The Founder Effect – no. 10

10.

 

I am wearing different clothes, it is a different day. The new phrases inside of me feel like screws fixing broken bones. Electra has begun performing the intro to the television show The Six Million Dollar Man: every voice, ping, crackle of static to recorded perfection.

Raat! It looks good at NASA One — Uh, Roger — B.C.S. Arm switch is on — Okay, Victor — Lighting rods are armed. Switch is on. Here comes the throttle. Circuit breakers in —

I take my keys off the wall, grab my wallet.

We have separation — Roger — Inboard and outboards are on…I’m comin’ forward with the side stick — Looks good — Uh, Roger… —

The pile of mail has grown. Days’ worth now weeks’ worth.

…I’ve got a blow-out in Damper Three! — Get your pitch to zero — Pitch is out! I can’t hold altitude! — {*wrehhhp* *wrehhhp*} Correction, Alpha Hold is off. Turn selectors, Emergency! — {*wrehhhp* *wrehhhp*} Flight Com, I can’t hold it! She’s breaking up! She’s break — {*wrehhhp* *wrehhhp* *wrehhhp* *wrehhhp*}

(Bkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk)

I pull my coat from the back of the chair.

Raat! Steve Austin, Astronaut: a mann barely aliive…

I bend down and drum the top of Eve’s head with all dozen of my fingertips, as she likes it. She kisses me.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.

We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.

Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before:

…better…

…stronger…

…faster…

I unlatch the chain and tell Electra, I’ll be back as soon as I can.

The door slams on the denouement of her bongo and trombones.

Mr. Boerenpummel is waiting by the elevator, in a hat and overcoat, with a suitcase by his side. We ride the lift together in tense silence.

We exit on the garage level. In parking spot no. 7 is a classic Bronco. I chirp it and the locks pop. As I pull away, Mr. Boerenpummel’s Pinto cuts me off. His horn honks four times as he speeds ahead. I stick my fist out the window and hold up both middle fingers.

 

The pet shop is silent. I continue to the Frenchman’s office. No one attends to me. I push open the saloon doors.

The Frenchman is at his desk. With one hand he swipes a pile of cartridges off his calendar and they clatter into a drawer, which he slams shut. On sight, his scowl switches to a glow.

He dabs sweat off his face as he greets me. He has wonderful news. I interrupt to ask if the girl is here today but he talks over my question.

A special key ring is necessary. All three keys on it are needed to unlock a door I never noticed.

There’s a tall cage in the middle of the storage closet. We enter; the Frenchman taps on the light.

Inside the cage is an ape, jet black, facing away, squatting on its haunches.

Monsieur, je vous présente l’unique, le légendaire, Mr. Chimpy McPickles.

The ape turns his head around and aims a stare into my eyes as if he were Klaus Kinski in a monkey suit. He holds up a hand like a movie Indian about to say Howgh before sensuously stroking a small itch on his neck.

A second payment of R125,000 is needed to complete the transaction. I pass my valise to the Frenchmen and he counts the bills.

The ape makes a fist with his thumb pointing up, places it in his other palm, pulls both hands to his chest. He then turns his bottom hand over, makes a peace sign, tucks a finger in between, and yanks his hands apart.

Get me out of here.

I will, I tell him. I promise, I say.

He taps his bottom lip. Thank you.

Pardon me, I say to the Frenchman. I’ve lost sight of him. I push open the saloon doors again and he is there. I am almost sure that what I glimpsed him doing was stashing what appeared to be a rifle behind a file cabinet.

He brush-claps his hands twice as if to say, All done, a phony nonchalance. He sighs and asks, Avez-vous un moyen de transport adéquat pour le chimpanzé?

Indeed I do, I say.

He instructs me to bring the Bronco around to the loading dock at the rear of the store. He assures me that Mr. McPickles is quite fine riding in the backseat.

You have done me a tremendous favor, I tell the Frenchman. I assure you Chimpy is in very good hands.

Pas de problème, mon ami. La fille à l’intérieur tient un poisson pour vous. Gratuit.

My heart begins to throb. I feel it all the way up to my ears.

She is? I ask. She does?

Mais bien sûr.

Before I chirp the Bronco, Chimpy opens his window. He points to my chest pocket and taps two fingers to the side of his mouth. I light his cigarette and follow the Frenchman back in.

I turn down an aisle and there she is. She holds a plastic bag filled with water and a single clownfish.

She is smiling. Buenas tardes.

I am bewildered. I am shining. To speak takes effort. Hello, I say.

She has the face of a puma, the skin of a silk, the air of a swan. Her shawl is alpaca, her dress is peacock. Her panther hair is braided.

¿Cómo se llama usted?

My name?

My name.

What. is. my. name.

What is my name? What is my name! WHAT IS MY NA—

Rrrrrrraaaaaaayyyyyyymmmmmmmuuuuuuunnnnnndo.

¿Raymundo? ¿De veras?

Yes. That’s right. My name is Raymundo.

Me llamo Antonia. Es un placer.

The pleasure is mine.

I let her pass the bag to me. I say, I’m sorry I have to leave so quickly but I do have to get back home. For the animals.

Hands clenched against her torso as if they hurt, like a girl ready to receive communion, she looks up into my eyes and says:

Hop on iced hay.