7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 10)

The parrots squawked: here come the Kings and Queens, decked out in purple, blue and green…

All hail Lord Despair

The spades’ head gonzo…

He thinks he’s the King of Kings

But he’s just the King of Craps and Risotto

And his lady love

That baleful dove…

Is the strident Queen of Pain and Panto!

Here’s the Hart of Hearts

The ashen Queen

The Lady of your heart’s desire

Don’t be fooled!

All you’ll get from this old nag

Is a pile of ashes when sets your house on fire

The brassy hag is bride to the Stag

The Stag of Hope and Glory

Well that’s too bad!

Hope’s long gone, and for this pair there’s never any glory…

Meet the Master!

The Master Blaster

A.K.A. the Diamond Disaster

And his sister-dear

The pure as mud, the fad, the dud,

The dainty Queen Nirvana

The King of Clubs sits on his throne

The Throne of Lice and Dysentery

His Lady-wife sings beside him

Deaf and mute, the Queen of Cacophony


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

The Founder Effect – no. 17

17.

 

Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with the line, ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Well, Leo, I have proven the exception to the rule.

Floors 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 are now completely vacated of neighbors (Monarchs and milkweed going up in no. 24 tonight). And no one in this city would move into any unit here if you paid them. The whole first floor—nos. 1, 2, and 3—are knee-high in soil and lichens. I picked up beetle snails and a pair of star nosed moles to put in there when I dropped off Antonia’s lunch this morning. They seem to love it.

She offered to bring back stacks of plastic modular tank extenders (for cost and space, they’re the most efficient solution, she says). In exchange for three lobsters, Beethoven has agreed to not complain until I can install the MTEs by sometime tonight.

As well as last night went with Antonia, we’re celebrating with a little sherry. Now that I’m 17, Chimpy today is calling me Jailbait.

Jailbait, pass me the lighter.

Jailbait, you want ice?

Haven’t you already seen this Antiques Roadshow episode, Jailbait?

He’s in a much better mood than he was last night. Having the chance to cook really does soothe him, and his amuse-bouche of ceviche de pulpo is undoubtedly fine by any standard. After the stunt Beethoven pulled—Antonia was a terrific sport about it, though—and the second she left, Chimpy was ready to kill it on the spot. At one point I thought I had him talked down, but when I turned, Chimpy made a sneaky dash for the aquatank and I had no choice but to physically restrain him.

The compromise was to spare Beethoven’s life. But it did cost the price of sixteen suckers worth of a single tentacle. Just one. And not even most of it. Chimpy made a very persuasive argument that Beethoven would never learn otherwise and in the end I had little choice but to agree. After all, Chimpy is an animal, and Beethoven is an animal, but I am not. So I deferred to his judgment.

I love the ghee finish on that tangerine brine, I say.

Chimpy leers at Beethoven as he signs, Can you tell how the ginger and garlic are just rubbed on? I just rubbed them on the tentacle? Without mashing them up into the marinade?

Mmmm, I say. So that’s it. It’s really tender. And subtle.

There’s nothing in the marinade but the juice.

Amazing, I say and stab the last piece. No salt?

Just in the ghee.

It’s exquisite.

Chimpy is surely being cruel, but I cannot deny the results. Beethoven has been limited to mealtime conversations, and by permission only. And again, the lobsters bought me a day of peace and quiet about the space, which I’m already taking care of.

Things are happening outside the flat in the hallway.

Everything goes red. Just as suddenly, the red ends.

In Mrs. Boerenpummel’s apartment, it sounds like a firework explodes.

Raat! Cleanup on aisle two.

Chimpy displays agitation.

What the hell was that?!

Raat! Five-O.

A small spout of water squirts up into the air from the geoduck shelter.

There’s a hatehiss coming from the other side of the apartment wall. A slam, a snap of breaking wood, followed by a number of stomping boots. I rush to the front door.

