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The elephant rifle was hung on the fleur-de-lis papered wall pointing up the stairs. Its rich mahogany butt was spiraled like a snail house. The blackened metal bolt’s surface was rough and ornate at the same time. The whole wood and metal work was very ornate, crafted in hours of hand labor, yet the factory made barrel part was a crude tube. It was my grandfather’s, who stoically looked out into the lobby with the chandelier from the oil painting with the heavy frame.
I smelled the black powder residue on the gun — burnt metal, dirt, a hint of banana, the stink of sulfur — and dreamt of his adventures in the bush of Africa and the forests of India, as he looked into the distance with his beige safari hat tropical suit. He was always groomed impeccable on the paintings. In person, he was a sweaty, bellied man with his hair tussled, always packing or unpacking for another trip. The country home in Fontainebleau was merely the storage space for his trophies.
And so I walked down the stairs, across the thick carpet made Persia. My hands caressed the multi-colored glass ball made by a Berber prince. Compulsory, I made a move on the true ivory chess board, a family habit of a long running chess game. Whosoever passed the board made the next move. The maid in her black and white uniform watched my reminiscing silently, motionlessly from the distance of the hall. When I was younger, she had admonished me without scruple. She knew that today was another day, a day where she kept her place.
With one hand on each door, I swung open the heavy double door to the circular driveway. The pure and rich air of the famous Fontainebleau forest hit my nostrils. Birds were chirping on the trees that lined the driveway. Three deer and a baby deer with black and white spots were peacefully eating the grass, their wet, black noses diving into the boot deep bouquet of wild flowers. The soft scent of the flowers had a way of clearing the palate. I could taste my saliva cleaner, clearer, freer.
My heart skipped a beat, when I walked up to the tree house. Muscle memory made me sling my foot around the smooth, white, arm-thick branch. As I pulled myself up onto the next branch, my thighs slipped around the branch. My body was larger now, yet the feel of the smooth bark gliding under me and my body twisting was deeply familiar. Reaching the nailed together wood boards, I slid my belly across them. All the dust and dirt rubbed on my clean, white shirt and pleated pants. This is the way it always was. This is the way it had to be.
My father had spent many hours with me laying belly down, chin propped on the palms. He taught me to recognize the woodpecker, the chiffchaff, and the blackcap. Most of all, I liked his hunting stories. All of our family hunted. However, my father was another kind of hunter.
One time, he had travelled to Dakar in Senegal by boat. The harbor was a tangled mess of sail boats. Chests were carried off and onto boats. A camel was patiently re-chewing its food with the jaw lazily grinding left to ride and the big lip hanging out. It was his first sight of a camel. The fur was all messy. Green grass marks were rubbed onto its cheeks, nothing like the clean, picturesque camel paintings.
“Dakar,” announced the captain unceremoniously after the deckhand had tied the ship to the land. There was no gangway. My father seized up the jump to the land. The sliver of water beneath the boat and the land was a medley of rotten food, dead fish, and indescribable garbage. The stench filled him with disgust. The common streets of Paris smelled of sweaty armpits and horse shit. The hot African sun had baked and rotted the refuse into a horrific stench.
The harbor street was yellow, hard baked dirt, no pavement. Lines of muscular, black man with twisted cotton loin clothes would carry crates on their head. Their back muscles were thick and strong. Their chests were round pillows of muscle with even blacker nipples. Scrawny poor black men with wilted muscles and squinted eyes were trying to beg and steal from the riches passing by. Occasionally, a black man dressed in purple and golden garment would address the Frenchmen. Pouches of many would change hands with opulent rings with rubies over big smiles. The white Frenchmen in Western clothes were pressed into the throng of people, traders. Since the opening of the second rail road to Bamako, Dakar had become the premier trading post in Africa.
He put his foot on the railing, carefully getting a good grip to push off and onto dry land. His head was dizzy at first, land sickness. His sense of balance had become used to the constant motion of the ocean. The motion continued on dry land. Wavering, he entered the throng of people. His hands were pushing roughhewn clothed backs out of the way. Powerful man pushed into him. The constant motion of the people around him made him even sicker.
