CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Baba Ganesh, Ubiquitous Authority
(From the Books of Ubar)
The opening ceremonies of the terrarium match, with the strains of the national anthem ululating through the stadium’s heptagonal dome as the players march slowly out, bearing before them the handsome red-glazed water jars with horned lids—to my mind Ubar offers no sight more stirring. The water in these jars can only be replenished once, so the combatants must distribute it strategically throughout the match. Any plant that is not carnivorous may be employed. For example, when I play as clay, I like to use the seeds of the carrot vine, which will flourish well enough in clay if they have to, but greatly prefer sand. They shoot long suckers into the enemy territory, and these quickly root and start to produce carrots, which, being iridescent, quickly siphon away the enemy’s water. Of course, the enemy will probably introduce a rabbit into the terrarium as his animal champion, but by then his own growth is completely crowded out, and he holds nothing but a small triangular Gobi when the game is done. I like to keep on hand some tiny Bactrian camels of lead with which to decorate the losing side at this point, to make the loser feel the shame more acutely.
I am a formidably war-like gardener, now that I have accomplished my period of apprenticeship, and seldom leave an opponent with more than a few shredded cocktail umbrellas. My foot jewelry is adorned with no fewer than eleven shells of the cubic snail; on my left elbow I display the order of the boa vine. However, I have the honor to be related, albeit distantly, to the greatest terrariumist of the century, perhaps of all time. I speak, of course, of the great Mimosa Brooha, who revolutionized terrarium with her famous and deadly cactus end game. Coming after such an example cannot but engender a sense of humility.
I Was Mimosa’s Third Cousin, a Memoir (an extract)
When we reached the camel terminus, there were my hundreds of exotic northern relatives, in their brocade epaulettes and sashes of fish skin, already waiting for us, squatting on the magenta-ish sand, the orange smells of roasting alpaca gizzard rising about them. I did not immediately spot my cousin. She was standing far away and with absolute stillness. When I approached, I saw that she was staring at a small cactus plant in the sand. So fixed was her attention that she had only one eye and a single eyebrow, her nose had collapsed almost to nothing, and she sported the little upturned moustache of an incipient idea. She did not hear my greeting, nor did she depart from her meditations during the whole of the meal.
After the fine picnic, our tokens brought us into the center of Chrool, to that famous intersection of seven streets where my relatives had their house. The afternoon that began our stay—that was when we first realized the strength of the madness that had gripped us. The streets had just been dredged of the month’s litter, and fuller they had been than usual, as everyone remarked. No one was out walking. The residents relaxed on their porches, as we did, clean-street-viewing and celebrating, either with cigars or carbonated cactus snuff, the camel and llama contingents, according to their loyalties. We reclined beneath the reality colored ceiling of the porch and in the space of an afternoon watched the streets fill up with horoscopes. A few blown triangles of paper, and then suddenly the lines of the curb were softened, the dust of the street no longer visible. Horoscopes seemed to precipitate out of the very air.
I stepped off the porch onto this snow; I picked up a few and read them. “More than three women find irresistible the sadness of lens inspectors,” said one, and another, “The pervert who reads narrative poetry to your children sleeps in your own house,” and another, dizzyingly specific, “You are not Baba Ganesh.” This was the result, I thought, of our lust for the future, a currency more valuable than any snow-flake obsidian, worthless five hours after issue and choking our thoroughfares. Only a few months later, the practice of wearing horoscope shoes began.
I never saw my famous cousin again after our stay, but I heard endless rumors about her—she had watched a boa vine seed sprouting for three weeks near the coast; she was in the north, where she had not budged for six months, studying the foraging habits of the herbaceous baxon. I am sure that she never looked at a horoscope in her life, being far too distracted. For this distraction, I honor her.
Voice Types Cataloged for the Young
Certain voice types, O my children, are so often referred to that we have created a code of abbreviations to discuss them more easily. The world very much admires the rare voice with H. B. Q. (haunting banjo quality), likewise the less unusual voices evoking E. A. M. (erotic accordion mesmerism). You will hear fairly frequent examples of the M. A. B. voice (many angry bees), the voice S. F. S. (smelling faintly of smoke), and the voice of G. K. F. O. S. F. (golden keys falling on a slate floor). Voices of the U. Z. E. P. type (untuned zither endlessly played) are, sadly, all too common.
Certain combinations of voice types may produce startling results. If, when you are grown, you find you are bequeathed with many angry bees in your voice, beware, oh beware, the careless interruption of one with H. B. Q. The resulting sonority causes sympathetic vibrations in the very tendons of the earth, whereupon mountains heave and buildings topple. Conversely, if endowed with the voice S. F. S., your solemn responsibility, for the good of the barley harvest, will be to sing continuously with others of your type, in no matter how cacophonous and off-key a manner. How the barley stalks leap skyward at the faint smell of smoke!
