Etymology: probably of Low German origin; akin to "Moneke", name of an ape, probably of Romance origin; akin to Old Spanish "mona".

In paintings, an ape or monkey may represent the base instincts of man. In Molenaer’s ‘Lady World’ a monkey slips his paw into a slipper, as a representation of lust. A monkey may also be used to satirize human affection, folly and vanity. Artists were aware that they ‘aped’ or imitated nature, as Chardin shows in ‘The Monkey Painter’; while 19th-century caricaturists mocked students as monkeys imitating their masters. Alternatively, apes or monkeys may appear as part of an exotic menagerie, as in Gentile da Fabriano’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’.

According to Harlow, when a baby monkey is presented with 2 mothers: a wire mother holding a bottle of milk, and a terry cloth mother holding nothing, it sometimes stays with the terry cloth mother for comfort and touch, and other times it stays with the wire mother for sustenance.

A TV series shown on BBC2 in the UK in the early 1980's.
Also shown as Monkey Magic.
The original version Saiyuki produced by Japan's NTV in 1979 and was wildly popular. 39 of these episodes where translated into English.

Monkey was immortal, flew around on a magic cloud and fought with a magic rod that could change size.

Each episode included the wisdom of Confucius, Lao Tzu, some outrageously good dubbing and a big fight.

Whilst Monkey has been shown in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and apparently Canada, I have been told it was never broadcast in the US due to copyright problems.
The original Japanese version did have a complete run on a Californian Japanese channel in the late 1980's.

I used to find the boy priest strangely attractive and it was only much later that I learned he was played by actress Masako Natsume.

Further to iain's WU:

In the context of common slang for British currency £500 became known as a "monkey" sometime in the Victorian era because soldiers returning from India used the same term to refer to the Indian 500 rupee note - it had a picture of a monkey printed on it.

This is a primate that lives in trees, typically in fairly large groupings. They are much smaller than gorillas, and somewhat smaller than chimpanzees similarly sized primates, but larger than many species of primates.

They typically live and sleep in trees. They are gregarious and live in bands, many of whose members are typically related. Some species are able to digest the leaves of trees. Others may subsist largely on fruits and nuts, but have the ability to digest fruit that is not ripe enough for chimpanzees and other primates. This advantage counteracts the danger that a group of larger and stronger primates (such as chimpanzees) might drive them away from a food source for which both competed.

Although not as intelligent as some of the larger primates, they often surprise observers with their cleverness. They have a rather sophisticated pecking order, and social relationships as well as physical fighting ability play a part in it.

In the worlds before Monkey, primal chaos reigned.

Heaven sought order; but the phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown.

The four worlds formed again and yet again, as endless aeons wheeled and passed. Time and the pure essences of Heaven, the moisture of the Earth, the powers of the Sun and the Moon all worked upon a certain rock, old as creation. And it became magically fertile.

That first egg was named "Thought". Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha, said, "With our thoughts we make the world". Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From it then came a stone monkey.

The nature of monkey was irrepressible!


So opened each episode of Monkey, aka Monkey Magic, a cult classic TV series based on the 16th century Chinese epic Hsi Yu Chi. This series was as much a part of my childhood as other entertainment classics such as The A Team, or Knight Rider; but coming back to it now, years later, it's still great, and not just in a cheesy, retro way. As a kid, I enjoyed Monkey's mad ninja skillz, laughed at Sandy and Pigsy, and felt a little uneasy about Tripitaka (aka Hsüan Tsang, who actually existed, and did journey from China to India and back in the 7th century AD). Now, the confusion over Tripitaka's gender has been cleared up (it's an actress, playing a young boy, who may or may not be a eunuch), and I'm more sure of what's going on; and also, I've just watched the first three episodes on video, so I know what the characters' motivations are.


The Characters:

  • Monkey: AKA the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven. Monkey is the stone monkey who bursts from the egg at the start of each show. He is practically indestructable, he knows every magic trick under the sun, he can change shape at will, he is immortal, and he has a magic wishing staff which changes size at his command. On earth, Monkey was the king of the monkey people. He loved a fight, and so his people fought with whatever demons or people they came across.

    Meanwhile, up in heaven, the Jade Emperor was disturbed by all the fighting down on earth; and having received complaints from the Dragon King, the emperor's advisor (the Spirit of the planet Venus) suggested that they invite Monkey up to heaven, which he did. Monkey found his first job in heaven, that of Director of the heavenly stables, demeaning (because it meant shoveling dung), and so he was appointed as Guardian of the Heavenly Peach Garden, and officially given the title of Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven. One tree held peaches that granted those who eat them supernatural strength; another tree's fruit granted agelessness and the power of levitation; and on the third tree grew peaches which gave immortality and indestructability. Monkey was warned that the peaches were only to be eaten by the guests at the Emperor's peach banquet; naturally, Monkey ignored this, and gorged himself on peaches.

    When the emperor sent his maidens to pick peaches for his next banquet, Monkey refused to believe their story; the emperor would never hold a banquet without inviting the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven! Monkey invaded the banquet hall, and fought with both the Marshall and Commander of the Host of Heaven, and broke the emperor's prized Jade Cup; in the end, the emperor pleaded with Buddha to intervene.

    The Buddha summoned Monkey to the Himalayas, and challenged him to fly from her hand to the end of the Universe; if he succeded, she would have the Jade Emperor step aside in his favour. Monkey accepts this challenge with relish; he summons his pink cloud and off he flies. Having flown through wind, rain and darkness, Monkey reaches the five pillars at the end of the universe. He decorates one of the pillars with some graffiti, writing "The Great Sage, King Monkey, Equal of Heaven was here" in Japanese. He then returns to Buddha, telling her that he saw the five pillars, that were the colour of skin, at the end of the universe. Buddha raises her hand; on one of her fingers is Monkey's grafitti! Realizing that he has lost the challenge, Monkey tries to flee, but the Buddha casts him down; he lands on a mountain, and is there covered by rubble and stone, his powers sealed by the Buddha's scroll; trapped in the rock until someone removes the seal.

  • Pigsy was originally the Marshall of the heavenly host. But because there wasn't much for the heavenly host to do, Pigsy grew bored with his job, and turned to food and wine. When Monkey attacked the emperor's banquet, Pigsy dragged the Lady Vega away from the banquet, to "protect" her. Drunk on wine and lust, he tries to kiss Vega, but the emperor catches up with them, and expels Pigsy from heaven, to live life as a pig monster on earth.
  • Sandy, former Commander of the heavenly host, was expelled from heaven fairly unjustly. When Monkey attacked the banquet, Sandy took up the emperor's prized Jade Fish Cup, to try to save it from being smashed; but Monkey knocked it out of his hands with his staff, breaking it into a thousand pieces. The emperor condemned poor Sandy to live on earth as a water monster from then on.
  • Tripitaka's real name was Hsüan Tsang, something he didn't find out until he started his pilgrimage and first met his real mother. Tripitaka grew up on a monastery; the abbot had found him as a baby, left beside the river with a note. The abbot sends Tripitaka on his way with the note, and Tripitaka meets his mother for the first time; she is living with the man who killed her husband (Tripitaka's father), who would kill her if she stepped out of line. Luckily, he is away when Tripitaka visits, and his mother sends him away with his true name, and news for the emperor of China that his (Tripitaka's) father (who was the governor of the province) has been slain and usurped.

    In the meantime, the Buddha has called a meeting of all Buddhas and Boddhisatvas to tell them of her plan to send a holy man on a quest to India to get the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) Sutras. The goddess Kuan Yinn the Compassionate takes on a male incarnation to seek this holy man, to whom he will give the name Tripitaka. On his journey, Kuan Yinn frees the daughter of the dragon king, whose tears were flooding the earth while she was awaiting execution by her father, from her chains, and also meets Pigsy and Sandy, telling them all of the quest, and that they would meet Monkey, who would explain the quest to them. He suggests to Pigsy and Sandy, who aren't that happy having spent the 500 years as monsters, that they might be allowed back into heaven if they help Tripitaka. Kuan Yinn also visits Monkey, who has now been buried under the mountain for five centuries, and tells him that a holy man will release him from the Buddha's seal.

    Upon hearing Tripitaka's tale, the emperor of China gathers his armies to crush the outlaws who have usurped Tripitaka's father; their leaders are rounded up for execution. Tripitaka begs the emperor not to kill them, but he insists that justice must be done. Later, as Tripitaka prays over the bodies of the dead outlws, Kuan Yinn sees him, and decides that he has found his holy man. Kuan Yinn tells Tripitaka about the greater vehicle sutras, and Tripitaka decides to undertake the quest in order that the sutras might save the souls of people like his father's killers. Kuan Yinn give him the name Tripitaka, and several gifts, along with instructions for their use. Tripitaka tells the emperor, who provides him with a horse and provisions for his long journey.