I look through the fisheye lens of the peephole. I hear what is left of Mrs. Boerenpummel’s door collapse, then speaking in the hallway, then the jingle of chains. Eight Gurkhas, in two-by-two formation, march by. Then Mrs. Boerenpummel shuffles past, shackled neck to feet. Then a Borinqueneer wearing the bars and pineapple of a Master Gunnery Sergeant. Last, ten Legionnaires with bayonets pointing up on their backs. They all tramp away.

I turn my head around. Sorry, Chimpy.

He signs, It’s cool, really. It ain’t a thing.

The Frenchman told me there might be an orangutan in the works before long. A female.

That’s what I’m talking about, Jailbait. I love Malaysian chicks.

Well I can’t promise you anything because, remember, if she does not reciprocate your affections then the point is moot, right, Mr. McPickles?

Something brushes against the door. I look through the peephole again and see the three armed men in berets I had seen on the street before. One of them bows.

A sealed envelope falls through the mail slot, landing on my foot.

I pick it up, look at both sides. I hand it to Chimpy. He skips over to the hallway closet, cracks it open, hurriedly stuffs the envelope inside (without letting the rest of the mail avalanche out onto the floor), and pushes, presses, works the door back shut.

 

Chimpy sprinkles some flakes into the fish tank.

I say, The Frenchman assured me that these three are also females. I wonder if Haffenreffer will go on to be male.

What do you mean?

She’s the mature one. When a group of clownfish are all females, the mature one usually will turn into a male.

Are you serious?

Indeed I am. It’s called protogyny. A lot of fish species do it.

Chimpy lights a cigarette and passes it to me, then lights his own. And then they mate?

That’s the point, yes.

No kidding.

Hundreds of fish species are protogynous. Including wrasses.

Chimpy blows a smoke ring through another smoke ring. The wrasses are asses.

Ah, yes, well, ha, that’s good.

You think what I did to Beethoven was too harsh.

No, I don’t know.

In a couple weeks it’ll be all grown back.

Yes, I know.

And it tasted great.

It was so, so good.

Thank you. Trust me when it comes to animals. I know how to deal with them.

Chimpy?

What is it?

I ask, Were you born in the wild?

He ashes his smoke. No I was not. Born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx.

 

7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 9)

The crows are gathering, my kin, atop the royal Oak…

The storm clouds are dark and brooding

Loitering in the night, hooded

The crows’ cries are harsh and crude

Hungry and longing for anything–

Everything is food

A mouse, a rat, a pigeon…

The crow’s greedy black eye

Only sees food

The storm brings Thunder

The storm rides Rain

The storm hurls Lightning

And it is all Pain

Pain

Mistake not

The storm is Pain

The crows are gathering

And the storm is upon us

My kin, never surrender

Never retreat

Stand together

And we will defeat

The storm of Pain


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 8)

And the mockingbird twittered: Aces high; Ace is nigh…

Aces high and low

It is your time… it is your show…

The Ace of Clubs is a witch

Mesmerizing, tantalizing, incentivizing…

The Morning Star

Pay her back!

Or it’s the switch…

The diamond wizard

The Ace of Hades

Lord of salvation

Yours?

He smiles

She…He…

It

The barracuda angelfish

The stunner of the sea

Star of Hearts

The Ace of Ecstasy

Seven is the number of the Beast

An electric coil

Slippery as an eel

The snake of spades

The Ace of Waves

Last but not least

You’re on lead…

Who will it be?

Witch

Wizard

Fish or

Snake?

What do you think?


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 7)

As you are Us, and we are You…

When what is within is the same as what is without

When what is said is no different from what is not

When the Sun and Moon and Stars do not kill and bind

When Rain and Thunder do not make mud of the mind

When there is no Harvest of disease

Freedom barges in, my kin

For those who want it

And for those who do not…


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 6)

The starlings murmured: it is near; it is almost here…

Truth, my kin

The Truth in the Sun and Moon and Stars

The Truth of fear in men’s hearts

The fear that creates monsters with darts

Of ice; darts of scalding fire

The Truth of light unseen

Light that kills and blinds

Light that binds…

In bonds unseen and unseeing

No more, my kin

For we want Freedom to know how much we care…


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

The Founder Effect – no. 16

16.

