No sooner had I arrived on the coast then my brother was up to his old games, and some new ones as well, appearing and disappearing at odd hours, filling the house with an assortment of his artist friends, hippies, political saboteurs and even worse, (most of them addicted to drugs or at least enamored of them), and behaving towards me with a mixture of affection, patronage, and downright snottiness that I had almost succeeded in eradicating from my memory of our childhood days.
Deep breath. That sentence produced itself, I have no wish to speak ill of him. We held services for him six weeks ago, there being no corpus delecti since his body was never recovered from the sea. So I am willing to let bygones be bygones, except that the treatment is continuing. I have been arrested and released, under humiliating circumstances. I have fallen in love. And my head aches from trying to decipher the strange messages that my brother left behind, messages that Rrrose, my beloved, insists that I must deliver to the world.
Rrrose has been explaining the message to me, but in terms that I find barely more enlightening than the original. "It’th a labyrinth," she told me the first day, "The printhiple ith that penetration ith pothible if we approath in the correct manner. Otherwithe we juth make a meth of it." Her charming lisp always melts away my resistance, and yet I must confess I cannot tell whether her gloss on the six pages of notes, charts, diagrams and mathematical equations, written with many colored pens on a huge pad of tracing paper (so that in many places the one chart overlays another), plus a seventh page, simpler in some respects since it consists of a single design, a large swastika, each arm of which is composed of four squares, with another square for the center, the signs of the Zodiac and the planets drawn on the front of the page (swastika rotates counterclockwise) and 17 Chinese characters on the reverse, or clockwise side, yet, obviously, more enigmatic than the rest of the notes, some of which at least contain words I recognize--Franklin, form, hologram, scavenger, dolphin, eagle, cockaigne--though few are connected in a way that makes any sense to me), is any more informative than the original.
"Why don’t we just publish the notes?” I asked at one point. “You’re so lazy, Johnny,” she said, flashing her famous smile, which won her the Miss Universe title in the contest at Woomera, as if to soften her remark. "That’th not the point; the noth’th have already been gathered and publithed before--where do you think Jim got them? Thith ith all ancient mythtery. He wath putting them in thape, we were doing it together. And you're the methenger, that'th why he athed you to come here."
I am not a messenger, until recently; I have always worked in the family funeral parlor, first under my father, who came to this country and started it himself after his own father was murdered --"snuffed out like a candle," as Jim, who liked the story, put it -- some say by the members of the local guild of stonemasons in the hill town of Cowanieri because he learned their trade without ever being apprenticed and subsequently operated as an independent, or in modern terms, a blackleg, a scab; then with my uncle, a stubborn man who joined us after he was defrocked as a priest for heresy and later left to become a Rosecrucian until he dropped out, left New York for the Big Sur coast and began writing poetry, which as far as I know he never published, but rather sent round to his friends in long rambling letters, and dealing cocaine to make a living; and finally alone.
I had welcomed his invitation to visit him, since we had not seen each other for many years, as a chance to re-establish family ties. I had not realized that I was being asked to perform a specific function, and I still do not see why that is so, since Jim never mentioned it to me; but Rrrose insists that that was his plan, and she should know, for she was his mistress as she is now mine, (and pregnant with the newest of the Menotti line, though which of us is the father she professes not to know).
We are living in Jim's starkly modern house, high above the Pacific, not far from Hurricane Point, the spot where Jim took his fatal plunge, gunning his Triumph sports car to over 100 miles per hour as he overtook three other vehicles and then, as a truck approached from the other direction, swerving off the road, through the barrier, and out 1,000 feet above the water. But for my own prudence, I might have been with him, for he had suggested, his green eyes alive with the same glee I remembered from childhood scrapes, that I drive up to the Lilly dolphin lab at Pebble beach with him. However, I have always mistrusted small cars, and in any case, Rrrose had invited me to her sewing room, to try on the green silk bathing suit she had been making for me, a prospect that I found considerably more exciting than risking my neck to look at a lot of fish, (Rrrose, who pooled her Miss Universe money with Jim's illegal gains from drugs to set up the laboratory, points out that the dolphins are mammals, not fish. She also says that Jim did not expect me to go with him, and that if I had, we probably would not have crashed. I accept her word about the dolphins, since she seems to know quite a lot about them, and claims, in fact, to be able to interpret their speech. They have told her how to interpret the pattern of sound formed by the pebbles rolling back and forth on the beach in such a way that she has been able to speculate very successfully in computer stocks, making us both rich and permitting me to sell the funeral parlor. I do not see, however, how she knew what would have happened, or not happened, if I had gone with Jim).