Through the first three episodes, we see how Tripitaka meets up with the rest of the gang. First, she frees Monkey, and tells him of the great quest; Monkey reluctantly agrees to accompany Tripitaka, but when they are attacked by bandits, and Monkey kicks the crap out of them, Tripitaka insists that there is to be no violence or killing on their journey. When Monkey disagrees, and tries to leave, Tripitaka throws a golden circlet, given him by Kuan Yinn, which fixes itself on Monkey's head; upon recitation of a holy Sutra, the circlet shrinks, causing Monkey considerable pain; and so, under duress, Monkey promises to obey Tripitaka.

Next, Tripitaka and Monkey meet the daughter of the Dragon King. While crossing some mountains, a large water-spout rises from a river below them, and the Dragon appears out of it, and grabs Tripitaka's horse. Incensed, Monkey dives into the river after it. After trading blows with the dragon, Monkey lets slip about his quest; the Dragon, remembering what Kuan Yinn told her, joins them, and takes the shape of a talking horse, to replace the one she ate. Later on, Pigsy and Sandy join them, in far more prosaic ways. And thus they begin their journey to the west...


References:

  • http://users.ox.ac.uk/~hert0493/nostalgia/monkey.htm
    This page proclaims "Monkey is Funky!" But still, it contains a nice synopsis of the first three or four episodes. It might be a work in progress, or it might have been abandoned, but there's some good reading there, anyway.
  • http://www.monkeyheaven.com/
    Very good fan site from someone who has met most of the actors in person. Lots of Monkey stuff here (screensavers, wallpaper, games), if you're *that* interested!

You only spew toxic waste, I can't hear you.
The eyes in the back of my head are glued shut,I can't see you.
I've wiped the poison from my swollen lips, I can't taste you.
I cannot wrap my legs around an illusion, I can't touch you.
My wings have taken me far enough away, I can't smell you.

(author's note- this is an exerpt from a very long novel- 200,000 words aprx.- and was written about ten years ago, before the present situation in Syria and the Arab world generally. Some day I may find a publisher for the whole thing, but till then- enjoy.

 

Monkey- Book one

 

Chapter 1

 

 

On top of everything else she was going to be late. She scowled at her reflection in the bus mirror , and her reflection- dark skinned, brown eyed , hair a short, mat black mass with a blue streak that she'd forgotten ( damn!) to wash out last night- stared back, a double frown line appearing between her too-heavy eyebrows . The bus lurched forward another couple of feet in the heavy morning traffic, and she hissed her Uncle's favorite obscenity under her breath, earning her an angry sniff from the English lady seated next to her.

 

Deliberately she hitched her shoulder bag into her lap and rummaged around in one of the large outside pockets, muttering a nursery rhyme in Arabic, hoping she looked like a mad terrorist who had misplaced her detonator, and was rewarded by a gasp of alarm as her neighbor struggled to her feet and clattered down the aisle and out the (fortunately) open door.

 

She sighed, her momentary amusement at the game vanishing in a wave of depression. Why was she always doing these things? For two pence that white Cow would have told the bus driver, or gotten hysterical and screamed . Just like now, she berated herself , sentenced to spend the next two months doing God knew what at this bloody hospital or whatever it was, carrying bedpans or something like as not, all for a stupid computer prank that had somehow gotten traced to her laptop...

 

Yet for all that , she mused, suddenly, it had been an extremely elegant program, a fact that seemed to have escaped the University authorities, her Family, and especially the Judge, sentencing her to two months' Community Service in a bored, weary voice, not really even looking at her, his mind probably on his lunch , and completely unable to appreciate in any case the symmetry , the elegant beauty of the program which ….Crap! Lispenard! She caught sight of the street sign just as the Bus pulled away from the stop, bolted out of her seat, yanked the cord and hammered with her free hand on the closed double doors. There was an annoyed sounding hiss from the brakes, a jerk that nearly toppled her , and the doors banged open briefly, almost spitting her out onto the hot asphalt.

 

She wasted no breath cursing the Bus as it lumbered away, farting , into the bright metallic stream of morning traffic. Extracting the slip of paper she'd been given from a damp shirt pocket she checked the street number, and realizing she still had at least two blocks to go down Lispenard to St Andrew's she set off at a dead run, clutching her bag with one hand.

 

She noted distantly that the glaring brightness of the busy bus route had been replaced by a narrow, tree shaded side road, and that the few people on the pavement moved with a stately deliberation, as though walking underwater . There was no road traffic , and the pavement was bordered by a high , black painted iron fence. The Hospital grounds ? - she wondered, just as twin stone pillars and an elaborate entrance gate announced 'Saint Andrew's Rest Home' in curlicue iron letters a foot high.

 

She skidded to a stop, panting, ran a hand pointlessly through her tangled hair , and handed the damp , crumpled slip of paper to the guard who emerged from a small shelter to one side. He was middle aged, dark complected, with a set, expressionless face, and a plastic name tag reading 'Watkins' pinned over the breast pocket of his neat grey uniform. He seemed about to tell her to move along , Miss, it was too early for the cleaning staff to arrive or something , when a familiar voice shouted 'Nadi!' and she peered through the bars to see her older brother Salim approaching, looking suitably harassed and professional in a neat white jacket with the requisite stethoscope poking out of a side pocket. 'It's all right, Watkins, Miss Marabet has an appointment .' he told the guard in those superior Oxford vowel sounds she had teased him about when he first came home from University. The guards stolid expression did not change as he brought up a small clip board and ran a pink skinned forefinger down it. . 'Na-di-ya Mara-bet', he intoned in a singsong Island lilt, making no move to open the gate. ' The ap-point-ment was for nine o'clock, Doc-tor'

 

Her brother took a deep breath before answering. 'I know, Watkins. Miss Marabet seems to be twenty minutes late. ' ' She still got an ap-point-ment, then, Doc-tor?' asked the guard dubiously. Nadia was suddenly convinced that the man was laughing behind that expressionless exterior, probably had a good idea what the court order on her slip of paper meant. Poor Salim had never had much sense of humor, for all his brilliance. Before he lost his cool , she spoke up . 'Excuse me, Mr Watkins, I apologize for being late, but if I don't report here, they'll probably throw me in jail, so could you just let me in, please?' her tone of voice deferential and matter of fact. The man's sudden smile was like a flashbulb going off in that dark face, one gold front tooth catching the sun.

 

'Why sure, Miss Ma-ra-bet ,' he said , genially , reaching behind him and actuating a buzzer in kiosk , the gate responding with a mechanical hum , swinging open a short distance before stopping. 'You take good care , now,' he said with the hint of a salute, handing her the paper slip. She thanked him with a grin before slipping through the narrow gap. Security must be tight here, she told herself. What kind of a place was St Andrew's anyway?

 

Salim let out his breath in an annoyed rush. ' Come on, Nadi,' he said gesturing peremptorily with a cupped hand. 'I'm in the middle of rounds, I'll drop you off at Reception . I managed to talk them out of calling the Court office,' he added self-righteously.' Couldn't you have at least tried to be on time? It wasn't easy getting the Judge to agree to this , you know.' Nadia fell into step behind him as he strode away, not bothering to respond. She wondered why the Family had been so insistent that she do her Community Service here, instead of picking up litter in the park or something. Idiot, she told herself, nobody will see you in a place like this. Rest Home? Asylum , more likely. Salim had been very uncommunicative about the nature of his new appointment, except that she gathered it was a kind of honor . She sighed inwardly. It was probably just as well that one of the siblings had made good, considering how she had turned out. In fact...the abrupt contact with the back of Salim's starched white coat brought her into awareness of her surroundings and he rounded on her , exasperated. They were standing in front of a glazed set of double doors and a discrete sign that announced , yes, 'Reception'.

 

'Nadi, look- I've got to go, Dr. Carter is waiting. Just go check in and they'll tell you what to do. I'll see you later when I have a break. ' He patted her shoulder with one neatly manicured hand, and she felt a momentary pang for the adored older brother who used to swing her up by her wrists when she was little and pretend to be a flying carpet..

 

The woman in reception was tiny and looked as though she had been dusted with powdered ice, an effect heightened by the chill air conditioning , and the overstated politeness of her manner. White hair blended into bleached looking skin and a pale silk blouse completed the effect. She looked at Nadia's slip of paper with non-existent eyebrows raised over pale Grey eyes in what seemed an habitual expression of distaste, told her to wait, and pressed a button from an array on her desk.

 

After a few uncomfortable moments of standing in front of the desk not knowing what to do with her hands and being completely ignored, an inner door flew open with a protesting hiss and a large woman clad in hospital whites stood looking down at her . ' This she?' the woman demanded in the same kind of lilt as the guard at the gate. At the receptionist's pained nod, she looked Nadia up and down with an irritated frown. 'What I s'posed to do wit' she? ' the woman demanded , seemingly of the world at large. ' I tell them, send me some wo-man can lift and carry t'ings! '

 

'It's only temporary , Bertha.' said the Receptionist , her mouth tight. 'It's - ' she gestured to the slip of paper on the desk as though it had been dropped by a passing bird. Bertha craned her neck and studied it carefully. 'Com-mun-ity Ser-vice' she intoned . 'Oh Lord, come on then , darlin''

 

With one plump hand she ushered Nadia through the inner door and down a softly lit corridor. As the office door closed with a satisfied click, Bertha stopped and regarded her with interest.

