Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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TALES OF NíK-IMA
DAVID ARTHUR ADAMS
Illustrated by the Author
Copyright © 2000
There are few sidekicks in fiction as famous or as durable as Nkima, the faithful monkey companion afflicted with extreme cowardice, humorous bluffs, and a forgetful mind. Nkima is truly a hero in his own small way, a creature capable of bravery in the face of danger and whose loyalty and affection for the ape-man is beyond question. Nkima appears in the middle tales of Tarzan and recieved a portion of the immortality pills Tarzan shared with his family.
—David Bruce Bozarth
Introduction to Tales of Nkima (Parts 1 & 2)
I could probably write a hundred more like this--one every day for a hundred days. The first one is a prose-poem that gets at the spiritual side of Nkima and his great friend. I purposefully blurred the lines between the characters because Nkima is more than a monkey to me--he is the other side of Zan, or perhaps just another side. The NíK reference is from Farmer, who understood the ape language better than most would care to know.
When I got through I realized that my ďstoryĒ was a psychological profile without a story, so I wrote the second one with some action. The first story is true, but the second one is all made-up like ERBís stuff.
Itís hard to write stories and keep on fooling yourself into thinking that the story on the page is the one you are telling. I have the habit of reading between the lines before the lines are finished. ďThe limits of my language mean the limits of my world.Ē
ERBís Nkima would probably write another story--one where he is the hero. Iíve gone as far as I want to today with this stuff about Nkima, but I would like to do one on Jad-bal-ja. Iím afraid that my pastiches are not in the usual form of stories you might find in this genre. I suppose I could do one the regular way, but I think it is a waste of time since others can do this better.
We all find different things in ERB. I still like his stories because they are touchstones into the mazes of my own life. I use Burroughs like a talisman because he is magic for me. The nice thing is that it doesnít matter because I do this for love.
Money for nothing--chicks are free. A third of life is what happens after we turn out the lights.
(symbiotic with the cat in my lap)
Far afar off
Beyond the moons
Of the Camaroons
Great grey apes hold sway
In the branches
Hide from glances
Where they swing and play all day
Deep Ďneath Mountains of the Moon
Old mangani loll and croon
Muttering songs of leaves and vine
A tale that is both yours and mine.
The NíK are the folk of this tale
And IMA is the singular one
A balu that hangs about the neck of a bronzed warrior
He who whispers of the ancient tribe into keen ears
perhaps a sprite
Of what has been and
what might be yet to come.
It began in the cabin by the shore
A refuge of books and bones
koho and boho as the old men say
Immeasurable the sadness of Kala
And the red scar that divided his face
Focused on me and the hair
lopped off into bangs
By his fatherís hungry blade
black banners on the floor.
I grinned at him from a dark corner of the room
But he waved me away with a gesture of his whole arm
So like a mangani I smiled
He was not pleased with my presence
Just an elfin bolgani
come to maul him some more.
I would be his companion
He knew it was true
So he panted
and moaned like Numa
who sometimes I think
he wished to be.
My parents fell out of the nest
Or was it I who descended to this ground
Little hands grasping the knotted vines
slipping and tumbling down
a great amusement
for the hairy ones
Who snuggled between her breasts?
The one who carried me as I rode
clinging to her neck as we flew
through the spangled flashing green
I was because of her.
Surely the forest burned argo
sent from the sky pand panda pandar
I was an orphan
sent to an orphan
in the orphanage
that is my home.
I first saw him on the veranda
sipping that clear green liquid of his air.
He did not smell like a tarmangani
so he was alone
and I approached
The ape was about him
the NíK the friendly stink
fell upon the curtains and the bamboo.
His hands were as welcome as leaves.
I reached up and touched his scar
and he remembered me
This time he did not brush me away
or shake his mane like Numa the lion
He knew I was here to stay.
Ear scratching is pleasant and reveals
many things the same as the wind
that begins and ends
from the deepest green
the musty odor of the rotting logs
where they have fallen
the beetles that crawl there
the grubs and dainty morsels
all the places I lay in the heat of day
awaiting her to return
whiling and watching
the movement of all
the humming of the forest
the buzzing and clicks
the little bugs that move
upon the page of it.
We were destined for each other
The clambering to the upper terraces
where the swaying springs into
the clean air across the chasm.
He did not know me then and yet
I rode upon his shoulder
manu whispering awakening.
The NíK held him always the shaggy ones
He never really understood the others
who lived in the caves of the cities although
his imitation was without peer
His gestures were graceful yet somehow odd
in the drawing room too broad and sinuous
to conform to the inner clutching that formed
the core of them
The ape remained about the neck and shoulders
flying loose and stronger than them all and
the resentment was easily felt
so he returned
I warned him of the hairy men
and of the beasts
that would tear his flesh
and devour him there
He laughed and chided me
but still he listened
Kala falling to the arrow that flies by day
the dying bolgani
Tublat and Kerchak ruined
Terkoz wounded with many strokes
of his fatherís blade.
