Kyi May Kuang

THE GOLDEN TIME: an excerpt

"So, the raving ranting Celestials with feet of clay," She-Monkey said irritably, "didn't see fit to give me a weapon that I can really fight with, really shoot with, even though they thought me brave enough to lead an expedition.

"I'm only a monkey, female; I don't deserve a magic cudgel, like Monkey himself," she said, imitating the Celestials' Official Speech in disgust, her voice growing high pitched in proportion to her lost temper. "They gave me a wretched Rolling Pin-"

And she angrily yanked out her drawerful of magic paraphernalia so hard that the drawer-stop fell off and all the contents fell on the floor with a clatter.

"Shit," She-Monkey started to say, but midway she changed it to "Shoo-shoot." Maha Boddhi said there was too much swearing in the West. Too much swearing and too many guns, and unmentionable crimes, unheard of in Mrak. A good thing that Measly was too besotted with Tina to hear her, otherwise he too might have said, "That's not what a real Mrak female monkey would say," though nowadays he too sometimes used the rude form "Ngar," when he should have said, "Your humble male slave." In other languages like Ingaleik a bald "I" would have sufficed. And he should have said "Khinbyar-Excuse me," politely using the gentile masculine form when he didn't hear her properly-

But never mind.

Shee looked down at the Stuff, fallen on the floor. Besides the teakwood Rolling Pin, there was a Wire Sieve, to sieve the Truth with, a Bellows to winnow the grain from the chaff, to blow off the useless fluff and retain the weighty, substantial people. A stone Mortar and Pestle to pound away with, a Golden Ox Tongue, a blinking spray curser or cursor, an Epithet Shredder, a rhyming dictionary, a useless book on poetic meter, the old Strife's End Evangelical Women's Cookbook, and another cookbook by one Elizabeth No Surname that described how to cook balachaung and tiffin, etc. (Et cetera means the list is getting too long and it's not worth naming the other junk).

"Well, I can trash some of these now," Shee said, "Everyone knows monkeys go crazy if they get even a little ngapi fish sauce on their noses and hands. They scratch themselves till they draw blood, so what would I want with a balachaung recipe that says: 'After frying the pungent mixture of fish paste, dry shrimp and chillies, open windows, refresh air, take shower before husband returns.' Pah!" and she threw the Lillibet cook book out the window. Then she thought maybe the recipe could be adapted to the West: Choose a warm day to fry balachaung. Take leave and fry it in the daytime when all the neighbors are out. On a weekday. Make sure your husband is away for a week at least or alternatively arrange to have no husband. Have the balachaung flown in by sky chariot from Mrak. Pleased with herself, she jumped out the window and brought the cookbook back in again.

After she'd amused herself rewriting the recipe, Shee felt a little less angry. She decided that she'd keep the evangelical cookbook also after all. It was too too charming to throw away. It had ads for things like Milkmaid brand condensed milk, Pfaff sewing machines, Price Pfister Pfaucets, (but no Farrah Faucets), Peak Frean biscuits, Golden Puffs, Patties, Coty Face Powder and Goya Body Powder. On the cover was a Mrak lady frying balachaung presumably.

It also included a recipe from a Very Distinguished Lady, mother of a Very Famous Lady, that said: Boil sugar and water. Sift out impurities with a piece of muslin. Maybe she could use her Golden Sieve on that one, making sheet tapioca patted with shredded coconut.

The Golden Ox Tongue she decided to keep. It was so fleshy, so deliciously long winded and the blinking curser/cursor might come in handy when she ran out of made-to-order, mass produced curses, especially when she was in a hurry, or needed them in a pinch, or in the heat of battle.

From the Northern Commander in Charge of Earthy Things, she had a Shan Bag full of phallic curses; eggplants, cucumbers etc., but anyway they were only good for vegetarian curries. "I'll keep them at the back of the larder, they'll surely keep if they're kept cool," Shee thought. "I don't really want to use such low down vegetables- only beef, to cook with."

Finally she came to the rolling pin. She mixed some of the moldy aid flour with water and the only oil she had, sesame oil, that she called sessamum; and tried some magic passes tentatively.

"Change! Change! Drat it, change!" she shouted louder and louder at Rolling Pin-but unfortunately Rolling didn't understand these particular instructions.

"Rolling Pins and Computers all the same," She-Monkey muttered, "don't speak any comprehensible language."

"Boo hoo-" Rolling started to cry, shedding crocodile tears, "You must speak to me tenderly, politely-- these days with the change of life, I've become emotionally fragile-"

"Sorry," She-Monkey said, "Let's start again shall we?"

Then putting her considerable rhetorical powers to use with the aid of Ox Tongue, She-Monkey uttered the following words:

"Oh Golden Rolling Pin, Beloved of the Gods. She who can roll out the lightest, golden, melt-in-your-mouth short crust pastry, hear my words. Show me, show me what you can do."

Beguiled by the flattering words, who wouldn't be, Rolling rolled sideways just once, and the lightest, most wonderful golden pastry, better than Mrs. Soo's, rolled out magically from under Pin- and this lovely pie crust covered the Earth in August with a golden, tender, crust.