Those of you fated for the U. Z. E. P. group will keep in mind that speech is not, after all, the only activity an adult person may pursue. The water ballet beckons with its ironic intricacies; silence enfolds its own sweet virtue. Even I, Baba Ganesh, though assured my voice commands all the fascination of a host of accordions in skillful chorus, occasionally divest myself of its powers to explore the purer communion of pantomime and telepathic cooking. Just as the blind hone their remaining senses to almost supernatural levels, so you, too, should see U. Z. E. P. voicehood as one of those restrictions that turn out, upon examination, to endow great freedom.
Harmonious Cactus Enhancement and You
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Yes, cactus enhancement makes the world green and spiny for future generations, but who has the time for public service?” Well, how about making time for your OWN SELFISH BENEFIT? Let me explain.
The problem of extra tongues growing out the temples is an embarrassment so shudderingly obvious to everyone that I need not dwell on its harms to our social well being. But observe the following photograph, taken after the author had followed a vigorous regiment of zithering for the whole hour of salt, the entire month of chartreuse. You say, “What can I see, given that you are wearing a turban?” Of course I did not take off my turban, a manly and modest habiliment, for the mere vanity of proving my point, so I will tell you what you cannot see. The tongues are WRITHING IN AGONY. Given the agony these tongues have caused us, is this not right, not deliciously just?
Take up your zither, call your cousin with the viol, bring your cooks along to beat rounds of dough into drums for your refreshment, and musically compel cacti to cover the land! Because WHAT IS BAD FOR THE TEMPLE-GROWING TONGUES MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU!
By B. Ganesh, Head of the Temple Tongue Retribution League
Translator’s note: By this photograph, we now have a notion of the mysterious Baba Ganesh’s physical appearance. How stately and bearded he is, how neatly striped his robes, how exultant his dark eye! The viol-playing cousin is pathetically smooth faced in contrast, rat-like, anxious, a sour purple coupon if there ever was one.
Every day, in every town and village, at a time dictated by the most arcane computations, joogash, a mechanical spectacle, arises from the center of some populous intersection. Depending on the outcome of the day’s struggle, one may see displayed, for example, “The History of Camel Transport.”
In this classic instance of joogash, automatic medieval ladies with cicada carapaces in their towering hair make the first assay in using the camel as a tracking animal. After a fancifully short interval, they disappear behind a grove of nettle trees and emerge with a brace of fat eagles skewered on harpoons (followed by a brief reference to the fable “How the Camel Lost His Tracking Instinct”).
Then Gorko I, in his proto-turban, attempts four times to mount the camel, and falls each time. The Heavenly Sea Horse appears and beseeches him, “Persevere! Do your best!” and on his fifth ascent, he succeeds.
Figures enact “The Unnatural Love of the Thirteenth Lizardess for the Gardener’s Camel,” followed by “The Dance of the Resultant Offspring” (that is, Balu the Ungainly and Urga-Who-Spits). This is not, strictly speaking, a development in transport, but it had many ramifications in that area of life, and besides, the story is popular with children.
Fourth and finally, the war camels march in a thrilling presentation of the Battle of Souvenir Thermometers. The dust! The blood! The hair-disturbing war yodels! And then the dramatic lowering of the stained and torn standard of the meteorologists in complete and abject defeat, signifying the end of their tyranny.
For the unwary traveler, joogash constitutes a peculiar danger. In the charming display of the Lucky Llama Dung of Bursk Hite, the Pit of Winds sports a necklace of bones, the remnants of a tourist whom the spectacle surprised. Baba Ganesh has written with his usual wisdom:
My first thought on contemplating the scattered vertebrae of this person is: “You have revealed your lack of familiarity with Bursk Hite! Die!” For I am careful to cultivate the xenophobia appropriate to my status, profession, number of toes. But what if caste is not, after all, the “way to go;” what if a more egalitarian approach would renew the world; what would be the outcome should we, if not welcome tourists, at least refrain from doing away with them unnecessarily?
But why, after all, does the tourist tour? Is not a prominent reason the possibility of a horrendous death? An escape from the mundane aspects of mortality? To perish riveted, yes, in the center of an utterly compelling narrative, e.g: “He was lying there, toes, ears, etc., nibbled completely away, an expression of rigid umbrage on his face,” e.g: “She should never have gone eel cheating in such a leaky coracle, horoscope or no,” e.g: “The yowl of the M’Joob revealed in them a strange, never-before-discovered tendency to allergic stomach implosion,” e.g: “He was a Quailer.” Surely he of whom it can be said, “His bones now decorate the Pit of Winds in the llama joogash of Buz,” has achieved his (implied) life’s dearest dream.