I danced and scolded through
the grim smile
his face wore
like a mask
yet the happiness burned
across his countenance
like a riven carcass
he could not bury
He cached his kills
along side my own
in the crotch of a
Everyone is trying to eat me
the feast is spread
across the tablecloth
of the savanna and
Numa prowls about like a roaring lion
seeking whom he may devour
Caution was our watchword
but kill, kill, kill
was upon our bloody lips
he shakes me off again and
I scamper into the silent trees
there is a man behind the smile.
He reaches up to let me feel
the hand of my friend and finds
that his hair has fallen
into his eyes again
He brushes away the hair
to reveal the scar
and I ride upon his shoulder
chattering of what has been
and what might come into being
sometimes we go
in the clearing
where Kala fell
I feel his great heart beating
like a steady drum
as he wraps both hands
around my body
and presses me
close to his skull.
At this time there is no tearing
no scars but the hands of the beast
holding the body of another beast
what we know we know together
things that fall to the ground
things that fill the air with cries
things that ascend creeper and vine
into the deepest green
I have been called
or his friend
He says quiet,
and there is peace.
It has been written that we are immortal
but it is simply the case
that we have been together
for many days
When night falls
there are no prayers
looking into the shadows
may go again.
November 26, 2000
I do not recall when we first met. There have been many diversions since that happy occasion. I seem to remember that it was hot and strangely oppressive in a land with few trees. Since I often wandered far from my companions in those early days, I was alone and looking for nothing more than some tiny morsel to cease the angry growling in my stomach.
As I skittered up a sandy slope of a dry river bed punctuated here and there with scrubby bushes of no account I came face-to-face with my ending in the form of a nasty Sheeta who was also on the desperate side of something for supper. She-Sheeta did not pause to ask questions nor to thank her lucky stars at her good fortune but with a throaty whine of pleasure kicked up the dust and sent me looking for a way to be swallowed by the earth rather than by a cat with a whole set of carving knives in her mouth.
The god of monkeys is at least clever if not kind, and I managed to squeeze my diminutive frame between two boulders in such a way that teeth and talons could not reach me although the monster screamed and snarled like a frustrated Felis pardus with its tail on fire. That cat tried every which way for nearly an hour to get me out of the crack in the rock, but I kept moving around and scrouching down, whimpering like a balu.
I must admit that I did a fair amount of screaming myself during that eternity of terror. We could probably be heard for miles. The sound was so loud that it finally attracted buzzards that circled around in the blue sky, waiting to judge for themselves the likelihood of at least monkey bones at the final verdict of the cutter of the lines of life and death.
It was quite a ruckus. Everything else moved away from the scene of the killing floor, and we played scary hide-and-seek until the shadow-man arrived.
Sure it was the tarmangani. You knew it would be, but I didnít have a clue. Sheeta was caught by surprise as well and just yanked out of the rocks by her tail and swing around and around like a dust devil and flung into the neither brambles like a sack of maize. That cat was so amazed that she took off running across the sandy bottom. Who wouldn't? That tarmangani screamed and snarled louder than Sheeta herself. He huffed and puffed and his hair stood on end looking like a giant baboon the way he danced and shuffled back and forth across the ground.
I wasnít coming out either, but the man-thing finally dragged me out of the cleft, a biting, scratching monkey that wasnít about to be eaten by him either. After awhile he calmed me down, and I was able to see that he didnít mean me any harm. I stood off and made faces at him, but he just made the same ones back at me. When he spoke the mangani tongue, I was taken aback, but he must have been talking that way all along when I was still hysterical. He said,Ētand-panda manu, tand-panda, ugh, ugh, ugh,Ē which may not mean much to you, but I understood him all right, and I finally went back to him with my arms over my head and dared to touch my knuckles on his foot.
You have read the rest of the stories of our lives together. Most of them happened kind of the way they were written down by the tarmangani from California. That Ed-Grr made some mistakes, but he tried his best to make me out as a reasonably friendly beast. Ordinary dumb men usually get things all wrong when it comes to writing about other animals, but he was smart enough to know that we are all brothers and sisters -- well, at least distant cousins. What he didnít make-up out of his head he got from letters from the great tarmangani that are locked up in his safe somewhere and will probably never be found.
I had to set this down here to give you some idea of how I met the best and most noble friend I have ever had the privilege to know in this life. You probably wonít believe that this has been written by a monkey, even a monkey with 10,000 typewriters, but it is all true as I can make it. If you believe it at all, I will tell you the one about how I pulled a man out of a rock and killed a leopard with a single blow. It all depends on who is telling the story to get the proper perspective. Iíve never read a book in my life, and all the Latin I know was taught to me by a tall tarmangani with black hair and grey eyes.
Thereís not much more to it than this. You can get all sorts of nice stories from pulp fiction. I prefer grubs.
November 27, 2000