Wednesday, December 3, 2008

29. Two Stories and an Aborted Joke Featuring Yi Yi Thant (White Elephants and Golden Ducks/ Princess Nicotine)

Yi Yi Thant, vocalist from the walled nation of Myanmar (formerly known in the west as Burma), stood next to her rented car. Either steam or smoke was pouring from the hood, she wasn't going to get close enough to tell the difference. Well, at least she broke down close to civilization. Such as they call it round here. What the hell am I doing in this place, she thought. The sun quivered at the tree tops, miles away.
"It was going just fine and then it started making this horrible noise and then it did this." She mimed being jerked forward three times, her face still serene, eyes closed. The mechanic nodded. "Well, worst case is yer timin chain. Which case ain't much I nor no-one else can do for yuh othern lend you a yellow pages. But I think it may be your plugs. Whyncha go on over to my pa's place next door, they got a rhubarb pie what kin't by beat not by a mile."
It suddenly occured to me that this joke, which hinges on a penguin messily eating an ice cream sundae, wouldn't really work with Yi Yi Thant as the protagonist because not only does she have hands, she also has opposable thumbs and she eats with utensils like anyone else.

Yi Yi Thant, blessed with a voice that sounded like gold leaf lazily peeled from an angel's halo and floating down to Earth, looked grim.
"I don't think... said Murph.
"You keep doing that," snapped Thant. Her jewelry shifted with the sound of wet pebbles where her silk robe had sweated through.
The Lookout still stood. Smoke curled from its sensory array.
"Fuck this," muttered Murph and he stood up. "Don't" said Thant but she didn't finish because Murph became a crimson cloud from the waist up, blown to shit by the Lookout's gatling-gauss. His legs did a pratfall on his ass. Is that still his ass?, Thant thought.
There was a hollow clicking sound as the timed explosive arrow Thant had shot caught, and the Lookout exploded, crumbling slowly at first and then with increasing speed directly down, like the earth swallowing it whole.
Thant brushed a lock of raven hair from her eye. She thought that if this was a movie she would say something snappy here, but it wasn't, it was war.

It was another hot day in a string of hot days that I knew I was genetically incapable of ever getting used to. It felt like my chromosomes were sweating. I had taken to bringing a box of cornstarch with me wherever I went when I was here, and excusing myself at intervals and sprinkling some on my chapped and swampy crotch. Consequently last week I caught myself in my room's full-length mirror one day and I thought I looked like I had been snorting cocaine through my cock.
I got to the city and that was most of it right there. Here's how much money I had left: three hundred forty four dollars. That would get me a pretty good hotel room here for as long as I needed, plus one night a week of hokily acrobatic yodelling with one of the locals. It wouldn't buy me a ticket home from Burma, but after a week or ten days I found myself thinking about it less and less, getting to like it, then love it. The heat, though, kept reminding me that I wasn't from here. That and the cornstarch gravy I kept making with my taint.
There were a lot of things I wanted to ask her. How it felt to be the archetypical songbird in a gilded cage, almost unheard outside of Myanmar. Was she frightened. Did she think of it. Did she ever wonder how it would be, living in the free world. The millions she would make with her voice. I had all these questions written down on hotel stationary, provided by the sincerely smiling clerk. When you are such a powerful symbol, do you feel it. Did it change how she felt. How did she feel knowing that she
The phone book was open on the desk, and for the next two hours here in the city the phone would work. Again, I ran my finger down the page of curled script to the number; again, I dialed; again, Yi Yi Thant answered the phone.
"Min gar la bar?", she said
Again, I put the phone on the desk and closed my eyes, listening.
"Min gar la bar?", she said.

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