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Nkima Speaks




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.

David Adams

(symbiotic with the cat in my lap)


Far afar off

  Away away

    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

A conscience

perhaps a sprite

a demon

a memory

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

Kudu unbearable

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

resistance impossible

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

Tiny whimperer--

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

with messages

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 footpads

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

and returned

and returned

to me.

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

forest giant.

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

ah no

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

and stand

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

his companion

or his friend

He says quiet,

eta Níkima

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

to see

where we

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.

Your friend,



November 27, 2000