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Page the Second—In which is revealed how Jassasa started in search of the designated land aboard a steamer furnished by Providence
NO SOONER DID I inform Master about the End of Time thing than he turned upon me with an I knew it! They have got to you! You’re now in league with them! accusation. He pulled me out of the cave by my ear, and pointing toward the watery horizon with his other hand shouted, “Go then! Go into the world and fulfill your destiny. But remember, I shall not be in the offing. Not in a year’s time, not in a hundred. Tell it to the scrawling apes who sent the summons.” With that he roughly pushed me away and returned to his cave.
And there you have in thumbnail sketch my fickle Master and his usual lording over a small, helpless goat. I have put up with a great deal over the years without a bleat, but the injustice of the words accusing me of treachery broke my heart. Now why would he say such a thing to his own Jassasa? Perhaps a short separation from Master would not be a bad thing after all? It would teach him the value of a goat friend.
Lately, I have felt too in my wattles a longing to explore the terraqueous globe whose centre Master and I have inhabited in stationary isolation for so long. I headed for the shore, asking for a sign from Providence the while if indeed it was time and it wished me up and about my business. Lo and behold, close to the mangrove causeway an unmarked steamer of immaculate construction had materialized to carry me away to my waiting destiny. It flew a green and white flag. I was going to the land of grass and water.
That settled it. Master willing or not, I would not shirk my responsibility to find him the designated land where he must announce his advent―a place which some prolix grammarian had described as “ringing with the profane cacophony of men in ecstasies of depraved thought.” Guessing from the pictogram missives received on these shores, the place surely existed. It was just a matter of finding it for Master to yoke to his cause. I decided to go unarmed, but for appearances alone: My little cranial projections are hard as chisels and keen-edged as daggers. Having no longings for martyrdom myself I can always lend a helping horn to others so inclined.
I knew I’d see Master soon enough, but a feeling was growing inside me that it was the last I was seeing of the island where all my prissy billy youth was spent. I trotted away with tearful eyes to say farewell to my favourite haunts. Ours being a small island, it did not take me long, and I returned to the quay to check how sturdy was the vessel.
I guess one cannot find fault with steamers furnished by Providence, but it could have done with a spot of cleaning. The passages were marked with betel juice and there was more than a whiff of uric acid about the place. I went on the deck for a breather and found a lounge-chaise where I lay down to stretch myself.
The gentle undulation of the steamer on the waves lulled me to sleep. I woke up with a start upon hearing a loud thud which was followed by Master’s bellow, “Jassasa, come help!” I looked down and saw Master standing on the quay laden with sacks of beans he had been hoarding in the cave for my departure day. He had thrown one onto the deck and was struggling under the weight of a large one.
“You have a long journey ahead of you!” he said as he held it up one to me.
That’s typical of him. Rather than apologize for any words said or deeds done, he just carries on as if nothing has happened. At another time I’d have taken a stand to force him to apologize, but I did not wish to leave on a bitter note. I quietly pulled up the sack which he offered me. He kept bringing more and just the sight of them made my heart sink. I would not be long in reaching the Other Shore on a prolonged diet of beans!
By sunset the steamer was fully loaded, and now the prospect of our separation was fully upon us.
“I might come, after all,” Master muttered as he passed me on the deck.
“No need,” I said testily, recalling his earlier spoken harsh words.
Master abruptly turned tail, jumped down the steamer and scurried lumpishly away to his cave. I turned my face away.
We had both proved bad at saying our goodbyes at the first opportunity offered us. There was now nothing more to do but steam away. That I did.
Alas I did not realise that it was a moonless night. The darkness was soon upon the waters and the vessel, and my plans to watch the dance of moonlight on the waves had to be put in abeyance. I steered the boat with a steady hand but a feeling that I was going in circles did not leave me.
I switched off the engines and came up on deck. There was utter darkness all around.
I had begun wondering if darkness could be whiled away by a tryst with the beans when I thought I heard human voices nearby. Another ship? I asked myself. But where were its lights? I hoped it was not going to ram into the steamer. I stood at the bow peering into the darkness. Then a powerful light shone in my face and blinded me. As I raised a hoof to shade my eyes, a voice called out, “Oye, Jassasa!”
I got such a shock that I nearly fell into the sea.
Packets of coarse laughter bounced on the waves.