Beware the Monkey God
Get out Muse. There isn’t any place for you here.
No invocation, no kowtowing to see the empress.
This will be something other. We’re going to take
you by the lapels and jam our forehead into
the middle of your brain. This is my evocation
of a god that passed into obscurity before
you had even found that muddy little stream. In
a world of holograms, this is going
to be the tatwa to end them all, clear in the
murky depths of the intransitory. With all
your words, you won’t be able to touch it. So out
with it, open the book, still the bell, light
the candle. We shall really see Nyarlathotep.
It was during the year of the Monkey; we were
drinking beer one night in Rico’s when it all
began to come together in a frightening
way. The brew had taken us down to the level
where reason shuts its doors if not the curtains.
It’s about there that philosophy begins. In
this case, it was syncronicity which took us
further than we had dared go before. The talk was
about Katmandu, one of the temples there, and
how the sacred monkeys moved about the faces
of the Tibetanized Shiva. There is something
strictly Himalayan in those faces which can’t be
seen in the ones from Southern India; a stark
caricature of a memory that couldn’t
exist in the human sense. About then, a friend
opened his stony blue eyes with the effect of
a loaded 44 magnum stuffed in your face.
We all felt it, but nobody at the table ran:
a credit to us all. Each of us knew that a
horror was about to be unleashed on our
already ravaged brains. The fact that in our state
we would have broken our necks scrambling over
furniture didn’t cross our minds. He spoke at last.
“Beware the Monkey God.” The doom was upon us.
“Beware the Monkey God.” He said it again.
Fortunately he didn’t make the third pronouncement.
The eyes closed to ponder the depths
from which this little gem had dropped.
What fate had saved us from the ultimate terror,
I do not know. Everybody at the table
began to lapse into the psychic realm where
the words had grown. The pieces of conditioning
Flashback: Karachi . . . Outside the airport on our
way up country, they were going to stash us in
a hostel for a couple of hours between flights.
We were waiting for a car to take us.
There was a tree on the horizon, big green
sucker, like what you would see lions asleep in.
Something in the tree moved. What it was I couldn’t
say, but it was bigger than a bread box. It could
have been a monkey. I was never really sure;
we were gone before it moved again. Probably,
it was a vulture. They have those in Karachi
too. I had never seen a real monkey, just
the twisted kind they have in zoos. Captivity
snaps their minds. My brother use to take me to
watch them. He explained how when the head-
honcho came out of the monkey-house, the less
dominant ones would go sit in the corners. Sure
enough, they did. I had seen pictures of monkeys with
electrodes in their brains, shot into space and all that,
but real ones out there in the world was something
Maybe that was the first time the Monkey God struck.
It’s a sneaky little bugger the Monkey God.
By that night in Rico’s, I’d let it go to the
vulture theory. But now, with anthropology
101 and ten long years of college behind
me, I still wasn’t sure. At least I remembered.
People do that, they remember. That’s what makes
them dangerous. You have to kill them off quickly.
Leave one alone in a room too long and it will
make an H bomb. It was anthro that gave me
the first clue. Sure, I’d seen all the movies, 2001,
One Million Years B.C., (I loved the one with Raquel
Welch) Murders in the Rue Morgue, but these weren’t
the Catalyst, the scientific verification
of what all this monkey business was about.
Here we had the main man, Leakey, white haired and
tan, pointing the way back through time with small
fragments of bodies dug out of an African gorge. This
was it. The Trail was getting fresher, only a
million years old. It wouldn’t be long before we
had the little shit by the nuts screaming out for
mercy. We wouldn’t give it any. About this
time the toothpaste ads started to effect me.
People on billboards grinning, people on TV grinning,
people in magazines grinning. Christ! When I passed
them in the streets they weren’t grinning.
When they were, I crossed the street.
Flashback: Islamabad . . . We’d been in the hills
all day trying not to get bitten by a krait.
It was a good thing that it was winter,
and they were asleep. We were taking
a dirt road down when a brightly painted
truck stopped. The driver asked if we wanted a ride.
He was grinning ear to ear, red betel nut
teeth and intense hashish eyes. We took the ride;
it was quicker. Unfortunately, we were straight at
the time. It would have been better otherwise.
That way we wouldn’t have been worried about dying,
just sat back with the rush. The Monkey God takes
many disguises. These days, I think it was the driver.
I always wonder what would have happened if my
friend pronounced the third doom upon us all at that
table. Every time I look at a clear sky, I
can almost see two hairy hands poking through, and
then pulling it apart to reveal the black gulf.