I had been here only a month when the accident, for so I insist on regarding it despite Jim's message to Rrrose, occurred. The first indication that anything was wrong was the appearance of two Highway Patrol cars in the driveway, while Rrrose was intently marking the swim suit in a delicate spot. Four policemen burst in and, while one guarded us, the others searched every part of the house, finding a considerable quantity of drugs, before telling us what had happened. Then, mistaking me for my brother (we are twins, as the reader has perhaps realized), they manhandled me out the door, over my loud protests, and into the lead squad car. Rrrose, who is a French citizen, went Scot-free. She showed them some papers that turned them from wild boars into gentle lambs: "Yes, Miss Selevy, No, Miss Selevy, sorry to bother you, Miss Selevy," --they couldn't do enough for her.
For me, however, still clad in the green silk trunks with basting on the left side of the crotch, it was jail for six hours, until she raised the money to bail me out. I spent some of the time in a large cell with several horrible-looking men, who gave me a wide berth, possibly because I looked so strange in the I green silk swimsuit and my Argyle socks. At first, however, I was interrogated by two large detectives who riddled me with questions about my supposed drug connections. Only after I had created some doubt in their minds because of their obvious innocence as to my identity, did they tell me about the accident, about finding the Triumph at the bottom of the cliff, and, recognizing it as the automobile of a known drug dealer, seizing the opportunity to search his house, where to their surprise, they found me and, on the flimsy basis of investigating the crash, ransacked the place anyway. Rrrose arrived with the bail money sometime after dark, and I have since managed to convince the police that I am not my brother, whose body they now suppose to have been eaten by sharks.
It was the very night of Jim's accident that Rrrose and I became lovers, but not before she had briefed me on the dolphin research she and Jim had been carrying out, and showing me the note he had left for her before driving off on his last errand. It read: "Getting in good form. Seize you later." Though I could make no sense of it, Rrrose told me that it was of great significance, since Jim did everything with purpose in mind and never wrote anything without picking each word carefully. She resolved, therefore, to try to get in touch with Jim through the medium of me, his twin; she proposed that she wire me up to an electroencephalograph and broadcast my brain patterns into the ocean, modulated in several different ways--am, fm, ssb, at the ultra-low frequencies used by marine life. In this way she might complete their research into dolphin communication. At the time I thought her merely mad with grief and so I readily assented to her scheme, being myself mad with desire for her. I feared to show this desire, lest I offend her, and it was she who finally took the first step, and soon we were panting on the fur rug in the candlelight, beneath Jim's enneagram of the seven planets, the sun, and the moon, together with mappings from seven other oracular systems.
The next day she drove me to the Lilly laboratory, where we carried out the EEG experiment, and, to my astonishment, since I was not so much skeptical as totally disbelieving that anything could come of such a bizarre excursion into pseudo-science, a huge crowd of dolphins and whales immediately collected offshore, and one dolphin swam swiftly through the labyrinth that keeps predators out while letting the bright, inquisitive dolphins into the pools where the communications research is performed. The dolphin sported about the pool and began emitting a series of clicks and high-pitched whistles, which we could hear over a loudspeaker. Rrrose immediately slipped off her clothes, dived in, and began to frolic with the animal, which responded with clicks, whistles, twists and turns at an ever increasing rate. When I took off the electrodes and attempted to join them, the dolphin refused to let me in the pool, swimming along the edge and flipping water at me and grinning all the while. "He'th a boy dolphin," Rrrose called with a giggle, and as she spoke, the creature rolled over on its back, providing striking evidence of the accuracy of her remark.
In the next few weeks, Rrrose spent as much time with the dolphin as with me. It was then that she learned how to play the market at Pebble Beach. Meanwhile, we studied the notes together. They seemed to be mainly tables of names and multilingual puns, equations written in a strange notation, arrows, splotches, hand prints, astrological drawings, plus various arcane runes and glyphs.