Gladly, he found emptier streets away from the harbor. The midday sun had driven all but the scrawny dogs into the shade. White washed African houses were made from clay with doors and windows üsküdar escort having neither glass nor doors, simply openings. Savory smell of lamb meat and bread permeated the air. Despite the heat, the skin felt dry. The dry air soaked up any sweat immediately. His mouth was parched.
Happily did he enter the Rai d’Or, a French sign above the entrance. Coming from the blinding sunlight, the inside was completely black. Fearing his blind helplessness, he clutched the dagger in his pants tighter. Subtle ding sounds of cups and silverware calmed his nerves. Laughter emanated from a table far away. The kisses sounded from somewhere else. The smell of lamb made his dried out tongue salivate again.
The blackness differentiated into shades of dark gray. Female hands touched his hands. They were larger and rougher than he was used to. With an African accent and a deeper, more guttural voice, a black woman asked him to follow her. She guided him by the hand like a little child into the womb of the tavern. She made him half lie, half sit down on the carpet ringed by pillows. There was a low table in front of him.
She left him there for a moment to return with a thick bottomed shot glass. She placed it down on the low table.
“Drink, the hot tea will make you sweat. That will cool you down.”
She gestured him to pin the glass by the bottom and top to avoid the hot side. He took it down in one swig. The tongue and throat burned from the heat. The taste was intense and delicious. Waiting for the heat pain to subside in his belly, his brows formed thick sweat drops. The sweaty skin left him in refreshing respite.
The scene around him had grown clearer. A Frenchman was passed out on the blankets with his arms sprawled out, chasing the dragon. A group of Frenchmen were dividing opium on a little table. Another sole Frenchmen was slowly kissing the bare breast of a black woman lying across his lap. A young couple was speaking low to each other. The darkness obscured everyone and gave them a sense of privacy. A chef was bringing out plates of stew.
He ate his stew and indulged in hot tea freely. What drew his attention over and over was the a side room. There was no door. The side room was brighter. Every once in a while, he saw a female silhouette moving about in there. There was a softness about the small woman. Her movements were fast and business like unlike the hazy, lazy movements in the den.
With the back of his hand, he wiped his mouth after the meal. He rose from the comfortable pillows and carefully wondered to the side room. The half-light made it hard to see the abandoned cups, pillows, and limbs of passed out opium users. He carefully stepped with his left foot leading and the right foot dragging behind.
There was a woman in the side room, a French woman, dressed in a business suit, the face lightly made with makeup, the hair arranged properly. Binders were neatly piled on a standing desk. She tallied lines. She jumped a little, when she saw him.
“Monsieur, this room is off limits. Please, return to the den.”
She spoke in perfect French with precise enunciation.
“Mademoiselle, I am intrigued to find someone as studied as you here.”
“I am not a prostitute like the others. I am the accountant.”
“How does a studied woman like you end up here?”
“My father was a missionary. He took me to Dakar. After a few months, he succumbed to the dragon and disappeared. What was I supposed to do? I had to pay for food. So, I took this position to do accounting for a merchant. What do you do here?”
“I read people. I am looking for a special kind of people.”
“Are you a psychologist? Would you analyze me?”
“I am not a psychologist. I am more of a mystique. I see the spirit animal in people. Every person looks human on the outside. Yet on the inside, they have a spirit animal that describes their nature.”
“What is my spirit animal?”
“I’d have to get to know you. Would you take me on a walk to a place that is special to you?”
“You are not like the other man? The other men only want to slip their penis in me.”
She looked at him pensively. Her facial features were small. She had thin, pink lips and small blue eyes. Her skin was pale from being indoors all the time. She wore a shirt business skirt that showed her legs unashamed. She was a flapper. She wore a blouse from a louse material that made the ventilation better in the heat. The buttons were casually unbuttoned to expose her décolleté. The contour of the blouse suggested bare breast, the size of an apple each hanging there. Her fingers were smooth and porcelain like.
She tapped the pencil more rapidly on the standing desk as her thoughts neared conclusion. A soft strand of hair fell onto hair angelic face a moment, before she rounded her mouth into a seductive O to begin speaking.
“Monsieur, I am very much intrigued to discover that spirit animal of mine. Would you be able to wait until an hour to sunset?”
He tapped şerfali escort his hat, “Obliged,” and slung back into the darkness of the den.