 

'What you done, then, darlin'' she inquired bluntly.

 

Nadia looked up at the woman , seeing the intelligence behind the heavy features , and decided to be candid. 'I wrote a computer program that kind of messed up the University system,' she said simply, remembering that glorious day of all grades being reversed, acceptance letters sent out to every applicant, and elevators that seemed to have minds of their own , so that every push of the button was an unwanted adventure.

 

Bertha seemed impressed. 'Com-pu-ters! ' she murmured, then , 'Why you do that, then?'

 

Nadia shrugged . 'For fun. I was bored.'

 

Bertha sniffed. 'Well, we keep you plenty busy here then, out of trouble , for true, yes?' Without waiting for an answer she continued, ' What kind of name Na-di-a? Where you come from ?'

'I was born here,' Nadia answered, beginning to get used to this odd interview. ' It's Arabic.'

Bertha's light blue eyes, incongruous against her dark skin, widened somewhat theatrically.

 

'You one of them, so? Why you don't wear that scarf on you head then?'

 

Nadia, used to the heavy handed political correctness of her contemporaries , felt like laughing at the naturalness of the question. ' My family is Druze,'she said ,'We don't go in for that sort of thing.'

 

Bertha accepted this bit of information with an interested nod and a grunt. ' Well, Na-dia, let's us find you something to do, yes? Can't have you gettin' bored, no tellin' what might happen. ' With a wave, she set off down the corridor, Nadia almost trotting to keep up with the woman's long strides..At the end they rounded a corner to find a sort of nurses' station, where a younger woman with tightly curled hair of an improbable golden yellow against her warm brown complexion was seated at a small desk piled high with forms and clipboards. 'Serabi,', Bertha addressed her, ' This here Nadia. She be helpin' out for a bit. Who we got need lookin' after this mornin' now?'

 

Serabi looked up briefly , her eyes sharp behind gold-rimmed spectacles , then ran her forefinger down a list on one of the clipboards. ' Well, there's that old dear in 13 G . It's time for her outing.' Her voice was low and cultured, with a hint of an African intonation.

 

Both women exchanged a wordless glance for a moment, and Nadia sensed some kind of communication taking place. 'Miz Goody, that would be, yes? ' Bertha said finally. She pursed her lips , and then nodded . 'Right, then, Nadia, you just follow along with me , now.' And with that she turned and set off down the intersecting corridor, her soft-soled shoes whispering over the tiled floor with each long stride. In moments they reached a blank door with a hinged plate over a sort of observation spyhole, and 13G engraved on the top .

 

Bertha turned to Nadia, her hand drawing out a ring of keys attached to her waist by a thin chain.

' Now, this Lady get pushed in a chair. She got the Dementia , so she talk all kind of stuff don't make a lot of sense. You pay she no mind, yes? ' So saying she inserted a key in the door and began to open it, Nadia watching with a hollow feeling in her abdomen . There was something in Bertha's manner that reminded her unpleasantly of childhood initiation ceremonies .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

At first sight , the old woman sitting in a chair by the window appeared to be asleep. The morning sunlight, filtering through ivy which grew over the iron grill that fronted the glass panes , struck shifting highlights on the mop of frizzed hair which was all Nadia could see of her head, her face being in shadow , chin sunk on her shawl covered chest. At Bertha's decisive rattle as she withdrew her key, however, there was a nasal snort and a jerking motion from under the concealing shawl , and slowly, the woman called Miz Goody raised her head and turned to look at them. The bright sunlight cast her face still into shadow, but Nadia could make out under the bristling grey eyebrows two bright points of light which- it had to be a trick of the sun through the ivy leaves outside- appeared to be glowing green. A long bony nose, curved like the beak of a predatory bird , was the only other feature discernible.

 

The old woman's gaze rested first on Bertha, then dismissively moved to study Nadia and the hollow feeling in her stomach began to fill with ice. This was so creepy! For no reason she suddenly remembered a trip to the Zoo when she was eight, and passing by the python's glassed cage, being caught and held by that cold reptile stare...

 

.Bertha's no-nonsense voice banished the image to its proper realm of childhood fantasy. ' Come on, love. Time to get some fresh air in you! I got a new friend now , come special to be with you today. This here's Nadia, and me and her's goin' to put you in the chair and take you for a walk!'

With the speed of long practice, Bertha seized the collapsed wheel chair that leaned against the wall by the door, and with a jerk opened it up and presented it invitingly to Miz Goody. 'Take she under the arm, like this, Nadia,' she murmured in an aside, ' We gone help she get in, now.' Wincing , Nadia did as she was told, obscurely relieved that the feel of the old woman's arm was merely bony and fragile , but at the touch the face with its predatory nose turned with a jerk to stare up at her . Gnarled hands like bird's claws clutched the armrest , and the slit of a mouth writhed for a moment and emitted a croaking sound that became a voice. .

 

'I know thee! ' it said. ' Th'art Willow! Willow Rawnie ! Thee canna fool me, these old eyes see true!'

 

Bertha sighed with exaggerated patience. 'Come now, love,' she said, as she all but hoisted the woman with inexorable gentleness into the chair, Nadia trying to assist as best she could. As they settled her into the wheelchair, Bertha tucking the shawl efficiently around the thin shoulders, the wrinkled face changed and she began to weep.

 

' Willow! Thee've made tha'self young again! Thee must help ! I've forgotten the spell! I've forgotten... all the spells! ' This last in a cracked whisper, barely audible, as her head drooped down to rest again on her chest.

 

Bertha looked meaningfully at Nadia, as she skilfully turned the chair and proceeded out the door. 'See, you just take no mind what she say. Agree wit' she , if it keep she sweet. Doctor don' like no trouble .' As they reached the corridor, Bertha stood aside and gestured to the chair handles. ' Here now, you just take hold here, follow after me. '

 

Nadia, feeling a desperate nostalgia for the pedantic boredom of her University classes , gritted her teeth and did as she was told, fighting an insane desire to push the wheelchair faster and faster until she came to a cliff edge somewhere. The feeling passed, however, as they came to a door with a glassed panel that glowed with the sunlight of outdoors, and Bertha inserted another from her ring of keys , then held the door open for the wheelchair to pass outside.

 

The warm sunlight , and the peaceful scene of gracefully curving pavements amid immaculate lawns, dotted here and there by other white dressed nurses wheeling their somnolent charges about , was so reassuringly normal , that Nadia's spirits rose in answer. Bertha patted her shoulder and gestured vaguely over the grounds. 'See, you just take a walk now, slow like, yes? Long about half- ten , be time for tea , over by terrace, there,' indicating an paved expanse adjacent to the main building, shaded by a projecting canopy. 'If she wake , jus' you answer back whatever she say. She mind near gone, poor thing, wanderin' in da past, like dey do, but seem like she take to you.'

 

'Who's this Willow-whatever ?' Nadia asked, as Bertha put a hand on the door handle .

 

The big nurse shrugged , shaking her head. 'Some friend she use to have, mos' likely. You lucky, for true. Folk she don't take to , she can be mighty fierce, believe it.' And with a final enigmatic smile, she re-entered the building, closing the door with a decisive click.

 

Nadia surveyed the rolling expanse of grounds before her. Come on , this wasn't so bad, she told herself . What a story she could make of it to the girls back in the dorm! Taking a deep breath, she resolutely took hold of the projecting handles and moved the chair slowly forward, wondering when Salim had his break.

 

The sun was hot, and a small cluster of trees seemed to offer shade, but turning in that direction she spied two of the nurses, their white uniforms glowing in the deep shadows under the trees , sitting on a bench with their patients in their chairs alongside. Nadia was about to find another refuge, when one of the nurses raised her head and, silently, waved a welcoming hand to beckon her near. On either side , the men in the wheelchairs stared blankly, evincing no real interest. The one on the left had a large purple bruise disfiguring his eyes, and both appeared to be drugged.

As she approached, the one who had waved turned to her companion , her grin revealing teeth as white as her blouse in the deep black of her face. 'For sure, look!' she stated in a loud whisper. 'It that Obee woman. '

 

Her companion rolled her eyes . 'How you talk, girl, she said disdainfully. 'You ain't in the jungle no more. What you sayin', 'Obee''.

 

Nadia looked from one to the other, at a loss to understand. 'Excuse me,' she said, 'I'm a little new here. You mean this lady? What does O.B. stand for?'

 

At this both nurses broke down in a fit of giggles, then the second one , lighter of skin, her hair rust colored under her cap, answered. 'She mean 'Obe-ah'. It just a word they use where she come from, don't pay no mind. You new, yes?' At Nadia's brief nod, she held out a slim hand. 'I be Charlane, this here Cordelia.'