 

The flat is immaculate. My master suite is crisp and bright in cotton, marble, and mahogany. Birds of Paradise in the vases, a hint of lemongrass in the air. Spiritmasks on the walls, furniture engineered and minimal. Perfection in tribal modernism.

The first room is Chimpy’s and Electra’s. Their bunkbeds are made, everything sorted just right. The legendary Mr. McPickles pulls a Zippo from a pocket on his crushed velvet smoking jacket to light a stick of patchouli.

Rascal’s room is trashed. I cannot say with confidence that the Billy goat is one of my favorite animals. He’s been starting to show signs of playing too rough with Eve, first at mealtimes, but now more recently it’s been whenever. And he’s a chewer. And a climber. I tether him and lock his door.

Electra is perched on the grandfather clock performing New Age spa sounds. She’s agreed to set the mood. My Wing Woman.

I’m hoping the emu egg will hatch tonight while Antonia is here.

It’s as if a red lens has fallen right over my pupils. Suddenly everything is tinted with a red light. Everything everywhere.

Iwan tmo respace, I hear in my mind.

Who wants more space? Who said that?

Everything is still red.

Iam nota fraid tokil lyou.

Not afraid to kill me? Did you hear that?

Raat! Hear what?

Chimpy signs, Hear what?

How could you not hear that?

The voice buzzes in my head, Ifyo udonot giveme mores pace, I willeat allof yo urani mals.

The red stops.

I look around. Everything is back to its natural color.

Beethoven suspends itself front-and-center in the aquatank. Our eyes meet.

You said that, didn’t you? I ask.

Beethoven stares me down, its tentacles gathering.

You’ll eat all of my animals if I don’t give you more space?

Everything goes red.

Doyouk now whothe wo man is?

Which woman?

Yo urgues tton ight.

Antonia?

Raat! She’ll be here! Don’t worry! He’s lost his marbles.

Eve sits alert at my feet, ears stiff, paying me mind. Ready to hunt. At my word.

The wo man isag oddess.

The red ends.

Electra’s wings beat violently. Raat! Who the hell are you?

I say, Electra, is it speaking to you now?

She croons, “The Lady in Redddddd…”

Electra, what is it saying?

Raat! Thanks but no thanks, partner.

She launches herself from the top of the grandfather clock, dips into the tight corner, flies right into her room.

Chimpy grunts, drums his chest, then straightens up. He has a far-away look in his eyes.

I ask, Have you heard it yet?

He stands perfectly still.

Is it speaking to you now? Does everything look red?

Chimpy waddles over to the aquatank, knocks on it three times, backs up and signs, If you ruin tonight for Raymundo and Antonia, that cleaver right over there hanging on the wall is the knife I’m going to use to chop you into bits and feed you to the platypuses. Gambino and Luchese. We call them The Syndicate. They will eat you whole. Even when you rot.

What did it say? I demand.

Chimpy freezes again.

What is it saying?

He signs, So, we have an understanding.

Who? What understanding?

I can hear Electra in her room mimicking the theme music from The Twilight Zone.

If you break that promise and don’t show respect, I swear on my life I will fry you. Don’t kid yourself. I will fry you alive to a crisp. We’ll all eat you. The goat, too. Ray will put out all the special sauces. Believe that.

What is it saying? I ask again.

It says it won’t interfere but it does need more space. It’s not mature. It’ll get way bigger soon.

Fine. It said Antonia was a goddess. What did it mean by that?

Chimpy signs, It means that she’s a goddess.

 

Buenas noches, Raymundo.

Welcome, come in. You are a vision.

O, Raymundo. Chew our saucewheat.

Please. Let me take your cape.

 

¿Cangrejos?

Basically. They’re called yabbies.

¿Y les gustan?

Oh, it’s their favorite thing to eat.

 

I’m sorry. It’s only that I just got it today and it’s super temperamental. I didn’t mean to sound critical of you.

She smirks kindly and shakes her head. Jude hidden.

 

¿Podemos ir a ver a las abejas?

Upstairs?

Sí, arriba upstairs.

I did get two beekeeper suits.