The Gold got into peoples' heads and brains; made them make love better, made them dream of a magical kingdom hitherto thought to be unattainable. In the long days of that euphoric summer, before it rained exploding dum dums, people broke off bits of the manna pie crust in the sky, placed flakes and crumbs of it in their mouths, smiled and laughed.

Grown men and women who never looked each other in the eye before, or ever touched each other or so much as shook each others' hands, now suddenly ran up to each other eagerly and put their arms around each other. To see Mraks hugging each other like this, to see all the different monkey species getting along so well with each other was very strange indeed. As long as She-Monkey could remember, it used to be like crabs in a pot, being boiled alive, eyes starting out of the heads, trampling on each other, pushing each other down into the boiling water, climbing on each other's backs. And all slowly turning bright red as they all got boiled alive anyway, despite the pushing and the shoving, the bad blood and the trying to stay on top.

Oh-it was so intoxicating, the Golden Crust Dream. Each Peace truly melted in one's mouth. For days people could talk of nothing else-but just how light the crust, how tender, how wonderful it was. She who rolled out this crust must surely have cool hands and a warm heart, they thought-and they truly believed these thoughts of that enchanted summer.

Little did they realise till too late that the Golden Crust too was alas, just a crust, a veneer; inside was sour cherry pie filling, vile canned stuff, with pips, and artificial color and too much sticky starch. It was, after all, just another form of magic-like all magic, illusory, ephemeral.

The forty million little monkeys did not realise this till too late- and a goodly number of them had been killed by the Typhoon that cracked the delicate Crust, blew it to smithereens.

For after all, don't you see, magic tattoos, and golden crusts, are not shields, not armor-they cannot keep us safe and protected. To dream is to have to wake up in the cold morning. "Make love, not war," is a good motto for flower children, but what can a ridiculous She-Monkey and her Rolling Pin do against real bullets, against Gestapo, KGB, Ton Ton Macoutes, CIA? And not the Culinary Institute of Arcadia where Shee had taken cooking lessons.

So, Dear Reader, we leave you here-we must leave you here, for the moment with She-Monkey and her magic Rolling Pin hanging in the Air- a surrealistic painting by that man with the pointy moustache-Something Darlee.

Maybe the Rolling Pin itself starts to flatten like limp unbaked pie dough-and hang over the edge of the kitchen table-a useless, sticky dough tablecloth.

As she hangs in the Air, forgetting to sky walk, She-Monkey's tail forms a perfect furry black question mark-ending in her bright red bottom like a dot. And so we must leave her for the moment, for what does that mean? The present royal scribe is only transcribing what was in the ancient texts. He has no idea what it all means.

As Guru says, you must all work it out for yourselves, Dear Reader, we can only report what we see/saw.

"See/saw, see/saw, see/saw," the little monkeys chanted in unison. "I up, you down, you down, I up."

"Bad grammar," She-Monkey frowned, ever the efficient editor, proof reader.


"Measly, you are much too light; eat some real food for a change instead of your half-baked, lovelorn candy floss. You need complex carbohydrates, you know that; pink spun sugar will burn away in no time at all."

"Yes Doctor," Measly said sarcastically, saying to himself,"Drat that Monkey, I'll eat whatever I want."

By then Tina the trapeze star had already grown tired of having sex with Measly; she told all her friends that he was boring. She preferred the Hulk who caught her when she flew through the air with wild abandon; caught her, pulled her up, and kissed her full on the mouth. (If this sounds to you like some scene from a movie, it is. Scribes by definition just transcribe; their creative juices cannot be all the time flowing, like mango juice or mountain springs. Too bad bad.)

So anyway, Tina had given Measly the boot; that's why Measly had caught up with the scripture-fetching expedition again.

As a result Measly was always in a foul mood these days. "I'm not getting it and I'm going crazy," he kept saying, "I've also done it with married monkeys and also on the trees," he added chauvinistically.

"And on a flying cloud trapeze also, no doubt." She-Monkey said sourly, suddenly reverting to her mummy monkey role. "Tsk, tsk, tsk-can't you think about anything but sex, Measly?"

Measly got angry, glared at her and sulked, and jumped down on his side of the seesaw so hard, She-Monkey flew off her seat, bottom up, red, kimpe. As if she'd just drunk Tsing Tao beer.

"You know what?" Measly shouted, as Shee was flying through the sky, "I'm not lightweight, underweight-you're over heavy- overlarded, overlarge-don't eat too much ice-cream. It's not that I'm not weighty enough, you're overweight. Slim Down!"

At this Shee, who always had to have the last word, and who read voraciously, pulled a quotation from Garfield, the orange cat, out of her hat and shouted back in triumph:

"I'm not overweight, I'm undertall."

And so we leave the two, bickering as usual, on the green banks of the Mu River.


And if you want to know, how this matter of weightyness or the lack thereof, was resolved, or not, between the two fellow travelers, you must read the next chapter.