 

Nadia gave her first name, shaking hands with both in turn. Cordelia seemed overcome with sudden shyness, but her companion suffered from no such social handicap. She put her head to one side, in frank appraisal. 'Nadia' .' she mused. 'That a pretty name . Where you come from , then, Nadia?'

 

Reflecting that origins must be a constant preoccupation among these evidently recent immigrants, Nadia said, 'Actually , I was born here. My family is from Syria, originally. And yourself?'

 

The two exchanged glances, eyebrows raised. ' Actu'ly, oim from Jamaica, ' Charlane said in a deliberate burlesque. 'Oi believe , Cordelia, thet yew come from Barbados?' Cordelia nodded , her teeth set in her lower lip to conceal a smile. 'Oi must say, ' Charlane continued, obviously relishing her new role, 'we don see many native born English here. How is it we have da Plesur of you company, moi dear?' The assumed upperclass accent was comical, and meant so, but Nadia sensed an undercurrent of resentment . She decided to nip this in the bud.

 

'It was here or jail,' she said with a shrug. 'They call it Community Service' .

 

Charlane's eyes became round and Cordelia's mouth opened in a silent 'O' . 'C.S., for true? ' Charlane exclaimed, dropping the satirical accent. ' What you done to get that, then, girl?'

 

Further exploration of her criminal past was postponed just then, however, as Nadia's charge jerked her head upright, and stared at the two nurses . ' Eeeeeh! ' she wailed, her gnarled fingers fumbling uselessly at the wheel rims 'Get away from me! Black Bitches ! '

 

Her voice rose to a rasping shriek and Nadia quickly swiveled the chair away. 'Sorry, I'd better go ,' she exclaimed hastily, over her shoulder , pushing hard up nearest walkway.

 

Charlane sniffed scornfully. ' What we want wit' you, nasty old t'ing, ' she called after the old woman. Nadia, looking back, saw the man in the wheelchair next to Charlane was stirring vaguely at the noise, his face slack. 'Hey, Nadia!' the nurse called, ignoring her patient, ' Take dat baggage up da hill to da men's wing there, say hello to she Boyfren' !' At this, both women dissolved in laughter again.

 

Nadia looked in the direction indicated , patting the old woman's shoulder to try to calm her down. ' Come on now, Miz Goody' she said as firmly as she could, as the cracked voice trailed away into hiccups. ' Let's go for a walk, OK?' Maybe the Men's Wing would be where Salim worked, she told herself. There might still be a chance to transfer to a nice quiet Park picking up rubbish.

 

The Men's Wing, as she drew near, appeared to be of greater age the the other buildings, the bricks of the facade soot stained and worn. The ubiquitous iron grills over the windows seemed a later addition, as though the place had once had a more innocent use. . Miz Goody appeared mollified at the change of scene, peering about as though actually expecting to meet someone, and Nadia slowed her pace, scanning the surrounding lawns for the tell-tale white coat.

 

Suddenly there was a bang from inside the building that made her jump, and simultaneously her gaze was drawn by a flash of motion behind a window set at ground level . . Here the iron grill seemed set on the other side of the glass, and clinging to it with both hands was a bronze skinned boy with the most extraordinary golden eyes staring out and mouthing silently. What was there about this place that kept reminding her of that long-ago visit to the Zoo? It wasn't just the ubiquitous grills, it was the feeling of beings in cages, forcibly separated from a world that had no place for them. The boy- well, young man , really, had nothing beast like about him – in fact, a face of unusual beauty- but something about the expression in those wide set eyes reminded her of the panther she had seen then, bounding around the perimeter of his cage , finishing up against the bars with his nose a foot from hers, holding her eyes with a stare of silent entreaty, she thought, until her Grandmother had pulled her away , muttering angrily...she was suddenly aware that Miz Goody was screaming again, that the two nurses with their somnolent charges had approached from behind, and somewhere a door banged open and a familiar white coated figure was hurrying across the lawn towards her. How long had she been standing here? The young man with the strange eyes was shaking the stout iron grill back and forth, the muscles in his neck and shoulders standing out like cables.

 

The two nurses were calling out, 'Monkey! Monkey! Come out and play, Monkey!' in shrill mockery , and Miz Goody was screaming ,' Sheeay! My Sheeay! Ye dinna ken,, he must go Back! He should na' be Here!'

 

Then Salim arrived , almost running, his expression grim . 'Nadi- take this woman around the back , quickly, I'll be with you in a moment . ' He put a hand on her arm to urge her away, then turned on the suddenly sober-faced nurses. 'You two! Didn't you hear the bell for tea-time? What are you hanging about here for? '

 

Both simultaneously ducked their heads , with a softly muttered 'Yes Doctor,' and 'Sorry Doctor' and made haste to turn their respective wheelchairs in the direction of the patio , where indeed a number of other patients were gathering , each with a white-coated guardian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

Once away from the contorted figure still clinging to the window grill, the old woman quieted almost at once, her face growing slack , the sparsely bearded lips muttering soundlessly, a thread of saliva seeping from one corner . Nadia turned away, shaken and nauseous, just as Salim approached. She saw the sun flash on the glass barrel of a syringe as he removed the protective tip with a practiced flick, and he reached into a pocket and handed her a small foil package.

 

'Here.' he said ,' his voice suddenly gentle. 'Open this up and swab her left arm near the shoulder, would you?' Nadia did as he asked , the sudden sharp smell of the alcohol clearing her nose of the woman's fetid odor as she pulled aside the shawl and loosened the neck of the stained hospital gown. Salim fingers were impersonal and precise as he administered the injection , nodding to her to swab down the area once more , before she hastily threw the shawl around the bony shoulders and backed away, unconsciously wiping her palms on the sides of her jeans as she did so.

 

Salim recapped and pocketed the empty syringe, his eyes registering the gesture . He smiled sadly. 'None of the nurses here will work with her anymore,' Salim said apologetically. 'I suppose they thought someone new might have better luck. What were you doing up here by the Men's wing? Didn't anyone warn you?'

 

' They- those two you saw- said she had a 'boyfriend' or something up here. ' Nadia was still trembling with reaction, the worst part of which was that she couldn't understand the cause of it. She put a hand on Salim's white sleeve, feeling the warm, reassuring solidity of his arm underneath. 'Sali,' she asked suddenly, the childhood nickname coming unbidden, 'Who is that boy? '

 

Salim grimaced, sighing. ' Come on, let's put her in the shade under these trees . She'll sleep for a few hours now. ' As they maneuvered the chair into a secure place beneath the spreading branches of a giant Sycamore,Salim spoke, looking off into the distance. ' His case file says he was found living in her house when the Services took her into care. No language that anyone could understand, it says, and behavior so violent they sent him here with her.'

 

Nadia looked back at the corner of the building she had just left. ' Violent? ' she objected, 'he looked to me like he just wanted to get out.'

 

Her brother smiled suddenly and ruffled her hair almost as he used to when they were children. 'Hey, Nadi, this isn't a mink farm, don't go opening cages around here.' he chided, referring to an incident when on a school trip to just such a place she had caused pandemonium by slipping away and setting all the animals at liberty. 'Come here a moment, let me show you something. Don't worry about your friend here, she'll be fine.' Nadia dismissed the assurance with a shudder, meant to convey that she really couldn't care less. He indicated a window low to the ground, a twin of the one in front. ' This used to be the squash ball court back when there was a private school here. '

 

Nadia, frowned. ' Squash ball?' she repeated, uncomprehending, ' But this window...'

 

'Is five meters off the floor.' Salim finished the sentence, quietly,' They dug down when it was built , on this hill.' Faintly on the wind came a short protesting squeal as the iron grill was shaken again around the corner. 'I'd better try to get him down,' Salim said , grimly it seemed to her. 'Come on, you might be able to help. Everyone else is down having tea. ' Nadia followed him to a metal side door which looked like a service entrance, her mind busy with speculation . It was very unlike Salim to discuss his cases. She knew he had been working summers when he was still at University , doing volunteer work among the homeless in the West End, and that his ambition was to qualify as a psychiatrist , but she couldn't ever remember him mentioning specific individuals ; she had the idea it was against medical ethics or something.. The realization set her off on a new tangent. What was she actually doing here? Could it be that her brother....?'

 

Salim unlocked the door with the ubiquitous ring of keys, ushered Nadia in and turned right down a dimly lit tiled corridor, their footfalls loud in a building that seemed empty of habitation. They descended two flights of stairs and came to a double door set with large panels of reinforced glass, where Salim hesitated, his key in the lock. 'I've been working with this boy whenever I have a free period,' he murmured , his dark eyes intent . Was that a note of excitement in his voice? Nadia looked from her brother to the enigmatic translucent panel of the door. Faintly she could hear the rattling of the iron grill from inside. ' He's been diagnosed as Schizophrenic ,but it just doesn't add up. Too well co-ordinated, for one thing,' Salim continued.' that also rules out most forms of Autism. '

 

He's never discussed this with anyone before, Nadia realized suddenly, struck that he spoke as though conferring with a colleague. 'Salim!What's wrong? ' she said, turning to him .