She gasps and applauds. ¡Que divertido fun!

I smile. I ask, How do you do that?

 

Chimpy returns with two pisco sours in stemmed glasses on a sterling silver tray. Antonia and I trade our empties for the refills.

She looks at Chimpy, taps her mouth, then beckons him. Thank you, darling.

 

Antonia has flipped off her shoes. She’s spread out comfortably on the sofa, playing with the red ribbon.

I’m in the loveseat. I begin to read from the book she gave me, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery: “Here is an animal with venom like a snake, a beak like a parrot, and ink like an old-fashioned pen. It can weigh as much as a man and stretch as long as a car, yet it can pour its baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of an orange.”

Antonia grabs her mouth and gently squeals.

“It can change color and shape. It can taste with its skin.”

She sticks fingers in her ears, kicking the air, wincing as she giggles. ¡Dios Mio!

I continue, “Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart. This bore out what scant experience I had already had; like many who visit octopuses in public aquariums, I’ve often had the feeling that the octopus I was watching was watching me back, with an interest as keen as my own.”

Playfully protecting herself, as if I were flinging atrocities, Antonia holds up crossed arms. She covers her eyes with the backs of her hands, the folds in her palms shaped into curved lines, like two perfect question marks.

Everything turns red.

 

The Founder Effect – no. 15

15.

 

I feel like the perfect paragraph. There’s at once a truth and a music to me now. The cadence of song. It’s in my stride and my posture, in my subjects and my predicates. It all feels very real to me.

So I don’t want to be reminded that it’s fiction.

It’s.

That this is fiction. This. That the sky isn’t right there above my head, that those birds in it aren’t trying to go somewhere, that its sapphire infinity is out of my grasp, is something that I couldn’t reach up to and touch if I wanted. I look around and there are all these buildings all over, those trees and their shadows, fire hydrants, trash cans, traffic lights, cables, the food carts, talking people walking, right and wrong ways of doing things that everyone’s keeping in mind whether they know it or not.

I do know, and damn well, that this is chapter 15. It doesn’t escape me. And I’ve still been meaning to have a word with the invisible hand that I also haven’t forgotten is pulling levers behind a curtain. But not now.

For the love of all things sacred, please. Not now. Just not now.

 

It helps that right over there on the sidewalk to my left are three tall men outfitted in boots, fatigues, gloves, berets, kneepads, Kevlar, Bluetooth, and SAWs guarding the west entrance on Electric Avenue. Not something you see every day.

Electra has flown up to the flat (Chimpy will open the window for her) so I’m focused on getting everything into the service elevator, which is a welcome reprieve from encountering fellow tenants. As of late they’ve taken to tossing food or drink in my face and I’d like to not get my bowtie ruined.

I’m also grateful that I’ve only been stung twice by the bees. It appears that they are way too engrossed in the business of growing babies to pay me much attention at all. I know for a fact that the Aptekars up in nos. 22 and 23 are all moved out so I figure I’ll set up the bees in one flat and put the moths in the other. Honeycomb won’t last an hour around Chimpy so I don’t have much choice. And that as well ought to take care of the last holdout on the top floor, which is prime real estate for an insect sanctuary.

I’ll have to put some thought into the roof, though. Clearly pigeons can roost on it but there’s room for a more robust habitat. Perhaps a condor, a few swallows, some palm trees. Or even a couple albatrosses. Or maybe even a mountain dragon if the Frenchman would stop being so pigheaded with me and so generally pessimistic and lazy. Electra and Chimpy now call him Jacques le Cock. Point being: I must increase my ambitions. I’m not getting any younger.

It takes me longer than I’d thought it would to get the doors to nos. 22 and 23 completely unhinged from their jambs but now that they’ve been unscrewed loose, what we have here is a proper foundation for an entomological ecosystem. The thermostats are set, water and foliage in suitable proportion and proximity, black light bulbs installed. The fire escape is crammed with flowerbeds, both windows to it half open, the rest with drapes drawn.

