The Wine of Apes
Emily lay naked reading the evening paper by the fire.
Pan watched her. Sweet tobacco smoke rising from his pipe,
Brahms heavy off the wireless.
For the first time in fifteen years, he found himself really looking at her.
She had goats' legs.
Everything else perfectly human.
Emily lay there, the evening paper spread open, her white hocks
jutting below her thighs. Annoyed, Pan sat back,
and thought of their wedding day --
how the pearl-lined hem of her white gown kissed the earth,
fields of bluebells genuflecting into the incense of wild garlic --
the moon nesting in dried beech twigs.
Emily yawned, chin palmed in one hand,
thoughts lost in the classifieds. On the hearthrug:
a crystal decanter filled with fortified wine, a salver with cheeses,
melons and grapes -- a scene straight out of a 17th century Dutch canvas.
Canvases Pan knew from Melbourne to Barcelona,
Boston to Copenhagen. New York.
What of sex? Pan thought.
He now imagined himself locking his face
between Emily's haunches after sucking greedily on her hooves.
He struggled with these thoughts.
He struggled with excuses he would have to make;
and even if the excuses worked: wouldn't she take a lover?
And if she did take a lover, wouldn't people talk?
No, best thing -- he assured himself --
a stiff drink, a pill and role-play.
A clean blue moon coloured the snow-coated moors.
Logs crackled on the grate of the fireplace. On the hearthrug Emily slept.
Pan could not shake the effect of his discovery.
Intrigued, he gazed at Emily again --
her hooves burnished and coated with clear lacquer,
the fire's reflection curling and pulsing off the walls of each hoof.
Emily lazily rolled onto her back,
yawning -- stretching her arms into a blossomed pose,
her voice needled into the glowing dark --
her words crackling with the vinyl remnants of sleep.
Pan eyed Emily hard
and felt restless and decided to take a walk.
Everything lay crisp and silent beneath the moon.
Powdered snow squeaked beneath Pan's weight, the bridle path
smooth and unmarked, curving through the moorland.
Pan stepped off the path,
and wading through heather to his favourite spot, he passed a bird hide
where a stiff grouse lay -- its sprayed wings cupping snow,
the bird's head and beak cocked up to the sky.
Pan sat on the rock and looked down at the lone farmhouse
glowing warmly in the valley. There, on the rock, he let time pass --
the stars nursing his back, the laidback rural air allowing meditation
to spring from eternal youth.
Homero Alvarez chose to walk into Pan's bedroom
at one of those improper moments.
Trademark hat, crush linen suit, straight off a flight from Venezuela.
Sweating, Homero stood in the doorway smoking a cheroot.
Emily, wide-eyed with shock, bolted into the bathroom.
Pan, in a spandex Spiderman costume, wiped his mouth with rage
and was just about to say something when four long black claws
curled over the frame of the door and reached into the room.
A sloth's face casually appeared.
The creature's moss-stained body lumbered over the floor to the foot of the bed
where the sloth sat exuding an appalling odour – an illusive grin sketched on its face.
Behind the sloth, a lush greenness filled the outer spaces of the door,
a world of tropical birds calling in the dense forest.
Unperturbed by all this, Homero took off his hat, wiped his brow and scalp,
and, in a calm authoritarian voice, said,
'El carro está listo.'
The drive is steep.
A dirt road to the mountaintop.
The green heat of the tropics blown away.
The heaviest gear of the Land Rover screaming.
The landscape bare and brown.
Frozen winds raping huddled rocks.
Pan turns to Homero.
Homero wrestling the steering wheel; sports gloves,
thick jacket, Biggles goggles over his eyes.
All sound is one violent noise.
Homero shouts to Pan. His words lost in the wind.
The car's steering wheel wrestling back like a black bear.
Homero shouts again. Dust sharp on the air.
Then, from nowhere -- nothing:
a blanket of crisp white silence.
The ceiling of the world is absolutely still.
Pan knows this place and praises its solitude.
Like a promise the sky curves, gently delivering light back to where the sky begins.
There is peace weighted into everything,
revelation replaces vertigo.
Pan is moved by the beauty of the earth.
Pan weeps. Homero, equally moved, kneels to part a cloud --
revealing a valley where a fat, chocolate river once swirled;
the river -- now a blind silver snake
meandering through time.
Togara Muzanenhamo was born in Lusaka Zambia and brought up in Zimbabwe on his family's farm, 30 miles south of Harare. He studied Business Administration in France and The Netherlands. After his studies he returned to Zimbabwe where he became a journalist before moving to an institute dedicated to the development of African screenplays. In 2001 he went to England to pursue an M.A. in creative writing. Togara's poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. Spirit Brides, his debut collection, was published by Carcanet Press. He currently divides his time between writing and administrating the family business.