 

'It's …' Salim began, then, decisively , 'No. I want you to see this for yourself, and tell me what you think.' Abruptly he turned the key and pushed one of the door panels ajar.

 

Nadia hesitantly peered inside, then, at a distant rattle , looked to the left and then up to try to pinpoint the source...up, up a sheer plastered wall, to the figure silhouetted against the high grilled window. She gasped. 'How on earth did he get up there? Salim, he'll fall! ' She turned in alarm, to see her brother pull a small brightly colored packet from a side pocket and calmly begin to open it. 'What's that? ' she squeaked in confusion,' this is no time for …'

 

' A candy bar?' Salim smiled, his teeth flashing in the half light. ' Don't worry. It's the only way to get him down. Watch.' He whistled one clear note , and as the shadowy figure looked over his shoulder , held the treat up as though offering it. With no hesitation, the young man faced the window , crouched nearer to it , then sprang away into space, turning in mid air to rebound from the adjoining wall, repeating the maneuver in the other direction further down, twice more until he landed on all fours, perfectly balanced, then reached them where they stood in two more leaps to crouch in front of Salim , his nostrils wide and quivering. Nadia shrank back in alarm, but her brother motioned her to stay with his free hand. Then he handed the chocolate to Nadia, slowly, the extraordinary golden eyes following every move. They were nearly all iris, she realized , only a little sliver of white, like a crescent moon, showing on either side. The pupils were wide and dark , but as they encountered the light filtering through the glass door , they contracted suddenly, looking like...

 

' Salim !' she whispered in awe, 'he has cat's eyes!' It was true, she realized , only no cat she had ever seen had eyes of that peculiar tawny gold.

 

'The ocular anomaly? Yes, I've noticed. ' Her brother murmured , watching the crouching figure intently as though waiting for something.

 

The young man called 'Monkey' stared at the chocolate bar , his face expressionless, then looked up suddenly at Nadia. 'Hhalu' he said, his voice impossibly deep for so slight a frame. Nadia's breath froze in her throat. Slowly, her fingers trembling, she advanced the candy bar slowly forward. In a motion almost too fast to register, Monkey had captured the chocolate , whirled, and leapt into the corner, where, she now saw, a mattress and a crumpled heap of blankets lay. Convulsively she clutched at her brother's sleeve. 'That was Arabic! He said 'sweet'!' A dreadful suspicion struck her. 'You've been teaching him, haven't you! Like a parrot!'

 

Her sudden anger evaporated, however , as Salim shook his head , his face serious. 'No, nothing of the kind. He said that the first time I offered one to him.'

 

'But what...how..' Nadia stuttered , her mind racing.

 

Her Brother shrugged. ' He could be from a traveling circus or something,' he said dismissively.' That would explain the acrobatic ability. Also, close inbreeding could produce mutations like the eyes, I don't know, I'm no geneticist.' He frowned impatiently as he always did when she missed the point he was trying to make, ' No,don't you see? If he has retained that much language- and I've noted a total of forty-seven different words, all contextually correct, all Arabic, though in a very odd dialect, probably from some hill family- if he has retained that much, he probably isn't psychotic at all, perhaps only lost and confused!'

 

Nadia stared at Monkey's hunched form as he devoured the chocolate bar avidly. She had a sense of being in a dream where no matter what she said she was not understood. 'No, Salim, that old woman, there's something weird about her, she keeps talking about 'spells , and she said' he must go back '

 

Her brother shook his head , ' She probably meant back to the Circus where she found him. What are you on about? The real question is...'

 

'The real question is, Doctor, ' came a dry ironic voice from the suddenly open door behind them,

' the pertinent question should be, what do you think you are doing here?'

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

'… and while you're about it, Doctor,' continued the voice, the ironic stress on the last word more marked, ' perhaps you'd be good enough to tell me who this person is …?

 

Both Salim and Nadia had turned in alarm, and now stared at the speaker, Salim flushing darkly. Nadia saw a tall, stoop shouldered man , his face hollow cheeked and ascetic , his eyes hidden behind thick lenses in old fashioned wire frames. He wore the standard Doctors whites, and appeared to be in his middle fifties, his hair iron gray and clipped short in a frankly military style. His eyebrows, by contrast were wildly overgrown and at the moment raised in patient query. He had the cruelest mouth Nadia had ever seen .

 

Her brother cleared his throat . ' Ah, Doctor Carter, ' he began. 'Let me introduce Miss Nadia Marabet. '

 

'A- family member , perhaps?' his expression unchanged, the Doctor tilted his head and examined Nadia as though she were a specimen .

 

'My sister , actually. ' Salim continued , beads of sweat appearing on his upper lip. 'She- it's her first day here, helping out over the summer...'

 

Doctor Carter turned back to Salim, laying a forefinger on his chin as though he had just remembered something. 'Ah, actually, I believe the correct term is Community Service, is it not?' he remarked blandly. ' My , my. How very embarrassing for you. '

 

Nadia, ignoring Salim's agonized look of warning , decided she had had just about enough of being discussed as though she were not present. ' Excuse me, Doctor Carter, ' she said firmly.' It was only a School prank that got a little out of hand. I'm not a criminal or anything.'

 

'I had always heard,' said Doctor Carter,without turning his head, ' that among your people a woman waits until she is spoken to. It seems, I must say, an excellent custom. At the moment I am addressing you, Doctor. Who gave you permission to gain access to this patient?'

 

Nadia remembered a time when she was little more than a toddler, and walking home from school with Salim , being accosted by a gang of older boys, white, who had made remarks she hadn't understood , though the menace in their manner was clear to her six-year old mind. She could still see the way Salim's chin had come up and his shoulders stiffened, how he had walked right up to the biggest of the boys and in a perfectly level and clear voice had told him what he thought of his lack of manners, intelligence, and ancestry.

 

'I understood that the patient in question was still under review, Sir,' Salim said now, his voice steady and reasonable. ' And that the terms of my internship here required me to assist in the processing of new admissions. '

 

Doctor Carter gave Salim a sharp glance, the thick lenses of his glasses flashing in the half-light. 'As and when I require such assistance, I will so inform you. And the presence of this young lady? '

 

'I have discovered that the patient speaks a dialect of Arabic, Sir, ' Salim said .' I wished to check my observations with another fluent in that language. It was simply fortuitous that my Sister happened to be available. '

 

It was the Public School drawl that did it, thought Nadia in admiration, having already noted the elevation from 'woman' to 'young lady'. Doctor Carter's tone was suddenly markedly less sharp and hectoring.

 

'This is very interesting,' he said , now. ' When was I to receive the benefit of this unsolicited evaluation , pray? '

 

Salim's courteous nod in her direction brought an inner grin to Nadia , which she was careful to repress. ' I was waiting for corroboration , which Miss Marabet was good enough to provide, Doctor. My Notes on this case will be on your desk in the morning.'

 

'See that they are, then,' said the older man curtly.' Now, Doctor, if you would lock this door and return the key to the front desk? In future you will consult with me before seeing patients outside of your regular rounds. And you, Miss Marabet, I believe your patient is still asleep in her chair outside, perhaps you had better return her to the Main Dormitory.' With that , he turned and strode away, the impact of his hard heels echoing , and the sides of his jacket flaring out like wings.

 

Salim took a deep breath as the sound died away. ' Wow, Sal.' said Nadia, gazing up at him and grinning openly. Talk about 'Romance at short notice,' she added, quoting an 'author they were both fond of.

 

Salim shook his head. 'There's something not right about this, ' he said , frowning. 'How did he know I was here? And why keep this lad penned up down here, instead of a regular facility? Just a mattress on the floor and access to a toilet; what is it, some sort of experiment he's conducting? Why aren't his notes in the File then? '

 

Nadia had the feeling again that her brother was talking as if thoughts long suppressed were finding utterance. What was that term she remembered from his days in Medical School ? Clinical Supervision? ' Why don't you ask your Clinical Supervisor, then?' she asked, 'Don't you still have one?'

 

Salim gave the breath of a laugh through his nose, 'Sure, fat chance,' he replied, parodying an American intern he had used to make fun of in his student days. 'Care to guess who has managed to appoint himself my mentor, clinical supervisor, and all around slave driver? Nadi, I need this post. I need a certain number of hours of clinical experience. ' He shook his head in frustration. 'Look, I'm sorry I dragged you down here. Best not to say anything to anyone, all right?'

 

Nadia pretended to look thoughtful.' Well, I suppose I can manage not to gossip to Charlane and Cordelia next time we are sharing a convivial cup of tea...'she broke off, looking across the room to where Monkey crouched on his mattress, half hidden in the shadows. Was it her imagination, or was he staring directly at her? She realized that Salim was at the entrance, fitting his key into the lock .