Wheeling the ecotanks and the octopus out of the service lift, I see Chimpy sitting on the stairwell sharing a cigarette with Mrs. Boerenpummel. He is wearing a hunting hat with one side pinned up; she dons a negligée exposing the cleavage and spider veins of her generous, ample, rotund form. Chimpy’s arm hangs over her shoulder, resting disinterestedly on her breast. She is nuzzled at his ribs, facing up to watch each pull he takes with a vicarious sensation of pleasure in her eyes and breathless smile.

She seems like she’s in another world.

Chimpy! I whisper as loudly as I can.

He passes the cigarette to Mrs. Boerenpummel. In her other hand is a counterfeit Chinoiserie bier stein full of mimosa.

He signs, How did it go?

It went splendidly, I reply hoarsely. But did you let Electra in?

In bunny slippers, Mrs. Boerenpummel crosses her legs. She puts the cigarette back to Chimpy’s lips for him.

He signs, No, I’ve just been taking a breather, kid.

I tell him sternly, Will you please quit it and get inside? I have all of this to set up and Electra’s probably been perched on the sill for an hour now.

Chimpy takes a double drag and plopfitzes his butt into Mrs. Boerenpummel’s mug. He claps her rump, whips her front with his hat, and knucklehops over and past me into the apartment.

 

The ecotanks are installed and filled. A drill, a mallet, and various screwdrivers and assorted other tools and bits lie strewn about the flat. I stand facing the aquatank, with Chimpy, Electra, Eve, the Billy goat (Rascal), the platypuses (Luchese & Gambino), the emu egg (any day now), and the geoduck clams (Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie, and Michael) lined up like a choir behind me.

I open a copy of a book. By Frank Norris.

I hold it in front of my face and read: “in his imagination, the galloping monster, the terror of steel and steam, with its single eye, cyclopean, red, shooting from horizon to horizon; but saw it now as the symbol of a vast power, huge, terrible, flinging the echo of its thunder over all the reaches of the valley, leaving blood and destruction in its path; the leviathan, with tentacles of steel clutching into the soil, the soulless force, the iron-hearted power, the monster, the colossus, the octopus.”

I lower the book and wait.

Inside the tank, a conch shell melts. Spreads along the floor as if it were lava. Erupts into a parachute. Fans out swirling limbs.

For the next 23 minutes, Electra performs the Appassionata, so we name it Beethoven.

 

7 Dalga: The Song of the Sky: When Freedom Barges In (Part 5)

Now it is up to you, the birds said

As the Dark One said: as it was then, it is now

It is important Now

As important as it ever will be

To do

What we have to do

What do we have to do?

Speak, said Sparrow

Speak the Truth

You must speak the Truth

Be the first, Sparrow said, the first to rise to the Truth

Be the first to speak the Truth

Be the first to speak the Truth

To the world

And the rest will follow…


Continues…

Sanem Özdural

The Founder Effect – no. 14

14.

 

After the first young woman showed me to her chair, took my coat, let me get comfortable, set down her toolkit and pouch of heated rocks, offered me a choice of Pinot Grigio or Merlot, inquired as to whether I was having a good day, pulled free and shook loose and snapped on a pair of latex gloves, confirmed for a second time what package I ordered and laughed at herself, smeared scented cream on the cuticles of my thumb and forefinger, chucked my hand as she hallucinated it transform into a tarantula, squealed a bloodcurdling wheezeshriek pedestrians outside must have heard, flinched violently, shuddered profoundly, felt the surge from her scalp down to her knees, broke out in hives staining her neck, panted fiercely out lips and cheeks that swellflapped like a mudskipper, backed up and knocked down a rival’s aluminum tray, made stainless steel utensils jingle on the floor like spent shell casings, peppered patrons’ shoes with the ricey ricochets of her prodigious vomit, and was steered through the slit in the velvet curtain by her panicked boss as he cupped her elbows, a second and far more seasoned woman was deployed to resume my Lavender Primrose Supreme Deluxe Total Relaxation Mani-Pedi. As a concession, I agreed to pay an extra 20% on both the service and the gratuity, which I offered without prompting because of how extraordinary the good mood I am in at this very moment is.

