68
 

The leopard dream leaves Nana with an after-taste, a residue that contaminates her awakened state to the point of casting doubts about Palace sectors declared OUT OF BOUNDS:

  • the Prince’s den,

  • the wrought-iron gate-protected garden

  • and several nondescript cavities alleged to lead underground (the Royal Residence built on an ancient site of catacombs).

Could there be a dark side to what poses as benevolence? More than once the notion of deception has troubled Nana’s mind. Contact with the girls who have fulfilled their yearlong service (six since Nana’s tenure, two considered intimates) lapsed within a fortnight of their departures. Emails, cell calls, video-grams went mostly unreturned; though Nadia and Aan both sent regards, with pictographs, plus gushing testimonials about wages paid-in-full. Fabricated somehow? Deviously faked? Possible but improbable, and wholly out-of-character; neither the Prince nor his Uncle ever proved disingenuous. Secretive, yes, but such is deemed expedient among men of great wealth and influence. Still, shades of grim foreboding have crisscrossed several psyches, Nana's among them. The closer looms her release date, the louder alarm bells sound, fates of Po, Trin, and Xia Xia (real or imaginary) gnawing on Nana’s nerves—Sheik Hadithah’s unannounced arrival seeming all the more disquieting.

Dressed traditionally, his wan burnoose (by virtue of simplicity

I will tell you why a camel is better than a Mercedes, 
lest you who traffic in hard-ware have never led a caravan

and exquisite weave) bespeaking regal lineage, the Sheik has made his way

nor crossed the desert in anything more practical
than a dune buggy
trusting less in Allah
than in academic writ

from portico to parlor unescorted, un-preceded by fanfare, unobserved by staff,

which neither tames the sun’s ferocity
nor shields the eyes from sand
and leaves the lips as parched

the exception being Security personnel galvanized to open every portal

as salt on a sea bed dry since Isaac:
a camel wants to arrive at its appointed destination.
It has a vested interest,

in the Potentate’s measured path, gates, doors agape automatically

a burning drive to survive the distance A to Zed
unlike dumb machines
that break down due to

(buttons pressed, surveillance cameras trained) and left un-shut

flaws in engineering,
as opposed to weakened will, 
the latter only succumbing on pain of inexistence. 

out of respect for Him whose bearing brooks nothing short of reverence,

A camel strives,
applies its every wit-gram to persevere,
and carries on its back a nomad likewise bent

whose nod can guarantee a fortune, whose frown can forecast ruin,

on getting where he is going,
who cannot be denied by parts devoid of spares,
for his are like the beast’s

whose favor only fools dare curry (the Sheik immune to flattery); fear of Him is

by which he is transported.
Living things as commodities,
as means to ends

be they chattel or executives,

a healthier response from those he knows less well, while others,

be they sex slaves, CEOs, celebrities, or politicians
serve those Served best fuelled
by the octane of self-interest.    

friends of the family or legitimate relatives, express profound regard in lieu of outright affection

Fill the hump with that
and power can reign supreme.
"Read." the Angel prompted.
In the Mind of Man is written

(reinforced by gratitude) more intimate emotions held at bay,

the ciphers We command
We who look before We swat a bug that might not bite Us.
Appetite equals impetus;   

the Sheik's invulnerability an attribute hard to love,

impetus equals zeal; 

love itself a sentiment the Figurehead disavows.

zealousness is a heart that beats beyond cessation.

Finding only empty chambers, no sign of his nephew, Sheik Hadithah glares at a spy cam’s watchful lens and speaks as to a minion.

"Send Ms Nana Wolffmüller here; and switch off your surveillance."

Seating himself on a huge divan of Moroccan nut-brown leather—his aspect semi-formal, his regal pose erect (if composed, relaxed, sedate)—His Eminence waits for the object of his summons to comply.

Knowing speed of response is second only to modesty when ordered to appear before the Sheik, Nana dresses hurriedly, veils her hair in a scarf of pale damask, makes sure not a follicle is visible before clothing the remainder in tasteful silk pajamas and a pair of kidskin slippers that peek from under her pant cuffs as she veritably sprints...