 

They were silent on the way back to the outside door and the welcome sunlight, and Salim parted from her with only a muttered ' See you tomorrow' , evidently deep in thought.

 

Nadia wheeled the chair, with its somnolent occupant , back to the pavement, and headed down to the patio where Tea was still in progress. Behind her as she passed the building, she heard a bang from the basement window, and turned her head to see Monkey again at his post, not shaking the grill this time but only staring out at her, his mouth moving as though her were saying something. She released the wheelchair handle with one hand and pointed to herself. ' I will come back.' she said slowly in Arabic. ' Soon.' she amended, hoping it was the truth, then turned and started down the hill.

 

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Charlene and Cordelia, evidently feeling she had gone over to the enemy, avoided her , while Bertha, seeing that Miz Goody was snoring peacefully , her head lolling and her mouth slack, ordered her returned to her room , and put Nadia to work folding towels until lunch, after which she took her to Serabi , ' Might jus' be, you can sort out some of this com-pu-tor stuff we be havin' to do all the time,' she explained, as they made their way to the Nurses station. ' Oh, and 'bout Miz Goody,' she added with an odd diffidence, 'Be OK you take she out again tomorrow mornin'? T'ing is,' the big woman confessed, 'she ain't too popular wid' the folks here, for true. ' Nadia assured her , not without a sinking feeling, that she supposed she could manage.

 

Serabi proved to be grateful for the assistance , and Nadia spent the rest of the day happily reformatting a series of bureaucratic forms so that answers to what seemed endless requests for cost updates and staffing levels could be entered in the boxes provided for them . During a break , Nadia remembered the odd term the nurses had used to describe the old lady, and asked Serabi if she had ever heard of it.

 

The young woman closed her eyes briefly in what seemed to be an immense weariness. ' You think you have left such superstitions back in the past where they belong,' she murmured as if to herself. ' and then you find this new land has its own darkness. .' Then, smiling in self reproach , she said,' The word is 'Obeah' . I think it originated in the Congo region, probably carried to the Indies via the Slave trade. '

 

The way she said that gave Nadia a chill. 'What does it mean, do you know? ' she asked with as much circumspection as she could .

 

The corners of Serabi's generous mouth drew in , registering her distaste. 'It means magic , or anything to do with rituals, that sort of thing. Witchcraft, if you like.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Nadia was deep in thought as the day drew to a close , and she headed for the Entrance Gate, joining small groups of Nurses ending their shift. She noticed Charlane and Cordelia among them, deep in seemingly endless conversation, threw a half smile their way by way of acknowledgment and greeting, but receiving no notice shrugged and continued to the main road and bus stop. The same 'Watkins' was at the gate, looking tired, and no wonder, she thought. She gave him a smile and was rewarded by a flash of the gold tooth and a half salute.

 

She kept seeing Monkey's face at the basement window, his serene expression a contrast to his frenzied jerking of the stout wire mesh. And then , staring up at her , his wide golden eyes with their catlike pupils fixed on the chocolate bar, and that voice, echoing from somewhere deep inside....a bus approached headed for Central London, and she stepped back, peering down the road for her own number fourteen , when a sudden thought struck her. After all, who else was there to ask among the people she knew, that would know anything about magical creatures ( she finally admitted the word into her conscious mind.) who spoke Arabic? Impulsively she raised her hand.

 

She spotted the golden dome when still a number of blocks away, and waited impatiently for the Regents Park stop , clattering down the steps as soon as the doors hissed open. She'd never been to the Central Mosque , which must have been built around the time she was born, and was struck by the sheer size of the place, and it's incongruity on the staid suburban street, the white walls crowned by the huge onion shaped dome rising above the surrounding trees like a second Sun. Small groups of men were standing about the paved area in front of the Entrance, murmuring together; she noticed a few in long shirts and prayer caps , but most were dressed casually- the evening prayer service must just be ending. She registered a few hostile glances and looks of confusion directed at her , but she was used to that from religious Muslims who disapproved of her short hair and boyish clothes . Without pausing she entered the door, to find a sort of anteroom with paper slippers and a few pairs of shoes scattered about, which reminded her to slip off her trainers and proceed in her stocking feet through the inner door and enter the vast inner space of the interior.

 

For a moment she only stood and stared. The entire inside seemed to be one huge room, brightly lit by the early evening sunshine pouring through the great arched windows , filtered by the encircling trees , and rebounding from the pale blue carpet which was sectioned off into what seemed endless rows of a darker blue area for individual prayer. High overhead as she craned her neck upward , from the interior of the dome hung a silver filigree chandelier easily two meters across...'Excuse me, can I help you with something?'

 

The man who addressed her had come hurrying from an inner room . He was dressed in a white, ankle length robe , wore a white skullcap and a stern expression behind his short black beard.

'I have a question regarding supernatural creatures who might speak Arabic,' Nadia said, figuring that ought to be an icebreaker if nothing else. The priest or Imam or whatever he was looked as though he'd been slapped.

 

'Excuse me, is that some kind of joke? ' he said stiffly,'Really, young woman, it is not appropriate for you to be here at all, let alone dressed in such an immodest fashion. I think it is best that you leave immediately. That door by which you entered will do.'

 

Nadia stared at him in disbelief. 'What have my clothes got to do with it? I'm not here to worship or anything, I just need some information,please. '

 

The young man ( he was really only a little older than she was, Nadia guessed) looked down his nose at her, frowning.' If you wish instruction in the Muslim Faith, please come at the proper time , dressed in a more appropriate fashion with your -hair- ' he said eying the blue streak – 'decently covered. '

 

Being patronized twice in one day was just too much , Nadia decided. ' Where in the Quran,' she snapped in rapid Arabic, 'is it written that a woman has to cover her head? Or walk about draped in a tent? ' Then , as he turned red and began to splutter , she continued in English, 'Oh , bloody Hell, don't tell me you don't even speak...'

 

'Of course I speak the language of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him ! ' broke in the young man loudly in textbook Arabic.' By adopting Traditional dress, we show our respect for our heritage in the land of the Infidel.'

 

Nadia snorted in disgust. ' In my Family it is said, ' she replied, raising a forefinger in conscious imitation of her Father, 'Dress not in Black , when they are stoning the Crows.' ' Registering his puzzled frown, she continued, bitingly, ' In other words, if you and your friends have decided that part of being Muslim is treating women like chattel, I'd be stupid to dress as one, wouldn't I?'

 

His eyes wide in outrage, the young man cried 'Heretic ! Unbeliever!' before reverting to English and stiffly , controlling himself with an effort , asking her again to leave. Nadia, fuming , marched out the door , jammed her feet into her trainers, and exited the building, ignoring the glares, ranging from disapproving to openly hostile , from the men loitering outside.

 

She stamped along, mentally reviewing the many things she could have said, and then when he....'Oh! Sorry!' as she collided with a someone. Rebounding in confusion, she realized that she was on one of the wide curving paths in the Park behind the Mosque, and before her an elderly man smiling behind a long white beard had put a hand on her sleeve to steady himself. Her first automatic response was that he was one of the London Homeless, draped in a long green overcoat with a shapeless sort of hat on the back of his head and barefoot. At second glance , she realized her mistake- for one thing,the coat was clean and appeared to be of rayon or some light-weight material, and its owner,likewise , pale-skinned behind a neatly combed and trimmed beard that reached to his chest, was so clean he seemed to glow in the late afternoon sunlight. He was not really barefoot, but wearing old style sandals made of braided leather; also his eyes, twinkling with good humor before her astonished scrutiny , held such a keenness of perception and intelligence in their clear brown depths..... ' Oh, I'm really sorry!' Nadia repeated. 'Are you all right?'

 

The elderly man gave a short laugh. 'Indeed, yes!' he said, his voice not so much accented as modulated, like- the comparison that came to her was the low tones of a bass viol she had heard once. ' In fact, I was hoping to encounter you, although perhaps not so ...precipitously.' Again he laughed , so good humoredly that she was forced to join in.

 

'Encounter me?' She said , puzzled., after a moment, ' Whatever for? Are you with the Mosque? '

 

'Oh , not exactly, no,' he answered, 'Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Green ...yes, ' he added smiling, at her involuntary glance, 'just like my coat. And you are...?' Nadia reflected, ruefully, as she answered , that she had never spent so much time introducing herself before in her life .

 

'Hm, Marabet. ' said the man, his gaze momentarily distant.' I once knew a family of that name in ...Syria, was it? '

 

'Why yes, ' responded Nadia, surprised and delighted,' My Uncle Bukhari and his wife still live there, although he travels all over the world on business...do you travel a great deal yourself, then?'

 

' I once did, when I was younger, oh yes, a very great deal..' answered the man named Green, his voice soft and for the first time holding the accents of old age. Abruptly he sighed and seemed to return to the present . 'Well, in any case, I happened to overhear you asking that somewhat overbearing young man in there ( a very middle-eastern lift of the bearded chin indicated the golden dome of the Mosque with its tall prayer tower emerging from the trees behind them ) about- magical creatures, was it? Speaking Arabic?'

