76
 

Setting down at Heliport One, a fuel-cell powered whirlybird disgorges its solo passenger who shuffles fully upright under decapitating blades disdaining their awful ruckus, ignoring the flapping wind-horses they make of his burnoose, and travelling from their influence at a self-possessed pace, oblivious to the Himalayan spectacle of snow-crowned peaks mere inches from abrading a cirrus-whiskered stratosphere, making straight for the chamber wherein business will be conducted (concluded, if he has his druthers) over objections from the Prince (unlikely to be raised much less endorsed), and objections from Ms Wolffmüller (out of the question).

Tableau after tableau left and right of the colonnade distract his plodding footsteps not in the least,

Eros was a man
as conceived by the ancient Greeks:

immune as he has grown to the profligacy of his dead brother’s son,

athletic, handsome, virile,
and primed to prove his point,

censorious irrespective the supportive role he plays,

candid in his ardor,

indifferent to Hermione, Jude, Alicia, Dominique, unmoved by Sophie and Sophia, Fatima, or the newcomer Norma Jean,

lustful in his bent,

numb, in truth, to urges from the prehistoric brain that signals going-into-heat;

sex and psyche equally uncouth
and brutishly uncircumcised,

drives, to those un-driven, levers to be worked,

expurgated, henceforth,
and romanticized by Helen,

the Prince’s fortified den his uncle's destination—to which he admits himself with an upturned arcane ring,

transformed into Amor and Cupido
by the sentimental Romans,

surveillance cameras tracking with blind-eye-turned consent,

he who once laid waste to virgins,
ravished maids and maidens,
sodomized little boys

the Royal Family’s Head never to be barred admittance;

reduced to a chubby-cheeked cherub,

The Prince, feigning fond surprise, abiding his kin's intrusion—rules of hospitality would hardly have it otherwise,

a winged and weakly infant,

elaborate greetings marking their exchange,

a valentine positioned like a fig leaf
over parts far less benign,

those  expected by the uncle, by the nephew duly enacted,

genitals aptly geared
for flagrant fornication 

pleasantries indulged, prolonged, discharged politely—

which descendents,
oh so prudishly,
learned to veil.

the Sheik’s in-progress subtext, with discourse, finally overlapping.

SHEIK HADITHAH

For that which culture hides from itself breeds appetites insatiable.

THE PRINCE

How that applies to Nana, I am afraid I fail to see.

SHEIK HADITHAH

Art, the devil’s hobby, is Nana’s true vocation. Art, the great apologist for the villains people were, still are, and ever shall be—so long as their libidos dictate their behavior—is provocateur, seducer, and self-aggrandized scoundrel.

And who are Art’s primary patrons?

THE PRINCE

The rich?

SHEIK HADITHAH

The filthy rich, indeed. Nana has an upcoming one-woman-show.

THE PRINCE

This much she has told me.

The Sheik interrupts his discourse to analyze its effect;

Nothing is untoward about her sharing such a confidence;
Nana doing otherwise might have caused concern.

Something in the Prince’s manner...

A conspirator (?)

... has put the elder off (and furthermore on his guard).

SHEIK HADITHAH

Where is Nana, by the by? I saw her not in passing.

The Prince affects nonchalance; the Sheik maintains suspicion.

THE PRINCE

Her studio, I imagine. Preparing to take her leave?

Easing into the throne-like chair where Nana last had lounged, the Sheik reviews his strategy,

Could warning her have proven ill-advised?

checking it for weaknesses, for tertiary blind spots, and for unseen opportunities to work against his will.

Could she and this philanderer be in league?

SHEIK HADITHAH

Something is amiss. I will hear your explanation.

Imperious in his tone, unwavering in his scrutiny, the Prince's father's brother will not be denied... thus incomplete divulgence might well prove disastrous; the Prince (with seeming reluctance) tells what has transpired.

THE PRINCE

Upon your last departure, Nana acted strangely. Tense would be most accurate when describing her demeanor. I questioned her; she attributed it to mounting insecurity about life beyond these walls, about her future, in point of fact. She mentioned, then, the exhibition you so graciously arranged. Doubts about her work, she claimed, were also rather worrisome; was it good—in and of itself—or was she trading upon your influence? By way of reassuring her, I invited Nana here to my private quarters, which impressed her as unprecedented. Indeed it was, as you well know; no one ever breaches this matchless cell. Beneath her show of gratitude, however, I detected apprehension. I had to coax, almost compel her to enter that very door. Once inside, her whole deportment changed quite radically. I came to see she was frightened—not of things to come but rather of me. I believe she misconstrued a number of these artifacts, recognizing those rare few derived from human skin. Somehow she confused their vintage for recent acquisitions. I was taxed to disabuse her. And, of course, I bent the truth. Nana, nevertheless, took fright and fled.

SHEIK HADITHAH

She what! Where? When?

THE PRINCE

Not impulsively; she did pretend a degree of unconcern, which lulled me into thinking I had put her mind at rest. But last night when I summoned her, I confess she failed to answer.

SHEIK HADITHAH

You have searched, I presume?

THE PRINCE

The premises, yes. Incursions further afield await your authorization—though it is doubtful she could have left unseen by surveillance.

The Sheik takes pause to process (and weigh the veracity) of this troubling information.

Sow a seed,
why doubt that it should germinate
in someone so unseasoned?

Improbable or plausible? Easy to ascertain. But what could be the motive for such ill-bred deception?

I would have thought Ms Wolffmüller
somewhat less impetuous.

SHEIK HADITHAH

Let us pay a visit to Nana’s room and module.

Neurons firing frantically in the nephew's throbbing skull, the Prince forestalls... or would, were his uncle not underway, proceeding down a corridor with resolute gait, the train of his white burnoose sweeping aside leaves fallen from the atrium, muttering to himself (as is his wont) in Arabic.

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