The replacement aesthetician, unlike the first, has a face as dispassionate as a limestone Buddha. Raised in thatch huts torched to cinders on the killing fields of overlapping wars, I have every confidence that she has witnessed far worse, is made up of true grit.

As she buffs my outermost toe, earning her extra pay, I tell her, I do think I have a chance. Her name is Antonia, by the way.

เธอน่ารักใช่มั้ย, she asks.

She is beautiful, I reply.

จากนั้นคุณกำลังทำสิ่งที่ถูกต้อง.

My confidence blushes. I correct my posture in the chair and say, I surely hope so.

I add, Do you really believe that?

 

The storefront door hasn’t quite finished closing when the salon erupts with gossigasps and ramblewhispers. Strolling down the sidewalk, I feel like a floating cloud. I am sure everyone who sees me can tell. The florist on Hitzë Road surely can tell, but perhaps it’s because of the six sunflowers I have him sleeve in six meters of ribbon.

Yesterday I had to park the Bronco on the street. The garage entrance was blocked off by no less than three moving trucks. Although Mondays are Antonia’s days off, I went to the pet shop anyway because of how breathless the Frenchman was when leaving his message on my answering machine.

And not without reason. A Billy goat, two platypuses, a tube of Luna moths, five geoduck clams, a near-ready emu egg, 100 yabbies, ten kilos of straw, a bin of high-concentrate brackish water tabs, and his largest top-of-the-line incubator set me back Q115,250. We had a brief, heated argument over my request for a culture of tardigrades (he convinced himself that I was being ludicrous) but when I presented my down payment in Omani rials, he found his calm and promised to look into it.

Today I’m back for an assortment of flora, the ecotanks, the beehive, and the octopus. The Frenchman has been talking about the octopus for a week, and this morning it finally arrived. Two men in navy windbreakers with the word CARABINIERI emblazoned across their backs pause traffic with stern looks so that I can maneuver the Bronco and hitched trailer into the spot by the pet shop entrance reserved for loading and unloading.

No longer content to be left at home each and every time I pursue new investments for my menagerie, Electra touches down on my shoulder, tucks in her wings, and claws a sharp grip of my tweed.

I pull the edges of my bowtie. Are the sunflowers too much? I ask.

Raat! Something with panache.

You got that right, sister.

This time, and to my delight, as soon as I enter the pet shop’s sliding glass doors, Antonia is right there to greet me.

She is dressed all in white. And smiling proudly as her eyes curtsy.

Hola, Raymundo.

Electra makes the sound of a cash register opening, softly enough for only me to hear.

I hold the bouquet at arm’s length. I say, I got these for you. I hope you like them.

Her chin drops, her mouth opens, her eyelids tighten. She accepts my gift as one would an ivory carving.

Estas flores son tan hermosas. Siempre me recuerdan a mi madre.

Electra whispers in my ear, Tell her tell her tell her.

She sighs. ¿Cómo sabías que los girasoles son mis favoritos?

Um, well, I didn’t. But they suit you.

Me encantan estos. Y la cinta es tan lujosa.

I clasp my hands and say, I’m so glad you like them.

She dips her head and says:

Soap her fit.

Electra whistles and cries, Wowwwww.

I tell Antonia, I’m sorry: What did you just say?

She swallows and repeats, Soap her fit.

Electra mutters to my neck, You kiss your mother with that mouth?

I roll her words in my mind. Soap her fit. So perfect.

And days ago: Hop on iced hay.

Have a nice day.

Electra commands again, Tell her.

It’s funny you say their your mother’s favorite; I spoke to my mother on the phone just the other day.

Antonia hugs the bouquet to her chest.

Me imagino que tu madre es encantadora.

Well, I think that she is.

Antonia coyly beams.

Bueno, Raymundo, yo también tengo algo para ti.

Out of nowhere she hands me a book skillfully tied in a red bow.

Electra tells me softly, Go for the jugular. Now.

Perhaps you’d like to, maybe, I don’t know, come over sometime. To see the animals. And to read this book with me.

Eyed lake, tube, heady mulch.