“And then Ganesh came in with a machine gun and he hit the bazooka shell in midair. It was amazing!” Billy the Kid finishes his second ‘Nam story.
“Ah, so that’s how the Yanks won the war,” Solomon responds sagely. “You teach me more every day, William.”
“Ah, Sol, stop patronizing me!”
With a serpentine smile, “Who?”
“Well, I’m done. Good night everyone. Om Namah Shivayah!” Shivakrishnan says in a hearty bass. It’s only seven o’clock and I don’t feel much like sleeping.
“I’ll walk with you, I think. I may over-patronize Billy and then he’ll have to buy another flat with the proceeds.”
“Keep pushing me, Solomon. Keep pushing me.” Crazy, crazy eyes.
Solomon either doesn’t hear him or pretends not to as he walks away, “This will lead to him renting it out, probably for free to a woman of loose morals...” the voice trails lazily away as the two head toward the new hostel affectionately dubbed The Cow Shed where they’d been moved at the influx of new guests when Amma arrived last month.
“You said you could see the future,” Yury says accusingly, or perhaps just directly.
“Did not. She said I could see the future. I said I saw the future.”
“Don’t you doubt Ramadupa, stranger. It’s liable to make you liable for some kind of liability. That is to say, an accident. And none of us wants that.” Billy sounds like every portrayal of a redneck sheriff antagonist.
Hilde giggles. “Ramadupa has been granted a vision of the future to lead us into 2012!”
“I didn’t say that, either.”
“You haven’t said anything yet. Now spill it. I’m a writer and the crazier the stuff that’s going on in your head the better it’ll be for me!”
Of course, “You’re a writer? What do you write?”
He gasps in false modesty, “Oh, nothing much. Really, I’ve just published a few things. A couple of books of poetry and some book books that earn me a few royalties. Enough to live on while I pay off my loans. I went to Oberlin you know. Damned expensive brain you’re looking at, manifesting itself as this very handsome body.” He is very handsome. He’s not just repeating what the Koreans told him. “All my stuff’s plagiarized from the universe, though.” He stops talking, “You’re changing the subject.”
“You’re a poet?” It’s like his ego is a very friendly dog chained to a fence. All I have to do is pay attention to it and it’ll come up for me to pet it, but then it realizes it’s supposed to be guarding something.
“Yes. And you’re a prophet. Tell me about the future!”
“Tell me a poem!”
Billy says, “Om Namah Shivayah!” I think for some reason he’s taken to using that mantra instead of profanity the way everyone else uses it instead of salutations and good-byes. “I’m not going to sit through that! I’ll jump off the bridge first!” He runs away.
With him gone we’re the only three left at the table. If I play this right I can get Yury reciting poems until Bhajans. Then I’ve only got two more days to go until I’ll probably never see him again, and anyway he’ll forget. I wonder why I don’t want to tell him about this.
“I love poetry.” Hilde says like a prayer. “Love love.”
“Oh no. I’m not falling for this. I start reciting a poem and then it’s more than you’ve bargained for and you sit there politely waiting for me to finish.”
“I would never!” Hilde insists.
“First you tell me a bit about the future and I’ll consider it.”
She says, “The world is going to be turned upside down!”
I nod. “Upside down. And then the UN is going to declare martial law!”
“Martial law.” I state. “All right. Make with the poem!”
“I don’t know. You haven’t told me very much. How do you know this? Was it just a sudden realization? Did Kali appear to you and tell you? Do you live backwards like Merlyn?”
“Make with the poem and I’ll tell you more.”
“All right. A haiku.”
“A haiku is too short. I’ll only be able to tell you a bit more in exchange and then you’ll only give me a quatrain. We’re not military superpowers, playing with nukes, for God’s sake. We’re people. Human beings! Saramdul!“ The last is Korean. Probably bad Korean.
“Ok. So you want a long one and then you’ll talk?”
“Here’s the deal, you give me your longest, prettiest poem, and you’ll have me here for the rest of the night to ask whatever you want to know about the future.”
“We have an accord.” He stands up. “This poem is called, ‘A Monkey Sat on my Head.’” Says the words slowly, tasting each one, then pauses for effect, “The gods police the streets in India...”
My eyes close, my ears shut, my heart stops.
I’ve got my bug zapper on and it’s giving me a little buzz. The doors are about to open and then it’s my job to make sure there are no bugs, anywhere. It’s my job and I like it fine. There’s not a better job than mine.
They’re slimy. Aside from having their skeletons on the wrong side of they bodies that’s what I hate most. And the fact that they’re all spies, that makes them even worse. And they have no respect for human life.
The doors open.