A huge, grinning black-eyed face would drool
down on the world leaving mindless vegetables
writhing on the ground. It’s awful to think about.
It’s the mundane which takes over the senses,
to make the void between the ears; an emptiness
which is rewarded by the powers that be with
all the trinkets a body could want. Glass beads are as
good as cash in the open market, because
there isn’t much to loose in selling anymore.
They even throw in a mate to make the sale
complete. Then you get a little bit extra with
working, sleeping, eating. I has to be in
a church. They’re always grinning in church,
at least the reborn ones are. Let’s hear it for out
Lady of Ultra-bright in the Aisle. Speaking of
churches, did you know that some Muslims got
together and built a mosque in Pullman, Wash. There
is one thing wrong with it. They didn’t put a
loudspeaker in the minaret so the faithful can be
called to prayer. I miss that in the evenings; some nut
droning out over the city that God is great.
You better get on your knees and pray or God
will kick your ass. Every god needs a helping hand.
Flashback: Band-I-Amir . . . We had run the road north
with a Peugeot sedan and a good driver. I
can’t remember how much AID paid him, but he
was worth it. This was a private gig anyway.
Just me and the doctor, Dr. Watson that is.
We were going to take a look at the tallest
buddhas in the world and then maybe stop to look
at the king’s lakes. The buddas were in the valley
of Bamiyan near the City of Screams. It was
either the hordes of the great Khan or some perversity
of its own which gave the city that name. Nobody
gave the whole story. All that’s left is the tell,
filled with melting mogul arches. In the evening
we had dinner in the village and watched a dancing
boy, long past his prime, sweat out an existence
before the group of art lovers. Most of the time we
just tried to keep him off us. When we
were back in the yert we drank ourselves to
sleep. The morning came with embarrassment on the
faces of the buddahs, pink cheeked sandstone in all
its glory. Two full figured statues, hundreds of
feet high, looking as if they had been there since
the valley was formed. All around them were caves
which the monks had used to work and sleep in while
creating the images of their master. The
dark holes made the cliff look worm eaten. But there
were no orange robed figures hurrying
about. It would have been a great effect. I wonder
if the monks watched what happened in the City of
Screams? From the valley it was only four hours up
to the lakes. Blue, clear lakes which even have
Tahoe out classed. Maybe it’s the emptiness around
them. Nothing really can beat the cataclysmic
emptiness of the Hindu Kush, who would want
to try. They formed from natural springs which had
built up limestone dikes. The water was deep enough
so the bottom couldn’t be seen. Yet for some reason
clear enough to make you think that you could. The
king had stocked them with trout so his family could
go fishing. We could see them swimming around the
steep chasms below the water. That day,
no one from the family was fishing. There was
a ritual going on. In the mud-brick mosque
some local wife was in seclusion having prayers
said over her by the local holy-man. She
was possessed by demons. Every time her husband
wanted to fuck her, she got physically sick.
To save her from the fiends, they were going to throw
her in the lake and exorcise the demons:
damn cold those lakes. Watson said she would be
lucky not to have a coronary, probably all
psychosomatic. That’s what the doctor said. Good
thing the doctor was too old to interfere, and I was too
young. We would have gotten our throats slit. The
Monkey God was running in a pack that day, or
should I say troop. Sometimes I wonder how I got
so lucky. The number of times I could have had my
head kicked in are just too many. For some reason my
ass always slipped out of the sling and the noose just
missed my neck. That night I just had to be at Rico’s,
just had to hear those words. They never stopped
echoing. That was years ago, and the run-on dreams
Flash-forward: Moscow, Idaho . . . Hemingway was
there. I don’t know what he did, but I would
set up shop reading cards. At my back a WWI
memorial, it carried trophies. The Tales of the Golden
Monkey is running to the end of the season,
and the fair is full of pagans, robes and costumes
from a thousand years of history. The cards are hot.
In the booths I see a golden Yeti whistling
a tune. He will sit across from me for the fair.
Did I do that, would I? Closer,
though the pronouncement never comes.
Drum beats on the table shake us back from where
we’ve been. The lights are being turned up as we are
being turned out into the illusion which the streets
I was processing books for the library;
I found one called Indian Summer.
It had paintings and comments on Sind done the year
before I was born. The chapter I opened
was called “The Monkeys of Karachi”. It has
started again, and like the cat fading in a tree,
it leaves only a grin. Its sense of humor won’t
let the third pronouncement fall, but it will
speak in the voice of my daughter every time
someone asks her year. She was conceived
in the year of the Monkey.
first published in Living With a Stranger: self portrait, 1993.