...her haste on entry unacknowledged by the meditative Elder (whose subtext is continuous, a run-through for his address as keynote speaker at a conclave scheduled to convene in the United Arab Emirates).

Persecution plays into Our hands.
It is a tool of the impatient.

Nana, prostrate, forehead pressed to the marble at her Sovereign's aged feet,

Every Mullah knows to punish a conviction
is to fashion its mystique.

waits for Him to signal she may kiss His hem and rise,

Christians to the lions,
Jews to the ovens,
Muslims to
black sites

honored by the time He takes, perceiving it as a test of her devotion

have served to set in stone
their noble Prophets’ precepts,

hers toward Him a lifelong pledge she renews on each and every visit

legitimizing myths, tall tales, and superstitions.

few though these have been throughout the Sheik’s exalted patronage

Faith is an ideal manna for the masses,
as addictive as an opiate,

therefore opportune;

underwriting industry with ink distilled from guilt

how express one’s gratitude to someone unimpressed by words divorced from deeds?

injected with temptation
to which the hapless fallen yield

For steadfast is as steadfast does; her thanks are paid in loyalty

until salvation,
once abstract,
becomes flesh-and-blood reality,

which is not too proud to kneel, to demonstrate admiration undiluted by the nicety of lip service,

and therefore is a product,
distinguished Colleagues, 
that We can sell.

to lift one's face at last in humble recognition of Him whose fond munificence spreads like a mentor’s smile.

"Ah, Nana. Rise, child. Sit beside me. Lend your pretty ear to an old man’s ugly croak. More and more my voice becomes a parody of the crow’s big brother raven—sacred in this rooftop world of tarkins, hispid hares, and black neck cranes. These latter, did you know, outlive the locals? Eighty years do black necks flap their shapely wings. They mate for life; perhaps this is the secret of their marvelous longevity. Perhaps not. Admirable, in any case; I disapprove of profligates. Does that surprise you, Nana dear, that I who supply my brother’s son with a singular stock of paramours should denounce the very craving that sustains them? I confess it is the truth, one of all too many truths that signify contradictions—truth’s facets—for truth is like a diamond that the mind of Mankind cuts. And what is a diamond? Excrement, after epochs of the earth’s relentless pressure."

Pausing to collect his thoughts, arrange them advantageously, a habit honed to fend off pretenders to his throne (his audience in suspension, loathe to interrupt, eager to demonstrate patience (two states paradoxical), the Sheik lets seconds pass before disclosing his visit's purpose.

"I have come to bring glad tidings I trust will make you purr. Not in the manner you were taught for the purpose of pandering to our narcissistic Prince. Those skills, hitherto the upshot of your training, will delight some future helpmate, doubtless, but henceforth are retired. Purrs your lovely throat emits, from this day forward, will express a private joy, bred of your accomplishments outside the boudoir and founded upon your talents as an unexampled sculptress. Pity I was duty-bound to groom you for that wastrel, that bundle of adolescent hormones and vampire-thirst for hymens. Indebtedness to an assassinated sibling can lead to ill effects. Mine to mine has sloped my nephew’s primate brow and given him the ambition of a bonobo."

Shocked by this impeachment, Nana shrinks within her silence. The attack upon a family member—ruefully frank and pitiless—overwhelms her with its precedent-setting vehemence. What could the Prince have done to incur the Royal wrath? And why share such a confidence with a lowly 'employee'?

"Your exhibition is set, in Paris, at the Georges Pompidou! Soon I must depart, on the morrow in fact. An unrelated matter will occasion me to sojourn one week. When I return you must have cast your latest works and seen them properly crated for transport. You must also pack your personal belongings, child. Anything you want is yours. Allow the Prince whatever liberties he requires to mark your leave-taking, but do not, I repeat, do not attend him out of bounds. In the event he asks, remind him of my dictum. In the event he insists, use your intellect to evade, and seek, if necessary, refuge with the Lama at Druk Yul Temple."

Extraordinary measures, these surely are; Nana grows afraid. Unconditional obedience, hers to the Prince, by the Sheik has been rescinded. What calamity or circumstance could warrant such a turnaround? Does she dare to inquire? Or would it better serve to do as she is told?

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