I stood admiring the walls of the great room for twenty minutes or so. Each panel was deeply craved with assorted scenes from various world literatures. Not three feet from my wine glass, David’s mighty men struggled to cross a canaan formed of bristlecone pine and ebony, striving towards a series of heavily guarded wells. I remained uncertain as to their exact target (which well) as my view was obstructed by a pair of toupees quacking impotently at one another. Nearly hidden was a nearly barren mahogany tableau of one man seated and dozing. He appeared to be some sort of monk, and had been rendered across the grain in four strokes. In the proper light (free of elderly men chatting about the exact price at which Berrington Bros. opened that morning) he might have had wings, or at least a heavy robe. I am no expert on sumi-e, but understood simply that this seated fellow was meditating or terraforming. Most impressive in scale was a cypress garden party populated with drunken matrons, each carrying a single shrieking infant. Some of these tykes had horns, or extra limbs (comme shiva) and were otherwise dissimilar, except for their tears. This particular piece spanned the entire east wall of the room.

I strolled, in as much as I could stroll through the densely packed crowd, across the embroidered rugs (themselves woven with scenes from meso-american history—men with names like 14-Jaguar and 8-Serpent embraced and mutilated figures with sloping foreheads and bleeding hands who were too concerned with exactly which genital sacrifice would satiate which animal god to notice the blades of the altar kings descending) to inspect a particularly nice geometrically carved section of the staircase. The interconnected slopes (of varying sizes and apparently random distribution) were actually a cleverly constructed mural of a young woman being ravaged by a giant spider in whose chitonous abdomen a sword shivered and bore the singular inscription, “Tuffet.” Although spider attacks are more often accidental in urban locales, this particular violation of the arachnid-sapien non aggression pact of Ever (known by humans as the Muffet Accord, and by their multilegged cousins as Soft Ones Crying Needlessly) was happening in a decidedly pastoral setting. Except for the hairy beast’s gruesome flailing, the terrain was beautiful. A grassy hill in the left of the scene descended quietly, pausing for a moment to avoid a misstep in the piece’s only brook, which twisted about on itself and around the hill’s great feet. Trees of Spenser’s description swayed in the whisper of imagined breezes.

I wondered for a moment at the appearance of tiny fish in the tiny stream and was drawn immediately to the panel adjacent the liquor nooks. A scene depicting Jareth’s calling fire from the water 1 appeared to have been lit from within. I could clearly see the shadows changing behind obstacles left by the troops of Cardamom to deter Jareth’s minions. Mesmerized at the beauty of the work and the level of expertise necessary to build a battle scene with its own suns, I was disappointed to notice that the panel was simply rotating in place, very slowly. A man stepped from the behind the 3rd edge of the triptych and into the party. No one seemed troubled by this unorthodox entry, so I feigned composure.


1 Jareth D’Argen is a figure in peripheral Celtic lore who saved his village through a combination of luck, bravery, and brazen lies. A neighboring clan decided that Jareth’s village, Carnath, held sufficient riches and resources to warrant attack. Jareth was possessed of a convenient stupor which led to an equally convenient vision. His message from the gods to the potential attackers was that any who strode against the village would taste first the breath of hell and then the fires. (The literal translation reads "he that walks angrily to this house, drunk will he be made on his own breath, then he burned will be by the scythe, so quickly shall it fall"). Since Jareth was, at best, an average warrior, the opposing clan marched without delay. Upon reaching the fields surrounding Carnath, the soldiers felt a warm breeze, that, according to their own accounts, "ushered [sic] them, and their very breath." A few moments later, the entire bog erupted in flames. A poet of nominal regard later wrote of the bogfire, "hot they were, these flames, and blue. As blue as the sea."