Near nightfall, he was glad to step in front of the den and out of the heavy scent of unwashed sex and burned opium. The air was cool. Her greeting was refreshing with her high-pitched cordial voice.
“Halo, monsieur! I don’t even know your name.”
“Marc. My pleasure!”
“Oh, you are so cordial,” she said with a coquette giggle, “I am Alice.”
“Tell me about yourself, so that I may begin the reading.”
She placidly took him by the hand to guide him through the streets. She had the careless bounce of a child in her step.
“Oh, there is not much to tell. I was a missionary’s daughter. He always treated me like his precious bird. He’d dress me in nice clothes, bring me to school, and took care of everything. He was a good man. However here in Africa, he lost hope. He found the opium. And the opium took everything from him.”
“Now, I have a French merchant boss. He pays me a small salary, enough to live, not enough to return to Paris. And he knows it. He does it on purpose. Sometimes, he calls me his little caged bird without any pretense. He offered to marry me. I said no. He never forced me. I know he is waiting. He thinks eventually, I cannot control myself, I will have a weak moment.”
“How do I know? He paid handsomely for a pair of frogs. They are not the frogs for eating. They are the frogs for testing for pregnancy. They are injected with urine of the woman. If the frog lays eggs within 12 hours, the woman is pregnant. He always has a deeply red face, when he feeds them. He doesn’t know that I know. But, I studied at the ecole.”
We walked through streets that were lined with huts. Black African people were sitting in front of them. They were grinding grains, stitching clothing, or playing games of throwing sticks into certain patterns. A naked young toddler would stomp his fat, little legs. A goat would ring the little bell around his neck, while he was pulling on hard, dry grass growing at the side of a hut.
The streets softly ascended to a hill. The huts gave the hilltop space in reverence. At first the hilltop appeared empty. On closer approach, they were the leftover ruins of a church. A few bricks marked the foundation, half hidden by dry desert bushes.
She sat down in the center of the ruins Indian style. There was a way about her movement that suggested intimate familiarity with the place. To him, it was a desolate place. Yet, in her eyes, he could see the happy memories of late adolescence. He sat down in front of her. She put her hands flat on the ground to gesture him.
“This is the last place, where I was free, where I had a future.”
She looked at him sadly. He gathered her hands and turned them over to look at her palms. She curiously tried to glean a look at what he was looking at. He was looking at nothing. He kissed the palms. The warm lips on the delicate hands made her heart smell with warms. She blushed and turned her face down.
“To do this reading, I will have to read your heart beat. As you know, the heart carries the blood. And the blood carries the soul.”
He held his hands up into the air to wait for her permission. She nodded carefully. He reached his hands forward and nestled his hands between her bosoms. He pushed the fabric down to feel her rib cage. He was nervous. He could not feel her heart beat.
“I cannot feel it. Let me come around.”
He circled around her. He cradled her from behind. He pushed her back against his chest. He touched her center chest. Now, he could feel her breathing and the small bum-bum of her heart. He knew that she could feel him as well. The intimacy made him rush with adrenaline. It was like he was out of breath. He had the urge to open his mouth. He felt strange for showing her his heavy breathing. He tried to fight against the urge to breathe hard and steadied his breath.
They looked out onto the sunset over Dakar, the half island surrounded by water. The insects were singing their lullaby. Each breathes that they felt in each other had its own rhythm. She was breathing hard as well. He could smell her musky hair. He struggled at first against it, trying to reject the smell. And then he surrendered to the smell, letting it freely flow into his lungs. It was an act of deep emotional acceptance.
When he held her, he did not hold that pale white woman that the tavern customers leered for. When he held her, he held her fragility, her weakness of forces larger than her moving her life. When he held her, he could feel the plainness of her morning wash. Her living arrangement was very bare, yet she would dress herself nice and show a façade.
She whispered with earnest, “Thank you for doing this. I am so at peace, I can hear the insects. I can hear the wind in the bushes. I can hear the faraway waves. I can hear the man yelling in the harbor on the other side of the half island.”
He gently kissed her on the side of the neck. His kisses were making a line. Then his tongue slipped out and painted on her salty, musky skin in circles and waves. She turned her head to look at him with dark black eyes of the twilight. He just kissed her on the soft lips. The soft lips surrendered with a gentle moan. Her delicate fingers touched his skin.