“It'th about communication,” Rrrose told me. "It'th thecret withdom. Thith ith it, the real thtuff, the mathter plan for the univerth and the next big thtep in evolution. That'th what Jim wath thtudying; the way to pick up the pattern and flow with it at any moment. Thee’th thecrets have always been known, at leatht in part, to the alchemiths and other occult thientithts, but Jim wath trying to find the language that unified all the variouth path’th. Give the information to the people! There'th been enough theocrathy.”
I began to get bored, as I frequently do when people begin to talk about the secrets of life, and I let myself slip into a dreamlike state where I totally ignored the meaning of my beloved's words and listened instead only to the music of her sweet voice. The sound of her little tongue lapping over the "sts" of "scientists" and "alchemists" melted my heart, and took her in my arms to kiss her. But she was still intent on content, and what she told me at once snapped me back to reality and made me dizzy. "You thee, thith part here ith about you," she was saying. "You're Gawain; that'th what I've found out tho far.”
She went on to explain that she saw a connection, in Jim's charts, between me and the hero of a medieval romance called Gawain and the Green Knight. The latter, she went on, had invaded King Arthur's court at New Year's Day and challenged anyone one in the company to take a free whack at him with an axe, which she suspected to be double-headed, though the text was not clear on the point, provided that the Green Knight got a chance to whack back a year later on his own grounds. Gawain, being the youngest, volunteered, and cut the green knight's head off; however, the invader merely picked up his head, pointed it at Gawain, and repeated the invitation before riding off. Next New Year’s, before proceeding to the assigned spot, Gawain put up for a few days at a nearby castle, sleeping late every morning while the host went off hunting. They agreed to exchange what they won at the end of each day, Gawain collecting an assortment of game and giving back first one, then two, and then three kisses which had been given him by the host's wife, who had made three unsuccessful attempts to seduce him, but keeping for himself the green girdle which she had given him as protection against bodily harm, he being afraid of getting his head cut off, naturally.
The next day, when the Green Knight brought the axe down toward Gawain's neck, Gawain flinched, and the Green knight halted the blade and laughed at Gawain for his cowardice. Then he swung the axe again, and Gawain didn't flinch—but the knight stopped it an inch from his neck, a nice touch, I thought. The third time, he merely nicked Gawain's neck and Gawain, finding himself alive, jumped up and grabbed his sword, feeling that he had kept his bargain. Then the knight revealed himself as Gawain's former host, and told him that the only reason he only got nicked at all was because he didn’t yield the girdle. Furthermore, the whole episode was a trick of Gawain’s aunt, Morgan le Fay. Gawain is very much ashamed and decides to wear the girdle all the time, as a reminder that he isn't perfect. When he tells his story back at Camelot, the lords and ladies all laugh at him, but they decide to wear green girdles themselves, in sympathy.
I said that I found the story very interesting, and I didn't see what it had to do with me. She gestured impatiently. “Itth the withdom," she said. "Lithen. It'th about the prethervation of the thpeethies. Arthur hath no thon, he'th doing the father-nephew trip with Gawain. All the people at Camelot are in on it, they know what'th going on. It probably happenth all the time. They have to find a thucthethor to the king. Gawain wath being tethted, and he failed because he'th a coward. You thee, the girdle worked. That'th what nobody talks about. Gawain took the girdle, and thure enough, he didn't get hith head chopped off. Now--if he had been a really brave knight, and not taken the girdle--or given it back, becauth there'th nothing in the thtory that thayth he can't take what he wanth, he can actually make love to the green knight'th wife if he wanth, ath long ath thee makth love to the green knight when he geth home that night, that'th part of the the change motif--if he hadn't taken the girdle, and let the green knight take hith hit fairly, Gawain too would have been able to pick up hith head and put it back on! It was magic!
"But what's that got to do with me?" I broke in, hopelessly lost.
She pointed at the notes. "It'th all there--Gawain, coward, cowan, mathons, Finn and Diarmaid, Mark and Trithtam. The line of tranthithion ith from father to thon, and there are no thons there. Trithtam takth Markth bride and they both die, and what happenth to Mark? Arthur died and the Round Table broke up. Tho, when there'th no thon, the moon takth over! Morgen le Fay, the Queen of the Night, Brangaene, who gave the love potion to Trithtam and Itheult." She pointed to a cross drawn in green on one of the pages. “Thometimes the male figure is thplit in two. Here'th Tamino, heath in the upper right quadrant, he got both the teachingth and the woman; he'th pluth pluth. Papegeno got Papegena, but he failed the initiation tethth; he'th in the lower right quadrant, pluth minuth. Don Juan got neither the girl nor the teachingth; he'th minuth minuth. And Leporello learned a lesson, but got no girl; he'th minuth pluth."