 

Nadia felt her face grow hot. 'Well, something like that.' The notion seemed ridiculous, suddenly, here in the middle of London surrounded by neon clad cyclists and dog walkers.

 

She looked up from studying the toes of her trainers to meet an intent gaze which held no trace of condescension or mockery. ' How interesting. How very interesting.' he said . 'I myself in my travels have encountered many strange things. I wonder , ' he said, as if the idea had just occurred to him,. 'If you would take tea with me at my house. I live , oh, not too far away, if you could spare the time. I should like very much to hear your story; I am, ' he added , in the tone of understating the truth, 'Something of a collector of strange tales, do you know.'

 

Nadia felt the urban dweller's automatic cautionary response, but looking again at the friendly, matter of fact expression that held no trace of guile, she said, ' Well, I really should get back , Mr, um, Green, may I call you that? '

 

' Mr Green it is, ' said the old man,' or al-Khidr as I'm called in your language, 'the Green One' – it's the coat, I'm afraid ,it's become rather a talisman. ' He laughed again.' Well, Nadia Marabet, I shall not keep you long, and it would give me great pleasure, if you would be so kind. '

 

His use of the Arabic term – though his accent was hard to place, it sounded a little like the way Persians spoke, Nadia thought to herself briefly- coupled with his recognizing her Family's name, removed the last of her caution. ' Well, yes, then , thank you, ' she replied.

 

'The thanks and the pleasure are mine, ' said Mr Green , smiling impishly at his conscious parody of traditional Arab courtesies. ' You do honor to my humble dwelling...which is just this way, if you please,' he added with a motion of the cane, no, she realized startled , an actual staff which she for some reason had not noticed him grasping in his left hand. What had seemed a shapeless woolen hat, she saw also as he turned to lead her down a side path , was revealed on closer inspection to be in truth a turban, green like his coat. casually encircling his head and pushed back to leave his forehead bare. Wow, she told herself , he certainly doesn't have much regard for what people might think, walking around Central London dressed like that!

 

Mr. Green led her down a narrow path closely bordered by shrubbery, to a small wicket gate that gave out unto a tree-shaded side street. Nadia smiled to herself. This was just like London, once you got to know it, full of little nooks and byways only the residents knew about.

 

She wondered what the 'humble dwelling' was like, following beside Mr Green as he strode easily along, punctuating the soft scuffle of his leather soles with the intermittent tap of his staff . The houses here were old, built in a single row, most of them of time darkened brick with small diamond paned windows . They paused before one set back further from the rest behind a high wall attached to the neighbors on either side. Mr. Green opened an elaborately filigreed gate and ushered her through , down a paved walk to a narrow iron bound door almost lost in a profusion of bordering vines . Here the old man stopped , extended his staff and tapped gently, whereupon the door , seemingly of itself, swung slowly open.

 

Chapter 6

 

 

Nadia , unconsciously braced for the musty clutter of an elderly bachelor's apartment, was struck speechless as she was ushered through the mysteriously opening door. The room in which she found herself was dimly lit, to be sure, but there any semblance to her expectations vanished. One of the Antique shops in the East End, perhaps, specializing in foreign imports, could possibly have matched some of the furnishings she saw, but the carved wooden screens , polished brass fittings and tooled leather arm chairs were not displayed in a collector's jumble but arranged with a casual naturalness which spoke of daily use. The front windows were closed off from within by slatted wooden shutters, and the subdued lighting issued from a pair of pierced and fretted silver lamps which hung by slender chains from the ceiling, burning – yes, she assured herself in astonishment, actually burning, with a clear pale flame which must be the source of the subtle , somewhat spicy odor in the air. And everything, room and contents , was as meticulously clean as its owner , who now stood regarding her , hands clasped loosely at his waist, head on one side as if awaiting her verdict.

 

'It's beautiful!' she managed to gasp, ' So many ….where did you find such...'

 

Mr. Green broke out in a smile as open and radiant as a child's . 'I'm so glad you like my home, ' he said , ' I feared you might think it too much like a museum, but you see, when one is as old as I , it is comforting to have things about of a similar antiquity' '

 

“Do you- I mean, are you alone here?' Nadia bit her tongue, this was surely no business of hers. But Mr. Green seemed not to find the question strange.

 

'In truth, I seldom have visitors such as yourself, ' he said, his voice low and musical . 'It is a lovely evening- shall I show you my garden? We can take our tea there, if you like. ' He led the way through an arched doorway at the end of the room , parting a curtain made up of strings of tourmaline colored crystals which clashed softly and musically , and out onto a sort of paved pavilion. Only the freshness of the air told of being out of doors , for over the smooth laid floor hung a canopy of what looked like but could not possibly, she thought, be silk, pale yellow and lit by more hanging lamps , while in lieu of furnishings a number of large shapeless cushions lay scattered about the surface of an intricately patterned carpet . At one end a circular pond was let into the stone , with a central fountain in the shape of a carved leaping fish. The musical sound of the falling water drew Nadia like a magnet, and she looked into the pond where , in and amongst the fronds of aquatic plants swam a half dozen at least of the most beautiful ornamental Carp she had ever seen.

 

Her host joined her by the pool, releasing from his opened hand a shower of breadcrumbs which the fish accepted with an indefinable air of good manners rather then hunger. Nadia watched entranced as the red-gold forms glided in and out of sight. 'They used to be thought of as symbols of wisdom,' said Mr. Green softly ' but I keep them chiefly for their beauty, and because it is a species that does not know age; unlike myself, ' he added , smiling. 'My garden pleases you , then?'

 

'This is amazing!' Nadia said, looking around ' Like something out of the Thousand and One Nights!''

Mr. Green laughed delightedly. 'Do you tell me you young people still read that old book?' he said 'Come- let us sit at our ease over here, I see that tea has been prepared.' And indeed , on a low table with cushions arranged invitingly around was a tray holding a steaming brass teapot and two delicate cups, which Nadia could have sworn had not been there when they entered . She felt, however, that she had asked already more questions than was consonant with good manners and decided not to mention it. Mr Green lowered himself unto a cushion with none of the awkwardness of age, and when she had done the same, poured them each a cup of pale yellow tea and offered her a small platter of sweetbreads which he produced from somewhere with the ease of a conjurer.

 

'Now ,Nadia Marabet, tell me of the creature you seem to have encountered ,.' He said, taking a delicate sip of his tea and holding the cup rim against his chin as if to inhale the fragrant steam.

 

Nadia, to be polite, raised her cup as well and sniffed the aroma curiously. Cloves, certainly, and some other fragrance she could not place...she took a cautious sip, but the liquid was at a perfect temperature , just hot enough to sting a little . Immediately she felt a sensation of calming which began at the back of her throat and spread rapidly , relaxing her tense shoulders and somehow making the garden more distinct , more present. She heard the soft sighing of an errant breeze which rippled over the silken canopy, mingled with the repetitive chime of the falling water , and she gazed entranced at the dancing shadows cast by the lamplight for a timeless moment until...

' Excuse me ?' she said, aware that her host had asked her something.

 

Mr Green smiled, ' I was asking , somewhat unnecessarily it seems, if the tea was to your liking. You spoke of magical creatures,' he reminded her gently,' Have you, yourself , encountered such a being?'

 

Nadia found herself describing in detail her meeting with the young man called 'Monkey', as if it were a particularly vivid dream. She could see in her mind's eye as she spoke, every detail of the dingy room, the superhuman agility and speed of its occupant, the contraction of the pupils of Monkey's eyes as they assumed the cat like aspect that had so startled her. She described the old woman, when asked, and tried to remember exactly what it was she had screamed when the face had suddenly appeared at the window. 'It sounded like she was saying 'shay' or something like that. 'My shay' she said, and 'He must go back . He should not be here.'' Nadia paused and looked inquiringly toward Mr Green, who was sipping his tea , frowning, his eyes distant.

 

After a moment he seemed to return to the present. 'Hm. Yes. I thought as much.' he murmured half to himself.

 

'Does that mean anything?' Nadia asked hopefully, 'She wasn't just raving , was she?'

 

Mr. Green sighed. 'No, I'm afraid she was not 'raving', in that sense. Though a person would need to be ...Nadia, what to you know of the Jinn?'

 

'You mean a Jinni, like in the story of 'Maruf the Cobbler' ? ' She stared astonished as Mr Green clapped his hands in delight.

 

'So you do know the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights!' he exclaimed .