“Is this part of the reading,” she whispered with a sensual exhale.
“I am not just reading your palms. I am reading your soul.”
“Oh,” she gentle moaned in a high pitched way. He let his hand slip onto her nipples. They were soft. She squirmed deeper against him. He pulled the soft, loose blouse off her body. Her breasts were bare. She looked around for a moment and realized that them sitting low, they were protected by the ruins on the missionary outpost.
Her body was alive with eroticism. Her spine moved around. He knew that she was ready and slipped his hands down her pants to feel her crotch. She was still dry on the outside. His fingers found her entrance and carefully went inside. He could feel the juice there. He spread the juice over his fingers and spread it over her outer lips. She grinded her groin against his fingers. She was ripe.
She feverishly pulled her pants off and rolled onto the dry dirt. He struggled with his clothes. They got caught around his feet and seemed to tighten there. He kicked hard to get them off.
She pulled his penis into her vagina quickly. His teeth delicately bit her lower lip and held onto it, while he was working a rhythm inside of her belly. Her eyes were closed and pulling on his bare naked butt to penetrate her deeper.
He rolled her over onto her belly with her knees under her chest. Her vagina lips were a slit accessible from behind. He penetrated her from behind and held her like a little bundle. She wrapped her arms around her knees and cozied her body together. Placidly, she let pussy by wiped by his sword in and out. She let his body drape around hers skin to skin. The full body touch of the warm, smooth skin heartwarming.
She moaned as an orgasm approached. He let his seed release. The seed pooled deep in her belly. She gently purred. The purring turned from human to dove-like. And as the seed settled in her, she turned into a white dove. He lifted his weight off her back onto his hands to avoid crushing her. She opened her wings and fluttered into the night sky of Dakar.
My father explained, “If you really connect with the true nature of a person, you set them free.”
My father was a hunter of spirit animals. He would go to distant cities, searching for people with a special spirit animal. He had been on many travels. However, a few days ago, he had disappeared from Fontainebleau to the city, Paris. He was searching for a special animal that supposedly had been seen here in Paris.
When he returned, his clothes were torn to shred. He had a blood covered bandage over his shoulder. The servants rushed for the doctor. I still remember the night. We were in the master bed room. All the servants were lined up against the wall. Their faces were ghastly white. None of them dared utter a sound. Dark shades flickered over them from the candle light.
The family doctor was an old man with big, white fluffy hair on the head and an elegant black bow tie around the neck. Thirteen stitches were needed. The doctor carefully pierced his skin with a hook needle pulling the black yarn through it. The strong stable boy pinned down father, who was screaming in agony. I was shocked. The maid silently and gently rocked my side to side to calm me, while holding me.
Father collapsed into a deep sleep. I spent the night sleeping in his bed with my arms around his chest, careful not to touch his injured shoulder. I could smell a woman’s body on him. The bed was so soft that I sank deep. I thought I was awake the whole night listening to the tick-tack of the mechanical watch in the corner. However, I awoke to glaring sunshine with my father gently caressing my hair, folding it over to the side again and again.
I smiled to see him awake. He said that everything was fine. I saw the dirty, empty breakfast dishes on the bed side table and knew that it was true. Of course, he had to tell me the story.
He had gone to Paris. Ah, the city! He had watched straight into the face of horse wagon driver, the perched up body posture, the dull, expressionless face, as the wagon wheels pierced through a pile of horse manure and splattered it in a wide circle. There was no remorse. The modern automobiles that started to fill the streets were such a better mode of transportation.
The men were walking in their suits on the busy sidewalks. The women were easily distinguished into traditional house wives, the long hair and traditional dress, and flappers, the flaunters of tradition. The flappers dared to cut their hair short, wore short skirts that showed their bare legs. This was a time of upheaval, where women were allowed to vote and take up occupations. Foreigners had streamed into the city from America, Africa, and Asia. The Americans had brought a new garment, a kind of clothes wrapped around the neck like a rope, aptly named tie. The Africans were wearing white full body gowns. The Asians were screaming in high pitched sounds about the price of fish on the corner.
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