"What's this coward business," I asked.
She nibbled on my ear. "You, thweetheart, you didn't want to ride with Jimmy, you were afraid, and inthtead you thtayed with me, and I gave you a green thwim thuit. And you didn't get hurt. But if you'd gone with Jim, maybe there would have been no accident--or maybe you'd be a dolphin now too, like Jim!"
"You're crazy," I said.
"Now, don't get worried. Everything'th connected," she said. “I was only teathing you. But you thee the pattern? Thith ith thomething that'th thlowly breaking through to the conthuthneth of man, that the male thucthethion ith over. No more thons. The myth of the Fithyer King.
"Cowan," I said desperately. "What about that?"
"That'th the mathons, a cowan ith a thelf-taught mathon, like your grandfather. And he got offed, right--juth like Finn, who wath a mathon too--do you thuppoth he fell, or wath he puthed? Magic Flute, that'th full of mathonic thymbolithmm--and even there, where it lookth ath though the thucthethion ith OK, we don't really know, we don't know if Tamino and Pamina have a baby. Originally, you thee, the priestly thucthethion wath through the Queen of the Night, that'th what the whole plot ith about, thee wanth her right’th back again. According to Mozart thee failed, but that could have been a blind. Magic Flute was Mozart'th latht opera, and on hith deathbed he thaid he could hear the beautiful muthic of the Queen of the Night."
I drew her down on the fur rug. "Who cares?" I suggested.
She smiled her Woomera smile and pressed her luscious Miss Universe body against me. "I care," she said."If yo 're Gawain, Trithtam, Finn, who do you thuppoth I am? Morgen Le Fay, Brangaene, Ceridwen, the witch who thwallowed little Finn! And we've got work to do. The cop’th are on the thame trail — they took Jim’th note’th — why do you think they gave back the cocaine?”
“Not right now,” I told her.
“You thee? I told you you’re tho lazy!” But she yielded.
Two days later she had finished work on the notes, and handed me the results. This is the document, Jim's last vision, which I pass on out of a sense of family obligation and not because I am totally convinced of its relevance. It sounds at times like the ravings of a maniac, and at others like an enormous joke. But Rrrose says it is serious. And it is certainly true that when she had finished work, the dolphin swam off, and has not returned. Was he really Jim? Is the child his or mine, and if his, his in what form, man or dolphin? I am too confused to know, which is all right, Rrrose says, because I am only supposed to deliver the message, not make it up or understand it. And so here is the vision, a little late, to beat against your own view of America.
It is July 4, 1976. THE scene is the kiva in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, where the United Political Party (UPP), an amalgam of the entire Republican and Democratic parties, has gathered at an eisteddfod to pick the successor to Melvin Fine as president of the United Stated. They are opposed by the International Party of Concerned Human Beings, who feel that UPP has no right to abrogate elections entirely. Judges are the surviving American shamans. The insurgents have a shadow candidate, our little baby, Patsy (Rrrose says she knows she will have a daughter because she has determined that the swastika is rotating counterclockwise.) She is a divine child who communicates by brainwave patterns, which are plugged into a color/music synthesizer and which she generates through telepathic communication with dolphins, who pass on wisdom from the whales, who get it from the galactic center. God knows where they get it--possibly from us. Against her are arrayed a battery of UPP lawyers. The baby poses them a riddle: who am I? The lawyers contend that the question has no relevance inasmuch as they are gathered to discuss the importance of the Sunbuster Project, in which a rocket, powered by fuel compressed and distilled from the collected excreta of America, is to be fired into the sun at just such an angle, which has been precisely calculated as to increase the energy emitted from the sun ever so slightly, so as to alleviate the energy crisis in the U. S. (though there are some scientists who claim that the rocket may well hit a node of energy that could turn the sun into a supernova.) They ask what the baby's position is on that one.
The baby whimpers; a tear forms on her cheek. The synthesizer sighs. The teletype output to her computer chatters into life and prints out a message in the language of the Esalen Indians, who, of all the American tribes, had the biggest vocabulary and thus were presumably the most loquacious; the message is translated by an anthropologist from the University of California at Santa Barbara into a single English word:
The shamans retire to make their decision.
Kurt von Meier