 

'My Brother Salim used to read them to me as a child when I couldn't sleep .' Nadia replied , her mind whirling. 'But those are only stories, aren't they? '

 

Mr Green gestured dismissively. 'Of course , only stories, as you say, travelers tales; besides, that was not the way it actually happened.' He went on rapidly , before Nadia could respond , ' No, I'm afraid the beings called Jinn are quite real, my dear. And it appears that you have one such locked up in that ...place, and locked up ...here is the worst part....in a form not his own... ' As if in counterpoint there was a sudden rumble of something like thunder and the light darkened for an instant as a sudden gust of wind invaded the garden, making the lamp flames leap and tremble. Mr Green held up an admonitory hand and said 'Peace, Brothers ' seemingly to the empty air, and the disturbance subsided. Nadia realized with a start that he had spoken in his Persian accented Arabic, and that they had been speaking in that language for some time with out her noticing. Now he looked intently at Nadia, his expression grave. 'The word the old woman used was ( it sounded to her as if he were saying 'Shee-dhay' ) which is Old Irish, or Gaelic , for the Jinn, or as they say in that country , 'The Fair Folk'

 

Nadia took a long drink of her tea, registering dimly as she did so that the cup seemed full and steaming every time she picked it up. As in a waking dream, everything seemed to make perfect sense, and she felt free to do or say whatever she wished. 'What it I were to fly?' said a little voice in a corner of her mind, but she shook her head and tried to concentrate . ' What did she mean, then, by saying 'my Sheeay?' she asked .

 

Mr. Green grimaced. 'If I were to hire you to do something for me,' he said tartly,' and we agreed on a price to, let us say , come and feed my fish every day for a week, could I then say you were mine, my property? Foolish, foolish woman. I had thought the knowledge of how to summon the Jinn had been safely lost these many centuries.'

 

Nadia frowned, trying to remember what Serabi had said. ' One of the other nurses called Miz Goody 'Obeah' , ' she said hesitantly,' Do you think that the old woman really is a...'

 

'Witch?' replied Mr Green with a weary sigh, 'Yes, I suppose you could say that. There are always such people, meddling in matters they do not comprehend for some trifling advantage or other. '

 

'What did you mean when you said , 'a form not his own,' Mr Green? ' asked Nadia, feeling a sudden chill as an idea occurred to her. 'What does a Jinni look like, then, really?'

 

Mr Green regarded her, his head tilted as if debating how best to answer. ' It is said, ' he responded finally, seeming to choose his words with care, 'that the Jinn were made of fire, as Humans were made from the clay of the earth. A jinni is invisible to human eyes, when he is in his own realm. In our world, he may take any form he wishes, as fire does, unless constrained by some Spell, bound to appear in a certain guise and no other. That is a great wrong! Nadia, I say to you, not only the mad old Witch, but everyone there is in terrible danger.'

 

At his words the icy feeling of earlier today when she had first met the old woman called Miz Goody filled Nadia's abdomen , warring briefly with the warmth of the tea. 'Danger? What danger? ' she asked , the tea cup rattling as she set it down abruptly.

 

Mr Green's voice took on an added timbre, as bleak as a judge delivering some dire penalty.' If someone were to imprison you in an earthen jar, so that you had to live there for years, feeling your bones grow in the shape of the jar, and your natural form corrupted and changed forever, what would you do to that person, should you escape? '

 

Nadia tried to align her mind to these extraordinary assertions. It reminded her of the Fantasy Games she and her friends played , the logic of the Impossible, to be banished at the touch of a button; except that this felt too horribly real. ' But if Mo- if the Jinni is under some kind of spell, how can he escape?'

 

Mr. Green spread his hands with a sad smile.'Spells wear out, Nadia, unless they are constantly renewed. The being you call Monkey is changing, even now, from the human form he was given. When he gets free entirely, his vengeance upon those whom he feels imprisoned him will be...most terrible. ' Again there was, as he spoke , the sound of distant thunder, and the air around seemed to seethe and crackle. This time Mr. Green made no remonstrance, but sat quietly, as gradually the disturbance subsided. The silence lengthened, but the old man said nothing further, merely studying her as if he were waiting for some particular response. Suddenly she was back at her University, in a Logic tutorial, staring at the rows of symbols while the professor waited for her to see the next step.

 

'Can't you help? ' she burst out finally, ' I mean, you seem to know so much about ...these sorts of things, surely you could...'

 

'I?' Mr Green laughed ruefully, 'This is a 'thing' not of my making, still less of my mending. No, I rather think it is you who must set it right. .'

 

Nadia scrambled to her feet , suddenly terrified. 'Me? I must? How am I to do that? Why me?' she sputtered.

 

Mr Green rose to his feet also, as gracefully as a dancer, and looked down on her with such immense kindness that she fell silent. 'So do they say, always, the Chosen ones,' he murmured, then: 'How? That I do not know. I do not foretell, that would be a gift beyond bearing. I say only what is, not what will be. Yet such help as is in my power to give, I will bestow. ' He held out his two hands which suddenly held suspended a carved medallion made of some translucent blue green stone. It was circular and slightly smaller than her palm, suspended on a leather thong which ran through a pierced hole in the center. Joined up writing in Arabic covered its surface entirely, too small to make out, and it was altogether the most beautiful object Nadia had ever seen. She had an irresistible desire to touch it, to stroke the shining surface, and Mr Green deftly looped the thong over her head and delivered the object into her cupped hands.

 

' It is so lovely! ' she said in a daze, trying to follow the intricate cursives of lettering over the polished surface.

 

'It is called in your language, 'Tawiz' ', said Mr. Green softly.' It will protect you and turn evil aside; for it is in my heart that there are more forces here at work than one old madwoman. Wear it always next to your skin.' Obediently Nadia slipped the medallion under her shirt, feeling the stone already warm against her chest.

 

'Now,Nadia Marabet, the hour grows late. As it is said, 'Gladly come and freely go, leaving something of the happiness you bring.' ' Mr Green gestured politely, once more merely an elderly man ushering out a departing guest. A sudden gust of wind flapped the silk of the canopy , extinguishing both lamps, and an instant later, it seemed , she was walking down the pathway to the iron gate, the twilight soft about her , and no street lamps yet alight in this neighborhood. On the pavement once more she turned back ,thinking perhaps to wave goodbye, but saw only a blank brick wall between two old houses with no sign of a gate or that there had ever been one.

 

She stood for a moment, staring, then in a sudden panic her fingers sought under her shirt collar, feeling with a sigh of relief the polished circular shape of the medallion, nestling warmly between her breasts. The flavor of the tea still lay upon her tongue, and she was obscurely grateful to be alone , able simply to accept the evening's happenings without having to rationalize or explain them. With the thought came decision , and she set off down the darkened street toward that other world with its matter of fact streetlights , cars and buses .

Mon"key (?), n.; pl. Monkeys (#). [Cf. OIt. monicchio, It. monnino, dim. of monna an ape, also dame, mistress, contr. fr. madonna. See Madonna.]

1. Zool.

  1. In the most general sense, any one of the Quadrumana, including apes, baboons, and lemurs.
  2. Any species of Quadrumana, except the lemurs.
  3. Any one of numerous species of Quadrumana (esp. such as have a long tail and prehensile feet) exclusive of apes and baboons.

The monkeys are often divided into three groups: (a) Catarrhines, or Simidae. These have an oblong head, with the oblique flat nostrils near together. Some have no tail, as the apes. All these are natives of the Old World. (b) Platyrhines, or Cebidae. These have a round head, with a broad nasal septum, so that the nostrils are wide apart and directed downward. The tail is often prehensile, and the thumb is short and not opposable. These are natives of the New World. (c) Strepsorhines, or Lemuroidea. These have a pointed head with curved nostrils. They are natives of Southern Asia, Africa, and Madagascar.

2.

A term of disapproval, ridicule, or contempt, as for mischievous child.

This is the monkey's own giving out; she is persuaded I will marry her.
Shak.

3.

The weight or hammer of a pile driver, that is, a very heavy mass of iron, which, being raised on high, falls on the head of the pile, and drives it into the earth; the falling weight of a drop hammer used in forging.

4.

A small trading vessel of the sixteenth century.

Monkey boat. Naut. (a) A small boat used in docks. (b) A half-decked boat used on the River Thames. -- Monkey block Naut., a small single block strapped with a swivel. R. H. Dana, Jr. -- Monkey flower Bot., a plant of the genus Mimulus; -- so called from the appearance of its gaping corolla. Gray. -- Monkey gaff Naut., a light gaff attached to the topmast for the better display of signals at sea. -- Monkey jacket, a short closely fitting jacket, worn by sailors. -- Monkey rail Naut., a second and lighter rail raised about six inches above the quarter rail of a ship. -- Monkey shine, monkey trick. [Slang, U.S.] -- Monkey trick, a mischievous prank. Saintsbury. -- Monkey wheel. See Gin block, under 5th Gin. -- Monkey wrench, a wrench or spanner having a movable jaw.

 

© Webster 1913.


Mon"key, v. t. & i.

To act or treat as a monkey does; to ape; to act in a grotesque or meddlesome manner.

To monkey with, to handle in a meddlesome manner. [Colloq.]<-- = monkey around with -->

 

© Webster 1913.

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