AN INQUIRY; THE BUSINESS THEY ESTABLISHED, EVIDENTLY, WAS LESS THAN LEGITIMATE. MS BLUMENTHAL WITHHELD SPECIFICS, BUT I GATHER THEY RAN A TYPE OF DISPOSAL SERVICE FOR COMPANIES INVOLVED IN GENETIC ENGINEERING (DETAILS, IF I’M LUCKY, FORTHCOMING). SAM, HER HALF OF THE TWINS, IS UNAWARE, I WAS TOLD, OF EVER HAVING HAD A BROTHER (IDENTICAL OR OTHERWISE). I AGREED TO KEEP THIS A SECRET IN EXCHANGE FOR THE GRUDGING 'HINT' ABOUT "BIO-WASTE ANONYMOUS," THEIR "UNSUCCESSFUL" ENTERPRISE—WHICH CONSTITUTES, I AM SORRY TO REPORT, MY SOLITARY LEAD. UNLESS, OF COURSE, OUR MAN RETAINS THE LEGALLY-CHANGED SURNAME  THAT APPEARS ON JULIANA'S MARRIAGE LICENSE, I.E. "WOLFFMÜLLER." IF I WERE YOU, HOWEVER, I'D CONSIDER THAT A LONG-SHOT.

 D. O'ROURKE

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