Monday, April 11, 2011

Das Brick and Carl, the Orangutang

I was about ready to spend some time outside Afanasy's bag and see where we were. I could hear voices, more and more of them, lots of kids and livestock, even some music. Some kind of hurdy-gurdy and cymbals. The rain has stopped. Afanasy stopped walking and dropped me abruptly as he took up conversation with what sounded like a flirtatious girl. I heard bees hovering around expectantly.

"Seen any highwaymen yet? I'm looking for some hose and doublet."

"Hardly yet, Fana. I heard that Cherny took everything they had from that legate from Burgundy. He was dressed nice... I expect Cherny will be here at lunch break to sell the clothes. You don't wear hose and doublet though - let alone French. What're you up to?"

"Ahh spring! A young man fills his pate with wet earth, and budding grasses and wants to take up some stolen French gabardines. For the ladies, if you will."

"I'd suppose rather that you need clothing for the poor will-o' you got in there sack. He naked?"

I suddenly was gazing up from the leather satchel at the prettiest face I'd ever laid eyes on.

"O he's not bad, Fana? I'd say you let him out for some air. He does need clothes tho. Wot do you call that ye've got on?"

"It's... it's from Sarai..." I lied. I still had on my red t-shirt from El Pelon, and some green Levi's. Foma had loaned me a few pairs of lice-ridden wool socks, and I still had the squirrel-fur cloak from the Pine Cone.

"Of yes you're from Sarai: all right. And I'm from St. Brennan's Isle. What a cute one! Can I keep 'im?" She had taken my doughy face in both hands and was sniffing my forehead. How dearly I wanted to get out of the sack!

"Found that one in the woods. Bees found him first. He's from some nemets town out west, apparently."

"He's an angel from God's heaven."

"Could be. He sure can't fight for nothing. I'm keeping him hid til we can get him to look like he ain't a spy. I hear there are spies avaunt."

"Spies are all around, indeed. Ivan's been dunking everyone at the Kreml to see what they know."

"Great. I'm in need of a good thrashing and a bath."

"That you are. Can I help him change?"

"You're a friendly one alright. Das, this is Anna. She'll be your best mate until she spies someone else wot interests her. Speaking of..."

He quickly yanked the tarred bowline that closed the top of the sack, and I was surrounded again by darkness. I heard a sound like a washerwoman beating a wet quilt with a pair of swim fins. Even through the walls of the sack I picked up an agreeable scent of herring.

"Yer here to fight at last!" bellowed a very wet, boisterous voice in a strange accent like French and Hindi. It was a magnificent, booming voice like a great wooden instrument, with ringing laughter hanging from it like golden tassels. It reminded me of hearing Louis Armstrong's solos from the 1920s.

A throng of children seemed to come running at those words. "Alnus is gonna fight Afanasy! Get your sausage and elk meat!" "Kvas!" "Kvas!" they shouted.

"I'll take 1/3, you take 1/3. Winner gets 1/3. I get sole distribution rights for kvas, elk meat, and stimulants. You get sole distribution rights for wax, honey, hand-carved tchotchkes. We kick Foma for rights to Anna at the end. Ne ves?"

"I have forever wanted to wrestle the great Alnus Rugosa! No, I say! No! No rights and no money! Only fight for to see whom God favors and who is wrestling rex imperator!!" Afanasy shouted, beating his chest thunderously. The crowd, which sounded like it was growing rapidly, cheered rapturously.

"Kvas! Kvas! Elk meat! Get your elk meat!"

The cymbals and broken bagpipe swelled to an enthusiastic horrible din. The sack was suddenly being pulled over many pointy objects that bedevilled my lower ends. I puzzled over this, and wondered if it was wise to spring from the sack to escape my captor, or feign being a pile of laundry. Just as I was remembering that escape was utterly futile, I felt a hand kneading my buttocks through the sack.


"Don't try to escape. I'll let you out in a minute." and the dragging continued, through what sounded like deep mud and an array of feral pigs.

"The hetmen are now accepting bids for Alnus at 13 to 1, and for Afanasy Nikitin against. Please place your bets at this time. Are there any bets from the stinking pit?"

"NO!" shouted a chorus of voices from some sort of stinking pit.

"Doris! Carl! Open up!" hissed Anna. After a moment there was a heavy rattle of chains and the sound of well-joined wood squeaking. I was dragged up several stairs that seemed to break my bones. I heard heavy agitated sounds of primates.

"Oh yes, Carl, we loves you too! Doris! Yes! We loves you! Mmmm." said Anna. "Open the bag, won't you Carl?"

And a kind, reflective orangutan peered into the sack at me. He had a wide face with a tasseled velvet cap and a brocaded jacket that looked immaculately tailored, or Italian or both. He grabbed my head and we touched foreheads.

"Carl, this is Das. Das, Carl."

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